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Title: The English Novel
Author: Saintsbury, George, 1845-1933
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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It is somewhat curious that there is, so far as I know, no complete
handling in English of the subject of this volume, popular and important
though that subject has been. Dunlop's _History of Fiction_, an
excellent book, dealt with a much wider matter, and perforce ceased its
dealing just at the beginning of the most abundant and brilliant
development of the English division. Sir Walter Raleigh's _English
Novel_, a book of the highest value for acute criticism and grace of
style, stops short at Miss Austen, and only glances, by a sort of
anticipation, at Scott. The late Mr. Sidney Lanier's _English Novel and
the Principle of its Development_ is really nothing but a laudatory
study of "George Eliot," with glances at other writers, including
violent denunciations of the great eighteenth-century men. There are
numerous monographs on parts of the subject: but nothing else that I
know even attempting the whole. I should, of course, have liked to deal
with so large a matter in a larger space: but one may and should
"cultivate the garden" even if it is not a garden of many acres in
extent. I need only add that I have endeavoured, not so much to give
"reviews" of individual books and authors, as to indicate what Mr.
Lanier took for the second part of his title, but did not, I think,
handle very satisfactorily in his text.

I may perhaps add, without impropriety, that the composition of this
book has not been hurried, and that I have taken all the pains I could,
by revision and addition as it proceeded, to make it a complete survey
of the Novel, as it has come from the hands of all the more important
novelists, not now alive, up to the end of the nineteenth century.


_Christmas_, 1912.








One of the best known, and one of the least intelligible, facts of
literary history is the lateness, in Western European Literature at any
rate, of prose fiction, and the comparative absence, in the two great
classical languages, of what we call by that name. It might be an
accident, though a rather improbable one, that we have no Greek prose
fiction till a time long subsequent to the Christian era, and nothing in
Latin at all except the fragments of Petronius and the romance of
Apuleius. But it can be no accident, and it is a very momentous fact,
that, from the foundation of Greek criticism, "Imitation," that is to
say "Fiction" (for it is neither more nor less), was regarded as not
merely the inseparable but the constituent property of poetry, even
though those who held this were doubtful whether poetry must necessarily
be in verse. It is another fact of the greatest importance that the
ancients who, in other forms than deliberate prose fiction, try to "tell
a story," do not seem to know very well how to do it.

The _Odyssey_ is, indeed, one of the greatest of all stories, it is the
original romance of the West; but the _Iliad_, though a magnificent
poem, is not much of a story. Herodotus can tell one, if anybody can,
and Plato (or Socrates) evidently could have done so if it had lain in
his way: while the _Anabasis_, though hardly the _Cyropædia_, shows
glimmerings in Xenophon. But otherwise we must come down to Lucian and
the East before we find the faculty. So, too, in Latin before the two
late writers named above, Ovid is about the only person who is a real
story-teller. Virgil makes very little of his _story_ in verse: and it
is shocking to think how Livy throws away his chances in prose. No:
putting the Petronian fragments aside, Lucian and Apuleius are the only
two novelists in the classical languages before about 400 A.D.: and
putting aside their odd coincidence of subject, it has to be remembered
that Lucian was a Syrian Greek and Apuleius an African Latin. The
conquered world was to conquer not only its conqueror, but its
conqueror's teacher, in this youngest accomplishment of literary art.

It was probably in all cases, if not certainly, mixed blood that
produced the curious development generally called Greek Romance. It is
no part of our business to survey, in any detail, the not very numerous
but distinctly interesting compositions which range in point of
authorship from Longus and Heliodorus, probably at the meeting of the
fourth and fifth centuries, to Eustathius in the twelfth. At one time
indeed, when we may return to them a little, we shall find them
exercising direct and powerful influence on modern European fiction, and
so both directly and indirectly on English: but that is a time a good
way removed from the actual beginning of our journey. Still, _Apollonius
of Tyre_, which is probably the oldest piece of English prose fiction
that we have, is beyond all doubt derived ultimately from a Greek
original of this very class: and the class itself is an immense advance,
in the novel direction, upon anything that we have before. It is on the
one hand essentially a "romance of adventure," and on the other
essentially a "love-story"--in senses to which we find little in
classical literature to correspond in the one case and still less in the
other. Instead of being, like _Lucius_ and the _Golden Ass_, a tissue of
stories essentially unconnected and little more than framed by the main
tale, it is, though it may have a few episodes, an example of at least
romantic unity throughout, with definite hero and definite heroine, the
prominence and importance of the latter being specially noteworthy. It
is in fact the first division of literature in which the heroine assumes
the position of a protagonist. If it falls short in character, so do
even later romances to a great extent: if dialogue is not very
accomplished, that also was hardly to be thoroughly developed till the
novel proper came into being. In the other two great divisions, incident
and description, it is abundantly furnished. And, above all, the two
great Romantic motives, Adventure and Love, are quite maturely present
in it.

To pass to the deluge, and beyond it, and to come to close quarters with
our proper division, the origin of Romance itself is a very debatable
subject, or rather it is a subject which the wiser mind will hardly care
to debate much. The opinion of the present writer--the result, at least,
of many years' reading and thought--is that it is a result of the
marriage of the older East and the newer (non-classical) West through
the agency of the spread of Christianity and the growth and diffusion of
the "Saint's Life." The beginnings of Hagiology itself are very
uncertain: but what is certain is that they are very early: and that as
the amalgamation or leavening of the Roman world with barbarian material
proceeded, the spread of Christianity proceeded likewise. The _Vision of
St. Paul_--one of the earliest examples and the starter it would seem,
if not of the whole class of sacred Romances, at any rate of the large
subsection devoted to Things after Death--has been put as early as
"before 400 A.D." It would probably be difficult to date such legends as
those of St. Margaret and St. Catherine _too_ early, having regard to
their intrinsic indications: and the vast cycle of Our Lady, though
probably later, must have begun long before the modern languages were
ready for it, while that of the Cross should be earlier still. And let
it be remembered that these Saints' Lives, which are still infinitely
good reading, are not in the least confined to homiletic necessities.
The jejuneness and woodenness from which the modern religious story too
often suffers are in no way chargeable upon all, or even many, of them.
They have the widest range of incident--natural as well as supernatural:
their touches of nature are indeed extended far beyond mere incident.
Purely comic episodes are by no means wanting: and these, like the
parallel passages in the dramatising of these very legends, were sure to
lead to isolation of them, and to a secular continuation.

But, once more, we must contract the sweep, and quicken the pace to deal
not with possible origins, but with actual results--not with Ancient or
Transition literature, but with the literature of English in the
department first of fiction generally and then, with a third and last
narrowing, to the main subject of English fiction in prose.

The very small surviving amount, and the almost completely second-hand
character, of Anglo-Saxon literature have combined to frustrate what
might have been expected from another characteristic of it--the unusual
equality of its verse and prose departments. We have only one--not
quite entire but substantive--prose tale in Anglo-Saxon, the version of
the famous story of _Apollonius of Tyre_, which was to be afterwards
declined by Chaucer, but attempted by his friend and contemporary Gower,
and to be enshrined in the most certain of the Shakespearean
"doubtfuls," _Pericles_. It most honestly gives itself out as a
translation (no doubt from the Latin though there was an early Greek
original) and it deals briefly with the subject. But as an example of
narrative style it is very far indeed from being contemptible: and in
passages such as Apollonius' escape from shipwreck, and his wooing of
the daughter of Arcestrates, there is something which is different from
style, and with which style is not always found in company--that faculty
of telling a story which has been already referred to. Nor does this
fail in the narrative portions of the prose Saints' Lives and Homilies,
especially Aelfric's, which we possess; in fact it is in these last
distinctly remarkable--as where Aelfric tells the tale of the monk who
spied on St. Cuthbert's seaside devotions. The same faculty is
observable in Latin work, not least in Bede's still more famous telling
of the Caedmon story, and of the vision of the other world.

But these faculties have better chance of exhibiting themselves in the
verse division of our Anglo-Saxon wreckage. _Beowulf_ itself consists of
one first-rate story and one second-rate but not despicable tale,
hitched together more or less anyhow. The second, with good points, is,
for us, negligible: the first is a "yarn" of the primest character. One
may look back to the _Odyssey_ itself without finding anything so good,
except the adventures of the Golden Ass which had all the story-work of
two mightiest literatures behind them. As literature on the other hand,
_Beowulf_ may be overpraised: it has been so frequently. But let
anybody with the slightest faculty of "conveyance" tell the first part
of the story to a tolerably receptive audience, and he will not doubt
(unless he is fool enough to set the effect down to his own gifts and
graces) about its excellence as such. There is character--not much, but
enough to make it more than a _mere_ story of adventure--and adventure
enough for anything; there is by no means ineffectual speech--even
dialogue--of a kind: and there is some effective and picturesque
description. The same faculties reappear in such mere fragments as that
of _Waldhere_ and the "Finnsburgh" fight: but they are shown much more
fully in the Saints' Lives--best of all in the _Andreas_, no doubt, but
remarkably also (especially considering the slender amount of
"happenings") in the _Guthlac_ and the _Juliana_. In fact the very
fragments of Anglo-Saxon poetry, by a sort of approximation which they
show to dramatic narrative and which with a few exceptions is far less
present in the classics, foretell much more clearly and certainly than
in the case of some other foretellings which have been detected in them,
the future achievements of English literature in the department of
fiction. _The Ruin_ (the finest thing perhaps in all Anglo-Saxon) is a
sort of background study for something that might have been much better
than _The Last Days of Pompeii_: and _The Complaint of Deor_, in its
allusion to the adventures of the smith Weland and others, makes one
sorry that some one more like the historian of a later and decadent
though agreeable Wayland the Smith, had not told us the tale that is now
left untold. A crowd of fantastic imaginings or additions, to supply the
main substance, and a certain common-sense grasp of actual conditions
and circumstances to set them upon, and contrast them with--these are
the great requirements of Fiction in life and character. You must mix
prose and poetry to get a good romance or even novel. The consciences of
the ancients revolted from this mixture of kinds; but there was no such
revolt in the earlier moderns, and least of all in our own mediæval

So few people are really acquainted with the whole range of Romance
(even in English), or with any large part of it, that one may without
undue presumption set down in part, if not in whole, to ignorance, a
doctrine and position which we must now attack. This is that romance and
novel are widely separated from each other; and that the historian of
the novel is really straying out of his ground if he meddles with
Romance. These are they who would make our proper subject begin with
Marivaux and Richardson, or at earliest with Madame de La Fayette, who
exclude Bunyan altogether, and sometimes go so far as to question the
right of entry to Defoe. But the counter-arguments are numerous: and any
one of them would almost suffice by itself. In the first place the idea
of the novel arising so late is unnatural and unhistorical: these
Melchisedecs without father or mother are not known in literature. In
the second a pedantic insistence on the exclusive definition of the
novel involves one practical inconvenience which no one, even among
those who believe in it, has yet dared to face. You must carry your wall
of partition along the road as well as across it: and write separate
histories of Novel and Romance for the last two centuries. The present
writer can only say that, though he has dared some tough adventures in
literary history, he would altogether decline this. Without the help of
the ants that succoured Psyche against Venus that heap would indeed be
ill to sort.

But there is a third argument, less practical in appearance but bolder
and deeper, which is really decisive of the matter, though few seem to
have seen it or at least taken it up. The separation of romance and
novel--of the story of incident and the story of character and
motive--is a mistake logically and psychologically. It is a very old
mistake, and it has deceived some of the elect: but a mistake it is. It
made even Dr. Johnson think Fielding shallower than Richardson; and it
has made people very different from Dr. Johnson think that Count Tolstoi
is a greater analyst and master of a more developed humanity than
Fielding. As a matter of fact, when you have excogitated two or more
human beings out of your own head and have set them to work in the
narrative (not the dramatic) way, you have made the novel _in posse_, if
not _in esse_, from its apparently simplest development, such as
_Daphnis and Chloe_, to its apparently most complex, such as the
_Kreutzer Sonata_ or the triumphs of Mr. Meredith. You have started the
"Imitation"--the "fiction"--and _tout est là_. The ancients could do
this in the dramatic way admirably, though on few patterns; in the
poetical way as admirably, but again not on many. The Middle Ages lost
the dramatic way almost entirely, but they actually improved the
poetical on its narrative side, and the result was Romance. In every
romance there is the germ of a novel and more; there is at least the
suggestion and possibility of romance in every novel that deserves the
name. In the Tristram story and the Lancelot cycle there are most of the
things that the romancer of incident and the novelist of character and
motive can want or can use, till the end of the world; and Malory (that
"mere compiler" as some pleasantly call him) has put the possibilities
of the latter and greater creation so that no one who has eyes can miss
them. Nor _in the beginning_ does it much or at all matter whether the
vehicle was prose or verse. In fact they mostly wrote in verse because
prose was not ready.

In the minor romances and tales (taking English versions only) from
_Havelok_ to _Beryn_ there is a whole universe of situation, scenario,
opportunity for "business." That they have the dress and the
scene-backing of one particular period can matter to no one who has eyes
for anything beyond dress and scene-backing. And when we are told that
they are apt to run too much into grooves and families, it is sufficient
to answer that it really does not lie in the mouth of an age which
produces grime-novels, problem-novels, and so forth, as if they had been
struck off on a hectograph, possessing the not very exalted gift of
varying names and places--to reproach any other age on this score. But
we have only limited room here for generalities and still less for
controversy; let us turn to our proper work and survey the actual
turn-out in fiction--mostly as a result of mere fashion, verse, but
partly prose--which the Middle Ages has left us as a contribution to
this department of English literature.

It has been said that few people know the treasures of English romance,
yet there is little excuse for ignorance of them. It is some century
since Ellis's extremely amusing, if sometimes rather prosaic, book put
much of the matter before those who will not read originals; to be
followed in the same path by Dunlop later, and much later still by the
invaluable and delightful _Catalogue of_ [British Museum] _Romances_ by
Mr. Ward. It is nearly as long since the collections of Ritson and
Weber, soon supplemented by others, and enlarged for the last forty
years by the publications of the Early English Text Society, put these
originals themselves within the reach of everybody who is not so lazy
or so timid as to be disgusted or daunted by a very few actually
obsolete words and a rather large proportion of obsolete spellings,
which will yield to even the minimum of intelligent attention. Only a
very small number (not perhaps including a single one of importance)
remain unprinted, though no doubt a few are out of print or difficult to
obtain. The quality and variety of the stories told in them are both
very considerable, even without making allowance for what has been
called the stock character of mediæval composition. That almost all are
directly imitated from the French is probable enough, that most are is
certain: but this matters, for our purpose, nothing at all. That the
imitation was not haphazard or indiscriminate is obvious. Thus, though
we have some, we have not very many representatives of the class which
was the most numerous of all in France--the _chansons de geste_ or
stories of French legendary history, national or family. Except as far
as the Saracens are concerned, they would naturally have less interest
for English hearers. The _Matière de Rome_, again--the legends of
antiquity--though represented, is not very abundant outside of the
universally popular Tale of Troy; and the almost equally popular
Alexander legend does not occupy a very large part of them. What is
perhaps more remarkable is that until Malory exercised his genius upon
"the French book," the more poetical parts of the "matter of Britain"
itself do not seem to have been very much written about in English. The
preliminary stuff about Merlin and Vortigern exists in several
handlings; the foreign campaigns of Arthur seem always (perhaps from
national vanity) to have been popular. The "off"-branches of Tristram
and Percivale, and not a few of the still more episodic romances of
adventures concerning Gawain, Iwain, and other knights, receive
attention. The execrable Lonelich or Lovelich, who preceded Malory a
little, had of course predecessors in handling the other parts of the
Graal story. But the crown and flower of the whole--the inspiration
which connected the Round Table and the Graal and the love of Lancelot
and Guinevere--though, so far as the present writer's reading and
opinion are of any weight, the recent attempts to deprive the
Englishman, Walter Map, of the honour of conceiving it are of no
force--seems to have waited till the fifteenth century--that is to say
the last part of three hundred years--before Englishmen took it up. Most
popular of all perhaps, on the principle that in novels the flock "likes
the savour of fresh grass," seem to have been the pure _romans
d'aventures_--quite unconnected or nearly so with each other or with any
of the larger cycles. Those adventures of particular heroes have
sometimes a sort of Arthurian link, but they really have no more to do
with the main Arthurian story than if Arthur were not.

For the present purpose, however, filiation, origin, and such-like
things are of much less importance than the actual stories that get
themselves told to satisfy that demand which in due time is to produce
the supply of the novel. Of these the two oldest, as regards the actual
forms in which we have them, are capital examples of the more and less
original handling of "common-form" stories or motives. They were not
then, be it remembered, quite such common-form as now--the rightful heir
kept out of his rights, the usurper of them, the princess gracious or
scornful or both by turns, the quest, the adventure, the revolutions and
discoveries and fights, the wedding bells and the poetical justice on
the villain. Let it be remembered, too, if anybody is scornful of these
as _vieux jeu_, that they have never been really improved upon except by
the very obvious and unoriginal method common in clever-silly days, of
simply reversing some of them, of "turning platitudes topsy-turvy," as
not the least gifted, or most old-fashioned, of novelists, Tourguenief,
has it. Perhaps the oldest of all, _Havelok the Dane_--a story the age
of which from evidence both internal and external, is so great that
people have not quite gratuitously imagined a still older Danish or even
Anglo-Saxon original for the French romance from which our existing one
is undoubtedly taken--is one of the most spirited of all. Both hero and
heroine--Havelok, who should be King of Denmark and Goldborough, who
should be Queen of England--are ousted by their treacherous
guardian-viceroys as infants; and Havelok is doomed to drowning by his
tutor, the greater or at least bolder villain of the two. But the
fisherman Grim, who is chosen as his murderer, discovers that the child
has, at night, a _nimbus_ of flame round his head; renounces his crime
and escapes by sea with the child and his own family to Grimsby.
Havelok, growing up undistinguished from his foster-brethren, takes
service as a scullion with the English usurper. This usurper is seeking
how to rid himself of the princess without violence, but in some way
that will make her succession to the crown impossible, and Havelok
having shown prowess in sports is selected as the maiden's husband. She,
too, discovers his royalty at night by the same token; and the pair
regain their respective inheritances and take vengeance on their
respective traitors, in a lively and adventurous fashion. There are all
the elements of a good story in this: and they are by no means wasted or
spoilt in the actual handling. It is not a mere sequence of incident;
from the mixture of generosity and canniness in the fisherman who
ascertains that he is to have traitor's wages before he finally decides
to rescue Havelok, to the not unnatural repugnance of Goldborough at
her forced wedding with a scullion, the points where character comes in
are not neglected, though of course the author does not avail himself of
them either in Shakespearean or in Richardsonian fashion. They are
_there_, ready for development by any person who may take it into his
head to develop them.

So too is it in the less powerful and rather more cut and dried _King
Horn_. Here the opening is not so very different; the hero's father is
murdered by pirate invaders, and he himself set adrift in a boat. But in
this the princess (daughter of course of the king who shelters him)
herself falls in love with Horn, and there is even a scene of
considerable comic capabilities in which she confides this affection by
mistake to one of his companions (fortunately a faithful one) instead of
to himself. But Horn has a faithless friend also; and rivals, and
adventures, and journeys; and returns just in the nick of time, and
recognitions by rings, and everything that can properly be desired
occur. In these--even more perhaps than in Havelok's more masculine and
less sentimental fortunes--there are openings not entirely neglected by
the romancer (though, as has been said, he does not seem to have been
one of the strongest of his kind) for digression, expatiation,
embroidery. Transpose these two stories (as the slow kind years will
teach novelists inevitably to do) into slightly different keys,
introduce variations and episodes and _codas_, and you have the
possibilities of a whole library of fiction, as big and as varied as any
that has ever established itself for subscribers, and bigger than any
that has ever offered itself as one collection to buyers.

The love-stories of these two tales are what it is the fashion--exceedingly
complimentary to the age referred to if not to the age of the fashion
itself--to call "mid-Victorian" in their complete "propriety."
Indeed, it is a Puritan lie, though it seems to possess the vivaciousness
of its class, that the romances are distinguished by "bold bawdry."
They are on the contrary rather singularly pure, and contrast, in
that respect, remarkably with the more popular folk-tale. But fiction,
no more than drama, could do without the [Greek: amarthia]--the
human and not unpardonable frailty. This appears in, and complicates,
the famous story of _Tristram_, which, though its present English form
is probably younger than _Havelok_ and _Horn_, is likely to have existed
earlier: indeed must have done so if Thomas of Erceldoune wrote on the
subject. Few can require to be told that beautiful and tragical history
of "inauspicious stars" which hardly any man, of the many who have
handled it in prose and verse, has been able to spoil. Our Middle
English form is not consummate, and is in some places crude in manner
and in sentiment. But it is notable that the exaggerated and inartistic
repulsiveness of Mark, resorted to by later writers as a rather
rudimentary means of exciting compassion for the lovers, is not to be
found here; in fact, one of the most poetical touches in the piece is
one of sympathy for the luckless husband, when he sees the face of his
faithless queen slumbering by her lover's side with the sun on it. "And
Mark rewed therefore." The story, especially in its completion with the
"Iseult of Brittany" part and the death of Tristram, gives scope for
every possible faculty and craftsmanship of the most analytic as of the
most picturesque novelist of modern times. There is nothing in the least
like it in ancient literature; and to get a single writer who would do
it justice in modern times we should have to take the best notes of
Charles Kingsley, and Mr. Blackmore, and Mr. Meredith, leaving out all
their faults, and combine. It is not surprising that, in the very
infancy of the art, nobody in German or French, any more than in English
(though the German here is, as it happens, the best), should have done
it full justice; but it is a wonder that a story of such capacities
should have been sketched, and even worked out in considerable detail,
so early.

Of the far greater story of which _Tristram_ is a mere episode and
hardly even that--a chantry or out-lying chapel of the great
cathedral--the Arthurian Legend, the earlier English versions, or rather
the earlier versions in English, are, as has been said, not only
fragmentary but disappointing. There is nothing in the least strange in
this, even though (as the present writer, who can speak with indifferent
knowledge, still firmly holds) the conception of the story itself in its
greatest and unifying stage is probably if not certainly English. The
original sources of the story of Arthur are no doubt Celtic; they give
themselves out as being so, and there is absolutely no critical reason
for disbelieving them. But in these earlier forms--the authority of the
most learned Celticists who have any literary gift and any appreciation
of evidence is decisive on this point--not only are the most
characteristic unifying features--the Graal story and the love of
Lancelot and Guinevere--completely wanting, but _the_ great stroke of
genius--the connection of these two and the subordination of all minor
legends as to the dim national hero, Arthur, with those about him--is
more conspicuously wanting still. Whether it was the Englishman Walter
Map, the Norman Robert de Borron, or the Frenchman Chrestien de Troyes,
to whom this flash of illumination came, has never been proved--will
pretty certainly now never be proved. M. Gaston Paris failed to do it;
and it is exceedingly unlikely that, where he failed, any one else will
succeed, unless the thrice and thirty times sifted libraries of Europe
yield some quite unexpected windfall. In the works commonly attributed
to Chrestien, all of which are well known to the present writer, there
is no sign of his having been able to conceive this, though he is a
delightful romancer. Robert is a mere shadow; and his attributed works,
_as_ his works, are shadows too, though they are interesting enough in
themselves. Walter not only has the greatest amount of traditional
attribution, but is the undoubted author of _De Nugis Curialium_. And
the author of _De Nugis Curialium_, different as it is from the
Arthurian story, _could_ have finally divined the latter.

But at the time when he wrote, Englishmen, with the rarest exceptions,
wrote only in French or Latin; and when they began to write in English,
a man of genius, to interpret and improve on him, was not found for a
long time. And the most interesting parts of the Arthurian story are
rarely handled at all in such early vernacular versions of it as we
have, whether in verse or prose. Naturally enough, perhaps, it was the
fabulous historic connection with British history, and the story of the
great British enchanter Merlin, that attracted most attention. The
_Arthour and Merlin_ which is in the Auchinleck MS.; the prose _Merlin_,
published by the Early English Text Society; the alliterative Thornton
_Morte d'Arthur_, and others, are wont to busy themselves about the
antecedents of the real story--about the uninteresting wars of the King
himself with Saxons, and Romans, and giants, and rival kings, rather
than with the great chivalric triple cord of Round Table, Graal, and
Guinevere's fault. The pure Graal poems, _Joseph of Arimathea_, the work
of the abominable Lonelich or Lovelich, etc., deal mainly with another
branch of previous questions--things bearable as introductions,
fillings-up, and so forth, but rather jejune in themselves. The Scots
_Lancelot_ is later than Malory himself, and of very little interest.
Layamon's account, the oldest that we have, adds little (though what
little it does add is not unimportant) to Geoffrey of Monmouth and Wace;
and tells what it has to tell with nearly as little skill in narrative
as in poetry. Only the metrical _Morte_--from which, it would appear,
Malory actually transprosed some of his most effective passages in the
manner in which genius transproses or transverses--has, for that reason,
for its dealings with the catastrophe, and for the further opportunity
of comparison with Tennyson, interest of the higher kind. But before we
come to Malory himself it is desirable to turn to the branches--the
chapels, as we have called them, to the cathedral--which he also, in
some cases at least, utilised in the _magnum opus_ of English prose

These outliers were rather more fortunate, probably for no more
recondite reason than that the French originals (from which they were in
almost every instance certainly taken) were finished in themselves. Of
the special Gawain cycle or sub-cycle we have two romances in pure
metrical form, and more than two in alliterative, which are above the
average in interest. _Ywain and Gawain_, one of the former, is derived
directly or indirectly from the _Chevalier au Lyon_ of Chrestien de
Troyes; and both present some remarkable affinities with the unknown
original of the "Sir Beaumains" episode of Malory, and, through it, with
Tennyson's _Gareth and Lynette_. The other, _Lybius Disconus (Le Beau
Déconnu)_ is also concerned with that courteous nephew of Arthur who, in
later versions of the main story, is somewhat sacrificed to Lancelot.
For a "_real_ romance," as it calls itself (though it is fair to say
that in the original the word means "royal"), of the simpler kind but
extremely well told, there are not many better metrical specimens than
_Ywain and Gawain_, but it has less character-interest, actual or
possible, than those which have been commented on. The hero, King
Urien's son, accepts an adventure in which another knight of the Table,
Sir Colgrevance, has fared ill, after it has been told in a conversation
at court which is joined in first by the Queen and afterwards by the
King. Sir Kay here shows his usual cross-grainedness; and Guinevere
"with milde mood" requests to know "What the devil is thee within?" The
adventure is of a class well known in romance. You ride to a certain
fountain, pour water from it on a stone, and then, after divers marvels,
have to do battle with a redoubtable knight. Colgrevance has fared
badly; Kay is as usual quite sure that he would fare better; but Ywain
actually undertakes the task. He has a tough battle with the knight who
answers the challenge, but wounds him mortally; and when the knight
flies to his neighbouring castle, is so hard on his heels that the
portcullis actually drops on his horse's haunches just behind the
saddle, and cuts the beast in two. Ywain is thus left between the
portcullis and the (by this time shut) door--a position all the more
awkward that the knight himself expires immediately after he has reached
shelter. The situation is saved, however, by the guardian damsel of
romance, Lunet (the Linet or Lynette of the Beaumains-Gareth story), who
emerges from a postern between gate and portcullis and conveys the
intruder safe to her own chamber. Here a magic bed makes him invisible:
though the whole castle, including the very room, is ransacked by the
dead knight's people and would-be revengers, at the bidding of his

This widow, however, is rather an Ephesian matron. The sagacious Lunet,
whose confidante she is, suggests to her that, unless she enlists some
doughty knight as her champion, the king will confiscate her fief; and
that there is no champion like a husband. A very little more finesse
effects the marriage, even though the lady is made aware of the identity
of her new lover and her own husband's slayer. (It is of course
necessary to remember that the death of a combatant in fairly challenged
and fought single contest was not reckoned as any fault to his
antagonist.) Ywain actually shows his prowess against the King: and has
an opportunity of showing Kay once more that it is one thing to blame
other people for failing, and another to succeed yourself. And after
this the newly married pair live together happily for a time. But it was
reckoned a fault in a knight to take too prolonged a honeymoon: and
Ywain, after what the French call _adieux déchirants_, obtains leave for
the usual "twelvemonth and a day," at the expiration of which, on St.
John's Eve, he is without fail to return, the engagement being sealed by
the gift from his lady of a special ring. He forgets his promise of
course: and at the stated time a damsel appears, sternly demands the
ring, and announces her lady's decision to have nothing further to do
with him. There is in such cases only one thing for any true knight,
from Sir Lancelot to Sir Amadis, to do: and that is to go mad, divest
himself of his garments, and take to the greenwood. This Ywain duly
does, supporting himself at first on the raw flesh of game which he
kills with a bow and arrows wrested from a chance-comer; and then on
less savage but still simple food supplied by a benevolent hermit. As he
lies asleep under a tree, a lady rides by with attendants, and one of
these (another of the wise damsels of romance) recognises him as Sir
Ywain. The lady has at the time sore need of a champion against a
hostile earl, and she also fortunately possesses a box of ointment
infallible against madness, which Morgane la Faye has given her. With
this the damsel is sent back to anoint Ywain. He comes to his senses, is
armed and clothed, undertakes the lady's defence, and discomfits the
earl: but is as miserable as ever. Resisting the lady's offer of herself
and all her possessions, he rides off once more "with heavy heart and
dreary cheer."

Soon he hears a hideous noise and, riding in its direction, finds that a
dragon has attacked a lion. He succours the holier beast, kills the
dragon, and though he has unavoidably wounded the lion in the _mêlée_ is
thenceforth attended by him not merely as a food-provider, but as the
doughtiest of squires and comrades in fight. To aggravate his sorrow he
comes to the fountain and thorn-tree of the original adventure, and
hears some one complaining in the chapel hard by. They exchange
questions. "A man," he said, "some time I was" (which must be one of the
earliest occurrences in English of a striking phrase), and the prisoner
turns out to be Lunet. She has been accused of treason by the usual
steward (it is _very_ hard for a steward of romance to be good) and two
brothers--of treason to her lady, and is to be burnt, unless she can
find a knight who will fight the three. Ywain agrees to defend her: but
before he can carry out his promise he has, on the same morning, to meet
a terrible giant who is molesting his hosts at a castle where he is
guested. Both adventures, however, are achieved on the same day, with
very notable aid from the lion: and Ywain undertakes a fresh one, being
recruited by the necessary damsel-messenger, against two half-fiend
brother knights. They stipulate that the lion is to be forcibly
prevented from interfering, and he is locked up in a room; but, hearing
the noise of battle, he scratches up the earth under the door, frees
himself, and once more succours his master at the nick of time. Even
this does not expiate Ywain's fault: and yet another task falls to
him--the championship of the rights of the younger of a pair of sisters,
the elder of whom has secured no less a representative than Gawain
himself. The pair, unknowing and unknown, fight all day long before
Arthur's court with no advantage on either side: and when the light
fails an interchange of courtesies leads to recognition and the
settlement of the dispute. Now the tale is nearly full. Ywain rides yet
again to the magic fountain and performs the rite; there is no one to
meet him; the castle rocks and the inmates quake. But the crafty Lunet
persuades her mistress to swear that if the Knight of the Lion, who has
fallen at variance with his lady, will come to the rescue, she will do
all she can to reconcile the pair. Which not ill-prepared "curtain" duly
falls: leaving us comfortably assured that Ywain and his Lady and Lunet
and the Lion (one wishes that these two could have made a match of it,
and he must surely have been a bewitched knight) lived happily

    "Until that death had driven them down."

This, it has been said, is a specimen of the pure romance; with little
except incident in it, and a touch or two of manners. It does not, as
the others noticed above do, lend itself much to character-drawing. But
it is spiritedly told; though rougher, it is much more vigorous than the
French original; and the mere expletives and stock phrases, which are
the curse of these romances, do not obtrude themselves too much. In this
respect, and some others, it is the superior of the one coupled above
with it, _Lybius Disconus_, which is closer, except in names, to the
Beaumains story. Still, this also is not a bad specimen of the same
class. The hero of it is a son, not a brother, of Gawain, comes nameless
or nicknamed, but as "Beaufils," not "Beaumains," to Arthur's court, and
is knighted at once, not made to go through the "kitchen-knave" stage.
Accordingly, the damsel Elene (not Lunet), to whom he is assigned as
champion in the adventure of the Lady of Sinadowne, objects only to his
novelty of knighthood and is converted by his first victory. The course
of the adventures is, however, different from that which some people
know from Malory, and many from Tennyson. One of them is farcical: the
Fair Unknown rescues a damsel at her utmost need from two giants, a red
and a black, one of whom is roasting a wild boar and uses the animal as
a weapon, with the spit in it, for the combat. Moreover, he falls a
victim to the wiles of a sorceress-chatelaine whom he has also
succoured: and it is only after the year and day that Elene goads him on
to his proper quest. But this also is no bad story.

The limits of this volume admit of not much farther "argument" (though
the writer would very gladly give it) of these minor romances of
adventure, Arthurian and other. Ellis's easily accessible book supplies
abstracts of the main Arthurian story before Malory; of the two most
famous, though by no means best, of all the non-Arthurian romances, _Guy
of Warwick_ and _Bevis of Hampton_ (the former of which was handled and
rehandled from age to age, moralised, curtailed, lengthened, and hashed
up in every form); of the brilliant and vigorous _Richard
Coeur-de-Lion_; of the less racy Charlemagne romances in English; of the
_Seven Wise Masters_, brought from the East and naturalised all over
Europe; of the delightful love story of _Florice and Blancheflour_; of
that powerful and pathetic legend of the _Proud King_ (Robert of
Sicily), which Longfellow and Mr. William Morris both modernised, each
in his way; of those other legends, _Sir Isumbras_ and _Amis and
Amillion_, which are so beautiful to those who can appreciate the
mediæval mind, and to the beauty of which others seem insensible; of
_Sir Triamond_ and _Sir Eglamour_ (examples of the romance at its
weakest); of the exceedingly spirited and interesting _Ipomydon_, and of
some others, including the best of Scotch romances, _Sir Eger, Sir
Grame, and Sir Graysteel_. But Ellis could not know others, and he left
alone yet others that he might have known--the exquisite _Sir Launfal_
of Thomas Chester at the beginning of the fifteenth century, where an
unworthy presentment of Guinevere is compensated by the gracious image
of Launfal's fairy love; the lively adventures of _William of Palerne_,
who had a werewolf for his friend and an emperor's daughter for his
love, eloping with her in white bear-skins, the unusual meat of which
was being cooked in her father's kitchen; _Sir Orfeo_--Orpheus and
Eurydice, with a happy ending; _Emarè_, one of the tales of innocent but
persecuted heroines of which Chaucer's Constance is the best known;
_Florence of Rome_; the rather famous _Squire of Low Degree; Sir
Amadas_, not a very good handling of a fine motive, charity to a corpse;
many others.

Nor does he seem to have known one of the finest of all--the
alliterative romance of _Gawain and the Green Knight_ which, since Dr.
Morris published it some forty years ago for the Early English Text
Society, has made its way through text-books into more general knowledge
than most of its fellows enjoy. In this the hero is tempted repeatedly,
elaborately, and with great knowledge of nature and no small command of
art on the teller's part, by the wife of his host and destined
antagonist. He resists in the main, but succumbs in the point of
accepting a magic preservative as a gift: and is discovered and lectured
accordingly. It is curious that this, which is far above the usual mere
adventure-story and is novel of a high kind as well as romance, has no
known French original; and is strongly English in many characteristics
besides its verse-form.

On the whole, however, one need have no difficulty in admitting that the
majority of these romances _do_ somewhat content themselves with
incident, incident only, and incident not merely of a naïf but of a
stock kind, for their staple. There are striking situations, even striking
phrases, here and there; there is plenty of variety in scene, and more than
is sometimes thought in detail; but the motive-and-character-interest is
rarely utilised as it might be, and very generally is not even suggested.
There is seldom any real plot or "fable"--only a chain of events: and
though no one but a very dull person will object to the supernatural
element, or to the exaggerated feats of professedly natural prowess and
endurance, it cannot be said that on the whole they are artistically
managed. You feel, not merely that the picture would have been better if
the painter had taken more pains, but that the reason why he did not
is that he did not know how.

Sir Thomas Malory, himself most unknown perhaps of all great writers,
did know how; and a cynical person might echo the _I nunc_ of the Roman
satirist, and dwell on the futility of doing great things, in reference
to the fact that it used to be fashionable, and is still not uncommon,
to call Malory a "mere compiler." Indeed from the direction which modern
study so often takes, of putting inquiry into origins above everything,
and neglecting the consideration of the work as work, this practice is
not likely soon to cease. But no mistake about the mysterious
Englishman (the place-names with which the designation is connected are
all pure English) is possible to any one who has read his book, and who
knows what prose fiction is. _The Noble Histories of King Arthur, La
Morte d'Arthur, The Story of the most Noble and Worthy King Arthur, The
Most Ancient and Famous History of the Renowned Prince Arthur, The
Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur_--call it by whichever name anybody
likes of those which various printers and reprinters have given it--is
one of the great books of the world. If they can give us any single
"French book"--the reference to which is a commonplace of the
subject--from which it was taken, let them; they have not yet. If they
point out (as they can) French and English books from which parts of it
were taken, similar things may be done with Dante and Chaucer, with
Shakespeare and Milton, and very probably could have been done with
Homer. It is what the artist does with his materials, not where he gets
them, that is the question. And Malory has done, with _his_ materials, a
very great thing indeed. He is working no doubt to a certain extent
blindly; working much better than he knows, and sometimes as he would
not work if he knew better; though whether he would work as well if he
knew better is quite a different point. Sometimes he may not take the
best available version of a story; but we must ask ourselves whether he
knew it. Sometimes he may put in what we do not want: but we must ask
ourselves whether there was not a reason for doing so, to him if not to
us. What is certain is that he, and he only in any language, makes of
this vast assemblage of stories one story, and one book. He does it
(much more than half unconsciously no doubt) by following the lines of,
as I suppose, Walter Map, and fusing the different motives, holding to
this method even in parts of the legend with which, so far as one knows,
Map cannot have meddled. Before him this legend consisted of half a
dozen great divisions--a word which may be used of malice prepense.
These were the story of Merlin, that of Arthur's own origin, and that of
the previous history of the Graal for introduction; the story of
Arthur's winning the throne, of the Round Table, and of the marriage
with Guinevere, also endless branchings of special knights' adventures,
and of the wars with the Saxons and the Romans, and the episode of the
False Guinevere--with whom for a time Arthur lives as with his
queen--for middle; and the story of the Graal-quest, the love of
Lancelot for the Queen, and the rebellion of Mordred with its fatal
consequences, for close. Exactly how much of this Malory personally had
before him we cannot of course say: but of any working up of the whole
that would have spared him trouble, and robbed him of credit, we do not
know. In fact the favourite term "compiler" gives up the only dangerous
point. Now in what way did Malory _compile_? In the way in which the
ordinary compiler proceeds he most emphatically does not. He cuts down
the preliminaries mercilessly: but they can be perfectly well spared. He
misses almost all the wars with the Saxons, which are the most tedious
parts of the originals. He adopts, most happily, the early, not the
late, placing of those with the Romans. He drops the false Guinevere
altogether, which is imperative, that the true one may have no right to
plead the incident--though he does not represent Arthur as "blameless."
He gives the _roman d'aventures_ side of the Round Table stories, from
the great Tristram and Palomides romances through the Beaumains episode
downwards, because they are interesting in themselves and lead up to
the Graal quest. He gives that Quest as plentifully because it leads up
to the "dolorous death and departing out of this world of them all." How
he gives the Lancelot and Guinevere tragedy we shall see presently. And
the catastrophe of the actual "departing" he gives perfectly; with the
magnificent final scenes which he has converted, sometimes in almost
Shakespearean fashion, by the slightest verbal touches from mediocre
verse to splendid prose. A very remarkable compiler! It is a pity that
they did not take him and cut him up in little stars for a light to all
his brethren in compiling thereafter.

For he has what no compiler as such can have--because the moment he has
it he ceases to be a compiler, and becomes an artist--the sense of
_grasp_, the power to put his finger, and to keep it, on the central
pulse and nerve of the story. That he did this deliberately is so
unlikely as to be practically impossible: that he did it is certain. The
Arthurian Legend is the greatest of mediæval creations as a subject--a
"fable"--just as the _Divina Commedia_ is the greatest of mediæval
"imitations" and works of art. And as such it is inevitable that it
should carry with it the sense of the greatest medieval _differences_,
Chivalry and Romance. The strong point of these differences is the way
in which they combine the three great motives, as Dante isolates them,
of Valour, Love, and Religion. The ancients never realised this
combination at all; the moderns have merely struggled after it, or
blasphemed it in fox-and-grapes fashion: the mediævals _had_ it--in
theory at any rate. The Round Table stories, merely as such, illustrate
Valour; the Graal stories, Religion; the passion of Lancelot and
Guinevere with the minor instances, Love. All these have their [Greek:
amarthia]--their tragic and tragedy-causing fault and flaw. The knight
wastes his valour in idle bickerings; he forgets law in his love; and
though there is no actual degradation of religion, he fails to live up
to the ideal that he does not actually forswear. To throw the
presentation--the _mimesis_--of all this into perfectly worthy form
would probably have been too much for any single genius of that curious
time (when genius was so widely spread and so little concentrated)
except Dante himself, whose hand found other work to do. To colour and
shape the various fragments of the mosaic was the work of scores. To put
them together, if not in absolutely perfect yet in more than sufficient
shape, was, so far as we know, the luck of Malory only: though some one
(Map or another) had done a mighty day's work long before in creating
the figure and the adventures of Lancelot and imagining the later quest
of the Graal with the figure of Galahad--that "improved Percivale," as
the seedsmen say.

But besides this power of shaping (or even of merely combining)
scattered elements into a story, Malory has another--_the_ other of the
first importance to the novelist proper--in his attraction to character,
if not exactly in his making up of it. It has been said above that the
defect of the pure romances--especially those of continental origin--is
the absence of this. What the Greeks called [Greek: dihanoia]--"sentiment,"
"thought," "cast of thought," as it has been variously rendered--is even
more absent from them than plot or character itself: and of its almost
necessary connection with this latter they often seem to have no idea.
Very rare is such a touch as that of Sir Amadas being unable at the feast
to get rid of the memory of the unburied corpse, kept by enemies from the
kindly earth that would hide it, and the rites that would help it to peace:
still rarer that in _Guy of Warwick_ when the hero, at the height of
his fame and in the full enjoyment of his desires, looks from the tower and
is struck by the selfishness and earthliness of his career. The first
notion is not "improved" in the original at all, and the second very badly;
but in most of the others such things do not even exist. Now the greater
Legend is full of situations which encourage such thoughts, and even of
expressed thoughts that only need craftsmanship to turn them into the
cornerstones of character-building, and the jewels, five or fifty words
long, of literature. The fate and metaphysical aid that determine the
relations of Tristram and Iseult; the unconscious incest of Arthur and
Margause with its Greek-tragic consequence; the unrewarded fidelity of
Palomides, and (an early instance of the soon to be triumphant allegory)
his fruitless chase of the Beast Glatissant; all these are matters in
point. But of course the main nursery of such things is the
Lancelot-and-Guinevere story itself. Nobody has yet made Guinevere a
person--nobody but Shakespeare could have done so perhaps, though
Shakespeare's Guinevere would probably have been the greatest woman in
all art. But Malory has not been the least successful with her: and of
Lancelot he has made, if only in study, one of the great characters of
that fictitious world which is so much truer than the real. And let no
one say that we are reading Tennyson or any one else into Malory. There
are yet persons, at least at the time this was written not quite
Methusalahs, who read the _Morte d'Arthur_ before the _Idylls_ appeared
and who have never allowed even the _Idylls_ to overlay their original
idea of the most perfect and most gentle of knights.

It is probable indeed that Malory invented little or nothing in the
various situations, by which the character of Lancelot, and the history
of his fatal love, are evolved. We know in most cases that this is so.
It is possible, too, that at first (probably because the possibilities
had not dawned on him, as it has been admitted they never did very
consciously) he has not made the most of the introduction of lover and
lady. But when the interest becomes concentrated, as in the various
passages of Guinevere's wrath with her lover and their consequences, or
in the final series of catastrophes, he is fully equal to the occasion.
We _know_--this time to his credit--how he has improved, in the act of
borrowing them, the earlier verse-pictures of the final parting of the
lovers, and there are many other episodes and juxtapositions of which as
much may be said. That except as to Lancelot's remorse (which after all
is the great point) there is not much actual talk about motive and
sentiment is nothing; or nothing but the condition of the time. The
important point is that, as the electricians say, "the house is wired"
for the actual installation of character-novelling. There is here the
complete scenario, and a good deal more, for a novel as long as
_Clarissa_ and much more interesting, capable of being worked out in the
manner, not merely of Richardson himself, but of Mr. Meredith or Mr.
Hardy. It _is_ a great romance, if not the greatest of romances: it has
a great novel, if not the greatest of novels, written in sympathetic ink
between the lines, and with more than a little of the writing sometimes
emerging to view.

Little in the restricted space here available can be, though much might
be in a larger, said about the remaining attempts in English fiction
before the middle of the sixteenth century. The later romances, down to
those of Lord Berners, show the character of the older with a certain
addition of the "conjuror's supernatural" of the _Amadis_ school. But
the short verse-tales, especially those of the Robin Hood cycle, and
some of the purely comic kind, introduce an important variation of
interest: and even some of the longer, such as that _Tale of Beryn_,
which used to be included in Chaucer's works, vary the chivalrous model
in a useful way. Still more important is the influence of the short
_prose_ tale:--first Latin, as in the _Gesta Romanorum_ (which of course
had older and positively mediæval forerunners), then Italian and French.
The prose saved the writer from verbiage and stock phrase; the shortness
from the tendency to "watering out" which is the curse of the long verse
or prose romance. Moreover, to get point and appeal, it was especially
necessary to _throw up_ the subject--incident, emotion, or whatever it
was--to bring it out; not merely to meander and palaver about it. But
language and literature were both too much in a state of transition to
admit of anything capital being done at this time. It was the great good
fortune of England, corresponding to that experienced with Chaucer in
poetry three quarters of a century earlier, that Malory came to give the
sum and substance of what mediæval fiction could do in prose. For more,
the times and the men had to come.



During the dying-off of romance proper, or its transference from verse
to prose in the late fifteenth and earlier sixteenth century, there is
not very much to note about prose fiction in England. But, as the
conditions of modern literature fashioned themselves, a very great
influence in this as in other departments was no doubt exercised with us
by Italian, as well as some by Spanish in a way which may be postponed
for a little. The Italian prose tale had begun to exercise that
influence as early as Chaucer's time: but circumstances and atmosphere
were as yet unfavourable for its growth. It is a hackneyed truism that
Italian society was very much more modern than any other in Europe at
this time--in fact it would not be a mere paradox to say that it was,
and continued to be till the later sixteenth, much more modern than it
has ever been since--or till very recently. By "modern" is here meant
the kind of society which is fairly cultivated, fairly comfortable,
fairly complicated with classes not very sharply separated from each
other, not dominated by any very high ideals, tolerably corrupt, and
sufficiently business-like. The Italian _novella_, of course, admits
wild passions and extravagant crimes: but the general tone of it is
_bourgeois_--at any rate domestic. With its great number of situations
and motives, presented in miniature, careful work is necessary to bring
out the effect: and, above all, there is abundant room for study of
manners, for proverbial and popular wisdom and witticism, for
"furniture"--to use that word in a wide sense. Above all, the Italian
mind, like the Greek, had an ethical twist--twist in more senses than
one, some would say, but that does not matter. Manners, morals,
motives--these three could not but displace, to some extent, mere
incident: though there was generally incident of a poignant or piquant
kind as well. In other words the _novella_ was actually (though still in
miniature) a novel in nature as well as in name. And these _novelle_
became, as is generally known, common in English translations after the
middle of the sixteenth century. Painter's huge _Palace of Pleasure_
(1566) is only the largest and best known of many translations, single
and collected, of the Italian _novellieri_ and the French tale-tellers,
contemporary, or of times more or less earlier.

For some time, as almost everybody knows, these collections of
translated matter served a purpose--great indeed, but somewhat outside
their proper department--by furnishing the Elizabethan dramatists with a
large part--perhaps the larger part--of their subjects. But they very
soon began to exercise it directly by suggesting the fictitious part of
the prose pamphlet--a department which, though infinitely less well
known than the plays, and still not very easy to know, holds almost the
second position as representing the popular literature of the
Elizabethan time. And they also had--in one case certainly, in the other
probably--no little influence upon the two great Elizabethan works which
in a manner founded the modern novel and the modern romance in
English--the _Euphues_ of Lyly and the _Arcadia_ of Sir Philip Sidney.

The pamphlet stories (which are themselves often play-connected, as in
the case of Lodge's _Rosalynde_ and Greene's _Pandosto_) do not require
much notice, with one exception--Nash's _Jack Wilton or the Unfortunate
Traveller_, to which some have assigned a position equal, or perhaps
superior in our particular subject, to that of the _Arcadia_ or that of
_Euphues_. This seems to the present writer a mistake: but as to appear
important is (in a not wholly unreal sense) to be so, the piece shall be
separately considered. The rest are mostly marred by a superabundance of
rather rudimentary art, and a very poor allowance of matter. There is
hardly any character, and except in a few pieces, such as Lodge's
_Margarite of America_, there is little attempt to utilise new scenes
and conditions. But the whole class has special interest for us in one
peculiarity which makes it perhaps unreadable to any but students, and
that is its saturation with the Elizabethan conceit and word-play which
is sometimes called Euphuism. Nor is this wonderful, considering that
more than one of these "pamphlets" is directly connected with the matter
and the personages of _Euphues_ itself. To this famous book, therefore,
we had better turn.

Some people, it is believed, have denied that _Euphues_ is a novel at
all; and some of these some have been almost indignant at its being
called one. It is certainly, with _Rasselas_, the most remarkable
example, in English, of a novel which is to a great extent deprived of
the _agrémens_ to which we have for some two centuries been accustomed
in the kind, and, to a still greater, loaded with others which do not
appeal to us. To put aside altogether its extraordinary and in a way
epoch-making style, which gives it its main actual place in the history
of English literature, it is further loaded with didactic digressions
which, though certain later novelists have been somewhat peccant in the
kind, have never been quite equalled--no, not in _Rasselas_ itself or
the _Fool of Quality_. But if anybody, who has the necessary knowledge
to understand, and therefore the necessary patience to tolerate, these
knotty knarry envelopes, insertions, and excrescences, will for the
moment pay no attention to them, but merely strip them off, he will find
the carcass of a very tolerable novel left behind. The first plot of
Philautus--Euphues--Lucilla, and the successive jilting of the two
friends for each other and for Curio, is no mean novel-substance. Not
Balzac himself, certainly no one of his successors, need disdain it: and
more than one of them has taken up something like it. The journey from
Naples to London, and the episode of Fidus and Iffida, could have been
worked up, in the good old three-volume days, to a most effective second
volume. And the picture of the court, with the further loves of
Philautus, Camilla, and the "violet" Frances, would supply a third of
themselves even if Euphues were left out, though some livelier
presentation of his character (which Lyly himself was obviously too much
personally interested to make at all clear) would improve the whole
immensely. But it was still too early: the thing was not yet to be done.
Only, I do not know any book in which the possibilities, and even the
outlines, of this thing were indicated and vaguely sketched earlier in
any European language, unless it be the _Lucretia and Euryalus_ of Æneas
Silvius, which is much more confined in its scope.

The fact is that the very confusedness, the many undeveloped sides, of
_Euphues_, make it much more of an ancestor of the modern novel than if
it were more of a piece. The _quicquid agunt homines_ is as much the
province of the novel as of the satire; and there is more than something
of this as it affected Elizabethan times in _Euphues_. Men's interest in
morals, politics, and education; their development of the modern idea of
society; their taste for letters; their conceits and fancies--all these
appear in it.

The _Arcadia_ stands in a different compartment. _Euphues_ is very much
_sui generis_: failure as it may be from some points of view, it
deserves the highest respect for this, and like most other things _sui
generis_ it was destined to propagate the genus, if only after many
days. The _Arcadia_ was in intention certainly, and to great extent in
actual fact, merely a carrying out of the attempt, common all over
Europe (as a result of the critical searchings of heart of the
Italians), to practise a new kind--the Heroic Romance of the sub-variety
called pastoral. The "heroic" idea generally was (as ought to be, but
perhaps is not, well known) to blend, after a fashion, classical and
romantic characteristics--to substitute something like the classic unity
of fable or plot for the mere "meandering" of romantic story, and to pay
at least as much attention to character as the classics had paid,
instead of neglecting it altogether, as had recently though not always
been the case in Romance. But the scheme retained on the other hand the
variety of incident and appeal of this latter: and especially assigned
to Love the high place which Romance had given it. As for the
Pastoral--that is almost a story to itself, and a story which has been
only once (by Mr. W.W. Greg) satisfactorily, and then not quite
completely, told. It is enough to say here, and as affecting our own
subject, that it supplied a new opportunity of gratifying the passion of
the Renaissance for imitating antiquity, at the same time permitting to
no small extent the introduction of things that were really romantic,
and above all providing a convention. The Heroic romance generally and
the Pastoral in particular went directly back to the Greek romances of
Heliodorus and Longus: but they admitted many new and foreign elements.

At the same time, bastard as the heroic romance was, it could not but
exercise an important influence on the future of fiction, inasmuch as it
combined, or attempted to combine, with classical unity and mediæval
variety the more modern interest of manners and (sometimes) personality.
Sidney's attempt (which, it must be remembered, is not certainly known
to be wholly his as it stands, and _is_ certainly known not to have been
revised by him for publication) exercised a very great influence in
English. For its popularity was enormous, and it doubtless served as
shoehorn to draw on that of the English translations of French and
Spanish romance which supplied, during the greater part of the
seventeenth century, the want of original composition of the kind. The
unconscionable amount of talk and of writing "about it and about it"
which _Euphues_ and the minor Euphuist romances display is at least as
prominent in the _Arcadia_: and this talk rarely takes a form congenial
to the modern novel reader's demands. Moreover, though there really is a
plot, and a sufficient amount of incident, this reader undoubtedly, and
to no small extent justly, demands that both incident and plot shall be
more disengaged from their framework--that they should be brought into
higher relief, should stand out more than is the case. Yet further, the
pure character-interest is small--is almost nonexistent: and the
rococo-mosaic of manners and sentiment which was to prove the curse of
the heroic romance generally prevents much interest being felt in that
direction.[1] It would also be impossible to devise a style less suited
to prose narrative, except of a very peculiar kind and on a small scale,
than that either of _Euphues_ or of the _Arcadia_, which, though an
uncritical tradition credits it with driving out Lyly's, is practically
only a whelp of the same litter. Embarrassed, heavy, rhetorical, it has
its place in the general evolution of English prose, and a proper and
valuable place too. But it is bad even for pure romance purposes: and
nearly hopeless for the panoramic and kaleidoscopic variety which should
characterise the novel. To the actual successors of the _Arcadia_ in
English we shall come presently.

    [1] As a work of general literature, the attraction of the
    _Arcadia_ is of course much enhanced by, if it does not chiefly
    depend upon, its abundant, varied, and sometimes charming
    verse-insets. But, as a novel, it cannot count these.

_The Unfortunate Traveller_ is of much less importance than the other
two. It has obtained such reputation as it possesses, partly because of
its invention or improvement of the fable of "Surrey and Geraldine";
more, and more justly, because it does work up a certain amount of
historical material--the wars of Henry VIII. in French Flanders--into
something premonitory (with a little kindness on the part of the
premonished) of the great and long missed historical novel; still more
for something else. Nash, with his quick wit, seems to have been really
the first to perceive the capabilities of that foreign travel and
observation of manners which was becoming common, stripped of the
special atmosphere of pilgrimage which had formerly enveloped it. Even
here, he had had the "notion of the notion" supplied to him by Lyly in
_Euphues_: and a tolerably skilful advocate would not have so very much
difficulty in claiming the book as one of the tribe of Euphuist
pamphlets. But Jack Wilton the "traveller" is a little more of a person
than the pedagogic Euphues and the shadowy Philautus. At any rate he has
a very strong anticipation of Defoe, whose "Cavalier" was not improbably
suggested by him. But Nash has neither the patience of Defoe, nor that
singular originality, which accompanies in the author of _Moll Flanders_
a certain inability to make the most of it. _The Unfortunate Traveller_
is a sort of compilation or congeries of current _fabliaux, novelle_,
and _facetiæ_, with the introduction of famous actual persons of the
time, from the crowned heads of the period, through Luther and Aretine
downwards, to give bait and attraction. Sometimes it reminds one of a
working up of the _Colloquies_ of Erasmus: three centuries earlier than
_The Cloister and the Hearth_, with much less genius than Charles
Reade's, and still more without his illegitimate advantage of actual
novels behind him for nearly half the time. But it gives us "disjectæ
membra _novellæ_" rather than a novel itself: and the oftener one reads
it the more clear one is that the time for writing novels had not yet
come. The materials are there; the desire to utilise--and even a faint
vague idea of _how_ to utilise--them is there; but the art is almost
completely absent. Even regarded as an early attempt in the "picaresque"
manner, it is abortive and only half organised.

The subject of the English "Heroic" Romance, in the wide sense, is one
which has been very little dealt with. Dunlop neglected it rather
surprisingly, and until Professor Raleigh's chapter on the subject there
was little of a satisfactory kind to be found about it anywhere. It
must, however, be admitted that the abstainers from it have been to some
extent justified in their abstention. The subject is a curious one: and
it has an important place in the history of the Novel, because it shows
at once how strong was the _nisus_ towards prose fiction and how
surprisingly difficult writers seem, nevertheless, to have found it to
hit upon anything really good, much more anything really original in
kind. For it is hardly too much to say that this century of attempt--we
cannot call it a century of invention--from Ford to Congreve, does not
add a single piece of any considerable merit to the roll of English
books. As for a masterpiece, there is nothing in respect of which the
use of such a word would not be purely ridiculous. And yet the attempts
are interesting to the historian, and should not be uninteresting to the
historical student of literature. One or two of them have a sort of
shadowy name and place in literary history already.

