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Shorter Novels, Eighteenth Century The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia; The Castle of Otranto, a Gothic Story; Vathek, an Arabian Tale   By: (1717-1797)

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Transcriber's Note:

Greek and Hebrew have been transliterated and appear within {braces} and \backslashes\, respectively. Upright text used for emphasis within italicized passages is indicated with vertical bars.

For detailed information about the corrections and changes made, see the end of the text.

Everyman, I will go with thee, and be thy guide, In thy most need to go by thy side.

EVERYMAN'S LIBRARY

Founded 1906 by J. M. Dent (d. 1926) Edited by Ernest Rhys (d. 1946)

No. 856

FICTION

SHORTER NOVELS INTRODUCTION AND NOTES BY PHILIP HENDERSON · IN 3 VOLS. VOL. 3 · EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

SHORTER NOVELS

EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

RASSELAS THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO VATHEK

LONDON: J. M. DENT & SONS LTD. NEW YORK: E. P. DUTTON & CO. INC.

All rights reserved Type set and bound in Great Britain at The Temple Press Letchworth and printed in Belgium by Drukkerij Omega Antwerp for J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd. Aldine House Bedford St. London First published in this edition 1903 Last reprinted 1948

INTRODUCTION

The three novels collected here all belong to the later years of the eighteenth century. The first represents what may be called the last stand of Augustanism before that riot of fancy and imagination, as exemplified by the other two tales, that ushered in the Romantic Revival. Thus in Rasselas we have Johnson, with the fortitude of Atlas, supporting the miseries of the world on his broad shoulders; Horace Walpole shutting us up in his Castle of Otranto , away from reality and all reasonableness; and Beckford, in Vathek , transporting us on his magic carpet to the court of the grandson of Haroun al Raschid, and thence to a region of perdition and eternal fire, where all memory of Augustanism is irretrievably lost.

They are strange company these three books, but they are nevertheless infallible indexes to the taste of their time. The fact that Rasselas in 1759 met with such enormous success and that The Castle of Otranto four years later met with perhaps an equal success, indicates as plainly as anything could that although people had not lost their admiration for Johnson, they were already tiring of "good sense" and quite willing to give free play to those wilder impulses in their natures that Augustanism had sought to discipline. But this time the tide turned with a vengeance! The grave Wordsworth, a romantic himself, is found deploring the "frantic novels" of this time, although Shelley's young and fiery imagination seized upon them with avidity, and, in Zastrozzi , he wrote an even more frantic one himself. But it was The Castle of Otranto , written in conscious reaction against the domesticities and sentiment of Richardson, with its plea that the material of the novel could be taken from anything but the events of ordinary life, that opened the gates onto the land of Romance. And in its train came all the rest of the "Gothic" and "terror" novelists Clara Reeve, Mrs. Radcliffe, "Monk" Lewis, Charles Maturin to mention only those who are now chiefly remembered. Vathek , however, stands alone, without predecessors or immediate followers, belonging to a quite un English tradition, although the Oriental tale in one shape or another had quite a vogue in the eighteenth century if we may include such things as Collins's Persian Eclogues and Goldsmith's Chinaman, or even Rasselas itself, which, at least, has a nominal setting in the East.

Rasselas was written, as every one knows, during the evenings of a week, when Johnson "had occasion for thirty pounds on Monday night," as he wrote to the printer on 20 January, 1759. His mother had just died and he sat down in his Gough Square garret to earn the necessary money for her funeral and for paying off the few debts she had left... Continue reading book >>




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