Speaking with my Victorianist's cap on, I was more amused than anything else by these complaints (via Scott). While Victorian parents certainly provided an appreciative market for children's nonsense fiction that extended well beyond the Alice books--e.g., Catherine Sinclair's enormously popular Holiday House--as well as rollicking adventure tales and so forth, they also snapped up novels that would now strike us as rather...glum.* If characters aren't being imprisoned by the Inquisition, they're being abused at Catholic schools, neglected by worldly family and friends, abducted by gypsies, subjected to loving punishments by God (my friend Emily Sarah Holt's characters tend to lose their children because of divine love), orphaned, impoverished, riddled with disease, and goodness knows what else. Now, if judged by the relevant Christian standards, these novels all have happy endings, either because Providence intervenes and everybody gets what they deserve, or because the children and other protagonists all wind up in Heaven. Of course, for the children and others to wind up in Heaven, they have to die first. Sometimes pretty horribly, as a matter of fact--I recently discussed one example (although Fabiola is right up there for concentrated gore). Victorian fiction for young people practically staggers under the weight of corpses, whether of children,** innocent maidens and youths, or various and sundry parents. Even when nobody gets tortured to death (something generally confined to religious historical novels, which are rarely complete without somebody dying, usually unpleasantly), many Victorian novels for youngsters insist that this is a world of suffering and persecution, to be patiently endured until death brings Heaven's reward.
*--I wonder how modern children and parents would react to the parenting techniques in The History of the Fairchild Family, although I suppose that some would think that a trip to see a decaying, gibbeted corpse would be, well, totally awesome.
**--There's an excellent article on this topic by Elisabeth Jay: "'Ye careless, thoughtless, worldly parents: tremble while you read this history!': the Use and Abuse of the Dying Child in the Evangelical Tradition," in Representations of Childhood Death, ed. Gillian Avery and Kimberley Reynolds (Houndmills: Macmillan, 2000), 111-32.