In tracing their progress and character, we must allow for two native
models: and for three foreign sources, one ancient, two modern, of
influence. _The Arcadia_ and _Euphues_, the former continuously, the
latter by revival after an interval, exercised very great effect in the
first half of the seventeenth century, during at least the earlier part
of which the vogue of _Amadis_ and its successors, as Englished by
Anthony Munday and others, likewise continued. The Greek romances also
had much to do with the matter: for the Elizabethan translators had
introduced them to the vulgar, and the seventeenth century paid a good
deal of attention to Greek. Then, when that century itself was on its
way, the pastoral romance of D'Urfé first, and the Calprenède-Scudéry
productions in the second place, came to give a fresh impulse, and
something of a new turn. The actual translations of French and Spanish
romance, shorter and longer, good, bad, and indifferent, are of immense
bulk and doubtless excited imitation: but we cannot possibly deal with
them here. A bare list would fill a chapter. But some work of more or
less (generally less) originality, in at least adaptation, calls for a
little individual notice: and some general characterisation may be

It may be desirable to prelude the story by a reminder to the reader
that the _general_ characteristics of these various sources were
"harlequin" in their diversity of apparent colour. The _Amadis_ romances
and, indeed, all the later examples of that great kind, such as _Arthur
of Little Britain_, which Berners translated, were distinguished on the
one side by a curious convention of unsmooth running of the course of
love, on the other sometimes by a much greater licence of morality than
their predecessors, and always by a prodigality of the "conjuror's
supernatural"--witches and giants and magic black and white. The Spanish
"picaresque" story was pretty real but even less decent: and its French
imitations (though not usually reaching the licence of the short tale,
which clung to _fabliau_ ways in this respect) imitated it here also.
The French heroic romance, on the other hand, observed the most
scrupulous propriety in language and situation: but aggravated the
Amadisian troubling of the course of true love, and complicated
everything, very frequently if not invariably, by an insinuated "key"
interest of identification of the ancient personages selected as heroes
and heroines with modern personages of quality and distinction.

Emanuel Ford (whom the British Museum catalogue insists on spelling
Ford_e_ and of whom very little seems to be known) published _Parismus,
Prince of Bohemia_, as early as 1598. In less than a hundred years
(1696) it had reached its fourteenth edition, and it continued to be
popular in abridged and chap-booked form[2] far into the eighteenth
century. (It is sometimes called _Parismus and Parismenus_: the second
part being, as very commonly in romances of the class after the _Amadis_
pattern, occupied largely with the adventures of the son of the hero of
the first.) On the whole, _Parismus_, though it has few pretensions to
elegance of style, and though some delicate tastes have been shocked at
certain licences of incident, description, and phrase in it, is quite
the best of our bunch in this kind. It is, in general conception, pure
_Amadis_ of the later and slightly degraded type. Laurana, the heroine
(of whom a peculiarly hideous portrait adorns the black-letter editions
side by side with Parismus himself, who is rather a "jolly gentleman")
is won with much less difficulty and in much less time than Oriana--but
separations and difficulties duly follow in "desolate isles" and the
like. And though Parismus himself is less of an Amadis than Amadis, the
"contrast of friends," founded by that hero and Galaor, is kept up by
his association with a certain Pollipus--"a man of his hands" if ever
there was one, for with them he literally wrings the neck of the
enchantress Bellona, who has enticed him to embrace her. There is plenty
of the book, as there always should be in its kind (between 400 and 500
very closely printed quarto pages), and its bulk is composed of
proportionately plentiful fighting and love-making and of a very much
smaller proportion of what schoolboys irreverently call "jaw" than is
usual in the class. If it were not for the black letter (which is trying
to the eyes) I should not myself object to have no other reading than
_Parismus_ for some holiday evenings, or even after pretty tough days of
literary and professional work. _The Famous History of Montelion, the
Knight of the Oracle_ (1633?) proclaims its Amadisian type even more
clearly: but I have only read it in an abridged edition of the close of
the century. I should imagine that _in extenso_ it was a good deal
duller than _Parismus_. And of course the comparative praise which has
been given to that book must be subject to the reminder that it is what
it is--a romance of disorderly and what some people call childish
adventure, and of the above-ticketed "conjuror's supernatural." If
anybody cannot read _Amadis_ itself, he certainly will not read
_Parismus_: and perhaps not everybody who can manage the original--perhaps
not even everybody who can manage _Palmerin_--could put up with Ford's
copy. I can take this Ford as I find him: but I am not sure that I would
go much lower.

    [2] It is pleasant to remember that one of the chief publishers
    of these things in the late seventeenth century was _W.

_Ornatus and Artesia_ (1607?), on the other hand--his second or third
book--strikes me as owing more to Heliodorus than to Montalvo, or
Lobeira, or whoever was the author of the great romance of the last
chivalric type. There are more intricacies in it; the heroine plays a
rather more important part; there is even something of a nearer approach
to modern novel-ways in this production, which reappeared at "Grub
Street near the Upper Pump" in the year 1650. Ornatus sees his mistress
asleep and in a kind of deshabille, employs a noble go-between, Adellena
(a queer spelling of "Adelina" which may be intentional), is rejected
with apparent indignation, of course; writes elaborate letters in vain,
but overhears Artesia soliloquising confession of her love for him and
disguises himself as a girl, Silvia. Then the villain of the piece,
Floretus, to obtain the love of this supposed Silvia, murders a person
of distinction and plots to poison Artesia herself. Ornatus-Silvia is
banished: and all sorts of adventures and disguises follow, entirely in
the Greek style. The book is not very long, extending only to signature
R in a very small quarto. Except that it is much less lively and
considerably less "free," it reminds one rather in type of Kynaston's
verse _Leoline and Sydanis_. In fact the verse and prose romances of the
time are very closely connected: and Chamberlayne's _Pharonnida_--far
the finest production of the English "heroic" school in prose, verse, or
drama--was, when the fancy for abridging set in, condensed into a tiny
prose _Eromena_. But _Ornatus and Artesia_, if more modern, more
decent, and less extravagant than _Parismus_, is nothing like so
interesting to read. It is indeed quite possible that there is, if not
in it, in its popularity, a set-back to the _Arcadia_ itself, which had
been directly followed in Lady Mary Wroth's _Urania_ (1621), and to
which (by the time of the edition noted) Charles I.'s admiration--so
indecently and ignobly referred to by Milton--had given a fresh
attraction for all good anti-Puritans. That an anti-Puritan should be a
romance-lover was almost a necessity.

When the French "heroics" began to appear it was only natural that they
should be translated, and scarcely less so that they should be imitated
in England. For they were not far off the _Arcadia_ pattern: and they
were a distinct and considerable effort to supply the appetite for
fiction which has been dwelt upon. But except for this, and for
fashion's sake, they did not contain much that would appeal to an
English taste: and it is a little significant that one great reader of
them who is known to us--Mrs. Pepys--was a Frenchwoman. Indeed, save for
the very considerable "pastime" of a kind that they gave to a time, much
of which required passing, it is difficult to understand their
attraction for English readers. Their interminable talk never (till
perhaps very recently) was a thing to suit our nation: and the "key"
interest strikes us at any rate as of the most languid kind. But they
_were_ imitated as well as translated: and the three most famous of the
imitations are the work of men of mark in their different ways. These
are the _Parthenissa_ (1654) of Roger Boyle, Lord Broghill and Earl of
Orrery; the _Aretina_ (1661) of Sir George Mackenzie; and the _Pandion
and Amphigeneia_ (1665) of "starch Johnny" Crowne.

Boyle was a strong Francophile in literature, and his not inconsiderable
influence on the development of the heroic _play_ showed it only less
decidedly than his imitation of the Scudéry romance. I cannot say that I
have read _Parthenissa_ through: and I can say that I do not intend to
do so. It is enough to have read Sainte Madeleine of the Ink-Desert
herself, without reading bad imitations of her. But I have read enough
to know that _Parthenissa_ would never give me anything like the
modified satisfaction that is given by _Parismus_: and after all, if a
man will not take the trouble to finish writing his book (which Orrery
never did) why should his readers take the trouble even to finish
reading what he has written? The scene is Parthia, with alternation to
Syria, and diversions and episodes elsewhere: and though there is a
certain amount of fighting, the staple is quite decorous but exceedingly
dull love-making, conducted partly in the endless dialogue (or rather
automatic monologue) already referred to, and partly in letters more
"handsome" even than Mr. Frank Churchill's, and probably a good deal
more sincere in their conventional way, but pretty certainly less
amusing. The original attraction indeed of this class of novel
consisted, and, in so far as it still exists, may be said to consist, in
noble sentiment, elegantly expressed. It deserved, and in a manner
deserves, the commendatory part of Aramis's rebuke to Porthos for
expressing impatience with the compliments between Athos and D'Artagnan
at their first and hostile rencounter.[3] Otherwise there is not much to
be said for it. It does not indeed deserve Johnson's often quoted remark
as to Richardson (on whom when we come to him we shall have something
more to say in connection with these heroic romances), if any one were
to read _Parthenissa_ for the story he would not, unless he were a very
impulsive person, "hang himself." He would simply, after a number of
pages varying with the individual, cease to read it.

    [3] "Quant à moi, je trouve les choses que ces messieurs se
    disent fort bien dites et tout à fait dignes de deux

The work of the great Lord Advocate who was traduced by Covenanting
malice is in a certain sense more interesting: and that not merely
because it is much shorter. _Aretina_ or _The Serious Romance_, opens
with an "apology for Romances" generally, which goes far to justify
Dryden's high opinion of Mackenzie as a critic. But it cannot be said to
be much--it is a little--more interesting as a story than _Parthenissa_,
and it is written in a most singular lingo--not displaying the racy
quaintness of Mackenzie's elder contemporary and fellow-loyalist
Urquhart, but a sort of Scotified and modernised Euphuism rather
terrible to peruse. A library is "a bibliotheck richly tapestried with
books." Somebody possesses, or is compared to "a cacochymick stomach,
which transubstantiates the best of meats in its own malignant humour."
And when the hero meets a pair of cannibal ruffians he confronts one and
"pulling out a pistol, sends from its barrel two balls clothed in
Death's livery, and by them opens a sallyport to his soul to fly out of
that nasty prison." A certain zest may be given by these oddities, but
it hardly lasts out more than 400 pages: and though the lives of Aretina
and Philaretes are more simply and straightforwardly told than might be
thought likely--though there are ingenious disguises of contemporary
politics, and though Mackenzie was both a wise man and a wit--it is more
certain than ever, when we close his book, that this is not the way of
the world, nor the man to walk in that way.

_Pandion and Amphigeneia_ is the inferior in importance of both these
books. Crowne had perhaps rather more talent than it is usual to credit
him with, but he does not show it here. I think Sir Walter Raleigh is
quite right in regarding the book as more or less traced over the
_Arcadia_: and it may be said to have all the defects of Sidney's
scheme--which, it is fair once more to observe, we do not possess in any
form definitely settled by its author--with none of the merits of his
ornament, his execution, and his atmosphere of poetic fancy.

The fact is that this heroic romance was foredoomed to inefficiency. It
was not a genuine _kind_ at all: but a sort of patchwork of imitations
of imitations--a mule which, unlike the natural animal, was itself bred,
and bred in and in, of mules for generations back. It was true to no
time, to no country, to no system of manners, life, or thought. Its
oldest ancestor in one sense, though not in another--the Greek
romance--was itself the growth of the latest and most artificial period
of the literature to which it belonged. The pure mediæval romance of
chivalry was another, but of this it had practically nothing left. The
_Amadis_ class, the late Renaissance pastorals, the immediately
preceding or accompanying French romances of the Scudéry type, were, in
increasing degree, hybrid, artificial, and dead-alive. Impotence and
sterility in every sense could but be its portion. Of the two great
qualities of the novel--Variety and Life--it had never succeeded in
attaining any considerable share, and it had now the merest show of
variety and no life at all. There is hardly anything to be said in its
favour, except that its vogue, as has been observed, testified to the
craving for prose fiction, and kept at least a simulacrum of that
fiction before the public. How far there may be any real, though
metaphysical, connection between the great dramatic output of this
seventeenth century in England and its small production in novel is a
question not to be discussed here. But undoubtedly the fact of the
contrast is a "document in the case," and one of the most important in
its own direction; completing the testimony of the mediæval period in
the other (that as romance dwindled, drama grew) and leading up to that
of the eighteenth century when drama dwindled and the novel grew. The
practice of Afra Behn in both, and the fact that Congreve, the greatest
English dramatist of the close of the century, began with a novel and
deserted the style for drama, are also interesting, and combine
themselves very apparently with the considerations just glanced at. But
Congreve and Afra must be postponed for a moment.

The two last discussed books, with _Eromena_ and some others, are
posterior to the Restoration in date, but somewhat earlier in type. The
reign of Charles II., besides the "heroic" romances and Bunyan, and one
most curious little production to be noticed presently, is properly
represented in fiction by two writers, to whom, by those who like to
make discoveries, considerable importance has sometimes been assigned in
the history of the English Novel. These are Richard Head and Afra Behn,
otherwise "the divine Astræa." It is, however, something of an injustice
to class them together: for Afra was a woman of very great ability, with
a suspicion of genius, while Head was at the very best a bookmaker of
not quite the lowest order, though pretty near it. Of _The English
Rogue_ (1665-1680), which earns him his place here, only the first part,
and a certain section of the fourth, are even attributed to him by
Francis Kirkman, the Curll of his generation, who published the thing at
intervals and admittedly wrote parts of it himself. It is quite openly a
picaresque novel: and imitated not merely from the Spanish originals but
from Sorel's _Francion_, which had appeared in France some forty years
before. Yet, if we compare this latter curious book with Head's we shall
see how very far behind, even with forty years' advantage in time, was
the country which, in the next century, was practically to create the
modern novel. _Francion_ is not a work of genius: and it does not
pretend to much more than the usual picaresque farrago of adventure,
unmoral and sometimes rather cruel, but comic of a kind, strung together
with little art in fable, and less in character. But the author is to
some extent "cumbered about serving." He names his characters, tries to
give them some vague personality, furnishes them with some roughly and
sketchily painted scenery, and gives us not merely told tales, but
occasionally something distantly resembling conversation. Head takes no
trouble of this kind: and Kirkman does not seem to think that any such
thing is required of him. Very few of the characters of _The English
Rogue_ have so much as a name to their backs: they are "a prentice," "a
master," "a mistress," "a servant," "a daughter," "a tapster," etc. They
are invested with hardly the slightest individuality: the very hero is a
scoundrel as characterless as he is nameless:[4] he is the mere thread
which keeps the beads of the story together after a fashion. These beads
themselves, moreover, are only the old anecdotes of "coney-catching,"
over-reaching, and worse, which had separately filled a thousand
_fabliaux, novelle_, "jests," and so forth: and which are now flung
together in gross, chiefly by the excessively clumsy and unimaginative
expedient of making the personages tell long strings of them as their
own experience. When anything more is wanted, accounts of the manners of
foreign countries, taken from "voyage-and-travel" books; of the tricks
of particular trades (as here of piratical book-selling); of anything
and everything that the writer's dull fancy can think of, are foisted
in. The thing is in four volumes, and it seems that a fifth was intended
as a close: but there is no particular reason why it should not have
extended to forty or fifty, nay to four or five hundred. It could have
had no real end, just as it has no real beginning or middle.

    [4] He _has_ a name, Meriton Latroon, but it is practically
    never used in the actual story.

One other point deserves notice. The tone of the Spanish and French
picaresque novel had never been high: but it is curiously degraded in
this English example. Furetière honestly called his book _Roman
Bourgeois_. Head might have called his, if he had written in French,
_Roman Canaille_. Not merely the sentiments but the very outward
trappings and accidents of gentility are banished from the book. Yet we
do not get any real reality in compensation. Head is no Defoe: he can
give us the company that Colonel Jack kept in his youth and Moll
Flanders in her middle age: but he makes not the slightest attempt to
give us Moll or Jack, or even Moll's or Jack's habit, environment,
novel-furniture of any kind whatsoever. The receipt to make _The English
Rogue_ is simply this: "Take from two to three dozen Elizabethan
pamphlets of different kinds, but principally of the 'coney-catching'
variety, and string them together by making a batch of shadowy
personages tell them to each other when they are not acting in them."
Except in a dim sort of idea that a novel should have some bulk and
substance, it is difficult to see any advance whatever in this
muck-heap--which the present writer, having had to read it a second time
for the present purpose, most heartily hopes to be able to leave
henceforth undisturbed on his shelves.

Not in this fashion must the illustrious Afra be spoken of. It is true
that--since it ceased to be the fashion merely to dismiss her with a
"fie-fie!" which her prose work, at any rate, by no means merits--there
has sometimes been a tendency rather to overdo praise of her, not merely
in reference to her lyrics, some of which can never be praised too
highly, but in reference to these novels. _Oroonoko_ or _The Royal
Slave_, with its celebration of the virtues of a noble negro and his
love for his Imoinda, and his brutal ill-treatment and death by torture
at the hands of white murderers, undoubtedly took the fancy of the
public. But to see at once Rousseau and Byron in it, Chateaubriand and
Wilberforce and I know not what else, is rather in the "lunatic, lover,
and poet" order of vision. Even Head and Kirkman, as we have observed,
had perceived the advantage of foreign scenery and travel to vary their
matter; Afra had herself been in Guiana; and, as she was of a very
inflammable disposition, it is quite possible that some Indian Othello
had caught her fresh imagination. On the other hand, there was the
heroic romance, with all its sighs and flames, still the rage: and a
much less nimble intellect than Afra's, with a much less cosmopolitan
experience, might easily see the use of transposing it into a new key.
Still, there is no doubt that _The Royal Slave_ and even its companions
are far above the dull, dirty, and never more than half alive stuff of
_The English Rogue. Oroonoko_ is a story, not a pamphlet or a mere
"coney-catching" jest. To say that it wants either contraction or
expansion; less "talk about it" and more actual conversation; a stronger
projection of character and other things; is merely to say that it is an
experiment in the infancy of the novel, not a following out of secrets
already divulged. It certainly is the first prose story in English which
can be ranked with things that already existed in foreign literatures.
Nor is it the only one of the batch in which advance is seen. "The King
of Bantam," for instance, is the account of an "extravagant," though not
quite a fool, who is "coney-catched" in the old manner. But it opens in
a fashion very different indeed from the old manner. "This money is
certainly a most devilish thing! I'm sure the want of it had been like
to ruin my dear Philibella!" and the succeeding adventures are pretty
freshly told. The trick of headlong overture was a favourite with Afra.
"The Adventure of the Black Lady" begins, "About the beginning of last
June, as near as I can remember, Bellamira came to town from Hampshire."
It is a trick of course: and here probably borrowed from the French: but
the line which separates trick from artistic device is an exceedingly
narrow and winding one. At any rate, this plunging into the middle of
things wakes up the reader's attention, and does not permit him to doze.
"The Lucky Mistake," on the other hand, opens with a little landscape,
"The river Loire has on its delightful banks, etc." "The Fair Jilt," a
Bandello-like story, begins with an exaltation of Love: and so on. Now
these things, though they may seem matters of course to the mere modern
reader, were not matters of course then. Afra very likely imitated; her
works have never been critically edited; and have not served as field
for much origin-hunting. But whether she followed others or not, she led
her own division. All these things and others are signs of an awakened
conscience--of a sense of the fact that fiction, to be literature, must
be something more than the relation of a bare fact, tragic, comic, or
neutral--that the novelist is a cook, and must prepare and serve his
materials with a sauce as much his own as possible, of plot,
arrangement, character-drawing, scenery, conversation, reflection, and
what not. That conversation itself--the subtlest instrument of all and
the most effective for constructing character--is so little developed,
can only, I think, be accounted for by supposing Afra and others to be
under the not unnatural mistake that conversation especially belonged to
the drama, which was still the most popular form of literature, and in
which she herself was a copious practitioner. But this mistake was not
long to prevail: and it had no effect on that great contemporary of hers
who would, it is to be feared, have used the harshest language
respecting her, and to whom we now come.

It is impossible to share, and not very easy even to understand, the
scruples of those who would not admit John Bunyan to a place in the
hierarchy and the pedigree of the English novel, or would at best grant
him an outside position in relation to it. Their exquisite reasons, so
far as one can discern them, appear to be (or to concern) the facts that
_The Pilgrim's Progress_ and _The Holy War_ are religious, and that they
are allegories.[5] It may be humbly suggested that by applying the
double rule to verse we can exclude _Paradise Lost_ and the _Faerie
Queene_ from the succession of English Poetry, whereby no doubt we
shall be finely holden in understanding the same: while it is by no
means certain that, if the exclusion of allegory be pushed home, we must
not cancel _Don Quixote_ from the list of the world's novels. Even in
prose, to speak plainly, the hesitation--unless it comes from the
foolish dislike to things religious, as such, which has been the bigotry
of the last generation or two--comes from the almost equally foolish
determination to draw up arbitrary laws of literary kind. Discarding
prejudice and punctilio, every one must surely see that, in diminishing
measure, even _The Holy War_ is a novel, and that _The Pilgrim's
Progress_ has every one of the four requisites--plot, character,
description, and dialogue--while one of these requisites--character with
its accessory manners--is further developed in the _History of Mr.
Badman_ after a fashion for which we shall look vainly in any division
of European literature (except drama) before it. This latter fact has
indeed obtained a fair amount of recognition since Mr. Froude drew the
attention of the general reader to it in his book on Bunyan, in the
"English Men of Letters" series, five-and-twenty years ago: but it must
have struck careful readers of the great tinker's minor works long
before. Indeed there are very good internal reasons for thinking that no
less a person than Thackeray must have known _Mr. Badman_. This
wonderful little sketch, however--the related history of a man who is an
utter rascal both in family and commercial relations, but preserves his
reputation intact and does not even experience any deathbed
repentance--is rather an unconscious study for a character in a novel--a
sketch of a _bourgeois_ Barnes Newcome--than anything more. It has the
old drawback of being narrated, not acted or spoken at first hand: and
so, though it is in a sense Fielding at nearly his best, more than half
a century before Fielding attempted _Joseph Andrews_, no more need be
said of it. So, too, the religious element and the allegory _are_ too
prominent in _The Holy War_--the novelist's desk is made too much of a
pulpit in large parts of it. Other parts, concerning the inhabitants of
Mansoul and their private affairs, are domestic novel-writing of nearly
the pure kind: and if _The Pilgrim's Progress_ did not exist, it would
be worth while to pick them out and discuss them. But, as it most
fortunately does exist, this is not needful.

    [5] The heroic kind had lent itself very easily and obviously to
    allegory. Not very long before Bunyan English literature had
    been enriched with a specimen of this double variety which for
    Sir W. Raleigh "marks the lowest depth to which English romance
    writing sank." I do not know that I could go quite so far as
    this in regard to the book--_Bentivolio and Urania_ by Nathaniel
    Ingelo. The first edition of this appeared in 1660: the second
    (there seem to have been at least four) lies before me at this
    moment dated 1669, or nine years before the _Progress_ itself.
    You require a deep-sea-lead of uncommonly cunning construction
    to sound, register, and compare the profundities of the bathos
    in novels. The book has about 400 folio pages very closely
    packed with type, besides an alphabetical index full of Hebrew
    and Greek derivations of its names--"Gnothisauton," "Achamoth,"
    "Ametameletus," "Dogmapernes," and so forth. Its principles are
    inexorably virtuous; there is occasional action interspersed
    among its innumerable discourses, and I think it not improbable
    that if it were only possible to read it, it might do one some
    good. But it would not be the good of the novel.

The only fault with the novel-character of the greater book which might
possibly be found by a critic who did not let the allegory bite him, and
was not frightened by the religion, is that there is next to no love
element in it, though there are wedding bells. Mercy is indeed quite
nice enough for a heroine: but Bunyan might have bestowed her better
than on a young gentleman so very young that he had not long before made
himself (no doubt allegorically) ill with unripe and unwholesome fruit.
But if he had done so, the suspicions of his brethren--_they_ were acute
enough as it was not to mistake the character of the book, whatever
modern critics may do--would have been even more unallayable. And, as it
is, the "alluring countenance" does shed not a little grace upon the
story, or at least upon the Second Part: while the intenser character of
the First hardly requires this. Any other lack is, to the present
writer, imperceptible. The romance interest of quest, adventure,
achievement, is present to the fullest degree: and what is sometimes
called the pure novel interest of character and conversation is present
in a degree not lower. It must be accepted as a great blessing, even by
those who regard Puritanism as an almost unmitigated curse, that its
principles forbade Bunyan to think of choosing the profane and
abominable stage-play as the form of his creation. We had had our fill
of good plays, and were beginning to drink of that which was worse:
while we had no good novels and wanted them. Of course the large amount
of actual "Tig and Tirry" dialogue (as Dr. Johnson would say) is
probably one of the things which have made precisians shy of accepting
the _Progress_ for what it really is. But we must remember that this
encroachment on the dramatic province was exactly what was wanted to
remove the reproach of fiction. The inability to put actual conversation
of a lively kind in the mouths of personages has been indicated as one
of the great defects of the novel up to this time. Except Cervantes, it
is difficult to think of any novelist who had shown himself able to
supply the want. Bunyan can do it as few have done it even since his
time. The famous dialogue of Christian and By-ends is only the best--if
it is the best--of scores nearly or quite as good. The curious
intellectual flaccidity of the present day seems to be "put off" by the
"ticket" names; but no one who has the true literary sense cares for
these one way or another, or is more disturbed by them than if they were
Wilkins and Jones. Just as Coleridge observed that to enjoy some kinds
of poetry you must suspend disbelief, so, with mere literary fashions,
you must suspend disagreement. We should not call By-ends By-ends now:
and whether we should do better or worse nobody, as Plato says, knows
but the Deity. But the best of us would be hard put to it to make
By-ends reveal his By-endishness more perfectly than he does by his
conversation, and without any ticket-name at all.

Not less remarkable, and only a little less new, is the vividness and
sufficiency of the scene painting and setting. It has been said that
the great novelists not only provide us with a world of friends more
real and enjoyable than the actual folk we know, but also with a world
for those friends to live in, more real and far more enjoyable than the
world in which we ourselves sojourn. And this is well seen of Christian.
The Slough of Despond and the terrible overhanging hill; the gateway and
the Interpreter's House and the House Beautiful; the ups and downs of
the road, and the arbours and the giants' dens: Beulah and the
Delectable Mountains:--one knows them as one knows the country that one
has walked over, and perhaps even better. There is no description for
description's sake: yet nothing is wanting of the descriptive kind.

Yet all these things are--as they should be--only subsidiary to the main
interest of the Pilgrimage itself. Once more, one may fear that it is no
good sign of the wits of the age that readers should be unable to
discard familiarity with the argument of the story. It is the way in
which that argument is worked out and illustrated that is the thing. I
have never myself, since I became thoroughly acquainted with Lydgate's
Englishing of Deguilevile's _Pilgrimage of the Soul of Man_, had any
doubt that--in some way or other, direct or indirect, at tenth or
twentieth hand perhaps--Bunyan was acquainted with it: but this is of no
importance. He might undoubtedly have got all his materials straight out
of the Bible. But his working of them up is all his own, and is
wonderful. Here, to begin with, is the marvel not merely of a
continuation which is not a falling off, but of a repetition of the same
general scheme with different but closely connected personages, which is
entirely free from monotony. One is so accustomed to the facts that
perhaps it hardly strikes one at first how extraordinarily audacious the
attempt is: nay, the very success of it may blind all but critics to
the difficulty. It is no wonder that people tried further continuations
and further complications: still less wonder that they utterly failed.
Probably even Bunyan himself could not have "done it a third time." But
he did it these twice with such vividness of figure and action; such
completeness of fable; such sufficiency of behaviour and of speech as
have scarcely ever been equalled. As ideal as Spenser, as real as Defoe:
such is Bunyan. And he shows this realism and this idealism in a prose
narrative, bringing the thoughts and actions and characters and speech
of fictitious human beings before his readers--for their inspection
perhaps; for their delight certainly. If this is not the being and the
doing of a novelist this deponent very humbly declareth that he knoweth
not what the being and the doing of a novelist are.

We must now turn to two small but noteworthy attempts at the kind, which
have been referred to above.

In 1668 there appeared a very curious little book (entitled at great
length after the manner of the times, but more shortly called _The Isle
of Pines_), which is important in the literary ancestry of Defoe and
Swift and not unimportant in itself. Its author was Henry Neville, of
the Nevilles of Billingbeare, son of one Sir Henry and grandson of
another, the grandfather having been of some mark in diplomacy and
courtiership in late Elizabethan and early Jacobean times. The grandson
had had a life of some stir earlier. Born in 1620, and educated at
Merton and University Colleges, he had left Oxford without a degree, had
taken the Parliamentary side, but as a rigid Republican and
anti-Cromwellite; had been a member of the Rota, and after the
Restoration had been arrested in 1663 for supposed treasonable
practices, but escaped serious punishment. He lived quietly for more
than thirty years longer and died in 1694. Besides _The Isle of Pines_
he wrote satirical tracts (the _Parliament of Ladies_ being the best
known), translated Machiavelli, and was evidently a man of parts,
though, like his friend Harrington, something of a "crank." He seems
also to have been, as some others of the extremer Puritans certainly
were, pretty loose in his construction of moral laws.

_The Isle_ is a very short book of thirty-one quarto pages: but there is
a good deal in it, and it must have been very carefully written. A
certain Cornelius van Sloetten writes, "supported by letters from
Amsterdam," how a Dutch ship, driven far out of reckoning in the
Southern Ocean, comes to a "fourth island, near Terra Australis
Incognita," which is inhabited by white people, speaking English, but
mostly naked. The headman is a certain William Pine, whose grandfather,
George, has left a written account of the origin of the community. This
relates how George was wrecked on the island, the ship perishing "with
man and mouse," except himself, his master's daughter, two white
maidservants, and a negro girl. The island proves pleasant and
habitable: and George, to prevent unfairness and ill-feeling, unites
himself to all his female companions, the quintet living in perfect
harmony. Thirty-seven children result: and these at first necessarily
intermarry; but after this first generation, a rule is made that
brothers and sisters may not unite--the descendants of the four original
wives forming clans who may marry into the others but not into their
own. A wider legal code of fair stringency is arranged, with the
sanction of capital and other punishments: and things go so well that
the patriarch musters a tribe of 565 persons by the time he is sixty,
and of 1789 twenty years later, when he departs this life, piously
praying God "to multiply them and send them the true report of the
gospel." The multiplication has duly taken place, and there is something
like a civil war while the Dutch are there; but they interfere with
fire-arms to restore order, and leave all well. The writer's cunning is
shown by the fact that he does not stop abruptly: but finishes off with
some subsequent and quite _verisimilar_ experiences of the Dutch ship.
The book does not appear to have had a very great popularity in England,
though it was reprinted and abridged at least once, pretty shortly. But
it was very popular abroad, was translated into three or four languages,
and was apparently taken as a genuine account.

Neville's art is in fact not inconsiderable. Earlier voyages and travels
of course supplied him with his technical and geographical details: and
the codification of the Isle of Pines suggests the Bacon-Harrington
tradition. But he has got the vividness and realism which have usually
been lacking before: and though some of his details are pretty "free" it
is by no means only through such things that these qualities are
secured. To Cyrano de Bergerac he bears no likeness at all. In fact,
though Neville _was_ a satirist, satire does not seem to have been in
any way his object here. Whatever that object may have been, he has
certainly struck, by accident or not, on the secret of producing an
interesting account by ingeniously multiplied and adjusted detail.
Moreover, as there is no conversation, the book stands--accidentally
this time almost without doubt--at the opposite pole from the
talk-deluged romances of the Scudéry type. Whether Defoe actually knew
it or not matters exceedingly little: that something of his method, and
in a manner the subject of his first and most famous novel, are here
before him, seems quite indisputable. Perhaps not the least piquant
thing to do with _The Isle of Pines_ is to contrast it with _Oceana_. Of
course the contrast is unfair: nearly all contrasts are. But there is
actually, as has been pointed out, a slight contact between the work of
the two friends: and their complete difference in every other respect
makes this more curiously apparent. And another odd thing is that
Neville--"Rota"-republican as he was--should have adopted patriarchal
(one can hardly say _legitimate_) government here.

Congreve's _Incognita_ (1692), the last seventeenth-century novel that
requires special notice, belongs much more to the class of Afra's tales
than to that of the heroic romances. It is a short story of seventy-five
small pages only and of the Italian-Spanish imbroglio type. The friends
Aurelian and Hippolito take each other's names for certain purposes, and
their beloveds, "Incognita," Juliana and Leonora, are perplexed
accordingly: while family feuds, letter assignations at a convent where
the name of the convent unluckily happens to be torn off, and other
stock ingredients of the kind are freely used. Most writers have either
said nothing about the book or have given it scanty praise; with the
exception, Sir Walter Raleigh, I confess that I cannot here agree. Being
Congreve's it could not be quite without flashes of wit, but they do not
appear to me to be either very numerous or very brilliant; the plot,
such as it is, is a plot of drama rather than of fiction; and there is
no character that I can see. It is in fact only one of a vast multitude
of similar stories, not merely in the two languages just referred to,
but in French, which were but to show that the time of the novel was not
yet come, even when the time of this century was all but over.

It was quite over, and the first two decades of the next were all but
over too, before the way was, to any important extent, further explored:
but important assistance in the exploration was given at the beginning
of the second of these decades. The history of the question of the
relations of the Addison-Steele periodical, and especially of the
"Coverley Papers," to the novel is both instructive and amusing to those
who have come to appreciate the humours of literary things. It would
probably have shocked the more orthodox admirers of the _Spectator_,
during the eighteenth century, to have any such connection or relation
so much as hinted. But when people began to consider literature and
literary history in a better arranged perspective, the fact that there
_is_ such a connection or relation must have been soon perceived. It has
become comparatively a commonplace: and now the third stage--that in
which people become uneasy and suspicious of the commonplace and obvious
and try to turn it topsy-turvy--has begun.

It is of course undeniable that the "Coverley Papers," as they stand,
are not a novel, even on the loosest conception and construction of the
term. There is no plot; some of what should be the most important
characters are merely heard of, not seen; and the various scenes have no
sort of connection, except that the same persons figure in them. But
these undeniable facts do not interfere with two other facts, equally
undeniable and much more important. The first is that the papers could
be turned into a novel with hardly any important alteration, and with
only _quantum suff._ of addition and completion. "The widow" is there in
the background ready to be produced and made a heroine; many of the
incidents are told novel-fashion already, and more could be translated
into that fashion by the veriest tyro at novel writing who has written
at any time during the last one hundred and fifty years. The personages
of the club have merely to step down and out; the scenes to be
connected, amplified, and multiplied; the conversation to undergo the
same process.

But the second point is of greater importance still. Not only could the
"Coverley Papers," be made into a novel without the slightest
difficulty, and by a process much of which would be simple enlargement
of material; but they already possess, in a fashion which requires no
alteration at all, many of the features of the novel, far more
successfully hit off than had ever been done before in the novel itself.
This is true of the dialogue to no small extent, and of the description
even more: but it is truest of all of the characters. Except Bunyan,
nobody in prose fiction had ever made personages so thoroughly spirited
as Sir Roger and even the two Wills, Honeycomb and Wimble; while here
there was "no allaying Thames" in the shape of allegory, little
moralising and that of a kind quite human, a plentiful setting of
ordinary and familiar scene, and a more plentiful and exact adjustment
of ordinary and familiar manners. It is true that Addison, partly owing
to the undercurrent of his satirical humour (Steele succeeds rather
better here), has not attained the astonishing verisimilitude of the
writer to whom we shall come next and last but one in this chapter. His
characters are perfectly natural, but we know, all the while, that they
are works of art. But in most of the points just mentioned he has
exactly the tricks of the novelist's art that Defoe has not. The smaller
tales in the _Tatler_ and its followers undoubtedly did something to
remove the reproach from prose fiction, and more to sharpen the appetite
for it. But they were nothing new: the short tale being of unknown
antiquity. The "Coverley Papers" _were_ new and did much more. This new
kind of treatment may not have suggested beforehand (it is not certain
that it did not) the extensive novel of character and manners--the play
lengthened, bodied more strongly, and turned into narrative form. But
the process was _there_; the instances of it were highly reputed and
widely known. It must in almost any case have gone hard but a further
step still would be taken. It was actually taken by the person who had
suggested the periodical essay itself.

Much has been written about Defoe, but, curiously enough, the least part
of what has been written about him has concerned the very part of him
that is read--his novels. Nay, occasional eccentrics, and not only
these, have shown a sort of disposition to belittle him as a novelist:
indeed the stock description of Richardson as the Father of the English
Novel almost pointedly rules Defoe out. Yet further, the most adequate
and intelligent appreciation of his novel work itself has too often been
mainly confined to what is no doubt a subject of exceeding interest--the
special means by which he secures the attention, and procures the
delight, of his readers. We shall have to deal with this too. But the
point to which it is wished to draw special attention now is different,
and we may reach it best by the ordinary "statement of case."

Almost everybody who knows any literary history, knows that the book by
which, after thirty or forty years of restless publication in all sorts
of prose and rhyme, Defoe niched himself immovably in English
literature, was a new departure by almost an old man. He was all but, if
not quite, sixty when _Robinson Crusoe_ appeared: and a very few
following years saw the appearance of his pretty voluminous "minor"
novels. The subject of the first every one knows without limitation: it
is not so certain, though vigorous efforts have been made to popularise
the others, that even their subjects are clearly known to many people.
_Captain Singleton_ (1720), _Moll Flanders_, and _Colonel Jack_ (both
1722) are picaresque romances with tolerably sordid heroes and heroines,
but with the style entirely rejuvenated by Defoe's secret. _Roxana_
(1724), a very puzzling book which is perhaps not entirely his writing,
is of the same general class: the _Voyage round the World_ (1725), the
least interesting, but not _un_interesting, is exactly what its title
imports,--in other words, the "stuffing" of the _Robinson_ pie without
the game. The _Memoirs of a Cavalier_ (1720) approach the historical
novel (or at least the similar "stuffing" of that) and have raised
curious and probably insoluble questions as to whether they are
inventions at all--questions intimately connected with that general one
referred to above. One or two minor things are sometimes added to the
list: but they require no special notice. The seven books just mentioned
are Defoe's contribution to the English novel. Let us consider the
quality of this contribution first--and then the means used to attain

Their novel-quality (which, as has been hinted, has not been claimed so
loudly or so steadily as it should have been for Defoe) is the quality
of Story-Interest--and this, one dares say, he not only infused for the
first time in full dose, but practically introduced into the English
novel, putting the best of the old mediæval romances aside and also
putting aside _The Pilgrim's Progress_, which is not likely to have been
without influence on himself. It may be said, "Oh! but the _Amadis_
romances, and the Elizabethan novels, and the 'heroics' must have
interested or they would not have been read." This looks plausible, but
is a mistake. Few people who have not studied the history of criticism
know the respectable reluctance to be _pleased_ with literature which
distinguished mankind till very recent times; and which in fact kept the
novel back or was itself maintained by the absence of the novel. In life
people pleased themselves irregularly enough: in literature they could
not get out of the idea that they ought to be instructed, that it was
enough to be instructed, and that it was discreditable to ask for more.
Even the poet was allowed to delight grudgingly and at his peril; was
suspected because he did delight, and had to pay a sort of heavy
licence-duty for it, in the shape of concomitant instruction to others
and good behaviour in himself. In fact he was a publican who was bound
to serve stodgy food as well as exhilarating drink.

It is impossible to doubt that people were similarly affected to the
fiction of the Renaissance and the seventeenth century, at least in its
longer examples--for the smaller _novelle_ could amuse in their own way
sometimes, though they could hardly absorb. It is equally impossible to
imagine any one being "enthralled" by _Euphues_. Admiration, of a kind,
must have been the only passion excited by it. In the _Arcadia_ there is
a certain charm, but it belongs to the inset verse--to the almost
Spenserian _visionariness_ of parts--to the gracious lulling atmosphere
of the whole. If it had been published in three volumes, one cannot
imagine the most enthusiastic novel-reader knocking up a friend late at
night for volume two or volume three. I have said that I can read
_Parismus_ for pastime: but the pastime that it provides is certainly
not over-stimulating, and the mild stimulant becomes unsweetened and
unlemoned barley-water in books of the _Parthenissa_ class. If with them
conversing one forgets all time, it must be by the influence of the
kind go-between Sleep. We know, of course, that their contemporaries did
not go to sleep over them: but it was because they felt that they were
being done good to--that they were in the height of polite society--that
their manners were being softened and not allowed to be gross. The time,
in its blunt way, was fond of contrasting the attractions of a mistress
on one side and "a friend and a bottle" on the other. That a novel could
enter into competition with either or both, as an interesting and even
exciting means of passing the time, would have entered very few heads at
all and have been contemptuously dismissed from most of those that it
did enter.

Addison and Steele in the "Coverley Papers" had shown the way to
construct this new spell: Defoe actually constructed it. It may be that
some may question whether the word "exciting" applies exactly to his
stories. But this is logomachy: and in fact a well-willing reader _can_
get very fairly excited while the Cavalier is escaping after Marston
Moor; while it is doubtful whether the savages have really come and what
will be the event; while it is again doubtful whether Moll is caught or
not; or what has become of those gains of the boy Jack, which can hardly
be called ill-gotten because there is such a perfect unconsciousness of
ill on the part of the getter. At any rate, if such a reader cannot feel
excitement here, he would utterly stagnate in any previous novel.

In presence of this superior--this emphatically and doubly
"novel"--interest, all other things become comparatively unimportant.
The relations of _Robinson Crusoe_ to Selkirk's experiences and to one
or two other books (especially the already mentioned _Isle of Pines_)
may not unfitly employ the literary historian who chooses to occupy
himself with them. The allegory which Defoe alleges in it, and which
some biographers have endeavoured to work out, cannot, I suppose, be
absolutely pooh-poohed, but presents no attractions whatever to the
present writer. Whether the _Cavalier_ is pure fiction, or partly
embroidered fact, _is_ a somewhat interesting question, if only because
it seems to be impossible to find out the answer: and the same may be
said of the not impossible (indeed almost more than probable) Portuguese
maps and documents at the back of _Captain Singleton_. To disembroil the
chronological muddle of _Roxana_, and follow out the tangles of the
hide-and-seek of that most unpleasant "lady of pleasure" and her
daughter, may suit some. But, apart from all these things, there abides
the fact that you can _read_ the books--read them again and again--enjoy
them most keenly at first and hardly less keenly afterwards, however
often you repeat the reading.

As has been partly said, the means by which this effect is achieved, and
also the means by which it is not, are almost equally remarkable. The
Four Elements of the novel are sometimes, and not incorrectly, said to
be Plot, Character, Description, and Dialogue--Style, which some would
make a fifth, being rather a characteristic in another order of
division. It is curious that Defoe is rebellious or evasive under any
analysis of this kind. His plots are of the "strong" order--the events
succeed each other and are fairly connected, but do not compose a
history so much as a chronicle. In character, despite his intense
verisimilitude, he is not very individual. Robinson himself, Moll, Jack,
William the Quaker in _Singleton_, even Roxana the cold-blooded and
covetous courtesan, cannot be said not to be real--they and almost every
one of the minorities are an immense advance on the colourless and
bloodless ticketed puppets of the Middle Fiction. But they still want
_something_--the snap of the fingers of the artist. Moll is perhaps the
most real of all of them and yet one has no flash-sights of her
being--never sees her standing out against soft blue sky or
thunder-cloud as one sees the great characters of fiction; never hears
her steps winding and recognises her gesture as one does theirs.

So again his description is sufficient: and the enumerative
particularity of it is even great part of the _secret de Polichinelle_
to which we are coming. But it is far from elaborate in any other way
and has hardly the least decoration or poetical quality. Well as we know
Crusoe's Island the actual scenery of it is not half so much impressed
as that even, for instance, of Masterman Ready's--it is either of the
human figures--Crusoe's own grotesque bedizenment, the savages, Friday,
the Spaniards, Will Atkins--or of the works of man--the stockade, the
boat, and the rest--that we think. A little play is made with Jack's
glass-house squalor and Roxana's magnificence _de mauvais lieu_, but not
much: the gold-dust and deserts of _Singleton_ are a necessary part of
the "business," but nothing more. _Moll Flanders_--in some respects the
greatest of all his books--has the bareness of an Elizabethan stage in
scenery and properties--it is much if Greenfield spares us a table or a
bed to furnish it.

Of Dialogue Defoe is specially fond--even making his personages
soliloquise in this after a fashion--and it plays a very important part
in "the secret:" yet it can hardly be classed very high _as_ dialogue.
And this is at least partly due to the strange _drab_ shapelessness of
his style, which never takes on any brilliant colour, or quaint
individual form.

Yet it is very questionable whether any other style would have suited
the method so well, or would even have suited it at all. For this
method--to leave off hinting at it and playing round it--is one of
almost endless accumulation of individually trivial incident, detail,
and sometimes observation, the combined effect of which is to produce an
insensible but undoubting acceptance, on the reader's part, of the facts
presented to him. The process has been more than once analysed in that
curious and convenient miniature example of it, the "Mrs. Veal"
_supercherie_: but you may open the novels proper almost anywhere and
discover it in full operation. Like most great processes of art, this is
an adoption and perfecting of habits usual with the most inartistic
people--a turning to good account of the interminably circumstantial
superfluities of the common gossip and newsmonger. Very often Defoe
actually does not go beyond this--just as in _The Shortest Way with the
Dissenters_ he had simply reproduced the actual thoughts and wishes of
those who disliked dissent. But sometimes he got the better of this
also, as in the elaborate building up of Robinson's surroundings and not
a little in the other books. And there the effect is not only
verisimilar but wonderful in its verisimilitude. At any rate, in him,
and for English prose and secular fiction, we have first that mysterious
charm of the _real that is not real_--of the "human creation"--which
constitutes the appeal of the novel. In some of the books there is
hardly any appeal of any other sort. Moll Flanders, though not unkindly,
and "improper" rather from the force of circumstances than from any
specially vicious inclination, is certainly not a person for whom one
has much liking. Colonel Jack, after his youthful experiences in
pocket-picking, is rather a nonentity, something of a coward, a fellow
of no particular wits, parts, or definite qualities of any kind. Singleton
is a rascal who "plays Charlemagne," as the French gambling term has it,
and endows his repentance with the profits of his sin. As for Roxana there
are few more repulsive heroines in fiction--while the Cavalier and the
chief figure in the _Voyage Round the World_ are simply threads on
which their respective adventures are strung. Even Robinson himself enlists
no particular sympathy except of the "put-yourself-in-his-place" kind. Yet
these sorry or negative personages, of whom, in the actual creation of God,
we should be content to know nothing except from paragraphs in the
newspaper (and generally in the police-reports thereof), content us
perfectly well with their company through hundreds and thousands of
solid pages, and leave us perfectly ready to enjoy it again after
a reasonable interval.

This, as has been said, is the mystery of fiction--a mystery partly set
a-working in the mediæval romance, then mostly lost, and now
recovered--in his own way and according to his own capacity--by Defoe.
It was to escape others for a little longer and then to be yet again
rediscovered by the great quartette of the mid-eighteenth century--to
slip in and out of hands during the later part of that century, and then
to be all but finally established, in patterns for everlasting
pursuance, by Miss Austen and by Scott. But Defoe is really (unless we
put Bunyan before him) the first of the magicians--not the greatest by
any means, but great and almost alone in the peculiar talent of making
uninteresting things interesting--not by burlesquing them or satirising
them; not by suffusing or inflaming them with passion; not by giving
them the amber of style; but by serving them "simple of themselves" as
though they actually existed.

The position of Defoe in novel history is so great that there is a
temptation to end this chapter with him. But to do so would cause an
inconvenience greater than any resulting advantages. For the greatest of
Defoe's contemporaries in English letters also comes into our division,
and comes best here. One cannot conveniently rank Swift with the great
quartette of the next chapter, because he is a novelist "by interim" and
incompletely: to rank him among the minor and later novelists of the
eighteenth century would be as to the first part of the classification
absurd and as to the last false. And he comes, not merely in time,
pretty close to Defoe, incommensurable as is the genius of the two. It
has even been thought (plausibly enough, though the matter is of no
great importance) that the form of _Gulliver_ may have been to some
extent determined by _Robinson Crusoe_ and Defoe's other novels of
travel. And there is a subtler reason for taking the pair together and
both close to Addison and Steele.

Swift had shown the general set towards prose fiction, and his own bent
in the same direction, long before Defoe's novel-period and as early as
the _Tale of a Tub_ and the _Battle of the Books_ (_published_ 1704 but
certainly earlier in part). The easy flow of the narrative, and the
vivid dialogue of the Spider and the Bee in the latter, rank high among
those premonitions of novel with which, in this place, we should be
specially busied. In the former Peter, Martin, and Jack want but a
little more of the alchemist's furnace to accomplish their projection
into real characters, and not merely allegorical figure-heads. But, of
course, in both books, the satiric purpose dominates too much to allow
them to be really ranked among novels, even if they had taken the
trouble to clothe themselves with more of the novel-garb.

With _Gulliver_ it is different. It is a commonplace on its subject
(but like many other commonplaces a thing ill to forget or ignore) that
natural and unsophisticated children always _do_, and that almost
anybody who has a certain power of turning blind eyes when and where he
chooses _can_, read it simply as a story of adventure and enjoy it
hugely. It would be a most preternatural child or a most singularly
constituted adult who could read _Utopia_ or _Oceana_, or even Cyrano's
_Voyages_, "for the story" and enjoy them hugely. This means that Swift
had either learnt from Defoe or--and considering those earlier
productions of his own much more probably--had independently developed
the knack of _absorbing_ the reader--the knack of telling a story. But
of course there is in one sense much more, and in another much less,
than a story in _Gulliver_: and the finest things in it are independent
of story, though (and this once more comes in for our present purpose)
they are quite capable of adaptation to story-purposes, and have been so
adapted ever since by the greatest masters of the art. These are strokes
of satire, turns of phrase, little illuminations of character, and
seasonings of description. But the great point of _Gulliver_ is that,
like Defoe's work, though in not quite the same way, it is
_interesting_--that it takes hold of its reader and gives him its
"peculiar pleasure." When a work of art does this, it is pretty near

There is, however, another book of Swift's which, though perhaps seldom
mentioned or even thought of in connection with the novel, is of real
importance in that connection, and comes specially in with our present
main consideration--the way in which the several parts of the completed
novel were being, as it were, separately got ready and set apart for the
use of the accomplished novelist. This is the very curious and
agreeable piece called _Polite Conversation_ (1738), on which, though it
was not printed till late in his life and close on _Pamela_ itself,
there is good reason for thinking that he had been for many years
engaged. The importance of dialogue in the novel has been often
mentioned and will scarcely be contested: while frequent occasion has
been taken to point out that it had hitherto been very ill-achieved.
Swift's "conversation" though designedly _underlined_, as it were, to
show up current follies and extravagances of phrase and of fashion
generally, is yet pretty certainly in the main the real average
conversation of the society of his time, which he knew well and
thoroughly. Further, there is a distinct, though it may be almost
impalpable, difference between it and the conversation of the stage,
though it is naturally connected therewith. Non-poetical stage dialogue
in capable hands is either deliberate talking for display of "wit" like
that of Congreve, or is conditioned and directed by the necessities of
action and character. Of course, novel conversation may diverge in the
first direction, and cannot properly neglect the second altogether. But,
as there is room for very much more of it, it may and should allow
itself a considerably wider range and imitate, on proper occasions, the
desultory gossip and small talk of people who live on the "boards" of a
room-floor and not of a stage.

This is just what Swift's does, and just what there is very little of in
Defoe; almost necessarily less in Addison and his group because of their
essay form; and hardly anything elsewhere and earlier. Just as the
Coverley Papers could, by one process and no difficult one, have been
thrown into a novel; so by another, a not much more difficult and a much
less complicated one, could the _Polite Conversation_ be thrown into
part of a novel--while in each case the incomplete and unintentional
draft itself supplies patterns for the complete work in new kind such as
had never been given before. Indeed the _Conversation_ may almost be
said to _be_ part of a novel--and no small part--as it stands, and of
such a novel as had never been written before.

But there was something still further all but absolutely necessary to
the novel, though not necessary to it alone, which Defoe, Addison, and
Swift, each in his several way, worked mightily to supply: and that was
a flexible business-like "workaday" prose style. Not merely so long as
men aimed at the eccentric and contorted styles of _Euphues_ and the
_Arcadia_, but so long as the old splendid and gorgeous, but cumbrous
and complicated pre-Restoration style lasted, romances were possible,
but novels were not. You might indeed pick out of Shakespeare--especially
from such parts as those of Beatrice, Rosalind, and some of the fools--a
capital novel-style: but then you can pick almost anything out of
Shakespeare. Elsewhere the constant presence either of semi-poetic
phraseology or of some kind of "lingo" was almost fatal. You want what
Sprat calls a more "natural way of speaking" (though not necessarily a
"naked" one) for novel purposes--a certain absence of ceremony and parade
of phrase: though the presence of slang and some other things, the rebuking
of which was partly Swift's object in the _Conversation_, is _not_
fatal, and so he, in a manner, blessed and prescribed what he meant to ban.

Thus, by the early years of the reign of George II., or a little later,
we find, on the one side, an evident, and variously though
inarticulately proclaimed, desire for novels; on the other, the
accumulation, in haphazard and desultory way, of almost all the methods,
the processes, the "plant," necessary to turn novels out; but hardly
anything except the considered work of Bunyan, Defoe, and Swift which
really deserves the name of novel. A similar process had been going on
in France; and, in the different work of Le Sage and Marivaux, had
actually produced work in the kind more advanced than anything in
English. But the tables were soon to be turned: and during the rest of
the century the English Novel was at last to assert itself as a
distinct, an increasingly popular, and a widely cultivated kind. That
this was due to the work of the four great novelists who fill its
central third and will fill our next chapter cannot perhaps be said:
that their work was the first great desertion of it may be said safely.



It does not enter into the plan, because it would be entirely
inconsistent with the scale, of the present book to give details of the
lives of the novelists, except when they have something special to do
with the subject, or when (as in the case of a few minorities who happen
to be of some importance) even well-informed readers are likely to be
quite ignorant about them. Accounts, in all degrees of scale and
competence, of the lives of Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, and Sterne
abound. It is sufficient--but in the special circumstances at this point
perhaps necessary--here to sum the facts very briefly in so far as they
bear on the main issue. Richardson (1689-1761), not merely the first to
write, but the eldest by much more than his priority in writing, was the
son of a Derbyshire tradesman, was educated for some time at
Charterhouse, but apprenticed early to a printer--which trade he pursued
with diligence and profit for the rest of his life in London and its
immediate neighbourhood. After his literary success, he gathered round
him a circle of ladies and gentlemen interested in literature: but he
never had any first-hand acquaintance with general society of the
"gentle" kind, much less with that of the upper classes. Fielding
(1707-1754), on the contrary, was a member (though only as the son of a
younger son of a younger son) of a family of great antiquity and
distinction, which held an earldom in England and another in Ireland,
and was connected as well as it was derived, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu,
for instance, being the novelist's cousin. He was educated at Eton and
Leyden: but his branch of the family being decidedly impecunious, was
thrown very much on his own resources. These were mainly drawn from
literature, first as a playwright then as a novelist, journalism and
miscellanies coming in. But he was called to the Bar: and though he
probably did not make much money there, he obtained the poorly paid and
hard-worked but rather important position of "Bow Street Magistrate,"
which meant that he was head, directly of the London police such as it
was, and indirectly of that of the whole kingdom. His temper was in some
ways as aristocratic as his birth: but though Horace Walpole's accounts
of his fancy for low company are obviously exaggerated, there is no
doubt that he was a good deal of what has since been called a
"Bohemian." His experience of variety in scene was much wider than
Richardson's, although after he came home from Leyden (where he went to
study law) it was chiefly confined to London and the south of England
(especially Bath, Dorsetshire, where he lived for a time, and the
Western Circuit), till his last voyage, in hopeless quest of health, to
Lisbon, where he died. His knowledge of literature, and even what may be
called his scholarship, were considerable, and did credit to the public
school education of those days.

Smollett (1721-1771) differed from his two predecessors in being a
Scotsman: but in family was very much nearer to Fielding than to
Richardson, being the grandson of a judge who was a Commissioner of the
Union, and a gentleman of birth and property--which last would, had he
lived long enough, have come to Smollett himself. But he suffered in his
youth from some indistinctly known family jars, was apprenticed to a
Glasgow surgeon, and escaping thence to London with a tragedy in his
pocket, was in undoubted difficulties till (and after) he obtained the
post of surgeon's mate on board a man-of-war, and took part in the
Carthagena expedition. After coming home he made at least some attempts
to practise: but was once more drawn off to literature, though
fortunately not to tragedy. For the rest of his life he was a
hard-worked but by no means ill-paid journalist, novelist, and
miscellanist, making as much as £2000 by his _History of England_, not
ill-written, though now never read. Like Fielding (though, unlike him,
more than once) he went abroad in search of health and died in the quest
at Leghorn. Smollett was not ignorant, but he seems to have known modern
languages better than ancient: though there is doubt about his direct
share in the translations to which he gave his name. Moreover he had
some though no great skill in verse.

Lastly Sterne (1713-1768), though hardly, as it is the custom to call
him, "an Irishman," yet vindicated the claims of the third constituent
of the United Kingdom by being born in Ireland, from which country his
mother came. But the Sternes were pure English, of a gentle family which
had migrated from East Anglia through Nottingham to Yorkshire, and was
much connected with Cambridge. Thither Laurence, the novelist, after a
very roving childhood (his father was a soldier), and a rather irregular
education, duly went: and, receiving preferment in the Church from his
Yorkshire relations, lived for more than twenty years in that county
without a history, till he took the literary world--hardly by storm, but
by a sort of fantastic capful of wind--with _Tristram Shandy_ in 1760.
Seven or eight years of fame, some profit, not hard work (for his books
shrink into no great solid bulk), and constant travelling, ended by a
sudden death at his Bond Street lodgings, after a long course of
ill-health very carelessly attended to.

One or two more traits are relevant. All the four were married, and
married pretty early; two of them married twice. Richardson's first wife
was, in orthodox fashion, his master's daughter: of his second little is
known. Fielding's first (he had made a vain attempt earlier to abduct an
heiress who was a relation) was, by universal consent, the model both of
Sophia and Amelia, almost as charming as either, and as amiable; his
second was her maid. Of Mrs. Smollett, who was a Miss Lascelles and a
West Indian heiress in a small way, we know very little--the habit of
identifying her with the "Narcissa" of _Roderick Random_ is natural,
inconclusive, but not ridiculous. Sterne's matrimonial relations are the
most famous of all: and though posterity has, with its usual charity,
constructed a legend for the pair which is probably much worse than the
reality, that reality is more than a little awkward. Mrs. Sterne was a
Miss Lumley, of a good Yorkshire family, some, though small, fortune,
and more friends who exerted themselves for her husband. By inexcusable
levity, ignorance, misjudgment, or heartless cupidity their daughter
Lydia published, after the death of both, letters some of which contain
courtship of the most lackadaisical sentimentality and others later
expressions (which occasionally reach the scandalous) of weariness and
disgust on Sterne's part. Other evidence of an indisputable character
shows that he was, at least and best, an extravagant and mawkish
philanderer with any girl or woman who would join in a flirtation: and
while there is no evidence against Mrs. Sterne's character in the
ordinary sense, and hardly any of value against her temper, she seems
(which is perhaps not wonderful) to have latterly preferred to live
apart from her husband, and to have put him to considerable, if not
unreasonable, expenses by her fancy for wandering about France with the

Finally, in general character, Richardson seems to have been a
respectable person of rather feminine temperament and, though
good-natured to his friends, endowed with a feminine spitefulness.
Fielding, though by no means answering to the standard of minor and even
major morals demanded

              "by the wise ones,
    By the grave and the precise ones."

though reckless and disorderly in his ways and habits, appears to have
been in the main a thorough gentleman, faithful to truth and honour,
fearless, compassionate, intolerant of meanness and brutality and of
treachery most of all--a man of many faults perhaps, but of no really
bad or disgusting ones. Concerning Smollett's personality we know least
of all the four. It was certainly disfigured by an almost savage
pugnacity of temper; by a strange indifference to what ought to be at
the lowest the conduct of a gentleman, and by a most repulsive
inclination--perhaps natural, but developed by training--to the merely
foul and nasty. But he seems to have been brave, charitable though not
in the most gracious way, honest, and on the whole a much better fellow
than he might generally seem. Sterne is the most difficult of the four
to characterise fairly, because of the unlucky revelations to which we
possess no parallel in the case of the other three, and which, if we had
them, might probably alter our estimates of a good many now well reputed
people. It is perhaps enough to say that his letters contain many good
traits as well as some bad ones; that his unlucky portrait, with its
combination of leer and sneer, is probably responsible for much; and
that the parts which, as we shall see further, he chose to play, of
extravagant humorist and extravagant sentimentalist, not only almost
necessitate attitudes which may easily become offensive in the playing,
but are very likely, in practice, to communicate something apparently
not natural and unattractive to the player.

