There are a number of other more specialized reference books you might consult. For brief background information on the Victorian age, Victorian Britain: An Encyclopedia, ed. Sally Mitchell (1988), provides useful overviews to individual writers and general topics. (At the back of her book, Mitchell also provides a list of research materials for Victorian studies and evaluates them for their usefulness.) For more detailed information on Victorian social history, consult Richard Altick's Victorian People and Ideas (1974) or Robin Gilmour's The Victorian Period: The Intellectual and Cultural Context of English Literature, 1830-1900 (1994). Older, but still valuable, is Walter E. Houghton's The Victorian Frame of Mind (1957).
Other specialized references in print form: The Victorian Poets: A Guide to Research, ed. Frederic E. Faverty (1968); Victorian Prose: A Guide to Research, ed. David J. DeLaura (1973); Victorian Periodicals: A Guide to Research, ed. Vann and VanArsdel (2 vols., 1978 and 1989); Victorian Fiction: A Guide to Research, ed. Lionel Stevenson (1966) and Victorian Fiction: A Second Guide to Research, ed. George H. Ford (1978). For background information on women writers, there are quite a few reference works shelved in the library's reference section. Two useful sources are: The Feminist Companion to Literature in English, ed. Virginia Blain, et al. (1990) and An Encyclopedia of British Women Writers, ed. Paul and June Schleuter (1989?; second edition expected to be published this year).
Several journals publish specialized bibliographies yearly: in particular, bibliographies of critical studies of the Victorian age and its literature were formerly published in Modern Philology; these bibliographies can now be found in Victorian Studies. Also, Victorian Poetry publishes an annual evaluative survey of important scholarship on Victorian poetry.
If you are interested in reading responses to Victorian authors
by their contemporaries, the Critical Heritage series offers excerpts
from contemporary reviews of major writers as well as more recent readings.
You can expect to find Critical Heritage books, however, only on major,
canonized writers. There are a number of biographical sources you
can turn to for information on individual writers. Look first at
the Dictionary of National Biography (the DNB) and its supplements--most
biographies themselves start with this source. Finally, make use
of the bibliographical information provided to you by the editors of our
editions as a way to begin research work on a particular writer.
Marie Belloc Lowndes