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Masters of the English Novel by Richard Burton

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The principle of inclusion in this book is the traditional one
which assumes that criticism is only safe when it deals with
authors who are dead. In proportion as we approach the living
or, worse, speak of those still on earth, the proper perspective
is lost and the dangers of contemporary judgment incurred. The
light-minded might add, that the dead cannot strike back; to
pass judgment upon them is not only more critical but safer.

Sometimes, however, the distinction between the living and the
dead is an invidious one. Three authors hereinafter studied are
examples: Meredith, Hardy and Stevenson. Hardy alone is now in
the land of the living, Meredith having but just passed away.
Yet to omit the former, while including the other two, is
obviously arbitrary, since his work in fiction is as truly done
as if he, like them, rested from his literary labors and the
gravestone chronicled his day of death. For reasons best known
to himself, Mr. Hardy seems to have chosen verse for the final
expression of his personality. It is more than a decade since he
published a novel. So far as age goes, he is the senior of
Stevenson: "Desperate Remedies" appeared when the latter was a
stripling at the University of Edinburgh. Hardy is therefore
included in the survey. I am fully aware that to strive to
measure the accomplishment of those practically contemporary,
whether it be Meredith and Hardy or James and Howells, is but
more or less intelligent guess-work. Nevertheless, it is
pleasant employ, the more interesting, perhaps, to the critic
and his readers because an element of uncertainty creeps into
what is said. If the critic runs the risk of Je suis, J'y reste,
he gets his reward in the thrill of prophecy; and should he turn
out a false prophet, he is consoled by the reflection that it
will place him in a large and enjoyable company.

Throughout the discussion it has been the intention to keep
steadily before the reader the two main ways of looking at life
in fiction, which have led to the so-called realistic and
romantic movements. No fear of repetition in the study of the
respective novelists has kept me from illustrating from many
points of view and taking advantage of the opportunity offered
by each author, the distinction thus set up. For back of all
stale jugglery of terms, lies a very real and permanent
difference. The words denote different types of mind as well as
of art: and express also a changed interpretation of the world
of men, resulting from the social and intellectual revolution
since 1750.

No apology would appear to be necessary for Chapter Seven, which
devotes sufficient space to the French influence to show how it
affected the realistic tendency of all modern novel-making.
The Scandinavian lands, Germany, Italy, England and Spain,
all have felt the leadership of France in this regard and hence
any attempt to sketch the history of the Novel on English soil,
would ignore causes, that did not acknowledge the Gallic debt.

It may also be remarked that the method employed in the
following pages necessarily excludes many figures of no slight
importance in the evolution of English fiction. There are books
a-plenty dealing with these secondary personalities, often
significant as links in the chain and worthy of study were the
purpose to present the complete history of the Novel. By
centering upon indubitable masters, the principles illustrated
both by the lesser and larger writers will, it is hoped, be
brought home with equal if not greater force.





All the world loves a story as it does a lover. It is small
wonder then that stories have been told since man walked erect
and long before transmitted records. Fiction, a conveniently
broad term to cover all manner of story-telling, is a hoary
thing and within historical limits we can but get a glimpse of
its activity. Because it is so diverse a thing, it may be
regarded in various ways: as a literary form, a social
manifestation, a comment upon life. Main emphasis in this book
is placed upon its recent development on English soil under the
more restrictive name of Novel; and it is the intention, in
tracing the work of representative novel writers, to show how
the Novel has become in some sort a special modern mode of
expression and of opinion, truly reflective of the Zeitgeist.

The social and human element in a literary phenomenon is what
gives general interest and includes it as part of the
culturgeschichte of a people. This interest is as far removed
from that of the literary specialist taken up with questions of
morphology and method, as it is from the unthinking rapture of
the boarding-school Miss who finds a current book "perfectly
lovely," and skips intrepidly to the last page to see how it is
coming out. Thoughtful people are coming to feel that fiction is
only frivolous when the reader brings a frivolous mind or makes
a frivolous choice. While it will always be legitimate to turn
to fiction for innocent amusement, since the peculiar property
of all art is to give pleasure, the day has been reached when it
is recognized as part of our culture to read good fiction, to
realize the value and importance of the Novel in modern
education; and conversely, to reprimand the older, narrow notion
that the habit means self-indulgence and a waste of time. Nor
can we close our eyes to the tyrannous domination of fiction
to-day, for good or bad. It has worn seven-league boots of progress
the past generation. So early as 1862, Sainte-Beuve declared in
conversation: "Everything is being gradually merged into the
novel. There is such a vast scope and the form lends itself to
everything." Prophetic words, more than fulfilled since they
were spoken.

Of the three main ways of story-telling, by the epic poem, the
drama and prose fiction, the epic seems to be the oldest;
poetry, indeed, being the natural form of expression among
primitive peoples.

The comparative study of literature shows that so far as written
records go, we may not surely ascribe precedence in time either
to fiction or the drama. The testimony varies in different
nations. But if the name fiction be allowed for a Biblical
narrative like the Book of Ruth, which in the sense of
imaginative and literary handling of historical material it
certainly is, the great antiquity of the form may be conceded.
Long before the written or printed word, we may safely say,
stories were recited in Oriental deserts, yarns were spun as
ships heaved over the seas, and sagas spoken beside hearth fires
far in the frozen north. Prose narratives, epic in theme or of
more local import, were handed down from father to son,
transmitted from family to family, through the exercise of a
faculty of memory that now, in a day when labor-saving devices
have almost atrophied its use, seems well nigh miraculous. Prose
story-telling, which allows of ample description, elbow room for
digression, indefinite extension and variation from the original
kernel of plot, lends itself admirably to the imaginative needs
of humanity early or late.

With the English race, fiction began to take con-structural
shape and definiteness of purpose in Elizabethan days. Up to the
sixteenth century the tales were either told in verse, in the
epic form of Beowulf or in the shrunken epic of a thirteenth
century ballad like "King Horn"; in the verse narratives of
Chaucer or the poetic musings of Spenser. Or else they were a
portion of that prose romance of chivalry which was vastly
cultivated in the middle ages, especially in France and Spain,
and of which we have a doughty exemplar in the Morte D'Arthur,
which dates nearly a century before Shakspere's day. Loose
construction and no attempt to deal with the close eye of
observation, characterize these earlier romances, which were in
the main conglomerates of story using the double appeal of love
and war.