But enough of the workers, though not too much in the case of such
remarkable contemporary exponents of a new kind of Human Comedy: let us
go to the work.

In the long "History of the Unexpected," thick-strewn as it is with
curiosities, there are few things odder than the appearance and the
sequels of _Pamela: or Virtue Rewarded_, which, in circumstances to be
noted presently, is said to have been begun on November 12, 1739, was
finished (as far as the first part goes) exactly two months later, and
(there being, in the case of the author's business, no obstacle of the
kind that has frequently beset the appearance of greater works) was
published later in the year 1740. That author was over fifty years old:
though he had had much to do with ushering literature into the world, he
had never attempted to produce it; he belonged to a class which was apt
to regard _belles lettres_ with profound suspicion; and his experiences,
both in literature itself and in life, had been necessarily of the most
limited kind. But there were certain counterbalancing facts to be taken
into consideration which, though they can hardly be said to be _causes_
of the marvel--the cause was the Hour, which hit, as it listed, on the
Man--were a little more than accidental occasions of it. Richardson, as
we see from his work, must have been a rather careful student of such
novels as there were. The name of his first heroine, with the
essentially English throwing back of the accent added, is the same as
that of one of Sidney's heroines in the _Arcadia_, which had been not
long before modernised for eighteenth-century reading by a certain Mrs.
Stanley. The not very usual form "Laurana," which is the name of a
character in his latest novel, is that of the heroine of _Parismus_.
Further, he had had curious early experiences (which we know from his
own meticulous revelations) of writing love-letters, when he was a mere
boy, for girl-friends of his to adapt in writing to their lovers. "His
eye," he says, "had been always on the ladies," though no doubt always
also in the most honourable way. And, quite recently, the
crystallisation had been precipitated by a commission from two of his
bookseller (i.e. publisher) patrons--the founder of the House of
Rivington and the unlucky Osborne who was knocked down by Johnson and
picked up (not quite as one would wish to be) by Pope. They asked him to
prepare a series of "Familiar Letters on the useful concerns of common
life." Five-and-twenty years before, he had heard in outline something
like the story of _Pamela_. In shaping this into letters he thought it
might be a "new species of writing that might possibly turn young people
into a course of reading different from the pomp and parade of
romance-writing, and dismissing the improbable and marvellous with which
novels generally abound, might tend to promote the cause of religion and
virtue." His wife and "a young lady living with them," to whom he had
read some of it, used to come into his little closet every night with,
"Have you any more of _Pamela_, Mr. R.?" Two other female friends joined
in the interest and eulogy. He finished it (that is, the first two
volumes which contain the whole of the original idea) and published it,
though at first with the business-like precaution of appearing to "edit"
only, and the more business-like liberty of liberal praise of what he
edited. It became at once popular: and received the often repeated, but
to the author very annoying, compliment of piratical continuation. So he
set to work and continued it himself: as usually (though by no means
invariably) with rather diminished success. On such points as the
suggestion that he may have owed a debt to Marivaux (in _Marianne_) and
others, little need be said here. I have never had much doubt myself
that the indebtedness existed: though it would be rash, and is
unnecessary, to attempt to determine to what extent and in what
particular form.

It is by no means so difficult as it may at first sight appear to put
oneself very much in the situation of a contemporary reader of _Pamela_,
even if one has read it three or four times, provided that a fairly long
period has elapsed since the last reading, and that the novels of the
preceding age are fairly--and freshly--familiar. The thing has been in
fact done--with unexpected but not in the least deliberate or suspicious
success--by the present writer, who has read the book after an interval
of some fifteen years and just after reading (in some cases again, in
some for the first time) most of the works noticed in the preceding
chapter. The difference of "the new species of writing" (one is reminded
of the description of Spenser as "the new poet") is almost startling:
and of a kind which Richardson pretty certainly did not fully apprehend
when he used the phrase. In order to appreciate it, one must not only
leave out the two last volumes (which, as has been said, the first
readers had not before them at all, and had better never have had) but
also the second, or great part of it, which they would only have reached
after they had been half whetted, half satiated, and wholly bribed, by
the first. The defects of this later part and indeed of the first itself
will be duly noticed presently. Let it be to us, for the moment, the
story of Pamela up to and including "Mr. B.'s" repentance and amendment
of mind: and the "difference" of this story, which fills some hundred
and twenty or thirty closely printed, double columned, royal octavo
pages in the "Ballantyne Novels," is (despite the awkwardness of such a
form for the enjoyment of a novel) almost astounding.

To begin with, the novel-attractions are presented with a completeness
which, as has been pointed out in the last chapter, is almost entirely
lacking before. There is, of course, not very much plot, in the martinet
sense of that word: there never was in Richardson, despite his immense
apparatus and elaboration. The story is not knotted and unknotted; the
wheel does not come full circle on itself; it merely runs along
pleasantly till it is time for it to stop, and it stops rather abruptly.
The siege of Pamela's virtue ends merely because the besieger is tired
of assaults which fail, and of offering dishonourable terms of
capitulation which are rejected: because he prefers peace and alliance.
But such as it is, it is told with a spirit which must have been
surprising enough to its readers, and which makes it, I confess, seem to
me now much the best _story_ in Richardson. The various alarums and
excursions of the siege itself go off smartly and briskly: there may be
more sequence than connection--there is _some_ connection, as in the
case of that most unlucky and ill-treated person the Rev. Mr.
Williams--but the sequence is rapid and unbroken, and the constituents
of it as it were jostle each other--not in any unfavourable sense, but
in a sort of rapid dance, "cross hands and down the middle," which is
inspiriting and contagious. He lost this faculty later: or rather he
allowed it to be diluted and slackened into the interminable episodes of
the not dissimilar though worse-starred plot against Clarissa, and the
_massacrant_ trivialities of the Italian part of _Grandison_. But he had
it here: and it is not a fair argument to say (as even in these days I
have known it said) that Pamela's honour is a commodity of too little
importance to justify such a pother about it.

This may bring us to the characters. They also are not of the absolutely
first class--excepting, as to be discussed later, the great attempt of
Lovelace, Richardson's never are. But they are an immense advance on the
personages that did duty as persons in preceding novels, even in Defoe.
"Mr. B." himself is indeed not very capital. One does not quite see why
a man who went on as long as he did and used the means which he
permitted himself to use, did not go on longer or use them more
thoroughly. But Richardson has at least vindicated his much-praised
"knowledge of the human heart" by recognising two truths: first, that
there are many natures (perhaps most) who are constantly tempted to
"over-bid"--to give more and more for something that they want and
cannot get; and, secondly, that there are others (again, perhaps, the
majority, if not always the same individuals) who, when they are
peremptorily told _not_ to do a thing, at once determine to do it. It
was to Lady Davers mainly that Pamela owed her escape from the fate of
Clarissa, though she would hardly have taken, or had the chance of
taking, that fate in the same way. As for the minor characters, at least
the lower examples are more than sufficient: and Mrs. Jewkes wants very
little of being a masterpiece. But of course Pamela herself is the
cynosure, such as there is. She has had rather hard measure with critics
for the last century and a little more. The questions to ask now are,
"Is she a probable human being?" and then, "Where are we to find a
probable human being, worked out to the same degree, before?" I say
unhesitatingly that the answer to the first is "Yes," and the answer to
the second "Nowhere." The last triumph of originality and individuality
she does not indeed reach. Richardson had, even more than other men of
his century in England, a strong Gallic touch: and he always tends to
the type rather than the individual. Beatrix Esmond is a coquette of the
highest--almost of the heroic-poetic--class, but she is first of all
Beatrix Esmond. Blanche Amory is a middle-class minx, hardly heroic at
all, but she is first of all Blanche Amory. Becky Sharp is an
adventuress who would go pretty close to, and perhaps not stop at,
positive crime, but she is first of all Becky Sharp. Pamela Andrews is
not first of all--perhaps she is hardly at all--Pamela Andrews. There
might be fifty or five hundred Pamelas, while there could be only one of
each of the others. She is the pretty, good-natured, well-principled,
and rather well-educated menial, whose prudence comes to the aid of her
principles, whose pride does not interfere with either, and who has a
certain--it is hardly unfair to call it--slyness which is of the sex
rather than of the individual. But, as such, she is quite admirably
worked out--a heroine of Racine in more detail and different
circumstances, a triumph of art, and at the same time with so much
nature that it is impossible to dismiss her as merely artificial. The
nearest thing to her in English prose fiction before (Marianne, of
course, is closer in French) is Moll Flanders: and good as Moll is, she
is flat and lifeless in comparison with Pamela. You may call "my
master's" mistress (actually in the honourable sense, but never in the
dishonourable) again a minx, though a better minx than Blanche, if you
like. But there is no animal more alive than a minx: and you will
certainly not find a specimen of the species in any English novel

As for description and dialogue, there is not very much of the former
in _Pamela_, though it might not be unfair to include under the head
those details, after the manner of Defoe (such as Pamela's list of
purchases when she thinks she is going home), which supply their own
measure of verisimilitude to the story. But there are some things of the
kind which Defoe never would have thought of--such as the touches of
the "tufts of grass" and the "pretty sort of wildflower that grows
yonder near the elm, the fifth from us on the left," which occur in the
gipsy scene. The dialogue plays a much more important part: and may be
brought into parallel with that in the _Polite Conversation_, referred
to above and published just before _Pamela_. It is "reported" of course,
instead of being directly delivered, in accordance with the
letter-scheme of which more presently, but that makes very little
difference; to the first readers it probably made no difference at all.
Here again that process of "vivification," which has been so often dwelt
on, makes an astonishing progress--the blood and colour of the novel,
which distinguish it from the more statuesque narrative, are supplied,
if indirectly yet sufficiently and, in comparison with previous
examples, amply. Here you get, almost or quite for the first time in the
English novel, those spurts and sparks of animation which only the
living voice can supply. Richardson is a humorist but indirectly; yet
only the greatest humorists have strokes much better than that admirable
touch in which, when the "reconciliations and forgivenesses of injuries"
are being arranged, and Mr. B. (quite in the manner of the time)
suggests marrying Mrs. Jewkes to the treacherous footman John and giving
them an inn to keep--Pamela, the mild and semi-angelic but exceedingly
feminine Pamela, timidly inquires whether, "This would not look like
very heavy punishment to poor John?" She forgives Mrs. Jewkes of course,
but only "as a Christian"--as a greater than Richardson put it
afterwards and commented on it in the mouth of a personage whom
Richardson could never have drawn, though Fielding most certainly could.

The original admirers of _Pamela_, then, were certainly justified: and
even the rather fatuous eulogies which the author prefixed to it from
his own and (let us hope) other pens (and which probably provoked
Fielding himself more than even the substance of the piece) could be
transposed into a reasonable key. But we ought nowadays to consider this
first complete English novel from a rather higher point of view, and ask
ourselves, not merely what its comparative merits were in regard to its
predecessors, and as presented to its first readers, but what its
positive character is and what, as far as it goes, are the positive
merits or defects which it shows in its author.

The first thing to strike one in this connection is, almost of course,
the letter-form. More agreement has been reached about this, perhaps,
than about some other points in the inquiry. The initial difficulty of
fiction which does not borrow the glamour of verse or of the stage is
the question, "What does all this mean?" "What is the authority?" "How
does the author know it all?" And a hundred critics have pointed out
that there are practically only three ways of meeting this. The boldest
and the best by far is to follow the poet and the dramatist themselves;
to treat it like one of the magic lions of romance, ignore it, and pass
on, secure of safety, to tell your story "from the blue," as if it were
an actual history or revelation, or something passing before the eyes of
the reader. But at that time few novelists had the courage to do this,
daunted as they were by the absence of the sword and shield of verse,
of the vantage-room of the stage. Then there is the alternative of
recounting it by the mouth of one of the actors in, or spectators of,
the events--a plan obvious, early, presenting some advantages, still
very commonly followed, but always full of little traps and pits of
improbability, and peculiarly trying in respect to the character (if he
is made to have any) of the narrator himself. Thirdly, there is the
again easy resource of the "document" in its various forms. Of these,
letters and diaries possess some prerogative advantages; and were likely
to suggest themselves very particularly at this time when the actual
letter and diary (long rather strangely rare in English) had for some
generations appeared, and were beginning to be common. In the first
place the information thus obtained looks natural and plausible: and
there is a subsidiary advantage--on which Richardson does not draw very
much in _Pamela_, but which he employs to the full later--that by
varying your correspondents you can get different views of the same
event, and first-hand manifestations of extremely different characters.

Its disadvantages, on the other hand, are equally obvious: but there are
two or three of them of especial importance. In the first place, it is
essentially an artificial rather than an artful plan--its want of
verisimilitude, as soon as you begin to think of it, is as great as that
of either of the others if not greater. In the second, without immense
pains, it must be "gappy and scrappy," while the more these pains are
taken the more artificial it will become. In the third, the book is
extremely likely, in the taking of these pains and even without them, to
become intolerably lengthy and verbose. In the first part at least of
the first part of _Pamela_, Richardson avoided these dangers fairly if
not fully; in the second part he succumbed to them; in his two later
novels, though more elaborate and important plots to some extent bore up
the expansion, he succumbed to them almost more. Pains have been taken
above to show how the first readers of _Pamela_ might rejoice in it,
because of its contrast with the character of the seventeenth-century
novel which was most read--the Scudéry or "heroic" romance. It is not, I
think, too severe to say that nothing but the parallel with that
romance, and the tolerance induced by familiarity with it, could make
any one put up with the second part of _Pamela_ itself, or with the
inhumanly prolonged divagation of _Clarissa_ and _Grandison_. Nor, as
has been hinted, is the solace of the letters--in the opportunity of
setting forth different tempers and styles--here much taken.

There is no doubt that one main attraction of this letter-plan (whether
consciously experienced or not does not matter) was its ready adaptation
to Richardson's own special and peculiar gift of minute analysis of
mood, temper, and motive. The diary avowedly, and the letter in reality,
even though it may be addressed to somebody else, is a continuous
soliloquy: and the novelist can use it with a frequency and to a length
which would be intolerable and impossible on the stage. Now soliloquy is
the great engine for self--revelation and analysis. It is of course to a
great extent in consequence of this analysis that Richardson owes his
pride of place in the general judgment. It is quite possible to lay too
much stress on it, as distinguishing the novel from the romance: and the
present writer is of opinion that too much stress has actually been
laid. The real difference between romance _per se_ and novel _per se_
(so far as they are capable of distinct existence) is that the romance
depends more on incident and the novel more on character. Now this
minute analysis and exhibition, though it is one way of drawing or
constructing character, is not the only, nor even a necessary, one. It
can be done without: but it has impressed the vulgar, and even some who
are not the vulgar, from Dr. Johnson to persons whom it is unnecessary
to mention. They cannot believe that there is "no deception"--that the
time is correctly told--unless the works of the watch are bared to them:
and this Richardson most undoubtedly does. Even in his 'prentice work,
every flutter of Pamela's little heart is registered, and registered
probably enough: nor could the registry have been effected, perhaps, in
any other way that should be in the least probable so well as by the
letter and journal method. Of course this analysis was not quite new; it
had existed in a sort of way in the heroic novel: and it had been
eminently present in the famous _Princesse de Clèves_ of Madame de la
Fayette as well as in her French successors. But these stories had
generally been as short as the heroics had been long: and no one had
risen (or descended) to anything like the minuteness and fullness of
Richardson. As was before pointed out in regard to the letter-system
generally, this method of treatment is exposed to special dangers,
particularly those of verbosity and "overdoing"--not to mention the
greater one of missing the mark. Richardson can hardly be charged with
error, though he may be with excess, in regard to Pamela herself in the
earlier part of the book--perhaps even not in regard to Mr. B.'s
intricacies of courtship, matrimonial compliment, and arbitrary temper
later. But he certainly succumbs to them in the long and monstrous scene
in which Lady Davers bullies, storms at, and positively assaults her
unfortunate sister-in-law before she is forced to allow that she _is_
her sister-in-law. Part of course of his error here comes from the
mistake with which Lady Mary afterwards most justly reproached
him--that he talked about fine ladies and gentlemen without knowing
anything about them. It was quite natural for Lady Davers to be
disgusted, to be incredulous, to be tyrannical, to be in a certain sense
violent. But it is improbable that she would in any case have spoken and
behaved like a drunken fishfag quarrelling with another in the street:
and the extreme prolongation of the scene brings its impropriety more
forcibly into view. Here, as elsewhere (a point of great importance to
which I may invite attention), Richardson follows out, with
extraordinary minuteness and confidence, a wrong course: and his very
expertness in the process betrays him and brings him to grief. If he had
run the false scent for a few yards only it would not matter: in a chase
prolonged to something like "Hartleap Well" extension there is less
excuse for his not finding it out. Nevertheless it would of course be
absurd not to rank this "knowledge of the human heart" among the claims
which not only gave him but have kept his reputation. I do not know that
he shows it much less in the later part of the first two volumes
(Pamela's recurrent tortures of jealous curiosity about Sally Godfrey
are admirable) or even in the dreary sequel. But analysis for analysis'
sake can have few real, though it may have some pretended, devotees.

The foregoing remarks have been designed, less as a criticism of
_Pamela_ (which would be unnecessary here), or even of Richardson (which
would be more in place, but shall be given in brief presently), than as
an account and justification of the book's position in the real subject
of this volume--the History of the English Novel. And this account will
dispense us from dealing, at corresponding length, with the individually
more important but historically subordinate books which followed. Of
these _Clarissa_, as few people can be ignorant, is a sort of enlarged,
diversified, and transposed _Pamela_, in which the attempts of a
libertine of more resolution and higher gifts than Mr. B. upon a young
lady of much more than proportionately higher station and qualities than
Pamela's, are--as such success goes--successful at last: but only to
result in the death of the victim and the punishment of the criminal.
The book is far longer than even the extended _Pamela_; has a much wider
range; admits of episodes and minor plots, and is altogether much more
ambitious; but still--though the part of the seducer Lovelace is much
more important than that of Mr. B.--it is chiefly occupied with the
heroine. In _Sir Charles Grandison_, on the contrary, though no less
than three heroines exist after a fashion and are carefully treated, the
author's principal object is to depict--in direct contrast to Mr. B. and
Lovelace--a "Good Man"--the actual first title of the book, which he
wisely altered. This faultless and insufferable monster is frantically
beloved by, and hesitates long between, two beauties, the Italian
Clementina della Porretta and the English Harriet Byron. The latter of
these carries him off (rather because of religious difficulties than of
any great predilection on his own part) and the piece ends with a
repetition, extension, and intensification of the bounties showered upon
Pamela by her husband, and her almost abject gratitude for them. Only of
course "the good man" could never be guilty of Mr. B.'s meditated
relapse from the path of rectitude, nor (one may perhaps add) does Miss
Byron seem to possess the insinuating astuteness by which Pamela once

    "Reconciles the new perverted man,"

to adapt the last line of _A Lover's Complaint_ to the situation.

_Grandison_, like _Clarissa_, has a much wider range of personage and
incident than _Pamela_, and is again double the length of it. No
detailed criticism of these enormous books (both of which are conducted
in the letter-form, though, in the latter case especially, with long
retrospects and narratives which rather strain the style) is possible
here. But a few remarks on the characters of Lovelace and Clarissa,
which have usually been regarded as Richardson's greatest triumphs, may
fitly precede some on his whole character as a novelist.

Admiration and sympathy, tempered with a few reserves, have been the
general notes of comment on Clarissa: and--as she goes through the long
martyrdom of persecution by her family for not marrying the man she does
not love; of worse persecution from the man whom she does love, but who
will not marry her, at least until he has conquered her virtue; and of
perhaps worst when she feels it her duty to resist his repentant and (as
such things go) honourable proffers after he has treacherously deprived
her of technical honour--compassion at least is impossible to refuse.
But "compassion," though it literally translates "sympathy" from Greek
into Latin, is not its synonym in English. It is a disagreeable thing to
have to say: but Clarissa's purity strikes one as having at once too
much questionable prudery in it and too little honest prudence: while
her later resolution has as much false pride as real principle. Even
some of her admirers admit a want of straightforwardness in her; she has
no passion, which rather derogates from the merit of her conduct in any
case; and though she is abominably ill-treated by almost everybody,
one's pity for her never comes very near to love.

Towards Lovelace, on the other hand, the orthodox attitude, with even
greater uniformity, has been shocked, or sometimes even unshocked,
admiration. Hazlitt went into frequently quoted raptures over the
"regality" of his character: and though to approve of him as a man would
only be the pretence of a cheap paradoxer, general opinion seems to have
gone various lengths in the same direction. There have, however, been a
few dissenters: and I venture to join myself to them in the very
dissidence of their dissent. Lovelace, it is true, is a most
astonishingly "succeeded" blend of a snob's fine gentleman and of the
fine gentleman of a silly and rather unhealthy-minded schoolgirl. He
is--it is difficult to resist the temptation of dropping and inserting
the h's--handsome, haughty, arbitrary, as well as rich, generous after a
fashion, well descended, well dressed, well mannered--except when he is
insolent. He is also--which certainly stands to his credit in the bank
which is not that of the snob or the schoolgirl--no fool in a general
way. But he is not in the least a gentleman except in externals: and
there is nothing really "great" about him at all. Even his scoundrelism
is mostly, if not wholly, _pose_--which abominable thing indeed
distinguishes him throughout, in every speech and every act, from the
time when he sighs as he kisses Miss Arabella Harlowe's hand to the time
when he says, "Let this expiate!" as that hallowed sword of Colonel
Morden's passes through his rotten heart. Now if Richardson had _meant_
this, it might be granted at once that Lovelace is one of the greatest
characters of fiction: and I do not deny that _taken as this_, meant or
not meant, he is great. But Richardson obviously did _not_ mean it; and
Hazlitt did not mean it; and none of the admirers mean it. _They_ all
thought and think that Lovelace is something like what Milton's Satan
was, and what my Lord Byron would have liked to be. This is very unfair
to the Prince of Darkness: and it is even not quite just to "the noble

At the same time, the acute reader will have noticed, the acknowledgment
that the fact that Richardson--even not knowing it and intending to do
something else--did hit off perfectly and consummately the ideal of such
a "prevailing party" (to quote Lord Foppington) as snobs and
schoolgirls, is a serious and splendid tribute to his merits: as is also
the fact that his two chief characters are characters still interesting
and worth arguing about. Those merits, indeed, are absolutely
incontestable. His immediate and immense popularity, abroad as well as
at home, would not necessarily prove much, though it must not be
neglected, and historically, at least, is of the first importance. But
he does not need it.

For, as should have been sufficiently shown, he did very great
things--first by gathering up the scattered means and methods which had
been half ignorantly hit on by others, and co-ordinating them into the
production of the finished and complete novel; secondly (though less) by
that infusion of elaborate "minor psychology" as it may be called, which
is his great characteristic; and, thirdly, by means of it and of other
things, in raising the pitch of interest in his readers to an infinitely
higher degree than had ever been known before. The dithyrambs of Diderot
are, though not ridiculously, amusingly excessive: but they are only an
exaggeration of the truth. On the comic side he was weak: and he made a
most unfortunate mistake by throwing this part of the business on young
ladies of position and (as he thought) of charm--Miss Darnford, Miss
Howe, Charlotte Grandison--who are by no means particularly comic and
who are sometimes very particularly vulgar. But of tragedy positive, in
the _bourgeois_ kind, he had no small command, and in the middle
business--in affairs neither definitely comic nor definitely tragic--he
was wonderfully prolific and facile. His immense and heart-breaking
lengthiness is not _mere_ verbosity: it comes partly from the artist's
natural delight in a true and newly found method, partly from a still
more respectably artistic desire not to do the work negligently. As for
the unhealthiness of atmosphere which has been generally and not
unjustly charged upon him, it is, in part, no doubt the result of
imperfect temperament and breeding: but it is also as closely connected
with his very method as are the merits thereof. You cannot "consider so
curiously" without considering too curiously. The drawbacks of his work
are obvious, and they were likely to be, and were, exaggerated. But they
might be avoided and the merits kept: nor is it too much to say that the
triumphs of the English novel in the last century have been not a little
due to the avoidance of the one and the keeping of the other.

It would be, in the circumstances, peculiarly uncivil and disobliging
to lay very much stress on the fact that, after all, the greatest
of Richardson's works is his successor, caricaturist, and
superior--Fielding. When the memoirs of Miss Pamela Andrews appeared,
the future biographer of her doubly supposititious brother was a not
very young man of thirty-three, who had written a good many not very
good plays, had contributed to periodicals, and had done a little work
at the Bar, besides living, at least till his marriage and it may be
feared later, an exceedingly "rackety" life. It is not improbable,
though it is not certain, that he had already turned his attention to
prose fiction of a kind. For, though the _Miscellanies_ which followed
_Joseph Andrews_ were three years later than _Pamela_ in appearance,
the _Journey from this World to the Next_ which they contain has the
immaturity of earliness; and we can hardly conceive it as written after
the adventures and character of Mr. Abraham Adams. It is unequal, rather
tedious in parts, and in conception merely a _pastiche_ of Lucian and
Fontenelle: but it contains some remarkable things in the way of shrewd
satirical observation of human nature. And the very fact that it is a
following of something else is interesting, in connection with the
infinitely more important work that preceded it in publication, _The
Adventures of Joseph Andrews and his Friend Mr. Abraham Adams_ (1742).

Nobody has ever had much difficulty in accounting for the way in which
Fielding availed himself of the appearance and popularity of _Pamela_.
And though Richardson would have been superhuman instead of very human
indeed (with an ordinary British middle-class humanity, and an
extraordinary vein of genius) if he had done otherwise, few have joined
him in thinking _Joseph_ a "lewd and ungenerous engraftment." We have
not ourselves been very severe on the faults of _Pamela_, the reason of
lenity being, among other things, that it in a manner produced Fielding,
and all the fair herd of his successors down to the present day. But
those faults are glaring: and they were of a kind specially likely to
attract the notice and the censure of a genial, wholesome, and, above
all, masculine taste and intellect like Fielding's. Even at that time,
libertine as it was in some ways, and sentimental as it was in others,
people had not failed to notice that Pamela's virtue is not quite what
was then called "neat" wine--the pure and unadulterated juice of the
grape. The _longueurs_ and the fiddle-faddle, the shameless and fulsome
preface-advertisements and the rest lay open enough to censure. So
Fielding saw the handles, and gripped them at once by starting a _male_
Pamela--a situation not only offering "most excellent differences," but
in itself possessing, to graceless humanity at all times it may be
feared, and at that time perhaps specially, something essentially
ludicrous in minor points. At first he kept the parody very close:
though the necessary transposition of the parts afforded opportunity
(amply taken) for display of character and knowledge of nature superior
to Richardson's own. Later the general opinion is that he, especially
inspirited by his _trouvaille_ of Adams, almost forgot the parody, and
only furbished up the _Pamela_-connection at the end to make a formal
correspondence with the beginning, and to get a convenient and
conventional "curtain." I am not so sure of this. Even Adams is to a
certain extent suggested by Williams, though they turn out such very
different persons. Mrs. Slipslop, a character, as Gray saw, not so very
far inferior to Adams, is not only a parallel to Mrs. Jewkes, but also,
and much more, a contrast to the respectable Mrs. Jervis and Mrs.
Warden. All sorts of fantastic and not-fantastic doublets may be traced
throughout: and I am not certain that Parson Trulliber's majestic
doctrine that no man, even in his own house, shall drink when he "caaled
vurst" is not a demoniacally ingenious travesty of Pamela's
characteristic casuistry, when she says that she will do anything to
propitiate Lady Davers, but she will not "fill wine" to her in her own
husband's house.

But this matters little: and we have no room for it. Suffice it as
agreed and out of controversy that _Joseph Andrews_ started as a parody
of _Pamela_ and that, whether in addition or in substitution, it turned
to something very different. It is not quite so uncontroversial, but
will be asserted here as capable of all but demonstration, that the
"something different" is also something much greater. There is still not
very much plot--the parody did not necessitate and indeed rather
discouraged that, and what there is is arrived at chiefly by the old and
seldom very satisfactory system of _anagnorisis_--the long-lost-child
business. But, under the three other heads, Joseph distances his sister
hopelessly and can afford her much more than weight for sex. It has been
said that there are doubtfully in Richardson anywhere, and certainly not
in _Pamela_, those startling creations of personality which are almost
more real to us than the persons we know in the flesh. It is not that
Pamela and her meyney are _un_real; for they are not: but that they are
not personal. The Reverend Abraham Adams is a good deal more real than
half the parsons who preached last Sunday, and a good deal more
personal: and the quality is not confined to him, though he has most of
it. So, too, with the description. The time was not yet for any minute
or elaborate picture-setting. But here again also that extra dose of
life and action--almost of bustle--which Fielding knows how to instil is
present. In _Pamela_ the settings are frequent, but they are "still
life" and rather shadowy: we do not _see_ the Bedfordshire and
Lincolnshire mansions, the summer houses where (as she observes with
demure relish when the danger is over) Mr. B. was "very naughty;" even
the pond where, if she had been another sort of girl, the _drame_ might
have become real tragedy. Fielding does not take very much more trouble
and yet somehow we _do_ see it all, with a little help from our own
imaginations perhaps, but on his suggestion and start. Especially the
outdoor life and scenes--the inn-yards and the high roads and the downs
by night or day; the pig-sty where poor Adams is the victim of live
pigs and the public-house kitchen where he succumbs to a by-product of
dead ones--these are all real for us.

But most of all is the regular progress of vivification visible in the
dialogue. This, as we have seen, had been the very weakest point of the
weakness of almost all (we might say of all) English novels up to the
close of the first quarter of the eighteenth century. Richardson had
done a great deal for it: but it was impossible that, on his method, it
should not, for the most part, be languid, or at any rate long-winded.
Here again Fielding spirits the thing up--oxygenates and ozonises the
atmosphere: while, in even fuller measure than his predecessor and
victim, he recognises the efficacy of dialogue as the revealer of
character. He has, assisted no doubt by Shakespeare and his own dramatic
practice, discovered that you do not want volumes of it to do the
business--that single moments and single sentences will do that business
at times, if they are used in the proper way.

In short, Fielding here used his reluctant and indignant forerunner as a
spring-board, whence to attain heights which that forerunner could never
have reached: he "stood upon his shoulders" in the most cavalier but
also the most successful fashion. In the novel as Richardson knew it and
was thinking of it, when he began _Pamela_, you were, as a rule, in an
artificial world altogether--a world artificial with an artificiality
only faintly and occasionally touched with any reality at all. In
_Pamela_ itself there is perhaps nothing, and certainly not much, that
is _wholly_ unreal: but the reality is treated and rendered in an
artificial way. In _Joseph Andrews_, though its professed genesis and
procedure are artificial too, you break away at once from serious
artifice. These are all real people who do real things in a real way
now, as they did nearly two hundred years ago: however much dress, and
speech, and manners may have changed. And we are told of their doings in
a real way, too. Exactly how the teller knew it we do not know: but we
do not think of this at all. And on the other hand there is no perpetual
reminder of art, like the letter-ending and beginning, to disturb or
alloy the once and gladly accepted "suspension of disbelief."

A slight digression may not be improper here. Even in their own days,
when the _gros mot_ was much less shocking than it is now, there was a
general notion--which has more or less persisted, in spite of all
changes of fashion in this respect, and exists even now when licence of
subject as distinguished from phrase has to a great extent
returned--that Fielding is more "coarse," more "improper," and so forth
than Richardson. As a matter of fact, neither admits positively indecent
language--that had gone out, except in the outskirts and fringes of
English literature, generations earlier. But I am much mistaken if there
are not in Richardson more than a few scenes and situations the
"impropriety" of which positively exceeds anything in Fielding.
Naturally one does not give indications: but readers may be pretty
confident about the fact. The comparative "bloodlessness," however--the
absence of life and colour in the earlier and older writer--acts as a
sort of veil to them.

Yet (to return to larger and purer air), however much one may admire
_Joseph Andrews_, the kind of _parasitic_ representation which it allows
itself, and the absence of any attempt to give an original story tells
against it. And it may, in any case, be regarded as showing that the
novelist, even yet, was hugging the shore or allowing himself to be
taken in tow--that he did not dare to launch out into the deep and
trust to his own sails and the wind of nature to propel him--to his own
wits and soul to guide. Even Fielding's next venture--the wonderful and
almost unique venture of _Jonathan Wild_--leaves some objection of this
sort possible, though, for myself, I should never dream of admitting it.
Jonathan was (so much the worse for human nature) a real person: and the
outlines of his story--if not the actual details--are given partly by
his actual life, partly by Gay's _Beggar's Opera_ and its sequel.
Moreover, the whole marvellous little book has a purpose--the purpose of
satire on false ideas of greatness, historical and political. The
invention and the art of the writer are not even yet allowed frank and
free course.

But though criticism will allow this, it will, if it be competent and
courageous, allow no deduction to be made from the other greatness of
this little masterpiece. It has never been popular; it is never likely
to be popular; and one may almost say that it is sincerely to be hoped
that it never will be popular. For if it were, either all the world
would be scoundrels, which would be a pity: or all the world would be
philosophers and persons of taste, in which case it would be impossible,
as the famous story has it, to "look down on one's fellow-creatures from
a proper elevation." It really is a novel and a remarkable one--superior
even to _Vanity Fair_, according to Thackeray's own definition, as a
delineation of "a set of people living without God in the world." But it
is even more (and here its only parallel is _A Tale of a Tub_, which is
more desultory and much more of a _fatrasie_ or salmagundy of odds and
ends) a masterpiece and quintessential example of irony. Irony had come
in with the plain prose style, without which it is almost impossible:
and not merely Swift but others had done great things with it. It is,
however, only here that it reaches the quintessence just spoken of with
a coherent and substantive purpose to serve as vehicle for it. It is
possibly too strong for most people's taste: and one may admit that, for
anything like frequent enjoyment, it wants a certain admixture of the
fantastic in its various senses--after the method of Voltaire in one
way, of Beckford in another, of Peacock in a third, of Disraeli in a
fourth--to make it acceptable to more than a very few. But it shows,
even from our present limited point of view, of what immense and exalted
application the novel-method was capable: and it shows also the
astonishing powers of its author. "Genial," in the usual sense, it
certainly cannot be called; in the proper sense as equalling "what is
the production of genius" there are few books which deserve the term
better. But it is an exercise in a by-way of the novel road-system,
though an early proof of the fact that such by-ways are endlessly open.

But the time was coming, though it did not (and could hardly) come very
quickly, when Fielding was to discard all kinds of adventitious aids and
suggestions--all crutches, spring-boards, go-carts, tugs, patterns,
tracings--and go his own way--and the Way of the Novel--with no guidance
but something of the example of Cervantes directly and Shakespeare
indirectly among the moderns, and of the poetic fiction-writers of old.
It is perfectly clear that he had thought widely (and perhaps had read
not a little) on the subject of literary criticism, in a sense not
common in his day, and that the thinking had led him to a conception of
the "prose epic" which, though it might have been partly (not wholly by
any means) pieced out of the Italian and Spanish critics of the late
sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, had never been worked out as
a complete theory, much less applied in practice and to prose. The
Prose Epic aims at--and in Fielding's case has been generally admitted
to have hit--something like the classical unity of main action. But it
borrows from the romance-idea the liberty of a large accretion and
divagation of minor and accessory plot:--not the mere "episode" of the
ancients, but the true minor plot of Shakespeare. It assumes,
necessarily and once for all, the licence of tragi-comedy, in that sense
of the term in which _Much Ado About Nothing_ and _A Winter's Tale_ are
tragi-comedies, and in which _Othello_ itself might have been made one.
And it follows further in the wake of the Shakespearean drama by
insisting far more largely than ancient literature of any kind, and far
more than any modern up to its date except drama had done, on the
importance of Character. Description and dialogue are rather subordinate
to these things than on a level with them--but they are still further
worked out than before. And there is a new element--perhaps suggested by
the _parabasis_ of ancient comedy, but, it may be, more directly by the
peculiar method of Swift in _A Tale of a Tub_. At various places in his
narrative, but especially at the beginnings of books and chapters,
Fielding as it were "calls a halt" and addresses his readers on matters
more or less relevant to the story, but rather in the manner of a
commentator and scholiast upon it than as actual parts of it. Of this
more later: for the immediate purpose is to survey and not to criticise.

The result of all this was _Tom Jones_--by practically universal consent
one of the capital books of English literature. It is unnecessary to
recapitulate the famous praises of Gibbon, of Coleridge, of Byron, and
of others: and it is only necessary to deal briefly with the complaints
which, if they have never found such monumental expression as the
praises, have been sometimes widely entertained. These objections--as
regards interest--fasten partly on the address-digressions, partly on
the great inset-episode of "The Man of the Hill:" as regards morality on
a certain alleged looseness of principle in that respect throughout, and
especially on the licence of conduct accorded to the hero himself and
the almost entire absence of punishment for it. As for the first, "The
Man of the Hill" was partly a concession to the fancy of the time for
such things, partly a following of such actual examples as Fielding
admitted--for it need hardly be said that the inset-episode, of no or
very slight connection with the story, is common both in the ancients
and in Cervantes, while it is to be found as long after Fielding as in
the early novel-work of Dickens. The digression-openings are at least as
satisfactory to some as they are unsatisfactory to others; it is even
doubtful whether they annoy anybody half so much as they have delighted
some excellent judges. The other point is well worn: but the wearing has
not taken off its awkwardness and unsavouriness. Difference of habit and
manners at the time will account for much: but the wiser apologists will
simply say that Fielding's attitude to certain deviations from the
strict moral law was undoubtedly very indulgent, provided that such
deviations were unaccompanied by the graver and more detestable vices of
cruelty, treachery, and fraud--that to vice which was accompanied by
these blacker crimes he was utterly merciless; and that if he is thus
rather exposed to the charge of "compounding by damning"--in the famous
phrase--the things that he damned admit of no excuse and those that he
compounded for have been leniently dealt with by all but the sternest

Such things are, however (in the admirable French sense),
_misères_--wretched petty cavils and shallows of criticism. The only
sensible thing to do is to launch out with Fielding into that deep and
open sea of human character and fate which he dared so gloriously.
During the curious phase of literary opinion which the last twenty years
or so have seen, it has apparently been discovered by some people that
his scheme of human thought and feeling is too simple--"toylike" I think
they call it--in comparison with that, say, of Count Tolstoi or of Mr.
Meredith, that modern practice has reached a finer technique than his or
even than that of his greatest follower, Thackeray. Far be it from the
present writer to say, or to insinuate, anything disrespectful of the
great moderns who have lately left us. Yet it may be said without the
slightest disrespect to them that the unfavourable comparison is mainly
a revival of Johnson's mistake as to Fielding and Richardson. It is,
however, something more--for it comes also from a failure to estimate
aright the _parabasis_-openings which have been more than once referred
to. These passages do not perhaps exhibit the by-work and the process in
the conspicuous skeleton-clock fashion which their critics admire and
desire, but they contain an amount of acute and profound exploration of
human nature which it would be difficult to match and impossible to
surpass elsewhere: while the results of Fielding's working, of his
"toylike" scheme, are remarkable toys indeed--toys which, if we regard
them as such, must surely strike us as rather uncanny. One is sometimes
constrained to think that it is perhaps not much more difficult to make
than to recognise a thoroughly live character. It certainly must be very
difficult to do the latter if there is any considerable number of
persons who are unable to do it in the case of almost every one of the
personages of _Tom Jones_. With one possible exception they are all
alive--even more so than those of _Joseph Andrews_ and with a less
peculiar and limited liveliness than those of _Jonathan Wild_. But it
certainly is curious that as the one good man of _Jonathan_, Heartfree,
is the least alive of its personages, so the one bad man of _Tom_,
Blifil, occupies the same position.

The result of this variety and abundance of life is an even more than
corresponding opportunity for enjoyment. This enjoyment may arise in
different persons from different sources. The much praised and seldom
cavilled at unity and completeness of the story may appeal to some.
There are others who are inclined towards elaborate plots as Sam Weller
was to the "'rig'nal" of his subpoena. It was a "gratifyin' sort o'
thing, and eased his mind" to be aware of its existence, and that was
all. These latter find _their_ sources of enjoyment elsewhere, but
everywhere else. The abundance and the vividness of character-presentation;
the liveliness and the abundance of the staging of that character; the
variety of scene and incident--all most properly connected with the plot,
but capable of existing and of being felt without it; the human dialogue;
the admirable phrase in that dialogue and out of it, in the digressions, in
the narrative, above, and through, and about, and below it all--these
things and others (for it is practically impossible to exhaust the
catalogue) fill up the cup to the brim, and keep it full, for the
born lover of the special novel-pleasure.

In one point only was Fielding a little unfortunate perhaps: and even
here the "perhaps" has to be underlined. He came just before the end of
a series of almost imperceptible changes in ordinary English speech
which brought about something like a stationary state. His maligner and
only slightly younger contemporary, Horace Walpole, in some of his
letters, writes in a fashion which, putting mere slang aside, has hardly
any difference from that of to-day. Fielding still uses "hath" for "has"
and a few other things which seem archaic, not to students of literature
but to the general. In the same way dress, manners, etc., though much
more picturesque, were by that fact distinguished from those of almost
the whole nineteenth century and the twentieth as far as it has gone:
while incidents were, even in ordinary life, still usual which have long
ceased to be so. In this way the immense advance--greater than was made
by any one else till Miss Austen--that he made in the pure novel of this
ordinary life may be missed. But the intrinsic magnificence, interest,
nature, abundance of _Tom Jones_ can only be missed by those who were
predestined to miss them. It is tempting--but the temptation must be
resisted--to enliven these pages with an abstract of its astonishing
"biograph-panorama." But nothing save itself can do it justice. "Take
and read" is the only wise advice.

No such general agreement has been reached in respect of Fielding's last
novel, _Amelia_. The author's great adversary, Johnson--an adversary
whose hostility was due partly to generous and grateful personal
relations with Richardson, partly to political disagreement (for
Fielding was certainly "a vile Whig"), but most of all perhaps to a sort
of horrified recoil from the novelist's easy handling of temptations
which were no easy matter to his critic--was nearly if not quite
propitiated by it: and the enthusiasm for it of such a "cynic" as
Thackeray is well known. Of the very few persons whom it would not be
ridiculous to name with these, Scott--whose competence in criticising
his own art is one of the most wonderful though the least generally
recognised things about him--inclines, in the interesting
Introduction-Dialogue to _The Fortunes of Nigel_, to put it on a level
with _Tom Jones_ itself as a perfectly constructed novel. But modern
criticism has, rightly or wrongly, been more dubious. Amelia is almost
too perfect: her very forgiveness (it has been suggested) would be more
interesting if she had not almost completely shut her eyes to there
being anything to forgive. Her husband seems to us to prolong the
irresponsibility of youth, which was pardonable in Tom, to a period of
life and to circumstances of enforced responsibility which make us
rather decline to honour the drafts he draws; and he is also a little
bit of a fool, which Tom, to do him justice, is not, though he is
something of a scatterbrain. Dr. Harrison, whose alternate wrath and
reconciliation supply the most important springs of the plot, is, though
a natural, a rather unreasonable person. The "total impression" has even
been pronounced by some people to be a little dull. What there is of
truth in these criticisms and others (which it would be long even to
summarise) may perhaps be put briefly under two heads. It is never so
easy to arouse interest in virtue as it is in vice: or in weak and
watered vice as in vice rectified (or _un_rectified) to full strength.
And the old requirement of "the quest" is one which will hardly be
dispensed with. Here (for we know perfectly well that Amelia's virtue is
in no danger) there is no quest, except that of the fortune which ought
to be hers, which at last comes to her husband, and which we are told
(and hope rather doubtfully) that husband had at last been taught--by
the Fool's Tutor, Experience--not utterly to throw away. But this
fortune drops in half casually at the last by a series of stage
accidents, not ill-machined by any means, but not very particularly

Such, however, are the criticisms which Fielding himself has taught
people to make, by the very excellence of his success in the earlier
novels: and there is a certain comparative and relative validity in
them. But consider _Amelia_ in itself, and they begin to look, if not
positively unfounded, rather unimportant. Once more, the astonishing
truth and variety of scene and character make themselves felt--even more
felt--even felt in new directions. The opening prison scenes exceed
anything earlier even in Fielding himself, much more in any one else, as
examples of the presentation of the unfamiliar. Miss Matthews--whom
Fielding has probably abstained from working out as much as he might
lest she should, from the literary point of view, obscure Amelia--is a
marvellous outline; Colonels James and Bath are perfectly finished
studies of ordinary and extraordinary "character" in the stage sense. No
novel even of the author's is fuller of _vignettes_--little pictures of
action and behaviour, of manners and society, which are not in the least
irrelevant to the general story, but on the contrary extra-illustrate
and carry it out.

While, therefore, we must in no way recede from the position above
adopted in regard to Richardson, we may quite consistently accord an
even higher place to Fielding. He relieved the novel of the tyranny and
constraint of the Letter; he took it out of the rut of confinement to a
single or a very limited class of subjects--for the themes of _Pamela_
and _Clarissa_ to a very large extent, of _Pamela_ and _Grandison_ to a
considerable one, and of all three to an extent not small, are
practically the same. He gave it altogether a larger, wider, higher,
deeper range. He infused in it (or restored to it) the refreshing and
preserving element of humour. He peopled it with a great crowd of lively
and interesting characters--endowed, almost without regard to their
technical "position _in_ life," with unlimited possession _of_ life. He
shook up its pillows, and bustled its business arrangements. He first
gave it--for in matter of prose style Richardson has few resources, and
those rather respectable than transporting, and decidedly
monotonous--the attractions of pure literature in form, and in pretty
various form. He also gave it the attraction of pure comedy, only
legitimately salted with farce, in such personages as Adams and
Partridge; of lower and more farcical, but still admirable comedy in
Slipslop and Trulliber and Squire Western; of comedy almost romantic and
certainly charming in Sophia; of domestic drama in Amelia; of satiric
portraiture in a hundred figures from the cousins (respectable and
disreputable), Miss Western and Lady Bellaston, downwards. He stocked it
with infinite miscellanies of personage, and scene, and picture, and
phrase. As has happened in one or two other cases, he carried, at least
in the opinion of the present writer, the particular art as far as it
will go. He did not indeed leave nothing for his successors to do--on
the contrary he left them in a sense everything--for he showed how
everything could be done. But if he has sometimes been equalled, he has
never been surpassed: and it is not easy to see even how he can be
surpassed. For as his greatest follower has it somewhere, though not of
him, "You cannot beat the best, you know."

One point only remains, the handling of which may complete a treatment
which is designedly kept down in detail. It has been hinted at already,
perhaps more than once, but has not been brought out. This is the
enormous range of suggestion in Fielding--the innumerable doors which
stand open in his ample room, and lead from it to other chambers and
corridors of the endless palace of Novel-Romance. This had most
emphatically not been the case with his predecessor: for Richardson,
except in point of mere length, showed little power of expatiation, kept
himself very much to the same ground and round, and was not likely to
teach anybody else to make excursions. Indeed Fielding's breaking away
in _Joseph Andrews_ is an allegory in itself. But, at least with pupils
and followers of any wits, there was not even any need of such breaking
away from himself, though no doubt there are in existence many dull and
slavish attempts to follow his work, especially _Tom Jones_. "Find it
out for yourself"--the great English motto which in the day of England's
glory was the motto of her men of learning as well as of her men of
business, of her artists as well as of her craftsmen--might have been
Fielding's: but he supplemented it with infinite finger-pointings
towards the various things that might be found out. Almost every kind of
novel exists--potentially--in his Four (the custom of leaving out
_Jonathan Wild_ should be wholly abrogated), though of course they do
not themselves illustrate or carry out at length many of the kinds that
they thus suggest.

And in fact it could not be otherwise: because, as has been pointed out,
while Fielding had no inconsiderable command of the Book of Literature,
he turned over by day and night the larger, the more difficult, but
still the greater Book of Life. Not merely _quicquid agunt homines_, but
_quicquid sentiunt, quicquid cogitant_, whatever they love and hate,
whatever they desire or decline--all these things are the subjects of
his own books: and the range of subject which they suggest to others is
thus of necessity inexhaustible.

If there have been some who denied or failed to recognise his greatness,
it must be because he has played on these unwary ones the same trick
that Garrick, in an immortal scene, played on his own Partridge. There
is so little parade about Fielding (for even the opening addresses are
not parade to these good people: they may disconcert or even disgust,
but they do not dazzle them), that his characters and his scenes look
commonplace. They feel sure that "if they had seen a ghost they would
have looked in the very same manner and done just as he does." They are
sure that, in the scene with Gertrude, "Lord, help them! any man--that
is any good man--that had such a mother would have done exactly the

Well! in a way no doubt they are right; and one may imitate the wisdom
of Mr. Jones on the original occasion in not saying much more to them.
To others, of course, this is the very miracle of art--a miracle, as far
as the art of prose fiction is concerned, achieved in its fullness for
practically the first time. This is the true _mimesis_--the re-creation
or fresh creation of fictitious reality. There were in Fielding's time,
and probably ever since have been, those who thought him "low;" there
were, even in his own time, and have been in varying, but on the whole
rather increased, degree since, those who thought him immoral: there
appear to be some who think (or would like it to be thought that they
think) him commonplace and obvious. Now, as it happens, all these
charges have been brought against Nature too. To embellish, and correct,
and heighten, and extra-decorate her was not Fielding's way: but to
follow, and to interpret, and to take up her own processes with results
uncommonly like her own. That is his immense glory to all those who can
realise and understand it: and as for the others we must let them alone,
joined to their own idols.

In passing to the third of this great quartette, we make a little
descent, but not much of one, while the new peak to which we come is
well defined and separated, with characters and outlines all its own. It
may be doubted whether any competent critic not, like Scott, bribed by
compatriotism, ever put Smollett above Fielding, or even on a level with
him. Thackeray, in one of the most inspired moments of his rather
irregularly-inspired criticism, remarks, "I fancy he did not invent
much," and this of itself would refer him to a lower class. The writer
of fiction is not to refuse suggestion from his experience; on the
contrary, he will do so at his peril, and will hardly by any possibility
escape shipwreck unless his line is the purely fantastic. But if he
relies solely, or too much, on such experience, though he may be quite
successful, his success will be subject to discount, bound to pay
royalty to experience itself. It is pretty certain that most of
Smollett's most successful things, from _Roderick Random_ to _Humphry
Clinker_, and in those two capital books, perhaps, most of all, kept
very close to actual experience, and sometimes merely reported it.

This, however, is only a comparative drawback; it is in a sense a
positive merit; and it is connected, in a very intimate way, with the
general character of Smollett's novel-method. This is, to a great
extent, a reaction or relapse towards the picaresque style. Smollett may
have translated both Cervantes and Le Sage; he certainly translated the
latter: and it was Le Sage who in any case had the greatest influence
over him. Now the picaresque method is not exactly untrue to ordinary
life: on the contrary, as we have seen, it was a powerful schoolmaster
to bring the novel thereto. But it subjects the scenes of ordinary life
to a peculiar process of sifting: and when it has got what it wants, it
proceeds to heighten them and "touch them up" in its own peculiar
manner of decoration. This is Smollett's method throughout, even in that
singular _pastiche_ of _Don Quixote_ itself, _Sir Launcelot Greaves_,
which certainly was not his happiest conception, but which has had
rather hard measure.

As used by him it has singular merits, and communicates to at least
three of his five books (_The Adventures of an Atom_ is deliberately
excluded as not really a novel at all) a certain "liveliness" which,
though it is not the life_like_ness of Fielding, is a great attraction.
He showed it first in _Roderick Random_ (1748), which appeared a little
before _Tom Jones_, and was actually taken by some as the work of the
same author. It would be not much more just to take Roderick as
Smollett's deliberate presentment of himself than to apply the same
construction to Marryat's not very dissimilar, but more unlucky, _coup
d'essai_ of _Frank Mildmay_. But it is certain that there was something,
though exactly how much has never been determined, of the author's
family history in the earliest part, a great deal of his experiences on
board ship in the middle, and probably not a little, though less, of his
fortunes in Bath and London towards the end. As a single source of
interest and popularity, no doubt, the principal place must be given to
the naval part of the book. Important as the English navy had been, for
nearly two centuries if not for much longer, it had never played any
great part in literature, though it had furnished some caricatured and
rather conventional sketches. There is something more in a play, _The
Fair Quaker of Deal_, by Charles Shadwell, nephew or son of Dryden's
victim, but this was only of third or fourth rate literary value, and an
isolated example to boot. The causes of the neglect have been set forth
by many writers from Macaulay downwards, and need not be discussed here;
the fact is certain. Smollett's employment of "the service" as a
subject may have been, consciously and intentionally, only one of those
utilisings of personal experience of which we have spoken. But really it
was an instance of the great fact that the novelist, on the instigation
mainly of Fielding himself, was beginning to take all actual life to be
his province.

Smollett brought to his work peculiar powers, the chief of which was a
very remarkable one, and almost as much "improved on" Fielding as
Fielding's exercise of it was improved on Richardson--that of providing
his characters and scenes with accessories. Roderick is not only a much
more disagreeable person than Tom, but he is much _less_ of a person:
and Strap, though (_vice versâ_) rather a better fellow than Partridge,
is a much fainter and more washed-out character. But in mere interest of
story and accessories the journey of Roderick and Strap to London is
quite the equal, and perhaps the superior, of that of Tom and his
hanger-on after we once leave Upton, where the interest is of a kind
that Smollett could not reach. It is probable that Fielding might, if he
had chosen, have made the prison in _Amelia_ as horribly and
disgustingly realistic (to use a horrible and disgusting word) as the
ship in _Roderick_, but he at any rate did not choose. Moreover
Smollett, himself a member of one of the less predominant partners of
the British and Irish partnership, perhaps for that reason hit on
utilising the difference of these partners (after a fashion which had
never been seen since Shakespeare) in the Welshman Morgan. As far as
mere plot goes, he enters into no competition whatever with either
Fielding or Richardson: the picaresque model did not require that he
should. When Roderick has made use of his friends, knocked down his
enemies, and generally elbowed and shoved his way through the crowd of
adventures long enough, Narcissa and her fortune are not so much the
reward of his exertions as a stock and convenient method of putting an
end to the account of them. The customer has been served with a
sufficient amount of the commodity he demands: and the scissors are
applied, the canister shut up, the tap turned off. It almost results--it
certainly coincides--that some of the minor characters, and some of the
minor scenes, are much more vivid than the hero (the heroine is almost
an absolute nonentity) and the whole story. The curate and the exciseman
in the ninth chapter are, by common consent, among Smollett's greatest
triumphs; but the curate might be excommunicated and the exciseman
excised without anybody who read the book perceiving the slightest gap
or missing link, as far as the story is concerned.

Smollett's second venture, _Peregrine Pickle_ (1751), was more
ambitious, perhaps rose higher in parts, but undoubtedly contained even
more doubtful and inferior matter. No one can justly blame him, though
any one may most justly refrain from praising, from the general point of
view, as regards the "insets" of Miss Williams's story in _Roderick_ and
of that of Lady Vane here. From that point of view they range with the
"Man of the Hill" in _Tom Jones_, and in the first case at least, though
most certainly not in the second, have more justification of connection
with the central story. He may so far underlie the charge of error of
judgment, but nothing worse. Unluckily the "Lady Vane" insertion was, to
a practical certainty, a commercial not an artistic transaction: and
both here and elsewhere Smollett carried his already large licence to
the extent of something like positive pornography. He is in fact one of
the few writers of real eminence who have been forced to Bowdlerise
themselves. Further, there would be more excuse for the most offensive
part of _Peregrine_ if it were not half plagiarism of the main
situations of _Pamela_ and _Clarissa_: if Smollett had not deprived his
hero of all the excuses which, even in the view of some of the most
respectable characters of _Pamela_, attached to the conduct of Mr. B.;
and if he had not vulgarised Lovelace out of any possible attribution of
"regality," except of being what the time would have called King of the
Black Guard. As for Tom Jones, he does not come into comparison with
"Perry" at all, and he would doubtless have been most willing and
able--competent physically as well as morally--to administer the proper
punishment to that young ruffian by drubbing him within an inch of his

These, no doubt, are grave drawbacks: but the racy fun of the book
almost atones for them: and the exaltation of the naval element of
_Roderick_ which one finds here in Trunnion and Hatchway and Pipes
carries the balance quite to the other side. This is the case even
without, but much more with, the taking into account of Smollett's usual
irregular and almost irrelevant _bonuses_, such as the dinner after the
fashion of the ancients and the rest. No: _Peregrine Pickle_ can never
be thrown to the wolves, even to the most respectable and moral of these
animals in the most imposing as well as ravening of attitudes. English
Literature cannot do without it.

Without _Ferdinand Count Fathom_ (1753) many people have thought that
English Literature could do perfectly well: and without going quite so
far, one may acknowledge that perhaps a shift could be made. The idea of
re-transferring the method (in the first place at any rate) to foreign
parts was not a bad one, and it may be observed that by far the best
portion of _Fathom_ is thus occupied. Not a few of these opening
passages are excellent: and Fathom's mother, if not a person, is an
excellent type: it is probable that the writer knew the kind well. But
his unhappy tendency to enter for the same stakes as his great
forerunners makes it almost impossible not to compare _Ferdinand Fathom_
with _Jonathan Wild_: and the effect is very damaging to the Count. Much
of the book is dull: and Fathom's conversation is (to adopt a cant word)
extremely unconvincing. The fact seems to be that Smollett had run his
picaresque vein dry, as far as it connected itself with mere rascality
of various kinds, and he did well to close it. He had published three
novels in five years: he waited seven before his next, and then eleven
more before his last.

