Guide to Victorian Poetry

Victorian Poetry (Autumn-Winter, 1982) Plate 2

Introduction and Scope | Abbreviations and Locations | Subject Headings and Browsing Areas |

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries | Biographies | Bibliographies |

Databases and Indexes | Monographs | Periodicals | Internet Resources

Introduction and Scope

The Victorians challenged the forms and themes of their predecessors, the Romantics, and created poetry that sparked critical interest during the early 1900s through today. As a result, there is an abundance of literature about the Victorian poets and their works. Most critical literature focuses on the major Victorian poets-Matthew Arnold, Alfred Hugh Clough, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Algernon Charles Swinburne, and Alfred Tennyson. However, current scholarship focuses on women poets, such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Christina Rossetti. There also has been an increase in the examination of themes throughout Victorian poetry.

This research guide is targeted for an academic audience seeking sources and information regarding Victorian poetry. Organized here are reference and non-reference sources found in Indiana University's library system. Included are print and electronic sources in the form of encyclopedias, dictionaries, biographies, bibliographies, databases, indexes, books, periodicals, and internet resources. While this is not an exhaustive list, this research guide is intended to aid students with their scholarly endeavors concerning Victorian poetry.

Return to Top

Abbreviations and Locations

The following abbreviations are used in this pathfinder

  • RC: Research Collection at the Wells Library (East Tower)
  • Ref: Reference Collection

*All library locations refer to the Bloomington campus unless otherwise noted.

Return to Top

Subject Headings and Browsing Areas

Searching by subject heading is a useful method of finding sources in a catalog, such as IUCAT, or a database. Because Victorian poetry falls into many catagories, there are multiple subject headings.

Subject Headings:

  • English Poetry--19th Century
  • Poets, English--19th Century
  • English Literature--19th Century--History and Criticism

Browsing the shelves is also a useful way of finding materials on a particular subject. There are multiple call numbers for Victorian poetry, so consider browsing the call numbers below for more sources.

Browsing Areas:

  • PR451-469-English Language and Literature
  • R500-614-Poetry
  • PR521-614-Poetry by Period
  • PR1170-1228-Collection of English Literature-Poetry

*Due to the volume of resources available on this topic, browsing the stacks is highly recommended in addition to browsing IUCAT for materials housed in the Auxiliary Library Facility (ALF).

Return to Top

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Consulting encyclopedias and dictionaries is a common starting point for researchers because these resources offer brief entries about a subject. Consulting these resources can help narrow a subject and provide keywords for searching databases and other materials. Listed below are general and subject-specific encyclopedias and dictionaries.

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries:

  • Kastan, David Scott, ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature. Vol. 1-5. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. [Ref, PR19.O95]
    This encyclopedia includes entries on the major Victorian poets. Entries include biographical information, details about poetry and criticism. There is also a list of each poet's works and suggestions for further reading. 

  • Magill, Frank N., ed. Critical Survey of Poetry. Vol. 1-8. Englewood Cliffs: Salem Press, 1982. [Ref, PR502.C85]
    Arranged alphabetically by author, these eight volumes, including the index, provide substantial biographical information. An analysis of the poet and his or her life and works is included. This resource is perhaps one of the most comprehensive print references on poetry. 

  • Ousby, Ian, ed. The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. [Ref, PR85.C29]
    Lengthy entries on major Victorian poets are included in this reference work. There are in-depth summaries of poets that should be consulted; however, it should be noted that there are no suggested readings. 

  • Scott-Kilvert, Ian, ed. British Writers. Vol. 1-8. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1981. [Ref, PR85.B688]
    This substantial reference series includes entries about British writers. For example, there are over ten pages devoted to Robert Browning. The index should be used to find the corresponding volume and page numbers; volumes 4 and 5 specifically include entries on major Victorian poets. 

