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7 Victorian-Era Romances You Defintely Didn’t Read in School

Unless you did.

I don’t know what your specific English teacher or professor assigned you to read when covering Victorian era literature, but chances are you read Jane Eyre. You almost definitely read Pride and Prejudice or Wuthering Heights or Sense and Sensibility. I’m sure there was some Dickens in there.

 

The thing is, in England and around the world, the 1800s brought us tons of romantic literature. Some of the greatest hits are consistently assigned, and some of the deep cuts are consistently ignored. It’s sad, but luckily I know you all loved your Victorian literature courses, so I’ll just give you a new syllabus. Again, I do not know books your English literature teacher assigned you to read, so some of these you might have already read, but they don’t seem to pop up on English curriculum often. Still, here are seven Victorian-era romances you probably never read in school.

 

1. Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert

 

Sentimental Education cover

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If you’re looking for a Jane Austen-style romance, check out some of the other books on the list. Flaubert’s Madame Bovary follow-up is an at-times dismal look at the men of Flaubert’s generation. The story follows a young Frédéric Moreau as he falls in love with the older (and married) Marie Arnoux. The thing is, it’s a totally, tragically unrequited love and only a platonic relationship develops between the two. It’s about desire and letdowns, yet still remains a classic romance in its own right.

 

2. Middlemarch by George Eliot

 

Middlemarch

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Some have called it the greatest novel in the English language, and George Eliot (actual name Mary Anne Evans) probably earned that honor with this massive tome. Too long for most school courses, Middlemarch is an epic romances covering several different storylines, with historical tie-ins, and a keen eye for love and all its complications. Middlemarch isn’t just a classic of the Victorian era, but of all time.

 

3. Persuasion by Jane Austen

 

Persuasion

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One of Austen’s lesser-read books, Persuasion is a solid romance in its own right. It follows twenty-seven-year-old Anne Elliot who’s hilariously reunited with her ex-fiancé, Navy Captain Frederick Wentworth, whom she hasn’t seen in seven years. While their old feelings begin to boil up again, Anne finds another potential suitor. Hilarity and awkwardness ensue. You know Austen.

 

4. Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

 

Tess of the d'Urbervilles

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It’s a classic, you’ve heard of it. But, more than likely, this never passed by your school desk. Following Tess Durbeyfield’s budding romance with Angel Clare and the...erm...consequences of that romance, Hardy’s book is a wild ride. It’s an essential Victorian-era book for modern readers. Dramatic, sharp, and overall won-d’Urb-ful.

 

5. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

 

Portrait of a Lady

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Henry James is famous for his spooky ghost stories, but The Portrait of a Lady is a major realist accomplishment in his early career. The story is about Isabel Archer, who inherits a bundle of cash and marries one Gilbert Osmond. The romance is solid, but it is, like Hardy’s Tess, what follows that’s the juiciest part.

 

6. Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola

 

Therese Raquin

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Zola’s classic, erm, romance is about the titular Thérèse, who’s in an awful marriage with her cousin (her first cousin). This marriage is so awful, in fact, that she has an affair with her husband’s friend. Oh, the drama. Hope you check it out!

 

Feature Image Via Danielle Lisle