The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, originally published in 1890, revised and republished in 1891
The Picture of Dorian Gray is a supernatural story about the consequences of ego and moral indecency. Near the start of the novel, Dorian Gray, a wealthy and handsome young aristocrat, is given a portrait of himself that was painted by a young artist named Basil Hallward. Soon after, Dorian is stricken with fear at the fact that his good looks will fade with age. He proclaims out loud that he would trade his soul if he could remain as he is in the picture and have the picture take on his less appealing qualities.
Dorian’s wishes are soon granted and as he goes off to lead an immoral life, his picture begins to take on sinister and evil qualities. Dorian hides it in his attic, where he will not have to see it. Times goes by and Dorian’s picture ages and becomes more and more ugly and terrible. Eventually, Dorian feels guilt at his wicked ways and comes to loathe the picture. He goes into his attic one night with a knife, intending to destroy the picture. His servants find him dead on the floor, with a knife through his heart. The picture had transformed back into that of the beautiful young man and Dorian himself was as he truly was, hideous.
Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)
Dracula is one of the most popular horror novels of all time. It is also Bram Stoker’s only truly significant novel. The novel is the story of a group of people’s experience with the dreaded Count Dracula and his seductive minions. Jonathan Harker is the first character to run into Count Dracula, when he arrives at his castle and is taken prisoner. Harker eventually escapes and returns home relatively unscathed and soon marries his sweetheart, Mina.
The couple is soon living in a nightmare when they join forces with the men who are trying to kill Dracula. They are attempting to track him down when he finds Mina and bites her. She begins gradually turning into a vampire. Harker and a man named Quincy Morris are eventually able to kill Count Dracula and his minions. The death of the Count stops Mina’s transformation and she and Jonathan are able to live a happy life together–a happier ending than most remakes of the tale.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (1847)
Wuthering Heights is the only novel ever published by Emily Bronte, who died at the age of thirty. It is a dark and dreary novel about love, passion and manipulation that is set in a dark and dreary manor on a dark and dreary English moor. The main body of the story revolves around the lives and love of Catherine Earnshaw and an orphan that her father has adopted, named Heathcliff.
Heathcliff and Catherine fall in love at a very young age, but Heathcliff’s life is rife with disappointment. He is treated cruelly by Catherine’s brother, Hindley and later suffers the indignity of seeing Catherine marry another man. He goes through the rest of his life plotting revenge on Hindley and Catherine’s husband Edgar and is largely successful. However, Heathcliff becomes a cruel man himself, especially after Catherine dies in childbirth. At the end of his life, Heathcliff is filled with grief and often talks to the ghost of Catherine.
There are many, many more novels from the Victorian era that are worth reading. There is simply not enough room here to list them all. If you are looking for further reading from this era, anything published between 1837 and 1901 is considered Victorian. And you will be sure to find some literary gems among books of this time period.