  • Tucker, Herbert F., ed. A Companion to Victorian Literature & Culture. Malden: Blackwell, 1999. [Ref, PR461.C597]
    Divided into five parts, this text offers valuable information about Victorian culture and literature. While each chapter focuses on a particular aspect of the Victorian period, chapter 21 is dedicated to poetry. The index should be used to locate references to particular poets. 

  • Vinson, James, ed. Great Writers of the English Language: Poets. Vol. 1. London: Macmillan Press, 1979. [Ref, PR106.G9.V.1]
    Over one thousand pages are devoted to English-language poets and are arranged alphabetically. "The entry for each writer consists of a biography, a complete list of his published books, a selected list of published bibliographies and critical studies on the writer, and a signed critical essay on his work" (vii). Although the entries in this resource are brief, this is an effective starting point for researchers.
Return to Top


When researching a particular Victorian poet, one should consult a biography. This is a useful starting point because a biographical entry will lead to other sources such as the names of specific works by and about the poet, historical dates, and bibliographies.

  • Fredeman, William E. and Ira B. Nadel, eds. Dictionary of Literary Biography: Victorian Poets Before 1850. Vol. 32. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1984. [RC-Ref, PR591.V53]
    Each entry includes basic biographical information, a list of works by the poet, an in-depth look at the poet's life, works regarding the poet's writing, and references. 

  • Fredeman, William E. and Ira B. Nadel, eds. Dictionary of Literary Biography: Victorian Poets After 1850. Vol. 35. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1985. [RC-Ref, PR591.V5]
    All aspects of this resource are similar to the above-mentioned work; however, the focus is on Victorian poets after 1850. 

  • Thesing, William B., ed. Dictionary of Literary Biography: Victorian Women Poets. Vol. 199. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1999. [RC-Ref, PR595.W6 V49]
    This resource has a narrow focus-Victorian women poets-and is useful in locating information on major or lesser-known female poets.
Return to Top


When researching a particular Victorian poet, poetry collection, or theme in poetry, one should consult a bibliography. This is a useful starting point because bibliographies will provide a lengthy list of related sources. This will often save the researcher time.

  • Buckley, Jerome H. Victorian Poets and Writers. 2nd ed. Arlington Heights: AHM Publishing, 1977. [RC, Z0.B8]
    This bibliography focuses on thirty-two Victorian poets and prose writers. For each Victorian writer, Buckley lists resources in three categories: editions, biography, and criticism. This is a well-organized and indexed resource that will lead researchers to prominent works on Victorian poets.

  • Cooke, John D. and Lionel Stevenson. English Literature of the Victorian Period. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1949. [RC, PR591.R5]
    The section on poetry discusses common topics and techniques found in Victorian poetry. Specifically, this work includes essays on seventeen well-known poets and a chapter about minor poets. The essays conclude with a list of references published in the early 1900s. Overall, Cooke and Stevenson's work gives an idea of what scholars thought of the Victorian's poetry just after their time.

  • Ehrsam, Theodore G. and Robert H. Deily. Bibliographies of Twelve Victorian Authors. New York: Octagon Books, Inc., 1968. [RC, Z2013.E3]
    Bibliographies for twelve Victorian authors-Arnold, Barrett Browning, Clough, Fitzgerald, Hardy, Kipling, Morris, C. Rossetti, D. Rossetti, Stevenson, Swinburne, and Tennyson-are provided in this resource. Chronological outlines, bibliographical, biographical, and critical material are provided for each author. English and foreign language materials in the form of articles, pamphlets, essays, and books are also compiled here.

  • Faverty, Frederic E., ed. The Victorian Poets. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968. [RC, PR593.F27]
    This revised edition includes chapters of resources on general materials concerning Victorian poets, including Tennyson, R. Browning, E. Browning, Fitzgerald, Clough, Arnold, Swinburne, and Hopkins. There are also chapters about the Pre-Raphaelites and later Victorian poets. The bibliography is written in essay form to provide commentary about the resources, which typically include biographies, criticism, editions, and special studies.