But at a time when the drama was paramount in popularity, when
the young Shakspere was writing his early comedies, fiction,
which was in the fulness of time to conquer the play form as a
popular vehicle of story-telling, began to rear its head. The
loosely constructed, rambling prose romances of Lyly of
euphuistic fame, the prose pastorals of Lodge from which model
Shakspere made his forest drama, "As You Like It," the
picaresque, harum-scarum story of adventure, "Jack Wilton," the
prototype of later books like "Gil Blas" and "Robinson Crusoe,"--these
were the early attempts to give prose narration a closer knitting,
a more organic form.

But all such tentative striving was only preparation; fiction in
the sense of more or less formless prose narration, was written
for about two centuries without the production of what may be
called the

Novel in the modern meaning of the word. The broader name
fiction may properly be applied, since, as we shall see, all
novels are fiction, but all fiction is by no means Novels. The
whole development of the Novel, indeed, is embraced within
little more than a century and a half; from the middle of the
eighteenth century to the present time. The term Novel is more
definite, more specific than the fiction out of which it
evolved; therefore, we must ask ourselves wherein lies the
essential difference. Light is thrown by the early use of the
word in critical reference in English. In reading the following
from Steele's "Tender Husband," we are made to realize that the
stark meaning of the term implies something new: social
interest, a sense of social solidarity: "Our amours can't
furnish out a Romance; they'll make a very pretty Novel."

This clearly marks a distinction: it gives a hint as to the
departure made by Richardson in 1742, when he published
"Pamela." It is not strictly the earliest discrimination between
the Novel and the older romance; for the dramatist Congreve at
the close of the seventeenth century shows his knowledge of the
distinction. And, indeed, there are hints of it in Elizabethan
criticism of such early attempts as those of Lyly, Nast, Lodge
and others. Moreover, the student of criticism as it deals with
the Novel must also expect to meet with a later confusion of
nomenclature; the word being loosely applied to any type of
prose fiction in contrast with the short story or tale. But
here, at an early date, the severance is plainly indicated
between the study of contemporary society and the elder romance
of heroism, supernaturalism, and improbability. It is a
difference not so much of theme as of view-point, method and

For underlying this attempt to come closer to humanity through
the medium of a form of fiction, is to be detected an added
interest in personality for its own sake. During the eighteenth
century, commonly described as the Teacup Times, an age of
powder and patches, of etiquette, epigram and surface polish,
there developed a keener sense of the value of the individual,
of the sanctity of the ego, a faint prelude to the note that was
to become so resonant in the nineteenth century, sounding
through all the activities of man. Various manifestations in the
civilization of Queen Anne and the first Georges illustrate the
new tendency.

One such is the coffee house, prototype of the bewildering club
life of our own day. The eighteenth century coffee house, where
the men of fashion and affairs foregathered to exchange social
news over their glasses, was an organization naturally fostering
altruism; at least, it tended to cultivate a feeling for social

Again, the birth of the newspaper with the Spectator Papers in
the early years of the century, is another such sign of the
times: the newspaper being one of the great social bonds of
humanity, for good or bad, linking man to man, race to race in
the common, well-nigh instantaneous nexus of sympathy. The
influence of the press at the time of a San Francisco or Messina
horror is apparent to all; but its effect in furnishing the
psychology of a business panic is perhaps no less potent though
not so obvious. When Addison and Steele began their genial
conversations thrice a week with their fellow citizens, they
little dreamed of the power they set a-going in the world; for
here was the genesis of modern journalism. And whatever its
abuses and degradations, the fourth estate is certainly one of
the very few widely operative educational forces to-day, and has
played an important part in spreading the idea of the
brotherhood of man.

That the essay and its branch form, the character sketch, both
found in the Spectator Papers, were contributory to the Novel's
development, is sure. The essay set a new model for easy,
colloquial speech: just the manner for fiction which was to
report the accent of contemporary society in its average of
utterance. And the sketch, seen in its delightful efflorescence
in the Sir Roger De Coverly papers series by Addison, is fiction
in a sense: differing therefrom in its slighter framework, and
the aim of the writer, which first of all is the delicate
delineation of personality, not plot and the study of the social
complex. There is the absence of plot which is the natural
outcome of such lack of story interest. A wide survey of the
English essay from its inception with Bacon in the early
seventeenth century will impress the inquirer with its fluid
nature and natural outflow into full-fledged fiction. The essay
has a way, as Taine says, of turning "spontaneously to fiction
and portraiture." And as it is difficult, in the light of
evolution, to put the finger on the line separating man from the
lower order of animal life, so is it difficult sometimes to say
just where the essay stops and the Novel begins. There is
perhaps no hard-and-fast line.

Consider Dr. Holmes' "Autocrat of the Breakfast Table," for
example; is it essay or fiction? There is a definite though
slender story interest and idea, yet since the framework of
story is really for the purpose of hanging thereon the genial
essayist's dissertations on life, we may decide that the book is
primarily essay, the most charmingly personal, egoistic of
literary forms. The essay "slightly dramatized," Mr. Howells
happily characterizes it. This form then must be reckoned with
in the eighteenth century and borne in mind as contributory all
along in the subsequent development, as we try to get a clear
idea of the qualities which demark and limit the Novel.

Again, the theater was an institution doing its share to knit
social feeling; as indeed it had been in Elizabethan days:
offering a place where many might be moved by the one thought,
the one emotion, personal variations being merged in what is now
called mob psychology, a function for centuries also exercised
by the Church. Nor should the function of the playhouse as a
visiting-place be overlooked.

So too the Novel came to express most inclusively among the
literary forms this more vivid realization of meum and tuum; the
worth of me and my intricate and inevitable relations to you,
both of us caught in the coils of that organism dubbed society,
and willingly, with no Rousseau-like desire to escape and set up
for individualists. The Novel in its treatment of personality
began to teach that the stone thrown into the water makes
circles to the uttermost bounds of the lake; that the little
rift within the lute makes the whole music mute; that we are all
members of the one body. This germinal principle was at root a
profoundly true and noble one; it serves to distinguish modern
fiction philosophically from all that is earlier, and it led the
late Sidney Lanier, in the well-known book on this subject, to
base the entire development upon the working out of the idea of
personality. The Novel seems to have been the special literary
instrument in the eighteenth century for the propagation of
altruism; here lies its deepest significance. It was a baptism
which promised great things for the lusty young form.

We are now ready for a fair working definition of the modern
Novel. It means a study of contemporary society with an implied
sympathetic interest, and, it may be added, with special
reference to love as a motor force, simply because love it is
which binds together human beings in their social relations.