A qualified apology has been hinted above for _Sir Launcelot Greaves_.
It is undoubtedly evidence of the greatness of _Don Quixote_ that there
should have been so many direct imitations of it by persons of genius
and talent: but this particular instance is unfortunate to the verge of
the preposterous, if not over it. The eighteenth century was indeed
almost the capital time of English eccentricity: and it was also a time
of licence which sometimes looked very like lawlessness. But its
eccentricities were not at this special period romantic: and its
lawlessness was rather abuse of law than wholesale neglect of it. A
rascally attorney or a stony-hearted creditor might inflict great
hardship under the laws affecting money: and a brutal or tyrannical
squire might do the same under those affecting the tenure or the
enjoyment of house or land. "Persons of quality" might go very far. But
even a person of quality, if he took to riding about the country in
complete steel, assaulting the lieges, and setting up a sort of
cadi-justice of his own in opposition to the king's, would probably
have been brought pretty rapidly, if not to the recovery of his senses,
to the loss of his liberty. Nor, with rare exceptions, are the
subordinate or incidental humours of the first class. But I have always
thought that the opening passage more than entitles the book to an
honourable place in the history of English fiction. I do not know where
to look, before it, for such an "interior"--such a complete Dutch
picture of room and furniture and accessories generally. Even so learned
a critic as the late M. Brunetière thought that things of the kind were
not older than Balzac. I have known English readers, not ignorant, who
thought they were scarcely older than Dickens. Dickens, however,
undoubtedly took them from Smollett, of whom we know that he was an
early and enthusiastic admirer: and Scott, who has them much earlier
than Dickens, not improbably was in some degree indebted for them to his
countryman. At any rate in that countryman they are: and you will not
find a much better example of them anywhere than this of the
inn-kitchen. But apart from it, and from a few other things of the same
or similar kinds, there is little to be said for the book. The divine
Aurelia especially is almost more shadowy than the divine Narcissa and
the divine Emilia: and can claim no sort of sistership in personality
with Amelia or Sophia, even with Clarissa or Pamela. In fact, up to this
time Smollett's women--save in the case of Fathom's hell-cat of a
mother, and one or two more who are "minors"--have done absolutely
nothing for his books. It was to be quite otherwise in the last and
best, though even here the heroine _en titre_ is hardly, even though we
have her own letters to body her out, more substantial than her elder
sisters. But Lydia, though the _ingénue_, is not the real heroine of
this book: her aunt and her aunt's maid divide that position between

A sufficiently ungracious critic may, if he chooses, see in Smollett's
falling back on the letter-plan for _Humphry Clinker_ (1771) an
additional proof of that deficiency in strictly inventive faculty which
has been noticed. The more generous "judge by results" will hardly care
to consider so curiously in the case of such a masterpiece. For a
masterpiece it really is. The comparative absence of "character" in the
higher and literary sense as contrasted with "character-_parts_" in the
technical meaning of the theatre has been admitted in the other books.
Here, with the aid of the letters, it is amply supplied, or perhaps (to
speak with extreme critical closeness) the character-parts are turned
into characters by this means. There is no stint, because of the
provision of this higher interest, of the miscellaneous fun and
"business" which Smollett had always supplied so lavishly out of his
experience, his observation, and, if not his invention, his combining
faculty. And there is the setting of interior and exterior "furniture"
which has been also referred to. Abundant as is the information which
the eighteenth century has given us as to its justly beloved place of
pilgrimage, Bath, there is nothing livelier than the Bath scenes here,
from Chesterfield to Miss Austen, and few things, if any, so vivid and
detailed. So it is with Clifton earlier, with London later, with
Scotland last of all, and with the journeys connecting them. Yet these
things are mere _hors d'oeuvre_, pickles, sauces, condiments, beside the
solid character-food of the Brambles and Melfords, of Winifred Jenkins
and of the redoubtable Lismahago. That there is no exaggeration or
caricature cannot, of course, be said. It was not Smollett's notion of
art to present the elaborate academies of Richardson, or the almost
uncanny duplications of Nature which Fielding could achieve. He must
embolden, in fact grotesque, the line; heighten, in fact splash and
plaster, the colour. But he has not left Nature behind here: he has only
put her in a higher light.

One means of doing so has been condemned in him, as in others, as in its
great earlier master, Swift, and its greatest later one, Thackeray, by
some purists. They call it cheap and inartistic: but this is mere
pedantry and prudery. Mis-spelling is not a thing to be employed every
day or for every purpose: if you do that, you get into the ineffably
dreary monotony which distinguishes the common comic journalist. But
thrown in occasionally, and in the proper place, it gives an excellent
zest: and it has seldom been employed--never, except in the two
instances quoted--better than in the cases of Tabitha Bramble and her
maid. For it is employed in the only legitimate way, that of zest, not
substance. Tabitha and Winifred would still be triumphs of
characterisation of a certain kind if they wrote as correctly as Uncle
Matthew or Nephew Jery. Further, Lismahago is a bolder and a much less
caricatured utilising of the "national" resource than Morgan. If
Smollett had not been a perfectly undaunted, as well as a not very
amiable, person he would hardly have dared to "_lacess_ the thistle" in
this fashion. But there are few sensible Scotsmen nowadays who would not
agree with that most sensible, as well as greatest, of their
compatriots, Sir Walter Scott, in acknowledging the justice (comic
emphasis granted) of the twitch, and the truth of the grip, at that
formidable plant. The way in which Smollett mixes up actual living
persons, by their own names, with his fictitious characters may strike
us as odd: but there is, for the most part, nothing offensive in it,
and in fact, except a little of his apparently inevitable indulgence in
nasty detail, there is nothing at all offensive in the book. The
contrast of its general tone with that especially of his first two; the
softening and mellowing of the general presentation--is very remarkable
in a man of undoubtedly not very gentle disposition who had long
suffered from extremely bad health, and whose chief original works
recently--the _Journey_ and the _Adventures_--had been, the first a
tissue of grumbles, the second an outburst of savagery. But though the
grumbles recur in Matthew Bramble's mouth, they become merely humorous
there: and there is practically no savagery at all. Leghorn, it has been
observed more than once, was in a fashion a Land of Beulah: a "season of
calm weather" had set in for a rather stormy life just before the end.

Whatever may be his defects (and from the mere point of view of Momus
probably a larger number may be found in him than either in Richardson
or in Fielding), Smollett well deserves an almost equal place with them
in the history of the novel. Richardson, though he had found the
universal as far as certain aspects of it in humanity are concerned, had
confined it within a very narrow space, or particular envelope, in tone
and temper: the fact that he has been called "stifling," though the
epithet may not be entirely just, is almost sufficient evidence of this.
Fielding had taken the novel into a far larger air and, as has been said
already, there was hardly anything to which his method might not lead,
and in which it would not be effective. But he had been exclusively
English in externals: and the result is that, to this day, he has had
less influence abroad than perhaps any English writer of equal genius
and than some of far less.[6] Smollett, by his remarkable utilisation
of the characteristics of the other members of Magna-Britannia; by his
excursions into foreign European and even transatlantic scenery, had
widened the external if not the internal prospect; and had done perhaps
even more by that chance-medley, as it perhaps was, of attention to the
still more internal detail which was to be of such importance in the
novel to come. Taking the three together (not without due allowance for
the contemporary, if mainly imitative, developments which will be
described in the next chapter), they had put prose fiction in a position
which it had not attained, even in Spain earlier, even in France at more
or less the same time: and had entirely antiquated, on the one hand, the
mere _fabliau_ or _novella_--the story of a single limited situation--on
the other, the discursive romance with little plot and next to no
character. One great further development, impossible at this time, of
the larger novel, the historical, waited for Scott: but even this was
soon, though very awkwardly, tried. It could not yet be born because the
historic sense which was its necessary begetter hardly existed, and
because the provision of historic matter for this sense to work on was
rather scanty. But it is scarcely extravagant to say that it is more
difficult to conceive even Scott doing what he did without Richardson,
Fielding, and Smollett before him, than it is to believe that, with
these predecessors, somebody like Scott was bound to come.

    [6] This is said not to have been quite the case at the _very_
    first: but it has been so since.

Great, however, as the three are, there is no need of any "injustice to
Ireland"--little as Ireland really has to claim in Sterne's merit or
demerit. He is not a fifth wheel to the coach by any means: he is the
fourth and almost the necessary one. In Richardson, Fielding, and
Smollett the general character and possibilities of the novel had been
shown, with the exception just noted: and indeed hardly with that
exception, because they showed the way clearly to it. But its almost
illimitable particular capabilities remained unshown, or shown only in
Fielding's half extraneous divagations, and in earlier things like the
work of Swift. Sterne took it up in the spirit of one who wished to
exhibit these capabilities; and did exhibit them signally in more than
one or two ways. He showed how the novel could present, in refreshed
form, the _fatrasie_, the pillar-to-post miscellany, of which Rabelais
had perhaps given the greatest example possible, but of which there were
numerous minor examples in French. He showed how it could be made, not
merely to present humorous situations, but to exhibit a special kind of
humour itself--to make the writer as it were the hero without his ever
appearing as character in _Tristram_, or to humorise autobiography as in
the _Sentimental Journey_. And last of all (whether it was his greatest
achievement or not is matter of opinion), he showed the novel of purpose
in a form specially appealing to his contemporaries--the purpose being
to exhibit, glorify, luxuriate in the exhibition of, sentiment or
"sensibility." In none of these things was he wholly original; though
the perpetual upbraiding of "plagiarism" is a little unintelligent.
Rabelais, not to mention others, had preceded him, and far excelled him,
in the _fatrasie_; Swift in the humour-novel; two generations of
Frenchmen and Frenchwomen in the "sensibility" kind. But he brought all
together and adjusted the English novel, actually to them, potentially
to much else.

To find fault with his two famous books is almost contemptibly easy. The
plagiarism which, if not found out at once, was found out very soon, is
the least of these: in fact hardly a fault at all. The indecency, which
_was_ found out at once, and which drew a creditable and not in the
least Tartuffian protest from Warburton, is a far more serious
matter--not so much because of the licence in subject as because of the
unwholesome and sniggering tone. The sentimentality is very often simply
maudlin, almost always tiresome _to us_, and in very, very few
cases justified by brilliant success even in its own very doubtful
kind. Most questionable of all, perhaps, is the merely mechanical
mountebankery--the blanks, and the dashes, and the rows of stops, the
black pages and the marbled pages which he employs to force a guffaw
from his readers. The abstinence from any central story in _Tristram_ is
one of those dubious pieces of artifice which may possibly show the
artist's independence of the usual attractions of story-telling, but may
also suggest to the churlish the question whether his invention would
have supplied him with any story to tell; and the continual asides and
halts and parenthetic divagations in the _Journey_ are not quite free
from the same suggestion. In fact if you "can see a church by daylight"
you certainly want no piercing vision, and no artificial assistance of
light or lens, to discover the faults of this very unedifying churchman.

But he remains, for all that, a genius; and one of the great figures in
our history. There is to his credit in general, as has been already
pointed out, the great asset of having indicated, and in two notable
instances patterned, the out-of-the-way novel--the novel eccentric,
particular, individual. There is to that credit still more the
brilliancy of the two specimens themselves in spite of their faults;
their effectiveness in the literature of delight; the great powers of a
kind more or less peculiar to the artist which they show, and the power,
perhaps still greater, which they display in the actually general and
ordinary lines of the novel, though adapted to this extraordinary use.

For though it pleased Sterne to anticipate the knife-grinder's innocent
confession, "Story? God bless you! I have none to tell, sir!" in a
sardonic paraphrase of half a score of volumes, he actually possessed
the narrative faculty in an extraordinary degree. He does not merely
show this in his famous inset short stories, accomplished as these are:
he achieves a much greater marvel in the way in which he makes his
_fatrasies_ as it were novels. After one or two, brief but certainly not
tedious, volumes of the _Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy_, you know
that you are being cheated, and are going to be: at the end you know
still more certainly that you have been. You have had nothing of the
"Life" but a great deal round rather than about the birth, and a few
equivocal, merely glanced at, and utterly unco-ordinated incidents
later. If you have had any "opinions" they have been chiefly those of
Mr. Tristram Shandy's father and other members of his family, or those
of its friends and circle, or of those shadowy personages outside the
pretended story, such as Eugenius and Yorick, besides a few discourses
which drop the slightest pretension of being Shandean or Tristramic and
are plainly and simply the author's. In the _Journey_ there is more
unity; but it is, quite frankly, the unity of the temperament of that
author himself. The incidents--sentimental, whimsical, fie-fie--have no
other connection or tendency than the fact that they occur to the
"gentleman in the black silk smalls" and furnish him with figures as it
were for his performance. Yet you are _held_ in a way in which nothing
but the romance or the novel ever does hold you. The thing is a [Greek:
mythos hamythos]--story without story-end, without story-beginning,
without story-connection or middle: but a story for all that. A
dangerous precedent, perhaps; but a great accomplishment: and, even as
a precedent, the leader of a very remarkable company. In not a few
noteworthy later books--in a very much greater number of parts of later
books--as we take our hats off to the success we are saluting not a new
but an old friend, and that friend Sterne.

On the second great count--character--Sterne's record is still more
distinguished: and here there is no legerdemain about the matter. There
is a consensus of all sound opinion to the effect that my Uncle Toby is
an absolute triumph--even among those who think that, as in the case of
Colonel Newcome later, it would have been possible to achieve that
triumph without letting his simplicity run so near to something less
attractive. It is not the sentiment that is here to blame, because
Sterne has luckily not forgotten (as he has in the case of his dead
donkeys and his live Marias) that humour is the only thing that will
keep such sentiment from turning mawkish, if not even rancid; and that
the antiseptic effect will not be achieved by keeping your humour and
your sentiment in separate boxes. Trim is even better: he is indeed next
to Sancho--and perhaps Sam Weller--the greatest of all "followers" in
the novel: he supplies the only class-figure in which Sterne perhaps
beats Fielding himself. About Walter Shandy there is more room for
difference: and it is possible to contend that, great as he is, he is
not complete--that he is something of a "humour" in the old one-sided
and over-emphasised Jonsonian sense. Nothing that he does or says
misbecomes him: but a good deal that he does not do and say might be
added with advantage, in order to give us the portrait of a whole as
well as a live man. As for the other male characters, Sterne's plan
excused him--as it did not quite in Mr. Shandy's case--from making them
more than sketches and shadows. But what uncommonly lively sketches and
shadows they are!

Sterne's unlucky failing prevented him in most cases from touching the
women off with a clean brush: but the quality of _liveness_ pertains to
them in almost a higher measure: and perhaps testifies even more
strongly to his almost uncanny faculty of communicating it by touches
which are not always unclean and are sometimes slight to an astonishing
degree. Even that shadow of a shade "My dear, dear Jenny" has a
suggestion of verity about her which has shocked and fluttered some: the
maids of the Shandean household, the grisettes and peasant girls and
ladies of the _Journey_, have flesh which is not made of paper, and
blood that is certainly not ink. And the peculiarity extends to his two
chief named heroines, Mrs. Shandy and the Widow. Never were any two
female personages more unceremoniously treated in the way of scanty and
incidental appearance. Never were any personages of scanty and
incidental appearance made more alive and more female.

His details and accessories of all kinds, descriptive, literary, and
other, would give subject for a separate chapter; but we must turn (for
this chapter is already too long) to his phrase--in dialogue, narrative,
whatever you please to call it. For the fact is that these two things,
and all others in which phrase and expression can be used, melt into
each other with Sterne in a manner as "flibberti-gibbety" as most other
things about him. This phrase or expression is of course artificial to
the highest degree: and it is to it that the reproach of depending on
mechanical aids chiefly applies. And yet laboriously figured, tricked,
machined as it is--easy as once more it may be to prove that it is
artifice and not art--the fact remains that, not merely (perhaps not by
any means chiefly) in the stock extract-pieces which everybody knows,
but almost everywhere, it is triumphant: and that English literature
would be seriously impoverished without it. Certainly never was there a
style which more fully justified the definition given by Buffon, in
Sterne's own time, of style as "the _very_ man." Falsetto, "faking,"
vamping, shoddy--all manner of evil terms may be heaped upon it without
the possibility of completely clearing it from them. To some eyes it
underlies them most when it is most ambitious, as in the Le Fevre story
and the diatribe against critics. It leaves the court with all manner of
stains on its character. Only, once more, if it did not exist we should
be ignorant of more than one of the most remarkable possibilities of the
English language.

Thus, in almost exactly the course of a technical generation--from the
appearance of _Pamela_ in 1740 to that of _Humphry Clinker_ in 1771--the
wain of the novel was solidly built, furnished with four main wheels to
move it, and set a-going to travel through the centuries. In a sense,
inasmuch as _Humphry Clinker_ itself, though Smollett's best work, can
hardly be said to show any absolutely new faculties, character, or
method, the process was even accomplished in two-thirds of the time,
between _Pamela_ and _Tristram Shandy_. We shall see in the next chapter
how eagerly the examples were taken up: and how, long before Smollett
died, the novel of this and that kind had become one of the most
prolific branches of literature. But, for the moment, the important
thing is to repeat that it had been thoroughly and finally started on
its high road, in general by Richardson, Fielding, and Smollett; in
particular and wayward but promising side-paths by Sterne.



    [7] A little of the work to be noticed in this chapter is not
    strictly eighteenth century, but belongs to the first decade or
    so of the nineteenth. But the majority of the contents actually
    conform to the title, and there is hardly any more convenient or
    generally applicable heading for the novel before Miss Austen
    and Scott, excluding the great names dealt with in the last

It is at last beginning to be recognised in principle, though it is
still much too often forgotten in practice, that the minor work of a
time is at least as important as the major in determining general
literary characteristics and tendencies. Nor is this anywhere much more
noticeable than in regard to the present period of our present subject.
The direct influence of Richardson and Fielding was no doubt very great:
but the development of the novel during the middle and later century was
too large and too various to be all mere imitation. As a result,
however, of their influence, there certainly came over the whole kind a
very remarkable change. Even before them the _nisus_ towards it, which
has been noticed in the chapter before the last, is observable enough.
Mrs. Manley's rather famous _New Atlantis_ (1709) has at least the form
of a key-novel of the political sort: but the whole interest is in the
key and not in the novel, though the choice of the form is something.
And the second, third, and fourth decades of the century saw other work
testifying to the vague and almost unconscious hankering after prose
fiction which was becoming endemic. A couple of examples of this may be
treated, in passing, before we come to the work--not exactly of the
first class in itself--of a writer who shows both the pre-Richardsonian
and the post-Richardsonian phases of it most interestingly, and after a
fashion to which there are few exact parallels.

A book, which counts here from the time of its appearance, and from a
certain oddity and air of "key" about it, rather than from much merit as
literature, or any as a story, is the _Adventures of Gaudentio di Lucca_
by Simon Berington.[8] It appeared in 1737, between Defoe and Swift on
the earlier, and Richardson on the later side, while the English world
was to the novel as an infant crying for the light--and the bottle--at
once. It begins and ends with adventures and discoveries of an ordinary
romantic type. But the body consists of a revelation to certain Italian
Inquisitors (who are not at all of the lurid type familiar to the
Protestant imagination, but most equitable and well-disposed as well as
potent, grave, and reverend signers) of an unknown country of "the Grand
Pophar" in the centre of Africa. This country is civilised, but not yet
Christianised: and the description of it of course gives room for the
exercise of the familiar game of contrast--in this case not so much
satiric as didactic--with countries nearer home which are at least
supposed to be both civilised and Christian. It is a "respectable" book
both in the French and the English sense: but it is certainly not very
amusing, and cannot even be called very interesting in any way, save

    [8] The not infrequent attribution of this book to Berkeley is a
    good instance of the general inability to discriminate _style_.

The other example which we shall take is of even less intrinsic
attraction: in fact it is a very poor thing. There are, however, more
ways than one in which _corpora vilia_ are good for experiment and
evidence: and we may find useful indications in the mere bookmaking of
the time. Lowndes, the fortunate publisher of _Evelina_, some dozen
years before that windfall came, had issued, or reissued, a collection
called _The Novelist_ and professedly containing _The select novels of
Dr. Croxall_ [the ingenious author of _The Fair Circassian_ and the part
destroyer of Hereford Cathedral] _and other Polite Tales_. The book is
an unblushing if not an actually piratical compilation; sweeping
together, with translations and adaptations published by Croxall himself
at various times in the second quarter of the century and probably
earlier, most of the short stories from the _Spectator_ class of
periodical which had appeared during the past two-thirds of a century.
Most of the rest are obvious (and very badly done) translations from the
French and even from Cervantes' _Exemplary Novels_; seasoned with
personal and other anecdotes, so that the whole number of separate
articles may exceed four-score. Of these a few are interesting attempts
at the historical novel or novelette--short sketches of Mary Queen of
Scots (very sympathetic and evidently French in origin from the phrase
"a _temple_ which was formerly a church"), Jane Shore (an exquisitely
absurd piece of eighteenth-century middle-class modernising and
moralising), Essex, Buckingham, and other likely figures. There are cuts
by the "Van-somethings and Back-somethings" of the time: and the whole,
though not worthy of anything better than the "fourpenny box," is an
evident symptom of popular taste. The sweetmeats or _hors d'oeuvre_ of
the older caterings for that taste are here collected together to form a
_pièce de résistance_. It is true that _The Novelist_ is only a true
title in the older sense--that the pieces are _novelle_ not "novels"
proper. But they are fiction, or fact treated like fiction: and though
the popular taste itself was evidently ceasing to be satisfied with
these morsels and demanding a substantial joint, yet the substance was,
after all, the same.

We rise higher, if not very high, with the novels of Mrs. Eliza Haywood
(1693-1756), one of the damned of the _Dunciad_, but, like some of her
fellows in that _Inferno_, by no means deserving hopeless reprobation.
Every one who has devoted any attention to the history of the novel, as
well as some who have merely considered it as a part of that of English
literature generally, has noticed the curious contrast between the
earlier and the later novels of this writer. _Betsy Thoughtless_ (1751)
and _Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy_ (1753) could, without much difficulty, be
transposed into novels of to-day. _Idalia_ (1723) is of an entirely
different mood and scheme. It is a pure Behnesque _nouvelle_, merely
describing the plots and outrage which ruin the heroine (_The
Unfortunate Mistress_ is the second title), but attempting no
character-drawing (the only hint at such a thing is that Idalia, instead
of being a meek and suffering victim, is said to have a violent temper),
and making not the slightest effort even to complete what story there
is. For the thing breaks off with a sort of "_perhaps_ to be concluded
in _some_ next," about which we have not made up our minds. Very rarely
do we find such a curious combination or succession of styles so early:
but the novel, for pretty obvious reasons, seems to offer temptations to
it and facilities for it.

For _Idalia's_ above-named juniors, while not bad books to read for mere
amusement, have a very particular interest for the student of the
history of the novel. Taken in connection with their author's earlier
work, they illustrate, for the first time, a curious phenomenon which
has repeated itself often, notably in the case of Bulwer, and of a
living novelist who need not be named. This is that the novel, more
almost than any other kind of literature, seems to lend itself to what
may be called the _timeserving_ or "opportunism" of craftsmanship--to
call out the adaptiveness and versatility of the artist. _Betsy_ and
_Jenny_ are so different from _Idalia_ and her group that a critic of
the idle Separatist persuasion would, were it not for troublesome
certainties of fact, have no difficulty whatever in proving that they
must be by different authors. We know that they were _not_: and we know
also the reason of their dissimilarity--the fact that _Pamela_ and her
brother and their groups _ont passé par là_.[9] This fact is most
interesting: and it shows, among other things, that Mrs. Eliza Haywood
was a decidedly clever woman.

    [9] The elect ladies about Richardson joined _Betsy_ with
    _Amelia_, and sneered at both.

At the same time the two books also show that she was not quite clever
enough: and that she had not realised, as in fact hardly one of the
minor novelists of this time did realise, the necessity of
individualising character. Betsy is both a nice and a good
girl--"thoughtless" up to specification, but no fool, perfectly
"straight" though the reverse of prudish, generous, merry, lovable. But
with all these good qualities she is not quite a person. Jenny is, I
think, a little more of one, but still not quite--while the men and the
other women are still less. Nor had Eliza mastered that practised knack
of "manners-painting" which was to stand Fanny Burney, and many another
after her, in the stead of actual character-creation. Her situations are
often very lively, if not exactly decorous; and they sometimes have a
real dramatic verisimilitude, for instance, the quarrel and
reconciliation of the Lord and the Lady in _Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy_;
but the higher verisimilitude of prose fiction they lack. Neither again
(though Smollett had given her a lead here) had she attained that power
of setting and furnishing a scene which is so powerful a weapon in the
novelist's armoury. Yet she had learnt much: and her later work would
have been almost a wonder in her own earlier time.

She had even been preceded in the new line by one, and closely followed
by another writer of her own sex, both of unblemished reputation, and
perhaps her superiors in intellectual quality and accomplishment, though
they had less distinct novel-faculty. Sarah Fielding, the great
novelist's sister, but herself one of Richardson's literary seraglio,
had a good deal of her brother's humour, but very little of his
constructive grasp of life. _David Simple_ (1744), her best known work,
the _Familiar Letters_ connected with it (to which Henry contributed),
and _The Governess_ display both the merit and the defect--but the
defect is more fatal to a novel than the merit is advantageous. Once
more--if the criticism has been repeated _ad nauseam_ the occasions of
it may be warranted to be much more nauseous in themselves--one looks up
for interest, and is not fed. "The Adventures" of David--whose progeny
must have been rapidly enriched and ennobled if Peter Simple was his
descendant--were "in search of a Friend," and he came upon nobody in the
least like O'Brien. It was, in fact, too early or too late for a _lady_
to write a thoroughly good novel. It had been possible in the days of
Madeleine de Scudèry, and it became possible in the days of Frances
Burney: but for some time before, in the days of Sarah Fielding, it was
only possible in the ways of Afra and of Mrs. Haywood, who, without any
unjust stigma on them, can hardly be said to fulfil the idea of
ladyhood, as no doubt Miss Fielding did.

There is an amusing and (in its context) just passage of Thackeray's,
in which he calls Charlotte Lennox, author of _The Female Quixote_
(1752), a "figment." But it would be unlucky if any one were thereby
prevented from reading this work of the lady whom Johnson admired, and
for whom he made an all-night orgie of apple-pie and bay-leaves. Her
book, which from its heroine is also called _Arabella_, is clever and
not unamusing, though it errs (in accordance with the moral-critical
principles of the time) by not merely satirising the "heroic" romances
of the Gomberville-La Calprenède-Scudèry type, but solemnly discussing
them. Arabella, the romance-bitten daughter of a marquis, is, for all
her delusion, or because of it, rather a charming creature. Her lover
Glanville, his Richardsonian sister, and the inevitable bad Baronet (he
can hardly be called wicked, especially for a Baronet) are more
commonplace: and the thing would have been better as a rather long
_nouvelle_ than as a far from short novel. It alternately comes quite
close to its original (as in the intended burning of Arabella's books)
and goes entirely away from it, and neither as an imitation nor
independently is it as good as Graves's _Spiritual Quixote_: but it is
very far from contemptible.

Yet though the aptitude of women for novel-writing was thus early
exemplified, it is not to be supposed that the majority of persons who
felt the new influences were of that sex. By far the larger number of
those who crowded to follow the Four were, like them, men.

That not exactly credit to the Tory party, Dr. John Shebbeare, has had
his demerits in other ways excused to some extent on the score of
_Lydia_--whose surname, by the way, was "Fairchild," not unknown in
later days of fiction. Even one who, if critical conscience would in
any way permit it, would fain let the Tory dogs have a little the best
of it, must, I fear, pronounce _Lydia_ a very poor thing. Shebbeare, who
was a journalist, had the journalist faculty of "letting everything go
in"--of taking as much as he could from Richardson, Fielding, Smollett,
etc., up to date (1755); and of throwing back to Afra for an interesting
Indian, Canassatego. The book (like not a few other eighteenth-century
novels) has very elaborate chapter headings and very short chapters, so
that an immoral person can get up its matter pretty easily. A virtuous
one who reads it through will have to look to his virtue for reward. The
irony is factitious and forced; the sentiment unappealing; the
coarseness quite destitute of Rabelaisian geniality; and the
nomenclature may be sampled from "the Countess of Liberal" and "Lord
Beef." I believe Shebbeare was once pilloried for his politics. If it
had been for _Lydia_, I should not have protested.

The next book to be mentioned is an agreeable change. Why Hazlitt
compared _The Life of John Buncle_ (1756-1766) to Rabelais is a somewhat
idle though perhaps not quite unanswerable question; the importance of
the book itself in the history of the English novel, which has sometimes
been doubted or passed over, is by no means small. Its author, Thomas
Amory (1691?-1788), was growing old when he wrote it and even when he
prefaced it with a kind of Introduction, the _Memoirs of several Ladies_
(1755). It is a sort of dream-exaggeration of an autobiography; at first
sight, and not at first sight only, the wildest of farragos. The author
represents himself as a disinherited son who is devoted, with equal
enthusiasm, to matrimony, eating and drinking as much as he can of the
best things he can find, discussion of theological problems in a
"Christian-deist" or Unitarian sense, "natural philosophy" in the vague
eighteenth-century meaning, and rambling--chiefly in the fell district
which includes the borders of Lancashire, Yorkshire, Westmoreland,
"Bishopric" (Durham), and Cumberland. With this district--which even
now, though seamed with roads and railways, does actually contain some
of the wildest scenery of the island; which only forty years ago was
much wilder; and which in Amory's time was a howling wilderness in
parts--he deals in the characteristic spirit of exaggeration which
perhaps, as much as anything else, suggested Rabelais to Hazlitt. From
Malham Cove and Hardraw Scar, through the Wild Boar Fell district to the
head of Teesdale, you can find at this moment rough and rugged scenery
enough, some of which is actually recognisable when "reduced" from
Amory's extravagance. But that extravagance extends the distances from
furlongs to leagues; deepens the caverns from yards to furlongs; and
exalts fell and scar into Alps and Andes. In the same way he has to
marry eight wives (not seven as has been usually, and even by the
present writer, said), who are distractingly beautiful and wonderfully
wise, but who seldom live more than two years: and has a large number of
children about whom he says nothing, "because he has not observed in
them anything worth speaking about." The courtships are varied between
abrupt embraces soon after introduction, and discussions on Hebrew,
Babel, "Christian-deism," and the binomial theorem. In the most
inhospitable deserts, his man or boy[10] is invariably able to produce
from his wallet "ham, tongue, potted blackcock, and a pint of cyder,"
while in more favourable circumstances Buncle takes his ease in his inn
by consuming "a pound of steak, a quart of green peas, two fine cuts of
bread, a tankard of strong ale, and a pint of port" and singing cheerful
love-ditties a few days after the death of an adored wife. He comes down
the side of precipices by a mysterious kind of pole-jumping--half a
dozen fathoms at a drop with landing-places a yard wide--like a chamois
or a rollicking Rocky Mountain ram. Every now and then he finds a
skeleton, with a legend of instructive tenor, in a hermitage which he
annexes: and almost infallibly, at the worst point of the wilderness,
there is an elegant country seat with an obliging old father and a
lively heiress ready to take the place of the last removed charmer.

    [10] It has been observed, and is worth observing, that the
    eighteenth-century hero, even in his worst circumstances, can
    seldom exist without a "follower."

Mad, however, as this sketch may sound, and certainly not quite sane as
Amory may have been, there is a very great deal of method in his, and
some in its, madness. The flashes of shrewdness and the blocks of pretty
solid learning (Rabelaisian again) do not perhaps so much concern us:
but the book, ultra-eccentric as it is, does count for something in the
history of the English novel. Its descriptions, rendered through a
magnifying glass as they are, have considerable power; and are quite
unlike anything in prose fiction, and most things in prose literature,
before it. In Buncle himself there is a sort of extra-natural,
"four-dimension" nature and proportion which assert the novelist's power
memorably:--if a John Buncle could exist, he would very probably be like
Amory's John Buncle. Above all, the book (let it be remembered that it
came before _Tristram Shandy_) is almost the beginning of the Eccentric
Novel--not of the satiric-marvellous type which Cyrano and Swift had
revived from Lucian, but of a new, a modern, and a very English variety.
Buncle is sometimes extraordinarily like Borrow (on whom he probably
had influence), and it would not be hard to arrange a very considerable
spiritual succession for him, by no means deserving the uncomplimentary
terms in which he dismisses his progeny in the flesh.

If there is an almost preposterous cheerfulness about _Buncle_, the
necessary alternative can be amply supplied by the next book to which we
come. The curious way in which Johnson almost invariably managed to hit
the critical nail on the head is well illustrated by his remark to
Frances Sheridan, author of the _Memoirs of Miss Sydney Bid[d]ulph_
(1761), that he "did not know whether she had a right, on moral
principles, to make her readers suffer so much." Substitute "æsthetic"
for "moral" and "heroine" for "readers," and the remark retains its
truth on another scheme of criticism, which Johnson was not ostensibly
employing, and which he might have violently denounced. The book, though
with its subsequent prolongation too long, is a powerful one: and though
actually dedicated to Richardson and no doubt consciously owing much to
his influence, practically clears off the debt by its own earnings. But
Miss Bidulph (she started with only one _d_, but acquired another),
whose journal to her beloved Cecilia supplies the matter and method of
the novel, is too persistently unlucky and ill-treated, without the
smallest fault of her own, for anything but really, not fictitiously,
real life. Her misfortunes spring from obeying her mother (but there was
neither moral nor satire in this then), and husbands, lovers, rivals,
relations, connections--everybody--conspire to afflict her. Poetical
justice has been much abused in both senses of that verb: _Sydney
Biddulph_ shows cause for it in the very act of neglect.

But the eighteenth century, on the whole, loathed melancholy. The
_Spiritual Quixote_ (1772) of the Reverend Richard Graves (1715-1804)
has probably been a little injured by the ingenuous proclamation of
indebtedness in the title. It is, however, an extremely clever and
amusing book: and one of the best of the many imitations of its
original, which, indeed, it follows only on broad and practically
independent lines. During his long life (for more than half a century of
which he was rector of Claverton near Bath) Graves knew many interesting
persons, from Shenstone and Whitefield (with both of whom he was at
Pembroke College, Oxford, though he afterwards became a fellow of All
Souls) to Malthus, who was a pupil of his; and he had some interesting
private experiences. He wove a good deal that was personal into his
novel, which, as may easily be guessed, is a satire upon Methodism, and
in which Whitefield is personally and not altogether favourably
introduced. But even on him Graves is by no means savage: while his
treatment of his hero, Geoffrey Wildgoose, a young Oxford man who,
living in retirement with his mother in the country, becomes an
evangelist, very mainly from want of some more interesting occupation,
is altogether good-humoured. Wildgoose promptly falls in love with a
fascinating damsel-errant, Julia Townsend; and the various adventures,
religious, picaresque, and amatory, are embroiled and disembroiled with
very fair skill in character and fairer still in narrative. Nor is the
Sancho-Partridge of the piece, Jerry Tugwell, a cobbler (who thinks,
though he is very fond of his somewhat masterful wife, that a little
absence from her would not be unrefreshing), by any means a failure.
Both Scott and Dickens evidently knew Graves well,[11] and knowledge of
him might with advantage be more general.

    [11] Julia Mannering reminds me a little of Julia Townsend: and
    if this be doubtful, the connection of Jerry's "Old madam gave
    me some higry-pigry" and Cuddie's "the leddy cured me with some
    hickery-pickery" is not. While, for Dickens, compare the way in
    which Sam Weller's landlord in the Fleet got into trouble with
    the Tinker's Tale in _Spiritual Quixote_, bk. iv. chap. ii.

The novels that have been noticed since those contrasted ones of Mrs.
Haywood's, which occupy a position by themselves, all possess a sort of
traditional fame; and cover (with the proper time allowed for the start
given by Richardson and Fielding) nearly the same period of thirty
years--in this case 1744 (_David Simple_) to 1772 (_The Spiritual
Quixote_)--which is covered by the novels of the great quartette
themselves. It would be possible to add a great many, and easy and not
disagreeable to the writer to dwell on a few. Of these few some are
perhaps necessary. Frank Coventry's _Pompey the Little_--an amusing
satirical novel with a pet dog for the title-giver and with the
promising (but as a rule ill-handled) subject of university life treated
early--appeared in 1751--the same year which saw the much higher flight
(the pun is in sense not words) of _Peter Wilkins_, by Robert Paltock of
Clement's Inn, a person of whom practically nothing else is known. It
would be lucky for many people if they were thus singly yoked to
history. It was once fashionable to dismiss _Peter_ as a boy's book,
because it discovers a world of flying men and women, modelled partly on
Defoe, partly on Swift; it has more recently been fashionable to hint a
sneer at it as "sentimental" because of its presentment of a sort of
fantastic and unconventional Amelia (who, it may be remembered, made her
appearance in the same year) in the heroine Youwarkee. Persons who do
not care for fashion will perhaps sometimes agree that, though not
exactly a masterpiece, it is rather a charming book. If anybody is
sickened by its charm he may restore himself by a still better known
story which no one can accuse of charm or sentiment, though it is
clever enough--Charles Johnstone's _Chrysal_ or _The Adventures of a
Guinea_ (1760). This, which is strongly Smollettian in more ways than
one, derives its chief notoriety from the way in which the scandalous
(and perhaps partly fabulous) orgies of Medmenham Abbey are, like other
scandalous and partly fabulous gossip of the time, brought in. But it
_is_ clever; though emphatically one of the books which "leave a bad
taste in the mouth." Indeed about this time the novel, which even in
clean hands allowed itself not a little freedom, took, in others,
excursions in the direction of the province of "prohibited literature,"
and sometimes passed the border.

One rather celebrated book, however, has not yet been mentioned: and it
will serve very well, with two others greater in every way, as usher to
a few general remarks on the weakness of this generation of minor
novelists. Between 1766 and 1770 Henry Brooke, an Irishman of position,
fortune, and literary distinction in other ways, who was at the time of
more than middle age, published _The Fool of Quality_ or _The Adventures
of Henry Earl of Morland_. The hero is a sort of Grandison-Buncle, as
proper though scarcely as priggish as the one, and as eccentric and
discursive as the other; the story is chaos: the book is stuffed with
disquisitions on all sorts of moral, social, and political problems. It
is excellently written; it is clear from it that Brooke (who was for a
time actually mad) did not belie the connection of great wits with
madness. But it is, perhaps, most valuable as an evidence of the
unconquerable set of the time towards novel.

Of this, however, as of some other points, we have greater evidence
still in the shape of two books, each of them, as nothing else yet
mentioned in this chapter can claim to be, a permanent and capital
contribution to English literature--Johnson's _Rasselas_ (1759) and
Goldsmith's _Vicar of Wakefield_ (1766).

It is not from the present writer that any one need look for an attempt
to belittle Johnson: and there is no doubt (for the _Lives of the Poets_
is but a bundle of essays) that _Rasselas_ is Johnson's greatest _book_.
But there may be, in some minds, as little doubt that attempts to defend
it from the charge of not being a novel are only instances of that not
wholly unamiable frenzy of eagerness to "say _not_ ditto to Mr. Burke"
which is characteristic of clever undergraduates, and of periods which
are not quite of the greatest in literature. _Rasselas_ is simply an
extended and glorified moral apologue--an enlarged "Vision of Mirza." It
has no real story; it has no real characters; its dialogue is "talking
book;" it indulges in some but not much description. It is in fact a
prose _Vanity of Human Wishes_, admirably if somewhat stiffly arranged
in form, and as true to life as life itself. You will have difficulty in
finding a wiser book anywhere; but although it is quite true that a
novel need not be foolish, wisdom is certainly not its determining
_differentia_. Yet for our purposes _Rasselas_ is almost as valuable as
_Tom Jones_ itself: because it shows how imperative and wide-ranging was
the struggle towards production of this kind in prose. The book is
really--to adapt the quaint title of one of the preceding
century--_Johnson al Mondo_: and at this time, when Johnson wanted to
communicate his thoughts to the world in a popular form, we see that he
chose the novel.

The lesson is not so glaringly obvious in the _Vicar of Wakefield_,
because this _is_ a novel, and a very delightful one. The only point
of direct contact with _Rasselas_ is the knowledge of human
nature, though in the one book this takes the form of melancholy
aphorism and apophthegm, in the other that of felicitous trait and
dialogue-utterance. There is plenty of story, though this has not been
arranged so as to hit the taste of the martinet in "fable;" the book has
endless character; the descriptions are Hogarth with less of _peuple_
about them; the dialogue is unsurpassable. Yet Goldsmith, untiring hack
of genius as he was, wrote no other novel; evidently felt no particular
call or predilection for the style; would have been dramatist, poet,
essayist with greater satisfaction to himself, though scarcely
(satisfactory as he is in all these respects) to us. That he tried it at
all can hardly be set down to anything else than the fact that the style
was popular: and his choice is one of the highest possible testimonies
to the popularity of the style. Incidentally, of course, the _Vicar_ has
more for us than this, because it indicates, as vividly as any of the
work of the great Four themselves, how high and various the capacities
of the novel are--how in fact it can almost completely compete with and,
for a time, vanquish the drama on its own ground. Much of it, of
course--the "Fudge!" scene between Mr. Burchell and the town ladies may
be taken as the first example that occurs--_is_ drama, with all the
cumbrous accessories of stage and scene and circumstance spared. One may
almost see that "notice to quit," which (some will have it) has been,
after nearly a century and a half, served back again on the novel,
served by the _Vicar of Wakefield_ on the drama.

At the same time even the _Vicar_, though perhaps less than any other
book yet noticed in this chapter, illustrates the proposition to which
we have been leading up--that, outside the great quartette, and even to
a certain extent inside of it, the novel had not yet fully found its
proper path--had still less made up its mind to walk freely and firmly
therein. Either it has some _arrière pensée_, some second purpose,
besides the simple attempt to interest and absorb by the artistic
re-creation of real and ordinary life: or, without exactly doing this,
it shows signs of mistrust and misgiving as to the sufficiency of such
an appeal, and supplements it by the old tricks of the drama in
"revolution and discovery;" by incident more or less out of the ordinary
course; by satire, political, social, or personal; by philosophical
disquisition; by fantastic imagination--by this, that, and the other of
the fatal auxiliaries who always undo their unwise employers. Men want
to write novels; and the public wants them to write novels; and supply
does not fail desire and demand. There is a well-known _locus classicus_
from which we know that, not long after the century had passed its
middle, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in Italy regularly received boxes of
novels from her daughter in England, and read them, eagerly though by no
means uncritically, as became Fielding's cousin and her ladyship's self.
But while the kind had not conquered, and for a long time did not
conquer, any high place in literature from the point of view of serious
criticism--while, now and long afterwards, novel-writing was the
Cinderella of the literary family, and novel-reading the inexhaustible
text for sermons on wasted, nay positively ill-spent, time--the
novelists themselves half justified their critics by frequent
extravagance; by more frequent unreality; by undue licence pretty often;
by digression and divagation still oftener. Except Fielding, hardly any
one had dared boldly to hold up the mirror to nature, and be content
with giving the reflection, in his own way, but with respect for it. For
even Goldsmith, with infinite touches of nature, had not given quite a
natural whole, and even Johnson, though absolutely true, had failed to
accommodate his truth to the requirements of the novel.

The turning point in this direction of the kind was to be made by a
person far inferior in ability to any one of the great quartette, and in
a book which, _as_ a book, cannot pretend to an equality with the worst
of theirs--by a person indeed of less intellectual power, and in a book
of less literary merit, than not a few of the persons and books just
noticed. There is something, no doubt, paradoxical in this: and the
paradox is connected, both with a real quality of the subject and with a
surprising diversity of opinions about it. Frances Burney and her
_Evelina_ (1778), not to mention her subsequent works and her delightful
_Diary_, have been the subject of a great deal of writing: but though
more than a hundred years--more indeed than a century and a
quarter--have passed since the book insidiously took London by gradual
storm, it may, without too much presumption, be questioned whether
either book or author has yet been finally or satisfactorily "placed."
The immense advantage of not having a history, positively illustrated
once for all in Shakespeare, could hardly be negatively illustrated
better than in Madame d'Arblay. She had the curious, and actually very
unpleasant, experience of being selected for a position at court on the
strength of her literary achievements, of finding it intolerable, of
breaking down, and of never doing any really good work after her
release, through much more than half of her long life. On this fact
critical biography has fastened almost exclusively. Macaulay, in one of
his most brilliant and best known essays, represents the world as having
been deprived of unknown quantities of admirable work by the misplaced
kindness, and the positive unkindness, of Queen Charlotte. Some have
agreed with him, some have differed with him. Some, in one of the
natural if uncritical revulsions, have questioned whether even _Evelina_
is a very remarkable book. Some, with human respect for the great names
of its early admirers, have passed it over gingerly--not exactly as
willing to wound, but as quite afraid or reluctant to strike. Nay,
actual critical evaluations of the novel-values of Miss Burney's four
attempts in novel-writing are very rare. I dare say there are other
people who have read _The Wanderer_ through: but I never met any one who
had done so except (to quote Rossetti) myself: and I could not bring
myself, even on this occasion, to read it again. I doubt whether very
many now living have read _Camilla_. Even _Cecilia_ requires an effort,
and does not repay that effort very well. Only _Evelina_ itself is
legible and relegible--for reasons which will be given presently. Yet
_Cecilia_ was written shortly after _Evelina_, under the same stimulus
of abundant and genial society, with no pressure except that of friendly
encouragement and perhaps assistance, and long before the supposed
blight of royal favour and royal exigences came upon its author. When
_Camilla_ was published she had been relieved from these exigences,
though not from that favour, for five years: and was a thoroughly happy
woman, rejoicing in husband and child. Even when the impossible
_Wanderer_ was concocted, she had had ample leisure, had as yet incurred
none of her later domestic sorrows, and was assured of lavish recompense
for her (it must be said) absolutely worthless labours. Why this steady
declension, with which, considering the character of _Cecilia_, the
court sojourn can have had nothing to do? And admitting it, why still
uphold, as the present writer does uphold, _Evelina_ as one of the
_points de repère_ of the English novel? Both questions shall be
answered in their order.

Frances Burney must have been, as we see not merely from external
testimony, but from the infallible witness of her own diary, a most
engaging person to any one who could get over her shyness and her
prudery:[12] but she was only in a very limited sense a gifted one.
Macaulay grants her a "fine understanding;" but even his own article
contradicts the statement, which is merely one of his exaggerations for
the sake of point. She had _not_ a fine understanding: though she was
neither silly nor stupid, her sense was altogether inferior to her
sensibility. Although living in a most bookish circle she was, as
Macaulay himself admits, almost illiterate: and (which he does not say)
her comparative critical estimates of books, when she does give them,
are merely contemptible. This harsh statement could be freely
substantiated: but it is enough to say that, when a girl, she preferred
some forgotten rubbish called _Henry and Frances_ to the _Vicar of
Wakefield_: and that, when a woman, she deliberately offended
Chateaubriand by praising the _Itinéraire_ rather than the _Génie du
Christianisme_, or _Atala_, or _René_, or _Les Martyrs_. She had very
little inventive power; her best novel, _Evelina_, has no plot worth
speaking of. She never wrote really well. Even the _Diary_ derives its
whole charm from the matter and the _reportage. Evelina_ is tolerable
style of the kind that has no style; _Cecilia_ is pompous and
Johnsonian; _Camilla_ was stigmatised by the competent and affectionate
judgment of Mrs. Delany as "Gallicised;" and _The Wanderer_ is in a
lingo which suggests the translation of an ill-written French original
by a person who does not know English.

    [12] Also, perhaps, to one who had not yet discovered that
    intense concentration on herself and her family with which,
    after their quarrel, Mrs. Thrale, not quite an impartial judge,
    but a very shrewd one, charged her, and which does appear in the

What then was it in _Evelina_, and in part in _Cecilia_ (with a faint
survival even into _Camilla_), which turned the heads of such a "town"
as Johnson and Burke, Walpole and Windham, and many others--which, to
persons who can see it, makes the books attractive to-day, and which
should always give their author a secure and distinguished place in the
great torch-race of English fiction-writers? It is this--that Miss
Burney had a quite marvellous faculty of taking impressions of actual
speech, manners, and to a certain extent character: that she had, at any
rate for a time, a corresponding faculty of expressing, or at least
reporting, her impressions. Next (and perhaps most of all) that she had
the luck to come at a moment when speech and manners were turning to the
modern; and lastly, that she was content, in parts of her work at any
rate, to let her faculty of expression work, automatically and
uninterfered with, on the impressions: and thereby give us record of
them for all time. Her acute critic "Daddy" Crisp lamented that we had
not had a series of recorders of successive _tons_ [fashions] like
Fanny. But she was much more than a mere fashion-monger: and what has
lasted best in her was not mere fashion. She could see and record life
and nature: and she did so. Still, fashion had a good deal to do with
it: and when her access to fashion and society ceased, the goodness of
her work ceased likewise.

Even this gift, and this even in _Evelina_ and the better parts of
_Cecilia_, she had not always with her. The sentimental parts of
_Evelina_--the correspondence with Mr. Villars, the courtship with Lord
Orville, and others--are very weak: and it cannot be said that Evelina
herself, though she is a pleasant girl enough, gives the lie to Mr.
Pope's libel about women. Cecilia has a little more individuality. But
the great strength of the former book lies in the admirable lower
middle-class pictures of the Branghtons and Mr. Smith, whom Fanny had
evidently studied from the life in the queer neighbourhood of Poland
Street: as also in the justness and verisimilitude of the picture of the
situation, which in different ways both books present--that of the
introduction of a young girl to the world.[13] In these points, as in
others which there is neither space nor need to particularise, Miss
Burney showed that she had hit upon--stumbled upon one may almost
say--the real principle and essence of the novel as distinguished from
the romance--its connection with actual ordinary life--life studied
freshly and directly "_from_ the life," and disguised and adulterated as
little as possible by exceptional interests and incidents. It is
scarcely too much to say that one great reason why the novel was so long
coming into existence was precisely this--that life and society so long
remained subject to these exceptional interests and incidents. It is
only within the last century or so that the "life of 'mergency" (to
adapt Mr. Chucks slightly) ceased to be the ordinary life. Addison's
"Dissenter's Diary" with its record of nothing but constitutionals and
marrow-bones, and Mr. Nisby's opinions, has simply amused half a dozen
generations. Yet, in a sense, it has nearly as much to do with the
advent of the novel as Sir Roger de Coverley himself. For these things
are, not merely in an allegory, the subjects of the novel. Not so very
much earlier Mr. Nisby would have had a chance of delivering his
opinions on the scaffold: and his disciple would have had prison bread
and water for marrow-bones and "Brooks and Hellier." These would have
been subjects for romance: the others were subjects for novel.

    [13] Dunlop and others have directly or indirectly suggested a
    good deal of plagiarism in _Evelina_ from _Miss Betsy
    Thoughtless_: but it is exactly in this _life_-quality that the
    earlier novelist fails.

All glory, therefore, be to Frances Burney; both that which her
generous successor and superior gives her in _Northanger Abbey_, and
more also--for Miss Austen, naturally enough, was not taking the
view-point of literary history. But it has been said that Fanny herself
possessed her gift in two senses uncertainly--first, in that she did not
very clearly perceive what it was, and, secondly, in that she soon lost
grip of it. It is, therefore, not wonderful that few others caught the
trick from her for a long time--for indeed fully twenty years, till Miss
Edgeworth made her appearance. But these twenty years were years of
extreme fertility in novels of different sorts, while--a phenomenon that
occurs not seldom--the older kind of fiction made a kind of rally at the
very time that the newer was at last solidly establishing itself. There
was, indeed, ample room for both. You cannot kill Romance: it would be a
profound misfortune, perhaps the profoundest that could befall the human
race, if you could. But the new romance was of rather a bastard kind,
and it showed more of the bad blood than of the good till, by a curious
coincidence, Scott once more found the true strain, just about the same
time as that at which Miss Austen was making known the true strain of
the novel proper.

This hybrid new romance had been stumbled upon more than a decade before
Fanny Burney in her turn stumbled upon the pure novel: and most people
know in what and by whom. To this day it is by no means easy to be
certain what Horace Walpole really meant to write, or thought he was
writing, in _The Castle of Otranto_ (1764). His own references to his
own writings are too much saturated with affectation and pose to make it
safe to draw any conclusions from them; there is little or no external
evidence; and the book itself is rather a puzzle. Taking the Preface to
the second edition with a very large allowance of salt--the success of
the first _before_ this preface makes double salting advisable--and
accommodating it to the actual facts, one finds it hardly necessary to
go beyond the obvious and almost commonplace solution that _The Castle
of Otranto_ was simply the castle of Strawberry Hill itself with paper
for lath and ink for plaster--in other words, an effort to imitate
something which the imitator more than half misunderstood. Of mediæval
literature proper, apart from chronicles and genealogies, Walpole knew
nothing: and for its more precious features he had the dislike which
sometimes accompanies ignorance. But he undoubtedly had positive
literary genius--flawed, alloyed, incomplete, uncritical of itself, but
existing: and this genius showed itself here. His paper-and-ink
"Strawberry" is quite another guess structure from his lath-and-plaster
one. For itself in itself--for what it _is_--the present writer, though
he has striven earnestly and often for the sake of the great things that
it _did_, has never been able to get up any affection or admiration. It
is preposterous, desultory, tedious, clumsy, dull. But it made people
(we know it on such excellent authority as Gray's) shudder: and the
shudder was exactly what they wanted--in every sense of the verb "to
want." Moreover, quite independently of this shudder, it pointed the way
to a wide, fertile, and delightful province of historical, social,
literary, and other matter which had long been neglected, and which
people had been assured was not worth exploring. Blair was just using,
or about to use, "any romance of chivalry" as a hyperbolical
exemplification of the contemptible in literature. Hume had been arguing
against, and Voltaire was still sneering at, all sorts of superstition
and supernaturalism. The common cant of criticism for generations had
been that "sense" and "reason" were to be the only criteria. Walpole's
egregious helmet dropped from no one knew (or knows) where on all these
Philistinisms: and squelched them. How it did this, why it did it, and
so forth, one knows not much more than one knows why and how all the
things happened in the novel itself. _Après coup_, the author talked
about "Shakespeare" (of whom, by the way, he was anything but a fervent
or thorough admirer) and the like. Shakespeare had, as Sir Walter
Raleigh has well pointed out, uncommonly little to do with it. But
Shakespeare at least supplies us with an appropriate phrase for the
occasion. _The Castle of Otranto_ "lay in" Horace's "way, and he found
it." And with it, though hardly in it, he found the New Romance.

In Horace's case also, as in that of Frances, though the success was
even more momentous, the successors were slow and doubtful, though not
quite so slow. In some dozen years Walpole read Miss Clara Reeve's _Old
English Baron_ (1777), and as in another celebrated case "thought it a
bore." It _is_ rather a bore. It has more consecutiveness than
_Otranto_, and escapes the absurdities of the copiously but clumsily
used supernatural by administering it in a very minute dose. But there
is not a spark of genius in it, whereas that spark, though sometimes
curiously wrapped up in ashes, was always present (Heaven knows where he
got it!) in Sir Robert's youngest son. And the contagion spread. For
general and epidemic purposes it had to wait till the Germans had
carried it over the North Sea and sent it back again. For particular
ones, it found a new development in one of the most remarkable of all
novels, twenty years younger than _Otranto_, and a few years older than
the new outburst of the "Gothic" supernatural in the works of Anne
Radcliffe and Mat Lewis.

_Vathek_ (1786) stands alone--almost independent even of its
sponsors--it would be awkward to say godfathers--Hamilton and Voltaire;
apart likewise from such work as it, no doubt, in turn partly suggested
to Peacock and to Disraeli. There is, perhaps, no one towards whom it is
so tempting to play the idle game of retrospective Providence as towards
the describer of Batalha and Alcobaça, the creator of Nouronnihar and
the Hall of Eblis. Fonthill has had too many vicissitudes since
Beckford, and Cintra is a far cry; but though his associations with Bath
are later, it is still possible, in that oddly enchanted city, to get
something of the mixed atmosphere--eighteenth century, nineteenth, and
of centuries older and younger than either--which, _tamisée_ in a
mysterious fashion, surrounds this extraordinary little masterpiece.
Take Beckford's millions away; make him coin his wits to supply the want
of them; and what would have been the result? Perhaps more _Vatheks_;
perhaps things even better than _Vathek_;[14] perhaps nothing at all. On
the whole, it is always wiser not to play Providence, in fact or fancy.
All that need be said is that Anthony Hamilton and Voltaire are
certainly not by themselves--good as they are, and admirable as the
first is--enough to account for _Vathek_. Romance has passed there as
well as persiflage and something like _coïonnerie_; it is Romance that
has given us the baleful beauty of that Queen of Evil, Nouronnihar, and
the vision of the burning hearts that make their own wandering but
eternal Hell. The tendency of the novel had been on the whole, even in
its best examples, to prose in feeling as well as in form. It was
Beckford who availed himself of the poetry which is almost inseparable
from Romance. But it was Horace Walpole who had opened the door to
Romance herself.

    [14] Since the text was written--indeed very recently--the
    long-missing "Episodes" of _Vathek_ itself have been at length
    supplied by the welcome diligence of Mr. Lewis Melville. They
    are not "better than Vathek," but they are good.

Still, _Vatheks_ are not to be had to order: and as Romance was wanted,
to order and in bulk, during the late years of the eighteenth century,
some other kind had to be supplied. The chief accredited purveyors of it
have been already named and must now be dealt with, to be followed by
the list of secondary, never quite accomplished, exponents now of novel,
now of romance, now of the two mixed, who filled the closing years of
the eighteenth century.

It is, however, unjust to put the author of _The Mysteries of Udolpho_
and the author of _The Monk_ on the same level. Mat Lewis was a clever
boy with a lively fancy, a knack of catching and even of anticipating
popular tendencies in literature, a rather vulgar taste by nature, and
no faculty of self-criticism to correct it. The famous _Monk_ (1795),
which he published when he was twenty, is as preposterous as _Otranto_
and adds to its preposterousness a _haut goût_ of atrocity and indecency
which Walpole was far too much of a gentleman, and even of a true man of
letters, to attempt or to tolerate. Lewis's other work in various forms
is less offensive: but--except in respect of verse-rhythm which does not
here concern us--hardly any of it is literature. What does concern us is
that the time took it for literature, because it adopted the
terror-style in fiction.

Anne Ward (she married a barrister named Radcliffe, of whom we do not
hear much except that his engagements in journalism threw time on his
wife's hands for writing) appears to have started on her career of
terror-novelist, in which she preceded Lewis, with two fixed resolves of
principle very contrary to his practice. The first was to observe
strict "propriety" in her books--a point in which the novel had always
been a little peccant. The second and more questionable, but also more
original, was a curious determination to lavish the appearance of the
supernatural, in accordance with the Walpolian tradition and the German
adoption of it, but never to allow anything _really_ supernatural in
ultimate explanation or want of explanation. She applied these two
principles to the working out, over and over again, of practically the
same story--the persecutions of a beautiful and virtuous heroine, and
her final deliverance from them. Her first attempt, _The Castles of
Athlin and Dunbayne_, appeared as early as 1789: and she left a
posthumous romance, _Gaston de Blondeville_, which did not come out till
1826, four years after her death. She also wrote some poems and a volume
of _Travels_ (1794) which is important for a reason to be noticed
presently. But her fame rests upon four books, which she published in
seven years, between her own twenty-sixth and thirty-third, _A Sicilian
Romance_ (1790), _The Romance of the Forest_ (1791), the world-renowned
_Mysteries of Udolpho_ in 1794-1795, and _The Italian_ two years later.

