1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Novel
NOVEL (from novellus, diminutive of Lat. novus, new; through the Italian novella), the name given in literature to a study of manners, founded on an observation of contemporary or recent life, in which the characters, the incidents and the intrigue are imaginary, and, therefore, “new” to the reader, but are founded on lines running parallel with those of actual history.
1. With the word novel is identified a certain adherence to the normal conditions of experience. A novel is a sustained story which is, indeed, not historically true, but might very easily be so. It is essentially a modern form of literature—that is to say, it makes its appearance when the energy of a people has considerably subsided or has taken purely civic forms, and is ready to contemplate and to criticize pictures drawn from conventional manners. The novel has been made the vehicle for satire, for instruction, for political or religious exhortation, for technical information; but these are side issues. The plain and direct purpose of the novel is to amuse by a succession of scenes painted from nature, and by a thread of emotional narrative.
It was not until the 18th century that it began to be a prominent factor in literary life, and not until the 19th that it took a place in it which was absolutely predominant. The novel requires, from those who are content to be only fairly proficient in it, less intellectual apparatus than any other species ef writing. This does not militate against the fact that the greatest novelists, always a small class, produce work which is as admirable in its art as the finest poetry. But the novel adapts itself to so large a range of readers, and covers so vast a ground in the imitation of life, that it is the unique branch of literature which may be cultivated without any real distinction or skill, and yet for the moment may exercise a powerful purpose.
2. Classical Antiquity.—The place held by the novel in antiquity offers interesting analogies with its position in modern times. It was Voltaire, in his Pyrrhonisme de l'histoire, who set the fashion of calling the Cyropaedeia a novel, but it is probable that Xenophon, in composing this great work on the education of Cyrus, had a purpose that was didactic and historical rather than imaginative. The vogue of the novel really began in Alexandrian times, when social life was so far settled in tradition that the pleasure of reflecting on reality had definitely set in. In the 2nd century B.C. a certain Aristides wrote, in six books, the Milesiaka, which was probably the beginning of the modern novel. These Tales of Miletus, the town in which Aristides lived, are lost, but from existing imitations of them in Greek and Latin we can gather that they consisted of humorous and sarcastic episodes of contemporary life. There seems to be good evidence that the bulk of these novelettes, and of the tales which followed them, dealt mainly with the adventures of lovers. In the 2nd century A.D. Lucian preserved for us invaluable pictures of the life in which he moved: his Lucius or the Ass and his True History are fantastic and extraordinary fictions in which the nature of the novel is not infrequently approached. But a Syrian Christian, Heliodorus, bishop of Tricca in the 4th century, may claim to have come much closer to it in his Aethiopica, which has the unique merit of being a perfectly pure love story, in which the marvellous is not absolutely banished, but in which on the whole the solid structure of experience is preserved. In the 6th century, as is supposed, a Greek who is called Longus (Λόγγος), but of whose life nothing is known, wrote the voluptuous pastoral story of Daphnis and Chloë, which is far superior to all other remnants of Greek fiction which have come down to us, and which is the only one of them which can strictly be called a novel. In Latin literature, the Golden Ass of Apuleius is manifestly a translation of a lost Greek book, to which Lucian also was indebted, It is probable that in the great age of Roman literature prose fiction was cultivated, but we should be limited to pure conjecture as to its scope, if we did not possess a fragment of a work which is absolutely invaluable to the comparative student of literature. If the Satyricon of Petronius was not an isolated phenomenon—and it is highly improbable that this was the case—then the Romans of the Neronian epoch understood to the full the secret of how to produce in prosea satirical, not to say cynical, study of manners in fiction. The Satyricon is not less skilfully managed than such later novels as Gil Blas or Peregrine Pickle, and it is of the same class. From the extent of the principal episode which has been preserved, it is supposed that this novel was not a short tale of intrigue, but was a sustained record, drawn up with careful and lengthy observation of manners, for the single purpose of entertainment. Unfortunately this extraordinary work remains not merely solitary in its class, but itself a fragment. In early Christian times, such books as The Shepherd of Hermas, and the productions of Palladius and of Synesius, indistinctly testified to a certain appetite for prose fiction.