This aim sets off the Novel in contrast with past fiction which
exhibits a free admixture of myth and marvel, of creatures
human, demi-human and supernatural, with all time or no time for
the enactment of its events. The modern story puts its note of
emphasis upon character that is contemporary and average; and
thus makes a democratic appeal against that older appeal which,
dealing with exceptional personages--kings, leaders, allegorical
abstractions--is naturally aristocratic.

There was something, it would appear, in the English genius
which favored a form of literature--or modification of an
existing form--allowing for a more truthful representation of
society, a criticism (in the Arnoldian sense) of the passing
show. The elder romance finds its romantic effect, as a rule, in
the unusual, the strange and abnormal aspects of life, not so
much seen of the eye as imagined of the mind or fancy. Hence,
romance is historically contrasted with reality, with many
unfortunate results when we come to its modern applications. The
issue has been a Babel-like mixture of terms.

Or when the bizarre or supernatural was not the basis of appeal,
it was found in the sickly and absurd treatment of the amatory
passion, quite as far removed from the every-day experience of
normal human nature. It was this kind of literature, with the
French La Calprenede as its high priest, which my Lord
Chesterfield had in mind when he wrote to his son under date of
1752, Old Style: "It is most astonishing that there ever could
have been a people idle enough to write such endless heaps of
the same stuff. It was, however, the occupation of thousands in
the last century; and is still the private though disavowed
amusement of young girls and sentimental ladies." The chief
trait of these earlier fictions, besides their mawkishness, is
their almost incredible long-windedness; they have the long
breath, as the French say; and it may be confessed that the
great, pioneer eighteenth century novels, foremost those of
Richardson, possess a leisureliness of movement which is an
inheritance of the romantic past when men, both fiction writers
and readers, seem to have Time; they look back to Lyly, and
forward (since history repeats itself here), to Henry James. The
condensed, breathless fiction of a Kipling is the more logical

Certainly, the English were innovators in this field, exercising
a direct and potent influence upon foreign fiction, especially
that of France and Germany; it is not too much to say, that the
novels of Richardson and Fielding, pioneers, founders of the
English Novel, offered Europe a type. If one reads the French
fictionists before Richardson--Madame de La Fayette, Le Sage,
Prevost and Rousseau--one speedily discovers that they did not
write novels in the modern sense; the last named took a cue from
Richardson, to be sure, in his handling of sentiment, but
remained an essayist, nevertheless. And the greater Goethe also
felt and acknowledged the Englishman's example. Testimonies from
the story-makers of other lands are frequent to the effect upon
them of these English pioneers of fiction. It will be seen from
this brief statement of the kind of fiction essayed by the
founders of the Novel, that their tendency was towards what has
come to be called "realism" in modern fiction literature. One
uses this sadly overworked term with a certain sinking of the
heart, yet it seems unavoidable. The very fact that the words
"realism" and "romance" have become so hackneyed in critical
parlance, makes it sure that they indicate a genuine
distinction. As the Novel has developed, ramified and taken on a
hundred guises of manifestation, and as criticism has striven to
keep pace with such a growth, it is not strange that a confusion
of nomenclature should have arisen. But underneath whatever
misunderstandings, the original distinction is clear enough and
useful to make: the modern Novel in its beginning did introduce
a more truthful representation of human life than had obtained
in the romantic fiction deriving from the medieval stories. The
term "realism" as first applied was suitably descriptive; it is
only with the subsequent evolution that so simple a word has
taken on subtler shades and esoteric implications.

It may be roundly asserted that from the first the English Novel
has stood for truth; that it has grown on the whole more
truthful with each generation, as our conception of truth in
literature has been widened and become a nobler one. The
obligation of literature to report life has been felt with
increasing sensitiveness. In the particulars of appearance,
speech, setting and action the characters of English fiction to-day
produce a semblance of life which adds tenfold to its power.
To compare the dialogue of modern masters like Hardy, Stevenson,
Kipling and Howells with the best of the earlier writers serves
to bring the assertion home; the difference is immense; it is
the difference between the idiom of life and the false-literary
tone of imitations of life which, with all their merits, are
still self-conscious and inapt And as the earlier idiom was
imperfect, so was the psychology; the study of motives in
relation to action has grown steadily broader, more penetrating;
the rich complexity of human beings has been recognized more and
more, where of old the simple assumption that all mankind falls
into the two great contrasted groups of the good and the bad,
was quite sufficient. And, as a natural outcome of such an easy-going
philosophy, the study of life was rudimentary and partial; you
could always tell how the villain would jump and were
comfortable in the assurance that the curtain should ring down
upon "and so they were married and lived happily ever

In contrast, to-day human nature is depicted in the Novel as a
curious compound of contradictory impulses and passions, and
instead of the clear-cut separation of the sheep and the goats,
we look forth upon a vast, indiscriminate horde of humanity
whose color, broadly surveyed, seems a very neutral
gray,--neither deep black nor shining white. The white-robed saint
is banished along with the devil incarnate; those who respect their
art would relegate such crudities to Bowery melodrama. And while
we may allow an excess of zeal in this matter, even a confusion
of values, there can be no question that an added dignity has
come to the Novel in these latter days, because it has striven
with so much seriousness of purpose to depict life in a more
interpretative way. It has seized for a motto the Veritas nos
liberavit of the ancient philosopher. The elementary psychology
of the past has been transferred to the stage drama, justifying
Mr. Shaw's description of it as "the last sanctuary of
unreality." And even in the theater, the truth demanded in
fiction for more than a century, is fast finding a place, and
play-making, sensitive to the new desire, is changing in this
respect before our eyes.

However, with the good has come evil too. In the modern seeking
for so-called truth, the nuda veritas has in some hands become
shameless as well,--a fact amply illustrated in the following
treatment of principles and personalities.

The Novel in the hands of these eighteenth century writers also
struck a note of the democratic,--a note that has sounded ever
louder until the present day, when fiction is by far the most
democratic of the literary forms (unless we now must include the
drama in such a designation). The democratic ideal has become at
once an instinct, a principle and a fashion. Richardson in his
"Pamela" did a revolutionary thing in making a kitchen wench his
heroine; English fiction had previously assumed that for its
polite audience only the fortunes of Algernon and Angelina could
be followed decorously and give fit pleasure. His innovation,
symptomatic of the time, by no means pleased an aristocratic
on-looker like Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who wrote to a friend:
"The confounding of all ranks and making a jest of order has
long been growing in England; and I perceive by the books you
sent me, has made a very considerable progress. The heroes and
heroines of the age are cobblers and kitchen wenches. Perhaps
you will say, I should not take my ideas of the manners of the
times from such trifling authors; but it is more truly to be
found among them, than from any historian; as they write merely
to get money, they always fall into the notions that are most
acceptable to the present taste. It has long been the endeavor
of our English writers to represent people of quality as the
vilest and silliest part of the nation, being (generally) very
low-born themselves"--a quotation deliciously commingled of
prejudice and worldly wisdom.

