storie inglesi di terre lontane

In 1851 the  Great Exhibition marked the triumph of English economy and the high point of British imperialism. Colonialism had started with the first geographical discoveries and the journeys of exploration, but during the nineteenth century Britain consolidated its existing empire, and further (ulteriormante) expanded her dominions: by the end of the century Britain could proudly (orgogliosamente) proclaim  that “the sun never sets (tramonta) on the British Empire.”

Consequently, in the second half of the century the imperial activity had a great impact on the cultural life of the country.

Literature in particular became strictly involved in the imperialist project and the colonial ideology, informed (educò)  the collective unconscious of the British public during the entire period.

Some novels were set in distant lands where writers like Rudyard Kipling – author of The Jungle Books and Kim – were born. The exotic atmosphere affected British readers which soon got attracted by the narratives of adventure of romance novels like  Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island  and R. M. Ballantyne’s Coral island focus around.

But already in the 18th century the novels about journeys’ like Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Tobias Smollet’s Roderick Random and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels focus around discoveries and new settlement where the British crown  could expand her power. And in the first decades of the 19th century  Charles Dickens, William M. Thackeray, Charlotte Bronte mention these new realities. Dickens’s description of Coketownin Hard Times shows the author’s attraction for the new environment: the colourful waters of the rivers are compared with the colours of a savage, the pistons of chimneys (pistoni delle ciminiere) with the head of elephants and the smoke coming out is seen like uncoiled serpents (serpenti che si srotolano). In David Copperfield Mr. Micawber achieves (raggiunge) success in Australia. Thackeray deals with (tratta) people who go to Indiato trade and make their fortune and C. Bronte in Jane Eyre introduces the character of Bertha, Mr. Rochester’s first wife, who comes from the CaribbeanIsland and St. JohnRivers  leaves for India to fulfil his missionary aspirations. The same Jane Austenwho appears so far from the commercial routes of the British novelists reveals that Sir Thomas Bertram’s estate possedimento terriero, proprietà) in Mansfield Park is maintained by his possessions in Antigua.

Colonialism supplied new routes for British author’s imagination and a new expansion for  the domestic novels, revealing the strong involvement (coinvolgimento) of British society in the colonial enterprise.