3. Italian.—It was in northern Italy that the novel of modern Europe (both the literary type and the name) came into existence. A collection of tales, called Il Novellino or Cento novelle antiche (although only 66 of the 100 survive), was composed at the end of the 13th century, and started this class of literature in Europe. These anonymous stories are of extraordinary diversity, chivalrous, mythological, moral and scandalous. The medieval view of women and priests and peasants is found in its full development, and there is something of the realistic reflection of customs which was to flourish later in a whole class of fiction. The earliest Italian novelist whose name is connected with his writings is Francesco da Barberino (1264–1348), whose Documenti d'Amor were first published in 1640. He was followed by the celebrated Giovanni Boccaccio, who wrote his Filocopo about 1339 and the Decameron some nine years later. Of his disciples the most eminent was Francesco Sacchetti (1335–1400), a Florentine. Sacchetti's Trecente novel, which remained in MS. until the 18th century (1724), are ironical and realistic studies of the life around him in Tuscany. To Giovanni Fiorentino is attributed a collection of 50 tales, called Il Pecorone, printed first in 1558, but written in 1378. Shakespeare was indebted to one of these stories for the plot of The Merchant of Venice. A great name in the evolution of European fiction is that of Tommaso Guardato, called Masuccio (1415?–1477?); he was a native of Salerno, and was the first of the south Italian novelists. Masuccio imitated no one; his conceptions and his observations are wholly his own. His Novellino, printed at Naples in 1476, is divided into five books, each containing ten stories. These deal satirically with the three favourite subjects of the age namely, jealous husbands, unfaithful wives and debauched priests. He was followed in this, as well as in his vivacity, by Antonio Cornazzano (1431?–1477?), an inhabitant of Piacenza, who wrote Italian with much greater purity than Masuccio, but less vigour. His stories were frequently reprinted, under the title of Proverbii. Of the novels of Giovanni Brevio (1480?–1562?) only five have been preserved, but these are of unusual merit. We then reach Matteo Bandello (1480–1561), long the most famous of all the Italian novelists, whose Novelle, first issued in 1554, were eagerly read in all parts of Europe; they are 214 in number. After Bandello the decline of the Italian novella is evident. Francesco Maria Molza (1489–1544), whose stories appeared in 1547, was a rival to Bandello, and has been preferred to him by several modern critics. The Ragionamenti d'Amor (1548) of Agnolo Firenzuola (1493–1545) was the work of a poet writing in richly embroidered prose. After Firenzuola the great school of Italian story-tellers declined. There was no more novel writing of any importance in Italy until the close of the 18th century, when an admiring study of German literature produced the romances of Alessandro Verri (1741–1816) and Ugo Foscolo (1778–1827). The first Italian novelist of merit in recent times, however, is Alessandro Manzoni (1785–1873), whose I Promessi Sposi (1825) enjoyed an unbounded popularity. Manzoni had a troop of imitators, but no rivals. In the fourth quarter of the 19th century Italy produced some very brilliant and original novelists, in particular Giovanni Verga (b. 1840), Matilda Serao (b. 1856) and Gabriele d'Annunzio (b. 1865).
4. France.—In the 14th century, when Italy was already proceeding in a modern direction, France was satisfied with ancient tales of Fierabras or Les Quatre fils d'Aynon, which were nothing but epics told in rambling prose. It was not until about 1450 that the anonymous Quinze joies du mariage showed the French to be influenced by the Italian discovery of the novelette of manners. The author of this extraordinary work was perhaps Antoine de la Sale who seems certainly to have written the whole of the Cent nouvelles nouvelles, imitated from Boccaccio and Sacchetti. This bud of realistic fiction, however, was immediately nipped by the romances of chivalry, of Spanish extraction, which were only destroyed by the vogue of Don Quixote. The translation of Montalvo's celebrated Amadis de Gaule enjoyed at this time an extraordinary popularity.
