This book is simply a must read for all those who love the great English novels of the Victorian Era and, furthermore, its poetry which, while historically it has fallen into what Chesterton would probably see as justified neglect (save that of Robert Browning), and is now seen as a pale and jejune lifting from the "High Romantics," notably Byron and Shelley, to whom Chesterton pays due homage at the beginning of the work, was much more preeminent at the time. Also, English prose writers get a thorough threshing out. Above all, Chesterton's treatment of Dickens is the most remarkable aspect of this work. I've never read such a spot on and thorough treatment of that omnipresent Victorian anywhere.
But all this would be for naught if it weren't for Chesterton's unique and thorough style of assessing these authors. There are thousands of dry dissertations on the subject and just as many tendentious books published full of stifling academese drivel that renders them well nigh unreadable. The closest thing in the modern era to which I can compare Chesterton's writing is Harold Bloom. But this is not quite fair to either of them. Chesterton is far less trenchant. His judgments are made in a mollifying context, and he doesn't rely on anything like the "anxiety of influence" to bolster his insights.
Of course, all this presumes a broad knowledge of the Victorian era, such as the Pre-Raphaelite movement in art etc. But I presume any reader of this review possesses such knowledge, or they wouldn't be considering the purchase of this book.
PLEASE do buy it or check it out or something, especially if you are a beleaguered student (graduate or undergrad). I wish I'd had this splendid, readable, erudite analysis to pass around my Victorian Novels seminar in Grad School-sighs-Everybody at the time was reading the banal Feminist tract, The Mad Woman in The Attic (allusion, if you didn't catch it, to Jane Eyre (the novel, not the character). - In any event, this book is simply a joy to read for anybody who loves English literature and splendid writing. My highest praise.