Rise of Novel in
“Other great types of literature, like epic, poetry, the romance, and the drama were first produced by other nations; but the idea of the modern novel seems to have been worked out largely on English soil.” (History of English Literature, WJ Long)
Virginia Woolf writes, “A novel is a work of art” which according to Forster “should consist of about 50,000 words.” It has a remote origin in the medieval romance, a tale of love and adventure and the classical epic, for and the Renaissance, a prose tale was called a novella (“A short new thing”, “News”). It was developed by Giovanni Boccaccio who, in 1350 wrote a collection of love stories in prose, Decameron (1471).
Novel, according to French critic Abel Chevalley, “is a fiction in prose of a certain length,” so the history of English novel can be made with Sir Philip Sidney’s The Countless of Pembrooeke’s Arcadia, a complex prose romance of the ship-wrecked princess, beautiful princess, and chivalric adventure and remained popular until 18th century. John Lyly’s
Ephesus (1578) and Ephesus and his reduce story to a
minimum but they are brilliant in discussion of manners, sentiments and moral
reflection. Robert Greene’s Pondosto
(1585) which Shakespeare used for The
Winter’s Tale describes the “low” life of Elizabethan London—the thieves,
the rogues, the drabs, their tricks and their victims. England
Thomas Lodge tried friction both ways, with a story in
manner, entitle Rosalynde (1590) and
with realistic pamphlets. Thomas Deloney describes the work of craftsmen in his
simple realistic narratives. The
Gentleman Craft tells the whole story of the show-makers with some vivid
and seemingly authentic scenes. Thomas Dekker successfully portrays the low
life of Sydney
in Guls Horn Booke (1609). Thomas
Nash made some progress in the direction of form in his realistic narratives.
In Jack Wilton his rogue hero begins
his carrier in the army of Henry VIII and in his travels meets a number of
living people. Here is the nearest approach to the realistic novel which the 16th
century has produced. London
Clara Reeve describes the novel as a “picture of real life and manners, and of time in which it is written,” and in the second half of the 17th century, after the end of Civic Wars, writers were left with some leisure for prose fiction. Samuel Peppys and John Evelyn in their dairies created new atmosphere for fiction writing. John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and The Life and Death of Mr. Badman combine allegory with narrative which is a realistic story, contemporary and authentic. The union on realism and spiritual experience is presented in The Abounding with all these earlier development of the novel it is left to the 18th C to consolidate fiction in a form of literature and from that time onwards these was no cessation in novel writing.
A beginning is made with an enthralling and mystical figure, Daniel Defoe. W.E. Williamson thinks, novel is “a long narrative in prose detailing the actions of fictitious people” and it is quite true with Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. The story had its basis, in fact, in the adventure of Alexander Selkirk, the sailor who lived alone for years on the
Crusoe lands on an uninhabited island and somehow managers to live there for
several years, until he is rescued from there by a lucky chance by a passing
ship of his own country. island of Juan Fernandez
Another famous travelogue is Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. In this romance, Gulliver lands on several islands inhabited by such strange creatures as the Lilliputians, Houyhnhnms, Brobdingnags, and Yahoos. However, Swift’s episodes in these adventures have a very pungent satire on contemporary political situations. Then follow the picaresque novels Captain Singleton with piracy and
Africa in its background, a
vivid tale, and the ‘female rogues’ Moll
Flanders and more elegant Roxanoe
, are among the most lively of his creation.