The habit of telling tales freely in prose was not, however, formed in France until after 1500. Bonaventure Despériers (d. 1544) was the author of the Cymbalum mundi, and of Nouvelles récréations, mordant satires and gay stories. Probably to this age also belongs the semi-fabulous Béroalde de Verville, who is supposed to be the author of a collection of facetious anecdotes and conversations, Le Moyen de Parvenir. These, and other experiments in fiction, lead us up to Rabelais, whose magnificent genius adopted as its mode of address the chain of burlesque prose narratives which we possess in Gargantua and Pantagruel, recording the family history of a race of giant kings, but his influence on the novel is insignificant. It was half a century later that, in the romantic pastoral of Astrée, published in 1610, France may be said to have achieved her first attempt at a novel. This famous book was written by Honoré d'Urfé; in spite of its absurdities it is full of talent, and succeeds, for the first time in the history of French narrative, in depicting individual character. D'Urfé was followed, with less originality, by Marin Le Roy de Gomberville (1600–1674), who was the author of a Mexican romance, Polexandre, and by Gombauld (1570?–1666), the author of Endymion (1624). These were fictions of interminable adventures, broken by an infinite number of episodes; they seem tedious enough to us nowadays, but with their refinement of language, and their elevation of sentiment, they fascinated readers like Madame de Sévigné. To Gomberville, who has been called the Alexandre Dumas of the 17th century, succeeded Mdlle de Scudéry (1607–1701), who preserved the romantic framework of the novel, but filled it up with modern and familiar figures disguised under ancient names. Her huge romans à clef, tiresome as they are, form the necessary steppingstone between Astrée, in which the novel was first conceived, and La Princesse de Clèves, where at last it found perfect expression. Meanwhile, the elephantine heroic romances were ridiculed by Charles Sorel in his Francine (1622) and Le Berger extravagant (1628). Later examples of a realistic reaction against the pompous beauty of Gomberville and Scudéry were the Roman comique (1651) of Scarron and Le Roman bourgeois (1666) of Furetière.
All these, however, were mere preparations. The earliest novelist of France is Marguerite de la Vergne, comtesse de La Fayette (1634–1693), and the earliest genuine French novels were her Princesse de Montpensier (1662), and her far more important Princesse de Clèves (1678). Madame de La Fayette was the first writer of prose narrative in Europe who portrayed, as closely to nature as she could, the actual manner and conversations of well-bred people. To show that she was capable of writing in the old style, she published, with the help of Segrais, in 1670, a Zayde, which is in the Spanish manner affected by Mdlle de Scudéry. It was long before the peculiar originality of the Princesse de Clèves was appreciated. Meanwhile La Fontaine, in 1669, published a fine romance of Psyché, partly in verse, and Fénelon, in 1699, his celebrated Télémaque. The influence of La Bruyère on the novelists, although he wrote no novels, must not be overlooked. But the Princesse de Clèves remained the solitary novel of moral analysis when its author died and the 17th century closed. The successes of Alain René Lesage seemed to be wholly reactionary. His realistic novels, Gil Blas and Le Diable boileux, depended upon their comic force, their picaresque vivacity, rather than upon the sober study of average human character. But Marivaux (1688–1763) took up the psychological novel again, and produced in Marianne (1731) and Le Payson parvenu (1735) analytical stories of Parisian manners and character which were wholly modern in form. If Marianne was deliberate, the exquisite Manon Lescaut (1731), by the Abbé Prévost d'Exiles (1697–1763), was almost an accident; but, between them, these simultaneous works started the French novel of the analysis of emotion. The brilliant stories of Voltaire, which began with Zadig and included Candide, hardly belonged to this category; they are rather satires and diversions, in which class must also be placed the fashionable boudoir novels of Crébillon fils, La Morlière and others. But the English taste, exemplified mainly by Richardson, Sterne and Fielding, prevailed, and its effect was seen again in the imperfect novels of Diderot and Rousseau. The Nouvelle Héloise and the Émile of the latter are not skilfully constructed as stories. but they mark the starting-point of the novel which aims at familiarising the public mind with great ideas in an attractively romantic form. The moral purpose is equally evident in the famous Paul et Virginie of Bernardin de St Pierre. It was less didactically present in Mme de Stael's Delphine (1802) and Corinne (1807), where the misinterpreted woman of genius, so often depicted since, is first introduced to French novel-readers. It was not, however, until about 1830 that the novel began to be one of the main channels of imaginative writing in France, and the development of this kind of fiction was one of the main features of the romantic revival. Stendhal showed that, without any of the charms of style, and relying exclusively upon minute psychological observation, the record of a human life could be made enthrallingly interesting. Alexandre Dumas, under the direct influence of Sir Walter Scott, allowed his tropic imagination to revel and riot in brilliant chains of adventure. The imaginative novel was admirably conceived by George Sand. But it was Balzac who filled canvas after canvas with the astounding intensity of life itself, and who insisted with irresistible force that the function of the novel is to draw a consistent and unprejudiced picture of humanity under the strain of a succession of probable passions; This has been clearly comprehended by the host of later French novelists, whose record cannot be traced here, to be the function of the novel, as Mme de La Fayette invented it, as Marivaux and Prévost developed it, and as George Sand and Balzac finally laid down its laws and settled its borders. Certain dates, however, must be recorded in the briefest record of the evolution of the French novel, and 1856 is one of these; in that year Gustave Flaubert published Madame Bovary, a work in which the rival realistic and romantic tendencies are combined with a mastery that had not been approached and has not since been equalled. Another is 1871, when Zola began to roll out the enormous canvas of Les Rougon-Macquart. Yet another in 1880, when Boule de suif first revealed in Maupassant a novelist whose creations were not merely amusing and striking, but absolutely convincing and logical.
