4. The Bibliography and Text Collection
For the student of heroism as well as of Victorianism and Edwardianism, the books assembled here provide access to the qualities and values that were associated with the heroic in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They indicate what values and virtues these societies promoted as exemplary and strove to inspire in their members, with certain inflections for age groups, genders and classes.
The bibliography is far from complete, since the genre of the gift book seems almost inexhaustible for the period under discussion. It will be continually expanded, and suggestions for further entries are invited. Even as it stands, however, the bibliography gives a fair impression of the kinds of heroism that were sanctioned and promoted as socially useful, and of the ways in which the subgenre of the hero book developed on the British book market from the mid-Victorian years to the eve of the First World War.
The bibliography is divided into four sections, the first of which is subdivided into various books intended for juvenile readers, who would be the most likely to receive these books as actual gifts. Section two lists books with a special interest in working-class heroes that were targeted at adult readers, but they have a strong similarity to books for juvenile readers from the working classes. Section three has significant intersections with the preceding ones but groups together books with a distinct religious bias, both from the dominant evangelical position and a Roman Catholic one, that reflects the defensive and vindictive attitude of a faith that had only recently (1829) been fully emancipated. While the bibliography focuses primarily on collections of prose narratives, the final section of poetry collections with a heroic theme has been added because the heroic was still frequently evoked in poetry, and poems are sometimes alluded to or cited in the story books.
The entries in this bibliography fall into the following groups:
1 Books for Young Readers
1.1 Collections of Mythological Stories
1.2 Gift Books for Boys
1.3 Gift Books for Girls
2 Books for (Adult) Readers of the Working Classes
3 Books of Christian Heroes
4 Poetry Collections
The entry for each book provides the main bibliographical data. Excerpts from the prefatory material (prefaces or introductions) that indicate the understandings of the heroic and the intentions with which the respective book was compiled or written, and the table of contents are included when available. Key words related to the heroic and its social function are highlighted in the prefatory material and together provide a map of the “semantics” of popular heroism and the attitudes it was meant to inspire in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. The names of heroes mentioned in the prefatory materials are highlighted and permit one to trace the leading actors in the Victorian heroic imaginary.