But Richardson, who began his career by writing amatory epistles
for serving maids, realized (and showed his genius thereby),
that if the hard fortunes and eventful triumph of the humble
Pamela could but be sympathetically portrayed, the interest on
the part of his aristocratic audience was certain to follow,--as
the sequel proved.

He knew that because Pamela was a human being she might
therefore be made interesting; he adopted, albeit unconsciously,
the Terentian motto that nothing human should be alien from the
interests of his readers. And as the Novel developed, this
interest not only increased in intensity, but ever spread until
it depicted with truth and sympathy all sorts and conditions of
men. The typical novelist to-day prefers to leave the beaten
highway and go into the by-ways for his characters; his interest
is with the humble of the earth, the outcast and alien, the
under dog in the social struggle. It has become well-nigh a
fashion, a fad, to deal with these picturesque and once
unexploited elements of the human passion-play.

This interest does not stop even at man; influenced by modern
conceptions of life, it overleaps the line of old supposed to be
impassable, and now includes the lower order of living things:
animals have come into their own and a Kipling or a London gives
us the psychology of brutekind as it has never been drawn
before--from the view-point of the animal himself. Our little
brothers of the air, the forest and the field are depicted in
such wise that the world returns to a feeling which swelled the
heart of St. Francis centuries ago, as he looked upon the birds
he loved and thus addressed them:

"And he entered the field and began to preach to the birds which
were on the ground; and suddenly those which were in the trees
came to him and as many as there were they all stood quietly
until Saint Francis had done preaching; and even then they did
not depart until such time as he had given them his blessing;
and St. Francis, moving among them, touched them with his cape,
but not one moved."

It is because this modern form of fiction upon which we fix the
name Novel to indicate its new features has seized the idea of
personality, has stood for truth and grown ever more democratic,
that it has attained to the immense power which marks it at the
present time. It is justified by historical facts; it has become
that literary form most closely revealing the contours of life,
most expressive of its average experience, most sympathetic to
its heart-throb. The thought should prevent us from regarding it
as merely the syllabub of the literary feast, a kind of after-dinner
condiment. It is not necessary to assume the total
depravity of current taste, in order to account for the tyranny
of this latest-born child of fiction. In the study of individual
writers and developing schools and tendencies, it will be well
to keep in mind these underlying principles of growth:
personality, truth and democracy; a conception sure to provide
the story-maker with a new function, a new ideal. The
distinguished French critic Brunetiere has said: "The novelist
in reality is nothing more than a witness whose evidence should
rival that of the historian in precision and trustworthiness. We
look to him to teach us literally to see. We read his novels
merely with a view to finding out in them those aspects of
existence which escape us, owing to the very hurry and stir of
life, an attitude we express by saying that for a novel to be
recognized as such, it must offer an historical or documentary
value, a value precise and determined, particular and local, and
as well, a general and lasting psychologic value or

It may be added, that while in the middle eighteenth century the
novel-writing was tentative and hardly more than an avocation,
at the end of the nineteenth, it had become a fine art and a
profession. It did not occur to Richardson, serious-minded man
that he was, that he was formulating a new art canon for
fiction. Indeed, the English author takes himself less and less
seriously as we go back in time. It was bad form to be literary
when Voltaire visited Congreve and found a fine gentleman where
he sought a writer of genius: complaining therefore that fine
gentlemen came cheap in Paris; what he wished to see was the
creator of the great comedies. In the same fashion, we find
Horace Walpole, who dabbled in letters all his days and made it
really his chief interest, systematically underrating the
professional writers of his day, to laud a brilliant amateur who
like himself desired the plaudits of the game without obeying
its exact rules. He looked askance at the fiction-makers
Richardson and Fielding, because they did not move in the polite
circles frequented by himself.

The same key is struck by lively Fanny Burney in reporting a
meeting with a languishing lady of fashion who had perpetrated a
piece of fiction with the alarming title of "The Mausoleum of
Julia": "My sister intends, said Lady Say and Sele, to print her
Mausoleum, just for her own friends and acquaintances."

"Yes? said Lady Hawke, I have never printed yet."

And a little later, the same spirit is exhibited by Jane Austen
when Madame de Sevigne sought her: Miss Austen suppressed the
story-maker, wishing to be taken first of all for what she was:
a country gentlewoman of unexceptionable connections. Even
Walter Scott and Byron plainly exhibit this dislike to be
reckoned as paid writers, men whose support came by the pen. In
short, literary professionalism reflected on gentility. We have
changed all that with a vengeance and can hardly understand the
earlier sentiment; but this change of attitude has carried with
it inevitably the artistic advancement of modern fiction. For if
anything is certain it is that only professional skill can be
relied upon to perfect an art form. The amateur may possess
gift, even genius; but we must look to the professional for

One other influence, hardly less effective in molding the Novel
than those already touched upon, is found in the increasing
importance of woman as a central) factor in society; indeed,
holding the key to the social situation. The drama of our time,
in so frequently making woman the protagonist of the piece,
testifies, as does fiction, to this significant fact: woman, in
the social and economic readjustment that has come to her, or
better, which she is still undergoing, has become so much more
dominant in her social relations, that any form of literature
truthfully mirroring the society of the modern world must regard
her as of potent efficiency. And this is so quite apart from the
consideration that women make up to-day the novelist's largest
audience, and that, moreover, the woman writer of fiction is in
numbers and popularity a rival of men.

It would scarcely be too much to see a unifying principle in the
evolution of the modern Novel, in the fact that the first
example in the literature was Pamela, the study of a woman,
while in representative latter-day studies like "Tess of the
D'Urbervilles," "The House of Mirth," "Trilby" and "The Testing
of Diana Mallory" we again have studies of women; the purpose
alike in time past or present being to fix the attention upon a
human being whose fate is sensitively, subtly operative for good
or ill upon a society at large. It is no accident then, that
woman is so often the central figure of fiction: it means more
than that, love being the solar passion of the race, she
naturally is involved. Rather does it mean fiction's recognition
of her as the creature of the social biologist, exercising her
ancient function amidst all the changes and shifting ideas of
successive generations. Whatever her superficial changes under
the urge of the time-spirit, Woman, to a thoughtful eye, sits
like the Sphinx above the drifting sands, silent, secret,
powerful and obscure, bent only on her great purposive errand
whose end is the bringing forth of that Overman who shall rule
the world. With her immense biologic mission, seemingly at war
with her individual career, and destructive apparently of that
emancipation which is the present dream of her champions, what a
type, what a motive this for fiction, and in what a manifold and
stimulating way is the Novel awakening to its high privilege to
deal with such material. In this view, having these wider
implications in mind, the role of woman in fiction, so far from
waning, is but just begun.

