Geoffrey Tillotson began this book as a volume in the Oxford History of English Literature but died before completing it. Now, as slightly edited by Kathleen Tillotson, these ten chapters appear outside the series but bearing traces of their origins--i.e., they are economical and imaginative syntheses of historical and critical insight. The opening chapter limns the spirit of Victorian literary culture--the search for post-Romantic calm, the ripening of skepticism, the rise of the man of letters as hero--and the second examines the ethical ideal shared by literature and the common culture: that union of moral engagement and energy known to the Victorians as earnestness. Following these essays, both of them models of unpretentious scholarship and assured generalizing, come eight others concentrating on individual authors--all earnest, all observed with fresh vision, and all, as the Victorians would say, admired. There is Carlyle, less the familiar worshipper of work and heroes than the humanitarian of ""outraged sympathy"" and infectious moral sense; Dickens, the comic genius, dramatist in fiction, and master of the psychological nuances of language and character; Thackeray, lover of ambiguity, novelist of adult sensibilities, and author of the ""most distinguished"" prose in English fiction; the Brontes. . . Mrs. Gaskell. . . Trollope. . . and the poets Tennyson and Browning, the last celebrated for restoring literature ""to its origins as a thing recited."" Although truncated, the book will delight all devotees of Victorian literature, just as it marks how high the Victorians have risen in esteem since the fashionable debunking of Lytton Strachey.