  • Fredeman, William E. Pre-Raphaelitism: A Bibliocritical Study. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965. [RC, Z5948.P9 F7]
    This 327 page guide provides resources, including collections, exhibitions, journal articles, and monographs, on the subject of Pre-Raphaelitism. Half of the resources are annotated. Section II: Bibliography of Individual Figures should be consulted in order to find materials related to specific poets, such as Rossetti.

  • Martinez, Nancy C., Joseph G. R. Martinez, and Erland Anderson. Guide to British Poetry Explication. Vol. 4. New York: G. K. Hall & Co., 1991. [RC-Ref, Z2014.P7 M34]
    This useful 720-page guide lists sources published through 1991 that explicate Victorian poetry. Poems are listed alphabetically after each poet, and the index cross-references the titles of the poems for easy use.

  • Mazzeno, Laurence W. Victorian Poetry: An Annotated Bibliography. London: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1995. [RC, Z2014.P7 M35]
    This annotated text is comprised of 254 pages. Each of the fourteen chapters is devoted to a major Victorian poet. Mazzeno suggests sources for general studies, sources about the poet and his or her work, and he gives a breakdown of sources for each poem. The annotations are in-depth and provide page numbers if the source focuses on more than one topic.
Return to Top

Databases and Indexes

Databases and indexes are useful tools for locating articles in journals or magazines and are an indicator of how much material is readily available on a subject. These resources are available online, and most provide links to full-text articles.

  • Academic Search Premier. (EBSCO)
    This database provides full-text coverage for a variety of subjects, including English literature and Victorian studies.

  • English Poetry Database. (ProQuest) (coverage from 600-1900)
    "The collection contains over 160,000 poems, essentially comprising the complete canon of English poetry of the British Isles from the 8th century to around 1900. Drawn from nearly 4,500 printed sources, more than 1,250 poets are represented." Browse or search under the category "English Poetry" to view results regarding Victorian poetry.

  • Arts and Humanities Citation Index. (ISI) (coverage from 1977-current)
    This index includes references from 1,150 scholarly journals. The results provide complete citations of materials, and researchers will then need to locate the full-text articles in other databases or in print copies of the periodicals.

  • JSTOR. (complete coverage up to 3-5 years ago)
    JSTOR is a "trusted archive of important scholarly journals" and "provides complete runs of hundreds of important journal titles in more than 30 arts, humanities, and social science disciplines." Searching the terms "Victorian" and "poetry" yields many results on the subject.

  • Literature Compass. (Blackwell) (coverage unknown)
    This database provides abstracts and full-text articles that survey current literary scholarship. Browse the "Victorian" category to view current research about this time period.

  • Literature Resource Center. (Gale) (coverage unknown)
    "Included in the database are Contemporary Authors Online with biographical coverage of over 100,000 authors; Contemporary Literary Criticism since print vol. 95 with profiles of 266 authors from prior volumes; and Dictionary of Literary Biography Online, containing more than 10,000 essays on authors and their works." Abstracts and full-texts articles are provided.

  • Nineteenth Century Masterfile. (Paratext) (coverage from 1802-1906)
    "The several indexes in this series cover British and American periodicals in the nineteenth century including the Index to Periodical Literature, 1802-1906, the work of American bibliographer and scholar William Frederick Poole." Conduct a keyword search in this database using a Victorian poet's name to yield results. C19: The Nineteenth Century Index is similar and includes the Wellesley Index to Periodicals; however, the interface of this database is easier to search.

  • MLA International Bibliography. (EBSCO) (coverage from 1963-current)
    This is an index including "3,000 journals and series, in monographs, chapters of books, working papers, dissertations, proceedings, Festschriften and bibliographies." The results are linked to other IU databases in order for researchers to find the corresponding full-text articles.

  • Project Muse. (Johns Hopkins University Press)
    This database, which is comprised of over 250 journal titles, "offers a comprehensive selection of prestigious humanities, arts, and social sciences journals…Every journal is heavily indexed and peer-reviewed, with critically acclaimed articles by the most respected scholars in their fields." Articles are available in full-text.