This survey of historical facts and marshaling of a few
important principles has prepared us, it may be hoped, for a
clearer comprehension of the developmental details that follow.
It is a complex growth, but one vastly interesting and, after
all, explained by a few, great substructural principles: the
belief in personality, democratic feeling, a love for truth in
art, and a realization of the power of modern Woman. The Novel is
thus an expression and epitome of the society which gave it



There is some significance in the fact that Samuel Richardson,
founder of the modern novel, was so squarely a middle-class
citizen of London town. Since the form, he founded was, as we
have seen, democratic in its original motive and subsequent
development, it was fitting that the first shaper of the form
should have sympathies not too exclusively aristocratic: should
have been willing to draw upon the backstairs history of the
servants' hall for his first heroine.

To be sure, Mr. Richardson had the not uncommon failing of the
humble-born: he desired above all, and attempted too much, to
depict the manners of the great; he had naive aristocratical
leanings which account for his uncertain tread when he would
move with ease among the boudoirs of Mayfair. Nevertheless, in
the honest heart of him, as his earliest novel forever proves,
he felt for the woes of those social underlings who, as we have
long since learned, have their microcosm faithfully reflecting
the greater world they serve, and he did his best work in that
intimate portrayal of the feminine heart, which is not of a
class but typically human; he knew Clarissa Harlowe quite as
well as he did Pamela; both were of interest because they were
women. That acute contemporary, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu,
severely reprimands Richardson for his vulgar lapses in painting
polite society and the high life he so imperfectly knew; yet in
the very breath that she condemns "Clarissa Harlowe" as "most
miserable stuff," confesses that "she was such an old fool as to
weep over" it "like any milkmaid of sixteen over the ballad of
the Lady's Fall"--the handsomest kind of a compliment under the
circumstances. And with the same charming inconsistency, she
declares on the appearance of "Sir Charles Grandison" that she
heartily despises Richardson, yet eagerly reads him--"nay, sobs
over his works in the most scandalous manner."

Richardson was the son of a carpenter and himself a respected
printer, who by cannily marrying the daughter of the man to whom
he was apprenticed, and by diligence in his vocation, rose to
prosperity, so that by 1754 he became Master of The Stationers'
Company and King's Printer, doing besides an excellent printing

As a boy he had relieved the dumb anguish of serving maids by
the penning of their love letters; he seemed to have a knack at
this vicarious manner of love-making and when in the full
maturity of fifty years, certain London publishers requested him
to write for them a narrative which might stand as a model
letter writer from which country readers should know the right
tone, his early practice stood him in good stead. Using the
epistolary form into which he was to throw all his fiction, he
produced "Pamela," the first novel of analysis, in contrast with
the tale of adventure, of the English tongue. It is worth
remarking that Richardson wrote this story at an age when many
novelists have well-nigh completed their work; even as Defoe
published his masterpiece, "Robinson Crusoe," at fifty-eight.
But such forms as drama and fiction are the very ones where ripe
maturity, a long and varied experience with the world and a
trained hand in the technique of the craft, go for their full
value. A study of the chronology of novel-making will show that
more acknowledged masterpieces were written after forty than
before. Beside the eighteenth century examples one places George
Eliot, who wrote no fiction until she had nearly reached the
alleged dead-line of mental activity: Browning with his greatest
poem, "The Ring and the Book," published in his forty-eighth
year; Du Maurier turning to fiction at sixty, and De Morgan
still later. Fame came to Richardson then late in life, and
never man enjoyed it more. Ladies with literary leanings (and
the kind is independent of periods) used to drop into his place
beyond Temple Bar--for he was a bookseller as well as printer,
and printed and sold his own wares--to finger his volumes and
have a chat about poor Pamela or the naughty Lovelace or
impeccable Grandison. For how, in sooth, could they keep away or
avoid talking shop when they were bursting with the books just

And much, too, did Richardson enjoy the prosperity his stories,
as well as other ventures, brought him, so that he might move
out Hammersmith way where William Mortis and Cobden Sanderson
have lived in our day, and have a fine house wherein to receive
those same lady callers, who came in increasing flocks to his
impromptu court where sat the prim, cherub-faced, elderly little
printer. It is all very quaint, like a Watteau painting or a bit
of Dresden china, as we look back upon it through the time-mists
of a century and a half.

In spite of its slow movement, the monotony of the letter form
and the terribly utilitarian nature of its morals, "Pamela" has
the essentials of interesting fiction; its heroine is placed in
a plausible situation, she is herself life-like and her
struggles are narrated with a sympathetic insight into the human
heart--or better, the female heart. The gist of a plot so simple
can be stated in few words: Mr. B., the son of a lady who has
benefited Pamela Andrews, a serving maid, tries to conquer her
virtue while she resists all his attempts--including an
abduction, Richardson's favorite device--and as a reward of her
chastity, he condescends to marry her, to her very great
gratitude and delight. The English Novel started out with a
flourish of trumpets as to its moral purpose; latter-day
criticism may take sides for or against the novel-with-a-purpose,
but that Richardson justified his fiction writing upon
moral grounds and upon those alone is shown in the descriptive
title-page of the tale, too prolix to be often recalled and a
good sample in its long-windedness of the past compared with the
terse brevity of the present in this matter: "Published in order
to cultivate the principles of virtue and religion in the mind
of youth of both sexes"; the author of "Sanford and Merton" has
here his literary progenitor. The sub-title, "or Virtue
Rewarded," also indicates the homiletic nature of the book. And
since the one valid criticism against all didactic aims in
story-telling is that it is dull, Richardson, it will be
appreciated, ran a mighty risk. But this he was able to escape
because of the genuine human interest of his tales and the skill
he displayed with psychologic analysis rather than the march of
events. The close-knit, organic development of the best of our
modern fiction is lacking; leisurely and lax seems the movement.
Modern editions of "Pamela" and "Clarissa Harlowe" are in the
way of vigorous cutting for purposes of condensation. Scott
seems swift and brief when set beside Richardson Yet the slow
convolutions and involutions serve to acquaint us intimately
with the characters; dwelling with them longer, we come to know
them better.