These stories owed their original attraction to the skill with which, by
the use of a Defoe-like minuteness of detail, added to a pictorial
faculty which Defoe had not, an atmosphere of terror is constantly
diffused and kept up. Very little that is terrible actually happens: but
the artist succeeds (so long as the trick has not become too familiar)
in persuading you that something very terrible is _going_ to happen, or
has just happened. And so the delight of something "horrid," as the
Catherines and Isabellas of the day put it, is given much more
plentifully, and even much more excitingly, than it could be by a real
horror now and then, with intervals of miscellaneous business. In one
sense, indeed, the process will not stand even the slightest critical
examination: for it is soon seen to consist of a succession of serious
mystifications and non-comic much-ados-about-nothing. But these "ados"
are most cunningly made (her last book, _The Italian_, is, perhaps, the
best place to look for them, if the reader is not taking up the whole
subject with a virtuous thoroughness), and Mrs. Radcliffe's great praise
is that she induced her original readers to suspend their critical
faculties sufficiently to enable them to take it all seriously. Scott,
who undoubtedly owed her something, assigned her positive genius: and
modern critics, while, perhaps, seldom experiencing much real
delectation from her work, have discovered in it not a few positive and
many more indirect and comparative merits. The influence on Scott is not
the least of these: but there is even a more unquestionable asset of the
same kind in the fact that the Byronic villain-hero, if not Byron
himself, is Mrs. Radcliffe's work. Schedoni did much more than beget or
pattern Lara: he _is_ Lara, to all intents and purposes, in "first
state" and before the final touch has been put by the greater master who
took the plate in hand.

But there is more to be said for Mrs. Radcliffe than this. Her
"explained supernatural," tiresome as it may be to some of us nowadays,
is really a marvel of patience and ingenuity: and this same quality
extends to her plots generally. The historical side of her novels (which
she does to some extent attempt) is a failure, as everything of the kind
was before Scott: that we may leave till we come to Scott himself. But
one important engine of the novelist she set to work in a fashion which
had never been managed before, and that is elaborate description. She
shows an early adaptation of that "picturesque," of which we see the
beginnings in Gray, when she was in the nursery, which was being
directly developed by Gilpin, but which, as we may see from her
_Travels_, she had got not merely from books, but from her own
observation. She applies it both within and without: at one moment
giving pages on the scenery of the Apennines, at another paragraphs on
the furniture of her abbeys and castles. The pine forests and the
cataracts; the skyline of Udolpho bathed in sunset glow, while a
"melancholy purple tint" steals up the slopes to its foundations--are
all in the day's work now; but they were not so then, and it is fair to
say that Mrs. Radcliffe does them well. The "high canopied tester of
dark green damask" and the "counterpane of black velvet" which
illustrate the introduction of the famous chapter of the Black Pall in
Chateau le Blanc may be mere inventory goods now: but, once more, they
were not so then. And this faculty of description (which, as noted
above, could hardly have been, and pretty certainly was not, got from
books, though it may have been, to some extent and quite legitimately,
got from pictures) was applied in many minor ways--touches of really or
supposedly horrible objects in the dark, faint suggestions of sound, or
of appeals to the other senses--hints of all sorts, which were to become
common tricks of the trade, but were then quite new.

At any rate, by these and other means she attained that great result of
the novel which has been noted in Defoe, in Richardson, and in
others--the result of what the French vividly call _enfisting_ the
reader--getting hold of his attention, absorbing him in a pleasant
fashion. The mechanism was often too mechanical: taken with the
author's steady and honest, but somewhat inartistic determination to
explain everything it sometimes produces effects positively ridiculous
to us. With the proviso of _valeat quantum_, it is not quite unfair to
dwell, as has often been dwelt, on the fact that the grand triumph of
Mrs. Radcliffe's terrormongering--the famous incident of the Black
Veil--is produced by a piece of wax-work. But the result resulted--the
effect _was_ produced: and it was left to those who were clever enough
to improve upon the means. For the time these means were "improved upon"
in another sense; we shall glance at some of the caricatures, intended
and unintended, later. For the present we may turn to other varieties of
the curiously swarming novel-production of these two last decades of the
century, and especially of the very last.

If Scott had not established Richard Cumberland's _Henry_ (1795) in the
fortress of the Ballantyne Novels, it would hardly be necessary to
notice "Sir Fretful Plagiary's" contributions to the subject of our
history. He preluded it with another, _Arundel_ (1789), and followed it
much later with a third, _John de Lancaster_: but there is no need to
say anything of these. _Henry_ displays the odd hit-_and_-miss quality
which seems to have attached itself to Cumberland everywhere, whether as
novelist, dramatist, essayist, diplomatist, poet, or anything else. It
is, though by no means a mere "plagiarism," an obvious and avowed
imitation of Fielding, and the writer is so intent on his _pastiche_
that he seems quite oblivious himself, and appears to expect equal
oblivion on the part of his readers, of the fact that nearly two
generations had passed. Henry is Joseph; Susan May is a much more
elaborate and attractive Betty; the doctor's wife a vulgarised and
repulsive Lady Booby; Ezekiel Daw, whom Scott admired, a _dissenting_
Adams--the full force of the outrage of which variation Sir Walter
perhaps did not feel. There are some good things in the story, but, as a
whole, it is chiefly valuable as an early example of that great danger
of modern literature--the influence of the "printed book" itself: and in
a less degree of that forging ahead of the novel generally in public
favour which we are chronicling. If the kind had not been popular, and
if Fielding had not been its great prophet, one may be pretty sure that
_Henry_ would never have existed. The causes are important: the effect
not quite so.

There was, however, at this time a novel-school, and not such a very
small one, which had more legitimate reasons for existence, inasmuch as
it really served as mouthpiece to the thoughts and opinions of the time,
whether these thoughts and opinions were good or bad. This may be called
the "revolutionary school," and its three most distinguished scholars
were Bage, Holcroft, and Godwin, with Mrs. Inchbald perhaps to be added.
The first began considerably before the outbreak of the actual French
Revolution and shows the influence of its causes: the others were
directly influenced by itself.

One of the most remarkable of English novel-writers who are not absolute
successes, and one who, though less completely obscured by Fortune than
some, has never had quite his due, is Robert Bage. It was unfortunate
for him that he fell in with the crude generation contemporary in their
manhood with the French Revolution, and so manifested the crudity in
full. Bage, in fact, except for a certain strength of humour, is almost
more French than English. He has been put in the school of Richardson,
but it is certain that Richardson would have been shocked at the
supposed scholar: and it is not certain that Bage would or need have
felt complimented by the assignment of the master. He has the special
laxity of the time in point of "morality," or at least of decency; its
affectations of rather childish perfectibilism and anti-theism; and the
tendency of at least a part of it to an odd Calibanic jesting. Bage is
good-tempered enough as it is: but he rather suggests possible
Carrier-and-Fouché developments in a favourable and fostering
atmosphere. One does not quite know why Scott, who included in the
Ballantyne Novels three of Bage's, _Mount Henneth_ (1781), _Barham
Downs_ (1784), and _James Wallace_ (1788), did not also include, if not
_The Fair Syrian_ (1787), two others, _Man as He is_ (1792) and the
still later _Hermsprong_, or _Man as He is Not_ (1796). This last has
sometimes been regarded as Bage's masterpiece: but it does not seem so
to the present writer. It begins by the sketch of an illegitimate child,
written in Bage's worst vein of hard rasping irony, entirely devoid of
the delicate spring and "give" which irony requires, and which
constitutes the triumph even of such things as _A Tale of a Tub_ and
_Jonathan Wild_. The rather impossibly named Hermsprong himself is not
really so named at all, but is related (and in fact head-of-the-house)
to the wicked or at least not good lord of the story. He is of the kind
of Sir Charles Grandison, Rights-of-Mannified, which infests all these
novels and is a great bore--as, indeed, to me is the whole book. The
earlier _Man as He is_ is far better. The hero, Sir George Paradyne,
though of the same general class, is very much more tolerable and (being
sometimes naughty) preferable to Grandison himself: while the heroine--a
certain Miss Colerain, who is a merchant's daughter under a double cloud
of her father's misfortune and of calumny as regards herself--though not
an absolute success, is worth a dozen Harriets, with thirteen
Charlottes thrown in to make "25 as 24" in bookseller's phrase. Bage's
extravagant or perhaps only too literal manners-painting (for it was an
odd time) appears not infrequently, as in the anecdote of a justly
enraged, though as a matter of fact mistaken, husband, who finds a young
gentleman sitting on his wife's lap, with her arms round him, while he
is literally and _en tout bien tout honneur_ painting her face--being a
great artist in that way. _Mount Henneth_ is perhaps the liveliest of
all: though its liveliness is partly achieved by less merely extravagant
unconventionalities than this. But as a matter of fact Bage never
entirely "comes off": though there is cleverness enough in him to have
made a dozen popular and deservedly popular novelists at a better time
for the novel. For he was essentially a novelist of manners and
character at a transition time, when manners and character had come out
of one stage and had not settled into another. Even Miss Edgeworth in
_Belinda_ shows the disadvantage of this: and she was a lady of genius,
while Bage had only talent and was not quite a gentleman.

Thomas Holcroft was not a gentleman at all, never pretended to the
title, and would probably have been rather affronted if any one had
applied it to him: for he was a violent Atheist and Jacobin, glorying in
his extraction from a shoemaker and an oysterseller, and in his
education as a stable boy. He was, however, a man of considerable
intellectual power and of some literary gift, which chiefly showed
itself in his dramas (the best known, _The Road to Ruin_), but is not
quite absent from his novels _Alwyn_ (1780), _Anna St. Ives_ (1792), and
_Hugh Trevor_ (1794-1797). The series runs in curious parallel to that
of Bage's work: for _Alwyn_, the liveliest and the earliest by far of
the three, is little more than a study partly after Fielding, but more
after Smollett, with his own experiences brought in. The other two are
purpose-novels of anarchist perfectibilism, and Holcroft enjoys the
traditional credit of having directly inspired Godwin. Godwin himself
acknowledged the obligation; indeed it is well known that--in pecuniary
matters more particularly--Godwin had no hesitation either in incurring
or in acknowledging obligations, always provided that he was not
expected to discharge them. It is possible that Holcroft's rough and
ready acceptance and exaggeration of the doctrines which Rousseau had
(as seems most probable) developed from a paradox of Diderot's, gave an
impetus to the rather sluggish but more systematic mind of Godwin. But
it is certain that _Political Justice_, though it is not a novel at all,
is a much more amusing book than _Anna St. Ives_, which is one. And
though Holcroft (especially if the presence of this quality in his
_Autobiography_ is not wholly due to Hazlitt--there is some chance that
it is) possessed a liveliness in narrative to which Godwin could never
attain, there is no doubt that this enigmatical and many-sided spunger,
philanderer, and corruptor of youth had a much higher general
qualification for novel-writing than any one mentioned hitherto in this
chapter, or perhaps than any to be mentioned, except the curiously
contrasted pair, of Irish birth, who are to come last in it.

I have sometimes thought that the greatest testimony to Godwin's power
in this respect is the idea (which even Hazlitt, though he did not share
it, does not seem to have thought preposterous, and which seems to have
been held by others who were not fools) that Godwin might be the author
of _Waverley_. To us, looking back, the notion seems as absurd as that
Bacon could be the author of Shakespeare or Steele of the _Tale of a
Tub_: but if, instead of looking back, we throw ourselves back, the
absurdity does not quite persist as it does in the other two instances.
There are some who, of course, would say, "Why take this fanciful test
of Godwin's ability when you have a real one in _Caleb Williams_?" The
reasons are double: for, historically, such an estimate by
contemporaries is of the very first value, and to the present writer
_Caleb Williams_ (1794) has never seemed a very interesting book. It is
impossible to sympathise with a hero who is actuated by the very lowest
of human motives, sheer inquisitiveness: and _my_ sense of natural
justice (which is different from Godwin's) demands not that he shall
escape, but that he shall be broken on the wheel, or burnt at a slow
fire, or made to read _Political Justice_ after the novelty of its
colossal want of humour has palled on him. One could sympathise with
Falkland, but is not allowed to do so: because he is not human, except
in his crime. But, as has been said, to those whose sporting interests
are excited by the pleasures and hazards of the chase, these things no
doubt do not occur. After all _Caleb_ is, in a sense, the first
"detective novel": and detective novels have always been popular, though
they bore some people to extinction. Far, however, be it from me to deny
that this popularity, especially when, as in the present case, it has
been continued for four whole generations, is a real and a very
considerable asset. Even if it were now to cease, it is actually funded
and vested to Godwin's credit in the _grand livre_ of literary history:
and it can never be written off. Perhaps _Caleb_ is the one book of the
later English eighteenth century in novel for which there must always be
a public as soon as it is presented to that public. And when this is
said and endorsed by those who do not personally much care for the book,
it is at once a sufficient testimony to the position of the author, and
a vindication of the not absolutely imbecile position of those who
thought that he might have written _Waverley_ and its successors. The
way in which Godwin in his later novels came down from the mountain-tops
of theory and paradox just as he came down from those of _Political
Justice_ itself is interesting and amusing, but not for us. As novels
they are certainly inferior. The best parts of _St. Leon_ (1799) and
_Fleetwood_ (1805) are perhaps better than anything in _Caleb:
Mandeville_ (1817) and _Deloraine_ (1833) are _senilia_.[15] The
graceful figure of the heroine Marguerite in _St. Leon_ is said to be
modelled on Mary Wollstonecraft, and there are some fresh pictures of
youth and childhood in _Fleetwood_. But _St. Leon_, besides its
historical shortcomings (which, once more, we may postpone), is full of
faults, from the badly managed supernatural to an only too natural
dullness and languor of general story: nor has _Fleetwood_ anything like
the absorbing power which _Caleb Williams_ exercises, in its own way and
on its own people. Yet again we may perhaps say that the chief interest
of Godwin, from our point of view, is his repeated and further weighted
testimony to the importance of the novel as an appeal to public
attention. In this respect it was in fact displacing, not only the drama
on one side, but the sermon on the other. Not so very long before these
two had almost engrossed the domain of _popular_ literature, the graver
and more precise folk habitually reading sermons as well as hearing
them, and the looser and lighter folk reading drama much oftener than
(in then-existing circumstances) they had the opportunity of seeing it.
With the novel the "address to the reader" became direct and stood by
itself. The novelist could emulate Burke with his right barrel and
Lydia Languish with his left. He certainly did not always endeavour to
profit as well as to delight: but the double power was, from this time
forward, shared by him with his brother in the higher and older

    [15] Godwin had written novel-_juvenilia_ of which few say

Next to Godwin may be placed a lady who was much adored by that curious
professor of philandering, political _in_justice, psychology, and the
use of the spunge, but who wisely put him off. Mrs. Inchbald's
(1753-1821) command of a certain kind of dramatic or at least theatrical
situation, and her propensity to Richardsonian "human-heart"-mongering,
have from time to time secured a certain number of admirers for _A
Simple Story_ (1791) and _Nature and Art_ (1796). Some, availing
themselves of the confusion between "style" and "handling" which has
recently become fashionable, have even credited her with style itself.
Of this she has nothing--unless the most conventional of
eighteenth-century phraseology, dashed with a kind of _marivaudage_
which may perhaps seem original to those who do not know Marivaux's
French followers, shall deserve the name. She is indeed very much of an
English Madame Riccoboni. But her situations--such as the meeting in _A
Simple Story_ of a father with the daughter whom, though not exactly
casting her off, he has persistently refused to see, in revenge for her
mother's unfaithfulness, and the still more famous scene in _Nature and
Art_ where a judge passes the death-sentence on a woman whom he has
betrayed--have, as has been allowed, the dramatic or melodramatic
quality which attracts people in "decadent" periods. There seems,
indeed, to have been a certain decadent charm about Mrs. Inchbald
herself--with her beauty, her stage skill, her strict virtue combined
with any amount of "sensibility," her affectation of nature, and her
benevolence not in the least sham but distinctly posing. And something
of this rococo relish may no doubt, with a little good will and
sympathy, be detected in her books. But of the genuine life and the
natural language which occasionally inspirit the much more unequal and
more generally commonplace work of Miss Burney, she has practically
nothing. And she thus falls out of the main line of development, merely
exemplifying the revolutionary and sentimental episode.

We must now, for some pages, illustrate the course of the novel by minor
examples: and we may begin with a brief notice of two writers, one of
whom might have been taken before Miss Burney and the other just after
her chronologically: but who, in the order of thought and method, will
come better here. Both were natives of Scotland and both illustrate
different ways of the novel. Henry Mackenzie, an Edinburgh advocate, in
three books--the names of which at least are famous, while his friend
Sir Walter has preserved the books themselves in the collection so often
mentioned--produced, in his own youth and in rapid succession, _The Man
of Feeling_ (1771), _The Man of the World_ (1773), and _Julia de
Roubigné_ (1777). John Moore, a Glasgow physician, wrote, when he was
nearly sixty, the novel of _Zeluco_ (1786) and followed it up with
_Edward_ ten years afterwards and _Mordaunt_ (1800). Mackenzie did good
work later in the periodical essay: but his fiction is chiefly the
"sensibility"-novel of the French and of Sterne, reduced to the
absolutely absurd. From his essay-work, and from Scott's and other
accounts of him, he must have possessed humour of a kind: but the
extremely limited character of its nature and operation may be
exemplified by his representation of a whole press-gang as bursting into
tears at the pathetic action and words of an old man who offers himself
as substitute for his son. This is one of the not rare, but certainly
one of the most consummate, instances of fashion caricaturing itself in
total unconsciousness. But it _was_ the fashion: and Mackenzie, though
perhaps he helped to bring it to an end, no doubt caused the shedding,
by "the fair" of the time, of an ocean of tears as great as the ocean of
port wine which was contemporaneously absorbed by "the brave."

Moore saw a good deal of continental society--he is indeed one of the
first-hand witnesses for the events of the French Revolution--and he had
a more considerable influence on the novel than has always been allowed
him. _Zeluco_ chiefly survives because of the exquisitely ludicrous and
human trait of the English sailor who, discussing the French army,
pronounces white uniforms "absurd" and blue "only fit for the artillery
and the blue horse." But it is not quite certain that its villain-hero
had not something, and perhaps a good deal, to do with those of Mrs.
Radcliffe who were soon to follow, and, through these, with Byron who
was not to be very long after. The later books are of much less
importance, if only because they follow the outburst of fiction which
the French Revolution itself ushered. But Moore, who was intimately
connected with Smollett, carried on the practice of making national or
sub-national characteristics important elements of novel interest: and
is thus noteworthy in more ways than one.

He is a late instance--he was born in 1729 and so was only a few years
younger than Smollett himself--of the writers who had, for all but half
a century after Richardson's appearance, accumulated patterns and
examples of the novel in all sorts of forms, hardly one of which lacked
numerous and almost innumerable imitators and followers. By these later
years of the century the famous "Minerva Press" and many others issued
deluges of novel-work which were eagerly absorbed by readers.
"Absorbed" in more senses than one: for the institution of circulating
libraries, while it facilitated reading, naturally tended towards the
destruction of the actual volumes read. Novels were rarely produced in a
very careful or sumptuous fashion, and good copies of those that were in
any way popular are now rather hard to obtain: while even in the British
Museum it will frequently be found that only the later editions are
represented. We shall finish this chapter with some instances, taken not
quite at random, of the work of the last decades of the eighteenth and
the beginning of the nineteenth century, winding up with more general
notice of two remarkable writers who represent--though at least one of
them lived far later--the period before Scott, and who also, as it
happens, represent the contrast of novel and romance in a fashion
unusually striking. The description, as some readers will have
anticipated, refers to Miss Edgeworth and to Maturin. But the smaller
fry must be taken first.

It is not uninteresting to compare two such books as Mrs. Bennett's
_Anna_ and Mrs. Opie's _Adeline Mowbray_. Published at twenty years'
distance (1785 and 1804) they show the rapid growth of the novel, even
during a time when nothing of the first class appeared. _Anna, or the
Memoirs of a Welsh Heiress, interspersed with Anecdotes of a Nabob_, is
a kind of bad imitation of Miss Burney, with a catchpenny
"interspersion" to suit the day. _Adeline Mowbray_, written with more
talent, chimes in by infusing one of the tones of _its_ day--Godwinian
theories of life. The space between was the palmy time of that now
almost legendary "Minerva Press" which, as has been said, flooded the
ever-absorbent market with stuff of which _The Libertine_, masterpiece
of Mrs. Byrne, _alias_ Charlotte Dacre, _alias_ "Rosa Matilda," is
perhaps best worth singling out from its companions, _Hours of Solitude,
The Nun of St. Omers, Zofloya_, etc., because it specially shocked the
censor of the style who will be mentioned presently. It is pure (or
not-pure) rubbish. Angelo (the libertine) seduces the angelic Gabrielle
de Montmorency, who follows him to Italy in male attire, saves him from
the wicked courtesan Oriana and her bravo Fiorenz_a_ (_sic_), is married
by him, but made miserable, and dies. He continues his misbehaviour to
their children, and finally blows his brains out. "Bah! it is bosh!" as
the Master observes of something else.

It may seem iniquitous to say that some tolerably good novel-writers
must be more summarily treated than some bad ones here: but there is
reason for it. Such, for instance, as Charlotte Smith and the Miss Lees
are miles above such others as the just-mentioned polyonymous "Rosa," as
Sarah Wilkinson, or as Henrietta Mosse-Rouvière. The first three would
make a very good group for a twenty-page causerie. Charlotte Smith, who
was tolerably expert in verse as well as prose; who anticipated, and
perhaps taught, Scott in the double use of the name "Waverley"; and
whose _Old Manor House_ (1793) is a solid but not heavy work of its
kind--is something of a person in herself, but less of a figure in
history, because she neither innovates nor does old things consummately.
Harriet and Sophia Lee claimed innovation for the latter's _Recess_
(1783-1786), as Miss Porter did for _Thaddeus of Warsaw_, but the claim
can be even less allowed. There is nothing of real historical spirit,
and very little goodness of any kind, in _The Recess. The Canterbury
Tales_ (1797-1805) (so named merely because they are supposed to be told
by different persons) were praised by Byron, as he praised the _Percy
Anecdotes_ and other things--either irresponsibly or impishly. They are
not exactly bad: but also as far as possible from consummateness.

On the other hand, _The Convent of Grey Penitents_, one of the crops
which rewarded Miss Wilkinson for tilling the lands of her imagination
with the spade of her style, _is_ very nearly consummate--in badness. It
is a fair example of the worst imitations of Mrs. Radcliffe and Mat
Lewis conjointly, though without the latter's looseness. The Marquis di
Zoretti was an Italian nobleman--"one of those characters in whose bosom
resides an unquenchable thirst of avarice" ["_thirst_ of _avarice_" is
good!], etc. He marries, however, a lovely signora of the odd name of
Rosalthe, without a fortune, "which circumstance was overlooked by his
lordship" for a very short time only. He plots to be free of her: she
goes to England and dies there to the genteelest of slow music. Their
son Horatio falls in love with a certain Julietta, who is immured by
wicked arts in the "Convent of Grey Penitents," tormented by the head,
Gradisca, but rescued, and so forth. The book, if harmless, is about as
worthless as a book can be: but it represents, very fairly, the ruck, if
not indeed even the main body, of the enormous horde of romances which
issued from the press towards the end of the eighteenth century and the
beginning of the nineteenth, and which, in their different action on
persons of genius, gave us _Zastrozzi_ on the one side and _Northanger
Abbey_ on the other.

As for Miss Henrietta Mosse, otherwise Rouvière, she represents the
other school of abortive historical novel. _A Peep at Our Ancestors_
(1807) is fairly worthy of its ridiculous name. It is preceded by
expressions of thanks to the authorities of "the British Museum and the
Heralds' Office" for the "access to records" vouchsafed to its author.
As the date of the story is 1146 (it was long before Mr. Freeman wrote)
access to records would certainly not have been superfluous. The actual
results of it are blocks of spiritless and commonplace historic
narrative--it is nearly all narrative, not action--diversified by
utterances like this of Malcolm III. of Scotland, "O my Edward! the deed
which struck my son's life has centred [_sic_] thy noble youthful bosom
also," or this of the heroine (such as there is), "the gentle _elegant_
Adelaise," "And do I not already receive my education of thee, mamma?"
It is really a pity that the creator of this remarkable peep-show did
not give references to her "records," so that one might look up this
"elegant" young creature of the twelfth century who talked about
"education" and said "mamma!" But this absolute failure in
verisimilitude is practically universal before Scott.

The works of the very beautifully named Regina Maria Roche should
probably be read, as they were for generations, in late childhood or
early youth. Even then an intelligent boy or girl would perceive some of
the absurdity, but might catch a charm that escapes the less receptive
oldster. They were, beyond all question, immensely popular, and
continued to be so for a long time: in fact it is almost sufficient
evidence that there is, if I mistake not, in the British Museum no
edition earlier than the tenth of the most famous of them, _The Children
of the Abbey_ (1798). This far-renowned work opens with the exclamation
of the heroine Amanda, "Hail, sweet sojourn of my infancy!" and we are
shortly afterwards informed that in the garden "the part appropriated to
vegetables was divided from the part sacred to Flora." Otherwise, the
substance of the thing is a curious sort of watered-down Richardson,
passed through successive filtering beds of Mackenzie, and even of Mrs.
Radcliffe. It is difficult for even the most critical taste to find much
savour or stimulus in the resulting liquid. But, like almost everybody
mentioned here, Regina is a document of the demands of readers and the
faculty of writers: and so she "standeth," if not exactly "crowned," yet

Work--somewhat later--of some interest, but not of first-class quality,
is to be found in the _Discipline_ (1811) and _Self-Control_ (1814) of
Mary Brunton. A Balfour of Orkney on the father's side and a Ligonier on
the mother's, the authoress had access to the best English as well as
Scottish society, and seems to have had more than a chance of taking a
place in the former: but preferred to marry a minister-professor and
settled down to country manse life. She died in middle age and her
husband wrote a memoir of her. _Discipline_ seems to represent a sort of
fancy combination of the life she might have led and the life she did
lead. Ellen Percy, the heroine, starts in the highest circles; forgets
herself so far as to "waltz_e_" with a noble ne'er-do-weel, thereby
earning the "stern disapprobation" of a respectable lover; comes down in
the world; has Highland experiences which, at the book's early date, are
noteworthy; marries (like her creatress) a minister; but "retains a
little of her coquettish sauciness." "Bless her, poor little dear!" one
can imagine Thackeray exclaiming in his later and mellowed days. Mrs.
Brunton's letters breathe a lady-like and not unamiable propriety, and
she is altogether a sort of milder, though actually earlier, Miss

Ireland vindicated its claim to comparative liveliness in the work of a
better known contemporary and survivor. Lady Morgan's (Miss Sydney
Owenson's) _Wild Irish Girl_ (1806) is one of the books whose titles
have prolonged for them a kind of shadowy existence. It is written in
letters: and the most interesting thing about it for some readers now is
that the heroine supplied Thackeray with the name Glorvina, which, it
seems, means in Irish "sweet voice," if Lady Morgan is to be trusted _in
rebus Celticis_. It is to be hoped she is: for the novel is a sort of
_macédoine_ of Irish history, folk-lore, scenery, and what not, done up
in a syrup of love-making _quant. suff._ Its author wrote many more
novels and became a butt for both good- and ill-natured satire with the
comic writers of the twenties, thirties, and forties. The title was
actually borrowed by Maturin in _The Wild Irish_ "Boy," and it is fair
to say that the book preceded Scott's, though not Miss Edgeworth's,
experiments in the line of the "national" novel. The earlier Reviewers
were discreditably savage on women-writers, and Lady Morgan had her
share of their truculence. She did not wholly deserve it: but it must be
said that nothing she wrote can really be ranked as literature, save on
the most indiscriminate and uncritical estimate. It is, however,
difficult to see much harm in her.

_Ida of Athens_, for instance, which shocked contemporaries, and which,
by the way, has the very large first title of _Woman_, could only bring
a blush to cheeks very tickle of that sere: a yawn might come much more
easily. The most shocking thing that the heroine, who is "an attempt to
delineate woman in her natural state," does (and that not of malice) is
to receive her lover in a natural bathroom. But her adventures are told
in a style which is the oddest compound of Romantesque and Johnsonese.
("The hour was ardent. The bath was cool. _He calculated upon the
probable necessity of its enjoyment_.") The spirit is the silliest and
most ignorant Philhellenism--all the beauty, virtue, wisdom, of the
ancient Greeks being supposed to be inherited by their mongrel
successors of the early nineteenth century. An English and a Turkish
lover dispute Ida's affection or possession. There are the elaborate
pseudo-erudite notes which one has learnt to associate chiefly with
Moore. The authoress boasts in her preface that she "has already written
almost as many volumes as she has years," and that she has hardly ever
corrected her proofs. Perhaps this silliness will make some think her
not more an example of the savagery of contemporary criticism than a
justification thereof.

It was in fact not only brutal man who objected to the preposterous
excesses of pseudo-romance: and serious or jocular parables were taken
up against it, if not before _Northanger Abbey_ was written, long before
it was published. In 1810 a certain "G." or "S.G.," whose full name was
Sarah Green, wrote, besides some actual history and an attempt at the
historical novel, a very curious and rather hybrid book entitled
_Romance Readers and Romance Writers_. Its preface is an instance of
"Women, beware Women," for though it stigmatises male creatures, such as
a certain Curteis and a certain Pickersgill, it treats Lady Morgan (then
only Sydney Owenson) and "Rosa Matilda" even more roughly and asks (as
has been asked about a hundred years later and was asked about a hundred
years before), "Is it not amazing that the [two] most licentious writers
of romance are women?" And it starts with a burlesque account of a
certain Margaret Marsham who exclaims, "What then? to add to my earthly
miseries am I to be called Peggy? My name is Margari_tt_a!" "I am sure
that if I am called Peggy again I shall go into a fit." But this promise
of something to complete the trio with _Northanger Abbey_ and _The
Heroine_ (to be presently mentioned) is not maintained. Not only does
the writer force the note of parody too much by making "Margaritta" say
to herself, "Poor persecuted _dove_ that I am," and adore a labourer's
shirt on a hedge, but she commits the far more fatal fault of exchanging
her jest for earnest. Margaritta--following her romance-models--falls a
victim to an unprincipled great lady and the usual wicked baronet--at
whose head, one is bound to say, she flings herself with such violence
as no baronet could possibly resist. Her sister Mary, innocent of
romance-reading and all other faults, is, though not as guilty, as
unlucky almost as Margaret: and by far the greater part of the book is
an unreal presentment, in nearly the worst manner of the eighteenth
century itself, of virtuous curates, _un_virtuous "tonish" rectors, who
calmly propose to seduce their curates' daughters (an offence which, for
obvious reasons, must, in the worst times, have been unusual), libertine
ladies, and reckless "fashionables" of all kinds. The preface and the
opening create expectations, not merely of amusement but of power, which
are by no means fulfilled. It is "S.G." who asserts that _Ida of Athens_
"has brought a blush to the cheek of many," and one can only repeat the
suggested substitution.

The only faults that can be found with _The Heroine_ or _The Adventures
of Cherubina_, by Eaton Stannard Barrett, which appeared in the same
year, with no very different object and subject, though written in
lighter vein, are one that it could not help and another that it could.
Unjustly, but unavoidably, the first is the worst. That it is a
burlesque rather overdone--a burlesque _burlesqué_--not in the manner of
Thackeray, but in that of some older and some more recent writers--is
unfortunate, but not fatal. One can forgive--one can even enjoy--the
ghost who not only sneezes but says, "D--n, all is blown!" When the
heroine is actually locked up with a man in a chest one is more
doubtful: recovering when the Marquis de Furioso, "bowing gracefully to
the bride," stabs himself to the heart, which is almost "the real
Mackay" as they say in the North. The slight awkwardness of snow falling
the day after the characters have been eating strawberries does not
amuse _us_ much, because this is a comparatively ordinary event of the
early twentieth century, whatever it might be of the early nineteenth.
But what is fatal, though the author could not help it, is that the
infinitely lighter, more artistic, and more lethal dart of _Northanger
Abbey_ had been launched by the pen, if not the press, more than a dozen
years before.

There are few more curious and interesting personages in the history of
the English Novel than Maria Edgeworth. The variety of her
accomplishment in the kind was extraordinary: and in more than one of
its species she went very near perfection. One is never quite certain
whether the perpetual meddling of her rather celebrated father
Richard--one of the capital examples of the unpractical pragmatists and
clever-silly crotcheteers who produced and were produced by the
Revolutionary period--did her more harm than good. It certainly loaded
her work with superfluous and (to us) disgusting didacticism: but it
might be contended that, without its stimulus, she would have done much
less, perhaps nothing. As it was, she lived for more than eighty years
(till all but the middle of the nineteenth century) and wrote for more
than sixty. Her work is thus very bulky: but it may be considered, for
our present purpose, in three groups--her short stories written mainly
but not wholly for children; her regular novels; and her Irish studies.
Of these the middle division has been, and no doubt has deserved to be,
the least popular: but its principal example, _Belinda_ (1801)
(_Patronage_, a longer and later book, and others are inferior), is
considerably better than is usually admitted and, by its early date,
deserves special notice here. It preceded Miss Austen's work in
publication, and is specially cited by her as a capital example of novel
in connection with the work of Miss Burney: and it is evidently founded
on study of the latter, of which, indeed, it is the first really worthy
continuation. Maria has nothing so good as Fanny's Smiths and
Branghtons: but the whole book is far superior to _Evelina_. The
extravagance of the _fin-de-siècle_ society which it represents has
probably disguised from not a few readers who do not know the facts, the
other fact that it is a real attempt at realist observation of manners:
and it has the narrative merit which was Miss Edgeworth's gift of
nature. But the hero is patchy and improbable: the heroine, a good and
quite possible girl, is not sufficiently "reliefed out"; and the most
important figures of the book, Lord and Lady Delacour, almost great
successes, are not helped by the peculiar academic-didactic moralising
which she had caught from Marmontel.

The following of that ingenious and now too much under-valued writer
stood her in better stead in the _Moral Tales_ (1801) (which she
deliberately called after his[16]), the _Popular Tales_ of the same
kind, and (though Marmontel did not intentionally write for children)
the delightful _Parent's Assistant_ (1801) and _Frank_. In the two
first-named divisions, the narrative faculty just mentioned appears
admirably, together with another and still greater gift, that of
character-painting, and even a grasp of literary and social satire,
which might not be anticipated from some of her other books. The French
governess (_Mlle. Panache_) and the satire on romantic young-ladyism
(_Angelina_) are excellent examples of this. As for the pure child's
stories, generation after generation of competent criticism, childish
and adult, has voted them by acclamation into almost the highest place
possible: and the gain-sayers have for the most part been idle
paradoxers, ill-conditioned snarlers at things clean and sweet, or fools
pure and simple.

    [16] The peculiar pedantic ignorance which critics sometimes
    show has objected to this rendering of Marmontel's _Contes
    Moraux_, urging that it should read "tales _of manners_." It
    might be enough to remark that the Edgeworths, father and
    daughter, were probably a good deal better acquainted both with
    French and English than these cavillers. But there is a
    rebutting argument which is less _ad hominem_. "Tales of
    Manners" leaves out at least as much on one side as "Moral
    Tales" does on the other: and the actual meaning is quite clear
    to those who know that of the Latin _mores_ and the French
    _moeurs_. It is scarcely worth while to attempt to help those
    who do not know by means of paraphrases.

The "Irish brigade" of the work--_Castle Rackrent_ (1800), _Ormond_, and
_The Absentee_, with the non-narrative but closely-connected _Essay on
Irish Bulls_--have perhaps commanded the most unchequered applause. They
are not quite free from the sentimentality and the didacticism which
were both rampant in the novel of Miss Edgeworth's earlier time: but
these are atoned for by a quite new use of the "national" element. Even
Smollett and, following Smollett, Moore had chiefly availed themselves
of this for its farcical or semi-farcical opportunities. Miss Edgeworth
did not neglect these, but she did not confine herself to them: and such
characters as Corny the "King of the Black Isles" in _Ormond_ actually
add a new province and a new pleasure to fiction.

Her importance is thus very great: and it only wanted the proverbial or
anecdotic "That!" to make it much greater. "That!" as it generally is,
was in her case the last fusing touch of genius to accomplish the
_grand oeuvre_--the perfect projection. She had humour, pathos,
knowledge of the world, power of drawing it, acquaintance with
literature, shrewd common sense, an excellent style when she was allowed
to write in her own way, the feelings of a lady who was also a good
woman. King Charles is made to say in _Woodstock_ that "half the things
in the world remind him of the Tales of Mother Goose." It is
astonishing, in the real complimentary sense, how many things remind one
of situations, passages, phrases, in Miss Edgeworth's works of all the
kinds from _Castle Rackrent_ to _Frank_. She also had a great and an
acknowledged influence on Scott, a considerable and a certainly not
disavowed influence on Miss Austen. She is good reading always, however
much we may sometimes pish and pshaw at the untimely poppings-in of the
platitudes and crotchets (for he was that most abominable of things, a
platitudinous crotcheteer) of Richard her father. She was a girl of
fourteen when the beginnings of the domestic novel were laid in
_Evelina_, and she lived to see it triumph in _Vanity Fair_. But her own
work, save in some of her short stories, which are pretty perfect,
represents the imperfect stage of the development--the stage when the
novel is trying for the right methods and struggling to get into the
right ways, but has not wholly mastered the one or reached the others.

There are those who would assign what they might call "higher genius,"
or "rarer gift," or something similar, to her countryman Charles Robert
Maturin. The present writer is not very fond of these measurings
together of things incommensurable--these attempts to rank the "light
white sea-mew" as superior or inferior to the "sleek black pantheress."
It is enough to say that while Miss Edgeworth very deliberately adopted
the novel, and even, as we have seen, slightly satirised at least
pseudo-romance, Maturin was romantic or nothing. His life was hardly
half hers in length, and his temperament appears to have been as
discontented as hers was sunny: but he had his successes in drama as
well as in novel, and one of his attempts in the latter kind had a
wide-ranging influence abroad as well as at home, has been recently
printed both in whole and in part, and undoubtedly ranks among the
novels which any tolerably well instructed person would enumerate if he
were asked to give a pretty full list of celebrated (and deservedly
celebrated) books of the kind in English. The others fall quite out of
comparison. _The Fatal Revenge_ or the _Family of Montorio_ (1807) is a
try for the "furthest" in the Radcliffe-Lewis direction, discarding
indeed the crudity of _The Monk_, but altogether neglecting the
restraint of _Udolpho_ and its companions in the use of the
supernatural. _The Wild Irish Boy_ (1808), _The Milesian Chief_ (1812),
_Women_ (1818), and _The Albigenses_ (1824) are negligible, the last,
perhaps, rather less so than the others. But _Melmoth the Wanderer_
(1820) is in quite a different case. It has faults in plenty--especially
a narrative method of such involution that, as it has been said, "a
considerable part of the book consists of a story told to a certain
person, who is a character in a longer story, found in a manuscript
which is delivered to a third person, who narrates the greater part of
the novel to a fourth person, who is the namesake and descendant of the
title-hero." Stripped of these tiresome lendings (which, as has been
frequently pointed out, were a mania with the eighteenth century and
naturally grew to such intricacy as this), the central story, though not
exactly new, is impressive: and it is told and worked out in manner more
impressive, because practically novel, save for, perhaps, a little
suggestion from _Vathek_. Melmoth has bartered his soul with the devil
for something like immortality and other privileges, including the
unusual one of escaping doom if he can get some one to take the bargain
off his hands. This leads up to numerous episodes or chapters in which
Melmoth endeavours to obtain substitutes: and in one of these the love
interest of the book--the, of course, fatal love of Melmoth himself for
a Spanish-Indian girl Immalee or Isidora--is related with some real
pathos and passion, though with a good deal of mere sentiment and
twaddle. Maturin is stronger in his terror-scenes, and affected his own
generation very powerfully: his influence being so great in France that
Balzac attempted a variation and continuation, and that there are
constant references to the book in the early French Romantics. In fact
for this kind of "sensation" Maturin is, putting _Vathek_ aside, quite
the chief of the whole school. But it is doubtful whether he had many
other gifts as a novelist, and this particular one is one that cannot be
exercised very frequently, and is very difficult to exercise at all
without errors and extravagances.

The child-literature of this school and period was very large, and, had
we space, would be worth dealing with at length--as in the instances of
the famous _Sandford and Merton_ (1783-1789) by Thomas Day, Richard
Edgeworth's friend, of Mrs. Trimmer's _Story of the Robins_, and others.
It led up to the definitely religious school of children's books, first
evangelical, then tractarian, with which we shall deal later: but was
itself as a rule utilitarian--or sentimental--moral rather than directly
religious. It is, however, like other things--indeed almost all
things--in this chapter--a document of the fashion in which the novel
was "filling all numbers" and being used for all purposes. It was, of
course, in this case, nearest to the world-old "fable"--especially to
the moral apologues of which the mediæval sermon-writers and others had
been so fond. But its popularity, especially when taken in connection
with the still surviving distrust of fiction, is valuable. It involves
not merely the principle that "the devil shall not have all the best
tunes," but the admission that this tune is good.

This point, and that other also frequently mentioned and closely
connected with it, that the novel at this time overflows into almost
every conceivable department of subject and object, are the main facts
of a general historical kind, which should be in the reader's mind as
the upshot of this chapter. But there is a third, almost as important as
either, and that is the almost universal coming short of complete
success--the lack of consummateness, the sense that if the Novel Israel
is not exactly still in the wilderness, it has not yet crossed the
Jordan. Even if we take in the last chapter, and its comparative giants,
with the present and its heroes, ordinary folk, and pygmies, we shall
scarcely find more than one great master, Fielding, and one little
masterpiece, _Vathek_, deserving the adjective "consummate." No doubt
the obvious explanation--that the hour was not because the man had not
come except in this single case--is a good one: but it need not be left
in the bare isolation of its fatalism. There are at least several
subsidiary considerations which it is well to advance. The transition
state of manners and language cannot be too often insisted upon: for
this affected the process at both ends, giving the artist in fictitious
life an uncertain model to copy and unstable materials to work in. The
deficiency of classical patterns--at a time which still firmly believed,
for the most part, that all good work in literature had been so done by
the ancients that it could at best be emulated--should count for
something: the scanty respect in which the kind was held for something
more. As to one of the most important species, frequent allusions have
been made, and in the next chapter full treatment will be given, to the
causes which made the _historical_ novel impossible until very late in
the century, and decidedly unlikely to be good even then. Perhaps,
without attempting further detail, we may conclude by saying that the
productions of this time present, and present inevitably, the nonage and
novitiate of a branch of art which hardly possessed any genuine
representatives when the century was born and which numbered them, bad
and good, by thousands and almost tens of thousands at its death. In the
interval there had been continuous and progressive exercise; there had
been some great triumphs; there had been not a little good and pleasant
work; and of even the work that was less good and less pleasant one may
say that it at least represented experiment, and might save others from



In 1816 Sir Thomas Bernard, baronet, barrister, and philanthropist,
published, having it is said written it three years previously, an
agreeable dialogue on _Old Age_, which was very popular, and reached its
fifth edition in 1820. The interlocutors are Bishops Hough and Gibson
and Mr. Lyttleton, the supposed time 1740--the year, by accident or
design, of _Pamela_. In this the aged and revered "martyr of Magdalen"
is mildly reproached by his brother prelate for liking novels. Hough
puts off the reproach as mildly, and in a most academic manner, by
saying that he only admits them _speciali gratiâ_. This was in fact the
general attitude to the whole kind, not merely in 1740, but after all
the work of nearly another life-time as long as Hough's--almost in 1816
itself. Yet when Sir Thomas published his little book, notice to quit,
of a double kind, had been served on this fallacy. Miss Austen's life
was nearly done, and some of her best work had not been published: but
the greater part had. Scott was in his actual hey-day. Between them,
they had dealt and were dealing--from curiously different sides and in
as curiously different manners--the death-blow to the notion that the
novel was an inferior if not actually discreditable kind, suitable for
weak intellects only, and likely to weaken strong ones, frivolous when
not positively immoral, giving a distaste for serious reading, implying
in the writer an inability to do anything more serious, and generally
presenting a glaring contrast to real "literature."

Interesting as each of these two great novelists is individually, the
interest of the pair, from our present historical point of view, is
almost greater; and the way in which they complete each other is hardly
short of uncanny. Before their time, despite the great examples of prose
fiction produced by Bunyan, Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, and
Sterne, and the remarkable determination towards the life of ordinary
society given, or instanced, by Miss Burney; despite the immense
novel-production of the last half of the eighteenth century and the
first decade of the nineteenth--it is hardly too much to say that "the
novel," as such, had not found its proper way or ways at all. Bunyan's
was an example of genius in a peculiar kind of the novel: as, in a very
different one, was Sterne's. Defoe, possessing some of the rarest gifts
of the novelist, was quite lacking in others. Richardson was not only
_exemplar vitiis imitabile_ and _imitatum_, but it might be doubted
whether, even when not faulty, he was not more admirable than
delightful. Smollett, like Defoe, was not much more than part of a
novelist: and Miss Burney lacked strength, equality, and range. There
remained Fielding: and it certainly is not here that any restrictions or
allowances will be insinuated as to Fielding's praise. But Fielding's
novels are a circle in which no one else save Thackeray has ever been
able to walk. And what we are looking for now is something rather
different from this--a masterpiece, or masterpieces, which may not only
yield delight and excite admiration in itself or themselves, but may
bring forth fruit in others--fruit less masterly perhaps, but of the
same or a similar kind. In other words, nobody's work yet--save in the
special kinds--had been capable of yielding a novel-_formula_: nobody
had hit upon the most capital and fruitful novel-ideas. And nearly
everybody had, in the kind, done work curiously and almost
incomprehensibly faulty. Of these faults, the worst, perhaps, were
classable under the general head of inverisimilitude. Want of truth to
nature in character and dialogue, extravagant and clumsy plotting,
neglect of (indeed entire blindness to) historic colour, unreal and
unobserved description--all these things might be raised to a height or
sunk to a bathos in the work of the Minerva Press--but there was far too
much of them in _all_ the novel work of these sixty or seventy years.

Although the facts and dates are well enough known, it is perhaps not
always remembered that Miss Austen, while representing what may, using a
rather objectionable and ambiguous word, be called a more "modern" style
of novel than Scott's, began long before him and had almost finished her
work before his really began. If that wonderful Bath bookseller had not
kept _Northanger Abbey_ in a drawer, instead of publishing it, it would
have had nearly twenty years start of _Waverley_. And it must be
remembered that _Northanger Abbey_, though it is, perhaps, chiefly
thought of as a parody-satire on the school of Mrs. Radcliffe, is, as
these parody-satires have a habit of being, a great deal more. If
Catherine had not made a fool of herself about the _Orphan of the Black
Forest_ and _Horrid Mysteries_ (or rather if everything relating to this
were "blacked out" as by a Russian censor) there would still remain the
admirable framework of her presentation at Bath and her intercourse with
the Tilneys; the more admirable character-sketches of herself--the
triumph of the ordinary made not ordinary--and the Thorpes; the most
admirable flashes of satire and knowledge of human nature, not
"promiscuous" or thrown out _apropos_ of things in general, but acting
as assistants and invigorators to the story.

In the few words just used lies, as far as it can be comprehended in any
few words, the secret both of Miss Austen and of Scott. It has been
said--more than once or twice, I fear--that hardly until Bunyan and
Defoe do we get an interesting story--something that grasps us and
carries us away with it--at all. Except in the great eighteenth-century
Four the experience is not repeated, save in parts of Miss Burney and
Miss Edgeworth later--it is simulated rather than actually brought about
by the Terror-novel--except in the eternal exception of _Vathek_--for
Maturin did not do his best work till much later. The absence of it is
mainly due to a concatenation of inabilities on the part of the writers.
They don't know what they ought to do: and in a certain sense it may
even be said that they don't know what they are doing. In the worst
examples surveyed in the last chapter, such as _A Peep at Our
Ancestors_, this ignorance plumbs the abyss--blocks of dull serious
narrative, almost or quite without action, and occasional insertions of
flat, insipid, and (to any one with a little knowledge) impossible
conversation, forming their staple. Of the better class of books, from
the _Female Quixote_ to _Discipline_, this cannot fairly be said: but
there is always something wanting. Frequently, as in both the books just
mentioned, the writer is too serious and too desirous to instruct.
Hardly ever is there a real _projection_ of character, in the round and
living--only pale, sketchy "academies" that neither live, nor move, nor
have any but a fitful and partial being. The conversation is, perhaps,
the worst feature of all--for it follows the contemporary stage in
adopting a conventional lingo which, as we know from private letters as
early as Gray's and Walpole's, if not even as Chesterfield's and those
of men and women older still, was _not_ the language of well-bred,
well-educated, and intelligent persons at any time during the century.
As for the Fourth Estate of the novel--description--it had rarely been
attempted even by the great masters. In fact it has been pointed out as
perhaps the one unquestionable merit of Mrs. Radcliffe that--following
the taste for the picturesque which, starting from Gray and popularised
by Gilpin, was spreading over the country--she did attempt to introduce
this important feature, and did partly, in a rococo way, succeed in
introducing it. As for plot, that has never been our strong point--we
seem to have been contented with _Tom Jones_ as payment in full of that

    [17] The frankness of the ingenious creator of Mr. Jorrocks
    should be imitated by 99 per cent. of English novelists. "The
    following story," says he of _Ask Mamma_, "does not involve the
    complication of a plot. It is a mere continuous narrative."

Now, this was all changed. It is doubtful whether if _Northanger Abbey_
had actually appeared in 1796 it would have been appreciated--Miss
Austen, like other writers of genius, had, not exactly as the common but
incorrect phrase goes, to create the taste for her own work, but to
arouse the long dormant appetite which she was born to satisfy. Yet,
looking back a hundred years, it seems impossible that anybody of wits
should have failed at once to discover the range, the perfection, and
the variety of the new gift, or set of gifts. Here all the elements come
in: and something with them that enlivens and intensifies them all. The
plot is not intricate, but there is a plot--good deal more, perhaps,
than is generally noticed, and more than Miss Austen herself sometimes
gave, as, for instance, in _Mansfield Park_. It is even rather artfully
worked out--the selfish gabble of John Thorpe, who may look to
superficial observers like a mere outsider, playing an important part
_twice_ in the evolution. There is not lavish but amply sufficient
description and scenery--the Bath vignettes, especially the Beechencliff
prospect; the sketch of the Abbey itself and of Henry's parsonage, etc.
But it is in the other two constituents that the blowing of the new wind
of the spirit is most perceptible. The character-drawing is simply
wonderful, especially in the women--though the men lack nothing. John
Thorpe has been glanced at--there had been nothing like him before, save
in Fielding and in the very best of the essayists and dramatists.
General Tilney has been found fault with as unnatural and excessive: but
only by people who do not know what "harbitrary gents" fathers of
families, who were not only squires and members of parliament, but
military men, could be in the eighteenth century--and perhaps a little
later. His son Henry, in common with most of his author's _jeunes
premiers_, has been similarly objected to as colourless. He really has a
great deal of subdued individuality, and it _had_ to be subdued, because
it would not have done to let him be too superior to Catherine. James
Morland and Frederick Tilney are not to be counted as more than "walking
gentlemen," Mr. Allen only as a little more: and they fulfil their law.
But Isabella Thorpe is almost better than her brother, as being nearer
to pure comedy and further from farce; Eleanor Tilney is adequate; and
Mrs. Allen is sublime on her scale. A novelist who, at the end of the
eighteenth century, could do Mrs. Allen, could do anything that she
chose to do; and might be trusted never to attempt anything that she
could not achieve. And yet the heroine is perhaps--as she ought to
be--the greatest triumph of the whole, and the most indicative of the
new method. The older heroines had generally tried to be extraordinary:
and had failed. Catherine tries to be ordinary: and is an extraordinary
success. She is pretty, but not beautiful: sensible and well-natured,
but capable, like most of us, of making a complete fool of herself and
of doing complete injustice to other people; fairly well educated, but
not in the least learned or accomplished. In real life she would be
simply a unit in the thousands of quite nice but ordinary girls whom
Providence providentially provides in order that mankind shall not be
alone. In literature she is more precious than rubies--exactly because
art has so masterfully followed and duplicated nature.

Precisely to what extent the attractive quality of this art is enhanced
by the pervading irony of the treatment would be a very difficult
problem to work out. It is scarcely hazardous to say that irony is the
very salt of the novel: and that just as you put salt even in a cake, so
it is not wise to neglect it wholly even in a romance. Life itself, as
soon as it gets beyond mere vegetation, is notoriously full of irony:
and no imitation of it which dispenses with the seasoning can be worth
much. That Miss Austen's irony is consummate can hardly be said to be
matter of serious contest.

It has sometimes been thought--perhaps mistakenly--that the exhibition
of it in _Northanger Abbey_ is, though a very creditable essay, _not_
consummate. But _Pride and Prejudice_ is known to be, in part, little if
at all later than _Northanger Abbey_: and there can again be very little
dispute among judges in any way competent as to the quality of the irony
there. Nor does it much matter what part of this wonderful book was
written later and what earlier: for its ironical character is
all-pervading, in almost every character, except Jane and her lover who
are mere foils to Elizabeth and Darcy, and even in these to some extent;
and in the whole story, even in the at least permitted suggestion that
the sight of Pemberley, and Darcy's altered demeanour, had something to
do with Elizabeth's resignation of the old romantic part of _Belle dame
sans merci_. It may further be admitted, even by those who protest
against the undervaluation of _Northanger Abbey_, that _Pride and
Prejudice_ flies higher, and maintains its flight triumphantly. It is
not only longer; it is not only quite independent of parody or contrast
with something previous; but it is far more intricate and elaborate as
well as more original. Elizabeth herself is not merely an ordinary girl:
and the putting forward of her, as an extraordinary yet in no single
point unnatural one, is victoriously carried out. Her father, in spite
of (nay, perhaps, including) his comparative collapse when he is called
upon, not as before to talk but to act, in the business of Lydia's
flight, is a masterpiece. Mr. Collins is, once more by common consent of
the competent, unsurpassed, if not peerless: those who think him
unnatural simply do not know nature. Shakespeare and Fielding were the
only predecessors who could properly serve as sponsors to "this young
lady" (as Scott delightfully calls her) on her introduction among the
immortals on the strength of this character alone. Lady Catherine is not
much the inferior (it would have been pleasing to tell her so) of her
_protégé_ and chaplain. Of almost all the characters, and of quite the
whole book, it is scarcely extravagant to say that it could not have
been better on its own scale and scheme--that it is difficult to
conceive any scheme and scale on which it could have been better. And,
yet once more, there is nothing out of the way in it--the only thing not
of absolutely everyday occurrence, the elopement of Lydia, happens on
so many days still, with slight variations, that it can hardly be called
a licence.

The same qualities appear throughout the other books, whether in more or
less quintessence and with less or more alloy is a question rather of
individual taste than for general or final critical decision. _Sense and
Sensibility_, the first actually to appear (1811), is believed to have
been written about the same time as _Pride and Prejudice_, which
appeared two years later, and _Northanger Abbey_, which did not see the
light till its author was dead. It is the weakest of the three--perhaps
it is the weakest of all: but the weakness is due rather to an error of
judgment than to a lack of power. Like _Northanger Abbey_ it has a
certain dependence on something else: the extravagances of Marianne
satirise the Sensibility-novel just as those of Catherine do the
Terror-story of the immediate past. But it is on a much larger scale:
and things of the kind are better in miniature. Moreover, the author's
sense of creative faculty made her try to throw up and contrast her
heroine with other characters, in a way which she had not attempted in
_Northanger Abbey_: and good as these are in themselves, they make a
less perfect whole. Indeed, in the order of thought, _Sense and
Sensibility_ is the "youngest" of the novels--the least self-criticised.
Nothing in it shows lack of power (John Dashwood and his wife are of the
first order); a good deal in it shows lack of knowledge exactly how to
direct that power.

_Mansfield Park_ (1814), though hardly as brilliant as _Pride and
Prejudice_, shows much more maturity than _Sense and Sensibility_. Much
of it is quite consummate, the character of Mrs. Norris especially: and
for subtly interwoven phrase without emphasis, conveying knowledge and
criticism of life, it has few equals. But it has an elopement. _Emma_,
which has perhaps on the whole been the most general favourite, may
challenge that position on one ground beyond all question, though
possibly not on all. It is the absolute triumph of that reliance on the
strictly ordinary which has been indicated as Miss Austen's title to
pre-eminence in the history of the novel. Not an event, not a
circumstance, not a detail, is carried out of "the daily round, the
common task" of average English middle-class humanity, upper and lower.
Yet every event, every circumstance, every detail, is put _sub specie
eternitatis_ by the sorcery of art. Few things could be more
terrible--nothing more tiresome--than to hear the garrulous Miss Bates
talk in actual life; few things are more delightful than to read her
speeches as they occur here. An aspiring soul might feel disposed to
"take and drown itself in a pail" (as one of Dickens's characters says)
if it had to live the life which the inhabitants of Highbury are
represented as living; to read about that life--to read about it over
and over again--has been and is always likely to be one of the chosen
delights of some of the best wits of our race. This is one of the
paradoxes of art: and perhaps it is the most wonderful of them,
exceeding even the old "pity and terror" problem. And the discovery of
it, as a possible source of artistic success, is one of the greatest
triumphs and one of the most inexhaustible discoveries of that art
itself. For by another paradox--this time not of art but of nature--the
extraordinary is exhaustible and the ordinary is not. Tragedy and the
more "incidented" comedy, it is well known, run into types and reproduce
situations almost inevitably. "All the stories are told." But the story
of the life of Highbury never can be told, because there is really
nothing in it but the telling: and here the blessed infinity of Art
comes in again.

Miss Austen's last book, like her first, was published posthumously and
she left nothing else but a couple of fragments. One of these, _Lady
Susan_, does not, so far as it extends, promise much, though it is such
a fragment and such an evident first draft even of this, that judgment
of it is equally unfair and futile. The other, _The Watsons_, has some
very striking touches, but is also a mere beginning. _Persuasion_--which
appeared with _Northanger Abbey_ and which, curiously enough, has, like
its nearly twenty years elder sister, Bath for its principal scene--has
also some pretensions to primacy among the books, and is universally
admitted to be of its author's most delicate, most finished, and most
sustained work. And this, like _Emma_, resolutely abstains from even the
slightest infusion of startling or unusual incident, of "exciting"
story, of glaring colour of any kind: relying only on congruity of
speech, sufficient if subdued description, and above all a profusion of
the most delicately, but the most vividly drawn character, made to
unfold a plot which has interest, if no excitement, and seasoned
throughout with the unfailing condiment--the author's "own sauce"--of
gentle but piquant irony and satire.

