2 GREAT BRITAIN IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY: SOCIO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND POLITICAL ORGANISATION; CULTURAL AND TECHNICAL ACTIVITY
2.1 Social organisation
2.3 Technical development
2.4 Historical background and political organisation
2.5 Cultural activity
3 GREAT NOVELISTS OF THE PERIOD
3.1 The rise of the novel
A Daniel Defoe
B Jonathan Swift
C Samuel Richardson
D Henry Fielding
3.2 The maturity of the novel
A Lawrence Sterne
B James Boswell
C Jane Austin
4 STUDY GUIDE
The 18th century in England is known as the Age of Reason or Age of Optimism. It is the time of the Enlightenment, an international intellectual movement related to the social and economic changes reflected in the appearance of a strong bourgeoisie. In the Enlightenment, man felt for the first time that he was in possession of his own destiny and that through science and reason he could solve anything. The Enlightenment was especially interested in fighting superstition and the old political and social structures. For the first time, intellectuals were trying to address the generality of men, a task that is best represented by the French Encyclopaedia.
During the Age of Enlightenment (or Age of Reason) – a rational and scientific approach to religious, social, political, and economic issues that promoted a secular view of the world and a general sense of progress and perfectibility. Led by the philosophers who were inspired by the discoveries of the previous century (Newton) and the writings of Descartes, Locke and Bacon. They sought to discover and to act upon universally valid principles governing humanity, nature, and society. They variously attacked spiritual and scientific authority, dogmatism, intolerance, censorship, and economic and social restraints. They considered the state the proper and rational instrument of progress.
In literature, the earlier part of the period was overshadowed by the development of the English essay. Joseph Addison and Richard Steele‘s The Spectator established the form of the British periodical essay, inventing the pose of the detached observer of human life who can meditate upon the world without advocating any specific changes in it. However, this was also the time when the English novel, first emerging in the Restoration, developed into a major art form. Daniel Defoe turned from journalism and writing criminal lives for the press to writing fictional criminal lives. He also wrote a fictional treatment of the travels of Alexander Selkirk called Robinson Crusoe (1719). The novel would benefit indirectly from a tragedy of the stage, and in mid-century many more authors would begin to write novels.
On the other hand, Swift’s prose style is unmannered and direct, with a clarity that few contemporaries matched. He was a profound skeptic about the modern world, but he was similarly profoundly distrustful of nostalgia. He saw in history a record of lies and vanity, and he saw in the present a madness of vanity and lies. Core Christian values were essential, but these values had to be muscular and assertive and developed by constant rejection of the games of confidence men and their gullies. Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels left only the individual in constant fear and humility safe. After his “exile” to Ireland, Swift reluctantly began defending the Irish people from the predations of colonialism.
In 1737 the effect of the Licensing Act was to cause more than one aspiring playwright to switch over to writing novels and writers such as Henry Fielding began to write prose satire and novels after his plays could not pass the censors.
In the first part of this topic we will analyze the socio-economic development snd political organisation of Great Britain during the 18th century. Then, we will focus on the great novelists of the period, that is to say, Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Lawrence Sterne, James Boswell and Jane Austin.
2 GREAT BRITAIN IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY. SOCIO-ECONOMIC DEVELOMENT
AND POLITICAL ORGANISATION. CULTURAL AND TECHNICAL ACTIVITY
2.1 Social organisation
The changes that took place in this century were possible thanks to a change in social organisation. This change is strongly linked to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Pre-industrial society was constituted by closed groups predestined by birth with a well-defined function, to rule or to work. Industrial society, on the other hand, is a class-society formed by open groups determined by money. No function is exclusive of a class, and the middle-class became the ruling-class in this period. But equality remained theoretical as great differences existed between the middle-class and the lower-class. Craftsmen disappeared due to industry competition and the increase of production lead to decrease of salaries and the worsening of the conditions of the lower class. Exploitation of workers and use of women and children as cheap labour was common. Labour legislation appeared, but actually in defence of the employers, establishing a maximum wage at a time of labour shortage. Along the century the discontent of workers gave place to revolts and the growth of trade unions. For example, the Ludite movement opposed the worsening conditions provoked by mechanisation by smashing machines and the death penalty was applied to those who destroyed them.
As far as the economy is concerned, the arrival of landowners and financiers to power started a period of public property malversation. The common land was consolidated in the hands of landlords with the enclosure policy, and farming as a form of capitalist enterprise triumphed improving the productivity and diminishing the labour. Inventions and discoveries such as modern tools, crop rotation and the use of the horse as draught animal, as well as the introduction of new crops and the specialisation of the regions helped the process. The most immediate repercussion of this modernisation of the agriculture was the increase in production and the movement of unemployed labourers from the county into the cities.
The financial and industrial middle-class developed also thanks to a protectionist policy. They could import cheap raw materials from the American colonies, and at the same time they had a large market in the colonies where the development of manufacturing was prevented by the British taxation and custom-tariffs. Foreign trade increased greatly in the 100 years from 1650 to 1750 and due to the British military supremacy new markets were obtained. The Treaty of Utrecht with Spain opened to the English trade the Mediterranean route and the Spanish colonies and by the Treaty of Paris they acquired the French territories in North America and India. As a result of these policies capital was concentrated in the hands of few people setting up the main premises for the Industrial Revolution.
2.3 Technical Activity
Technical development had an important role in this process too. In the beginning of the 18th century clothes made in Europe had as main materials wool, linen or silk, but they could compete with cotton clothes from India. To compete with the Eastern production a finer, more consistent and cheaper thread was needed. The first step was the spinning jenny, invented in 1763, which made the job faster but produced a fragile thread. A further improvement was the invention of the water-frame, but the final improvement was made by the mule in 1775, which produced a fine and resistant thread. At first the source of energy for machines was the water of the rivers, but the search for a more reliable source concluded with the invention of the steam-engine by Watt in 1776. With the mechanisation of spinning the renewal of the whole process of cloth production started and British exports increased greatly.
2.4 Historical background and political Organisation
As far as the political organisation of Great Britain is concerned, the 18th century was a time of gradual changes that lead to a transformation of the monarchy into its present role. The Constitution was not clear in the limitations and rights of Parliament and monarch. The monarch was expected to define the policy and to choose the men to carry it through, but Parliament should approve the monarch’s choice. After Queen Anne’s death in 1714, a new dynasty from Germany occupied the throne, the Hanovers, and things started to change.
Under George I the Private Council turned into the Cabinet of Ministers. The King selected his ministers out of the members of Parliament, but they had to be accepted by Parliament too. The King did not attend the Cabinet meetings as he could not speak English and was not interested in English matters. This meant a growing weakness of the Crown, since the figure of the Prime Minister gained independence from the monarch.
George II succeeded his father in 1727. In his reign the political importance of the King continued to diminish. The king was no longer allowed to attend Cabinet meetings, and he was also deprived of his right to veto the bills passed by Parliament.
George III acceded to the throne in 1860 and he was king for sixty years. Among the changes of this period the most relevant is that the Prime Minister became the one to respond before Parliament.
This was an important period in the development of a Parliamentary Monarchy and a party political system in England, but only 5% of the population had the right to vote and the election system made it possible to control the process through bribery and pressure on the electors. At first the parties consisted of two groups with one main difference: the Whigs were loyal to the Hanover while the Tories supported the Stuart Dynasty. The Tories were mainly supported by the aristocracy, while the Whigs were supported by the new industrial and commercial middle-class, enriched by foreign trade and accordingly interested in an active foreign policy. Under the reign of George I the Whigs took control of the Government.
