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The English Novel   By: (1845-1933)

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THE ENGLISH NOVEL

BY

GEORGE SAINTSBURY

PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH LITERATURE IN THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH

LONDON: J.M. DENT & SONS LTD. BEDFORD STREET, STRAND 1913 NEW YORK: E.P. BUTTON & CO.

PREFACE

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.

GEORGE SAINTSBURY.

Christmas , 1912.

CONTENTS

CHAP.

I. THE FOUNDATION IN ROMANCE II. FROM LYLY TO SWIFT III. THE FOUR WHEELS OF THE NOVEL WAIN IV. THE MINOR AND LATER EIGHTEENTH CENTURY NOVEL V. SCOTT AND MISS AUSTEN VI. THE SUCCESSORS TO THACKERAY VII. THE MID VICTORIAN NOVEL VIII. THE FICTION OF YESTERDAY CONCLUSION

INDEX

THE ENGLISH NOVEL

CHAPTER I

THE FOUNDATION IN ROMANCE

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... Continue reading book >>




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