It is a fault in the construction of the story that instead of
making Pamela's successful marriage the natural climax and close
of the work, the author effects it long before the novel is
finished and then tries to hold the interest by telling of the
honeymoon trip in Italy, her cool reception by her husband's
family, involving various subterfuges and difficulties, and the
gradual moral reform she was able to bring about in her spouse.
It must be conceded to him that some capital scenes are the
result of this post-hymeneal treatment; that, to illustrate,
where the haughty sister of Pamela's husband calls on the woman
she believes to be her husband's mistress. Yet there is an
effect of anti-climax; the main excitement--getting Pamela
honestly wedded--is over. But we must not forget the moral
purpose: Mr. B.'s spiritual regeneration has to be portrayed
before our very eyes, he must be changed from a rake into a
model husband; and with Richardson, that means plenty of elbow-room.
There is, too, something prophetic in this giving of ample
space to post-marital life; it paves the way for much latter-day
probing of the marriage misery.

The picture of Mr. B. and Pamela's attitude towards him is full
of irony for the modern reader; here is a man who does all in
his power to ruin her and, finding her adamant, at last decides
to do the next best thing--secure her by marriage. And instead
of valuing him accordingly, Pamela, with a kind of spaniel-like
fawning, accepts his august hand. It must be confessed that with
Pamela (that is, with Richardson), virtue is a market commodity
for sale to the highest bidder, and this scene of barter and
sale is an all-unconscious revelation of the low standard of sex
ethics which obtained at the time. The suggestion by Sidney
Lanier that the sub-title should be: "or Vice Rewarded," "since
the rascal Mr. B. it is who gets the prize rather than Pamela,"
has its pertinency from our later and more enlightened view. But
such was the eighteenth century. The exposure of an earlier time
is one of the benefits of literature, always a sort of ethical
barometer of an age--all the more trustworthy in reporting
spiritual ideals because it has no intention of doing so.

That Richardson succeeds in making Mr. B. tolerable, not to say
likable, is a proof of his power; that the reader really grows
fond of his heroine--especially perhaps in her daughterly
devotion to her humble family--speaks volumes for his grasp of
human nature and helps us to understand the effect of the story
upon contemporaneous readers. That effect was indeed remarkable.
Lady Mary, to quote her again, testifies that the book "met with
very extraordinary (and I think undeserved) success. It has been
translated into French and Italian; it was all the fashion at
Paris and Versailles and is still the joy of the chambermaids of
all nations." Again she writes, "it has been translated into
more languages than any modern performances I ever heard of." A
French dramatic version of it under the same title appeared
three years after the publication of the novel and a little
later Voltaire in his "Nanine" used the same motif. Lady Mary's
reference to chambermaids is significant; it points to the new
sympathy on the part of the novelist and the consequent new
audience which the modern Novel was to command; literally, all
classes and conditions of mankind were to become its patrons;
and as one result, the author, gaining his hundreds of thousands
of readers, was to free himself forever of the aristocratic
Patron, at whose door once on a time, he very humbly and
hungrily knelt for favor. To-day, the Patron is hydra-headed;
demos rules in literature as in life.

The sentimentality of this pioneer novel which now seems
old-fashioned and even absurd, expressed Queen Anne's day.
"Sensibility," as it was called, was a favorite idea in letters,
much affected, and later a kind of cult. A generation after
Pamela, in Mackenzie's "Man of Feeling," weeping is unrestrained
in English fiction; the hero of that lachrymose tale incurred
all the dangers of influenza because of his inveterate tendency
toward damp emotional effects; he was perpetually dissolving in
"showers of tears." In fact, our novelists down to the memory of
living man gave way to their feelings with far more abandon than
is true of the present repressive period. One who reads Dickens'
"Nicholas Nickleby" with this in mind, will perhaps be surprised
to find how often the hero frankly indulges his grief; he cries
with a freedom that suggests a trait inherited from his mother
of moist memory. No doubt, there was abuse of this "sensibility"
in earlier fiction: but Richardson was comparatively innocuous
in his practice, and Coleridge, having the whole sentimental
tendency in view, seems rather too severe when he declared that
"all the evil achieved by Hobbes and the whole school of
materialists will appear inconsiderable if it be compared with
the mischief effected and occasioned by the sentimental
philosophy of Sterne and his numerous imitators." The same
tendency had its vogue on both the English and French stage--the
Comedie larmoyante of the latter being vastly affected in London
and receiving in the next generation the good-natured satiric
shafts of Goldsmith. It may be possible that at the present
time, when the stoicism of the Red Indian in inhibiting
expression seems to be an Anglo-Saxon ideal, we have reacted too
far from the gush and the fervor of our forefathers. In any
case, to Richardson belongs whatever of merit there may be in
first sounding the new sentimental note.

Pope declared that "Pamela," was as good as twenty sermons--an
innocently malignant remark, to be sure, which cuts both ways!
And plump, placid Mr. Richardson established warm epistolary
relations with many excellent if too emotional ladies, who
opened a correspondence with him concerning the conductment of
this and the following novels and strove to deflect the course
thereof to soothe their lacerated feelings. What novelist to-day
would not appreciate an audience that would take him _au grand
serieux_ in this fashion! What higher compliment than for your
correspondent--and a lady at that--to state that in the way of
ministering to her personal comfort, Pamela must marry and
Clarissa must not die! Richardson carried on a voluminous
letter-writing in life even as in literature, and the curled
darlings of latter-day letters may well look to their laurels in
recalling him, A certain Mme. Belfair, for example, desires to
look upon the author of those wonderful tales, yet modestly
shrinks from being seen herself. She therefore implores that he
will walk at an hour named in St. James Park--and this is the
novelist's reply:

I go through the Park once or twice a week to my little
retirement; but I will for a week together be in it, every day
three or four hours, till you tell me you have seen a person who
answers to this description, namely, short--rather plump--fair
wig, lightish cloth coat, all black besides; one hand generally
in his bosom, the other a cane in it, which he leans upon under
the skirts of his coat; ... looking directly fore-right as
passers-by would imagine, but observing all that stirs on either
hand of him; hardly ever turning back; of a light brown
complexion, smoothish faced and ruddy cheeked, looking about
sixty-five; a regular, even pace, a gray eye, sometimes lively--very
lively if he have hope of seeing a lady whom he loves and

Such innocent philandering is delicious; there is a flavor to it
that presages the "Personals" in a New York newspaper. "Was ever
lady in such humor wooed?" or shall we say it is the novelist,
not the lady, who is besieged!

