Walter Alexander Raleigh.

The English novel : being a short sketch of its history from the earliest times to the appearance of Waverley online

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University Extension
Man uals






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This Series is primarily designed to aid the University Extension
Moiiement throttghoiit Great Britain and America, and to supply
the need so loidely felt by students, of Text-books for study and
reference, in connection with the authorised Courses of Lectures.
Volumes dealing with separate sections of Literature, Sciejue,
Philosophy, LListory, and Art have been assigned to representati':>e
literary men, to University Professors, or to extension L.ecturers
connected with Oxford, Canihridge, L^ondou, and the Universities of
Scotland and Ireland.

The Manuals differ from those already i}i existence in that tJuy
are not intended for Elementary use, but for students who have made
some advance in the subjects dealt 7v/th. The statement of details is
meant to illustrate the working of general laius, and the development
of principles ; zuhile the historical evolution of the subject dealt 7vith
is kept i7i view, along with its philosophical significance.

The remarkable success which has attended University Extension
in Britain has been partly due to the combination of scientific treat-
ment with popularity, and to the union of simplicity 7uith thorough-
ness. This movejnent, hozoever, can only reach those resident in the
larger centres of populatioji, while all over the country there are
thoughtful persons who desire the same kind of teaching. It is for
them also that this Series is designed. Its aim is to su/^ply the
general reader with the same kind of teaching as is given in the
Lectures, and to reflect the spirit which has characterised the move-
ment, viz., the combination of principles with facts, aiul of methods
with results.

The Manuals are also intended to be contributions to the Literature
of the subjects with ivhich they respectively deal, quite apart from
University Extension ; and souie of them zcill be found to meet a
general rather than a special zvant.

















who have shoum themselves ready
to welcome

Parts of this Book,

I inscribe

the Whole of it

with Gratitude ajid Esteefn.





This is a little book on a great subject. Its aim is
critical and historical ; to furnish studies of the work of
the chief English novelists before Scott, connected by
certain general lines of reasoning and speculation on
the nature and development of the novel. Much
material has been omitted, and many works silently
passed over, in the effort to attain a fair perspective
and a reasonable continuity of treatment within a
narrow compass. I much regret that my limited
opportunities of access to a great library forbid my
attempting a bibliography of the English Novel. Such
a work would be the best companion to the present

My warmest thanks are due to Mr. John Sampson,
librarian of University College, Liverpool, for many
valuable criticisms, and for the gift of an index.

W. A. R.
University College,


June, 1S94.



I. The Romance and the Novel.

Late Greek and Latin romances ; early medieval
romance; the Chanson de Roland ; English metrical
romances ; Chaucer's attitude to them ; his prose
and verse ; his narrative genius ; the 7iovella ; the
influence of Boccaccio on English literature ; the
Gesta Roinanonim ; its medievalism ; the Middle
Ages and the Renaissance ; prose romance, Sir
Thomas Malory ; Caxton's preface to the Morte
Darthur ; Malory's style; popularity of his book;
Caxton's versions of romances ; Wynkyn de Worde ;
Lord Berners ; the revival of learning and the
romance ; continued popularity of the romances ;
their diminished influence ; the romance and the
novel ... ... ... ... ... 1-24

TL The Elizabethan Age : Euphues.

The Italian influence ; Roger Ascham ; contempt of
scholars for the romances ; English translations of
Italian novels; Painter's Pallace of Pleasure ; John
Lyly ; his Eiiphties ; its story ; its style ; structure of
the sentences ; classical allusions ; natural history ;
Lyly's literary fanaticism ; his Puritanism ; his satire ;
sources of his stj le ; place of his style in literary
history ; a compromise between verse and prose 25-48

III. The Elizabethan Age: Sidney and Nash.

Imitators of Lyly ; Elizabethan emphasis and vigour ;
Sir Philip Sidney ; his life ; the sincerity of his

X Contents.

sonnets ; position of the novel in Elizabethan times ;
the Arcadia ; its sources ; its merits and influence ;
Sidney's style ; court and town compared ; Robert
Greene ; his life, writings, and death; his confessional
prose and verse ; his advances towards realism ;
Thomas Lodge ; his romances and pamphlets ;
Thomas Nash ; his life and controversies ; his style ;
his power and versatility ; The Unfortunate Travel-
ler ; description of a German University, of an
Italian vendetta; Nash's enthusiasm for Italy and
poetry ; his metaphors ; his realism j Nash and
Defoe ... ... ... ... 49-86