5. English.—If we take no heed of translations of Latin stories, such as those from the Gesta Romanorum, we may say that the beginning of prose fiction in England is Le Morte d'Arthur, of Sir Thomas Malory, finished in or about 1470, and printed by Caxton in 1485. The great merits of this writer were that he got rid of the medieval burden of allegory, essayed an interpretation of the human heart, and invented a lucid and vigorous style of narrative. But his book became, as Professor W. Raleigh has said, “ the feeder of poetry rather than of prose,” and it gave no inkling of the methods of the modern novel. The same may be said of such versions of the Charlemagne Amadis and Palmeria cycles of romances as Huon of Bordeaux, published by Lord Berners, perhaps in 1535, and innumerable others. It was the novella of Italy from which the English novel first faintly started. Between 1560 and 1580 versions of the Italian novelists became exceedingly popular in England. Paynter in introducing the tales of Bandello and Straparola struck the true novelist's note by offering them not as works of morality or edification, but “ instead of a merry companion to shorten the tedious toil of weary ways.” The appreciation of these Italian stories led to the composition of the Euphues of Lyly (1579), a book of great interest and merit, which has been called “ the first original prose novel written in English.” This is somewhat to exaggerate, since Euphues is rather a work of elegant philosophy than a narrative. Lyly had many imitators, Munday, Greene, Dickenson, Barnabe Rich, Lodge, Nash and others, who formed a school of prose fiction which was not without a certain romantic beauty, but which possessed as little narrative vigour as possible. To compare a story written by Sacchetti in 1385 with one written by Greene in 1585 is to perceive that not merely had no progress been made towards the modern novel, but that a great deal of ground had been lost. The genius of the Elizabethan age lay in the direction of lyrical and dramatic poetry, not of prose fiction. The absence of the comic element in Elizabethan romances is very marked. M. Jusserand has claimed a peculiar merit in this and other respects for the Jack Wilton of Nash (1594), which, as he points out, is the earliest English example of picaresque literature. During the reign of the heroic romances in France, their vogue violently affected the English book-market. The huge stories of Calprenède and Gomberville were imported, and translated and imitated to the exclusion of every other species of prose fiction, between 1645 and 1670. The long-winded books of Mdlle de Scudéry, especially Cassandra and The Great Cyrus, were read so universally in England as to leave their stamp on the national manners. Of original English romances, written in competition with the French masterpieces of tenderness and chivalry, the Parthenissa of Lord Orrery (1654) is the best known. The first definite stand against these Gallicized romances was made by two dramatists, Aphara Behn and William Congreve. Congreve's Incognita (1692) is remarkable for its light raillery and humour, and perhaps deserves as well as any 17th-century composition to be called the earliest novel in English. The stories of Mrs Behn have the merit of a romantic simplicity of narrative, but they are dull and devoid of art. But the novel still lingered, unwilling to make its appearance in England, and its place was taken during the age of Anne by the labours of the essayists. So rich is the character painting, so lively the touches of social colour in the Spectator and Tatler, that these periodicals have, by enthusiastic critics, been styled brilliant examples of prose fiction. But it is obvious that in the delightful essays of Addison and Steele there was no attempt made at construction, that the sustained evolution of characters was not essayed, and that even in the studies of Mr Bickerstaff's Club anything likea plot was studiously avoided. Yet these are all essential characteristics of the novel, and until they make their appearance in English literature we must not say that the secret has been discovered. Very near to the mystery, if he did not quite grasp it, was Daniel Defoe, who introduced into his narrative a minute and rude system of realistic observation, by way of giving an impression of truth to it. This exactitude he combined with a survival of the old picaresque method, the result being those strange and entertaining works Colonel Jack (1722) and Roxana (1724). Still closer he came to positive success in the immortal narrative of Robinson Crusoe, in which the fascination of the desolate island was first worked up in English.