The first important historical event in this century was the formation of Great Britain by the Act of Union of England and Scotland. From 1721 to 1742 Robert Walpole was in the head of the Government, period characterised by corruption and laws favouring the ruling-class. For example, land taxation was reduced, importation of materials contending with national products was limited and premiums for the exportation of farming products were increased.
After 1742 when Walpole lost his power, a period of wider political confrontation and instability started. The leader of the Tories, William Pitt, became Prime Minister in 1756 and he was an important political figure all through the 1760’s. That was a decade of great division over corruption and a further problem in the 60’s and 70’s was the American Revolution. In the 80’s a more rigid period started, with William Pitt the Young as Prime Minister. In an attempt to avoid a revolutionary process in England similar to the one in France, the parties left their differences apart and formed a coalition. Pitt also had to face a deterioration of the Irish Question. Ireland was administered by a Viceroy appointed by the English Government. The Irish demanded free trade, their own legislative power and a betterment of the Catholic Question, but eventually Ireland was fully incorporated to the United Kingdom in 1801.
2.5 Cultural activity
As far as the cultural activity is concerned this was a time of great development, but it was also a time of repression and ignorance. The Church of England kept its monopoly, the two universities remained medieval in studies and methods, there was no provision of education for the poor, etc. But there was also an extraordinary growth of the reading public and cultural activity was extended to the middle-class. The beliefs of the Enlightenment gave rise to positivism,that led to many scientific and technological developments. The main representative of science was Isaac Newton, who presented the theory of gravity in 1727, but investigation and experimentation was intense in all sciences and mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, etc. produced great interest. We should bear in mind the interest for technical development, which affected most spheres of economy such as agriculture, mining, the textile and cotton industry, etc. making the new industrial society possible.
The century started also with an important development of political literature after the disappearance of state censorship of the press. Political writing used ironic and fictional elements preparing the way for the growth of narrative fiction during the 18th century. The main representatives of the development of journalism in the first quarter of the century were Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, founders of The Spectator and The Tattler. Those periodicals are predecessors of modern newspapers, but they were concerned not only with politics, but also with social morality and with raising the intellectual level of the middle-class.
The most significant figure in the cultural life in the second half of the century was Dr. Johnson. He was a scholar of extensive and varied knowledge and the first independent professional writer, living on what he earned rather than depending on patronage. He also wrote the first modern dictionary of English, that included a history of the language, a grammar, and quotations with the use of the word in literature. It was a prescriptive work to standardise English in accordance with the principles of the Enlightenment. As a journalist he founded the periodicals The Rambler and The Idler where he published numerous essays on moral and manners and criticising superstition. Finally, he is also famous for his edition of Shakespeare’s works, that became the standard on which many later editions were based.
3 GREAT NOVELISTS OF THE PERIOD
3.1 The rise of the novel
But the most remarkable cultural phenomenon of this century was the rise of the novel. The empiricist climate of the Enlightenment and the individualism of the new bourgeois class favoured the development of realistic fiction. The novel explored emotions of family life and relations between social groups at a deeper level than previous realistic genres, according with the interest of the Enlightenment for the exploration of social contexts. Some antecedents were didactic fiction, the picaresque, the translations and imitations of French romances or the Restoration drama. But novelists, who often came from journalism, had a great interest in real world events and credibility that distinguishes their novels from previous forms of fiction.
Among the main features of the novel, they can be summed up as follows:
– an only story-line: the plot is not broken in episodes or seems to be a random collection of them
– continuous time-line: the story follows the pattern of beginning – middle- end
– an only hero: the story of a single person
– psychological study of characters: the writer explores the personality and mind of the character
– individualized characters not archetypes
– the style is simple and clear to be close to reality
– the moral or didactic aim of the writer still pervades the text
On the other hand in order to establish a chronological evolution of the rise of the novel in England we need to differentiate two kinds of novel: the novel of incident and the novel of character.
The novel of incident is not yet modern novel, since it deals mainly with events. Episodes are held together because they happen to the same person, as in the picaresque novel.
The true modern novel is the novel of character or psychological novel, interested in the protagonist’s motives and destiny in life, as well as with the social environment.
A Daniel Defoe
English novelist, pamphleteer, and journalist, author of Robinson Crusoe (1719), a story of a man shipwrecked alone on an island. Along with Samuel Richardson, Defoe is considered the founder of the English novel. Before his time stories were usually written as long poems or dramas. He produced some 200 works of non-fiction prose in addition to close 2 000 short essays in periodical publications, several of which he also edited.
Daniel Defoe was born as the son of Alice and James Foe. His father was a City tradesman and member of the Butchers’ Company. James Foe’s stubborn puritanism – the The Foes were Dissenters, Protestants who did not belong to the Anglican Church – come occasionally comes through Defoe’s writing. He studied at Charles Morton’s Academy, London. Although his Nonconformist father intended him for the ministry, Defoe plunged into politics and trade, travelling extensively in Europe. Throughout his life, Defoe also wrote about mercantile projects, but his business ventures failed and left him with large debts, amounting over seventeen thousand pounds
In the early 1680s Defoe was a commission merchant in Cornhill but went bankrupt in 1691. In 1684 he married Mary Tuffley; they had two sons and five daughters. Defoe was involved in Monmouth rebellion in 1685 against James II. While hiding as a fugitive in a churchyard after the rebellion was put down, he noticed the name Robinson Crusoe carved on a stone, and later gave it to his famous hero. Defoe became a supporter of William, joining his army in 1688, and gaining a mercenary reputation because change of allegiance. From 1695 to 1699 he was an accountant to the commissioners of the glass duty and then associated with a brick and tile works in Tilbury. The business failed in 1703.
In 1702 Defoe wrote his famous pamphlet The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters. Himself a Dissenter he mimicked the bloodthirsty rhetoric of High Anglican Tories and pretended to argue for the extermination of all Dissenters. Nobody was amused, Defoe was arrested in May 1703, but released in return for services as a pamphleteer and intelligence agent to Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford, and the Tories. While in prison Defoe wrote a mock ode, Hymn to the Pillory(1703). The poem was sold in the streets, the audience drank to his health while he stood in the pillory and read aloud his verses.
When the Tories fell from power, Defoe continued to carry out intelligence work for the Whig government. In his own days Defoe was regarded as an unscrupulous, diabolical journalist. Defoe used a number of pen names, including Eye Witness, T.Taylor, and Andrew Morton, Merchant. His most unusual pen name was ‘Heliostrapolis, secretary to the Emperor of the Moon,’ used on his political satire The Consolidator, or Memoirs of Sundry Transactions from the World in the Moon (1705). His political writings were widely read and made him powerful enemies. His most remarkable achievement during Queen Anne’s reign was the periodical A Review of the Affairs of France, and of All Europe (1704-1713). It was published weekly, later three times a week and resembled a modern newspapers. From 1716 to 1720 Defoe edited Mercurius Politicus, then the Manufacturer (1720), and the Director (1720-21). He was contributor from 1715 to periodicals published by Nathaniel Mist.
Defoe was one of the first to write stories about believable characters in realistic situations using simple prose. He achieved literary immortality when in April 1719 he published Robinson Crusoe, which was based partly on the memoirs of voyagers and castaways, such as Alexander Selkirk, who spent on his island four years and four months. The first edition was printed in London by a publisher of a popular books, W. Taylor. No author’s name was given.