"Pamela" ran through five editions within a year of its
appearance, which was a conspicuous success in the days of an
audience so limited when compared with the vast reading public
of later times. The smug little bookseller must have been
greatly pleased by the good fortune attending his first venture
into a new field, especially since he essayed it so late in life
and almost by accident. His motive had been in a sense
practical; for his publishers had requested him to write a book
"on the useful concerns of life"--and that he had done so, he
might have learned any Sunday in church, for divines did not
hesitate to say a kind word from the pulpit about so
unexceptionable a work.

One of the things Richardson had triumphantly demonstrated by
his first story was that a very slight texture of plot can
suffice for a long, not to say too long, piece of fiction, if
only a free hand be given the story-teller in the way of
depicting the intuitions and emotions of human beings; dealing
with their mind states rather than, or quite as much as, their
actions. This was the modern note, and very speedily was the
lesson learned; the time was apt for it. From 1742, the date of
"Pamela," to 1765 is but a quarter century; yet within those
narrow time-limits the English Novel, through the labors of
Richardson and Fielding, Smollett, Sterne and Goldsmith, can be
said to have had its birth and growth to a lusty manhood and to
have defined once and for all the mold of this new and potent
form of prose art. By 1773 a critic speaks of the "novel-writing
age"; and a dozen years later, in 1785, novels are so common
that we hear of the press "groaning beneath their weight,"--which
sounds like the twentieth century. And it was all started
by the little printer; to him the praise. He received it in full
measure; here and there, of course, a dissident voice was heard,
one, that of Fielding, to be very vocal later; but mostly they
were drowned in the chorus of adulation. Richardson had done a
new thing and reaped an immediate reward; and--as seldom
happens, with quick recognition--it was to be a permanent reward
as well, for he changed the history of English literature.

One would have expected him to produce another novel post-haste,
following up his maiden victory before it could be forgotten,
after the modern manner. But those were leisured days and it was
half a dozen years before "Clarissa Harlowe" was given to the
public. Richardson had begun by taking a heroine out of low
life; he now drew one from genteel middle class life; as he was
in "Sir Charles Grandison," the third and last of his fictions,
to depict a hero in the upper class life of England. In Clarissa
again, plot was secondary, analysis, sentiment, the exhibition
of the female heart under stress of sorrow, this was everything.
Clarissa's hand is sought by an unattractive suitor; she rebels--a
social crime in the eighteenth century; whereat, her whole
family turn against her--father, mother, sister, brothers,
uncles and aunts--and, wooed by Lovelace, a dashing rake who is
in love with her according to his lights, but by no means
intends honorable matrimony, she flies with him in a chariot and
four, to find herself in a most anomalous position, and so dies
broken-hearted; to be followed in her fate by Lovelace, who is
represented as a man whose loose principles are in conflict with
a nature which is far from being utterly bad. The narrative is
mainly developed through letters exchanged between Clarissa and
her friend, Miss Howe. There can hardly be a more striking
testimony to the leisure enjoyed by the eighteenth-century than
that society was not bored by a story the length of which seems
almost interminable to the reader to-day. The slow movement is
sufficient to preclude its present prosperity. It is safe to say
that Richardson is but little read now; read much less than his
great contemporary, Fielding. And apparently it is his bulk
rather than his want of human interest or his antiquated manner
that explains the fact. The instinct to-day is against fiction
that is slow and tortuous in its onward course; at least so it
seemed until Mr. De Morgan returned in his delightful volumes to
the method of the past. Those are pertinent words of the
distinguished Spanish novelist, Valdes: "An author who wishes to
be read not only in his life, but after his death (and the
author who does not wish this should lay aside his pen), cannot
shut his eyes, when unblinded by vanity, to the fact that not
only is it necessary to be interesting to save himself from
oblivion, but the story must not be a very long one. The world
contains so many great and beautiful works that it requires a
long life to read them all. To ask the public, always anxious
for novelty, to read a production of inordinate length, when so
many others are demanding attention, seems to me useless and
ridiculous, ... The most noteworthy instance of what I say is
seen in the celebrated English novelist, Richardson, who, in
spite of his admirable genius and exquisite sensibility and
perspicuity, added to the fact of his being the father of the
modern Novel, is scarcely read nowadays, at least in Latin
countries. Given the indisputable beauties of his works, this
can only be due to their extreme length. And the proof of this,
that in France and Spain, to encourage the taste for them, the
most interesting parts have been extracted and published in
editions and compendiums."

This is suggestive, coming from one who speaks by the book. Who,
in truth, reads epics now--save in the enforced study of school
and college? Will not Browning's larger works--like "The Ring
and the Book"--suffer disastrously with the passing of time
because of a lack of continence, of a failure to realize that
since life is short, art should not be too long? It may be, too,
that Richardson, newly handling the sentiment which during the
following generation was to become such a marked trait of
imaginative letters, revelled in it to an extent unpalatable to
our taste; "rubbing our noses," as Leslie Stephen puts it, "in
all her (Clarissa's) agony,"--the tendency to overdo a new
thing, not to be resisted in his case. But with all concessions
to length and sentimentality, criticism from that day to this
has been at one in agreeing that here is not only Richardson's
best book but a truly great Novel. Certainly one who patiently
submits to a ruminant reading of the story, will find that when
at last the long-deferred climax is reached and the awed and
penitent Lovelace describes the death-bed moments of the girl he
has ruined, the scene has a great moving power. Allowing for
differences of taste and time, the vogue of the Novel in
Richardson's day can easily be understood, and through all the
stiffness, the stilted effect of manner and speech, and the
stifling conventions of the entourage, a sweet and charming
young woman in very piteous distress emerges to live in
affectionate memory. After all, no poor ideal of womanhood is
pictured in Clarissa. She is one of the heroines who are
unforgettable, dear. Mr. Howells, with his stern insistence on
truth in characterization, declares that she is "as freshly
modern as any girl of yesterday or to-morrow. 'Clarissa
Harlowe,' in spite of her eighteenth century costume and
keeping, remains a masterpiece in the portraiture of that
ever-womanly which is of all times and places."

Lovelace, too, whose name has become a synonym for the fine
gentleman betrayer, is drawn in a way to make him sympathetic
and creditable; he is far from being a stock figure of villainy.
And the minor figures are often enjoyable; the friendship of
Clarissa with Miss Howe, a young woman of excellent good sense
and seemingly quite devoid of the ultra-sentiment of her time,
preludes that between Diana and her "Tony" in Meredith's great
novel. As a general picture of the society of the period, the
book is full of illuminations and sidelights; of course, the
whole action is set on a stage that bespeaks Richardson's
narrow, middle class morality, his worship of rank, his belief
that worldly goods are the reward of well-doing.