6. Not even yet had the English novel been invented. It came into the world in 1740 from the unconscious hands of Samuel Richardson (1689–1761), who had hit upon the notion that morality might be helped and young persons of inexperience protected by the preparation of a set of letters exchanged between imaginary persons. The result was Pamela: or Virtue Rewarded, a book which is in every strict sense the earliest English novel. It has even a claim to be considered the earliest European novel of the modern kind, for the assumption of French criticism that Richardson borrowed his ideas and his characters from the Marianne of Marivaux is not supported by evidence. There is no reason to suppose that Richardson met with the name of Marivaux earlier than 1749. At all events, it would seem to be certain that, whether in France or England, the fourth decade of the 18th century saw the spontaneous conception of this “ new species of writing.” The name of the heroine of Richardson's book was Miss Pamela Andrews, and the second English novel was Fielding's Joseph Andrews (1742), which started as a mere burlesque of Pamela, but proceeded upon admirably original lines of its own, in a study of the humours and manners of contemporary country life. Fielding rejected the epistolary artifice of Richardson, and told his story in a straightforward narrative, broken indeed by arguments and ejaculations which bound the new novel to the old essay of the Spectator type. The creative force of Fielding filled the pages of this book with a crowd of vividly-presented characters, and this marked a step in advance, for Richardson's practice was to concentrate minute attention upon only one or two figures. It was from Richardson that the next important fiction came, in the shape of the long-drawn tragedy of Clarissa (1748). But a third great novelist was now at work; in 1748 appeared the Roderick Random of Smollett, and here we have neither the sculptural manner of Richardson nor the busy world of Fielding's realism, but a comic impression founded on an artful employment of emphasis and exaggeration. Smollett gives us neither breathing statues nor a crowd of men and women, but a gallery of “ freaks,” arranged with great art, indeed, but exhibited in such a way as to expose not their likeness but their unlikeness to the common stock of humanity. It is very important to note this curious divergence between the three great writers, because they exemplified the three classes into which almost all subsequent novels can with more or less ease be divided. The next move was made by Fielding, who in 1749 published his Tom Jones. Starting with the pungent horror of hypocrisy ever before him, Fielding constructs a fragment of the world in which men and women are seen, without exaggeration, plying their daily trades under the eye of an impartial observer who can penetrate to their secret motives. This was a great advance, and a still greater one was the sustained skill with which the author conducted the plot, the interwoven series of the actions of his characters. It may almost be said that until the publication of Tom Jones no novel with a real plot had been conceived in English. The rivalry of the great novelists of this time was of signal help to them, and there can be no question that the astounding richness of Tom Jones stirred Smollett to the exercise of increased energy in Peregrine Pickle (17 51), a coarse and savage book, illuminated by brilliant flashes of humour. A better, because a tenderer and truer study of life was Amelia, which Fielding published in the same year; yet most readers have found this novel a little languid after Tom Jones. But if the ideal of life depicted in it was quieter and sadder, it was perhaps for that very reason more in harmony with the facts of life. Now Richardson, who had long been silent, reasserted his mastery of epistolary analysis in the huge History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753), in which, as its admirers claimed, “ all the recesses of the human heart are explored and its whole texture unfolded.” Richardson had scarcely been affected by the experiments of his contemporaries, of the very nature of which he affected to be ignorant, and the result is that in his third and last novel he depends entirely on qualities which he had already developed, and owes nothing to the discoveries of others.