IV. The Romances of the Seventeenth Century.
Decline of the novel ; rivalry of the drama ; the
Civil War ; French heroic romances ; vitality of
romance ; structure of the heroic romances ; their
influence ; English imitations of them ; Parthenissa ;
Aretina ; characteristics and style ; Pandion and
Amphigenia ; its debt to the Arcadia; Congreve's
novel, Incognita; the drama and the novel; the
extravagant romanticism of the " heroic " movement ;
the " heroic " doctrine ; courtly cliques ; Mrs. Behn ;
The Fair Jilt ; decline of the heroic romance 87-109

V. The Beginnings of the Modern Novel.

The work of the seventeenth century ; preparation
for the modern novel ; character-writings ; autobio-
graphies, diaries, letters ; French parodies on
romance ; Bunyan's realism ; Bentivolio and Urania ;
the Duchess of Newcastle ; the new prose ; the
Tatler and Spectator ; idea of a club ; the portraiture
of individuals ; Sir Roger de Coverley compared
with Overbury's country gentleman ; the temper of
the Spectator; its detached sketches; its education
of the public ; Daniel Defoe ; his Shortest Way with
the Dissenters; turning-point of his career; The
Apparition of. one Mrs. Veal: Defoe's realistic
method ; Robinson Crusoe ; its practical bias ; its

Contents. x i


origin ; Defoe's treatment of llie supernatural ;
imaginary voyages ; Swift's Gulliver : its literalism ;
Mrs. Manley and Mrs. Haywood ... 110-139

VI. Richardson and Fielding.

The modern French novel ; decline of the drama,
rise of the novel in its place ; the origin of Pamela ;
Samuel Richardson ; his life and character ; ways of
telling a story ; Richardson's choice of the epistolary
way ; his sentimental analysis ; his leisurely narra-
tion ; his morality ; Pamela ; Sir Charles Gra)idisoii ;
Clarissa Harloioe ; the atmosphere of Richardson's
stories ; the influence of his sentiment on later
writers : Henry Fielding ; his connection with the
?,\.dLge ', JoseJ)k ^;/^;'(?cC'j,,y Fielding's humour ; y(?;/<7-
than Wild ; TomJonesJ: Fielding's morality; com-
pared with Richardson's^ Amelia; the advances in
the art of novel-writing made by Fielding 140-179

VH. The Novels of the Eighteenth Century.

Miss Sarah Fielding's David Simple ; multitude of
novels ; Tobias Smollett ; his models ; his definition
of a novel ; Roderick Random ; autobiographic
method ; Ferdinand, Count Fatho)ii ; Htimphrey
Clinker ; Smollett's zest in life ; his spirit of adven-
ture ; his imitators; satirical "adventure" novels;
Moore's Zeluco : Lawrence Sterne; his method;
character, sentiment, humour ; his originals ;
Thackeray's criticism on Sterne ; influence of
Cervantes ; Henry Mackenzie ; sentiment and
theory ; Johnson's Rasselas ; its style and solemnity ;
Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield; his inconsequence,
drollery, style ; later writers ; characteristics of the
eighteenth-century novel ; Mrs. Sheridan ; Henry
Brooke ; the limitations of the school ; its strength
and variety ... ... ... ... 180-215

Vin. The Revival or Romance.

The Romantic movement ; " The Renaissance of
Wonder " ; School of Terror and i^chool of Theory :

xii Contents.


supevnaturalism before the revival ; Gtilliver, Peter
Wilkiiis ; Johnson's attitude towards the marvel-
lous ; Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto ; its use
of the supernatural ; the true use in Wordsworth
and Coleridge ; Miss Reeve's Old English Baron ;
Mrs. Radcliffe ; her timidity ; her characters and
machinery ; her command of suggestion ; her
scenery; "Monk" Lewis; his violence and vul-
garity; Tales of Wonder; Maturin's Family of
Mentor io ; his Alelnioth the IVanderer; subtlety of
his effects ; influence of Rousseau on English fiction ;
precursors of Rousseau, Mrs. Behn, Dr. Shebbeare ;
Thomas Holcroft ; William Godwin ; his doctrines ;
Caleb Williams; St. Leon and Fleetxvood ; Mrs.
Inchbald ; stories for children ; Beckford's Vathek ;
Shelley's prose romances ... ... 216-252

