"Like an old Flemish interior brought into action": Victorian Reviews of the Realist Novel and the Appropriation of Visual Arts Vocabulary


  • Isabel Seidel


realist novel, visual arts, Margaret Oliphant, George Eliot, Geraldine Jewsbury


This article explores the link between visual culture and the criticism of the Victorian novel. The mid-Victorian period saw a surge in the publication of novels written in what has come to be regarded as the beginning of a realist tradition. The vast majority of these novels were written by women who frequently also worked as reviewers, since editors of periodicals considered them to be the most suitable commentators on a genre to which they contributed in such unprecedented numbers. Among the most influential women reviewers of the Victorian period were Geraldine Jewsbury, Margaret Oliphant and George Eliot. Drawing on their knowledge of Dutch, Flemish, and French realist painting as well as the principles of modern painting laid down by John Ruskin in particular, these reviewers appropriated the language of visual arts for their analyses of the nineteenth-century novel.