7. With this book, the first great group of English novels comes to a close, and we may observe that in these eight stories everything is to be found, in germ if not in full evolution, which was during the next century and a half to make the abundant out-put of the English novel prominent. New forms, above all new subjects, were to present themselves to the imagination of capable British novelists, but the starting-point of every experiment was to be discovered in the ripest work of Richardson, Fielding and Smollett. Their influence was manifest in the writings of the second school of English novelists, in whom, however, several interesting varieties of subject and treatment were discovered. The Tristram Shandy (1759–1766) of Sterne, is the most masterly example in English of a humour which goes direct to pathos for its most “ sentimental ” effects, and of the kind of loosely-strung, reflective fiction which is hardly a narrative at all. Neither Tristram Shandy nor A Sentimental Journey (1768) can properly be included among novels. In Rasselas (1759) Dr Johnson showed that the new kind of writing could be used to give entertainment to a sermon and in this he was to have a multitude of followers. In Chrysal (1760) Charles Johnstone (d. 1800) showed that the picaresque romance could still exist, tinctured by the newly-found art of the novelist. In The Castle of Otranto (1764) Horace Walpole adapted the methods of the novelist to a pseudo-historical theme of horror and romance, and prophesied of Walter Scott. In The Vicar of Wakefield (1766) Goldsmith was indebted to most of his immediate predecessors, but fused their qualities in an amalgam of gentle wit and delicate sweetness and conversational brevity which has made his one loosely-constructed novel a foremost classic of our literature. Thus, in the one quarter of a century which divides Pamela from The Vicar of Wakefield, English novel-writing was born, grew into full maturity, and adopted its adult and final forms.
8. During the remainder of the 18th century, little or nothing was done to extend the range of prose fiction in England, but one or two of those departments of novel-writing which had already been invented were developed and adapted to changing taste. In particular, the rapid increase of reticence and refinement in conversation made such a novel in letters as Smollett's Humphrey Clinker (1771) repulsively coarse to women of delicacy, who were charmed on the other hand with the Evelina of Frances Burney (1778). These two typical books are composed on the same plan, yet essentially a whole age lies between the former and the latter. What has been called “the novel of the testable ” now came into existence, and the 18th century was about to close in mediocrity, when its credit was partially saved by a development of Horace Walpole's romance of terror in the vigorous and sensational narratives of Anne Radcliffe (1764–1823), whose Mysteries of Udolpho appeared in 1794. The same year saw the publication of Caleb Williams, in which William Godwin (1756–1836) evolved a tragic theory of politics. A finer study than either of the works just mentioned, although not truly a novel, was the gorgeous and sinister Vathek (1786) of William Beckford, an oriental tale of horror. In all these books there existed an element of grotesque mingled with romantic colour, which announced the coming revival.
9. The two schools here indicated, and they may be roughly defined as the school of the Tea-Table and the school of the Skeletonin-the-Cupboard, did not, however, betray their real significance until the second decade of the 19th century, when after several unimportant efforts, they developed into the novel of psychological satire and the romance of historical imagination. Two writers, the greatest who had yet attempted to address English readers through prose fiction, almost simultaneously came forward as the protagonists in these two spheres of work. Jane Austen published Sense and Sensibility in 1811, Walter Scott Waverley in 1814. These were epoch-making dates; in each case a new era opened for the countless readers of novels. The first-named writer, all exactitude, conscience and literary art, worked away at her “ little bit (two inches wide) of ivory”; the other, with bold and flowing brush, covered vast spaces with his stimulating and noble compositions. It is, however, to be noted that the isolation in which we now regard these great writers—a solitude à deux only broken in measure by the presence of Miss Maria Edgeworth—is an optical delusion due to the veils of distance. The bookshops from 1810 to 1820 and onwards were thronged and glutted with novels, many of them infinitely more successful, as far as sales were concerned, than the most popular of Miss Austen's works. The novels of Miss Austen were written between 1796 and 1810, although published from 1811 to 1818; those of Sir Walter Scott date from 1814 (Waverley) to 1829 (Anne of Geierstein). Practically speaking, no additions were made to the formula of the social novel or of the historical romance, to the study of national manners, that is to say, from the satirical or from the picturesque point of view, until a quarter of a century later.
