Victorian Fairy Tales (Oxford World’s Classics) edited by Michael Newton is a collection of literary fairy tales from the end of the Romantic period to the very early twentieth century, with the bulk solidly in the nineteenth century. The tales range from Thackeray’s deliberately literary “The Rose and the Ring,” to George MacDonald’s mystical “The Golden Key,” to Juliana Horatio Ewing’s imitation of the oral style in “The First Wife’s Wedding Ring,” and E. Nesbit’s loving and humorous “Melisande.” Some of the tales will be familiar to people who grew up reading fairy tales—Kenneth Graham’s “The Reluctant Dragon” has seen numerous publications as a standalone—but others are more obscure. Ford Madox Ford’s, “The Queen Who Flew,” for example, has not seen much circulation in fairy tale collections, nor has Laurence Housman’s odd, haunting “The Story of the Herons.” Each tale in the collection also includes a selection of the original illustrations that were included in the tale’s first publication, many by well-known illustrators of the time. Collectively, they form a representative collection of fairy tales as understood and told by the Victorians. Their views were by no means monolithic, and the tales’ range and tones reflect this variance.
It is not just fairy tales the reader will find in Victorian Fairy Tales. Michael Newton has written an introductory essay setting the tales in their time period. He writes of the varying views the Victorians had on fairy tales, the way such tales were often seen as remnants of the past either to be embraced or discarded. He also discusses the political and social concerns that often underlay these tales, even when the author was against overt moralizing. The “Explanatory Notes” at the end of the book include brief biographical information on each author together with a look at the way they fit in the fairy tale tradition. Additional notes are available to explain cultural and contemporary references.
Also included at the end of the book are three contemporary essays by John Ruskin, Julia Horatio Ewing, George MacDonald, and Laurence Housman where each author writes about the meaning and form of fairy tales.
Victorian Fairy Tales (Oxford World’s Classics)Victorian Fairy Tales is a fine selection of tales to read for the pure enjoyment of the story and for learning more about the history of fairy tales and their meanings. The reader may do both at once, or separately as he or she chooses.
Pairs well with:
Forbidden Journeys: Fairy Tales and Fantasies by Victorian Women Writers edited and with introduction and notes by Nina Auerbach and U. C. Eds. Knoepflmacher
You may also want to read:
“Between terror and kitsch: fairies in fairy tales” an essay by Michael Newton.