THE MODERN AGE | History of English Literature



           The modern age is also another important period in the history of English Literature lasting from 1900 to 1965. It is the opposite of the Victorian Age as it is considered to be the hypocritical era. So an abrupt rupture from the old customs of interacting with the society and aspects happened. Distinguished literature has been made by the writers regarding issues of human beings all over the world and the wars and materialism are discussed a lot. Literature was affected by World War I 1914-1919 and two 1939-1945. Literature was also affected by scientific and technological revolutions. In addition, realism and radicalism were also part of the discussion in this era. At the end of World War, the world has been changed totally in respect of taking steps in literature, socialism, and revolutionary aspects. There were new literary trends started by different socialists such as, ‘Stream of consciousness', ‘futurism’, ‘cubism’ , ‘expressionism’, and ‘Imagism’ which change the literary works.

The doctrine of the last age ‘art for art’s sake’ was changed to ‘art for life’s sake’ and appreciated by writers in respect of solving the issues of real life. Hence, the efforts of writers Shaw, H.G. Wells, and Kipling are unforgettable in this era. Psychology and literature were interrelated in this way and most discussed and influenced modern literature. Many books were written flourishing the idea of anti-war and bareness and ineffectuality of the wars on society and the world.

Prominent contributors to Modern literature:

Genres of the Age:

The genres in this age were prose writing, poetry, playwriting, and novels in which the familiar genre of the part is drama and poetry. 

Poetry in Modern Age:

Poetry of the modern era was different in opposition to Romantic and Victorian poetry which is not supporting religious beliefs and was opposite and not imaginative. Writers show the combination of thoughts regarding the current situation of society and the world using irony, metaphors, and free verse in poetical work.

Imagism and Symbolism were also part of Modern poetry. Which discarded the emotions and imagination of past-era poets using exactness instead of imaginative wording. They described the thoughts in a common language for the understanding of a layman. Moreover, symbolism also explained things with the help of symbols representing the exact description of the things beautifully.

Robert Bridge (1840-1930) was the major figure in this way who wrote even under the aristocratic class poetry. His ‘Testament of Beauty’ a great poem was an initial love poem based on the lower-level philosophy. He also wrote lyrical ballads such as, ‘A Passer-by’, ‘London Snow’, ‘The Downs’, and some sonnets such as ‘The Growth of Age’. Moreover, he wrote ‘The Villager’ has a human theme was a famous poem like his first poem.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) was also an important figure in this era who wrote about man, nature, and God. His famous poem was ‘The Wreck of Deutschland’ a description of ways to God.

Alfred Edward Houseman (1859-1936) was another figure of the age who was a classical poet and his famous work was ‘Shropshire Lad’ was a pastoral kind of work. 

Walter De La Mare (1873-1957) was a Georgian poet who wrote in a simple and lyrical style. His famous work ‘Behold’ and ‘This Dreamer’ were works related to dreaming. 

William Henry Davies (1871-1940) was also a lyrical poet who wrote under the spell of William Blake and Herrick.

Laurence Binyon (1869-1943) was a major figure in Modern poetry who also translated Dante and his famous work is ‘Attila’ which is a dramatic poem, ‘The Burning of the Leaves and Other Poems’ published in 1944 was famous work regarding the theme of wars. 

John Masefield (1878-19?) wrote volumes of a poem such as ‘Salt Water Ballades’ in 1902 and ‘Ballades’ in 1906 and a poetic tragedy ‘The Tragedy of Nun’. Moreover, he wrote ‘The Everlasting Mercy’ in 1911, and ‘The Daffodil Fields’ in 1913 were some realistic kinds of poems.

Ezra Pound (1885-19?) was the poet of reality and was the head of the Imagists movement and the group of poets to which T.S Eliot also contributed and their writings were totally against the world war. 

Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965) was one of the greatest poets of the Modern Age and was also the part of Imagists group of poets who wrote on the issues of war and its consequences. He was from the U.S.A and later he settled in England. His early work was ‘The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock’ written in 1917 was all about the current society of materialism and emptiness. Similarly another poem, ‘The Waste Land’ was the mouthpiece of the current world and its horror decaying condition of society. ‘Hollow Men’ written in 1925 was also the same kind of poem. Later on, he wrote, ‘Burton Norton’ in 1936, ‘East Coker’ in 1940, ‘The Dry Salvages’ in 1941, and ‘Little Gidding’ in 1942 written in many-sided aspects of literature.