It is not to be supposed or inferred that Miss Austen's methods, or her
results, have appealed to everybody. Madame de Staël thought her
_vulgaire_--meaning, of course, not exactly our "vulgar" but
"commonplace"; Charlotte Brontë was not much otherwise minded; her own
Marianne Dashwood would doubtless have thought the same. Readers without
some touch of letters may think her style old-fashioned: it has even
been termed "stilted." Not merely may amateurs of blood and thunder, of
passion and sensation, think her tame, but the more modern devotees of
"analysis" may consider her superficial. On the other hand, it is
notorious that, from her own day to this, she has never wanted
partisans, often of superlative competence, and of the most strikingly
different tempers, tastes, and opinions. The extraordinary quietness of
her art is only matched by its confidence: its subtlety by its strength.
She did not try many styles; she deliberately and no doubt wisely
refused to try the other style which was already carrying all before it
in her own later days. She seems to have confined herself (with what
seems to some high-flying judges an almost ignoble caution) to the
strata of society that she knew most thoroughly: and the curious have
noted that she seldom goes above a baronet, and hardly even descends to
a butler, in her range of personages who are not mere mutes. It is not
at all unlikely--in fact it is almost certain--that she might have
enlarged this range, and that of her incident, with perfect safety and
to the great profit and delight of her readers. But these actual things
she knew she could do consummately; and she would not risk the
production of anything not consummate.

The value of her, artistically, is of course in the perfection of what
she did; but the value of her historically is in the way in which she
showed that, given the treatment, any material could be perfected. It
was in this way, as has been pointed out, that the possibilities of the
novel were shown to be practically illimitable. Tragedy is not needed:
and the most ordinary transactions, the most everyday characters,
develop into an infinite series of comedies with which the novelist can
amuse himself and his readers. The _ludicrum humani seculi_ on the one
hand, and the artist's power of extracting and arranging it on the
other--these two things supply all that is wanted. This Hampshire
parson's daughter had found the philosopher's stone of the novel: and
the very pots and pans, the tongs and pokers of the house, could be
turned into novel-gold by it.

But even gold is not everything: and only a fanatic, and a rather
foolish fanatic, would say that this style of fiction summed up and
exhausted all the good that fiction could give and do. Miss Austen's art
excludes (it has been said) tragedy; it does not let in much pure
romance; although its variety is in a way infinite, yet it is not
various in infinite ways, but rather in very finite ones. Everybody who
denies its excellence is to be blamed: but nobody is to be blamed for
saying that he should like some other excellences as well. The desire is
innocent, nay commendable: and it was being satisfied, at practically
the same time, by the work of Sir Walter Scott in a kind of novel almost
as new (when we regard it in connection with its earlier examples) as
Miss Austen's own. This was the Historical novel, which, in a way, not
only subsumed many though not quite all varieties of Romance, but also
summoned to its aid not a little--in fact a very great deal--of the
methods of the pure novel itself.

It is not very long since a critic, probably not very old, sentenced the
critical opinions of another critic, certainly not very young, to "go
into the melting pot" because they were in favour of the historical
novel: and because the historical novel had for some time past done
great harm (I think the phrase was stronger) to the imaginative
literature of England. Now there are several things which might be said
about this judgment--I do not say "in arrest" of it, because it is of
itself inoperative: as it happens you cannot put critical opinions in
the melting pot. At least, they won't melt: and they come out again
like the diabolic rat that Mr. Chips tried to pitch-boil. In the first
place, there is the question whether the greater part by far of the
imaginative and other literature of _any_ time does not itself "go into
the melting pot," and whether it much matters what sends it there. In
the second, if this seems too cynical, there is the very large and grave
question whether a still larger proportion of the novel of manners, in
England, France, and all other countries during the same time, has not
been as bad as, or worse than, the romantic division, historical or
other. But the worst faults of the judgment remain. In the first place
there is the fatal shortness of view. It is with the literature of two
thousand, not with the literature of twenty, years that the true critic
has to do: and no kind which--in two thousand, or two hundred, or
twenty--has produced literature that is good or great can be even
temporarily put aside because (as every kind of literature without
exception has been again and again) it is for a time barren or fruitful
only in weeds. And any one who does not count Scott and Dumas and
Thackeray among the makers of good literature must really excuse others
if they simply take no further count of him. The historical novel is a
good kind, good friends, a marvellous good kind: and it has the
advantage over the pure novel of manners that it is much less subject to
obsolescence, if it be really well done; while it can practically annex
most of the virtues of that novel of manners itself.

This excellent kind, however, had been wandering about in the
wilderness--had indeed hardly got so far even as that stage, but had
been a mere "bodiless childful of life in the gloom"--for more than two
thousand years before _Waverley_. Of its earlier attempts to get into
full existence we cannot say much here:[18] something on the more
recent but rather abortive birth-throes has been promised, and is now
due. It is not improbable that considerable assistance was rendered to
the kind by the heroic romance of the seventeenth century in prose and
verse, which often attempted historic, and almost always
pseudo-historic, guise. As has been seen in regard to such collections
as Croxall's, historical stories were freely mingled with fictitious:
and it could not be for nothing that Horace Walpole, the author of the
_Castle of Otranto_, was a rather ardent and even to some extent
scholarly student of the romance and the gossip of history. Much
earlier, Fielding himself, in his salad days, had given something of an
historic turn to the story of _A Journey from this World to the Next_.
And when history itself became more common and more readable, it could
not but be that this inexhaustible source of material for the new kind
of literature, which was being so eagerly demanded and so busily
supplied, should suggest itself. Some instances of late eighteenth and
early nineteenth century experiments have been given and discussed in
the last chapter: and when Scott (or "the Author of _Waverley_") had
achieved his astonishing success, some of the writers of these put in
the usual claim of "That's _my_ thunder." This was done in the case of
the Lees, it was also done in the case of Jane Porter, the writer of
the once famous and favourite _Thaddeus of Warsaw_ (1803) and _Scottish
Chiefs_ (1810): while, as we have seen, there had been historical colour
enough in Godwin's novels to make suggestion of _his_ "authorship of
_Waverley_" not absolutely preposterous. Even Mrs. Radcliffe had touched
the style; and humbler persons like the egregious Henrietta Mosse had
attempted it in the most serious spirit.

    [18] Those who are curious about the matter will find it
    treated in a set of Essays by the present writer, which
    originally appeared in _Macmillan's Magazine_ during the autumn
    of 1894, and were reprinted among _Essays in English
    Literature_, Second Series, London, 1895.

But with their varying degrees of talent--with, in one or two cases,
even a little genius--all these writers had broken themselves upon one
fatal difficulty--that of anachronism: not in the petty sense of the
pedant, but in the wide one of the critic. The present writer is not
prepared, without reading _A Peep at Our Ancestors_ again (which he
distinctly declines to do), to say that there are, in that remarkable
performance, any positive errors of historic fact worse than, or as bad,
as those which pedantry has pointed out in _Ivanhoe_. But whereas you
may be nearly as well acquainted with the actual history of the time as
the pedants themselves, and a great deal better acquainted with its
literature, and yet never be shocked, disgusted, or contemptuously
amused in _Ivanhoe_ by such things as were quoted from the _Peep_ a few
pages back--so, to those who know something of "the old Elizabeth way,"
and even nowadays to those who know very little, and that little at
second hand, Miss Lee's travesty of it in _The Recess_ is impossible and
intolerable. When Mrs. Radcliffe, at the date definitely given of 1584,
talks about "the Parisian opera," represents a French girl of the
sixteenth century as being "instructed in the English poets," and talks
about driving in a "landau," the individual blunders are, perhaps, not
more violent than those of the chronology by which Scott's Ulrica is
apparently a girl at the time of the Conquest and a woman, not too old
to be the object of rivalry between Front de Boeuf and his father, not
long before the reign of Richard I. But this last oversight does not
affect the credibility of the story, or the homogeneity of the manners,
in the least. Mrs. Radcliffe jumbles up two (or more than two) utterly
different states and stages of society, manners, and other things which
constitute the very atmosphere of the story itself. Perhaps (we have
very few easy conversations of the period to justify a positive
statement) a real Bois-Guilbert and still more a real Wamba might not
have talked exactly like Scott's personages: but there is no insistent
and disturbing reason why they should not. When we hear an Adelaise of
the mid-twelfth century asking whether she does not receive her
education from her mamma, the necessary "suspension of disbelief"
becomes impossible.

But these now most obvious truths were not obvious at all between 1780
and 1810: and it is perhaps the greatest evidence of Scott's genius that
half, but by no means quite, unconsciously he saw them, and that he has
made everybody see them since. It was undoubtedly fortunate that he
began novel-writing so late: for earlier even he might have been caught
in the errors of the time. But when he did begin, he had not only
reached middle life and matured his considerable original critical
faculty--criticism and wine are the only things that even the "kind calm
years" may be absolutely trusted to improve if there is any original
goodness in them--but he had other advantages. He had read, if not with
minute accuracy, very widely indeed: and he possessed, as Lord Morley
has well said, "the genius of history" in a degree which perhaps no
merely meticulous scholar has ever reached, and which was not exceeded
in _quality_ even by the greatest historians such as Gibbon. He had an
almost unmatched combination of common sense with poetic imagination, of
knowledge of the world with knowledge of letters. He had shown himself
to be possessed of the secret of semi-historical narrative itself in
half a dozen remarkable verse romances, and therefore had less to do in
engineering the prose romance. Last of all, he had seen what to
avoid--not merely in his editing of Strutt's _Queenhoo Hall_ (a valuable
property-room for the novel, but nothing of a real novel), but in his
reading of the failures of his predecessors and contemporaries. The very
beginning of _Waverley_ itself (which most people skip) is invaluable,
because it shows us that at the time he wrote it (which, it need hardly
be said, was a long time before its completion) he had not the knowledge
or the courage to strike straight out into the stream of action and
conversation, but troubled himself with accumulating bladders and
arranging ropes for the possible salvation of his narrative if it got
into difficulties. Very soon he knew that it would not get into
difficulties: and away he went.

It ought not to be necessary, but from some symptoms it may be
desirable, to point out that Scott is very far from being an historical
novelist only. An acute French critic, well acquainted with both
literatures, once went so far as to say that there were a good many
professed "philosophical" novels which did not contain such keen
psychology as Scott's: and I would undertake to show a good deal of
cause on this side. But short of it, it is undeniable that he can do
perfectly well without any historical scaffolding. There is practically
nothing of it in his second and third novels, _Guy Mannering_ and _The
Antiquary_, each of which good judges have sometimes ranked as his very
best: there is as little or less in _St. Ronan's Well_, a very fine
thing as it is, and one which, but for James Ballantyne's meddling folly
and prudery, would have been much finer. The incomparable little
conversation--scenes and character-sketches scattered among the
Introductions to the novels--especially the history of Crystal
Croftangry--show that he could perfectly well have dispensed with all
out-of-the-way incident had he chosen. But, as a rule, he did not so
choose: and, in the majority of cases, he preferred to take his
out-of-the-way incident from historical sources. Not here,
unfortunately, can we allow ourselves even a space proportionate to that
given above in Miss Austen's case to the criticism of individual novels:
but luckily there is not much need of this. The brilliant overture of
_Waverley_ as such, with its entirely novel combination of the
historical and the "national" elements upon the still more novel
background of Highland scenery; the equally vivid and vigorous narrative
and the more interesting personages of _Old Mortality_ and _Rob Roy_;
the domestic tragedy, with the historical element for little more than a
framework, of the _Heart of Midlothian_ and the _Bride of Lammermoor_;
the little masterpiece of _A Legend of Montrose_; the fresh departure,
with purely English subject, of _Ivanhoe_ and its triumphant sequels in
_Kenilworth, Quentin Durward_, and others; the striking utilisation of
literary assistance in the _Fortunes of Nigel_; and the wonderful
blending of autobiographic, historical, and romantic interest in
_Redgauntlet_:--one cannot dwell on these and other things. The magic
continued even in _Woodstock_--written as this was almost between the
blows of the executioner's crow-bar on the wheel, in the tightening of
the windlasses at the rack--it is not absent, whatever people may say,
in _Anne of Geierstein_, nor even quite lacking in the better parts of
_Count Robert of Paris_. But we must not expatiate on its effects; we
must only give a little attention to the means by which they are

Another of the common errors about Scott is to represent--perhaps really
to regard--him as a hit-or-miss and hand-to-mouth _improvisatore_, who
bundled out his creations anyhow, and did not himself know how he
created them. The fallacy is worse than a fallacy: for it is down-right
false witness. We have numerous passages in and out of the novels--the
chief of them being the remarkable conversation with Captain Clutterbuck
in the Introduction to the _Fortunes of Nigel_ and the reflections in
the _Diary_ on _Sir John Chiverton_ and _Brambletye House_--showing that
Scott knew perfectly well the construction and the stringing of his
fiddle, as well as the trick of applying his rosin. But if we had not
these direct testimonies, no one of any critical faculty could mistake
the presence of consciously perceived principles in the books
themselves. A man does not suddenly, and by mere blind instinct, avoid
such a pitfall as that of incongruous speech and manners, which has been
noticed above. It is not mere happy-go-lucky blundering which makes him
invariably decline another into which people still fall--the selection
of historical personages of the first importance, and elaborately known,
for the _central_ figures of his novels. Not to believe in luck is a
mark of perhaps greater folly than to over-believe in it: but luck will
not always keep a man clear of such perils as that unskilful wedging of
great blocks of mere history into his story, which the lesser historical
novelists always commit, or that preponderance of mere narrative itself
as compared with action and conversation from which even Dumas, even
Thackeray, is not free.

That he knew what he was doing and what he had to do is thus certain;
that he did it to an astounding extent is still more certain; but it
would not skill much to deny that he did not always give himself time to
do it perfectly in every respect, though it is perhaps not mere paradox
or mere partisanship to suggest that if he had given himself more time,
he would hardly have done better, and might have done worse. The
accusation of superficiality has been _already_ glanced at: and it is
pretty certain that it argues more superficiality, of a much more
hopeless kind, in those who make it. The accusation of careless and
slovenly style is not much better: for Scott had, perfectly, the style
suited to his own work, and you cannot easily have a better style than
that. But there are two defects in him which were early detected by good
and friendly judges: and which are in fact natural results of the
extraordinary force and fertility of his creative power. One--the less
serious, but certainly to some extent a fault in art and a point in
which he is distinguished for the worse from Shakespeare--is that he is
rather given to allow at first, to some of his personages, an
elaborateness and apparent emphasis of drawing which seems to promise an
importance for them in the story that they never actually attain. Mike
Lambourne in _Kenilworth_ is a good example of this: but there are many
others. The fact evidently was that, in the rush of the artist's plastic
imagination, other figures rose and overpowered these. It is an excuse:
but it is hardly a justification. The other and more serious is a
tendency--which grew on him and may no doubt have been encouraged by the
astonishing pecuniary rewards of his work--to hurry his conclusions, to
"huddle up the cards and throw them into the bag," as Lady Louisa Stuart
told him. There is one of the numerous, but it would seem generic and
classifiable, forms of unpleasant dream in which the dreamer's watch, to
his consternation, suddenly begins to send its hands round at double and
ten-fold speed. Scott is rather apt to do this, towards the close of his
novels, in his eagerness to begin something else. These defects,
however, are defects much more from the point of view of abstract
criticism than from that of the pleasure of the reader: while, even from
the former, they are outweighed many times by merits. And as regards our
present method of estimation, they hardly count at all.

For, in that calculus, the important thing is that Scott, like Miss
Austen, at once opened an immense new field to the novelist, and showed
how that field was to be cultivated. The complement-contrast of the pair
can need emphasising only to those on whom no emphasis would be likely
to impress it: but it may not be quite so evident at once that between
them they cover almost the entire possible ground of prose fiction. The
more striking and popular as well as more strictly novel style of Scott
naturally attracted most attention at first: indeed it can hardly be
said that, for the next thirty years, much attempt was made to follow in
Miss Austen's steps, while such attempts as were made were seldom very
good.[19] But there is no need to hurry Time: and he generally knows
what he is about. At any rate he had, in and through these two
provided--for generations, probably for centuries, to come--patterns and
principles for whoso would to follow in prose fiction.

    [19] Some work of distinction, actually later than hers in date,
    is older in kind. This is the case not only with the later books
    of her Irish elder sister. Miss Edgeworth (see last chapter),
    but with all those of her Scotch younger one, Miss Ferrier, who
    wrote _Marriage_ just after _Sense and Sensibility_ appeared,
    but did not publish it (1818) till after Miss Austen's death,
    following it with _The Inheritance_ (1824) and _Destiny_ (1831).
    Miss Ferrier, who had a strong though rather hard humour and
    great faculty of pronounced character-drawing, is better at a
    series of sketches than at a complete novel--only _The
    Inheritance_ having much central unity. And there is still
    eighteenth-century quality rather than nineteenth in her
    alternations of Smollettian farce-satire and Mackenziefied
    sentiment. She is very good to read, but stand a little out of
    the regular historic succession, as well as out of the ordinary
    novel classes.



A person inexperienced in the ways of life and literature might expect
that such developments as those surveyed and discussed in the last
chapter must have immediate and unbroken development further. Scott had
thrown open, and made available, the whole vast range of history for the
romancer: Miss Austen had shown the infinite possibilities of ordinary
and present things for the novelist. And such a one might contend that,
even if the common idea of definite precursorship and teachership be a
mistake, the more subtle doctrine that such work as Scott's, and as Miss
Austen's, is really the result of generally working forces, as well as
of individual genius, would lead to the same conclusion. But the
expectation would show his inexperience, and his ignorance of the fact
that Art, unlike Science, declines to be bound by any calculable laws

It was indeed impossible that Scott's towering fame should not draw the
nobler sort, and his immense gains the baser, to follow in his track:
and they promptly did so. But, as he himself quoted in the remarkable
comments (above alluded to) on his early imitators in the _Diary_, they
had "gotten his fiddle, but not his rosin"--an observation the truth of
which may be shown presently. Miss Austen's immediate influence in the
other direction was almost _nil_: and this was hardly to be regretted,
because a tolerably stationary state of manners, language, etc., such
as her kind of novel requires, had not quite, though it had nearly, been
reached. At any rate, the kind of ebb or half ebb, which so often,
though not so certainly, follows flood-tides in literature, came upon
the novel in the twenties and thirties. Even the striking appearance of
Dickens and _Pickwick_ in 1837 can hardly be said to have turned it
distinctly: for the Dickensian novel is a species by itself--neither
strictly novel nor strictly romance, but, as Polonius might say, a
picaresque-burlesque-sentimental-farcical-realist-fantastic nondescript.
Not till _Vanity Fair_ did the novel of pure real life advance its
standard once more: while the historical novel-romance of a new kind may
date its revival with--though it should scarcely trace that revival
to--_Esmond_, or _Westward Ho!_ or both.

Between Scott on the earlier side and Dickens and Thackeray on the
other, there was an immense production of novels, illustrated by not a
few names which should rank high in the second class, while some would
promote more than one of them to the first. The lines of development, as
well as the chief individual practitioners, may be best indicated by
short discussions of Hook, Bulwer, Disraeli, Ainsworth, James, Marryat,
and Peacock.

The most probable demur to this list is likely to be taken at the very
first name. Theodore Hook has had no return of the immense popularity
which his _Sayings and Doings_ (1826-1829) obtained for him; nor,
perhaps, is he ever likely to have any; nor yet, further, save in one
respect, can he be said to deserve it. Flimsily constructed, hastily
written, reflecting indeed the ways and speech of the time after a
fashion, but in a distorted mirror and with a thin and superficial
representation, nearer to bad drama than to good literature, full of
horseplay and forced high jinks--his stories have all the inseparable
faults of improvisation together with those of art that is out of
fashion and manners-painting (such as it is) of manners that are dead,
and when alive were those of a not very picturesque, pleasing, or
respectable transition. Yet, for all this, Hook has a claim on the
critical historian of literature, and especially of the novel, which has
been far too little acknowledged. And this claim does not even consist
in the undoubted fact that his influence both on Dickens and on
Thackeray was direct and very great. It lies in the larger and more
important, though connected, fact that, at a given moment, his were the
hands in which the torch of the novel-procession was deposited. He
stands to fiction almost exactly as Leigh Hunt stands to the
miscellaneous essay. He modernised and multiplied its subjects,
attractions, appeals: he "vulgarised" it in the partly good French
sense, as well as in the wholly bad English one; he was its journalist
and _colporteur_. He broke up the somewhat stock-and-type moulds of
eighteenth-century tale-telling; admitted a plurality, almost an
infinity, of interest and incident; gave a sort of universal franchise
to possible subjects of novel; and (perhaps most important of all)
banished from that novel the tendency to conventional "lingo" which,
though never so prevalent in it as in eighteenth-century drama, had
existed. It may seem to some readers that there is an exaggerated and
paradoxical opposition between this high praise and the severe censure
pronounced a little above--that both cannot be true. But both are true:
and it is a really natural and necessary cause and proof at once of
their truth that Hook never wrote a really good novel, hardly even a
really good tale ("Gervase Skinner" is probably the best), and yet that
he deserves the place here given to him.

Ainsworth and James perhaps deserve to be taken next, not so much in
point of merit as because both, though continuing (especially Ainsworth)
very late, began pretty early. Indeed, a book in which Ainsworth had a
hand, though it is said to be not wholly his, _Sir John Chiverton_, was
with Horace Smith's _Brambletye House_ (1826), the actual subject of
Scott's criticism above quoted. Both Ainsworth and James are unconcealed
followers of Scott himself: and they show the dangers to which the
historical romance is exposed when it gets out of the hands of genius.
Of the two, James had the greater scholarship, the better command of
English, and perhaps a nearer approach to command also of character:
Ainsworth more "fire in his interior," more variety, somewhat more
humour (though neither was strong in this respect), and a certain not
useless or despicable faculty of splashy scene-painting and rough but
not ineffective stage-management. But of Scott's combination of poetry,
humour, knowledge of life, reading, grasp of character, and command of
effective dialogue and description, both were utterly destitute: and
both fell into the mistake (which even Dumas did not wholly avoid) of
attempting to give the historical effect by thrusting in lardings of
pure history, by overloading descriptions of dress, etc., and, in short,
by plastering the historic colour on, instead of suffusing it, as Scott
had managed to do. Popular as they were, not merely with youthful
readers, they undoubtedly brought the historical novel into some
discredit a little before the middle of the century.[20]

    [20] Here and in a good many cases to come it is impossible to
    particularise criticism. It matters the less that, from
    Ainsworth's _Rookwood_ (1834) and James' _Richelieu_ (1829)
    onwards, the work of both was very much _par sibi_ in merit and
    defect alike.

With Bulwer and Disraeli we get into a different sphere of
literature--whether into the same in both cases, and whether, if so,
into one of the highest, are questions on which no general agreement has
yet been reached--on which, perhaps, no general agreement is even

With regard to the second, it must be remembered that to him, whether as
Mr. Disraeli or as Lord Beaconsfield, novel-writing was always a
"by-work"--partly a means to his real end of politics, partly a
relaxation from the work necessary to that end. He called himself a
"gentleman of the press"--with that mixture of sincerity, purpose, and
ironical simulation which brought on him, from unintelligent or not very
honest opponents, and even from others, the charge of affectation, if
not of hypocrisy. And, undoubtedly, he did a good deal of work for the
press, and very remarkable work too--almost wholly in the kind of
novel-writing, from _Vivian Grey_ (1826) to _Endymion_ (1880). Yet it
may be permitted--in the face of some more than respectable opinion on
the other side--to doubt whether, except in some curious sports and
by-products, he ever produced real novel-work of the highest class. In
the satiric-fantastic tale--in a kind of following of Voltaire--such as
_Ixion_, he has hardly a superior, unless it be Anthony Hamilton, who is
the superior of Voltaire himself and the master of everybody. For a pure
love-novel of a certain kind, _Henrietta Temple_ (1837) is bad to
beat--and in a curious cross between the historical, biographical, and
the romantic, _Venetia_ (same year) also stands pretty much alone. But
all the rest, more or less political, more or less "of society," more or
less fantastic--_Coningsby_ (1844) as well as _Alroy_ (1833), _Tancred_
(1847) as well as _Vivian Grey, Sybil_ (1845), as well as _The Young
Duke_ (1831), "leave to desire" in a strange way. Like the three which
have been excepted for praise, each is in a manner _sui generis_, while
the whole group stands, in a manner also, apart from others and by
itself. There is astonishing cleverness everywhere, in regard to almost
every point of novel-composition, though with special regard to
epigrammatic phrase. But the whole is _inorganic_ somehow, and more than
somehow unreal; without (save in the cases mentioned) attaining that
obviously unreal but persuasive phantasmagoria which some great writers
of fiction have managed to put in existence and motion. How far this is
due to the fact that most of the novels are political is a question
rather to be hinted than to be discussed. But the present writer has
never read a political novel, whether on his own side or on others, that
seemed to him to be wholly satisfactory.

Bulwer--for it is perhaps here not impolite or improper still to call
the first Lord Lytton by the name under which he wrote for forty years,
and solidly niched himself in the novel-front of the minster of English
Literature--had not a few points of resemblance to his rival and future
chief. But their relations to politics and letters were reversed.
Disraeli was a born politician who was also a very considerable man of
letters: Bulwer was a born man of letters who was a by no means
inconsiderable politician. His literary ability was extraordinarily
diversified: but, once more, he was (here also) a born novelist, who was
also a not inconsiderable dramatist; a critic who might not impossibly
have been great, a miscellanist of ability, and a verse-writer than whom
many a worse has somehow or other obtained the name of poet. He began
novel-writing very early (_Falkland_ is of 1827), he continued it all
his life, and he was the very Proteus-chameleon of the novel in changing
his styles to suit the tastes of the day. He never exactly copied
anybody: and in all his various attempts he went extremely near to the
construction of masterpieces. In the novel of society with _Pelham_
(1828); the novel of crime with _Eugene Aram_ (1832) and _Zanoni_
(1842); the novel of passion and a sort of mystery with _Ernest
Maltravers_ and _Alice_; the historic romance with _The Last Days of
Pompeii_ (1834), _The Last of the Barons_ (1843), and _Harold_ (1848),
he made marks deep and early. When the purely domestic kind came in he
made them, earlier and deeper still, with _The Caxtons_ (1850), _My
Novel_ (1853), etc. He caught the "sensation" ball at nearly its first
service with his old "mystery" racket, and played the most brilliant
game of the whole tournament in _A Strange Story_ (1862). At the last he
tried later kinds still in books like _The Coming Race_ (1871), _The
Parisians_ (1873), and _Kenelm Chillingly_. And once, Pallas being kind,
he did an almost perfect thing (there is not a speck or a flaw in it
except, perhaps, the mechanical death of the bulldog) and produced one
of the best examples of one of the best and oldest classes of fiction
known to the world, in the ghost-story of _The Haunted and the Haunters_

Such a mass, such a length, such a variety of production, with so many
merits in it, would be difficult to meet elsewhere in our department.
And yet very few critics of unquestionable competence, if any, have
accorded the absolute First Class to Lord Lytton as a novelist. That
this is partly (and rather unjustly) due to the singular and sometimes
positively ridiculous grandiloquence and to the half-mawkish,
half-rancid, sentimentality which too often mar his earlier novels is
probably true. But it is not all the truth: if it were, it would be
almost sufficient to point out that he outgrew the first of these faults
completely, the second almost completely; and that from _The Caxtons_
(1850) onward there is hardly any stain on his literary character in
any such respect. But other faults--or at least defects--remain. They
may be almost summed up in the charge of want of _consummateness_.
Bulwer could be romantic--but his romance had the touch of bad taste and
insincerity referred to above. He could, as in _The Caxtons_, be fairly
true to ordinary life--but even then he seemed to feel a necessity of
setting off and as it were apologising for the simplicity and veracity
by touches--in fact by _douches_--of Sternian fantastry, and by other
touches of what was a little later to be called sensationalism. Even his
handling of the supernatural, which was undoubtedly a strong point of
his, was not wholly _de ban aloi_. To pronounce him, as was once done by
an acute and amiable judge, "the _hum_miest of _bugs_" was excessive in
life, and would be preposterous in literature. But there undoubtedly
was, with rare exceptions, a suspicion of what is called in slang
"faking" about his work. The wine is not "neat" but doctored; the
composition is _pastiche_; a dozen other metaphors--of stucco, veneer,
glueing-up--suggest themselves. And then there suggests itself, in turn,
a sort of shame at such imputations on the author of such a mass of
work, so various, so interesting, so important as accomplishment,
symptom, and pattern at once. And perhaps one may end by pronouncing
Bulwer one of the very greatest of English novelists who are not of the
very greatest.

It is difficult to say whether the usual attitude of criticism to
Captain Marryat (1792-1848) is more uncritical than ungrateful or more
ungrateful than uncritical. Because he has amused the boy, it seems to
be taken for granted that he ought not to amuse the man: because he does
not write with the artificial and often extremely arbitrary graces of
the composition books, that he is "not literature." If it be so, why in
the first case so much the worse for "the man," and in the second so
much the worse for literature. As a matter of fact, he has many of the
qualities of the novelist in a high degree: and if he were in the
fortunate position of an ancient classic, whose best works only survive,
these qualities could not fail of recognition. Much of his later work
simply ought not to count; for it was mere hack-labour, rendered, if not
necessary, very nearly so by the sailor's habit (which Marryat possessed
in the highest degree) of getting rid of money. Even among this,
_Masterman Ready_ and _The Children of the New Forest_, "children's
books," as they may be called, rank very high in their kind. But he
counts here, of course, for his sea-novels mainly: and in them there are
several things for us to notice. One is that Marryat had the true
quality of the craftsman, as distinguished from the amateur or the
chance-medley man who has a lucky inspiration. If it were the case that
his books derived their whole attraction from the novelty and (within
its limits) the variety of their sea-matter, then the first ought to be
the best, as in nearly all such cases is the fact. But _Frank Mildmay_
(1829), so far from being the best, is not far from being the worst of
Marryat's novels. Much--dangerously much--as he put of his own
experiences in the book, he did not know in the least how to manage
them. And if Frank is something of a bravo, more of a blackguard, and
nearly a complete ruffian, it is not merely because there was a good
deal of brutality in the old navy; not merely because Marryat's own
standard of chivalry was not quite that of Chaucer's Knight:--but
partly, also, because he was aiming blunderingly at what he supposed to
be part of the novelist's business--irregular as well as regular
gallantry, and highly seasoned adventure. But, like all good artists
(and like hardly anybody who has not the artistic quality in him), he
taught himself by his failure, even though he sometimes relapsed. Of
actual construction he was never a master. _The King's Own_, with its
overdose of history at the beginning and of melodrama at the end, is an
example. But his two masterpieces, _Peter Simple_ (1834) and _Mr.
Midshipman Easy_ (1836), are capital instances of what may be called
"particularist" fiction--the fiction that derives its special zest from
the "colours" of some form of life unfamiliar to those who have not
actually lived it. Even _Peter Simple_ is unduly weighted at the end by
the machinations of Peter's uncle against him and, at intervals during
the book, by the proceedings connected therewith. But _Mr. Midshipman
Easy_ is flawless--except for the amiable but surely excessive
sentimentalists who are shocked at the way in which Mr. Easy _père_
quits the greater stage by mounting the lesser. Than this book there is
not a better novel of special "humour" in literature; as much may be
said of the greater part of _Peter Simple_, of not a little in _Jacob
Faithful_ (a great favourite with Thackeray, who always did justice to
Marryat), and _Japhet in Search of a Father_, and of something in almost
all. Nor were high jinks and special naval matters by any means
Marryat's only province. Laymen may agree with experts in thinking the
clubhauling of the _Diomède_ in _Peter Simple_, and the two great fights
of the _Aurora_ with the elements and with the Russian frigate in _Mr.
Midshipman Easy_, to be extraordinarily fine things:--vivid, free from
extravagance, striking, stirring, clear, as descriptive and narrative
literature of the kind can be only at its best, and too seldom is at
all. An almost Defoe-like exactness of detail is one of Marryat's
methods and merits: while it is very remarkable that he rarely attempts
to produce the fun, in which Defoe is lacking and he himself so
fertile, by mere exaggeration or caricature of detail. There are
exceptions--the Dominie business in _Jacob Faithful_ is one--but they
are exceptions. Take Hook, his immediate predecessor, and no doubt in a
way his model, as (it has been said) Hook was to almost everybody at the
time; take even Dickens, his fellow-pupil with Hook and his own greater
successor; and you will find that Marryat resorts less than either to
the humour of simple _charge_ or exaggeration.

The last name on our present list belongs to the class of "eccentric"
novelists--the adjective being used, not in its transferred and partly
improper sense so much as in its true one. Peacock never plays the
Jack-pudding like Sterne: and his shrewd wit never permits him the
sincere aberrations of Amory. But his work is out of the ordinary
courses, and does not turn round the ordinary centres of novel writing.
It belongs to the tradition--if to any tradition at all--of Lucian and
the Lucianists--especially as that tradition was redirected by Anthony
Hamilton. It thus comes, in one way, near part of the work of Disraeli;
though, except in point of satiric temper, its spirit is totally
different. Peacock was essentially a scholar (though a non-academic one)
and essentially a humorist. In the progress of his books from _Headlong
Hall_ (1816) to _Gryll Grange_ (1860)--the last separated from the group
to which the first belongs by more than twice as many years as were
covered by that group itself--he mellowed his tone, but altered his
scheme very little. Except in _Maid Marian_ and _The Misfortunes of
Elphin_, where the Scott influence is evident, though Peacock was
himself a rebel to Scott, the plan is always the same. _Headlong Hall_
and _Nightmare Abbey, Melincourt_ and _Crotchet Castle_ (1831), as well
as _Gryll Grange_ itself, all have the uniform, though by no means
monotonous, canvas of a party of guests assembled at a country-house and
consisting of a number of "originals," with one or more common-sense but
by no means commonplace characters to serve as contrast. It is in the
selection and management of these foils that one of Peacock's principal
distinctions lies. In his earlier books, and in accordance with the
manners of the time, there is a good deal of "high jinks"--less later.
In all, there is also a good deal of personal and literary satire, which
tones and mellows as it proceeds. At first Peacock is extremely unjust
to the Lake poets--so unjust indeed as to be sometimes hardly
amusing--to the two universities (of which it so happened that he was
not a member), to the Tory party generally, to clergymen, to other
things and persons. In _Crotchet Castle_ the progress of Reform was
already beginning to produce a beneficent effect of reaction upon him,
and in _Gryll Grange_, though the manners and cast are surprisingly
modern, the whole tone is conservative--with a small if not even with a
large C--for the most prominent and well treated character is a
Churchman of the best academic Tory type.

It is not, however, in anything yet mentioned that Peacock's charm
consists, so much as in the intensely literary, but not in the least
pedantic, tone with which he suffuses his books, the piquant but not in
the least affected turn of the phrases that meet us throughout, the
peculiar quality of his irony (most quintessenced in _The Misfortunes of
Elphin_, which is different in scheme from the rest, but omnipresent),
and the crisp presentation of individual scene, incident, and character
of a kind. Story, in the general sense, there is none, or next to
none--the personages meet, go through a certain number of dinners
(Peacock is great at eating and drinking), diversions, and
difficulties, marry to a greater or less extent, but otherwise part. Yet
such things as the character of Scythrop in _Nightmare Abbey_ (a half
fantastic, half faithful portrait of Shelley, who was Peacock's intimate
friend), or of Dr. Folliott (a genial parson) in _Crotchet Castle_--as
the brilliant picture of the breaking of the dyke in _Elphin_, or the
comic one of the rotten-borough election in _Melincourt_--are among the
triumphs of the English novel. And they are present by dozens and
scores: while (though it is a little out of our way) there is no doubt
that the attraction of the books is greatly enhanced by the abundance of
inset verse--sometimes serious, more often light--of which Peacock,
again in an eccentric fashion, was hardly less a master than he was of

Here also it has seemed fit to dwell on a single writer, not perhaps
generally held to be of the absolutely first class, because these
"eccentrics" are of very great importance in the history of the English
novel. The danger of the kind--even more than of other literary
kinds--lies in the direction of mould and mechanism--of the production,
by the thousand, of things of no individual quality and character. This
danger has been and is being amply exemplified. But the Peacocks (would
the plural were more justified!) save us from it by their own
unconquerable individuality in the first place and, in the second, by
the fact that even the best in this kind is "caviare to the general,"
while anything that is not the best has no attraction either for the
general or the elect. They are, as it were, the salt of the novel-feast,
in more senses than one: and it is cause for thankfulness that, in this
respect as in the physical, England has been well off for salt-pits.

Besides these individual names--which in most literatures would be
great, and even in English literature are not small--the second quarter
of the century added to the history of the novel an infinity of others
who can hardly appear here even on the representative or selective
system. All the suns of the novel hitherto mentioned had moons and stars
around them; all the _cadres_ of the various kinds were filled with
privates and non-commissioned officers to follow the leaders. Gait and
Moir carried out the "Scotch novel" with something of Scott, but more of
Smollett (Gait at least certainly, in part of his work, preceded Scott).
Lady Morgan, who has been mentioned already, Banim, Crofton Croker, and
others played a similar part to Miss Edgeworth. Glascock, Chamier, and
Howard were, as it were, lieutenants (the last directly so) to Marryat.
The didactic side of Miss Edgeworth was taken up by Harriet Martineau.
Mrs. Shelley's _Frankenstein_ (1818) is among the latest good examples
of the "Terror" class, to which her husband had contributed two of its
worst, and two of the feeblest books ever written by a man of the
greatest genius, in _Zastrozzi_ and _St. Irvyne_, some seven years
earlier. Many women, not unnaturally, encouraged by the great examples
of Miss Burney, Miss Edgeworth, Miss Austen, and Miss Ferrier, attempted
novels of the most various kinds, sometimes almost achieving the purely
domestic variety, sometimes branching to other sorts. The novels of Mrs.
Gore, chiefly in the "fashionable" kind, are said to have attained the
three-score and ten in number; Mrs. Crowe dealt with the supernatural
outside of her novels if not also in them; the luckless poetess "L.E.L."
was a novelist in _Ethel Churchill_ (1837) and other books; Mrs.
Trollope, prolific mother of a more prolific son, showed not a little
power, if not quite so much taste, in _The Vicar of Wrexhill_ (1837) and
_The Widow Barnaby_. Single books, like Morier's _Hajji Baba_ (1824),
Hope's _Anastasius_ (1819), Croly's _Salathiel_ (1829), gained fame
which they have not quite lost: and the little known Michael Scott
(1789-1835) left in _Tom Cringle's Log_ and _The Cruise of the Midge_ a
pair of stories of West Indian scenery and adventure which are nearly
first rate. In 1839, not long after _Pickwick_, Samuel Warren's _Ten
Thousand a Year_ blended Bulwer and Dickens in a manner which to this
day is a puzzle in its near approach to success. Yet he never repeated
this approach, though he had earlier done striking things in the _Diary
of a Late Physician_ (1830). But in the latest thirties and early
forties there arose two writers who were to eclipse every one of their
contemporaries in this kind.

The remarkable originality and idiosyncrasy of Dickens have perhaps, to
some extent and from not a few persons, concealed the fact that he was
not, any more than other people, an earth-born wonder. Scanted of
education as he was, he has in several places frankly and eagerly
confessed his early acquaintance with the great older novelists, and his
special fancy for Smollett--whose influence indeed is traceable on him
from first to last, and not least in the famous "interiors" of which he
made far more than his example had done. Even in _Pickwick_ the expert
will trace suggestions from others. But if the work is read in its
proper order, and the _Sketches by Boz_ are taken first, nobody who
knows both Leigh Hunt and Theodore Hook will fail to see that Dickens
owed a great deal to both. The fact is in no sense discreditable to him:
on the contrary, it adds, in the estimation of all reasonable and
critical judges, a very great deal of interest, and takes away none. The
earth-born prodigy is seldom good for much and never for very much. The
genius who fastens on the points in preceding literature most congenial
to him, develops them, builds on them with his own matter and form, and
turns out something far greater than his originals is the really
satisfactory person. Had Leigh Hunt lent to Hook his literature, his
fund of trivial but agreeable observation and illustration, and his
attractive style; had Hook communicated to Hunt his narrative faculty
and his fecundity in character and manners:--neither could have written
_Pickwick_ or even the worst of its successors. Had there been no Hunt
and no Hook, Dickens would no doubt have managed, in some fashion, to
"do for himself." But it would have given him more trouble, he would
have done it more slowly, and he would hardly have earned that generous
and admirable phrase of his greatest contemporary in fiction which will
be quoted shortly.

Neither from Smollett, however, nor from Hook, nor from Hunt, nor from
anybody else did Dickens take what makes him Dickens. His idiosyncrasy,
already mentioned, is so marked that everybody acknowledges its
presence: but its exact character and nature are matter not so much of
debate (though they are that also in the highest degree) as matter of
more or less _questing_, often of a rather blind-man's-buff kind. There
is probably no author of whom really critical estimates are so rare. He
has given so much pleasure to so many people--perhaps there are none to
whom he has given more pleasure than to some of those who have
criticised him most closely--that to mention any faults in him is
upbraided as a sort of personal and detestable ingratitude and
treachery. If you say that he cannot draw a gentleman, you are told that
you are a parrot and a snob, who repeats what other snobs have told you;
that gentlemen are not worth drawing; that he _can_ draw them; and so
forth. If you suggest that he is fantastic, it is reproachfully asked if
poetry is not fantastic, and if you do not like poetry? If you intimate
small affection for Little Nell and Little Paul, you are a brute; if you
hint that his social crusades were often quite irrational, and sometimes
at least as mischievous as they were beneficial, you are a parasite of
aristocracy and a foe of "the people." If you take exception to his
repetitions, his mannerisms, his tedious catch-processes of various
kinds, you are a "stop-watch critic" and worthy of all the generous
wrath of the exemplary and Reverend Mr. Yorick. And yet all these
assertions, objections, descriptions, are arch-true: and they can be
made by persons who know Dickens and enjoy Dickens a thousand times
better--who admire him in a manner a thousand times more really
complimentary--than the folk who simply cry "Great is Dickens" and will
listen to nothing but their own sweet voices.

The real, the great, the unique merit of Dickens is that he brought to
the service of the novel an imagination which, though it was never
poetic, was plastic in almost the highest degree: and that he
communicated to the results of it a kind of existence which, though
distinctly different from that of actual life, has a reality of its own,
and possesses the distinguishing mark of genius, so that if it does not
exactly force belief in itself, it forces suspension of disbelief. To
have done this is not only to have accomplished a wonderful artistic
triumph, but to confer an immense benefit on the human race. But in
doing it Dickens exhibits various foibles, prejudices, and disabilities:
though it is quite open to any one to maintain that these rather
assisted the flow of his imagination than hindered it. He began very
young; he had curiously little literature; his knowledge of life,
extraordinarily alert and acute, was very one-sided, and the organs by
which he attained it seem absolutely to shut themselves and refuse
communion with certain orders of society and classes of human creatures.
The wealth of fantastic imagery which he used to such purpose not
infrequently stimulated him to a disorderly profusion of grotesque; he
was congenitally melodramatic; and before very long his habit of
attributing special catch-words, gestures, and the like to his
characters, exaggerated, degenerated, and stereotyped itself in a
fashion which it is difficult to think satisfactory to anybody. He was,
moreover, a "novelist of purpose" in the highest degree; he had very
strong, but very crude--not to say absurd--political ideas; and he was
apt to let the great powers of pathos, of humour, of vivid description,
which he possessed to "get out of hand" and to land him in the maudlin,
the extravagant, and the bombastic.

But--to put ourselves in connection with the main thread of our story
once more--he not only himself provided a great amount of the novel
pleasure for his readers, but he infused into the novel generally
something of a new spirit. It has been more than once pointed out that
there is almost more danger with the novel of "getting into ruts" than
with any kind of literature. Nobody could charge the Dickens novel with
doing this, except as regards mannerisms of style, and though it might
inspire many, it was very unlikely to create a rut for any one else. He
liked to call himself "the inimitable," and so, in a way, he was.
Imitations of him were, of course, tried: but they were all bad and
obvious failures. Against the possible tameness of the domestic novel;
against the too commonly actual want of actuality of the historic
romance; he set this new fantastic activity of his, which was at once
real and unreal, but where the reality had a magical touch of the
unfamiliar and the very unreality was stimulating. He might have a
hundred faults--he was in fact never faultless, except in _Pickwick_,
which is so absolutely unique that there is nothing to compare with it
and show up faults (if it has any) by the comparison. But you can read
him again and again with unceasing delight, and with delight of a kind
given by no other novelist.[21]

    [21] It has not been thought necessary to insert criticism of
    Dickens's individual novels. They are almost all well known to
    almost everybody: and special discussion of them would be
    superfluous, while their general characteristics and positions
    in novel-history are singularly uniform and can be described

The position of Thackeray in the history of the novel is as different
from that of Dickens as the fortunes of the two were in their own
progress and development. In fact, though a sort of pseudo-Plutarchian
parallel between them is nearly as inevitable as it is common, it is a
parallel almost entirely composed of differences, carried out in matter
almost incommensurable. In the first place, Dickens, as we have seen,
and as Thackeray said (with the generous and characteristic addition "at
the head of the whole tribe"), "came and took his place calmly" and
practically at once (or with the preliminary only of "Boz") in
_Pickwick_. Whether he ever went further may at least be questioned. But
Thackeray did not take his place at once--in fact he conspicuously
failed to take it for some sixteen years: although he produced, for at
least the last ten of these, work containing indications of
extraordinary power, in a variety of directions almost as extraordinary.

To attempt to assign reasons for this comparative failure would be
idle--the fact is the only reasonable reason. But some phenomena and
symptoms can be diagnosed. It is at least noteworthy that Thackeray--in
this approaching Dickens perhaps nearer than in any other point--began
with extravaganza--to adopt perhaps the most convenient general name
for a thing which cannot be quite satisfactorily designated by any. In
both cases the adoption was probably due to the example and popularity
of Theodore Hook. But it was also due, in a higher and more metaphysical
sense, to the fact that the romance, which had had so mighty a success
in Scott's hands, was for the time overblown, and that the domestic
novel, despite the almost equally wonderful, though much quieter and
less popular achievement of Miss Austen, was not thoroughly and
genuinely ready. From extravaganza in a certain sense Dickens, as has
been said, never really departed: and he achieved most of his best work
in his own peculiar varieties of it. Thackeray was, if not to leave it
entirely aside, to use it in his later days merely as an occasional
variation and seasoning. But at first he could not, apparently, get free
from it: and he might have seemed unable to dispense with its almost
mechanical externalities of mis-spelling and the like. It must also be
remembered that circumstances were at first curiously unfavourable to
him: and that loss of fortune, domestic affliction, and other things
almost compelled him to write from hand to mouth--to take whatever
commission offered itself: whereas the, if not immediate, speedy and
tremendous success of _Pickwick_ put the booksellers entirely at
Dickens's feet. Still, a certain vacillation--an uncertainty of design
not often accompanying genius like his--must be acknowledged in
Thackeray. For a time he hesitated between pen and pencil, the latter of
which implements he fortunately never abandoned, though the former was
his predestined wand. Then he could not, or would not, for years, get
out of the "miscellaneous" style, or patchwork of styles--reviews, short
stories, burlesques, what not. His more important attempts seemed to
have an attendant _guignon_.[22] _Catherine_ (1839-1840), a very powerful
thing in parts, was ill-planned and could not be popular. _A Shabby
Genteel Story_ (1841), containing almost the Thackerayan _quiddity_, was
interrupted partly by his wife's illness, partly, it would seem, by
editorial disfavour, and moreover still failed to shake off the
appearance of a want of seriousness. Even _The Great Hoggarty Diamond_
(1841-1842) was apparently cut short by request, and still lay open to
an unjust, but not quite inexcusable, question on this same point of
"seriousness." In all there was, or might seem to be, a queer and to
some readers an unsatisfactory blend of what they had not learnt to call
"realism" with what they were quite likely to think fooling. During
these years Thackeray was emphatically of the class of writers of whom
people "do not know what to make." And it is a true saying of English
people--though perhaps not so pre-eminently true of them as some would
have it--that "not to know what to make" of a thing or a person is
sufficient reason for them to distrust, dislike, and "wash their hands
of" it or him.

    [22] For this reason, and for the variety of kind of his later
    novels a little more individual notice must be given to them
    than in the case of Dickens, but still only a little, and
    nothing like detailed criticism.

Some would have it that _Barry Lyndon_ (1843) marks the close of this
period of indecision and the beginning of that of maturity. The commoner
and perhaps the juster opinion is that this position belongs to _Vanity
Fair_ (1846-1848). At any rate, _after_ that book there could be no
doubt about the fact of the greatness of its writer, though it may be
doubted whether even now the quality of this greatness is correctly and
generally recognised. It is this--that at last the novel of real life on
the great scale has been discovered. Even yet a remnant of shyness hangs
on the artist. He puts his scene a little though not very far back; he
borrows a little, though not much, historical and romantic interest in
the Waterloo part; the catastrophe of the Becky-Steyne business, though
by no means outside of the probable contents of any day's newspaper, is
slightly exceptional. But on the whole the problem of "reality, the
whole reality, and nothing but reality" is faced and grasped and
solved--with, of course, the addition to the "nothing but" of "except

He had struck his path and he kept to it: even when, as in _Esmond_
(1852) and _The Virginians_ (1858-1859) actually, and in _Denis Duval_
prospectively, he blended the historical with the domestic variety.
_Pendennis_ (1849-1850) imports nothing out of the most ordinary
experience; _The Newcomes_ (1854-1855) very little; _Philip_ (1861-1862)
only its pantomime conclusion; while the two completely historical tales
are in nothing more remarkable than in the way in which their remoter
and more unfamiliar main subject, and their occasional excursions from
everyday life, are subdued to the scheme of the realist novel in the
best sense of the term--the novel rebuilt and refashioned on the lines
of Fielding, but with modern manners, relying on variety and life, and
relying on these only.

There is thus something of similarity (though with attendant
differences, of the most important kind) between the joint position of
Dickens and Thackeray towards the world of the novel, and the joint
position of Scott and Miss Austen. They _overlap_ more than their great
forerunners of the preceding generation. Both wrote historical novels:
it is indeed Thackeray's unique distinction that he was equally master
of the historical novel and of the novel of pure modern society, almost
uneventful. In parts of some of his later books, especially _Little
Dorrit_, _Great Expectations_, and _Our Mutual Friend_, Dickens at
least tried to exchange his picaresque-fantastic cloudland for actual
ordinary modern life. But on the whole the method of Thackeray was the
method of the novel, though shot with a strong romantic spirit, and the
method of Dickens the method of the romance applied, for the most part,
to material which could hardly be called romantic. Both, therefore, in a
manner, recalled the forces of fiction from the rather straggling and
particularist courses which it had been pursuing for the last quarter of
a century.

In fact, even in the two mighty men of genius whom we have just been
discussing, there may be seen--at their beginnings at least--something
of that irresolution, uncertainty, and want of reliance on the powers of
the novel, it-by-itself-it, which we have noticed before: and which the
unerring craftsmanship of Scott had already pointed out in the
"Conversation of the Author of _Waverley_ with Captain Clutterbuck" more
than once referred to. They want excuses and pretexts, bladders and
spring-boards. Even Dickens, despite his irrepressible self-reliance,
burdens himself, at the beginning of _Pickwick_, with the clumsy old
machinery of a club which he practically drops: and, still later, with
the still more clumsy framework of "Master Humphrey's Clock" which he
has not quietly to drop, but openly to strip off and cast away, before
he has gone very far. Thackeray takes sixteen years of experiment before
he trusts his genius, boldly and on the great scale, to reveal itself in
its own way, and in the straight way of the novel.

Yet in this time also a great advance was made, as is shown not only by
the fact that Dickens and Thackeray themselves became possible, but by
the various achievements of the principal writers mentioned in this
chapter, of one or two who might have been, but are perhaps, on the
whole, best postponed to the next, such as Lever, and of the great army
of minorities who have been of necessity omitted. In every direction and
from every point of view novel is _growing_. Although it was abused by
precisians, the _gran conquesta_ of Scott had forced it into general
recognition and requisition. Even the still severe discipline of family
life in the first half of the nineteenth century, instead of excluding
it altogether, contented itself with prescribing that "novels should not
be read in the morning." A test which may be thought vulgar by the
super-fine or the superficial, but a pretty good one, is the altered
status and position of the writers of novels. In the eighteenth,
especially the earlier eighteenth, century the novelist had not merely
been looked down upon _as_ a novelist, but had, as a rule, resorted to
novel-writing under some stress of circumstance. Even when he was by
birth a "gentleman of coat armour" as Fielding and Smollett were, he was
usually a gentleman very much out at elbows: the stories, true or false,
of _Rasselas_ and Johnson's mother's funeral expenses, of the _Vicar of
Wakefield_ and Goldsmith's dunning landlady, have something more than
mere anecdote in them. Mackenzie, though the paternity of his _famille
déplorable_ of novels was no secret, preserved a strict nominal
incognito. Women, as having no regular professions and plenty of time at
their disposal, were allowed more latitude: and this really perhaps had
something to do with their early prominence in the novel; but it is
certain that Scott's rigid, and for a long time successful, maintenance
of the mask was by no means mere prudery, and still less merely prudent
commercial speculation. Yet he, who altered so much in the novel,
altered this also. Of the novelists noticed in the early part of this
chapter, one became Prime Minister of England, another rose to cabinet
rank, a baronetcy, and a peerage; a third was H.M. consul in important
posts abroad; a fourth held a great position, if not in the service
directly of the crown, in what was of hardly less importance, that of
the East India Company; a fifth was a post-captain in the navy and
Companion of the Bath.

And all this had been rendered possible partly by the genius of
novel-writers, partly by the appetite of the novel-reader. This latter
was to continue unabated: whether the former was to increase, to
maintain itself, or slacken must be, to some extent of course, matter of
opinion. But we have still two quarter-centuries to survey, in the first
of which there may perhaps be some reason for thinking that the novel
rose to its actual zenith. Nearly all the writers mentioned in this
chapter continued to write--the greater part, in genius, of Thackeray's
accomplished work, and the greater part, in bulk, of Dickens's, had
still to appear. But these elders were reinforced by fresh recruits,
some of them of a prowess only inferior to the very greatest: and a
distinct development of the novel itself, in the direction of
self-reliance and craftsmanlike working on its own lines, was to be
seen. In particular, the deferred influence of Miss Austen was at last
to be brought to bear with astonishing results: while, partly owing to
the example of Thackeray, the historical variety (which had for the most
part been a pale and rather vulgarised imitation of Scott), was to be
revived and varied in a manner equally astonishing. More than ever we
shall have to let styles and kinds "speak by their foremen"--in fact to
some extent to let them speak for themselves with very little detailed
notice even of these foremen. But we shall still endeavour to keep the
general threads in hand and to exhibit their direction, their crossing,
and their other phenomena, as clearly as possible to the reader. For
only so can we complete the picture of the course of fiction throughout
English literature--with the sole exclusion of living writers, whose
work can never be satisfactorily treated in such a book as this--first,
because they are living and, secondly, because it is not done.



At about the very middle of the nineteenth century--say from 1845 to
1855 in each direction, but almost increasingly towards the actual
dividing line of 1850--there came upon the English novel a very
remarkable wind of refreshment and new endeavour. Thackeray and Dickens
themselves are examples of it, with Lever and others, before this
dividing line: many others yet come to join them. A list of books
written out just as they occur to the memory, and without any attempt to
marshal them in strict chronological order, would show this beyond all
reasonable possibility of gainsaying. Thackeray's own best accomplished
work from _Vanity Fair_ (1846) itself through _Pendennis_ (1849) and
_Esmond_ (1852) to _The Newcomes_ (1854); the brilliant centre of
Dickens's work in _David Copperfield_ (1850)--stand at the head and have
been already noticed by anticipation or implication, while Lever had
almost completed the first division of his work, which began with _Harry
Lorrequer_ as early as the year of _Pickwick_. But such books as _Yeast_
(1848), _Westward Ho!_ (1855); as _The Warden_ (1855); as _Jane Eyre_
(1847) and its too few successors; as _Scenes of Clerical Life_ (1857);
as _Mary Barton_ (1848) and the novels which followed it, with others
which it is perhaps almost unfair to leave out even in this allusive
summary by sample, betokened a stirring of the waters, a rattling among
the bones, such as is not common in literature. Death removed Thackeray
early and Dickens somewhat less prematurely, but after a period rather
barren in direct novel work. The others continued and were constantly
reinforced: nor was it till well on in the seventies that any distinct
drop from first- to second-growth quality could be observed in the
general vintage of English fiction.

One is not quite driven, on this occasion, to the pusillanimous
explanation that this remarkable variety and number of good novels was
simply due to the simultaneous existence of an equally remarkable number
of good novelists. The fact is that, by this time, the great example of
Scott and Miss Austen--the great wave of progress which exemplified
itself first and most eminently in these two writers--had had time to
work upon and permeate another generation of practitioners. The
novelists who have just been cited were as a rule born in the second
decade of the century, just before, about, or after the time at which
Scott and Miss Austen began to publish. They had therefore--as their
elders, even though they may have had time to read the pair, had
not--time to assimilate thoroughly and early the results which that pair
had produced or which they had first expressed. And they had even
greater advantages than this. They had had time to assimilate, likewise,
the results of all the rest of that great literary generation of which
Scott and Miss Austen were themselves but members. They profited by
thirty years more of constant historical exploration and realising of
former days. One need not say, for it is question-begging, that they
also _profited_ by, but they could at least avail themselves of, the
immense change of manners and society which made 1850 differ more from
1800 than 1800 had differed, not merely from 1750 but from 1700. They
had, even though all of them may not have been sufficiently grateful for
it, the stimulus of that premier position in Europe which the country
had gained in the Napoleonic wars, and which she had not yet wholly lost
or even begun to lose. They had wider travel, more extended occupations
and interests, many other new things to draw upon. And, lastly, they had
some important special incidents and movements--the new arrangement of
political parties, the Oxford awakening, and others--to give suggestion
and impetus to novels of the specialist kind. Nay, they had not only the
great writers, in other kinds, of the immediate past, but those of the
present, Carlyle, Tennyson, latterly Ruskin, and others still to
complete their education and the machinery of its development.

The most remarkable feature of this _renouveau_, as has been both
directly and indirectly observed before, is the resumption, the immense
extension, and the extraordinary improvement of the domestic novel. Not
that this had not been practised during the thirty years since Miss
Austen's death. But the external advantages just enumerated had failed
it: and it had enlisted none of the chief talents which were at the
service of fiction generally. A little more gift and a good deal more
taste might have enabled Mrs. Trollope to do really great things in it:
but she left them for her son to accomplish. Attempts and "tries" at it
had been made constantly, and the goal had been very nearly reached,
especially, perhaps, in that now much forgotten but remarkable _Emilia
Wyndham_ (1846) by Anne Caldwell (Mrs. Marsh), which was wickedly
described by a sister novelist as the "book where the woman breaks her
desk open with her head," but which has real power and exercised real
influence for no short time.

This new domestic novel followed Miss Austen in that it did not
necessarily avail itself of anything but perfectly ordinary life, and
relied chiefly on artistic presentment--on treatment rather than on
subject. It departed from her in that it admitted a much wider range and
variety of subject itself; and by no means excluded the passions and
emotions which, though she had not been so prudish as to ignore their
results, she had never chosen to represent in much actual exercise, or
to make the mainsprings of her books.

