This authoritative survey examines how the Victorian middle-classes perceived themselves, through analyses of the literature of the period. Asking how the middle classes distinguished themselves from their forbears, Julian Wolfreys reads in detail major novels by: - Charles Dickens - Elizabeth Gaskell - Wilkie Collins - George Eliot - Thomas Hardy. Wolfreys explores the novelists' constructions of modernity, national identity and their understanding of 'becoming historical' in distinction from that of previous generations. He offers illuminating close readings of texts and examines narratives set in a recent past in order to investigate the role of cultural memory in the making of identity. Also featuring a helpful Chronology and an Annotated Bibliography to aid further study, this stimulating guide encourages readers to reassess the work of key writers of the nineteenth century.