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A Guide to the Best Historical Novels and Tales   By: (1863-)

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A Guide to the Best Historical Novels and Tales by Jonathan Nield

"These historical novels have taught all men this truth, which looks like a truism, and yet was as good as unknown to writers of history and others, till so taught: that the bygone ages of the world were actually filled by living men, not by protocols, state papers, controversies, and abstractions of men."

Carlyle on the Waverley novels.



Pre Christian Era

First Century

Second Century

Third Century

Fourth Century

Fifth Century

Sixth Century

Seventh Century

Eighth Century

Ninth Century

Tenth Century

Eleventh Century

Twelfth Century

Thirteenth Century

Fourteenth Century

Fifteenth Century

Sixteenth Century

Seventeenth Century

Eighteenth Century

Nineteenth Century

Supplementary List (Semi Historical)

Suggested Courses of Reading (Juvenile)



It is not proposed, in these preliminary remarks, to sketch in detail the origin and growth of the Historical Novel; this has already been amply done by Professor Saintsbury and others. I shall be content to approach the subject on its general side, offering, at the same time, some critical suggestions which will, I hope, not be without value to readers of Romance.

But, first of all, I must explain how the List which follows came to be compiled, and the object I have in offering it. For many years I have been an assiduous reader of novels and tales in which the historical element appeared, supplementing my own reading in this direction by a careful study of all that I could find in the way of Criticism on such works and their writers. Only in this way could I venture on a selection involving a survey of several thousand volumes! With the above understanding, I can say that no book has been inserted without some reason, while I have made all possible effort to obtain accuracy of description. And this leads me to remark, that just in this process of selection do I claim originality for my List. Nearly twenty years ago an excellent "Descriptive Catalogue of Historical Novels and Tales" was published; Mr. H. Courthope Bowen was the compiler, and I would here mention my indebtedness to him. In Mr. Bowen's list, however, one finds good and bad alike all the works of even such moderately endowed writers as G. P. R. James, Ainsworth, Grant, etc., are there set down. It seemed to me that, not only was there room for a new list of Historical Novels (Stevenson, Marion Crawford, Conan Doyle, Weyman, Mason, and a number of more or less capable romancists having come forward in the last twenty years), but, also, that more than ever was there a need for some sort of clue in the search for such books. In the last year or two there has been an almost alarming influx in this department of Fiction, and teachers in schools, besides readers in general, may be glad to be saved a somewhat tedious investigation.

"A Descriptive Catalogue of Historical Novels and Tales, for the use of School Libraries and Teachers of History," compiled and described by H. Courthope Bowen, M. A. (Edward Stanford, 1882.)

Having thus attempted to justify the existence of my little "Guide," I pass on to deal with the subject of Historical Fiction itself. Most of us, I suppose, at one time or another have experienced a thrill of interest when some prominent personage, whom we knew well by repute, came before us in the flesh. We watched his manner, and noted all those shades of expression which in another's countenance we should have passed by unheeded. Well, it seems to me that, parallel with this experience, is that which we gain, when, reading some first rank romance, we encounter in its pages a figure with which History has made us more or less familiar. And I would remark that the great masters do not, as a rule, make that mistake which less skilful writers fall into the mistake of introducing well known historical figures too frequently. The Cromwell of "Woodstock" has an element of mystery about him, even while he stands out before our mental vision in bold relief... Continue reading book >>

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