William Selkirk was the son of a Scottish tanner, who became the master of the Cinque Ports Galley, a privateering ship. Selkirk went to sea in 1704 under William Dampier and was put ashore at his own request, or according to some sources as a punishment of insubordination, on the island of Juan Fernandez in the Pacific, hundreds of miles off the coast of Chile. The island was uninhabited, and he survived there until his rescue in 1709 by Captain Woodes Rogers. Selkirk claimed that he had become a “better Christian” and it was a positive experience. As a journalist Defoe must have heard his story and possibly interviewed him. Selkirk never did go back to the Pacific island, as Defoe had Crusoe do in two sequels. Selkirk became known as a eccentric. It is said the taught alley cats how to do strange dances. – Robinson Crusoe is a mariner – actually an arrogant slave trader – who runs away to the sea at the age of 19 despite parental warnings. He suffers a number of misfortunes at the hands of Barbary pirates and the elements. Finally Crusoe is shipwrecked off South America. With salvaging needful things from the ship, including the Bible, Crusoe manages to survive in the island. “The Country appear’d so fresh,” he writes in his journal, “so green, so flourishing, every thing being in a constant Verdure, or Flourish of Spring, that it looked like a planted garden.” He stays in the island 28 years, two months and nineteen days. – Aided with his enterprising behavior, Crusoe adapts into his alien environment. After several lone years he sees a strange footprint in the sand. Savages arrive for a cannibal feast. One of their prisoners manages to escape. Crusoe meets later the frightened native and christens him Man Friday and teaches him English. Later an English ship arrives. Crusoe rescues the captain and crew from the hands of mutineers and returns to England. Robinson marries and promises before end of the novel to describe his adventures in Africa and China. – Sequels to the story, The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719), in which Crusoe revisits the island and loses Friday in an attack by savages, and The Serious Reflections of Robinson Crusoe (1729), did not gain wide recognition.
At first Defoe had troubles in finding a publisher for the book and eventually received £10 for the manuscript. Employing a first-person narrator and apparently genuine journal entries, Defoe created a realistic frame for the novel, which distinguished it from its predecessors. The account of a shipwrecked sailor was a comment both on the human need for society and the equally powerful impulse for solitude. But it also offered a dream of building a private kingdom, a self-made Utopia, and being completely self-sufficient. By giving a vivid reality to a theme with large mythic implications, the story have since fascinated generations of readers as well as authors like Joachim Heinrich Campen, Jules Verne, R.L. Stevenson, Johann Wyss (Der schweizerische Robinson), Michael Tournier (Vendredi ou les limbes du Pacifique), J.M. Coetzee (Foe), and other creators of Robinsonade stories.
During the remaining years, Defoe concentrated on books rather than pamphlets. At the age of 62 he published Moll Flanders, A Journal of the Plague Year and Colonel Jack. His last great work of fiction, Roxana, appeared in 1724. Defoe’s choice of a female protagonist in Moll Flanders reflected his interest in the female experience. Moll is born in Newgate, where her mother is under sentence of death for theft. Her sentence is commuted to transportation to Virginia. The abandoned child is educated by a gentlewoman. Moll suffers romantic disillusionment, when she is ruined at the hands of a cynical male seducer. She becomes a whore and a thief, but finally she gains the status of a gentlewoman through the spoils of a successful colonial plantation.
After being close to the Whigs, Defoe moved back to the Tories. In the 1720s Defoe had ceased to be politically controversial in his writings, and he produced several historical works, a guide book A Tour our through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724-27, 3 vols.), The Great Law of Subordination Considered(1724), an examination of the treatment of servants, and The Complete English Tradesman (1726). Defoe’s father had stayed with his older brother Henry in London during the Plague Year of 1665, and their experiences possibly provided material for A Journal of the Plague Year (1722). Defoe himself was about five years old at the time. The narrator has the same initials, H.F., than Henry Foe. For his account, Defoe also used printed records. Phenomenally industrious, Defoe produced in his last years also works involving the supernatural, The Political History of the Devil (1726) and An Essay on the History and Reality of Apparitions (1727). He died on 26 April, 1731, at his lodgings in Ropemaker’s Alley, Moorfields. One of the most complete bibliographies of Defoe’s works lists almost 400 titles, ranging from pamphlets to books on the occult and novels.
B Jonathan Swift
Irish author and journalist, dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral (Dublin) from 1713, the foremost prose satirist in English language. Swift became insane in his last years, but until his death he was known as Dublin’s foremost citizen. Swift’s most famous works is Gulliver’s Travels (1726), where the stories of Gulliver’s experiences among dwarfs and giants are best known. Swift gave to these journeys an air of authenticity and realism and many contemporary readers believed them to be true.
Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin. His father, Jonathan Swift Sr., a lawyer and an English civil servant, died seven month’s before his son was born. Abigail Erick, Swift’s mother, was left without private income to support her family. Swift was taken or “stolen” to England by his nurse, and at the age of four he was sent back to Ireland. Swift’s mother returned to England, and she left her son to her wealthy brother-in-law, Uncle Godwin.
Swift studied at Kilkenny Grammar School (1674-82) and the Trinity College in Dublin (1682-89). At school Swift was not a very good student and his teachers noted his headstrong behaviour. When the anti-Catholic Revolution of the year 1688 aroused reaction in Ireland, Swift moved to England to the household of Sir William Temple at Moor Park, Surrey – Lady Temple was a relative of Swift’s mother. He worked there as a secretary (1689-95, 1696-99), but did not like his position as a servant in the household.
In 1695 Swift was ordained in the Church of Ireland (Anglican), Dublin. While in staying in Moor Park, Swift also was the teacher of a young girl, Esther Johnson, whom he called Stella. When she grew up she became an important person in his life. Stella moved to Ireland to live near him and followed him on his travels to London. Their relationship was a constant source of gossips. According to some speculations, they were married in 1716. Stella died in 1728 and Swift kept a lock of her hair among his papers for the rest of his life.
After William Temple’s death in 1699, Swift returned to Ireland. He made several trips to London and gained fame with his essays. Throughout the reign of Queen Anne (1702-14), Swift was one of the central characters in the literary and political life of London. From 1695 to 1696 Swift was the vicar of Kilroot. There he met Jane Wairing, with whom he had an affair. For Swift’s disappointment, she did not consider him a suitable marriage partner. Between the years 1707 and 1709 Swift was an emissary for the Irish clergy in London. Swift contributed to the ‘Bickerstaff Papers’ and to the Tattler in 1708-09. He was a cofounder of the Scriblerus Club, which included such member as Pope, Gay, Congreve, and Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford.
In 1710 Swift tried to open a political career among Whigs but changed his party and took over the Tory journal The Examiner. With the accession of George I, the Tories lost political power. Swift withdrew to Ireland. Hester Vanhomrigh, whom Swift had met in 1708, and whom he had tutored, followed him to Ireland after her mother had died. She was 22 years younger than Swift, who nicknamed her Vanessa.
From 1713 to 1742 Swift was the dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It is thought that Swift suffered from Ménière’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease. Many considered him insane – however, from the beginning of his twentieth year he had suffered from deafness. Swift had predicted his mental decay when he was about 50 and had remarked to the poet Edward Young when they were gazing at the withered crown of a tree: “I shall be like that tree, I shall die from the top.”
Jonathan Swift died in Dublin on October 19, 1745. He left behind a great mass of poetry and prose, chiefly in the form of pamphlets. William Makepeace Thackeray once said of the author: “So great a man he seems to me, that thinking of him is like thinking of an empire falling.”
