Glossary. Arts, literature and history, an explanation of terms
An illustrated, alphabetical list of expressions used on this website
A unique and beautiful movement in the arts that flourished from about 1890 until the onset of the first world war in 1914. It was a style of decorative art that was expressed not only in painting and design, but also in architecture and furniture. Popular in western Europe, Britain and the USA, it was characterized by flowing lines, scrolls and curves - these often based on natural forms such as foliage or flowers.
Curvaceous and gorgeous art nouveau
Belle Époque is a French term meaning 'the beautiful era' coinciding with the final decades of the 19th century and the first 14 years of the 20th century (up to the start of the First World War). A largely peaceful era in which the arts and sciences flourished and in which the style and manners of previous years still remained, at least among the well-to-do of society.
A celebration of flamboyance - the glorious Belle Epoque
Sometimes called England’s ‘Golden Age,’ this is a period of history coinciding with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I - who succeeded to the throne in 1558 and reigned until her death in 1603, at the age of 69.
Faces of the Elizabethan age, including the Queen (right)
A novel made up of letters and/or journals in which one is obliged to ‘read between the lines’ and reach conclusions about what is taking place, or has taken place. Although not always obvious, some of the best-known classic novels of the past have been epistolary in form. And the genre remains popular.
Fin de Siècle
This is a French term meaning ‘the end or turn of the Century’ and is usually applied to the closing years of the 19th Century and start of the 20th. It is also a term that interprets the period as being somewhat decadent and with a sense of foreboding - a kind of doomed Gothic sentiment.
A period of history in Britain coinciding with the reigns of the
Hanoverian monarchs - George I, II, II and IV between the years
1714 and 1830. The Georgian era, which includes the Regency, is
also sometimes called ‘the long eighteenth century.
Faces of the Georgian era
Café Griensteidl, Reinhold Völkel, 1896
The wonderful world of Gothic design
A term referring to those who, in the 17th and 18th centuries supported the restoration of the Stuart royal line in England. The last Stuart monarch was James II who was ousted from power in 1688. The nation at the time was uncomfortable with James’s Catholicism, and laws were enacted that prohibited any future monarch of that persuasion from taking the throne regardless of their rights by descent. The Jacobites, who had considerable support in Europe and Britain, launched two invasions of Scotland during the years 1715 and 1745 - known as the 1st and 2nd Jacobite rebellion respectively. The 2nd is remembered fondly as the campaign of the Young Pretender, or Bonnie Prince Charlie. The Jacobite issue overshadowed the political landscape in Britain for much of the 18th century.
Portrait of Charles Edward Stuart,
otherwise known as Bonnie Prince Charlie
A genre of literature characterised by a sense of uncertainty - with the occurrence of time-slips and spiritual visitations that blend with normal, rational sequences of events in a seamless fashion. Although a modern term, magical realism, is found throughout all the history of the novel, in all cultures. It’s real, but magical at the same time.
Neo-Victorian (modern Victorian)A genre, usually applied to literature, in which the novelist endeavours to re-create the social and political landscape of the 19th century - and more often than not the fashions and manners of speech that prevailed during the English Victorian era. Although usually lacking in the lengthy prose of a typical Victorian writer, the neo-Victorian novel will often emulate the characteristics and manners of their predecessors, including melo-drama, dark Gothic sentiments and mystery.
A French term meaning ‘dark’ or ‘black’ and often applied to novels and films with an element of crime that take place in bleak or gloomy surroundings. It can also refer to plots and stories in which passionate feelings remain hidden - simmering and smouldering beneath the surface.
1890’s Parisian cabaret poster
This is a term applied to the work of a number of artists and poets who flourished in England during the second half of the 19th Century. When used in the plural (the Pre-Raphaelites) it refers to a 'brotherhood' of artists centred around the 3 founding members John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt. In practice, however, the term is usually applied to a whole group of 19th century artists and poets, male and female, some flourishing well into the early 20th century and whose work has a strong Romantic and narrative quality
Pre-Raphaelite models, Fanny Cornforth, Elizabeth Siddal and Alexa Wilding
The years 1811 to 1820 when George III was unable to rule due to illness, and his son, the Prince of Wales, took power as Regent until he, in time, succeeded to the throne to become George IV. It saw some of the finest developments in architecture and fashion.
The elegance of Regency England
Romanticism - Romantic Era
A movement in the arts and literature characterised by a sense of awe and wonder at the grand and sublime in nature and human feelings. Although it can embrace traditional romantic love, Romanticism also finds inspiration in things which are savage and ungoverned. It has a strong affinity with the Gothic, therefore, and flourished around the same time as the Gothic revivalism of Victorian times.
Three great English Romantic poets: Keats, Browning and Shelley
The Lady of Shalott
An iconic Victorian poem written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809- 1892) - the 2nd version, published in 1842, being the more popular and widely quoted. A great source of inspiration for the Pre- Raphaelite artists and poets, it concerns the plight of a lady confined in a tower. Working at a loom, night and day, she is obliged to view the outside world solely through a mirror until, one day, she has occasion to glance down to the Grail-knight Lancelot riding past - and then everything changes.
The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse
A name given to the period of English history presided over by the Tudor dynasty, which began with the crowning of Henry VII after the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 and ended with the death of Elizabeth Tudor (Queen Elizabeth I) in 1603.
The magical drawings of Hans Holbein bringing the Tudors to life
A period of history coinciding with the reign of Queen Victoria - who ascended the throne of Britain in 1837 and reigned until her death in 1901, at the age of 81.
Three Victorians who changed the world, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Florence Nightingale and Alexander Graham Bell
Gothic - Gothic revivalism - neo-Gothic
Gothic usually describes the styles of architecture popular during
the Middle-Ages, characterised by tall, pointed arches and vaulted
ceilings. This style was revived during the Victorian era along with a widespread appreciation of other themes and customs of olden
times. The neo-Gothic, as it is called, was characterised by themes of melancholy and mystery, a sense of the dramatic or grotesque that permeated 19th-century literature, poetry and painting with gloomy motifs, fashions and settings. An atmosphere of mystery.