David Herbert Lawrence (1885-1930) was one of the major figures in the Modern Age. His famous work such as, ‘Sons and Lovers’ is autobiographical to some extent. Moreover ‘Chatterley’s Lover’, ‘The Rainbow’, and ‘Woman in Love’ was also well-known work by Lawrence.

When Trench Poets are discussed in the History of English Literature Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) and Siegfried Sassoon (18?-19?) are the major figures. This group of poets wrote about the wars and their results on the world. Famous work by this group was ‘Suicide in Trenches’ and ‘Song Books of the War’ telling the life and issues of human beings in war. Similarly, Owen wrote his famous work ‘Strange Meeting’ which is all about the war and its aspects.  

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was an Irish poet who also appreciated imagination as well as anti-rationalism and symbolism in poetry. His famous work was ‘The Poets Pleads with the Elemental Powers’, ‘The Wanderings of Oisin’ written in 1889, ‘The Wind among the Reeds’ in 1899, ‘The Shadowy Waters’ in 1900 was earlier work of Yeats. Moreover, his later work ‘The Wild Swan at Coole’ in 1917, ‘The Tower’ in 1928, ‘The Winding Stair’ written in 1929 were also famous poetry of Yeats.

 Novel in Modern Age:

The golden period of the modernist novel was the early 20th century in the Modern Age and the stream of consciousness for the 20th century helped a lot while writing novels. This was the genre of literature that gathers the requirements of the modern age which is based on realism and opposes idealism and develops the factor psychology in literature. Most popular figures in this regard;

Herbert George Well (1866-1894) was one of the major figures having the scientific standard of novel writing such as, ‘The Time Machine’ in 1895 , ‘The War of The Worlds’ in 1898, ‘The Island’ and ‘Dr. Mareau’, ‘When The Sleeper Wakes’ in 1899 were written based on scientific romances. Moreover, he wrote domestic novels such as, ‘Kipps’in 1905, ‘Tono Bungay’ and ‘Anne Veronica’ in 1909, ‘Love and Mrs. Lewisham’ in 1910, and ‘The History of Mr. Polly’ written in 1910 were realistic and humorous kind of writings. Furthermore, he wrote ‘The New Machiavelli’ in 1911, ‘Mr. Britling sees it Through’ in 1916, ‘The Undying War’ in 1919, ‘Mr. Blettsworthy on Rampole Islan’ in 1928 and ‘The Autocracy of Mr. Parham in 1930 were also famous.  

Arnold Bennett (1867-1931) was a naturalistic novelist who wrote mostly on spectacles in natural settings. His famous writings were, ‘The Grand Babylon Hotel’ in 1902’, ‘The Old Wives Tale’ in 1908, ‘Buried Alive’, in 1908, ‘Clayhanger’ in 1910, ‘The Card’ in 1911, and ‘Riceyman Steps’ in 1923 were all significant works of Bennet.

Another famous novelist was Henry James (1843-1961) who wrote in naturalistic ways such as, ‘The Europeans’ in 1879, ‘What Masie Knew’ in 1897, ‘The Wings of the Dove’ in1902, ‘The Ambassador’ in 1903, and ‘The Golden Bowl’ in 1905. Moreover, he wrote ‘The Spoils of Poynton’ and ‘The Sense of the Past’ was the major contribution the novels.

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) was another important figure in the age who wrote psychological kinds of novels. His famous novels were, ‘The Nigger of the Narcissus’ in 1898, ‘Lord Jim’ in 1900, ‘Typhoon’ in 1902, and 'Nostromo’ in 1904.

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was another novel writer in the Modern Age. He wrote ‘Plain Tales from the Hills’, ‘Under the Deodars’, ‘Soldier Three’ written in Sub-Continent. Moreover, his famous work was ‘The Light That Failed’ 1890, ‘The Naulakha’ in 1892, ‘Captain Courageous’ in 1897, and ‘Kim’ written in 1901 were famous works in this genre.  