Swift’s religious writing is little read today. His most famous works include The Battle of the Books (1697), exploring the merits of the ancients and the moderns in literature. The author himself pretends to be an objective chronicler of events, but his sympathies are more on the side of the ancients. A Tale of a Tub (1704) was a religious satire. Swift once stated that “satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.” At its core the tale a simple narrative of a father who has triplets, Martin, Peter and Jack; they refer to different churches. The father is of course God. Upon his death, he leaves them each a coat which will grow with them. Swift finished the tale in 1697, but hesitated to publish it. Although the work eventually appeared anonymously, it established Swift’s reputation.
In Arguments against Abolishing Christianity (1708) the narrator argues for the preservation of the Christian religion as a social necessity. When an ignorant cobbler named John Partridge published an almanac of astrological predictions, Swift parodied it in Prediction for the Ensuing Year by Isaac Bickerstaff. He foretold the death of John Partridge on March, 1708, and affirmed on that day his prediction. Partridge protested that he was alive but Swift proved in his ‘Vindication’ that he was dead. Drapier´s Letters (1724) was against the monopoly granted by the English government to William Wood to provide the Irish with copper coinage. In A Modest Proposal (1729) the narrator recommends with grotesque logic, that Irish poverty can be solved by the breeding up their infants as food for the rich. Swift has been labelled as a hater of mankind. “Principally I hate and detest that animal called man; although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth, ” Swift wrote in a letter to Alexander Pope. However, Swift defended ordinary Irish people against England’s economic oppression and he was known as a prankster. He also had a philanthropical side. As a churchman Swift had spent a third of his earnings on charities and he saved another third each year to found St. Patrick’s Hospital for Imbeciles in 1757.
Gulliver’s Travels (1726) – Defoe’s novel about Robinson Crusoe had appeared in 1719 and in the same vein Swift makes Lemuel Gulliver, a surgeon and a sea captain, recount his adventures. In part one, Gulliver is wrecked on an island where human beings are six inches tall. The Lilliputians have wars, and conduct clearly laughable with their self-importance and vanities – these human follies only reduced into a miniature scale. Gulliver’s second voyage takes him to Brobdingnag. “I cannot but conclude that the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.” He meets giants who are practical but do not understand abstractions. In the third voyage contemporary scientist are held up for ridicule: science is shown to be futile unless it is applicable to human betterment. Gulliver then travels to the flying island of Laputa and the nearby continent and capital of Lagado. There he meets pedants obsessed with their own special field and utterly ignorant of the rest of the life. On the island of Glubbdubdrib Gulliver encounters a community of sorcerers who can summon the spirits of the dead, allowing him to converse with Alexander, Julius Caesar, Aristotle and others. He meets Struldbrughs, who are immortal and, as a result, utterly miserable and become senile in their 80s. In the fourth part Gulliver visits the land of Houyhnhnms, where horses are intelligent but human beings are not. The horses are served with degenerate creatures called Yahoos, demonstrating that human race would destroy itself without divine aid. Swift wrote the book with a serious purpose – “to mend the world”. Gulliver’s Travels was a topical social satire, a work of propaganda, in which Swift wanted to show the consequences of humanity’s refusal to be reasonable. It is still widely read all over the world – especially the two first books are children’s favorites – and open to many interpretations. But when Defoe was an optimist, Swift’s in his bitter pessimism makes Gulliver return home, preferring the company of horses to that of his family.
C Samuel Richardson
However, the growth and consolidation of the novel as a modern genre, was possible thanks to the next generation of novelists, Richardson and Fielding, who developed the novel of character. Samuel Richardson (1689-1761) was a master-printer with no formal education, but before 1740 he had already written some prefaces and dedications as well as a famous collection of letters and he was an expert in social matters.
Richardson was born in 1689 in Mackworth, Derbyshire. His mother, Elizabeth, was a woman “not ungenteel” and his father (another Samuel) was a joiner from Surrey, described by his son as “of middling note.” As a boy apprenticed in a printer’s shop, this author earned the nickname “Gravity” and “Serious,” apropos of his later novels. At the age of seventeen, in 1706, Richardson was forced to begin a seven-year apprenticeship under John Wilde as a printer, an employment that Richardson felt would “gratify my thirst for reading”. By 1715, he had become a freeman of the Stationer’s Company and citizen of London, and six or seven years after the expiration of his apprenticeship set up his own business as a printer, eventually settling in Salisbury Court.
In 1721 Richardson married Martha Wilde, the daughter of his former employer. His wife died on January 23, 1731, following the deaths of five of their six children. The last child survived its mother by only two years. In 1733, following the death of this child, Richardson remarried. His second wife Elizabeth was also a daughter of a former employer, John Leake. Together they had six children (five daughters and one son). Four of their daughters reached adulthood and survived their father.
In 1733 he wrote The Apprentice’s Vade Mecum, urging young men like himself to be diligent and self-denying. Written in response to the “epidemick Evils of the present Age”, the text is best known for its condemnation of popular forms of entertainment including theatres, taverns and gambling. The manual targets the apprentice as the focal point for the moral improvement of society, not because he is most susceptible to vice, but because, Richardson suggests, he is more responsive to moral improvement than his social betters.
The popularity of Pamela or Virtue Rewarded was mainly due to the effective technique of revealing the story through letters written by the protagonist. Because this was combined with the moralistic nature of the story, which made it acceptable for the century’s rapidly growing middle class, the book became a publishing sensation. The epistolary form was an innovation that was a source of great pride for Richardson. Pamela thus helped reinvent a literary genre that had developed a very questionable reputation. Nevertheless, many contemporary readers were shocked by the more graphic scenes and by some questionable behaviours of the characters. The upper class is not always portrayed in a positive light, and some have regarded Pamela as a scheming young woman trying to gain higher social status by making a nobleman marry her. Henry Fielding parodied Pamela twice: once anonymously using the same epistolary form in Shamela, and again with Joseph Andrews, which tells the story of Pamela’s brother Joseph and his efforts to protect his virtue.
Richardson also wrote two later epistolary novels, Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady (1748) and Sir Charles Grandison (1753). Of the three, Clarissa has generally been the most highly regarded by critics; in it, Richardson uses the epistolary form with great effectiveness, creating characters that are psychologically convincing while reflecting on some of the most important moral questions of the 18th century. (See Clarissa for a summary of the novel.)
Sir Charles Grandison is Richardson’s attempt to create a male model of virtue. Many modern critics have found that he was less successful here, noting that Sir Charles is not a very interesting or sympathetic character and that his confident sense of virtue can be cloying to the modern reader. In addition, the plot is relatively less eventful and the moral lessons less ambiguous than in Clarissa. However, in its own time Sir Charles Grandison was again a success. It was one of Jane Austen’s favorite novels, inspiring her to write a theatrical adaptation around 1800. It remained unpublished until the 1980s.
D Henry Fielding
British writer, playwright and journalist, founder of the English Realistic school in literature with Samuel Richardson. Fielding’s career as a dramatist has been shadowed by his career as a novelist. His aim as a novelist was to write comic epic poems in prose – he once described himself as “great, tattered bard.”
Henry Fielding was born at Sharpham Park, Somerset. He was by birth a gentleman, close allied to the aristocracy. His father was a nephew of the 3th Earl of Denbigha, and mother was from a prominent family of lawyers. Fielding grew up on his parents farm at East Stour, Dotset. His mother died when Fielding was eleven, and when his father remarried, Henry was sent to Eton. He studied at Eton College (1719-1724), where he learned to love ancient Greek and Roman literature.