IX. The Novel of Domestic Satirk : Miss Burney,
Miss Austen, Miss Edgevvorth.
Women and the novel ; change of social tone during
the eighteenth century ; domestic life ; domestic
satire ; Miss Burney ; Evelina ; Cecilia ; Jane
Austen ; comparison of her with Shakespeare ; the
perfection of her art ; her impersonality ; her style ;
her satire ; Miss Edge worth ; her tales of Ireland
and of fashionable life ; her didactic bias ;
Mrs. Brunton ; worthless romances ; parodies on
romances; Angelina; NortJianger Abbey; Kotnance
Readers and Rojnance Writers ; The Heroine, or
Adventures of Cherubina ... ... 253-275

X. Sir Walter Scott.

Union of romance and novel ; victory of prose over
verse ; Scott's early ambitions and attempts in prose ;
the predecessors of Scott in the historical romance ;
The Recess ; worthlessness of this and other historical
romances ; Queen-hoo Hall ; Scott's theory and
practice in the use of archaic diction ; his compro-
mise ; greatness of Sir Waller Scott ... 276-283




Time and again, in the world's history, where East meets
West, the spirit of romance has been born. Herodotus
on his travels, Heliodorus carrying Ethiopian traditions
to his bishopric, Apuleius the Carthaginian sojourning
at Rome, are all parents of prose romance ; and in
mediceval legend, Alexander in correspondence with
the Brahmins, Charlemagne in conflict with the Moors,
furnish the same unfailing inspiration. But the late
Greek and Latin writers of prose fiction have little
enough to do with the beginnings of story-telling in
Enghsh. There exists an Anglo-Saxon version of the
story of Apollonius of Tyre ; for the rest, it was the
noble army of Elizabethan translators who first brought
these early prose romances within the domain of English
literature. The earlier English romances, like the word
Romance itself, are mediaeval and French in origin.
The Celtic races of Europe are almost singular in


2 The English Novel. [Chai'.

their early preference for telling their traditional stories
in prose. The Normans, like the Teutonic races,
narrated in verse, and their stories reappeared in English
verse, alliterative or rhymed, long before they were
redacted, in the fifteenth century, into Enghsh prose.
From the time of Layamon onwards, throughout the
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the work of trans-
lation and adaptation went on, and the establishment
of the English language in its own country, about the
middle of the fourteenth century, gave a fresh impetus
to the process. In this way the four principal mediaeval
cycles of romance, dealing severally with the legends of
Charlemagne, Arthur, Alexander, and Troy, had been
made familiar to the English people in their own tongue
by the close of the fourteenth century. Fashioned by
French and Anglo-Norman poets and reciters from
material supplied by popular or literary tradition,
modified by each successive generation to suit prevailing
tastes, these legends reached the English - speaking
people of England for the most part in late and elabo-
rately wrought forms. There is no English version of
any of the Charlemagne legends that reproduces the
grave and unadorned simplicity of the French chansons
de geste of the eleventh century. Religious and severe
in spirit, as monotonous in theme and phrase as in metre,
the Chanson de Rolafid has nothing in it of the marvel-
lous adventures or of the love-interest that came to be
regarded later as constituting the essence of romance.
The fair Aude, the sister of OUver, betrothed to Roland,
is the only woman who figures in this poem, and her
name is never mentioned by Roland. Only when he is

I.] Cycles of Romance. 3

dead, she comes to Charlemagne. " ' Where is the Lord
Roland who swore that I should be his bride?' slic
asked the king. Full of grief and pain, weeping and
tearing his white beard, Charles replied, ' My sister, my
dear friend, you ask for one who is dead; but in his
place I will give you one who is more mighty, Louis,
my son, who rules my marches, better man I know

" Then answered Aude, ' Strange to me seems your
speech. God and his angels and saints forbid that I
should live now w^hen Roland is dead.' Her colour
fled, she fell forthwith dead at the feet of Charles. May
God have mercy on her soul. The French barons wept
and lamented her." *

The severity and restraint of this may be taken as
typical of the earliest monuments of mediaeval romantic
literature. But the influence of the Crusades, and the
development of early feudal manners into the richly
decorative chivalry of the later Middle Ages, transformed
and elaborated the romances before they became
English. When Sir Thomas INLilory, Caxton, and Lord
Berners gave to the Arthur and Charlemagne romances
their first English prose dress, it was from late French
versions that they worked. The history of EngUsh
l)rose fiction begins witli those three names, at precisely
the point where the researches of folk-lore reach their
conclusion. The age of the nameless minstrel is over,
that of the responsible prose author has begun.