John Galsworthy (1867-1933) was a novelist and dramatist as well. He wrote ‘The Island Pharisees’ and the series of novels ‘The Forsyte Saga’ which many novels have been written by him such as, ‘The Man of Property’ in 1906, ‘The Country House’ in 1907, ‘Fraternity’ in 1909, and ‘The Patrician’ written in 1919 were all famous novels of Galsworthy.

E.M. Forster (1879-1970) was a major figure in Modern Literature and a writer of poetry and novels as well. He wrote cultural kinds of stories in his novels. His famous novels were ‘Where Angels Fear to Tread’ written in1905, ‘The Longest Journey’ in 1907, ‘A Room with a View’ in 1908, and ‘Howards End’ written in 1910.

The next group of novel writers was Transitionalists including James Joyce (1882- 1941), Virginia Woolf, and Aldous Huxley. Joyce wrote his famous work such as ‘The Dubliners’ in 1914, ‘A Portrait of Artist as a Young Man’ in 1916, Ulysses’ written in which gives an approach to a man’s life in a day, and ‘Exiles’ in 1918 all were his prominent work.

Similarly, Virginia Woolf (1822-1941) was another significant figure of the age who wrote mostly about the life and issues of women. Her first novel was ‘The Voyage Out’ written in 1913 a storytelling novel about a young girl. Moreover, she wrote ‘Night and Day’ in 1919 about a clever woman of middle standard, ‘Jacob’s Room’ in 1922 was also about a woman and her life, ‘Mrs. Dolloway’ in 1925 was again about woman’s life patterns. Furthermore, she wrote ‘To the Lighthouse’ in 1927, ‘Orlando’, ‘The Years’ in 1937, and ‘Between the Acts’ in 1941 was all about failures of life experiences. 

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) was also a writer on the current situation of the world and its aspects. His famous work ‘Crome Yellow’ in 1921, ‘Antic Hay’ in 1923, ‘Brave New World’ in 1923, and ‘Those Barren Leaves in 1925 Huxley wrote these novels scientifically and to the standards of literary requirements. Moreover, he wrote ‘End and Means’ in 1938, ‘Count Pointer Count’, ‘Eyeless in Gaze’ in 1939, and ‘Grey Eminence’ in 1940 were famous and ‘After Many a Summer’ was his last novel. 

D.H Lawrence (1885-1930) also wrote novels such as ‘The White Peacock’ in 1911, ‘The Trespasser’ in 1912, and ‘The Rainbow’, ‘Woman in Love’ in 1921, ‘The Lost Girl’ in 1920, ‘Aeron’s Rode’ in 1922, ‘Kangaroo’ in 1923, ‘The Bay in the Bush’ in 1924, ‘In Plumed Serpent’ in 1926 and ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ written in 1928 were all famous work in novels.

Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) was also the novelist of the age, who wrote in a naturalistic way, such as ‘Liza of Lambath’ in 1897, Human Bondage’ in 1915, ‘Cakes and Ale’ in 1930, ‘The Razor’s Edge’ in the same period.  

J.B Priestley (1894-1984) is another figure in this genre in style of storytelling, such as ‘The Good Companions’, ‘Let the People Sing’, ‘Daylight on Saturday’ and ‘Bright Day’ was his famous novels. 

As far as minor figures in novelist are concerned they are discussed below:

Charles Morgan famous work was ‘Portrait in Mirror’, ‘The Fountain’, ‘Sparkenbroke’, ‘The Voyage’ and ‘The Judge Story’ by Morgan significant. 

C.S. Lewis ‘The Problem of Pain’, ‘The Screwtapa Letters’, ‘The Great Divorce’ and Miracles were famous novels by Lewis.

H.E Bates wrote ‘A House of Woman’, ‘Spella Ho’, ‘Fair Stood the Wind for France’, ‘The Cruise of the bread Winner’and ‘The Purple Plain’ were novels by Bates.  

Fredrick Lawrence Greene wrote ‘On the Night of the Fire’, ‘The Sound of Winter’, ‘A Fragment of Glass’ and the last one ‘Mist on the Waters’ by Greene.

Graham Greene wrote ‘The Man Within’, ‘Stamboul Train’, ‘England Made Me’, ‘Brington Rock’, ‘The Power and the Glory’ and ‘The Heart of the Matter’.