Encouraged by his cousin, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Fielding started his career as a writer in London. In 1728 he wrote two plays, of which Love in Several Masques was successfully performed at Drury Lane. In the same year he went to the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, enlarging his knowledge of classical literature. After returning to England, he devoted himself to writing for the stage. Fielding also became a manager of the Little Theatre in the Haymarket. In 1730 he had four plays produced, among them Tom Thumb, which is his most famous and popular drama. According to a story, it made Swift laugh for the second time in his life. In 1736 Fielding took over the management of the New Theatre, writing for it among others the satirical comedy Pasquin. For several years Fielding’s life was happy and prosperous. His outspoken criticism of Walpole in the play The Historical Record of the Year 1736 resulted in the establishment of a censorship of plays and he put an end to his career as a dramatist. But with his vivid imagination, his observing nature and his direct style he was going to become one of the main contributors to the creation of the novel.
In search for an alternative career he became editor of the magazine Champion, an opposition journal. After studies of law Fielding was called in 1740 to the bar. Because of increasing illness – he suffered from gout and asthma – Fielding was unable to pursue his legal career with any consistency.
Between the years 1729 and 1737 Fielding wrote 25 plays but he acclaimed critical notice with his novels. After the success of Richardson’s Pamela he wrote the parody Shamela, his first novel, however
the best known are The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749), in which the tangled comedies of coincidence are offset by the neat, architectonic structure of the story, and The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews (1742), a parody of Richardson’s Pamela (1740). He married in 1734 Charlotte Cradock, who became his model for Sophia Western in Tom Jones and for the heroine of Amelia, the author’s last novel. It was written according to Fielding “to promote the cause of virtue and to expose some of the most glaring evils, as well public as private, which at present infect the country…” In the story an army officer is imprisoned. His virtuous wife resists all temptations and stays faithful to him. With Charlotte Fielding enjoyed ten years of happiness until her death in 1744. Fielding’s improvidence led to long periods of considerable poverty, but he was greatly assisted at various periods of his life by his friend R. Allen, who was the model for Allworthy in Tom Jones.
In 1747 Fielding caused some scandal by marrying his wife’s maid and friend Mary Daniel – he was condemned by every snob in England. Actually she was about to bear his child, and Fielding wished to save her from disgrace. After Walpole had been replaced by another prime minister, Fielding came to the defense of the Establishment. As a reward for his governmental journalism he was made justice of the peace for the City of Westminster in 1748 and for the county of Middlesex in 1749. Together with his half brother Sir John Fielding, he established a new tradition of justice and suppression of crime in London, organizing a detective force that later developed into Scotland Yard. Fielding’s writings became more socially orientated – he opposed among others public hangings. From the court in Bow Street he continued his struggle against corruption and and saw successfully implemented a plan for breaking up the criminal gangs who were then flourishing in London.
When the author’s health was failing and he was forced to use crutches, he went with his wife and one of his daughters to Portugal to recuperate. Fielding died on October 8, 1754 in Lisbon. His travel book, The Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon, appeared posthumously in 1755.
The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling was enthusiastically revived by the general public, if not by Richardson, Dr. Johnson and other literary figures. Coleridge declared that the plot of Tom Jones was one of the three perfect plots in all literature, the others were Ben Jonson’s Alchemist and Sophocles’s Oedipus. Much of the action unfolds against the backdrop of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. The introductory chapters that preface each of the novel’s 18 books cultivate the reader in a way that was then unprecedented in English fiction. The kindly, prosperous Mr Allworthy finds a baby boy on his bed. He adopts the child, naming it Tom Jones. Allworthy suspects that Jenny Jones, a maid-servant to the wife of the schoolmaster Partridge, is the mother. Jenny leaves with Partridge the neighborhood. Allworthy’s sister Bridget marries Captain Blifil, they have a son. Tom and the young and mean-spirited Blifil are raised together. Years later a rivalry over the attention of Sophia Western arises between them. Because of an affair with the gamekeeper’s daughter Molly Seagrim, and because of Blifil’s treachery, Tom is expelled from the house. He experiences adventures in the picaresque section of the novel, drifts into an affair with Lady Ballaston, nearly kills his opponent in a duel, and is imprisoned. Meanwhile Sophia flees to London to escape the marriage with Blifil. Jenny Jones turns up to reveal that Bridget is the mother of Tom, and Blifil’s cruelties to Tom over the years are exposed – Blifil knew the truth of Tom’s birth. Tom marries Sophia, who forgives him for his infidelities, and Tom becomes the heir of Allworthy.
3.2 The maturity of the novel
The epistolary method was used by novelists after Richardson, notably by Tobias Smollet in Humphry Cunker and by Fanny Burney in Evelina. After them the method was no longer used by important novelists. It became fictionally less convincing and it had also artistic limitations. It restricted the author in his treatment of narrative.
A Lawrence Sterne
Laurence Sterne was born November 24, 1713 in Clonmel, County Tipperary, Ireland. His father was an Ensign in a British regiment recently returned from Dunkirk. Sterne’s father’s regiment was disbanded on the day of Sterne’s birth, and within six months the family had returned to Yorkshire in northern England.
The first decade of Sterne’s life was spent moving from place to place as his father was reassigned throughout England and Ireland. During this period Sterne never lived in one place for more than a year. Sterne was sent to Hipperholme Grammar School near Halifax when he was ten years old; he never saw his father again. Sterne was admitted to a sizarship at Jesus College, Cambridge, in July 1733 at the age of 20. His great-grandfather, who was made Archbishop of York in 1664, had been the Master of Jesus College, twice, earlier in the seventeenth century. Sterne graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Arts in January 1737; and returned in the summer of 1740 to be awarded his Master of Arts degree.
Sterne seems to have been destined to become a clergyman, and was ordained as a deacon in March of 1737 and as a priest in August, 1738. Shortly thereafter Sterne was awarded the vicarship living of Sutton-on-the-Forest in Yorkshire (1713-1768). Sterne married Elizabeth Lumley in 1741. Both were ill with tuberculosis.
In 1741–42 Sterne wrote political articles supporting the administration of Sir Robert Walpole for a newspaper founded by his uncle but soon withdrew from politics in disgust. His uncle became his archenemy, thwarting his advancement whenever possible.
Sterne lived in Sutton for twenty years, during which time he kept up an intimacy which had begun at Cambridge with John Hall-Stevenson, a witty and accomplished bon vivant, owner of Skelton Hall in the Cleveland district of Yorkshire. Without Stevenson, Sterne may have been a more decorous parish priest, but might never have written Tristram Shandy.
How to write a novel began to worry the novelist increasingly. The most original of the experimenters was Lawrence Sterne with his The Life and opinions of Tristram Shandy, gentleman. His approach was to make the business of writing into a comedy by exposing all his problems to the reader. It is one of the most entertaining novels of English literature while pretending that he can never really begin. It is a personal theory about form in fiction told by a character that has not been born after three volumes. It is a rambling patchwork of digressions, anecdotes, dialogues and jests centred on the relatives of Tristam.
As its title suggests, the book is ostensibly Tristram’s narration of his life story. But it is one of the central jokes of the novel that he cannot explain anything simply, that he must make explanatory diversions to add context and colour to his tale. Apart from Tristram as narrator, the most familiar and important characters in the book are his father Walter, his mother, his Uncle Toby, Toby’s servant Trim, and a supporting cast of popular minor characters including Doctor Slop and the parson Yorick. Most of the action is concerned with domestic upsets or misunderstandings, which find humour in the opposing temperaments of Walter – splenetic, rational and somewhat sarcastic – and Uncle Toby, who is gentle, uncomplicated and a lover of his fellow man.
In between such events, Tristram as narrator finds himself discoursing at length on sexual practices, insults, the influence of one’s name, noses, as well as explorations of obstetrics, siege warfare and philosophy, as he struggles to marshal his material and finish the story of his life.