10. The next artist in prose fiction whose force of invention was sufficient to start the novel on wholly fresh tracks was born forty years later than Scott. This was Charles Dickens, whose Pickwick Papers (1836) marks another epoch in novel writing. His career of prodigal production ceased abruptly in 1870, by which time it had long been obvious that he was the pioneer of a great and diverse school of novelists, all born within the second decade of the century. Of these Thackeray was not really made obvious until Vanity Fair (1849), nor Charlotte Brontë till Jane Eyre (1847), nor Mrs Gaskell till Mary Barton (1848), nor George Eliot till Adam Bede (1859). The most noticeable point on which the five illustrious novelists of the Early Victorian age resembled one another and differed from all their predecessors, was the sociological or even humanitarian character of their writings. All of them had projects of moral or social reform close at heart, all desired to mend the existing scheme of things. In several of them, particularly in Dickens and Miss Brontë, the element of insubordination is extremely marked; it is present in them all; and a determination not to be content to see life beautifully, through coloured glasses, or to be content with a sarcastic travesty of it, but to realize in detail its elements of pain and injustice. The novel, which had already learned to compete with all the amusing sections of literature, became the successful rival of the serious ones also. The task of the novelist was, therefore, so far as the indication of the scope of his particular kind of art is concerned, now complete. The names of Anthony Trollope, Charles Kingsley, Charles Reade, George Meredith, Thomas Hardy and Robert Louis Stevenson represent, in their least challenged form, different movements in novel-writing during the second half of the 19th century; we must be content here to refer for particulars concerning them to the separate biographical articles.
11. Spain.—Prose narrative in Spain practically begins in the 15th century with chronicles and romances of chivalry, tempered occasionally and faintly by some knowledge of what had been attempted in Italy by Boccaccio. The Spanish version of Amadés de Gaula, in which the romance of knight errantry culminated, belongs to 1508; the lost original is supposed to have been Portuguese. This was the only book of its class which is saved from the burning in Don Quixote; it was followed by Palmerin of England. These interminable books, and a hundred worse than they, occupied the leisure of 16th-century readers of both sexes. Without approaching the form of novels, they prepared the ground for novel-reading. The exploration of America led to the composition of monstrous tales of the New World, which generally took the form of continuations of Amadés. A new thing was begun in 1554, when the anonymous picaresque romance of Lazarillo de Tormes started thestory of fantastic modern adventure; this highly entertaining book has been called the 16th-century Pickwick, and Mr Fitzmaurice-Kelly remarks that it “ fixed for ever the type of the comic prose epic.” The pastoral romance, in the hands of Jorge de Montemór (d. 1561), who wrote an insipid Diana which was popular for a while throughout Europe, took readers a step backward, away from the ultimate path of the novel. It is of interest to us, however, to note that it was in one of these “ vain imaginings,” in his pastoral romance of Galatea, that Cervantes approached' the field of fiction, in 1585. Few of his peculiar merits are to be found in this early work; he turned for the present to the composition of plays. It was not until 1604 that he returned to prose fiction by printing his immortal Don Quixote, which made an epoch in the history of the novel. This book was originally intended to ridicule the already fading passion for the romances of chivalry, but it proceeded much further than that, and there is hardly any branch of fiction which may not be traced back to the splendid initiation of some chapter of Don Quixote. In 1613 Cervantes published his twelve Exemplary Novels; these are not so well known as the great romance, and they owed not a little of their form to Italian sources, but they are very brilliant. One of the best anonymous Spanish stories of the period, The Mock Aunt, is a type of excellence in facetious narrative of the sarcastic class; this is now commonly attributed to Cervantes himself. No other novelist of Spain has moulded the thought of Europe, but the heroic romance which occupied so much of the attention of France in the 17th century was invented by a little-known Spanish soldier, Pérez de Hita, who, about 1600, wrote fantastic stories about Granada and the Moors. The farcical romance of Fray Gerundio de Campazas, 1758, by J. F. de Isla (1703–1718), competed in popularity with Gil Blas. Speaking broadly, however, Spain made no appreciable progress in novel-writing from the days of Cervantes to those of Walter Scott, when the Waverley Novels began to find such artless imitators as Martinez de la Rosa and Zorrilla. But the first original novelist of Spain was Cecilia Böhl de Faber (Fernán Caballero) (1796–1877), whose La Gaviota, 1848, a study of life in an Andalusian village, was the earliest Spanish novel, in the modern sense. She was followed by Valera (1824–1904), by Alarcón (1833–1891), by Pereda (b. 1834), by Perez Galdós (b. 1845) and by Palacio Valdés (b. 1853), in whom the tendencies of recent European fiction have been competently illustrated without any striking contributions to originality.
