The practice of poetry in the Victorian period was characterised by an extreme diversity of styles, preoccupations and subject-matter. This anthology attempts to draw out some of the main focuses of interest in the Victorian poet. No Victorian poet produced an overall theory of poetry, yet all accepted it as a natural vehicle of expression, and for some subjects, in particular sexuality, the only literary mode. Indeed, the sexual question was made even more acute by the sudden phenomenon of the ‘poetess’, and the relation of poetry to gender raised interesting new critical questions. At the same time, the cultural role of the poet came under increasing debate: Victorian poetry was the first contemporary poetry to be studied.
This selection of central texts illustrates these pressures on the Victorian practice of poetry, and the introductory remarks suggest ways in which theory can be related to the understanding key poems themselves.