Frank Swinnerton wrote ‘Nocturne’, ‘The Georgian House’ and ‘The Doctor’s Wife comes to Stay’.  

The last Richard Church is listed in this era who wrote, ‘High Summer’, ‘The Porch’, ‘The Room Within’, ‘The Sampler’ and ‘The Other Side’ 

Drama in the Modern Age:

Drama in the Modern Age was influenced by Ibsen who was a Norwegian dramatist, after Shakespeare. It dealt with human emotions and the mouthpiece of the society in current. New styles of dramas were introduced like Domestic Tragedy, Problem Plays, Comedy of Manners, Absurd Theatre, Comedy of Ideas, etc. George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was one of the greatest dramatists who shifted England from Irish. He was influenced by Karl Marx and become a socialist in the narration of his dramas. He wrote ‘Heartbreak House’, ‘Mrs. Warren’s Profession’, ‘Widower’s House’ he wrote about the societal negative side. Moreover, he wrote ‘Man and Superman’, ‘Getting Married’, ‘Doctor’s Dilemma’, ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’, ‘The Apple Cart’, ‘In Back to Methuselah’ and ‘St. Joan’ was his famous drama.

Oscar Wilde (1856-1900) was another member of a dramatist who took part in the revival of drama in England. He wrote his famous dramas such as, ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan written in 1892, ‘A Woman of no Importance’ in 1893, ‘An Ideal Husband’ in 1895, and ‘Importance Being Earnest’ were well-known dramas. 

John Galsworthy (1867-1933) wrote his famous dramas, ‘Strife’ in 1909, ‘Justice’ in 1910, ‘The Skin Game’ in 1920, and ‘The Silver Box’ were all of dealing with social problems.

Harley Granville-Barker (1877-1949) wrote realistic plays such as, ‘Marrying of Anne Leete’ written in 1899, ‘The Voysey Inheritance’ in 1905, ‘Waste’ in 1907, and ‘The Madras House’ in 1910.

John Masefield (1878-19?) was also a dramatist of the age who wrote Domestic Tragedy ‘The Tragedy of Nun’, ‘The Daffodil Fields’, ‘Reynard the Fox’, ‘Melloney Holtspur’, ‘Esther and Berenice’ and ‘The Campden Wonder’ were famous dramas.

J.M. Barrie (1860-1937) wrote ‘Admirable Crichton’, ‘Peter Pan’, ‘The Golden Bird’, and ‘The Golden Age’ were his famous stories. Moreover ‘A Kiss for Cinderella’, ‘Dear Brutus’, ‘The Boy David’ was written in the last of his literary life.

William Butler Yeats (1865- 1939) was also a significant figure in this age. His famous drama was ‘The Countess Cathleen’ and ‘The Land of Heart’s Desire’ written in 1892-94. 

Lady Gregory (1852-1932) was also a famous dramatist of the age who wrote ‘Seven Short Plays’ in 1909.

John Millington Synge (1871-1909) was famous for ‘Riders to the Sea’ in 1909, ‘The Shadow of the Glen’, ‘The Playboy of the Western World’. 

Sean O’Casey (1884-19?) wrote ‘Juno and the Paycock’ in 1925, ‘The Silver Tassie’ in 1928, and ‘Within the Gates’ in 1933. 

T.S. Eliot (1888-19?) was one of the greatest literary figures in the Modern Age who wrote ‘The Rock’, ‘Murder in Cathedral’, ‘The Family Reunion’ and ‘The Cocktail Party’. He wrote all about the religious aspects and serious themes regarding society.

John Drinkwater (1882-1937) wrote ‘Abraham Lincoln’, ‘Marry Stuart’, ‘Oliver Cromwell’ and ‘Robert E.Lee’.

Clifford Bax, Ashley Dukes, and Rudolf Besier also wrote imaginative plays such as ‘Socrates’, ‘The Venetian’, ‘The Immortal Lady’ and The Rose Without the Thorn’ by Bax. Similarly ‘The Man with a Load of Mischief’, The Fountain Head’ and Tyle Ulenspiegel’ by Dukes. In the end ‘The Barretts of Wimpole Street’ famous drama by Besier. So, modern literature discovers the different features of genres that shows customs of people’s living and portray more realistic aspects of society.

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