12. Germany.—The cultivation of the novel in its proper sense began late in Germany. It is usual to consider that H. ]. C. von Grimmelshausen (1625?–1675) is the earliest German novelist; his very curious romance, Abenteuerliche Simplicius Simplicissimus, was printed at Mömpelgard in 1669. This is an account of the adventures of a simple-minded fellow during the Thirty Years War, and is a chain of episodes, brilliantly recorded, but hardly a novel. Early in the 18th century, an extraordinary number of imitations of Defoe's great romance were published in Germany, and these are known to scholars as the Robinsonaden. Later on, Wieland imitated Don Quixote, but the earliest German novel which possesses original value is the celebrated work of Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774). The still more celebrated Wilhelm Meister did not appear until 1796. A third novel, Elective Affinities, was published by Goethe in 1809. Meanwhile, a very characteristic group of picturesque stories had been issued by Johann Paul Richter (Jean Paul) (1763–1825), destined to have a wide influence upon romantic literature throughout Europe. Purely romantic were the stories of Tieck, of Brentano, of Arnim, of Fouqué, of Kleist, of Immermann. The German novelists of this period wrote like poets, deprived of the discipline of verse. In later times novels of high merit have been written by Gustav Freytag, Wilibald Alexis (1798–1871), called the German Walter Scott, Laube, Fontane, Ebers, Jeremias Gotthelf, Berthold Auerbach, Spielhagen, Heyse and many others, but the 19th century produced no German novelist of commanding originality.
13. Russia.—In Russia alone, among the countries of central and eastern Europe, the novel has developed with a radical originality. Until the second quarter of the 19th century the prose fiction of Russia was confined to imitators of Sir Walter Scott, but about the year 1834 Gogol (1809–1852) began to revolt against the historic-romantic school and to produce stories in which an almost savage realism was curiously blended with the Slavonic dreaminess and melancholy. Since then the Russian novel has consistently been the novel of resignation and pity, but wholly divorced from sentimentality. Gogol was succeeded by Gontcharov, Tourgéniev, Dostoievski, Pissemski (1820–1881) and Tolstoi, forming the most consistent and, doubtless, the most powerful school of novelists which Europe saw in the 19th century. The influence of these writers on the rest of the world was immense, and even in England, where it was least acutely felt, it was significant. That the Russians have indicated the path to new fields in the somewhat outworn province of novel-writing is abundantly manifest.
14. Oriental.—In a primitive form, the novel has long been cultivated in Asia. It was introduced into China, but whence is unknown, in the 13th century, and Le Kuan-chung was the first Chinese novelist. The productions of this writer and of his followers are tales of bloody warfare, or record the adventures of travellers. The novel called The Twice-Flowering Plum-Trees, belonging to the 16th (or 17th) century, is a typical example of the moral Chinese novel, written with a virtuous purpose. Professor Giles holds that the novel of China reached its highest point of development in The Dream of the Red Chamber, an anonymous story of the end of the 17th century; this is a panorama of Chinese social life, “ worked out with a completeness worthy of Fielding.” Prose stories began to be met with in the literature of Japan early in the 10th century. But the inventor of the Japanese novel was a woman of genius, Murasaki no Shikibu, whose Genji Monogatari has been compared to the writings of Richardson; it was finished in 1004 and may, therefore, be considered the oldest novel in the world. This book, which is one of the great classics of Japan, was widely imitated. After the classic period novel-writing was long neglected in japan, but the humours of 17th-century life were successfully translated into popular fiction by Saikaku (1641–1693), and later by Jisho and Kiseki, who collaborated in a great number of remarkable stories.
See Dunlop, The History of Fiction (1816); Borroneo, Catalogo de' novellieri italiani (1805); Em. Gebhart, Conteurs du moyen âge (1901); E. M. de Vogué, Le Roman russe (1886); Forsyth, Novels and Novelists of the 18th Century (1871); Bever and Sansot-Orland, Œuvres galantes des conteurs italiens (1903); Rivadeneyra, Biblioteca de autores españoles (1846–1880); Gosse, A Century of French Romance (1900-1902); G. Pellissier, Le Mouvement littéraire au XIXe siècle (1889); Zola, Les Romanciers naturalistes (1880); Le Roman experimental (1879); Brunetière, Le Roman naturaliste (1883); W. Raleigh, The English Novel (1894); V. Chauvin, Les Romanciers grecs et latins (1862); Fancan, Le Tombeau des romans (1626). (E. G.)