Sterne’s text is filled with allusions and references to the leading thinkers and writers of the 17th and 18th centuries. Pope, Locke, and Swift were all major influences on Sterne and Tristram Shandy. Satires of Pope and Swift formed much of the humour of Tristram Shandy, but Swift’s sermons and Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding contributed ideas and frameworks that Sterne explored throughout his novel. Sterne’s engagement with the science and philosophy of his day was extensive, however, and the sections on obstetrics and fortifications, for instance, indicate that he had a grasp of the main issues then current in those fields.
Four influences on Tristram Shandy overshadow all others: Rabelais, Cervantes, Montaigne‘s Essays and John Locke. Sterne had written an earlier piece called A Rabelaisian Fragment, which indicates his familiarity with the work of the French monk. But the earlier work is not needed to see the influence of Rabelais on Tristram Shandy, which is evident in multiple allusions, as well as in the overall tone of bawdy humor centered on the body. The first scene in Tristram Shandy, where Tristram’s mother interrupts his father during the sex that leads to Tristram’s conception, testifies to Sterne’s debt to Rabelais.
The shade of Cervantes is similarly present throughout Sterne’s novel. The frequent references to Rocinante, the character of Uncle Toby (who resembles Don Quixote in many ways) and Sterne’s own description of his characters’ “Cervantic humour,” along with the genre-defying structure of Tristram Shandy, which owes much to the second part of Cervantes’ novel, all demonstrate the influence of Cervantes.
The novel also makes use of John Locke’s theories of empiricism, or the way we assemble what we know of ourselves and our world from the “association of ideas” that come to us from our five senses. Sterne is by turns respectful and satirical of Locke’s theories, using the association of ideas to construct characters’ “hobby-horses,” or whimsical obsessions, that both order and disorder their lives in different ways. It also owes a significant inter-textual debt to Burton‘s The Anatomy of Melancholy, Swift‘s Battle of the Books, and the Scriblerian collaborative work, The Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus.
Today, the novel is commonly seen as a forerunner of later stream of consciousness, self-reflexive and postmodern writing. However, current critical opinion is divided on this question. There is a significant body of critical opinion that argues that Tristram Shandy is better understood as an example of an obsolescent literary tradition of “Learned Wit”, partly following the contribution of D.W. Jefferson. On the other hand, this work is said to be the first writing that uses the stream of consciousness device, a technique to be developed a century after by authors such as Virginia Woolf or James Joyce.
The first volumes of which were published in 1759. Sterne was at work on his celebrated comic novel during the year that his mother died, his wife was seriously ill, and he was ill himself with TB. The publication of Tristram Shandy made Sterne famous in London and on the continent. He was delighted by the attention, and spent part of each year in London, being feted as new volumes appeared. Indeed, Baron Fauconberg rewarded Sterne by appointing him as the perpetual curate of Coxwold, North Yorkshire.
In 1759, to support his dean in a church squabble, Sterne wrote A Political Romance (later called The History of a Good Warm Watch-Coat), a Swiftian satire of dignitaries of the spiritual courts. At the demands of embarrassed churchmen, the book was burned. Thus, Sterne lost his chances for clerical advancement but discovered his real talents. Turning over his parishes to a curate, he began Tristram Shandy. An initial, sharply satiric version was rejected by Robert Dodsley, the London printer, just when Sterne’s personal life was upset. His mother and uncle both died. His wife had a nervous breakdown and threatened suicide. Sterne continued his comic novel, but every sentence, he said, was “written under the greatest heaviness of heart.” In this mood, he softened the satire and told about Tristram’s opinions, his eccentric family, and ill-fated childhood with a sympathetic humour, sometimes hilarious, sometimes sweetly melancholic—a comedy skirting tragedy.
Sterne continued to struggle with his illness, and departed England for France in 1762 in an effort to find a climate that would alleviate his suffering. Sterne was lucky to attach himself to a diplomatic party bound for Turin, as England and France were still adversaries in the Seven Years’ War. Sterne was gratified by his reception in France where reports of the genius of Tristram Shandy had made him a celebrity. Aspects of this trip to France were incorporated into Sterne’s second novel, A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy, which was published at the beginning of 1768. The novel was written during a period in which Sterne was increasingly ill and weak. Less than a month after Sentimental Journey was published, early in 1768, Sterne’s strength failed him, and he died in his lodgings at 41 Old Bond Street on the 18 March, at the age of 54. He was buried in the churchyard of St. George’s, Hanover Square.
In a curiously “Shandean” twist in events, it appears that Sterne’s body was stolen shortly after it was interred and sold to the anatomists. It was recognized by somebody who knew him and discreetly reinterred. When the churchyard of St. George’s was redeveloped in the 1960s, his skull was disinterred (in a manner befitting somebody who chose for himself the nickname of “Yorick“), partly identified by the fact that it was the only skull of the five in Sterne’s grave that bore evidence of having been anatomised, and transferred to Coxwold Churchyard in 1969. The story of the reinterment of Sterne’s skull in Coxwold is alluded to in Malcolm Bradbury‘s novel To The Hermitage.
B James Boswell
Scottish lawyer, essayist, known for his two-volume biography The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791), published seven years after the death of its subject. Boswell met Samuel Johnson in May 1763 in Davies’s London bookshop and the two became fast friends. He recorded in detail Johnson’s words and activities in a relatively short period.
James Boswell was born in Edinburgh the son of Alexander Boswell, Lord Auchinleck, who was a judge in the supreme courts of Scotland. Boswell’s mother, Euphemia Erskine, was descended from a minor branch of Scottish royalty. His family had had for two-and-a-half centuries as its seat the estate of Auchinleck in Ayrshire. Near the new mansion were the ruins of the Old Castle, which he eagerly showed to Johnson and other friends.
Much of his life Boswell was plagued by his mother’s suffocating Calvinism and his father’s coldness. In one of his journals Boswell wrote: “I do not recollect having had any other valuable principle impressed upon me by my father except a strict regard for truth, which he impressed upon my mind by a hearty beating at an early age when I lied, and then talking of the dishonour of lying.” He attended the University of Edinburgh (1753-1753), where he studied arts and law. He was already keeping a journal and writing poems when he was 18. At 19 he made his first visit to London and a few years later, on his second visit, Boswell met Dr. Johnson.
In 1759 Boswell’s father sent him to the University of Glasgow to separate his son from an actress. Boswell ran away to London and embraced Roman Catholicism, planning to become a monk. He returned to Edinburgh and in 1763 he started to study law in Holland. After one term, he left for a tour of Europe, meeting the French intellectuals Jean Jacques Rousseau, of whom he wrote a biographical sketch, and Voltaire. Moving back to Scotland in 1766, Boswell was admitted to the bar and practised law in Edinburgh for 20 years.
Boswell had a phenomenal memory, he loved gossip, good conversation, liquor, travel, and he was a natural writer. From 1760s onwards, he had published anonymously various pamphlets and verses. In 1768 Boswell published An Account of Corsica, based on his journey. The book was a defence of Corsica’s abortive struggle for freedom against the republic of Genoa. Rousseau had earlier sparked Boswell’s zeal for the cause of Corsican liberty and he had established a friendship with General Paoli. In 1769 Boswell appeared at the Shakespeare Jubilee in Corsican dress.
Boswell wanted to become known as a great lover. He wrote about his adventures to his friends, William Temple and John Johnston, and once told that he had made love five times in a single evening. He was well-known among prostitutes in London’s St. James Park – his sexuality was compulsive and he copulated after watching public hangings, a favourite pastime, and after personal bereavements. Over a period of 30 years he contracted gonorrhea 17 times.