The greater part of the story-telling of Chaucer's time
was done by the minstrel, the descendant of the early
* Translated in tlic Dublin Revicxv, July, 1890,

4 The English Novel. [Chap.

jongleur. But not only was the minstrel degenerate
since the days of Taillefer, when he shared in heroic
exploits ; he was also in danger of eclipse from purely
literary rivals. In the towns, growing wonderfully in
number and importance, the annual performance of
the dramatic cycles of " Mysteries " by the trade gilds
formed the principal Hterary diversion of the people.
At the court, the new poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer was
putting to shame, by its high artistic finish, the ambling
monotony of the chanted recitations concerning Sir
Eglamour, Sir Perceval, and Sir Isembras. But in the
baronial hall in the country, especially " when folk were
feasted and fed," and willing to stifle conversation for a
little, the minstrel was sure of a welcome and gifts. His
usual method of performance, still common in Eastern
countries, was to chant the stanzas of his long narrative
poem to the droning accompaniment of the vielle,
played with a short bow. In this way gentle and simple
were made familiar with —

" What resounds
In fable or romance of Uther's son,
Begirt with British and Armoric knights,"

with the exploits of Roland and Oliver, or the adven-
tures of those unattached knights whose names were, for
the most part, ultimately connected with one or other of
the great cycles.

The examples that have been preserved of this im-
mense body of metrical literature are not without their
characteristic merits. They are epical in spirit, although
not in form ; they frequently begin with the genealogy

I.] Metrical Romances. 5

of their hero, and carry him through tlie actions and
adventures of his hfe, concluding with his epitaph and
a general doxology. They display a marked preference
for deeds done, and attempt no character- drawing.
Knights are brave and ladies are fair, and the actions
of both are directed by honour and love, in the highly
conventional sense put upon these motives in the later
days of chivalry. If a medioeval minstrel had been
requested to embody all the novels of Mr. Henry
James in his narrative, he would have put them into a
single line, —

" When twenty years were come and gone," —

and hurried on to the next giant. The broad outlines
of such a scheme work their own effect, and the deeds
of the doughtiest of heroes are often saved from exag-
geration by the largeness of the background behind.
A sense of the instability of human life, very present
to the minds of men familiar with battle and plague,
is everywhere mirrored in these romances ; some of
them end, like a modern novel, with a marriage, but
the chronicler rarely forgets to add the few additional
lines of doersfcrel to the effect that —


" They Hved and died with good intent,
And sithen all to heaven they went,

When that they dead were.
Pray we now to heaven's King,
He give us all His dear blessing
Now and evermore ! "

When the great story-teller of his age came, in the
maturity of liis powers, to build up the fabric of tlic

6 TJie English Novel. [Chap.

Canterbury Tales, he put into his own mouth a parody
of the current metrical romances : —

'* Al of a knight was fair and gent
In batail and in tornament,
His name was Sir Thopas."

Chaucer the artist — perhaps the purest artist of all great
names in English poetry — despised the otiose epithets,
and the metre, so lacking in emphasis and distinction,
of the verse romances ; Chaucer the humourist, familiar
with the witty and spirited tales of the South, found the
languors of the ministrels' chronology intolerable. He
commits the task of criticism to the host, who interrupts
the tale with curses on its dulness, and orders its
narrator to tell something in prose, containing matter
either of mirth or doctrine. The host, that is to say,
positively invites Chaucer to produce the first English
novel. H ere was the opportunity to naturalize in English
prose the brief jocular fabliau of France, already per-
fected by Boccaccio in Italian prose under the name of
the novella. For reasons best known to himself Chaucer
lets slip this opportunity, and elects to narrate unto
edification. In the Tale of Melibeus, with which he
responds to the host's invitation, he chooses to treat of
doctrine, and of doctrine in the dreariest mediaeval
manner of allegory. The stories in the Latin Gesta
RomaJiornm, well known to Chaucer, can be stripped of
their allegorical and moral tags, and thoroughly enjoyed
by the profane reader; in the Talc of Melibeus the
allegory permeates and curdles the story. It would
seem as if Chaucer, who had emancipated his verse so
completely from mediceval allegory and abstraction,

I.] CJiaucer. y

were unable in his prose to save his ear from obsession
by the cadences of the pulpit. His treatise on the
Astrolabe is learned matter reduced to English for the
instruction of a child, the Parson s Talc and the transla-
tion of Boethius, his other prose works, are bald sermons,
with none of the glitter and melody of his poorest line of
verse. English prose had really no standing in an age
when there were few readers who could not read Latin.