The first supreme work of the kind was perhaps in _Vanity Fair_ and
_Pendennis_, the former admitting exceptional and irregular developments
as an integral part of its plot and general appeal, the latter doing for
the most part without them. But _Pendennis_ exhibited in itself, and
taught to other novelists, if not an absolutely new, a hitherto little
worked, and clumsily worked, source of novel interest. We have seen how,
as early as Head or Kirkman, the possibility of making such a source out
of the ways of special trades, professions, employments, and vocations
had been partly seen and utilised. Defoe did it more; Smollett more
still; and since the great war there had been naval and military novels
in abundance, as well as novels political, clerical, sporting, and what
not. But these special interests had been as a rule drawn upon too
onesidedly. The eighteenth century found its mistaken fondness for
episodes, inset stories, and the like, particularly convenient here: the
naval, military, sporting, and other novels of the nineteenth were apt
to rely too exclusively on these differences. Such things as the
Oxbridge scenes and the journalism scenes of _Pendennis_--both among the
most effective and popular, perhaps _the_ most effective and popular,
parts of the book--were almost, if not entirely, new. There had been
before, and have since been, plenty of university novels, and their
record has been a record of almost uninterrupted failure; there have
since, if not before, _Pendennis_ been several "press" novels, and their
record has certainly not been a record of unbroken success. But the
employment here, by genius, of such subjects for substantial _parts_ of
a novel was a success pure and unmixed. So, in the earlier book, the
same author had shown how the most humdrum incident and the minutest
painting of ordinary character could be combined with historic tragedy
like that furnished by Waterloo, with domestic _drame_ of the most
exciting kind like the discovery of Lord Steyne's relations with Becky,
or the at least suggested later crime of that ingenious and rather
hardly treated little person.

Most of the writers mentioned and glanced at above took--not of course
always, often, or perhaps ever in conscious following of Thackeray, but
in consequence of the same "skiey influences" which worked on him--to
this mixed domestic-dramatic line. And what is still more interesting,
men who had already made their mark for years, in styles quite
different, turned to it and adopted it. We have seen this of Bulwer, and
the evidences of the change in him which are given by the "Caxton"
novels. We have not yet directly dealt with another instance of almost
as great interest and distinction, Charles Lever, though we have named
him and glanced at his work.

Lever, who was born as early as 1806, had, it has been said, begun to
write novels as early as his junior, Dickens, and had at once developed,
in _Harry Lorrequer_, a pretty distinct style of his own. This style was
a kind of humour-novel with abundant incident, generally with a somewhat
"promiscuous" plot and with lively but externally drawn characters--the
humours being furnished partly by Lever's native country, Ireland, and
partly by the traditions of the great war of which he had collected a
store in his capacity of physician to the Embassy at Brussels. He had
kept up this style, the capital example of which is _Charles O'Malley_
(1840), with unabated _verve_ and with great popular success for a dozen
years before 1850. But about that time, or rather earlier, the general
"suck" of the current towards a different kind (assisted no doubt by the
feeling that the public might be getting tired of the other style) made
him change it into studies of a less specialised kind--of foreign
travel, home life, and the like--sketches which, in his later days
still, he brought even closer to actuality. It is true that in the long
run his popularity has depended, and will probably always depend, on the
early "rollicking" adventure books: not only because of their natural
appeal, but because there is plenty of the other thing elsewhere, and
hardly any of this particular thing anywhere. To almost anybody, for
instance, except a very great milksop or a pedant of construction,
_Charles O'Malley_ with its love-making and its fighting, its
horsemanship and its horse-play, its "devilled kidneys"[23] and its
devil-may-care-ness, is a distinctly delectable composition; and if a
reasonable interval be allowed between the readings, may be read over
and over again, at all times of life, with satisfaction. But the fact of
the author's change remains not the less historically and
symptomatically important, in connection with the larger change of which
we are now taking notice, and with the similar phenomena observable in
the work of Bulwer. At the same time it has been pointed out that the
following of Miss Austen by no means excluded the following of Scott:
and that the new development included "crosses" of novel and romance,
sometimes of the historical kind, sometimes not, which are of the
highest, or all but the highest, interest. Early and good examples of
these may be found in the work of the Brontës, Charlotte and Emily (the
third sister Anne is but a pale reflection of her elders), and of
Charles Kingsley. Charlotte (b. 1816) and Charles (b. 1819) were
separated in their birth by but three years, Emily (b. 1818) and
Kingsley by but one.

    [23] Edgar Poe has a perfectly serious and very characteristic
    explosion at the prominence of these agreeable viands in the

The curious story of the struggles of the Brontë girls to get published
hardly concerns us, and Emily's work, _Wuthering Heights_,[24] is one of
those isolated books which, whatever their merit, are rather ornaments
than essential parts in novel history. But this is not the case with
_Jane Eyre_ (1847), _Shirley_ (1849), _Villette_ (1852), and _The
Professor_ (1857) (but written much earlier). These are all examples of
the determination to base novels on actual life and experience. Few
novelists have ever kept so close to their own part in these as
Charlotte Brontë did, though she accompanied, permeated, and to a
certain extent transformed her autobiography and observation by a
strong romantic and fantastic imaginative element. Deprive Thackeray and
Dickens of nearly all their humour and geniality, take a portion only of
the remaining genius of each in the ratio of about 2 _Th_. to 1 _D_.,
add a certain dash of the old terror-novel and the German fantastic
tale, moisten with feminine spirit and water, and mix thoroughly: and
you have something very like Charlotte Brontë. But it is necessary to
add further, and it is her great glory, the perfume and atmosphere of
the Yorkshire moors, which she had in not quite such perfection as her
sister Emily, but in combination with more general novel-gift. Her
actual course of writing was short, and it could probably in no case
have been long; she wanted wider and, perhaps, happier experience, more
literature, more man-and-woman-of-the-worldliness, perhaps a sweeter and
more genial temper. But the English novel would have been incomplete
without her and her sister; they are, as wholes, unlike anybody else,
and if they are not exactly great they have the quality of greatness.
Above all, they kept novel and romance together--a deed which is great
without any qualification or drawback.

    [24] Some will have it that this was really Charlotte's: but not
    with much probability.

Charles Kingsley is one of the most precious documents for the cynics
who say that while, if you please the public in only one way, you may
possibly meet with only tolerable ingratitude; if you attempt to please
it in more ways than one, you are certain to be suspected, and still
more certain to have the defects of your weakest work transferred to
your best. He was a novelist, a poet, an essayist, a preacher, a
historian, and a critic. His history, though less positively inaccurate
than the "dead set" against him of certain notorious persons chose to
represent it, was uncritical: and his criticism, sometimes acute and
luminous, was decidedly unhistorical. But he was a preacher of
remarkable merit, a charming and original essayist, a poet of no wide
range but of true poetical quality, and a novelist of great variety and
of almost the first class. He let his weakest qualities go in with his
strongest in his novels, and had also the still more unfortunate
tendency to "trail coats" of the most inconceivably different colours
for others to tread upon. Liberals, Radicals, and Tories; Roman
Catholics, High Churchmen, Low Churchmen, and No-Churchmen;
sentimentalists and cynics; people who do not like literary and
historical allusion, and people who are meticulous about literary and
historical accuracy--all these and many others, if they cannot disregard
flings at their own particular tastes, fancies, and notions, are sure to
lose patience with him now and then. Accordingly, he has met with some
exacerbated decriers, and with very few thorough-going defenders.

Yet _almost_ thoroughing-going defence is, as far as the novels (our
only direct business) are concerned, far from difficult; and the present
writer, though there are perhaps not a dozen consecutive pages of
Kingsley's novels to which, at some point or other, he is not prepared
to append the note, "This is Bosh," is prepared also to exalt him miles
above writers whose margins he would be quite content to leave without a
single annotation of this--or any other--kind. In particular the variety
of the books, and their vividness, are both extraordinary. And perhaps
the greatest notes of the novel generally, as well as those in which the
novel of this period can most successfully challenge comparison with
those of any other, are, or should be, vividness and variety. His books
in the kind are seven; and the absence of _replicas_ among them is one
of their extraordinary features. _Yeast_, the first (1848), and _Alton
Locke_, the second (next year), are novels of the unrest of thought
which caused and accompanied the revolutionary movement of the period
throughout Europe. But they are quite different in subject and
treatment. The first is a sketch of country society, uppermost and
lowermost:[25] the second one of town-artisan and lower-trade life with
passages of university and other contrast. Both are young and crude
enough, intentionally or unintentionally; both, intentionally beyond
all doubt, are fantastic and extravagant; but both are full of genius.
Argemone Lavington, the heroine of _Yeast_, is, though not of the most
elaborately drawn, one of the most fascinating and real heroines of
English fiction; an important secondary character of the second book,
the bookseller Sandy Mackaye, is one of its most successful
"character-parts." Both, but especially _Yeast_, are full of admirable
descriptive writing, not entirely without indebtedness to Mr. Ruskin,
but very often independently carried out, and always worthy of a "place
on the line" in any gallery. There is much accurate and real dialogue,
not a little firm character-drawing. Above all, both are full of
blood--of things lived and seen, not vamped up from reading or
day-dreaming--and yet full of dreams, day and other, and full of
literature. Perhaps "the malt was a little above the meal," the yeast
present in more abundant quality than the substances for fermentation,
but there was no lack even of these.

    [25] It is curious to compare this (dealing as it does largely
    with sport) and the "Jorrocks" series of Robert Surtees
    (1803-1864). Kingsley was nearly as practical a sportsman as
    Surtees: but Surtees's characters and manners have the old
    artificial-picaresque quality only.

_Hypatia_--which succeeded after some interval (1853) and when the
writer's Christian Socialist, Churchman-Chartist excitement had somewhat
clarified itself--is a more substantial, a more ambitious, but certainly
also an even more successful book. It has something of--and perhaps,
though in far transposed matter, owes something to--_Esmond_ in its
daring blend of old and new, and it falls short of that wonderful
creation. But it is almost a second to it: and, with plenty of faults,
is perhaps the only classical or semi-classical novel of much value in

But it was in the next year, 1854, that Kingsley's work reached its
greatest perfection in the brilliant historical novel of _Westward Ho!_
where the glories of Elizabethan adventure and patriotism were treated
with a wonderful kindred enthusiasm, with admirable narrative faculty,
with a creation of character, suitable for the purpose, which is hardly
inferior to that of the greatest masters, and with an even enhanced and
certainly chastened exercise of the descriptive faculty above noticed.
The book to some extent invited--and Kingsley availed himself of the
opportunity in a far more than sufficient degree--that "coat-trailing"
which, as has been said, inevitably in its turn provokes "coat-treading":
and it has been abused from various quarters. But that it is one of
the very greatest of English novels next to the few supreme, impartial
and competent criticism will never hesitate to allow. Of his remaining
books of novel kind one was of the "eccentric" variety: the others,
though full of good things, were perhaps on the whole failures. The
first referred to (the second in order of appearance), _The Water
Babies_ (1863), is a half Rabelaisian though perfectly inoffensive
_fatrasie_ of all sorts of things, exceedingly delightful to fit tastes.
But _Two Tears Ago_ (1857), though containing some fine and even really
exquisite things, shows a relaxing hand on the crudity and
promiscuousness which had been excusable in his two first books and had
been well restrained in _Hypatia_ and _Westward Ho!_ by central and
active interests of story and character. "Spasmodic" poetry, the Crimean
War, Pre-Raphaelitism, Tractarianism, the good and bad sides of science,
and divers other things make a mixture that is not sufficiently
concocted and "rectified." While in the much later _Hereward the Wake_
(1866), though the provocation offered to the Dryasdust kind of
historian is no matter, there is a curious relapse on the old fault of
incorporating too much history or pseudo-history, and the same failure
as in _Two Tears Ago_, or perhaps a greater one in degree, to concoct
the story (which is little more than a chronicle) together with a
certain neglect to conciliate the sympathies of the reader. But the
whole batch is a memorable collection; and it shows, rather
exceptionally, the singular originality and variety of the novel at this

This remarkable pair may be supplemented by an in some ways more
remarkable trio, all of them pretty close contemporaries, but, for
different reasons in each case, coming rather late into the novel
field--Charles Reade (b. 1814), Anthony Trollope (b. 1815), and Mary Ann
Evans (b. 1819). It would be difficult to find three persons more
different in temperament; impossible to find more striking instances of
the way in which the new blend of romance and novel lent itself to the
most various uses and developments. Reade--who thought himself a
dramatist and wasted upon drama a great deal of energy and an almost
ideal position as a possessor of an unusually rich fellowship at
Magdalen College, Oxford, with no duties--came rather closer to Dickens
than to any novelist previously named, not merely in a sort of
non-poetic but powerful imagination, but also in the mania for attacking
what seemed to him abuses--in lunatic asylums (on which point he was
very nearly a monomaniac himself), prisons, and many other things. But
he is almost more noteworthy, from our point of view, because of his
use--it also must, one fears, be called an abuse--of a process obviously
invited by the new demand for truth to life, and profitable up to a
certain point. This was the collection, in enormous scrapbooks, of
newspaper cuttings on a vast variety of subjects, to be worked up into
fiction when the opportunity served. Reade had so much genius--he had
perhaps the most, in a curious rather incalculable fashion, of the whole
group--that he very nearly succeeded in digesting these "marine stores"
of detail and document into real books. But he did not always, and
could not always, quite do it: and he remains, with Zola, the chief
example of the danger of working at your subject too much as if you were
getting up a brief, or preparing an article for an encyclopedia. Still,
his greatest books, which are probably _It is Never too Late to Mend_
(1856) and _The Cloister and the Hearth_ (1861), have immense vigour
and, in the second case, an almost poetic attraction which Dickens never
reaches, while over all sparks and veins of genius are scattered.
Moreover, he is interesting because, until his own time, he would have
been quite impossible; and, even at that time, without the general
movement which we are describing, very unlikely.

There is not so much object here in discussing the much discussed
question of the merits and defects of "George Eliot" (Mary Ann Evans or
Mrs. Cross) as a novelist, as there is in pointing out her relations to
this general movement. She began late, and almost accidentally; and
there is less unity in her general work than in some others here
mentioned. Her earliest and perhaps, in adjusted and "reduced"
judgments, her best work--_Scenes of Clerical Life_ (1857-1858), _Adam
Bede_ (1859), _The Mill on the Floss_ (1860), _Silas Marner_
(1861)--consists of very carefully observed and skilfully rendered
studies of country life and character, tinged, especially in _Adam Bede_
and _The Mill on the Floss_, with very intense and ambitious colours of
passion. The great popularity of this tempted her into still more
elaborate efforts of different kinds. Her attempt in quasi-historical
romance, _Romola_ (1865), was an enormous _tour de force_ in which the
writer struggled to get historical and local colour, accurate and
irreproachable, with all the desperation of the most conscientious
relater of actual history. _Felix Holt the Radical_ (1866), _Middle
March_ (1872), and _Daniel Deronda_ (1876) were equally elaborate
sketches of modern English society, planned and engineered with the
same provision of carefully laboured plot, character, and phrase.
Although received with enthusiasm by the partisans whom she had created
for herself, these books have seemed to some _over_-laboured, and if not
exactly unreal, yet to a certain extent unnatural. But the point for us
is their example of the way in which the novel--once a light and almost
frivolous thing--had come to be taken with the utmost seriousness--had
in fact ceased to be light literature at all, and begun to require
rigorous and elaborate training and preparation in the writer, perhaps
even something of the athlete's processes in the reader. Its state may
or may not have advanced in grace _pari passu_ with the advance in
effort and in dignity: but this later advance is at least there.
Fielding himself took novel-writing by no means lightly, and Richardson
still less so: but imagine either, imagine Scott or even Miss Austen,
going through the preliminary processes which seemed necessary, in
different ways, to Charles Reade and to Mary Ann Evans!

In a certain sense, however, the last of the three, though he may give
less impression of genius than the other two (or even the other four
whom we have specially noticed), is the most interesting of all: and
qualms may sometimes arise as to whether genius is justly denied to him.
Anthony Trollope, after a youth, not exactly _orageuse_, but apparently
characterised by the rather squalid yet mild dissipation which he has
described in _The Three Clerks_ (1858) and _The Small House at
Allington_ (1864), attained a considerable position in the Post Office
which he held during great part of his career as a novelist. For some
time that career did not look as if it were going to be a successful
one, though his early (chiefly Irish) efforts are better than is
sometimes thought. But he made his mark first with _The Warden_ (1855),
and then, much more directly and triumphantly, with its sequel
_Barchester Towers_ (1857). When the first of these was published
Dickens had been a successful novelist for nearly twenty years and
Thackeray had "come to his own" for nearly ten. _The Warden_ might have
been described at the time (I do not know whether it was, but English
reviewing was only beginning to be clever again) as a partial attempt at
the matter of Dickens in a partial following of the manner of Thackeray.
An "abuse"--the distribution in supposed unjust proportion of the funds
of an endowed hospital for aged men--is its main avowed subject. But
Trollope indulged in no tirades and no fantastic-grotesque
caricature--in fact he actually drew a humorous sketch of a novel _à la
Dickens_ on the matter. His real object was evidently to sketch
faithfully, but again not without humour, the cathedral society of
"Barchester" as it actually spoke, dressed, thought, and lived: and he
did it. The first book had a little too much talk about the nominal
subject, and not enough actual action and conversation. _Barchester
Towers_ remedied this, and presented its readers with one of the
liveliest books in English fiction. There had been nothing like it (for
Thackeray had been more discursive and less given to small talk) since
Miss Austen herself, though the spirits of the two were extremely
different. Perhaps Trollope never did a better book than this, for
variety and vigour of character drawing. The masterful wife of Bishop
Proudie, the ne'er-do-weel canon's family (the Stanhopes), and others
stand out against an interest, not intense but sufficient, of story, a
great variety of incident, and above all abundant and lifelike
conversation. For many years, and in an extraordinary number of
examples, he fell little below, and perhaps once or twice went above,
this standard. It was rather a fancy of his (one again, perhaps,
suggested by Thackeray) to run his books into series or cycles--the
chief being that actually opened as above, and continuing through others
to the brilliant _Last Chronicle of Barset_ (1867), which in some
respect surpasses _Barchester Towers_ itself, with a second series, not
quite disconnected, dealing with Lady Glencora Palliser as centre, and
yet others. His total production was enormous: it became in fact
impossibly so, and the work of his last _lustrum_ and a little more (say
1877-1882), though never exactly bad or painful to read, was obvious
hack-work. But between _The Warden_ and _The American Senator_,
twenty-two years later, he had written nearer thirty than twenty novels,
of which at least half were much above the average and some quite
capital.[26] Moreover, it is a noteworthy thing, and contrary to some
critical explanations, that, as his works drop out of copyright and are
reprinted in cheap editions, they appear to be recovering very
considerable popularity. This fact would seem to show that the manners,
speech, etc., represented in them have a certain standard quality which
does not--like the manner, speech, etc., of novels such as those of Hook
and Surtees--lose appeal to fresh generations; and that the artist who
dealt with them must have had not a little faculty of fixing them in the
presentation. In fact it is probably not too much to say that of the
_average_ novel of the third quarter of the century--in a more than
average but not of an extraordinary, transcendental, or quintessential
condition--Anthony Trollope is about as good a representative as can be
found. His talent is individual enough, but not too individual: system
and writer may each have the credit due to them allotted without

    [26] His most ambitious studies in strict _character_ are the
    closely connected heroines of _The Bertrams_ (1859) and _Can you
    Forgive Her?_ (1864-1865). But the first-named book has never
    been popular; and the other hardly owes its popularity to the

A novelist who might have been in front of the first flight of these in
point of time, and who is actually put by some in the first flight in
point of merit, is Mrs. Gaskell. Born in 1810, she accumulated the
material for her future _Cranford_ at Knutsford in Cheshire: but did not
publish this till after Dickens had, in 1850, established _Household
Words_, where it appeared in instalments. She had a little earlier, in
1848, published her first novel, _Mary Barton_--a vivid but distinctly
one-sided picture of factory life in Lancashire. In the same year with
the collected _Cranford_ (1853) appeared _Ruth_, also a "strife-novel"
(as the Germans would say) though in a different way: and two years
later what is perhaps her most elaborate effort, _North and South_. A
year or two before her death in 1865 _Sylvia's Lovers_ was warmly
welcomed by some: and the unfinished _Wives and Daughters_, which was
actually interrupted by that death, has been considered her maturest
work. Her famous and much controverted _Life of Charlotte Brontë_ does
not belong to us, except in so far as it knits the two novelists

From hints dropped already, it may be seen that the present writer does
not find Mrs. Gaskell his easiest subject. There is much in her work
which, in Hobbes's phrase, is both "an effect of power and a cause of
pleasure": but there appears to some to be in her a pervading want of
actual success--of _réussite_--absolute and unquestionable. The sketches
of _Cranford_ are very agreeable and very admirable performances in the
manner first definitely thrown out by Addison, and turned to consummate
perfection in the way of the regular novel (which be it remembered
_Cranford_ is not) by Miss Austen. But the mere mention of the last
name kills them. The author of _Emma_ would have treated Miss Matty and
the rest much less lovingly, but she would have made them persons. Mrs.
Gaskell has left them mere types of amiable country-townishness in
respectable if not very lively times. Excessive respectability cannot be
charged against _Mary Barton_ and _Ruth_, but here the "problem"--the
"purpose"--interposes its evil influence: and we have got to take a side
with men or with masters, with selfish tempters of one class and deluded
maidens of another. _North and South_ is perhaps on the whole the best
place in which to study Mrs. Gaskell's art: for _Wives and Daughters_ is
unfinished and the books just named are tentatives. It begins by laying
a not inconsiderable hold on the reader: and, as it is worked out at
great length, the author has every opportunity of strengthening and
improving that hold. It is certain that, in some cases, she does not do
this: and the reason is the same--the failure to project and keep in
action definite and independent characters, and the attempt to make
weight and play with purposes and problems. The heroine's father--who
resigns his living and exposes his delicate wife and only daughter, if
not exactly to privation, to discomfort and, in the wife's case, fatally
unsuitable surroundings, because of some never clearly defined
dissatisfaction with the creed of the Church (_not_ apparently with
Christianity as such or with Anglicanism as such), and who dies
"promiscuously," to be followed, in equally promiscuous fashion, by a
friend who leaves his daughter Margaret a fortune--is one of those
nearly contemptible imbeciles in whom it is impossible to take an
interest. In respect to the wife Mrs. Gaskell commits the curious
mistake of first suggesting that she is a complainer about nothing, and
then showing her to us as a suffering victim of her husband's folly and
of hopeless disease. The lover (who is to a great extent a replica of
the masterful mill-owner in _Shirley_) is uncertain and impersonal: and
the minor characters are null. One hopes, for a time, that Margaret
herself will save the situation: but she goes off instead of coming on,
and has rather less individuality and convincingness at the end of the
story than at the beginning. In short, Mrs. Gaskell seems to me one of
the chief illustrations of the extreme difficulty of the domestic
novel--of the necessity of exactly proportioning the means at command to
the end to be achieved. Her means were, perhaps, greater than those of
most of her brother-and-sister-novelists, but she set them to loose
ends, to ends too high for her, to ends not worth achieving: end thus
produced (again as it seems to me) flawed and unsatisfactory work. She
"means" well in Herbert's sense of the word: but what is meant is not
quite done.

To mention special books and special writers is not the first object of
this survey, though it would be very easy to double and redouble its
size by doing this, even within the time-limits of this, the last, and
the next chapters. It may, however, be added that in this remarkable
central period, and in the most central part of it from 1840 to 1860,
there appeared the first remarkable novel of Mr. George Meredith, _The
Ordeal of Richard Feverel_ (1859), first of a brilliant series that was
to illustrate the whole remaining years of the century; and the isolated
masterpiece of _Phantastes_, which another prolific writer, George
Macdonald, was never to repeat; while Mrs. Oliphant and Mrs. Craik, both
of whom will also reappear in the next chapter, began as early as 1849.
In 1851 appeared the first of two remarkable books, _Lavengro_ and _The
Romany Rye_, in which George Borrow, if he did not exactly create,
brought to perfection from some points of view what may be called the
autobiographic novel.

Indeed the memory of the aged and the industry of the young could recall
or rediscover dozens and scores of noteworthy books, some of which have
not lost actual or traditional reputation, such as the _Paul Ferroll_
(1855) of Mrs. Archer Clive, a well-restrained crime-novel, the story of
which is indicated in the title of its sequel, _Why Paul Ferroll killed
his Wife_. Henry Kingsley, George Alfred Lawrence, Wilkie Collins, and
others began their careers at this time. The best book ever written
about school, _Tom Brown's School Days_ (1857), and the best book in
lighter vein ever written about Oxford, _Mr. Verdant Green_ (1853-1856),
both appeared in the fifties.

Although, indeed, the intenser and more individual genius of the great
novelists of this time went rather higher than the specialist novel, it
was, in certain directions, well cultivated during this period. Men
likely to write naval novels of merit were dying out, and though Lever
took up the military tale, at second hand, with brilliant results, the
same historical causes were in operation there. But a comparatively new
kind--the "sporting" novel--developed itself largely and in some cases
went beyond mere sport. Such early books as Egan's _Tom and Jerry_
(1821) can hardly be called novels: but as the love of sport extended
and the term itself ceased to designate merely on the one side the
pleasures of country squires, and on the other the amusements (sometimes
rather blackguard in character) of men about town, the general subject
made a lodgment in fiction. One of its most characteristic practitioners
was Robert Smith Surtees, who, before Dickens and perhaps acting as
suggester of the original plan of _Pickwick_ (_not_ that which Dickens
substituted), excogitated (between 1831 and 1838) the remarkable
fictitious personage of "Mr. Jorrocks," grocer and sportsman, whose
adventures, and those of other rather hybrid characters of the same
kind, he pursued through a number of books for some thirty years. These
(though in strict character, and in part of their manners, deficient as
above noticed) were nearly always readable--and sometimes very
amusing--even to those who are not exactly Nimrods: and they were
greatly commended to others still by the admirable illustrations of
Leech. There is not a little sound sport in Kingsley and afterwards in
Anthony Trollope: while the novels of Frank Smedley, _Frank Fairlegh_
(1850), _Lewis Arundel_ (1852), and _Harry Coverdale's Courtship_
(1855), mix a good deal more of it with some good fun and some rather
rococo romance. The subject became, indeed, very popular in the fifties,
and entered largely into, though it by no means exclusively occupied,
the novels of George John Whyte-Melville, a Fifeshire gentleman, an
Etonian, and a guardsman, who, after retiring from the army, served
again in the Crimean War, and, after writing a large number of novels,
was killed in the hunting field. Some of Whyte-Melville's books, such as
_Market Harborough_ (1861), are hunting novels pure and simple, so much
so that it has been said (rashly) that none but hunting men and women
can read them. Others, such as _Kate Coventry_ (1856), a very lively and
agreeable book, mix sport with general character and manners-painting.
Others, such as _Holmby House_ (1860), _The Queen's Maries_ (1862),
etc., attempt the historical style. But perhaps this mixed novel of
sport, society, and a good deal of love-making reached its most curious
development in the novels of George Alfred Lawrence, from the once
famous _Guy Livingstone_ (1857) onwards--a series almost typical, which
was developed further, with touches of original but uncritical talent,
which often dropped into unintentional caricature, by the late "Ouida"
(Louise de La Ramée). All the three last writers mentioned, however,
especially the last two, made sport only an ingredient in their novel
composition ("Ouida," in fact, knew nothing about it) and at least
endeavoured, according to their own ideas and ideals, to grapple with
larger parts of life. The danger of the kind showed less in them than in
some imitators of a lower class, of whom Captain Hawley Smart was the
chief, and a chief sometimes better than his own followers. Some even of
his books are quite interesting: but in a few of them, and in more of
other writers, the obligation to tell something like a story and to
provide something like characters seems to be altogether forgotten. A
run (or several runs) with the hounds, a steeplechase and its
preparations and accidents, one at least of the great races and the
training and betting preliminary to them--these form the real and almost
the sole staple of story; so that a tolerably intelligent office-boy
could make them up out of a number or two of the _Field_, a sufficient
list of proper names, and a commonplace book of descriptions. This, in
fact, is the danger of the specialist novel generally: though perhaps it
does not show quite so glaringly in other cases. Yet, even here, that
note of the fiction of the whole century--its tendency to "accaparate"
and utilise all the forms of life, all the occupations and amusements of
mankind--shows itself notably enough.

So, too, one notable book has, here even more than elsewhere, often set
going hosts of imitations. _Tom Brown's School Days_, for instance
(1857), flooded the market with school stories, mostly very bad. But
there is one division which did more justice to a higher class of
subject and produced some very remarkable work in what is called the
religious novel, though, here as elsewhere, the better examples did not
merely harp on one string.

A very interesting off-shoot of the domestic novel, ignored or despised
by the average critic and rather perfunctorily treated even by those who
have taken it as a special subject, is the "Tractarian" or High-Church
novel, which, originating very shortly after the movement itself had
began, had no small share in popularising it. The earlier Evangelicals
had by no means neglected fiction as a means of propagating their views,
especially among the young. Mrs. Sherwood in _Little Henry and his
Bearer_ and _The Fairchild Family_ (1818) and "Charlotte Elizabeth"
(Browne or Tonna) are examples. But the High-Church party, in accordance
with its own predecessors and patterns in the seventeenth century,
always maintained, during its earlier and better period, a higher
standard of scholarship and of general literary culture. Its early
efforts in fiction--according to the curious and most interesting law
which seems to decree that every subdivision of a kind shall go through
something like the vicissitudes of the kind at large--were not strictly
novels but romance, and romance of the allegorical kind. In the late
thirties and early forties the allegorists, the chief of whom were
Samuel Wilberforce and William Adams, were busy and effective. The
future bishop's _Agathos_ (before 1840) is a very spirited and
well-written adaptation of the "whole armour of God" theme so often
re-allegorised: and Adams's _Shadow of the Cross_ is only the best of
several good stories--of a rather more feminine type, but graceful,
sound enough in a general way, and combining the manners of Spenser and
Bunyan with no despicable skill. If, however, the Tractarian
fiction-writers had confined themselves to allegory there would be no
necessity to do more than glance at them, for allegory, on the obvious
Biblical suggestion, has been a constant instrument of combined
religious instruction and pastime. But they went much further afield.
Sometimes the excursions were half satirical, as in the really amusing
_Owlet of Owlstone Edge_ and _The Curate of Cumberworth and the Vicar of
Roost_ of Francis Paget, attacking, the slovenly neglect and supineness
which, quite as much as unsound doctrine, was the _bête noire_ of the
early Anglo-Catholics. William Gresley and others wrote stories mostly
for the young. But the distinguishing feature of the school, and that
which gives it an honourable and more than an honorary place here, was
the shape which, before the middle of the century, it took in the hands
of two ladies, Elizabeth Sewell and Charlotte Mary Yonge.

The first, who was the elder but survived Miss Yonge and died at a very
great age quite recently, had much less talent than her junior: but
undoubtedly deserves the credit of setting the style. In her novels
(_Gertrude, Katharine Ashton_, etc.) she carried, even farther than Miss
Austen, the principle of confining herself rigidly to the events of
ordinary life. Not that she eschews the higher middle or even the higher
classes: though, on the other hand, Katharine Ashton, evidently one of
her favourite heroines, is the daughter of a shopkeeper. But the law of
average and ordinary character, incident, atmosphere, is observed almost
invariably. Unfortunately Miss Sewell (she was actually a
schoolmistress) let the didactic part of her novels get rather too much
the upper hand: and though she wrote good English, possessed no special
grace of style, and little faculty of illustration or ornament from
history, literature, her own fancy, current fashions, even of the most
harmless kind, and so forth. The result is that her books have a certain
dead-aliveness--that the characters, though actually alive, are neither
interestingly alive nor, as Miss Austen had made hers, interesting in
their very uninterestingness. Sometimes, for a scene or two, her truth
to nature and fact is rewarded by that curious sense of recognition
which the reader feels in the presence of actual _mimesis_--of creation
of fictitious fact and person. But this is not common: and the epithet
"dull," which too commonly only stigmatises the person using it, may
really suggest itself not seldom in reference to Miss Sewell. A "success
of esteem" is about the utmost that can be accorded her.

With Miss Yonge the case was very different. She was a lady of wide
reading and, even according to the modern rather arbitrary restrictions
of the term, something of an historical scholar; she had humour, of
which there was scarcely a particle in Miss Sewell's composition; she
had a very considerable understanding, and consequently some toleration
of the infinite varieties, and at least the more venial foibles, of
human temperament. She possessed an inexhaustible command of dialogue
which was always natural and sometimes very far from trivial; and if she
had no command of the greater novelists' imagination in the creation of
character and story, she had an almost uncanny supply of invention, of
what may be called the second or third class, in these respects. She
wrote too much and too long; but it cannot be said that she ever merely
repeated herself. And her best books--the famous _Heir of Redclyffe_
(1853), which captivated William Morris and his friends at Oxford, and
which, with a little unnecessary sentimentality and a little
"unco-guidness," is full of cleverness, nature, good sense, good taste,
and good form; _Heartsease_ (1854), perhaps the best of all; _Dynevor
Terrace_ (1857), less of a general favourite but full of good things;
and the especially popular _Daisy Chain_ (1856), with not a few
others--are things which no courageous and catholic critic of fiction
will ever be tired of defending or (which is not always the same thing)
of reading. Some of her early tales, before these, were a little "raw":
and most of her later work showed (as did Anthony Trollope's and that of
other though not all very prolific novelists) that the field had been
overcropped. But she was hardly ever dull: and she always had that
quality--if not of the supreme artist, of the real craftsman--which
prevents a thing from being a failure. What is meant is done: though
perhaps it might have been meant higher.

The comparison, backwards and forwards, of this great company of novels
is of endless interest; perhaps one of many aspects of that interest may
be touched on specially, because it connects itself with much else that
has been said. If we read, together or in near sequence, three such
books as, say, _Emilia Wyndbam, Pendennis_, and _Yeast_, all of which
appeared close together, between 1846 and 1849, the differences, in
quality and volume of individual genius, will of course strike every one
forcibly. But some will also be struck by something else--the difference
between the first and the other two in _style_ or (as that word is
almost hopelessly ambiguous) let us perhaps say _diction_. Both
Thackeray and Kingsley are almost perfectly modern in this. We may not
speak so well to-day, and we may have added more slang and jargon to our
speech, but there is no real difference, except in these respects,
between a speech of Pen's (when not talking book) or one of Colonel
Bracebridge's, and the speech of any gentleman who is a barrister or a
guardsman at this hour. The excellent Mrs. Marsh had not arrived at that
point; what some people call the "stilted" forms and phrases of fifty or
almost a hundred years earlier clung to her still. The resulting lingo
is far better than that part of the lingo of to-day where literary and
linguistic good manners have been forgotten altogether: but it is
distinctly deficient in _ease_. There are endless flourishes and
periphrases--the colloquialisms which Swift and others had denounced
(and quite properly) in their ugliest and vulgarest forms are not even
permitted entrance in improved and warranted varieties. You must never
say "won't" but always "will not," whereas the ability to use the two
forms adds infinite propriety as well as variety to the dialogue. You
say, "At length a most unfortunate accident aggravated (if aggravation
were possible) the unfortunate circumstances of the situation." You
address your own characters in the oratorical manner of Mr. Burke and
other great men, "Ah, Mr. Danby! if instead, etc." In short, instead of
reserving the grand manner (and a rather different grand manner) for
grand occasions, you maintain a sort of cheap machine-made kind of it
throughout. The real secret of the novel was not found out till this was
discarded. Perhaps that real secret does not lie so much anywhere else
as here.

A few words may not improperly be said about some of the circumstances
and details of novel-appearance and distribution, etc., at this palmy
day of English fiction. At what time the famous "three-decker" was
consecrated as the regular novel line-of-battle-ship I have not been
able to determine exactly to my own satisfaction. Richardson had
extended his interminable narrations to seven or eight volumes: Miss
Burney latterly had not been content with less than five. From the
specimens I have examined, I have an idea that with the "Minerva Press"
and its contemporaries and successors at the end of the eighteenth and
beginning of the nineteenth century, _four_ was a very favourite if not
the most usual number. But these volumes were usually small--not much
larger than those of the Belgian reprints of Dumas which, as one
remembers, used to run into the dozen or something like it in the case
of his longer books. Three, however, has obvious advantages; the chief
of them being the adjustment to "beginning, middle, and end," though
there is a corresponding disadvantage which soon developed itself--and
in fact, finally, I have no doubt helped to ruin the form--the
temptation to make the _second_ volume a place of mere padding. But the
actual popularity of "the old three-decker" continued for quite two
generations, if not more, and was unmistakable. Library subscriptions
were generally adjusted to it; and any circulating-library keeper would
tell you that, putting this quite aside, even subscribers to more or
fewer volumes than three would take the three-volume by preference. More
than this, still, there is a curious fact necessarily known to
comparatively few people. Although it was improper of Mr. Bludyer to
sell his novel, and dine and drink of the profits before "smashing" it,
there were probably not many reviewers who did not get rid of most of
their books of this kind, if for no other reasons than that no house,
short of a palace, would have held them all. And, in the palmy days of
circulating libraries, the price given by second-hand booksellers for
novels made a very considerable addition to the reviewer's remuneration
or guerdon. But these booksellers would not pay, in proportion, for two
or one volume books--alleging, what no doubt was true, that the
libraries had a lower tariff for them. Further, the short story, now so
popular, was very _un_popular in those days: and library customers would
refuse collections of them with something like indignation or disgust.
Indeed, there are reviewers living who may perhaps pride themselves on
having done something to drive the dislike out and the liking in.

The circulating library itself, though not the creation of the novel,
was very largely extended by it, and helped no doubt very largely to
extend the circulation of the novel in turn. Before it, to some extent,
and long before so-called "public" or "free" libraries, books in general
and novels in particular had been very largely diffused by clubs,
"institutions," and other forms of co-operative individual enterprise,
the bookplates of which will be found in many a copy of an old novel
now. Sometimes these were purely private associations of neighbours:
sometimes they belonged to more or less extensive establishments, like
that defunct "Russell Institution in Great Coram Street," which a great
author, who was its neighbour, once took for an example of desolation;
or the still existing and flourishing "Philosophical" examples in
Edinburgh and Bath. In these latter cases, of course, novels were not
allowed to be the main constituents of the library; in fact in some, but
few, they may have been sternly excluded. On the other hand, the
private-adventure circulating libraries tended more and more, with few
exceptions, to rely on novels only--"Mudie's" and a few more being
exceptions. Very few people, I suppose, ever bought three-volume novels;
and the fact that they went almost wholly to the libraries, and were
there worn to pieces, accounts for the comparative rarity of good
copies. The circulating library has survived both the decease of the
three-volume novel and the competition of the so-called free library.
But it is pretty certain that it was a chief cause--and almost the whole
_sustaining_ cause--of the three-volume system itself. Nor was the
connection between nature of form and system of distribution limited to
England: for the single-volume novel, though older in France than with
us, is not so very old.

But a very considerable proportion of these famous books made
appearances previous to that in three volumes, and not distantly
connected with their popularity. For the most part these previous
appearances were either in magazines or periodicals of one kind and
another, or else in "parts."

Neither process was exactly new, though both were largely affected
by changed conditions of general literature and life. The
magazine-appearance traces itself, by almost insensible gradations, to
the original periodical-essay of the Steele-Addison type--the small
individual bulk of which necessitated division of whatsoever was not
itself on a very small scale. If you run down the "Contents" of the
_British Essayists_ you will constantly find "Continuation of the story
of Alonso and Imoinda" and the like. But when, in the early years of the
nineteenth century, the system of newspapers and periodicals branched
out into endless development, coincidently with the increase of demand
and supply in regard to the novel, it was inevitable that this latter
should be drawn upon to supply at once the standing dishes and the
relishes of the entertainment. _Blackwood_ and the _London_, the first
fruits of the new kind, did not at once take to the novel by
instalments: and the _London_ had no time to do so. But _Blackwood_
soon became celebrated--a reputation which it has never lost--for the
excellence of its short stories, and by degrees took to long ones; while
its followers--_Fraser, Bentley's Miscellany, The Dublin University
Magazine_, the _New Monthly_, and others--almost from the first bated
their hooks with this new _appât_. A very large proportion of the work
of the novelists mentioned in the last chapter, as well as of Lever,
appeared in one or other of these. _Fraser_ in particular was
Thackeray's chief refuge in the Days of Ignorance of the public as to
his real powers and merits, while, just as he was going off, the very
different work of Kingsley came on there. And the tradition, as is well
known, has never been broken. The particular magazines may have died in
some cases: but the magazine-appearance of novels is nearly as vivacious
as ever.

Publication in parts is nearly as old, but has a less continuous
history, and has seen itself suffer an interruption of life. There are
scattered examples of it pretty far back both in France and England.
Marivaux had a particular fancy for it: with the result that he left not
a little of his work unfinished. Such volume-publication as that of
_Tristram Shandy_, in batches really small in quantity and at fairly
regular if long intervals, is not much different from part-issue. As the
taste for reading spread to classes with not much ready money, and
perhaps, in some cases, living at a distance from libraries, this taste
spread too. But I do not think there can be much doubt that the immense
success of Dickens--in combination with his own very distinct
predilection for keeping the ring himself and being his own editor--had
most to do with its prevalence during the period under present
consideration. Thackeray took up the practice from him: as well as
others both from him and from Thackeray. The great illustrators, too, of
the forties, fifties, and sixties, from Cruikshank and Browne to
Frederick Walker, were partly helped by the system, partly helped to
make it popular. But the circulating libraries did not like it for
obvious reasons, the parts being fragile and unsubstantial: and the
great success of cheap magazines, on the pattern of _Macmillan's_ and
the _Cornhill_, cut the ground from under its feet. The last remarkable
novel that I remember seeing in the form was _The Last Chronicle of
Barset. Middlemarch_ and _Daniel Deronda_ came out in parts which were
rather volumes than parts.

This piece-meal publication, whether in part or periodical, could not be
without some effects on the character of the production. These were
neither wholly good nor wholly bad. They served to some extent to
correct the tendency, mentioned above, of the three-volume novel to "go
to seed" in the middle--to become a sort of preposterous sandwich with
meat on the outsides and a great slab of ill-baked and insipid bread
between. For readers would not have stood this in instalments: you had
to provide some bite or promise of bite in each--if possible--indeed to
leave each off at an interesting point. But this itself rather tended to
a jumpy and ill-composed whole--to that mechanical shift from one part
of the plot to another which is so evident, for instance, in Trollope:
and there was worse temptation behind. If a man had the opportunity, the
means, the courage, and the artistic conscience necessary to finish his
work before any part of it appeared, or at least to scaffold it
thoroughly throughout in advance, no harm was done. But perhaps there is
no class of people with whom the temptation--common enough in every
class--of hand-to-mouth work is more fatal than with men of letters. It
is said that even the clergy are human enough to put off their
sermon-writing till Saturday, and what can be expected of the profane
man, especially when he has a whole month apparently before him? It is
pretty certain that Thackeray succumbed to this temptation: and so did a
great many people who could much less afford to do so than Thackeray.
It was almost certainly responsible for part of the astonishing
medley of repetitions and lapses in Lever: and I am by no means
sure that some of Dickens's worst faults, especially the ostentatious
plot-that-is-no-plot of such a book as _Little Dorrit_--the plot which
marks time with elaborate gesticulation and really does not advance at
all--were not largely due to the system.

Let it only be added that these expensive forms of publication by no
means excluded cheap reprints as soon as a book was really popular. The
very big people kept up their prices: but everybody else was glad to get
into "popular libraries," yellow-backed railway issues, and the like, as
soon as possible.

It will have been seen that the present writer puts the novel of
1845-1870 very high: he would indeed put it, in its own compartment,
almost on a level with the drama of 1585-1625 or the poems of 1798-1825.
Just at the present moment there may be a pretty general tendency to
consider this allowance exaggerated if not preposterous: and to set it
down to the well-known foible of age for the period of its own youth.
There is no need to do more than suggest that those who were young when
Shakespeare, or when Byron, died, would not have been exactly in their
dotage if, forty years later, they had extolled the literature of their
nonage. One does not care to dwell long on such a point: but it may just
be observed that the present writer's withers are hardly even pinched,
let alone wrung, by the strictest application, to his case, of this
rather idle notion. For some of what he is praising as the best novels
were written before he was born; many while he was in the nursery; most
before he had left school, and practically all before he had ceased to
be an undergraduate. Now acute observers know that what may be called
the disease of contemporary partisanship rarely even begins till the
undergraduate period, and is at its severest from twenty-five to
thirty-five. I would undertake that most of our reviewers who discover
Shakespeares and Sainte-Beuves, improved Thackerays and bettered
Molières, week by week or day by day, count their years between these
limits. _Beati illi_ from some points of view, but from others, if they
go on longer, Heaven help them indeed!

But all this is really idle. A critic is not right or wrong because he
is young or old as the case may be; because he follows the taste of his
age or runs counter to it; because he likes the past or because he likes
the present. He is right or wrong according as he does or does not like
the right things in the right way. And it is a simple historical fact,
capable now of being seen in a proper perspective, and subjected to the
proper historical tests, that, in the large sense, the two generations
from the appearance of Scott and Miss Austen to the death of Dickens
(and considering the ebb which followed Scott and Miss Austen
themselves, specially the latter of these two), supplied the spring tide
of the novel-flood, the flower-time of its flowering season, the acme of
its climax.

The comparison, both in the longer and shorter time, to the great summer
of the drama may be too complimentary--I do not think it is, except in
so far as that drama necessarily involved poetry, a higher thing by far
than either drama itself or novel--but it is certainly not an altogether
comfortable one. For we know that the drama, thereafter, has never had a
more than galvanised life, except in the imagination of the gentlemen
who discover Shakespeares and Molières as aforesaid. And there are those
who say that, not only at the moment, but for some time past, the state
of the novel is, and has been, not much more promising. The student who
is thoroughly broken to the study of literary history is never a
pessimist, though he may be very rarely an optimist: for the one thing
of which he should be thoroughly convinced is its incalculableness. But
he might admit--while reserving unlimited trust in the Wind of the
Spirit and its power to blow exactly as it listeth, and to awaken the
dryest of dry bones--that circumstances are not incompatible with
something like a decay in the novel: just as they were with a decay in
the drama. The state of society and temper in the late sixteenth and
early seventeenth century--not too well regulated; stirred at once by
the sinking force of the mediæval and the rising force of the modern
spirit; full of religious revival which had happily not gone wholly
wrong, as it had in some other countries; finding ready to its hand a
language which had cast most of its sloughs of accidence and prosody,
and was fresh, limber, ready for anything; enterprising but not buried
in business--was favourable to the rise and flourishing of this
disorderly abundance of dramatic creation--tragic, comic, and in all the
varieties that _Hamlet_ catalogues or satirises. The mid-nineteenth
century had something of the same hot-bed characteristic, though
sufficiently contrasted and fitted to produce a different growth. It
had, if at a little distance, the inspiriting memory of a great war,
where the country had taken the most glorious part possible. It also had
a great religious revival, which had taken no coarse or vulgar form.
Although the middle class had seized, and the lower classes were
threatening to seize, the government, even the former had not
monopolised the helm. There was in society, though it was not
strait-laced or puritanical, a general standard of "good form."
Scholarship and knowledge of literature had not yet been exchanged for
"education" and ignorance of letters. The national fancy for sport was
in about its healthiest condition, emerging from one state of
questionableness and not yet plunged in another. The chair of the chief
of the kinds of literature--poetry--which always exercises a singular
influence over the lower forms, was still worthily occupied and
surrounded. And, above all, the appetite for the novel was still eager,
fresh, and not in the least sated, jaded, or arrived at that point when
it has to be whetted by asafoetida on the plates or cigarettes between
the courses. Few better atmospheres could be even imagined for the
combined novel-romance--the story which, while it did not exclude the
adventurous or even the supernatural in one sense, insisted on the
rational in another, and opened its doors as wide as possible to every
subject, or combination of subjects, that would undertake to be
interesting. That the extraordinary reply made by genius and talent to
the demand thus created and encouraged should last indefinitely could
not be expected: that the demand itself should lead to overproduction
and glut was certain. But, as we shall see, there was no sudden
decadence; the period even of best or nearly best production went on
with no important intermission; and was but yesterday still represented
by two great names, is still represented by one, among the older
writers, by more than one or two names of credit among the middle-aged
and younger. To these in some degree, and to those who have finished
their career in the last thirty years to a greater, we must now turn.



In regard to a large part of the subject of the present chapter the
present writer possesses the knowledge of a reviewer, week by week and
almost day by day, of contemporary fiction between 1873 and 1895. It so
happened that the beginning of this period coincided very nearly with
the beginning of that slightly downward movement of the
nineteenth-century novel which has been referred to at the end of the
last chapter: and he thus had opportunities of observing it all along
its course, till we parted company. It must again, and most strongly, be
insisted that this "downward movement," like such movements generally in
literature, is only so to be characterised with considerable provisos
and allowances. Literary "down-grades" are not like the slopes of an
inclined plane: they are like portions of a mountain range, in which
isolated peaks may shoot up almost level with the very highest of the
central group, but in which the table lands are lower, the _average_
height of the hills inferior, and the general sky-line a nearer and
nearer approximation to the plain. At the actual death of Dickens there
was no reason for any one less hopelessly pessimist than Peacock's Mr.
Toobad, or Sydney Smith's Tuxford waiter, to take a gloomy view of the
future of the novel. Of the greater novelists mentioned in the last
chapter Charlotte Brontë and Mrs. Gaskell were indeed dead, and if
Kingsley had not wholly ceased writing novels, he had, before ceasing,
given signs that he had better do so. Yet, at least to the admirers of
"George Eliot," she was at her most admirable; some of the very best
stuff of Trollope was but just past, and some of all but his best was
still to appear; Charles Reade was writing busily with that curious
unsatisfactory genius of his; others were well at work.

There was also no lack of newer comers. Mr. Meredith had been writing
for some dozen years: and though he had achieved no general popularity,
though even critics might make reserves as to points in his procedure,
there could be no competent doubt of his great powers. Mr. Blackmore had
made his late beginning some time before: and had just caught the public
ear unmistakably with _Lorna Doone_ (1869). Mr. Hardy was on the eve of
catching it with the new and powerful attractions of _Under the
Greenwood Tree_ (1872). In the heart of the sixties (1863-4-6), the
_Chronicles of Carlingford_ had seemed the promissory notes of a
novelist of the absolutely first class in Mrs. Oliphant, though somehow
the bills were rather renewed than met. Others to be noticed immediately
had come or were coming on. Let us take a little more detailed notice of

In the cases of Mr. Meredith and of Mr. Hardy--not to speak of others on
whom the bar still luckily rests--the "great ox" was, until the original
composition of this book was actually finished, "on the tongue" of any
one who does not disregard the good old literary brocard "_de_ vivis
_nil nisi_ necessarium." You may and must criticise, with as much
freedom as consists with courtesy, the successive stages of the work of
the living master as he submits it to your judgment by publication. But
justice no less than courtesy demands that, until the work is finished,
and sealed as a whole--till the _ne varietur_ and _ne plus ultra_ of
death have been set on it--you shall abstain from a more general
judgment, which can hardly be judicial, and which will have difficulty
in steering between the fulsome if it be favourable and the uncivil if
it be adverse. Fortunately there was little difficulty in any of our
three excepted cases. As has been already hinted in one case, the chorus
of praise, ever since it made itself heard, has not been quite
unchequered. It has been objected both to Mr. Meredith and to Mr. Hardy
that there is in them a note, perhaps to be detected also generally in
the later fiction which they have so powerfully influenced--the note of
a certain _perversity_--of an endeavour to be peculiar in thought, in
style, in choice of subject, in handling of it; in short in general
attitude. And with this has been connected--not in their cases with
any important or really damaging effect, though undoubtedly so in regard
to some of their followers--a suggestion that this "perversity" is the
note of a waning period--that just as the excessive desire to be _like_
all the best models is the note of Classical decadence, so the excessive
desire to be _unlike_ everything else is the note of Romantic

There is truth in this, but it damages neither Mr. Meredith nor Mr.
Hardy on the whole; though it may supply a not altogether wholesome
temptation to some readers to admire them for the wrong things, and may
interpose a wholly unnecessary obstacle in the way of their full and
frank enjoyment by others. The intellectual power and the artistic skill
which have been shown in the long series that has followed _The Ordeal
of Richard Feverel_; the freshness and charm of the earlier, the
strenuous workmanship and original handling of the later, novels of the
author of _Far from the Madding Crowd_ and of _Tess of the
D'Urbervilles_, simply disable off-hand the judgment of the critic--and
in fact annul his jurisdiction--if he fails to admire them; while in
some cases universal, in many general, in all considerable and not
trivial delight has been given by them to generations of novel readers.
Above all, it may be said of both these veterans that they have held the
standard high, that--in Mr. Meredith's case more specially and for a
longer preliminary period, but virtually in both--they have had to
await the taste for their work: and that in awaiting it they have never
stooped for one moment to that dastardly and degrading change of sail to
catch the popular breeze, which has always been the greatest curse of
politics and of literature--the two chief worldly occupations and ends
of the mind of man--that they have been and are artists who wait till
the world comes to them, and not artisans who haunt the market places to
hire themselves out to the first comer who will pay their price, or even
bate their price to suit the hirer. If it were possible to judge the
literary value of a period by its best representatives--which is
exactly what is _not_ possible--then the period 1870-1908 might, as far
as novel-writing is concerned, point to these two names and say, "These
are mine; what does it matter what you choose to say against me?"

The foregoing remarks were actually written before Mr. Meredith's death:
and I have thought it better to leave them exactly as they then stood
with hardly any correction; but it may justly be expected that they
should now be supplemented. The history of Mr. Meredith's career and
reputation, during the half century which passed between the appearance
of _Richard Feverel_ and his death, has a certain obvious resemblance to
that of Browning's, but with some differences. His work at once arrested
attention, but it did not at once in all, or in many, cases fix it, even
with critical readers: and for a long time the general public turned an
obstinately deaf ear. He followed _The Ordeal_ itself--a study of very
freely and deeply drawn character; of incident sometimes unusual and
always unusually told; of elaborate and disconcerting epigram or rather
of style saturated with epigrammatic quality; and of a strange ironic
persiflage permeating thought, picture, and expression in the same
way--unhastingly but unrestingly with others. _Evan Harrington_ (1861)
is generally lighter in tone; and should be taken in connection with the
ten years later _Harry Richmond_ as an example of what may be called a
sort of new picaresque novel--the subjects being exalted from the
gutter--at least the street gutter--to higher stories of the novel
house. _Emilia in England_ (1864), later called _Sandra Belloni_, and
its sequel _Vittoria_ (1866), embody, especially the latter, the
Italomania of the mid-century. Between them _Rhoda Fleming_ (1865),
returning to English country life, showed, with the old characteristics
of expression, tragic power superior perhaps to that of the end of
_Feverel_. In fact some have been inclined to put _Rhoda_ at the head.
In 1875 _Beauchamp's Career_ showed the novelist's curious fancy for
studying off actual contemporaries; for it is now perfectly well known
who "Beauchamp" was: and four years later came what the true Meredithian
regards as the masterpiece, _The Egoist_. Two other books followed, to
some extent in the track of _Beauchamp's Career, Diana of the Crossways_
(1886), utilising the legend of Mrs. Norton's betrayal of secrets, and
_The Tragic Comedians_ (1881), the story of the German socialist
Lassalle. The author's prediction, never hurried, now slackened, and by
degrees ceased, but the nineties saw three books, _One of Our
Conquerors_ (1891), _Lord Ormont and his Aminta_ (1894), and _The
Amazing Marriage_ (1895).

No bibliography of Mr. Meredith being here necessary or possible,
smaller and miscellaneous things need not detain us; and we are not
concerned with his sometimes charming verse. It is the character, and
especially the "total-effect" character, of the major novels with which
we have to do. This has been faintly adumbrated above, but the lines
must be a little deepened and the contour filled in to some extent here.

By invoking (practically at the outset of his work) "the Comic Spirit"
as the patron of his endeavours and the inspirer of his art, Mr.
Meredith of course did no more than assert his claim to place himself in
the right race and lineage of Cervantes and Fielding. Nor, though the
claim be a bold one, can there be much dispute among competent judges
that he made it out. To the study, not in a frivolous or even merely
satirical, but in a gravely ironic mode, of the nature of humanity he
addicted himself throughout: and the results of his studies undoubtedly
enlarge humanity's conscious knowledge of itself in the way of
fictitious exemplification. In a certain sense no higher praise can be
given. To acknowledge it is at once to estate him, not only with
Cervantes and Fielding themselves, but with Thackeray, with Swift, with
Moliere, with Shakespeare. It places him well above Dickens, and, in the
opinion of the present writer, it places him above even Balzac.
But there are points wherein, according to that same opinion, he
approaches much nearer to Balzac and Dickens than to the other and
greater artistic creators: while in one of these points he stands
aloof even from these two, and occupies a position--not altogether to his
advantage--altogether by himself in his class of artistic creation. All
the six from Thackeray to Shakespeare--one might even go farther back
and, taking a more paradoxical example, add Rabelais--are, even in
extravaganza, in parody, in what you please, at once pre-eminently and
_prima facie_ natural and human. To every competent human judgment, as
soon as it is out of its nonage, and barring individual
disqualifications of property or accident, this human nature attests
itself. You may dislike some of its manifestations; you may decline or
fail to understand others; but there it is, and there it is _first_. In
Balzac and Dickens and Mr. Meredith it is not first. Of course it is
there to some extent and even to a large one: or they would not be the
great writers that they are, or great writers at all. But it is not
merely disguised by separable clothings, as in Rabelais wholly and in
parts of others, or accompanied, as in Swift and others still, by
companions not invariably acceptable. It is to a certain extent
adulterated, sophisticated, made not so much the helpmeet, or the
willing handmaid, of Art as its thrall, almost its butt. I do not know
how early criticism, which now seems to have got hold of the fact,
noticed the strong connection-contrast between Dickens and Meredith: but
it must always have been patent to some. The contrast is of course the
first to strike:--the ordinariness, in spite of his fantastic grotesque,
of Dickens, and the extraordinariness of Meredith; the almost utter
absence of literature in Dickens, and the prominence of it in
Meredith--divers other differences of the same general kind. But to any
one reflecting on the matter it should soon emerge that a spirit,
kindred in some way, but informed with literature and anxious "to be
different," starting too with Dickens's example before him, might, and
probably would, half follow, half revolt into another vein of not
anti- but extra-natural fantasy, such as that which the author of _The
Ordeal of Richard Feverel_ actually worked.

"Extra- not anti-" that is the key. The worlds of Dickens, of Balzac,
and of Meredith are not impossible worlds: for the only worlds which are
impossible are those which are inconsistent with themselves, and none of
these is that. Something has been said of the "four dimensions" which
are necessary to work Dickens's world, and our business here is not with
Balzac's. But something must now be said of the fourth dimension--some
would say the fifth, sixth, and almost tenth dimensions--which is or are
required to put Mr. Meredith's in working order. I do not myself think
that more than a fourth is needed, and I have sometimes fancied that if
Mohammedan ideas of the other world be true, and an artist is obliged to
endow all his fictitious creations with real life, it will be by the
reduction and elimination of this dimension that Mr. Meredith will have
to proceed. There will be great joy in that other world when he has done
it: and, alarming as the task looks, I think it not impudent to say that
no one who ever enjoyed his conversation will think it impossible.