In 1769 Boswell married Margaret Montgomerie, his cousin; they had seven children. Though his visits to London were restricted to the vacations of the Court of Session, Boswell kept up his contacts with Johnson, and was elected to the Literary Club in 1773. The members included some of the most famous men of the time. With Johnson, who described Boswell as ‘the best travelling companion in the world’, the friends made their celebrated tour of Scotland and the Hebrides.
Between the years 1777 and 1783 Boswell wrote for The London Magazine a series of essays on such subjects as drinking, diaries, and hypochondria. After Johnson’s death in 1784, Boswell published The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (1785), which has been compared to a picaresque adventure, where Johnson is Don Quixote and Boswell has the role of Sancho Panza. Boswell moved to London, and although he was admitted to the English bar, he concentrated on the writing of The Life of Samuel Johnson. It took years to gather material – letters, memoirs, interviews – and sort, select, and edit it. The book was finally published in May 1791 and hailed as a great work.
Boswell’s remaining years were mainly unhappy, and he no longer had a clear course for his life. His pursuit of a political career was unsuccessful, and he suffered from fits of depression and hypochondria. His wife had moved back to Scotland and after the publication of the Life of Samuel Johnson the tendency to belittle its author intensified. Boswell died in London on May 19, 1795.
Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson is perhaps the greatest biography in the English language. Boswell made notes on the spot during Johnson’s conversation and he questioned Johnson’s friends, transforming details into a lifelike portrait. In this work Boswell was aided by Edmund Malone (1741-1812), an Irish literary critic and Shakespearean scholar, who went over the final draft of Johnson’s biography. By flattering, cunning questions, and demeaning himself, Boswell provoked Johnson into giving his best, making him talk. Without diminishing the stature of Johnson, Boswell is now considered not only a faithful recorder of an exceptional personality, but the creator of a masterpiece.
C Jane Austin
English writer, who first gave the novel its modern character through the treatment of everyday life. Although Austen was widely read in her lifetime, she published her works anonymously. The most urgent preoccupation of her bright, young heroines is courtship and finally marriage. Austen herself never married.
Jane Austen was born in Steventon, Hampshire, where her father, Rev. George Austen, was a rector. She was the second daughter and seventh child in a family of eight.
The first 25 years of her life Jane spent in Hampshire. On her father’s unexpected retirement, the family sold off everything, including Jane’s piano, and moved to Bath. Jane, aged twenty-five, and Cassandra, her elder sister, aged twenty-eight, were considered by contemporary standards confirmed old maid, and followed their parents. Torn from her friends and rural roots in Steventon, Austen abandoned her literary career for a decade.
Jane Austen was mostly tutored at home, and irregularly at school, but she received a broader education than many women of her time. She started to write for family amusement as a child. Her parents were avid readers; Austen’s own favourite poet was Cowper. Her earliest-known writings date from about 1787. Very shy about her writing, she wrote on small pieces of paper that she slipped under the desk plotter if anyone came into the room. In her letters she observed the daily life of her family and friends in an intimate and gossipy manner.
Rev. George Austen supported his daughter’s writing aspirations, bought her paper and a writing desk, and tried to help her get a publisher. After his death in 1805, she lived with her sister and hypochondriac mother in Southampton. In July 1809 they moved to a large cottage in the village of Chawton. This was the place where Austen felt at home. She never married, she never had a room of her own, but her social life was active and she had suitors and romantic dreams. With Tom Lefroy, whom she met a few times in 1796, she talked about Fielding’s Tom Jones. They shared similar sense of ironic humour and Austen was undeniably attracted to him.
Jane Austen was well connected with the middling-rich landed gentry that she portrayed in her novels. In Chawton she started to write her major works, among them Sense and Sensibility, the story of the impoverished Dashwood sisters, Marianne and Elinor, who try to find proper husbands to secure their social position. The novel was written in 1797 as the revision of a sketch called Elinor and Marianne, composed when the author was 20. According to some sources, an earlier version of the work was written in the form of a novel in letters, and read aloud to the family as early as 1795.
Austen’s heroines are determined to marry wisely and well, but romantic Marianne of Sense and Sensibility is a character, who feels intensely about everything and loses her heart to an irresponsible seducer. Reasonable Elinor falls in love with a gentleman already engaged.
When Marianne likes to read and express her feelings, Elinor prefers to draw and design and be silent of his desires. They are the daughters of Henry Dashwood, whose son, John, from a former marriage. After his death, John inherits the Norland estate in Sussex, where the sisters live. John’s wife, the greedy and selfish Fanny, insists that they move to Norland. The impoverished widow and her daughters move to Barton Cottage in Devonshire. There Marianne is surrounded by a devious heartbreaker Willoughby, who has already loved another woman. Elinor becomes interested in Edward Ferrars, who is proud and ignorant. Colonel Brandon, an older gentleman, doesn’t attract Marianne. She is finally rejected by Willoughby.
In all of Austen’s novels her heroines are ultimately married. Pride and Prejudice described the clash between Elisabeth Bennet, the daughter of a country gentleman and an intelligent young woman, and Fitzwilliam Darcy, a rich aristocratic landowner. Their relationship starts from dislike, but Darcy becomes intrigued by her mind and spirit. At last they fall in love and are happily united. Austen had completed the early version of the story in 1797 under the title “First Impressions”. The book went to three printings during Austen’s lifetime. In 1998 appeared a sequel to the novel, entitled Desire and Duty, written by Teddy F. Bader, et al. It followed the ideas Jane Austen told her family.
Emma was written in comic tone. Austen begun the novel in January 1814 and completed it in March of the next year. The book was published in three volumes. It told the story of Emma Woodhouse, who finds her destiny in marriage. Emma is a wealthy, pretty, self-satisfied young woman. She is left alone with her hypochondriac father. Her governess, Miss Taylor, marries a neighbour, Mr. Weston. Emma has too much time and she spends it choosing proper partners for her friends and neighbours – blind to her own feelings. She makes a protégée of Harriet Smith, an illegitimate girl of no social status and tries to manipulate a marriage between Harriet and Mr. Elton, a young clergyman, who has set his sight on Emma. Emma has feelings about Mr. Weston’s son. When Harriet becomes interested in George Knightley, a neighbouring squire who has been her friend, Emma starts to understand her own limitations. He has been her moral adviser, and secretly loves her. Finally Emma finds her destiny in marriage with him. Harriet, who is left to decide for herself, marries Robert Martin, a young farmer.
Jane Austen focused on middle-class provincial life with humour and understanding. She depicted minor landed gentry, country clergymen and their families, in which marriage mainly determined women’s social status. Most important for her were those little matters, as Emma says, “on which the daily happiness of private life depends.” Although Austen restricted to family matters, and she passed the historical events of the Napoleonic wars, her wit and observant narrative touch has been inexhaustible delight to readers. Of her six great novels, four were published anonymously during her lifetime. Austen also had troubles with her publisher, who wanted to make alterations to her love scenes in Pride and Prejudice. At her death on July 18, 1817 in Winchester, at the age of forty-one, Austen was writing the unfinished Sanditon. She managed to write twelve chapters before stopping in March 18, due to her poor health.
4 STUDY GUIDE
The economic, political and cultural activity of this century was very important for the life of England in the next century, because the seeds for a deeper developments were grown during this period. Regarding literature, the contributions of writers such as Defoe, Swift or Richardson, the novel acquired its modern features, especially those ones regarding realism, since the so-called Age of the Reason promoted among its principles to reflect the world as it was perceived.
Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) belonged to the London middle-class. His activity as a writer began as a pamphleteer in support of King William II. He founded a periodical, The Review, starting an important activity as a journalist, but he would achieve fame and literary success as a novelist. One of his strengths is the detailed and realistic way in which everything is presented, which he partly achieved through the first person narration.
His first and most famous novel is Robinson Crusoe (1719), in which the protagonist is stranded on an island. Several stories had been written on this idea based on an actual event, but Defoe turned it into a moral allegory where the hero overcomes obstacles, loneliness and spiritual doubts. This character illustrates the belief of the Enlightenment in the goodness of man and in the superiority of Western civilisation, that should be extended to other societies. In the years that followed he was a prolific writer, with a special concern for moral and social issues, which he presented in a plain and direct style as in his famous novel Moll Flanders.
Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) is the other representative of the birth of the English novel. His family was English, but he was born in Ireland and he lived there most of his life. His only novel, Gulliver’s Travels, is a terrible satire of human nature directed towards English society and the civilised world. To provide credibility he profited from the interest in travel literature. This work shows that to aspire to reason man must become aware of his own bestiality and his need for God’s grace, as Gulliver does through the experiences with the peoples he meets. Swift criticised the Enlightenment that thought that through rationality man was free, he thought that abandoning God man had fallen into irrationality. Despite its pessimism it has paradoxically become a children’s classic.
The growth and consolidation of the novel as a modern genre, was possible thanks to the next generation of novelists, Richardson and Fielding, who developed the novel of character. Samuel Richardson (1689-1761) was a master-printer with no formal education, but before 1740 he had already written some prefaces and dedications as well as a famous collection of letters and he was an expert in social matters.
His first novel, Pamela or Virtue Rewarded, that deals with the dangers of an attractive girl employed as a domestic servant who resists the dishonest advances of her master and ends up marrying him. Its success came from the blend of what the public demanded: realism and feelings. This is provided by the letter form, since the reader learns the heroine’s experience through her own mind and at the same time the expression of feelings is more direct. His next novel, Clarissa or the Misfortunes of a Lady, is his own answer to Pamela, as a demonstration of the perfidy of man. The heroine is forced to choose between marrying a man she hates or escaping with a lover who eventually tricks her. This novel keeps the epistolary form and is regarded his best work for the great depth of its study of bourgeois materialism and family tyranny. Its main achievement in the expression of feelings was the triumph of human tragedy over the moral purpose. However, in his last novel, Sir Charles Grandison, the moral is again what matters most.
Henry Fielding belonged to a noble family and he received a university education, but he went to London and became a playwright famous for his talent for the burlesque. His outspoken criticism of Walpole in the play The Historical Record of the Year 1736 resulted in the establishment of a censorship of plays and he put an end to his career as a dramatist. But with his vivid imagination, his observing nature and his direct style he was going to become one of the main contributors to the creation of the novel.
After the success of Richardson’s Pamela he wrote the parody Shamela, his first novel. He started Joseph Andrews with the same purpose, presenting a male servant that rejects the advances of his mistress, but it ended up as a satire of British society characterised by its truth and humour. To present a wide segment of society he used the structure of the picaresque novel with a travelling hero but he also followed classical models. His masterpiece was Tom Jones (1749), the first long English novel conceived and carried out as a cohesive whole. Every detail in the organisation of the novel is planned. The narrator addresses the reader at the beginning of each book and uses of dialogue and monologue as the device for the reader to know what the characters think. His last novel, Amelia (1751), is a very different work, a sentimental comedy about marriage with a didactic intention.
The maturity of the novel in this century is featured by the epistolary method that was used by novelists after Richardson, notably by Tobias Smollet in Humphry Cunker and by Fanny Burney in Evelina. After them the method was no longer used by important novelists. It became fictionally less convincing and it had also artistic limitations. It restricted the author in his treatment of narrative.
Lawrence Sterne was an Irish-born English novelist and an Anglican clergyman. He was the most original of the writers of the 18th century with his The Life and opinions of Tristram Shandy, gentleman. It is a personal theory about form in fiction told by a character that has not been born after three volumes. It is a rambling patchwork of digressions, anecdotes, dialogues and jests centred on the relatives of Tristam.
Tristram, as narrator, finds himself discoursing at length on sexual practices, insults, the influence of one’s name, noses, as well as explorations of obstetrics, siege warfare and philosophy, as he struggles to marshal his material and finish the story of his life.
Sterne’s text is filled with allusions and references to the leading thinkers and writers of the 17th and 18th centuries. Four influences on Tristram Shandy overshadow all others: Rabelais, Cervantes, Montaigne‘s Essays and John Locke.
As the novel moved towards maturity English biography achieved its principal masterpiece in James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson. He not only achieved a great and vivid work of art, but he also showed ways in which the biographer can give lessons to the novelists. The novelist writes fiction, not fact, but he must give the reader an illusion of fact. It is not his function to idealise his characters, as Richardson had done, but to give a convincing image of the human mind, as Fielding and Defoe had not done. The biographer is forced by his material to remember these requirements, but the novelist is tempted to forsake them for effects which are better achieved in other forms of literature.
The first novelist in the English literature to understand what the novel should attempt was Jane Austin. Her restricted subject matter has been attributed to her restricted experience of life. But she knew that significant experience did not always arise from extraordinary conditions and that the depth of a reader’s impression of a story is the extent to which he has found it convincing. Using irony she exposes the inwardness of her characters while they fulfil the obligations of the outward social conditions. She unifies the inner and outer imaginative approaches of Richardson and Fielding. She is the first novelist to show true artistic discipline and she is also the first one who used one of the main themes of the late 19th century: the predicament of the individual, particularly of women. Some of her works were Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejuice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuassion.
– Daniel Defoe: The Life and Strange, Surprising Adventures by Richard West (1998);
Defoe: Writer as Agent by Katherine Armstrong (1996);
Defoe’s Politics: Parliament, Power, Kingship. and Robinson Crusoe by Manuel Schonhorn (1991);
The Rise of Novel: Studies in Defoe, Rchardson, and Fielding by Ian Watt (1957);
The Mind and Art of Jonathan Swift by Ricardo Quintano (1936);
Swift: An Introduction by Ricardo Quintano (1955);
Swift and Carroll: A Psychoanalytic Study of Two Lives by Phyllis Greenacre (1955);
The Character of Swift’s Satire, ed. by Claude J. Rawson (1983);
Boswell’s Creative Gloom by A. Ingham (1982);
Boswell’s Literary Art: An Annotated Bibliography of Critical Studies, 1900-1985 by Hamilton E. Cochrane (1992);
Boswellian Studies: A Bibliography by Anthony E. Brown (1992);
Fielding and the Nature of the Novel by Robert Alter (1968);
Henry Fielding: The Critical Heritage, ed. by R. Paulson and T. Lockwood (1969);
Henry Fielding: A Literary Life by Harold E. Pagliaro (1998);
The Author’s Inheritance: Henry Fielding, Jane Austen and the Establishment of the Novel by Joy Alyson Parker (1998)
The Language of Jane Austen by N. Page (1972);
The Double Life of Jane Austen by Jane Hodge (1972);
The Critical Heritage, ed. by B. Southam (1987);
Jane Austen by Claudia L. Johnson (1990);
Erotic Faith by Robert M. Polhemus (1990);
Jane Austen’s Novels by Roger Gard (1992);
Life of Laurence Sterne by Percy Fitzgerald (London, 1864; second edition, London, 1896)