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A History of English Prose Fiction   By:

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A HISTORY

OF

ENGLISH PROSE FICTION

BY

BAYARD TUCKERMAN

NEW YORK & LONDON G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS The Knickerbocker Press 1894

COPYRIGHT BY G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS 1882

TO MY FATHER, THIS VOLUME IS AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED

PREFACE.

It is attempted in this volume to trace the gradual progress of English Prose Fiction from the early romance to the novel of the present day, in such connection with the social characteristics of the epochs to which these works respectively belong, as may conduce to a better comprehension of their nature and significance.

As many of the earlier specimens of English fiction are of a character or a rarity which makes any acquaintance with them difficult to the general public, I have endeavored so to describe their style and contents that the reader may obtain, to some degree, a personal knowledge of them.

The novels of the nineteenth century are so numerous and so generally familiar, that, in the chapter devoted to this period, I have sought rather to point out the great importance which fiction has assumed, and the variety of forms which it has taken, than to attempt any exhaustive criticism of individual authors a task already sufficiently performed by writers far more able to do it justice.

THE AUTHOR.

B.T.

" The Benedick. " NEW YORK, Aug. 22, 1882.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER I.

THE ROMANCE OF CHIVALRY ........................................ 1

CHAPTER II

CHAUCER, TALES OF THE YEOMANRY, SIR T. MORE'S "UTOPIA".......... 42

CHAPTER III

THE AGE OF ELIZABETH. LYLY, GREENE, LODGE, SIDNEY ............. 60

CHAPTER IV.

THE PURITANS, "THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS" ......................... 102

CHAPTER V.

THE RESTORATION. ROGER BOYLE, MRS. MANLEY, MRS. BEHN ........... 112

CHAPTER VI.

THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY. SWIFT, ADDISON, DEFOE, RICHARDSON, FIELDING, SMOLLETT ............................................. 134

CHAPTER VII.

THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY CONTINUED. STERNE, JOHNSON, GOLDSMITH, AND OTHERS. MISS BURNEY AND THE FEMALE NOVELISTS. THE ROMANTIC REVIVAL ........................................... 220

CHAPTER VIII.

THE NOVEL IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY. THE NOVEL OF LIFE AND MANNERS. OF SCOTCH LIFE. OF IRISH LIFE. OF ENGLISH LIFE. OF AMERICAN LIFE. THE HISTORICAL NOVEL. THE NOVEL OF PURPOSE. THE NOVEL OF FANCY. USE AND ABUSE OF FICTION ...................................... 274

CHAPTER I.

THE ROMANCE OF CHIVALRY.

I

In the midst of an age of gloom and anarchy, when Feudalism was slowly building up a new social organization on the ruins of the Roman Empire, arose that spirit of chivalry, which, in its connection with the Christian religion, forms so sharp a division between the sentiments of ancient and modern times. Following closely on the growth of chivalry as an institution, there came into being a remarkable species of fiction, which reflected with great faithfulness the character of the age, and having formed for three centuries the principal literary entertainment of the knighthood of Europe, left on the new civilization, and the new literature which had outgrown and discarded it, lasting traces of its natural beauty. Into the general fund of chivalric romance were absorbed the learning and legend of every land. From the gloomy forests and bleak mountains of the North came dark and terrible fancies, malignant enchanters, and death dealing spirits, supposed to haunt the earth and sea; from Arabia and the East came gorgeous pictures of palaces built of gold and precious stones, magic rings which transport the bearer from place to place, love inspiring draughts, dragons and fairies; from ancient Greece and Rome came memories of the heroes and mysteries of mythology, like old coins worn and disfigured by passing, through ages, from hand to hand, but still bearing a faint outline of their original character. All this mass of fiction was floating idly in the imaginations of men, or worked as an embellishment into the rude numbers of the minstrels, when the mediƦval romancers gathered it up, and interweaving it with the traditions of Arthur and Charlemagne, produced those strange compositions which are so entirely the product and repository of the habits, superstitions, and sympathies of the Middle Ages that they serve to

"Hold the mirror up to Nature, To show Vice its own image, Virtue its own likeness, And the very age and body of the times, His form and pressure... Continue reading book >>




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