The intrusive element can, however, only be designated singly by rather
enlarging the strict and usual sense of the term Style so as to include
not merely diction, but the whole manner of presentation--what, in
short, is intended by the French word _faire_. For this, or part of
this, he made, in relation to his poems, a sort of apology-explanation
in the lines prefixed to the collected edition, and entitled "The
Promise in Disturbance." I am not sure that there is any single place
where a parallel excuse-defiance musters itself up in the novels: but
there are scores (the prelude to _The Egoist_ occurs foremost) where it
is scattered about all of them; and it is certainly much more required
there. Indeed as far as the narrow sense of "style" goes, the
peculiarity, whether they admit it to be a fault or not, is practically
admitted as a fact by all but Meredith-monomaniacs. Here is a _sors
Meredithiana_, taken from _Rhoda Fleming_, one of the simplest of the

"Algernon waited dinnerless until the stealthy going minutes distended
and swelled monstrous and horrible as viper-bitten bodies, and the
venerable Signior Time became of unhealthy hue."

To match that--it would be exceedingly easy to match and beat it out of
the author himself--you must go to the maddest of the seventeenth-century
metaphysicals--say to Edward Benlowes himself. But this is nothing: it is
at worst an obvious playful exaggeration, very like some things of
Dickens's own transposed into another key. But take this opening of
the fifteenth chapter of _Diana of the Crossways_:--

"The Gods of this world's contests, against whom our poor stripped
individual is commonly in revolt, are, as we know, not miners, they are
reapers; and if we appear no longer on the surface, they cease to bruise
us: they will allow an arena character to be cleansed and made
presentable while enthusiastic friends preserve discretion. It is of
course less than magnanimity; they are not proposed to you for your
worship; they are little Gods, temporary as that great wave, their
parent human mass of the hour. But they have one worshipful element in
them, which is, the divine insistency upon there being two sides to a
case--to every case. And the People so far directed by them may boast of
healthfulness. Let the individual shriek, the innocent, triumphant, have
in honesty to admit the fact. One side is vanquished according to decree
of Law, but the superior Council does not allow it to be extinguished."

Here undoubtedly there is something more than a simile, an image, or a
_pointe_; there is a thought, and the author's admirers would, I
suppose, rely triumphantly on it as a marriage of original thought and
phrase. But is it so? Is the thought really anything more than the
perfectly correct and obvious one that, if you let scandal alone it will
die, or at least go into abeyance? Does that thought really gain
anything from being tricked out with not always very congruously
arranged paraphernalia of Gods, and arenas, and reapers, and miners, and
the People with a large P, and shrieks, and innocency, and the rest? A
palate or an appetite so jaded that it cannot appreciate thought put
before it plainly, or so sluggish that it requires to be stung or
puzzled into thinking, may derive some advantage. But are these exactly
the tastes and appetites that should be accepted as arbiters?

Again, partly through this perpetual mirage and steam-cloud of style,
partly by other methods, Mr. Meredith manages, with consummate
cleverness no doubt, to colour his whole representation of character and
story in the same extra-natural way. Take the rick-burning at the
beginning of _Feverel_; take the famous wine scene (a very fascinating
one, though I never heard anywhere else, in some researches on the
subject, of port that would keep ninety years) in _The Egoist_. The
things may have happened this way in some Georgium Sidus, where the
Comic Spirit has arranged the proper Fourth Dimension: but that is not
the way they happen here. The Wise Youth, Diana, Edward Blancove, Roy
Richmond--but why begin a list which would never end?--are inhabitants
of the same region. They are not impossible: they could be translated
into actual tellurian beings, which the men and women of the bad
novelist never can be. But at present they are not translated: and you
must know a special language, in a wide sense, in order to translate
them. I do not say that the language is impossible or even very hard to
learn: but it is required. And Meredithians say you ought to learn it.
An extremely respectable book of reference before me rebukes "those who
lack the intelligence and sensibility that can alone admit them to the
charmed circle of appreciative readers" and who "have not patience to
apply themselves to the study of the higher fiction with the same ardour
that they think necessary in the case of any other art."

Now "Fudge!" is a rude word: but I fear we must borrow it from
Goldsmith's hero, and apply it here. As for "charmed circles" there is
uncommonly good company outside them, where, as Beatrice says, we may
"be as merry as the day is long," so that the Comic Spirit cannot
entirely disdain us. And as for art--the present writer will fight for
its claims as long as he has breath. But the proof of the art of the
novelist is that--at first hand or very shortly--he "enfists,"
absorbs, delights you. You may discover secrets of his art afterwards
with much pleasure and profit: but the actual first-hand delight is the
criterion. There ought to be no need of sitting down before the thing
with tools and dynamite like burglars at a safe; of mustering crucibles
and reagents like assayers at some doubtful and recalcitrant piece of
ore. Now these not very adept defenders of Mr. Meredith seem to assert
that these processes are desirable in any case, and necessary in his. As
a matter of fact the necessity is not omnipresent: but it is present far
too frequently. It is the first duty of the novelist to "let himself be
read"--anything else that he gives you is a _bonus_, a trimming, a

It is not unamusing to those who regarded Mr. Meredith during almost his
whole career with those mingled feelings of the highest admiration and
of critical reserve which this notice has endeavoured to express, to
note a new phase which seems to be coming over the youngest criticism.
The original want of appreciation has passed, never, one may hope, to
return; and the middle _engouement_, which was mainly engineered by
those doughty partisans, Mr. Stevenson and Mr. Henley, is passing
likewise. But the most competent and generous juniors seem to be a
little uncomfortable, to have to take a good deal on trust, and not
quite to "like the security." To those who know the history of critical
opinion these signs speak pretty clearly, though not so as to authorise
them to anticipate the final judgment absolutely. Genius, all but of the
highest, can hardly be denied to Mr. Meredith: but it is genius marred,
perhaps by unfortunate education, certainly by undue egotism, by a
certain Celtic _tapage_, and by a too painful and elaborate endeavour to
be unlike other people.

A very interesting subject for examination from the present point of
view is Mr. Blackmore, because, on the one hand there is complete
_parrhesia_, and on the other (here at least) enthusiastic admiration.
Few of our modern novelists have combined so much scholarship with so
much command of mother wit and racy English, so much close study of
minor character and local speech with such wealth of romantic fancy;
such a thorough observance of "good form" with so complete a freedom
from priggishness and prudery. To this day there are lively
controversies whether he worked up the Doone story from local tradition
or made it "out of his own head." But whichever he did (and the present
historian owns that he cares very little about the point) the way in
which he has turned a striking, but not extraordinary, and certainly not
very extensive West Country glen into an _Arabian Nights_ valley, with
the figures and action of a mediæval romance and the human interest of
a modern novel, is really wonderful. And there is hardly a book of his
last thirty years' production, from _Clara Vaughan_ to _Perlycross_,
which has not vigour, variety, character, "race" enough for half a
dozen. In such books, for example, as _The Maid of Sker_ and _Cripps the
Carrier_ the idiosyncrasy is extraordinary: the quaint and piquant
oddity of phrase and apophthegm is as vivid as Dickens, rather more
real, and tinged somehow with a flavour of literature, even of poetry,
which was Dickens's constant lack.

And yet when one comes to consider the books critically, either one by
one, or in pairs and batches, or as a whole, it is somehow or other
difficult to pronounce any one exactly a masterpiece. There is a want of
"inevitableness" which sometimes amounts to improbability, as in the
case particularly of that most vivid and racy of books, _Cripps the
Carrier_, where the central incident or situation, though by no means
impossible, is almost insultingly unlikely, and forces its unlikeliness
on one at almost every moment and turn. Never, perhaps, was there a
better instance of that "possible-improbable" which contrasts so fatally
with the "probable-impossible." In not a few cases, too, there is that
reproduction of similar _dénouements_ and crucial occurrences which is
almost necessary in a time when men write many novels. In almost all
there is a want of central interest in the characters that should be
central; in some an exaggeration of dialect; or of quaint non-dialectic
but also non-catholic locutions on the author's part. One rather hates
oneself for finding such faults--no one of which is absolutely fatal--in
a mass of work which has given, and continues to give, so much pleasure:
but the facts remain. One would not have the books _not_ written on any
account; but one feels that they were written rather because the author
chose to do so than because he could not help it. Now it is possible to
exaggerate the necessity of "mission" and the like: but, after all, _Ich
kann nicht anders_ must be to some extent the mood of mind of the man
who is committing a masterpiece.

Something of the sort is still more noticeable in the work of other
writers of the period. We have seen that two ladies of great talent,
Mrs. Oliphant and Mrs. Craik, began to write, long before Mr. Meredith
published _Richard Feverel_ and very little later than the time of
_Vanity Fair_. They produced, the one in _Salem Chapel_ (1863), a book
which contemporaries might be excused for thinking likely to herald a
new George Eliot at least; the other, in _John Halifax, Gentleman_
(1857), a book of more sentimentalism, but of great interest and merit.
Both were miracles of fecundity, Mrs. Craik producing, in the shorter
life of the two, not much fewer than fifty novels; Mrs. Oliphant,
besides a great deal of work in other departments, a tale which did not
stop very far short of the hundred. The latter, moreover, gave, at a
comparatively late period of her career, evidences of being able to
start new lines--the supernatural stories of her last stages are only
inferior to the _Chronicles of Carlingford_ themselves. Yet, once more,
we look for a masterpiece in vain: in fact in Mrs. Oliphant's case we
ask, how could any human being, on such a system of production, be
expected to produce masterpieces? Scott, I think, once wrote four or
nearly four novels in a year: and the process helped to kill him. Mrs.
Oliphant did it over and over again, besides alternating the annual dose
still more frequently with twos and threes. In her case the process only
killed her novels.

Three remarkable novelists of the other sex may be mentioned, in the
same way, together. They were all acquaintances of the present writer,
and one of them was his friend: moreover, he is quite certain that he
could not write as good a novel as the worst of theirs, and only takes
credit to himself for not having attempted to do so. These are James
Payn, William Black, and Sir Walter Besant. Mr. Payn was an extremely
agreeable person with a great talent for amusing, the measure of which
he perhaps took pretty early--consoling himself for a total absence of
high pretension by a perhaps not quite genuine affectation of
good-natured but distinctly Philistine cynicism, and a half serious,
half affected belief that other men's delight in their schools, their
universities, the great classics of the past, etc., was _blague_. He
never made this in the least offensive; he never made any one of his
fifty or sixty novels anything but interesting and (when the subject
required it) amusing. There never was any novelist less difficult to
read a first time: I really do not know that it would be extremely
difficult to read him a second; but also I have seldom come across a
novelist with whom I was so little inclined to try it. It is a great
thing, no doubt, as has been said, from a certain point of view--that of
_pastime_--that the reading of a novel should be easy and pleasant. But
perhaps this is not all that you are entitled to ask of it. And as Mr.
Payn began with _Poems_, and some other suggestive books, I am inclined
to think that perhaps he did _not_ always regard literature as a thing
of the kind of a superior railway sandwich.

It is quite certain that, in his beginning, Mr. William Black
entertained no such idea; for his actual _débuts_ were something like
what long afterwards were called problem-novels, and _In Silk Attire_
(1869), _Kilmeny_ (1870), and the charming _Daughter of Heth_ (1871)
attempted a great deal besides mere amusement. It is true that no one of
them--not even the last--could be called an entire success: a "little
more powder" was wanted to send the shots home, and such flight as they
achieved did not even seem to be aimed at any distinct and worthy
object. But fortunately for his pocket, unfortunately for his fame, he
hit the public taste of the time with a sort of guidebook-novel in _The
Strange Adventures of a Phaeton_ (1872) and _A Princess of Thule_
(1873), and was naturally tempted to continue it, or to branch off only
into not very strong stories of society. Once he made an effort at
combining tragic romance with this latter kind in _Macleod of Dare_
(1878), but, though this was nearer to a success than some of his
critics admitted, it was not quite a success: and though he wrote fully
a score of novels after it, he never came nearer the actual bull's eye.
In fact his later work was not up to a very good average.

Neither of these writers, except, as has been said, perhaps Black in his
earliest stage, had taken novel-writing very seriously: it was otherwise
with the third of the trio. Mr., afterwards Sir Walter, Besant did not
begin early, owing to the fact that, for nearly a decade after leaving
Cambridge, he was a schoolmaster in Mauritius. But he had, in this time,
acquired a greater knowledge of literature than either of the other two
possessed: and when he came home, and took to fiction, he accompanied it
with, or rather based it upon, not merely wide historical studies, which
are still bearing fruit in a series of posthumous dealings with the
history of London, but rather minute observation of the lower social
life of the metropolis. For some ten years his novel production was
carried on, in a rather incomprehensible system of collaboration, with
James Rice, a Cambridge man like himself and a historian of the turf,
but one to whom no independent work in fiction is attributed, except an
incredibly feeble adaptation of _Mr. Verdant Green_, entitled _The
Cambridge Freshman_ and signed "Martin Legrand." During the seventies,
and for a year or two later, till Rice's death in 1882, the pair
provided along series of novels from _Ready-Money Mortiboy_ (1871) to
_The Chaplain of the Fleet_ (1881), the most popular book between being,
perhaps, _The Golden Butterfly_ (1876). These belonged, loosely, to the
school of Dickens, as that school had been carried on by Wilkie Collins
(_v. inf._), but with less grotesque than the original master, and less
"sensation" than the head pupil; with a good deal of solid knowledge
both of older and more modern life; with fairly substantial plots, good
character-drawing of the more external kind, and a sufficient supply of
interesting incident, dialogue, and description.

It was certain that people would affect to discover a "falling off" when
the partnership was dissolved by Rice's death: but as a matter of fact
there was nothing of the kind. Such books as the very good and original
_Revolt of Man_ (which certainly owed nothing to collaboration), as _All
Sorts and Conditions of Men_ (1882), the first of the kind apparently
that Besant wrote alone, as _Dorothy Forster_ (1884), and as the
powerful if not exactly delightful _Children of Gibeon_ (1886) were
perhaps more vigorous than anything earlier, and certainly not less
original. But the curse of the "machine-made" novel, which has been
already dwelt upon, did not quite spare Besant: and in these later
stories critics could point, without complete unfairness, to an
increasing obsession of the "London" subject, especially in regard to
the actual gloom and possible illumination of the East End, and on the
other to a resort to historical subjects, less as suggestions or
canvases than as giving the substance of the book. The first class of
work, however (which actually resulted in a "People's Palace" and was
supposed to have obtained his knighthood for him), is distinctly
remarkable, especially in the light of succeeding events. Most of the
unfavourable criticisms passed upon Besant's novel-work were in the main
the utterances of raw reviewers, who thought it necessary to "down"
established reputations. But it would be impossible for any competent
critic, however much he might be biassed off the bench by friendship,
not to admit, on it, that he also shows the effect, which we have been
illustrating from others, of the system of novel-production _à la
douzaine_. In such a case, and on the, in themselves, salutary
conditions of the new novel, the experiences and interests of life may
or must come to be regarded too regularly as supplying "grist for the
mill"; nay, the whole of life and literature, which no doubt ought in
all cases to furnish suggestion and help to art and inspiration, are too
often set to a sort of _corvèe_, a day-task, a tale of bricks. It is,
one allows, hard to prevent this: and yet nothing is more certain that
bricks so made are not the best material to be wrought into any really
"star-y-pointing pyramid" that shall defy the operations of time.

A very curious and characteristic member of this group, Wilkie Collins,
has not yet been mentioned except by glances. He was a little older than
most of them, and came pretty early under the influence of Dickens,
whose melodramatic rather than his humorous side he set himself to work
to develop. In fact Collins was at least as much melodramatist as
novelist: and while most of his novels are melodrama in narrative form,
not a few of them were actually dramatised. He began as early as
1850--the dividing year--with _Antonina_: but his three great triumphs
in the "sensation" novel (as it was rather stupidly called) were _The
Dead Secret_ (1857), _The Woman in White_ (1860), and _No Name_ (1862).
Throughout the sixties and a little later, in _Armadale_ (1866), _The
Moonstone_ (1870), perhaps _The New Magdalen_ (1873), and even as late
as 1875 in _The Law and the Lady_, his work continued to be eagerly
read. But the taste for it waned: and its author's last fifteen years or
so (he died in 1889), though fairly fruitful in quantity, certainly did
not tend to keep it up in quality. Although Collins had a considerable
amount of rather coarse vigour in him (his brother Charles, who died
young, had a much more delicate art) and great fecundity in a certain
kind of stagy invention, it is hard to believe that his work will ever
be put permanently high. It has a certain resemblance in method to
Godwin and Mrs. Radcliffe, exciting situations being arranged, certainly
with great cleverness, in an interminable sequence, and leading,
sometimes at any rate, to a violent "revolution" (in the old dramatic
sense) at the end. Perhaps the best example is the way in which Magdalen
Vanstone's desperate and unscrupulous, though more than half
justifiable, machinations, to reverse the cruel legal accident which
leaves her and her sister with "No Name" and no fortune, are foiled by
the course of events, though the family property is actually recovered
for this sister who has been equally guiltless and inactive. Of its
kind, the machinery is as cleverly built and worked as that of any novel
in the world: but while the author has given us some Dickensish
character-parts of no little attraction (such as the agreeable rascal
Captain Wragge) and has nearly made us sympathise strongly with Magdalen
herself, he only succeeds in this latter point so far as to make us
angry with him for his prudish poetical or theatrical justice, which is
not poetical and hardly even just.

The specialist or particularist novel was not likely to be without
practitioners during this time: in fact it might be said, after a
fashion, to be more rife than ever: but it can only be glanced at here.
Its most remarkable representatives perhaps--men, however, of very
different tastes and abilities--were Richard Jefferies and Joseph Henry
Shorthouse. The latter, after attracting very wide attraction by a
remarkable book--almost a kind to itself--_John Inglesant_ (1880), a
half historical, half ecclesiastical novel of seventeenth-century life,
never did anything else that was any good at all, and indeed tried
little. The former, a struggling country journalist, after long failing
to make any way, wrote several three-volume novels of no merit, broke
through at last in the _Pall Mall Gazette_ with a series of studies of
country life, _The Gatekeeper at Home_ (1878), and afterwards turned
these into a peculiar style of novel, with little story and hardly any
character, but furnished with the backgrounds and the atmosphere of
these same sketches. His health was weak, and he died in early middle
age, leaving a problem of a character exactly opposed to the other.
Would Mr. Shorthouse, if he had not been a well-to-do man of business,
but obliged to write for his living, have done more and better work?
Would Jefferies, if he had been more fortunate in education, occupation,
and means, and furnished with better health, have co-ordinated and
expanded his certainly rare powers into something more "important" than
the few pictures, as of a Meissonier-_paysagiste_, which he has left us?
These inquiries are no doubt idle: but, once more, one may draw
attention to the way in which two men, so different in tastes and
fortune, neither, it would seem, with a very strong bent towards prose
fiction as the vehicle of his literary desires and accomplishments,
appear to have been forced, by the overpowering attraction and
popularity of the kind, to adopt the novel as their form of literature,
and to give the public, not what they wanted in the form which they
chose, but something at least made up in the form that the public
wanted, and disguised in the wrappers which the public were accustomed
to purchase.

The principal development of mid-nineteenth-century fiction had been, as
we have seen, in the direction of the novel _proper_--the
character-study of modern ordinary life. But, even as early as _Esmond_
and _Hypatia_, signs were not wanting that the romance, historical or
other, was not going to be content with the rather pale copies of Scott,
and the rococo-sentimental style of Bulwer, which had mainly occupied it
for the last quarter of a century. Still, though we have mentioned other
examples of the fifties and sixties, and have left ever so many more
unmentioned, it was certainly not as popular[27] as its rival till,
towards the end of the latter decade, Mr. Blackmore's _Lorna Doone_ gave
it a fresh hold on the public taste. Some ten years later again there
came to its aid a new recruit of very exceptional character, Mr. Robert
Louis Stevenson. He was a member of the famous family of light-house
engineers, and was educated for the Bar of Scotland, to which he was
actually called. But law was as little to his taste as engineering, and
he slowly gravitated towards literature--the slowness being due, not
merely to family opposition or to any other of the usual causes (though
some of these were at work), but to an intense and elaborate desire to
work himself out a style of his own by the process of "sedulously aping"
others. It may be very much doubted whether this process ever gave any
one a style of perfect freedom: and it may be questioned further whether
Stevenson ever attained such a style.

    [27] Anthony Trollope, in one of the discursive passages in his
    early books, has left positive testimony to the distaste with
    which publishers regarded it.

But there could be no question that he did attain very interesting and
artistic effects, and there happened to be at the time a reaction
against what was called "slovenliness" and a demand for careful
preparation and planned effect in prose-writing. Even so, however, it
was not at once that Stevenson took to fiction. He began with essays,
literary and miscellaneous, and with personal accounts of travel: and
certain critical friends of his strongly urged him to continue in this
way. During the years 1878 and 1879, in a short-lived periodical called
_London_, which came to be edited by his friend the late Mr. Henley and
had a very small staff, he issued certain _New Arabian Nights_ which
caught the attention of one or two of his fellow-contributors very
strongly, and made them certain that a new power in fiction-writing had
arisen. It did not, however, at first much attract the public: and it
was the kind of thing which never attracts publishers until the public
forces their hands. For a time he had to wait, and to take what
opportunity he could get of periodical publication, "boy's
book"-writing, and the like. In fact _Treasure Island_ (1883), with
which he at last made his mark, is to this day classed as a boy's book
by some people who are miserable if they cannot classify. It certainly
deals with pirates, and pieces of eight, and adventures by land and sea;
but the manner of dealing--the style and narrative and the delineation
of the chief character, the engaging villain John Silver--is about as
little puerile as anything that can be imagined. From that time
Stevenson's reputation was assured. Ill health, a somewhat restless
disposition, and an early death prevented him from accomplishing any
great bulk of work: and the merit of what he did varied. Latterly he
took to a teasing process of collaboration, which his sincerest admirers
could have willingly spared. But his last completed book, _Catriona_
(1893), seemed to some judges of at least considerable experience the
best thing he had yet done, especially in one all-important
respect--that he here conquered either an unwillingness to attempt or an
inability to achieve the portraiture of feminine character, which his
books had previously displayed. The general opinion, too, was that the
unfinished _Weir of Hermiston_ (1897), which he left a fragment at his
death, was the best and strongest thing he had done, while it showed in
particular a distinct relinquishment, for something freer and more
spontaneous, of the effective but also rather affected and decidedly
laboured style in which he had hitherto written. For us, however, his
style is of less importance than the fact that he applied it almost
wholly to the carrying out of that rejuvenescence of romance of which we
have been speaking, and which may be taken, as anybody pleases, either
for a mere alternative to the domestic novel or as a definite revolt
against it. It was speedily taken up by writers mostly still living, and
so not to be dwelt on now.

Very late in the century the genius of Mr. William Morris turned from
verse to prose tale-telling in a series of romances which caught the
fancy neither of the public nor of the critics as a whole, but which
seem to some whom the gods have made not quite uncritical to be, if
rightly taken, of much accomplishment, and of almost more promise and
suggestion. These, seven or eight in number, from _The House of the
Wulfings_ (1889) to _The Sundering Flood_, published after the author's
death in 1898, were actual romances--written in a kind of modernised
fifteenth-century English, and dealing, some with far back incidents of
the conflict between Romans and "Barbarians," most with the frank
no-time and no-place of Romance itself. They came at an unfortunate
moment, when the younger generation of readers were thinking it proper
to be besotted with crude realism or story-less impressionism, and when
some at least of those who might have welcomed them earlier had left
their first faith in poetry or poetic prose. There was, moreover,
perhaps some genuine dislike, and certainly a good deal of precisian
condemnation, of the "Wardour Street" dialect. Yet there was no sham in
them: it was impossible for Mr. Morris to have anything to do with
shams--even his socialism was not that--and they were in reality a
revival, however Rip van Winklish it might seem, of the pure old romance
itself, at the hands of a nineteenth-century sorcerer, who no doubt put
a little of the nineteenth century into them. The best--probably the
best of all is _The Well at the World's End_ (1896)--have an
extraordinary charm for any one who can taste romance: and are by no
means unlikely to awake the taste for it in generations to come. But for
the present the thing lay out of the way of its generation, and was not
comprehended or enjoyed thereby. For it is no doubt nearly as annoying
to have bread given to you when you want thistles as to have thistles
given to you when you want bread. But just as the ballad is the
appointed reviver of poetry, so is romance the appointed reviver of
prose-fiction: and in one form or another it will surely do its work,
sooner or later.

Here it may be best to stop the actual current of critical comment on
individuals. Something has been hinted as to the general present
condition of the novel, but there is no need to emphasise it or to enter
into particulars about it: indeed, even if such a proceeding were
convenient in one way it would be very inconvenient in another. One
might, for instance, have to consider, rather curiously, a remarkable
statement recently attributed to a popular novelist that "the general
standard of excellence in fiction is higher _to-day_ than ever it was
before." But we can take higher ground. Far be it from me to bow to the
Baal of "up-to-dateness," for even if I had any such hankering, I think
I should remember that the surest way of being out-of-date to-morrow is
the endeavour to be up-to-date to-day. Only by keeping perspective can
you hope to confirm and steady your view: only by relinquishing the
impossible attempt to be complete can you achieve a relative

Yet it is well to remember that Lockhart, one of the best critics who
ever lived (when he let himself be so), a novelist too, and not likely
to lose an opportunity of magnifying his office if he could, took
occasion, in noticing the novels of his friend Theodore Hook at poor
"Mr. Wagg's" death, gravely to deplore the decadence of the novel
generally: and not much later, in reprinting the article, had the wisdom
to recognise, and the courage to record, the fact that Thackeray had
disappointed his prognostications. Literature, it has been said, is the
incalculable of incalculables: and not only may a new novelist arise
to-morrow, but some novelist who has been writing for almost any number
of years may change his style, strike the vein, and begin the
exploitation of a new gold-field in novel-production.

But this does not affect the retrospect of the past. There we are on
perfectly firm ground--ground which we have traversed carefully already,
and which we may survey in surety now.

We have seen, then, that the prose novel--a late growth both in ancient
and in modern times in all countries--was a specially late and
slow-yielding one in English. Although Thoms's _Early English Prose
Romances_ is by no means an exhaustive collection, and for this reason
was not specially referred to in the first chapter, it is impossible not
to recognise that its three rather small volumes, of matter for the most
part exceeding poor and beggarly, contrast in the most pitiful fashion
with the scores and almost hundreds containing Early English Romances in
verse. Malory of course brings the prose-scale down very considerably
from its uncomfortably _meteoric_ position, and some other things help:
but the total of prose and verse before 1500 can be brought level by no
possible sleight of weighing. Still, as we have seen, this did not
matter very much: for the verse got "transprosed" sooner or later, and
the romances and tales of other countries were greedily admitted _ad
eundem_ in sixteenth and seventeenth century English.

Yet the novel proper lingered: and, except in the single and eccentric
masterpiece of Bunyan, the seventeenth century ended without having seen
one real specimen of prose fiction that was thoroughly satisfactory.
Nearly half the eighteenth had gone too, with nothing but the less
isolated but still not perfect performances of Defoe, and the once more
still eccentric masterpiece of _Gulliver_, before the novel-period
really opened. It is literally not more than two long lifetimes ago--it
is quite certain that there are now living hundreds, perhaps thousands,
of persons born when others were still living who drew their first
breaths in or before the year when Pamela made her modest, but very
distinctly self-conscious, curtsey to the world. How soon it grew to a
popular form of literature, and how steadily that popularity has
continued and increased, there is not much need to say or to repeat.
Statistical persons every year give us the hundreds of novels that
appear from the presses, and the thousands of readers who take them out
of, or read them in, public libraries. I do not know whether there
exists anywhere a record of the total number published since 1740, but I
dare say it does. I should not at all wonder if this total ran into
scores of thousands: if you were to bring in short stories it would
certainly do so. People have almost left off shaking their heads over
the preponderant or exclusive attention to fiction in these public
libraries themselves: in fact the tendency seems to be rather to make
out that it is decreasing. It may be so; or it may not. But what remains
certain is that there is a very large number of educated people to whom
"reading" simply means reading novels; who never think of taking up a
book that is not a novel; for whom the novel exhausts even the very
meaning of the word "literature." We know that the romance was
originally so called simply because it was the commonest book in
"Romance" language. We are less unsophisticated now: but there are
certainly large numbers of His Majesty's subjects by whom a novel on
this principle ought to be called "an english" though it might have to
share that appellation with the newspaper.

Yet, as we have seen, for this or that reason, the _average_ novel did
not come to anything like perfection for a very long time. In a single
example, or set of examples, it reached something like perfection almost
at once. Fielding, Scott, Miss Austen, and Thackeray are the Four
Masters of the whole subject, giving the lady the same degree as the
others by courtesy of letters. But in the first (as for the matter of
that in the last) of the four the success was rather a matter of
individual and inimitable genius than of systematic discovery of method
practicable by others. Nobody, except Thackeray himself, has ever
followed Fielding successfully, and that only in parts and touches; as
Fielding had (unfortunately) no opportunity of following Thackeray, no
one has ever followed Thackeray satisfactorily at all. Such reasons as
presented themselves have been given for the fact that nearly half of
the whole period passed before the two systems--of the pure novel and
the novel-romance--were discovered: and even then they were not at once
put to work. But the present writer would be the very first to confess
that these explanations leave a great deal unexplained.

Yet whatever faults there might be in the supply there could be no doubt
about the demand when it was once started. It was indeed almost entirely
independent of the goodness or badness of the average supply itself.
Allowing for the smaller population and the much smaller proportion of
that population who were likely to--who indeed could--read, and for the
inferior means of distribution, it may be doubted whether the largest
sales of novels recorded in the last half century have surpassed those
of the most trumpery trash of the "Minerva Press" period--the last
decade of the eighteenth and the first of the nineteenth century. For
the main novel-public is quite omnivorous, and almost absolutely
uncritical of what it devours. The admirable though certainly fortunate
Scot who "could never remember drinking bad whisky" might be echoed, if
they had the wit, by not a few persons who never seem to read a bad
novel, or at least to be aware that they are reading one.

At the same time, the failure of the quest for novel-recipes was
compensated by an absence of that working of those recipes to death
which the last century--or the last three-quarters of it--has seen. The
average work of any one of a dozen nineteenth-century producers of
novels by the dozen and the score, whom at this place it is not
necessary to name, is probably on the whole a much better turned out
thing--one better observing its own purposes, and open to less criticism
in detail--than even the best of the works of the earlier division
outside of Fielding. But the eighteenth-century books--faulty, only
partially satisfying as they may be in comparison, say, with a
well-succeeded Trollope or one of the better Blackmores--very often have
a certain idiosyncrasy, a freedom from machine-work, which supplies
something not altogether unlike the contrast between the furniture of
the two periods. Stress and dwelling have been purposely given, to some
minor books of this period, for this very reason.

But at the same time the limitations, outside the greatest, are
certainly peculiar. It seems wonderful that a man like Cumberland, for
instance, who had not a little literary talent, should not have been
able to make _Henry_ into a story of real interest that might hold the
reader as even second-class Trollope--say a book like _Orley
Farm_--does. We have ungraciously recognised that some of our lady
novelists, who wrote by forties and by fifties, did not always sustain
the interest of their novels. Miss Burney wrote four in all, and could
hardly keep up the interest of hers right through the second. Above all,
there is the difficulty of their failure with conversation and, in fact,
with any diction proper for conversation. If Horace Walpole, a
contemporary of the eighteenth-century novel from its actual start to
practically its finish, could give us thousands and all but tens of
thousands of phrases that want but a little of being novel-conversation
ready made, why could not the other people make it for their own
purposes? But we have got no answer to these questions: and probably
there is none.

The way in which Scott and Miss Austen themselves simultaneously found
out the secrets of the two kinds of novel is no doubt, as such ways
always are, in the larger part mysterious: but to a certain extent it
can be explained and analysed, independently of the direct literary
genius of each. One of the greatest gifts of Scott--one with which the
non-historical novelist can dispense as little as his brother the
historical--was that "genius of history" with which Lord Morley--a
critic not likely to be misled by sympathy in some respects at any
rate--has justly credited him. For unless you have this "historic
sense," as it has been more generally and perhaps better termed (though
to the intense disgust of some professed historians), it is not only
impossible for you to delineate scene and character at a distance from
your time, but you become really disqualified for depicting your own
time itself. You fail to distinguish the temporary from the permanent;
you achieve perhaps a fairly faithful copy of actual manners and
fashions, but you do nothing more, and as the subject dies so does the
picture. Contrast Hook, say, with Thackeray, and the difference will
emerge at once.

Secondly, Scott had, besides this historic sense and the relish for
humanity which must accompany it, a knowledge of literature with which
he has been too seldom credited to the full. When he published
_Waverley_ he had been reading all sorts and conditions of books for
some five-and-thirty years, and assimilating them if, as the pedants
will have it, with a distressing inaccuracy in particulars, with a
general and genial fidelity of which the pedants do not even dream and
could not comprehend, or they would not be pedants. He was thus
furnished with infinite stores of illustrative matter, never to
overpower, but always to accompany and season, his knowledge of life. In
a few instances this felicity of adoption has been recognised, but not a
tenth part of it has ever been systematically put on record. The more
widely and the longer a man reads, the more constantly will he find that
Scott has been before him, and has "lifted" just the touch that he
wanted at the time and in the place.

But perhaps a greater gift (there were still others which it would be
long to perscribe--descriptive faculty, humour, pathos, half a dozen
other things of the highest importance in themselves, but of less
special application) was that which enabled him to discover and apply
something like a universal novel _language_. He did this, not as
Shakespeare did (and as nobody but Shakespeare, except perhaps Dante to
some extent, ever has done or apparently could do), by making a really
universal language which fits all times and persons because it is
universal like its creator's soul. Still less did he do it by adopting
the method which Spenser did consummately, but which almost everybody
else has justified Ben Jonson by doing very badly:--that is to say by
constructing a mosaic of his own. But his own method was nearer to this
latter. For historical creations (the most important of his
non-historic, _Guy Mannering_ and the _Antiquary_, were so near his own
time that he had no difficulty) he threw back with remarkable cunning to
a period somewhat earlier, and coloured this up to the required tint by
actual suggestions from contemporary, or nearly contemporary,
literature, where he could get it. He has done this so consummately that
perhaps the only novel of his where the language strikes us as
artificial is the single one in which he actually endeavoured to be
"up-to-date"--_St. Ronan's Well_.

This question of "Lingo," on the other hand, was Miss Austen's weakest
point: and we have seen and shall see that it continued to be a weak
point with others. Some admirers have defended her even here: but proud
as I am to be an Austen Friar, a knight (or at least squire) of the
order of St. Jane, I cannot go to this length. She very nearly
succeeded, and sometimes she did quite: but not always. The easy
dialogue and phrase that we find as early as Horace Walpole, even as
Chesterfield and Lady Mary, in letters; which, in her own early days,
appears in Fanny Burney's diaries but not in the novels, does not seem
always within Miss Austen's grasp. But her advance in this respect is
enormous: she is, for instance, far beyond Scott himself in _St. Ronan's
Well_: and when she is thoroughly interested in a character, and engaged
in unfolding it and gently satirising it at the same time, she rarely
goes even a hair's-breadth wrong. In almost every other respect she does
not go wrong to the extent of the minutest section of a hair. The story
is the least part with her: but her stories are always miraculously
_adequate_: neither desultory and pillar-to-post, nor elaborated with
the minuteness which seems to please some people, but which is quite
indifferent to the majority, and is certainly a positive nuisance to a
few who are not quite of negligible judgment. But the reason of this
adequacy in story contains in itself her greatest triumph. Not being a
poet, she cannot reach the Shakespearian consummateness of poetic
phrase: though she sometimes comes not so far short of this in the prose
variety. But in the other great province of character, though hers is
but a Rutland to his Yorkshire--or rather to his England or his
world--she is almost equally supreme. And by her manipulation of it she
showed, once for all, how the most ordinary set of circumstances, and
even the most ordinary characters in a certain sense, can be made to
supply the material of prose fiction to an absolutely illimitable
extent. Her philosopher's stone (to take up the old parable again) does
not lose its powers even when all the metal in the house is
exhausted--if indeed the metal, or anything else, in the House of
Humanity were exhaustible. The chairs and tables, the beds and the
basins--everything--can be made into novel-gold: and, when it has been
made, it remains as useful for future conversion, by the same or any
other magician of the same class, as ever. One of the most curious
things about Miss Austen is the entire absence of self-repetition in
her. Even her young men--certainly not her greatest successes--are by no
means doubles of each other: and nature herself could not turn out half
a dozen girls more subtly and yet more sufficiently differentiated than
Catherine and Elizabeth, Marianne and Fanny, Elinor and Emma, and
finally the three sisters of _Persuasion_, the other (quite other)
Elizabeth, Mary, and Anne. The "ruts of the brain" in novelists are a
by-word. There are none here.

In these two great writers of English novel there is, really for the
first time, the complementary antithesis after which people have often
gone (I fear it must be said) wool-gathering elsewhere. The amateurs of
cosmopolitan literature, I believe, like to find it in Stendhal and
Michelet. They praise the former for his delicate and pitiless
psychological analysis. It had been anticipated a dozen years, nay,
nearly twenty years, before he saw the Beresina: and was being given out
in print at about the very moment of that uncomfortable experience, and
before he himself published anything, by a young English lady--a lady if
ever there was one and English if any person ever was--in a country
parsonage in Hampshire or in hired houses, quite humdrum and commonplace
to the commonplace and humdrum imagination, at Bath and Southampton.
They praise Michelet for his enthusiastic and multiform apprehension of
the plastic reality of the past, his re-creation of it, his putting of
it, live and active, before the present. The thing had been done, twenty
years earlier again, by a Scotch advocate who had deliberately turned
from poetic form, though he retained poetic imagination, and who did not
disdain not to make a fool of himself, as Michelet, with all his genius,
did again and again. Of all the essentials of the two manners of
fictitious creation--Michelet's was not fictitious, but he almost made
it so, and Stendhal's was not historical, but he almost made it so
likewise--Scott and Miss Austen had set the types, given the methods,
arranged the processes as definitely as Fust, or Coster, or Gutenberg,
or Fust's friend Mephistopheles--who perhaps, on the whole, has the best
title to the invention--did in another matter three hundred years

That Scott's variety should be taken up first, and should for a time
have the great popularity, the greater number of disciples, the greater
acceptance as a mode of pleasing--was, as has been pointed out, natural
enough; it is not a little significant that (to avert our eyes from
England) the next practitioner of the psychological style in European
literature, Balzac, went through a long and mostly unsuccessful
probation in the other kind, and never wholly deserted it, or at least
always kept looking back to it. But the general shortcomings (as they
have been admitted to be) in the whole of the second quarter of the
century (or a little less) with us, were but natural results of the
inevitable expatiation, unsystematic and irresolute, over the newly
discovered provinces. And they gave admirable work of various
kinds--work especially admirable if we remember that there was no
general literary uprising with us as there was, in France and elsewhere,
about 1830. If it were in any way possible--similar supposings have been
admitted in literature very often--it would be extremely interesting to
take a person _ex hypothesi_ fairly acquainted with the rest of
literature--English, foreign, European, and classical--but who knew
nothing and had heard nothing of Bulwer, Disraeli, Peacock, Marryat,
even Ainsworth and James and others between Scott and the accomplished
work of Thackeray (Dickens's is, as has been said, mainly a sport of
genius), and to turn him loose on this work. I do him the justice to
suppose that he would find not a few faults: I shall also do him the
justice to think it likely that he (being, as said, _ex hypothesi_
furnished with the miscellaneous knowledge necessary to enjoy them)
would enjoy them very keenly and thoroughly. If you added the minorities
of the time, such as that very clever Miss Robinson (I think her name
was Emma) who wrote _Whitefriars_ and other historical romances in the
forties; such as Charles Macfarlane, who died, like Colonel Newcome, a
poor brother of the Charterhouse after writing capital things like _The
Dutch in the Medway_ and _The Camp of Refuge_--if, I say, you gave him
these things and he was a good man, but lazy, like Gray, I think he
would vote for a continuance of his life of novels and sofas without
sighing for anything further. But undoubtedly it might be contended that
something further was needed: and it came. This was verisimilitude--the
holding of the true mirror to actual society.

This verisimilitude, it should be observed, is not only difficult to
attain: it seems not to be easy even to recognise. I have seen it said
that the reason which makes it "hopeless for many people even to try to
get through _Pickwick_" (their state itself must be "hopeless" enough,
and it is to be hoped there are not "many" of them) is that it
"describes states of society unimaginable to many people of to-day."
Again, these many people must be somewhat unimaginative. But that is not
the point of the matter. The point is that Dickens depicts no "state of
society" that ever existed, except in the _Dickensium Sidus_. What he
gives is full of intensely real touches which help to create its charm.
But it is difficult to say that there is even a single person in it who
is real as a whole, in the sense of having possibly existed in this
world: and the larger whole of the book generally is pure fantasy--as
much so as one of the author's own favourite goblin-dream stories.

With Thackeray the case is exactly the opposite. It is a testimony no
doubt to Dickens's real power--though perhaps not to his readers'
perspicacity--that he made them believe that he intended a "state of
society" when, whether he intended it or not, he certainly has not given
it. But Thackeray intended it and gave it. His is a "state of society"
always--whether in late seventeenth century, early or late eighteenth,
early or middle nineteenth--which existed or might have existed; his
persons are persons who lived or might have lived. And it is the
discovery of this art of creation by him and its parallel diffusion
among his contemporaries that I am endeavouring to make clear here.
Fielding, Scott to some extent, Miss Austen had had it. Dickens, till
_Great Expectations_ at least, never achieved and I believe never
attempted it. Bulwer, having failed in it for twenty years, struck it at
last about this time, and so did, even before him, Mrs. Marsh, and
perhaps others, falteringly and incompletely. But as a general gift--a
characteristic--it never distinguished novelists till after the middle
of the century.

It is, I think, impossible to find a better meeting and overlapping
place of the old and the new novel, than that very remarkable book
_Emilia Wyndham_, which has been already more than once referred to. It
was written in 1845 and appeared next year--the year of _Vanity Fair_.
But the author was twenty years older than Thackeray, though she
survived him by nearly a dozen; she had not begun early; and she was
fifty-five when she wrote _Emilia_. The not unnatural consequence is
that there is a great deal of inconsistency in the general texture of
the book: and that any clever cub, in the 'prentice stage of reviewing,
could make columns of fun out of it. The general theme is age-old, being
not different from the themes of most other novels in that respect. A
half-idiotic spendthrift (he ends as very nearly an actual idiot) not
merely wastes his own property but practically embezzles that of his
wife and daughter; the wife dies and the daughter is left alone with an
extravagant establishment, a father practically _non compos_, not a
penny in her pocket after she has paid his doctor, and a selfish
baronet-uncle who will do less than nothing to help her. She has loved
half unconsciously, and been half consciously loved by, a soldier cousin
or quasi-cousin: but he is in the Peninsular War. Absolutely no help
presents itself but that of a Mr. Danby, a conveyancer, who, in some way
not very consonant with the usual etiquette of his profession, has been
mixed up with her father's affairs--a man middle-aged, apparently dry as
his own parchments, and quite unversed in society. He helps her clumsily
but lavishly: and her uncle forces her to accept his hand as the only
means of saving her father from jail first and an asylum afterwards. The
inevitable disunion, brought about largely by Danby's mother (an awful
old middle-class harridan), follows; and the desk-and-head incident
mentioned above is brought about by her seeing the (false) announcement
of her old lover's death in the paper. But she herself is consistently,
perhaps excessively, but it is fair to say not ridiculously, angelic;
Danby is a gentleman and a good fellow at heart; and of course, after
highly tragical possibilities, these good gifts triumph. The greatest
danger is threatened, and the actual happy ending brought about, by an
auxiliary plot, in which the actors are the old lover (two old lovers
indeed), his wife (a beautiful featherhead, who has been Emilia's
school-fellow and dearest friend), and a wicked "Duke of C."

Even from this sketch the tolerably expert reader of novels may discover
where the weak points are likely to lie; he will be a real expert if he
anticipates the strong ones without knowing the book. As was formerly
noticed, the dialogue is ill supplied with diction. The date of the
story is 1809: and the author had for that period a fairly safe pattern
in Miss Austen: but she does not use it at all, nor does she make the
lingo frankly that of her own day. There are gross improbabilities--Mr.
Danby, for instance (who is represented as wrapped up in his business,
and exclusively occupied with the legal side of money matters and the
money side of the law), actually discharges, or thinks he is
discharging, hundreds and thousands of Mr. Wyndham's liabilities by
handing his own open cheques, not to the creditors, not to any one
representing them, but to a country attorney who has succeeded him in
the charge of the debts and affairs, and whom he knows to be a sharp
practitioner and suspects to be a scoundrel. The inhuman uncle and the
licentious duke are mere cardboard characters: and the featherheaded
Lisa talks and behaves like a mixture of the sprightly heroines of
Richardson (for whom Lady Mary most righteously prescribed a sound
whipping) and the gushing heroines of Lady Morgan. There is too much
chaise-and-four and laudanum-bottle; too much moralising; too much of a
good many other things. And yet, somehow or other, there are also things
very rarely to be found in any novel--even taking in Bulwer and the
serious part of Dickens--up to the date. The scene between Danby and his
mother, in the poky house in Charlotte Street, when she discovers that
he has been giving a hundred-pound cheque to a young lady is
impressingly good: it is not absolutely unsuggestive of what Thackeray
was just doing, and really not far from what Trollope was not for some
years to do. There are other passages which make one think of George
Eliot, who indeed might have been writing at the very time; there are
even faint and faltering suggestions of Ibsenic "duty to ourselves." Mr.
Danby (the characters regularly call each other "Mr.," "Mrs.," and
"Miss," even when they are husbands and wives, daughters or nieces, and
uncles or fathers) is a miss, and not quite a miss, of a very striking,
original, possible, and even probable character. His mother, with
something more of the Dickensian type-character, can stand by her
unpleasant self, and came ten years before "the Campaigner." Susan, her
pleasanter servant, is equally self-sufficing, and came five years
before Peggotty, to whom she is not without resemblances.[28]

    [28] Another novel of Mrs. Marsh-Caldwell's, _Norman's Bridge_,
    has strong suggestions of _John Halifax_, and is ten years

But it is not so much the merits on the one hand, or the defects on the
other, of the book that deserve attention here and justify the place
given to it: it is the general "chip-the-shell" character. The shell is
only being chipped: large patches of it still hamper the chicken, which
is thus a half developed and half disfigured little animal. All sorts of
didactics, of Byronic-Bulwerish sentiment, of conventionalities of
various kinds, still hold their place; the language, as we have said, is
traditional and hardly even that; and the characters are partly drawn
from Noah's Arks of various dates, partly from the stock company of the
toy theatre. On the other hand, besides the touches of modernity already
mentioned, and assisting them, there is a great attention to
"interiors." The writer has, for her time, a more than promising sense
of the incongruity between Empire dress and furniture and the style of
George II.: and the shabbiness or actual squalor of Charlotte Street and
Chancery Lane show that she had either been a very early and forward
scholar of Dickens, or had discovered the thing on her own account. Her
age may excuse some of the weak points, but it makes the presence of the
strong ones all the more remarkable: and it shows all the more forcibly
how the general influences which were to produce the great central
growth of Victorian novel were at work, and at work almost violently, in
the business of pulling down the old as well as of building up the new.

Of that new novel it is not necessary to say much more. In the last
fifty or sixty years of the nineteenth century it did, as it seems to
me, very great things--so great that, putting poetry, which is supreme,
aside, there is no division of the world's literature within a time at
all comparable to its own which can much, if at all, excel it. It did
these great things because partly of the inscrutable laws which
determined that a certain number of men and women of unusual power
should exist, and should devote themselves to it, partly of the less
heroic-sounding fact that the general appetite of other men and
womenkind could make it worth while for these persons of genius and
talent not to do something else. But even so, the examination, rightly
conducted, discovers more than a sufficient dose of nobility. For the
novel appeal is not, after all, to a mere blind animal thirst for
something that will pass and kill time, for something that will drug or
flutter or amuse. Beyond and above these things there is something else.
The very central cause and essence of it--most definitely and most
keenly felt by nobler spirits and cultivated intelligences, but also
dimly and unconsciously animating very ordinary people--is the human
delight in humanity--the pleasure of seeing the men and women of long
past ages living, acting, and speaking as they might have done, those of
the present living, acting, speaking as they do--but in each case with
the portrayal not as a mere copy of particulars, but influenced with
that spirit of the universal which is the secret and the charm of art.
It is because the novels of these years recognised and provided this
pleasure in a greater degree than those of the former period (except the
productions of a few masters) that they deserve the higher position
which has been here assigned them. If the novels of any period, before
or since or to come, have deserved, may or shall deserve, a lower
place--it is, and will be, because of their comparative or positive
neglect of the combination of these conditions. Perhaps it is not easy
to see what new country there is for the novel to conquer. But, as with
other kinds of literature, there is practically no limit to its powers
of working its actual domains. In the finest of its already existing
examples it hardly yields in accomplishment even to poetry; in that
great secondary (if secondary) office of all Art--to redress the
apparent injustice, and console for the apparent unkindness, of
Nature--to serve as rest and refreshment between those exactions of life
which, though neither unjust nor unkind, are burdensome, it has no equal
among all the kinds of Art itself.


_Adam Bede_
Adams, W.
_Adeline Mowbray_
Ainsworth, H.
_Alton Locke_
_Amis and Amillion_
Amory, Thomas
_Anabasis, The_
Anglo-Saxon, Romance in
_Anna St. Ives_
_Apollonius of Tyre_
Arblay, Madame d', _see_ Burney, F.
_Arcadia, The_
_Arthour and Merlin_
Arthurian Legend, the;
  its romantic concentration
_Ask Mamma_
_Ass, The Golden_
_Atlantis, The New_
Austen, Miss

_Badman, Mr_.
Bage, R.
_Barchester Towers_
Barrett, E.S.
_Barry Lyndon_
"Barsetshire Novels," the
_Battle of the Books, The_
Beaconsfield, Lord, _see_ Disraeli, B.
Behn, Afra
Bennett, Mrs.
_Bentivolio and Urania_
Bergerac, C. de
Berington, S.
Berners, Lord
_Bertrams, The_
_Beryn, The Tale of_
Besaut, Sir W.
_Betsy Thoughtless_
_Bevis of Hampton_
Black, W.
Blackmore, R.D.
Borrow, George
Boyle, Roger, Lord Broghill and Earl of Orrery
_Brambletye House_
Brontë, Charlotte
  Emily and Anne
Brooke, H.
Brunetière, M.
Brunton, Mrs.
Bulwer, Sir E.B. Lytton (1st Lord Lytton)
_Buncle, The life of John_
Burney, F.
Byrne, Mrs.

_Caleb Williams_
_Cambridge Freshman, The_
_Canterbury Tales_ (the Misses Lee's)
_Can You Forgive Her?_
_Captain Singleton_
_Castle of Otranto, The_
_Caxtons, The_
Chamier, Captain
_Charles O'Malley_
"Charlotte Elizabeth"
Chateaubriand, 152
_Children of the Abbey, The_
_Chrestien de Troyes_
_Chronicles of Carlingford, The_
Circulating libraries, effort of
Clive, Mrs. A.
_Cloister and the Hearth, The_
Collins, Wilkie
_Colonel Jack_
_Complaint of Deor, The_
_Convent of Grey Penitents, The_
Coventry, F.
"Coverley Papers," the
Craik, Mrs.
_Cripps the Carrier_
Crisp, "Daddy"
Croker, Crofton
_Crotchet Castle_
Crowe, Mrs.
Crowne, John
Croxall, Dr.
Cumberland, R.
_Cyropædia, The_

_David Simple_
Disraeli, B.
_Divina Commedia, The_

Edgeworth, Miss
Ellis, G., _Early English Romances_
_Emilia Wyndham_
_English Rogue, The_
Evans, Mary Ann ("George Eliot")

_Fair Quaker of Dea
_Ferdinand Count Fathom_
Ferrier, Miss
Fielding, H.
Fielding, S.
_Florence of Rome_
_Florice and Blancheflour_
_Fool of Quality, The_
Ford, Emmanuel
_Fortunes of Nigel, The_
_Frank Fairlegh_
_Frank Mildmay_

_Gamekeeper at Home, The_
Gaskell, Mrs.
_Gawain and the Green Knight_
Geoffrey of Monmouth
"George Eliot," _see_ Evans, M.A.
Glascock, Capt.
Godwin, W.
Gore, Mrs.
Graves, Rev. R.
_Great Hoggarty Diamond, The_
Green, Sarah
Grey, Mr. W.W.
_Gryll Grange_
_Guadentio di Lucca_
_Gulliver's Travels_
_Guy Livingstone_
_Guy of Warwick_

Hagiology, its effect on Romance
Hamilton, Anthony
Hardy, Mr.
_Haunted and the Haunters, The_
_Havelok the Dam_
Haywood, Eliza
Head, R.
_Heir of Redclyffe, The_
Henley, Mr. W.E.
_Henrietta Temple_
_Hereward the Wake_
_Heroine, The_
Holcroft, T.
_Holy War, The_
Hook, Theodore
_Horn, King_
_Humphry Clinker_
Hunt, Leigh

_Ida of Athena_
_Iliad The_
"Imitation" (the Greek=Fiction)
Inchbald, Mrs.
Ingelo, N.
_Isle of Pines, The_
_Italian, The_
_It is Never too Late to Mend_

_Jack Wilton_
_Jacob Faithful_
James, G.P.R.
_Jane Eyre_
Jefferies, R.
_Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy_
_John Runcle_
_John Inglesand_
Johnson, Dr.
Johnstone, C.
_Jonathan Wild_
"Jorrocks," Mr.
_Joseph Andrews_
_Journey from This World to the Next, A_

_Kate Coventry_
Kingsley, C.
Kingsley, H.
_King's Own, The_
Kirkman, F.

"Lady Mary" (Wortley-Montagu)
_Lady Susan_
_Lancelot (of the Laik)_, the Scots
_Last Chronicle of Barset, The_
Lawrence, G.A.
Lee, the Misses
Lennox, Mrs.
_Leoline and Sydanis_
Letter-form in novels
Lever, C.
Lewis, M.G.
_Libertine, The_
_Lorna Doone_
_Lybius Disconus_
Lytton, _see_ Bulwer

Macdonald, George
Macfarlane, C.
Mackenzie, Henry
Mackenzie, Sir George
_Man as He Is_
_Manley, Mrs._
_Man of Feeling, The_
_Mansfield Park_
Map, W.
_Marianne_ (Marivaux)
Marryat, Captain
Marsh, Mrs.
Martineau, Mrs.
_Mary Barton_
Maturin, C.R.
_Melmoth the Wanderer_
Melville, Mr. L.
_Memoirs of a Cavalier_
Meredith, Mr. George
_Mill on the Floss, The_
_Misfortunes of Elphin, The_
_Mr. Midshipman Easy_
_Mr. Verdant Green_
_Mrs. Veal_
_Moll Flanders_
_Monk, The_
Moore, Dr. John
Morgan, Lady
Morley of Blackburn, Lord
Morris, W.
_Morte d'Arthur_, the alliterative;
  the metrical;
Mosse, Henrietta
_Mount Henneth_
_Mysteries of Udolpho, The_

Nash, T.
_Nature and Art_
Neville, H.
_Nightmare Abbey_
_No Name_
_North and South_
_Northanger Abbey_
_Novelist, The_
_Novella_, the Italian, influence of

_Odyssey, The_
_Old English Baron, The_
_Old Manor House, The_
Oliphant, Mrs.
Opie, Mrs.
_Ordeal of Richard Feverel, The_
_Ornatus and Artesia_

Paget, F.
_Palace of Pleasure_, Painter's
Paltock, R.
_Pandion and Amphigeneia_
Paris, M. Gaston
_Parismus and Parismenus_
_Paul Ferroll_
Peacock, T.L.
_Peep at Our Ancestors_
_Peregrine Pickle_
_Peter Simple_
_Peter Wilkins_
_Pickwick Papers, The_
_Pilgrim's Progress, The_
Poe, Edgar
_Polite Conversation_ (Swift's)
_Pompey the Little_
Porter, Miss
_Pride and Prejudice_
_Proud King, The_
Publication, system of

_Queenhoo Hall_
_Quixote, The Female_
_Quixote, The Spiritual_

Radcliffe, Mrs.
Raleigh, Professor Sir Walter
Reade, C.
_Recess, The_
Reeve, Clara
Rice, James
_Richard Coeur de Lion_
_Robinson Crusoe_
Robinson, Emma (?)
Roche, R.M.
_Roderich Random_
  its connection with the "Saint's Life";
  not completely separable from novel;
_Romance Readers and Romance Writers_
"Rosa Matilda"
_Ruin, The_

_St. Irvyne_
_St. Leon_
_St. Ronan's Well_
_Sayings and Doings_
"S.G.," _see_ Green, Sarah
Scott, Michael
Scott, Sir W.
_Sense and Sensibility_
_Sentimental Journey, A_
_Seven Wise Masters, The_
Sewell, Miss
_Shabby Genteel Story, A_
_Shadow of the Cross, The_
Shadwell, Charles
Sheridan, Frances
Sherwood, Mrs.
_Shortest Way with the Dissenters_
_Simple Story, A_
_Sir Amadas_
_Sir Charles Grandison_
_Sir Eglamour_
_Sir Eger, Sir Grame, and Sir Graysteel_
_Sir John Chiverton_
_Sir Isumhras_
_Sir Lancelot Greaves_
_Sir Launfal_
_Sir Orfeo_
_Sir Triamond_
_Sketches by Boz_
Smart, Capt. H.
Smedley, Frank
Smith, Charlotte
Smith, Horace
_Spiritual Quixote, The_
_Squire of Low Degree, The_
Staël, Mme. de
Stevenson, R.L.
_Strange Story, A_
Stuart, Lady L.
Surtees, R.
_Sydney Biddulph_

_Tale of a Tub, A_
_Ten Thousand a Year_
Terror-Novel, the
_Thaddeus of Warsaw_
Tolstoi, Count
_Tom and Jerry_
_Tom Brown's Schooldays_
_Tom Cringle's Log_
_Tom Jones_
"Tractarian" Novel, the
_Treasure Island_
_Tristram Shandy_
Tristram story, the
Trollope, Anthony
Trollope, Mrs.
_Two Years Ago_

_Unfortunate Traveller, The_

_Vanity Fair_
_Vicar of Wake field, The_
_Vision of St. Paul, The_
_Voyage Round the World_

Walpole, H.
_Wanderer, The_
_Warden, The_
Ward's _Catalogue of Romances_
Warren, S.
_Water Babies, The_
_Watsons, The_
_Well at the World's End_
_Westward Ho!_
Whyte-Melville, G.J.
_Wild Irish Girl, The_
Wilkinson, Sarah
_William of Palerne_
Wortley-Montagu, Lady M., _see_ "Lady Mary"
Wroth, Lady Mary
_Wuthering Heights_


Yonge, Miss
_Ywain and Gawain_


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