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date: 19 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This essay explores the affinities between novels and gardens in Victorian England. While garden scenes are featured in many Victorian novels, the significance of horticulture for our understanding of fiction in this era exceeds a simple focus on literary themes and content. Examining the practices of horticulturalists and novelists together underscores their shared commitment to an ethos of improvement, a commitment that links the Victorian partiality for genres like the bildungsroman to their belief in the ameliorative mystique of gardens. The practices of gardening and horticulture were thought to be fundamentally moral activities, with the potential to promote sympathy, enhance the faculties of observation, and improve the prospects of the soul and psyche as well as the landscape—qualities that were also frequently attributed to novel-reading. Victorian novelists and horticulturalists both participated as well in a complex imperial culture where adventure novels and exotic botanic species were jointly circulated in a global marketplace. These variable associations between novels and gardens push us to rethink the cultural significance and reach of both institutions in Victorian England.

Keywords: Horticulture, Gardens, Bildungsroman, Improvement, Landscape, Empire, Exoticism, Morality, Victorian England

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