The original work done by Chaucer on the themes of
the old romances was more deadly than his ridicule to
the supremacy of the ministrel. In the Knighfs Tale
and Troilus and Cressida he showed what could be
made of the legends of Thebes and Troy. In the
handling of his material as well as in the new elevation
of every syllable of his verse to value and dignity, he
superseded for ever the artless garrulity and tumbling
periods of the ministrel poets. The Chaucerians of the
fifteenth century, from Lydgate onwards, appropriated
more and more legendary material, keeping generally in
their longer poems to the two famous metres of their
master, the seven-lined " Troilus " stanza and the deca-
syllabic couplet. These are measures intended to be
read rather than sung ; their adoption marks the triumph
of the written over the spoken word, and heralds the
later conquests of prose.

Although his prose writing merits no particular notice,
it is difficult to pass over the name of Chaucer with-
out marking the high pitch of perfection to which he
brouG^ht the art of narration in verse. Not until cen-
turies after his time could there be found in English
prose the equivalent of his spirited incident, his delicate

8 The Ens'lish Novel. [CuAr,


characterization, his dramatic realism, his sly gentle
humour. It is not merely that he succeeded, alone among
the writers of his age and nation, in ridding himself of
the allegorical fetters that cramped the growth of English
literature even in the fifteenth century. It is not only
that he had an unexampled dramatic genius, which
prompted him to substitute for the statical scheme of the
Decameron a brilliant dynamical scheme of his own,
instinct with life and grace. The greatness of Chaucer's
dramatic power has left its impress on his story-telling
in a hundred subtleties of inspired observation, to be
equalled only by the sudden startling dramatic felicities
of the great romantic playwrights. But first of all he
was a great narrative artist, incomparably the greatest of
an age that loved story-telling and knew nothing of the
drama. He is a master of all those effects, beyond the
scope of the dramatist proper, to be obtained from the
apposite intrusion of himself as narrator, pointing a
moral or interposing a reflection, laughing or criticizing,
expressing incredulity or sympathy. Thus, in the Pro-
logue^ he hastens to dissent from the Sumpnour's cynical
contempt for the archdeacon's curse, and adds, with
humorous ambiguity, his own conviction —

" For curs wol slee right as assoillyng saveth."

In the Knighfs Tale, he refuses, on the ground that he
is no " divinister," to speculate on the fate of the soul
of Arcite : —

" His spirit chaunged was, and wenlc thcr
As I cam never, I can nat tellen wher."

In Troilus and Cressida he is constantly at the reader's

I.] Chancer. 9

elbow, disclaiming skill in love, discussing the conduct
of the heroine, defending her from the charge of im-
modesty in the ready bestowal of her affections, pleading
for her even in her infidelity, —

" For she so sory was for hir untrouthe,
Y-wis, I wolde excuse hir yet for roulhe."

And some of the most beautiful of his reflective passages
are interpolated as his own criticisms on the narrative ;
thus, in the Fraiikliiis Tale, he tells of the marriage of
Arviragus and Dorigen, adding the thought that it
suggests to him, —

" For o thing, syres, saufly dar I seye,
That frendes everich other motte obeye,
If they wille longe holde companye.
Love wol nought ben constreyned by maystrie.
When maystrie cometh, the god of love anon
Beteth on his binges, and fare wel, he is gon."

Yet when he comes, in the Clerk's Tale, to tell of a love
that was cruelly " constrained by mastery " and survived
it, he is at no loss for a criticism ; after the heart-
rending pathos of the story of Griselda, he turns lightly,
in the inimitable Envoy, on the '* arch-wives " of his own
day, satirically counselling them against taking Griselda
for a model, and warning their husbands that the story
is an insecure precedent.

The illuminative play of his own thought and humour
around the incidents of the stories he tells so tersely and
vividly gives to Chaucer much of his greatness as a
narrator. I3ut he wrote in verse, and prose was slow to
learn from him. Here and there in his compilation Sir
Thomas Malory took leave to indulge his own knightly

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Online LibraryWalter Alexander RaleighThe English novel : being a short sketch of its history from the earliest times to the appearance of Waverley → online text (page 1 of 21)