  • WorldCat. (coverage through current)
    WorldCat is OCLC's Online Union Catalog and is the most comprehensive catalog available for books and other materials. There are over 62,000,000 records in over 400 languages. Results can be limited to materials owned by Indiana University.
Return to Top


These critical works are useful resources at any stage of the researching process. They provide an in-depth look at a subject. Many of the books listed below include critical essays about specific Victorian poets and their poetry.

  • Armstrong, Isobel, ed. The Major Victorian Poets: Reconsiderations. London: Routledge, 1969. [RC, PR593.M234]
    Armstrong has compiled a collection of thirteen essays about the nature of Victorian poets. This text specifically aims to address themes or attributes in the works of particular poets, such as Tennyson, Arnold, Browning, Clough, and Hopkins. The goal of these essays is to present a new approach to the poets and poems discussed.

  • Bristow, Joseph, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Poetry. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 2000. [RC, PR591.C36]
    Divided into thirteen chapters, this companion seeks to discuss the uniqueness and challenges of Victorian poetry as well as common themes and styles. "Some of the chapters concentrate on the linguistic, metrical, and stylistic features that came to prominence during this epoch, while others explore the complex ways in which Victorian poets intervened in the controversies of the time" (xv).

  • Cronin, Richard, Alison Chapman, and Antony H. Harrison, eds. A Companion to Victorian Poetry. Malden: Blackwell, 2002. [RC, PR591.C66]
    This massive text is comprised of over six hundred pages and is broken into three parts: (1) Varieties and Forms; (2) Production, Distribution and Reception; and (3) Victorian Poetry and Victorian Culture. This resource provides in-depth information about the various forms of poetry, including the epic, lyric, dramatic monologue, sonnet, elegy, and hymn, among others. There is emphasis on breadth of scope rather than on individual poets. The index is a useful tool in locating particular poets or works.

  • Gourney, Stephen. British Poetry of the Nineteenth Century. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993. [RC, PR451.G87]
    The purpose of Gourney's text "is to achieve both a breadth of historical awareness-which will enable the reader to grasp a poet's relationship to his precursors, his peers, and the intellectual climate of his age-and to provide a knowledge of that poet's life and achievement that is more than merely perfunctory" (vii). Of particular interest are chapters six through ten, which focus on the Victorians and the Pre-Raphaelites.

  • Harrison, Antony H. Victorian Poets and Romantic Poems: Intertextuality and Ideology. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1990. [RC, PR595.R6 H37]
    Harrison applies a new historicist approach to well-known Victorian poems to identify and interpret the use of intertextuality. There are seven chapters devoted to identifying the ways in which poets, such as Arnold, Keats, Tennyson, D. Rossetti, C. Rossetti, and Swinburne, addressed issues in society and commented on their predecessors, the Romantics.

  • Harrison, Antony H. Victorian Poets and the Politics of Culture: Discourse and Ideology. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998. [RC, PR595.H5.H37]
    This text stems from Harrison's above-mentioned critical work. Through the inclusion of five chapters, Harrison aims to discuss "how the work of particular Victorian poets operated as a mode of cultural intervention" (1).

  • McSweeney, Kerry. Supreme Attachments: Studies in Victorian Love Poetry. Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998. [RC, PR595.L7.M38]
    The focus of this source is on "poems that express or represent aspects of the experience of loving" as opposed to poems that "simply articulate ideas about love" (preface). McSweeney does not distinguish between the Romantics and the Victorians; however, there is emphasis on Browning, Tennyson, and Rossetti in these nine chapters.

  • Richards, Bernard. English Poetry of the Victorian Period 1830-1890. 2nd ed. London: Pearson Education, Limited, 2001. [RC, PR591.R5]
    This updated edition emphasizes current trends in studying Victorian literature-namely women's poetry and linguistics (chapters 15 and 16 respectively). Richards offers an interesting analysis of topics, such as love poetry, domesticity, satire, religion, nature, and science. The chronology and well-categorized bibliography should not be overlooked.