Henry Fielding maintains the novel as “a comic epic in prose” and his Tom Jones, Joseph Andrews, and Jonathan Wild, and Smollett’s Adventures of the Roderick Random are its best example in the Picaresque Novels. The heroes or heroines of these novels are themselves bad characters. Four wheels wrote the first classic English novels and set high standards and models for this new form. In Pamela (1740) and Clarissa (1747–48), written in the form of letters exchanged between lovers, friends, and kinsmen,
brought to a
traditional theme of the older romances—a young woman's defense of her
chastity—a psychological realism still unsurpassed. Fielding, in Joseph Andrews (1742), Tom Jones (1749), and Amelia (1751), depicted contemporary
life and morals with a generosity combined with great classical learning,
enabling him to write what he called “comic epic.” Smollett's Roderick Random (1748) followed a
picaresque hero against a vivid panorama of lower-class society. The Expedition of Humphry Clinker
(1771), also by Smollett, was gentler in its social criticism, but the comedy
is merciless in its depiction of human foibles and vanities. Between 1760 and
1767 Sterne turned the novel inside out with his comic masterpiece The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy,
in which the hero, who is the narrator, is not born until halfway through the
book. Sterne had no real successors until James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, who
investigated the relations between life on the one hand and literature and
language on the other. Richardson
In novel the controversy between rules and taste continued but here, two factor made the controversy much less instance and lively than the controversy in poetry and drama criticism. Firstly, the novel had newly emerged and it had no theory or rules of its own available in any ancient or preceding period. Secondly, it emerged as literature of the middleclass, which was also new and without any tradition behind. Fielding along among the novelists of the age was a conscious artist who tried to forge a theory of the novel drawn from the existing models of epic and drama. The result was an episodic plot leaving large scope for a variety of incidents and characters, a mixed form allowing tragic endings with comic interludes as well as comic endings with tragic situations, and a middle style providing scope for serious contemplations as well as farcical flourishes.
Many critics divided the novel into two classes: stories and romance. The novels are otherwise divided into novels of personality like, The Vicar Wakefield and Silas Marner; historical novel, like Ivanhoe; the novel of romance like Lorna Donne; and the novel of purpose, like Oliver Twist, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. All such classifications are imperfect, and the best of them is to open the objections.
Many categories of the novel became recognizable in the 18th century, although they were rarely self-contained or mutually exclusive. One was the didactic novel, in which theories of education and politics were expressed. Most famous was the French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau's Emile (1762). An English didactic novel was Caleb Williams (1794), by the political philosopher William Godwin; this work may also be seen as an example of the Gothic novel. The first Gothic novel was Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1764). Later examples are Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), Matthew Lewis's The Monk (1796), and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein (1818).
One of the most enduring genres in the English novel is the comedy of manners, which is concerned with the clash, mirrored in speech and behavior, between characters formed by particular cultural and social conditions. Perhaps the first writer in the genre was Fanny Burney (Evelina, 1778; Cecilia, 1782), but the great exemplar was Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice, 1813; Emma, 1816). Her abiding theme is ostensibly that of young women securing, or not securing, husbands; her underlying serious concern is with the attainment of self-knowledge. Such are Austen's wit, irony, and psychological perception, allied with her strict sense of correct social behavior, that she is the unchallenged genius of the genre.
Thus, Neo Classicism movement in English literature, which began under the influence of philosophic materialism, scientific empiricism, and literary classicism, and resulted in the production of the comic drama of manners, the poetry of wit, and the prose of common sense, gave way, at its end, to emerging philosophic transcendentalism, scientific associations, and literary romanticism, which resulted in the creation of poetic drama (more of a dramatic poem, in fact), the poetry of emotion, and the prose of sentiment. However the percept and epigram, the satire and the Mock-heroic (epic), of the age of Dryden and Pope, or the age of prose and reason, might have been discarded by the subsequent generations of the writers, its gift of essay and novel, to debate and criticism, continued long after the Neo-Classical movement had gone out of fashion, but before we take up literature of the Romantic period for discussion, we need to look into the literature that provided a transitional link between the Neo-Classical and the Romantic. This literature had appeared on the last quarter of the eighteenth century or thereabout is called “pre-Romantic literature.”
Since the flowering time of the novel in the second half of nineteenth century, the novel has displayed all other literary forms in popularity, and has replaced long verse narratives almost entirely. The novelistic art has received the devoted attention of some of the supreme craftsmen of modern literature—Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, Thackeray, H.G. Wells, R.L. Stevenson, Thomas Hardy, Virginia Woolf, And James Joyce. These great craftsmen have made the novel “a pocket theatre (Marion Crawford)” exhibiting the both “within and without of us”. It is the most effective medium for the portrayal of the human thought and action
“combining in itself the creation of poetry with the details of history and the generalized experience of philosophy, in a manner unattempted by any previous effort of human genius”. (Worsford)