  • Riede, David G. Allegories of One's Own Mind. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2005. [RC, PR595.M34.R54]
    Five chapters are devoted to exploring the theme of melancholy in Victorian poetry, including the works of Tennyson, E. Browning, R. Browning, and Fitzgerald.

  • Rosenberg, John D. Elegy for an Age: The Presence of the Past in Victorian Literature. London: Anthem Press, 2005. [RC, PR599.E45.R67]
    This current work analyzes the theme of the past in Victorian Literature. In approximately three hundred pages, Rosenberg discusses the theme in various poems. Chapters regarding Tennyson (chapters 3 and 4), Arnold (chapter 8), and Swinburne (chapter 9) will be of particular interest to the researcher.

  • Slinn, E. Warwick. Victorian Poetry as Cultural Critique. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003. [RC, PR595.H5 S58]
    Slinn focuses on analyzing performative language of Victorian poetry-a technique that according to Slinn has lost its popularity and should continue to be studied. In doing so, he reveals the relationship between poetry and culture. This text is only comprised of five chapters; however, researchers should use the index to locate information about specific poets.
Return to Top


Periodicals are valuable resources for researchers because they are written by experts, and the material is documented from other sources or studies. The articles included in periodicals vary in length and can lead a researcher to other important resources through citations. Most of the periodicals listed below focus on the Victorian period and its literature.

  • Nineteenth Century Literature. (UCLA)
    This journal is published quarterly and focuses on all literary genres of the nineteenth century.

  • Victorian Literature and Culture. (Cambridge University Press)
    "Victorian Literature and Culture encourages high quality original work concerned with all areas of Victorian literature and culture, including music and the fine arts."

  • Victorian Poetry. (West Virginia University Press)
    Victorian Poetry is published quarterly and focuses on all Victorian poets. Current discussions about poets stem from a variety of theoretical angles.

  • Victorian Review: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Victorian Studies. (Victoria, British Columbia)
    This peer-reviewed journal focuses on all topics regarding Victorian "literature, fine arts, history, politics, law, science, economics, sport, and popular culture."

  • Victorian Studies. (Indiana University Press)
    For almost 50 years, Victorian Studies has been devoted to the study of British culture of the Victorian age. It regularly includes interdisciplinary articles on comparative literature, social and political history, and the histories of education, philosophy, fine arts, economics, law and science, as well as review essays, and an extensive book review section."

Return to Top

Internet Resources

Internet resources offer quick accessibility to basic information about Victorian poetry. Even though some of these internet resources focus on the Victorian period, there is substantial information about poetry and poets, including full-text versions of poems.

  • Swinburne Project.
    "The Swinburne Project is a digital collection, or virtual archive, devoted to the life and work of Victorian poet Algernon Charles Swinburne. When complete the project will provide…access to all available original works by Swinburne and selected contextual materials, including contemporary critical reactions, biographical works, and images of artwork about which Swinburne wrote." This project is still under development, but it currently has some full-text materials and a useful chronology of Swinburne's life.

  • The Victorian Web.
    This resource is maintained by the National University of Singapore and includes links to information regarding poets, full-text copies of poems, bibliographies, and more. Although this resource is not easy to navigate, a variety of information regarding Victorians is located here.

  • The Victorian Women Writers Project.
    This resource, which is perhaps the most inclusive to date, focuses on Victorian women writers and includes full-text materials from "anthologies, novels, political pamphlets, religious tracts, children's books, and volumes of poetry and verse drama." This resource has an impressive depth and coverage of nineteenth-century women poets.

  • Voice of the Shuttle. (VoS)
    VoS contains general resources to consult about Victorian authors and some links to their full-text works. Also included are sample course syllabi, suggested criticism, journals, listservs, and conference announcements. The premise of this resource is valuable; however, it needs to be updated.
Return to Top

Created by Andrea Falcone, MLS Candidate
Indiana University, School of Library & Information Science
Last updated 11 September 2007.
Please feel free to send questions, comments, and feedback to me at

last updated: 5/14/2010