As for the contemporaneous public, it wept and praised and went
with fevered blood because of this fiction. We have heard how
women of sentiment in London town welcomed the book and the
opportunity it offered for unrestrained tears. But it was the
same abroad; as Ike Marvel has it, Rousseau and Diderot over in
France, philosophers as they professed to be, "blubbered their
admiring thanks for 'Clarissa Harlowe."' Similarly, at a later
day we find caustic critics like Jeffrey and Macaulay writing to
Dickens to tell how they had cried over the death of Little
Nell--a scene the critical to-day are likely to stigmatize as
one of the few examples of pathos overdone to be found in the
works of that master. It is scarcely too much to say that the
outcome of no novel in the English tongue was watched with such
bated breath as was that of "Clarissa Harlowe" while the eight
successive books were being issued.

Richardson chose to bask for another half dozen years in the
fame of his second novel, before turning in 1754 to his final
attempt, "Sir Charles Grandison," wherein it was his purpose to
depict the perfect pattern of a gentleman, "armed at all points"
of social and moral behavior. We must bear in mind that when
"Clarissa" was published he was sixty years of age and to be
pardoned if he did not emulate so many novel-makers of these
brisker mercantile times and turn off a story or so a year.

By common confession, this is the poorest of his three fictions.
In the first place, we are asked to move more steadily in the
aristocratic atmosphere where the novelist did not breathe to
best advantage. Again, Richardson was an adept in drawing women
rather than men and hence was self-doomed in electing a
masculine protagonist. He is also off his proper ground in
laying part of the action in Italy.

His beau ideal, Grandison, turns out the most impossible prig in
English literature. He is as insufferable as that later prig,
Meredith's Sir Willoughby in "The Egotist," with the difference
that the author does not know it, and that you do not believe in
him for a moment; whereas Meredith's creation is appallingly
true, a sort of simulacrum of us all. The best of the story is
in its portrayal of womankind; in particular, Sir Charles' two
loves, the English Harriet Byron and the Italian Clementina, the
last of whom is enamored of him, but separated by religious
differences. Both are alive and though suffering in the reader's
estimation because of their devotion to such a stick as
Grandison, nevertheless touch our interest to the quick. The
scene in which Grandison returns to Italy to see Clementina,
whose reason, it is feared, is threatened because of her grief
over his loss, is genuinely effective and affecting.

The mellifluous sentimentality, too, of the novelist seems to
come to a climax in this book; justifying Taine's satiric remark
that "these phrases should be accompanied by a mandolin." The
moral tag is infallibly supplied, as in all Richardson's tales--though
perhaps here with an effect of crescendo. We are still
long years from that conception of art which holds that a
beautiful thing may be allowed to speak for itself and need not
be moraled down our throats like a physician's prescription. Yet
Fielding had already, as we shall see, struck a wholesome note
of satiric fun. The plot is slight and centers in an abduction
which, by the time it is used in the third novel, begins to pall
as a device and to suggest paucity of invention. The novel has
the prime merit of brevity; it is much shorter than "Clarissa
Harlowe," but long enough, in all conscience, Harriet being
blessed with the gift of gab, like all Richardson's heroines.
"She follows the maxim of Clarissa," says Lady Mary with telling
humor, "of declaring all she thinks to all the people she sees
without reflecting that in this mortal state of imperfection,
fig-leaves are as necessary for our minds as our bodies." It is
significant that this brilliant contemporary is very hard on
Richardson's characterization of women in this volume (which she
says "sinks horribly"), whereas never a word has she to say in
condemnation of the hero, who to the present critical eye seems
the biggest blot on the performance. How can we join the chorus
of praise led by Harriet, now her ladyship and his loving
spouse, when it chants: "But could he be otherwise than the best
of husbands who was the most dutiful of sons, who is the most
affectionate of brothers, the most faithful of friends, who is
good upon principle in every relation in life?" Lady Mary is
also extremely severe on the novelist's attempt to paint Italy;
when he talks of it, says she, "it is plain he is no better
acquainted with it than he is with the Kingdom of Mancomingo."
It is probable tat Richardson could not say more for his Italian
knowledge than did old Roger Ascham of Archery fame, when he
declared: "I was once in Italy, but I thank God my stay there
was only nine days." "Sir Charles Grandison" has also the
substantial advantage of ending well: that is, if to marry Sir
Charles can be so regarded, and certainly Harriet deemed it

It is pleasant to think of Richardson, now well into the
sixties, amiable, plump and prosperous, surrounded for the
remainder of his days--he was to die seven years later at the
ripe age of seventy-five--by a bevy of admiring women, who,
whether literary or merely human, gave this particular author
that warm and convincing proof of popularity which, to most, is
worth a good deal of chilly posthumous fame which a man is not
there to enjoy. Looking at his work retrospectively, one sees
that it must always have authority, even if it fall deadly dull
upon our ears to-day; for nothing can take away from him the
distinction of originating that kind of fiction which, now well
along towards its second century of existence, is still popular
and powerful. Richardson had no model; he shaped a form for
himself. Fielding, a greater genius, threw his fiction into a
mold cast by earlier writers; moreover, he received his direct
impulse away from the drama and towards the novel from
Richardson himself.

The author of "Pamela" demonstrated once and for all the
interest that lies in a sympathetic and truthful representation
of character in contrast with that interest in incident for its
own sake which means the subordination of character, so that the
persons become mere subsidiary counters in the game. And he
exhibited such a knowledge of the subtler phases of the nooks
and crannies of woman's heart, as to be hailed as past-master
down to the present day by a whole school of analysts and
psychologues; for may it not be said that it is the popular
distinction of the nineteenth century fiction to place woman in
the pivotal position in that social complex which it is the
business of the Novel to represent? Do not our fiction and drama
to-day--the drama a belated ally of the Novel in this and other
regards--find in the delineation of the eternal feminine under
new conditions of our time, its chief, its most significant
motif? If so, a special gratitude is due the placid little Mr.
Richardson with his Pamelas, Clarissas and Harriets. He found
fiction unwritten so far as the chronicles of contemporary
society were concerned, and left it in such shape that it was
recognized as the natural quarry of all who would paint manners;
a field to be worked by Jane Austen, Dickens and Thackeray,
Trollope and George Eliot, and a modern army of latter and
lesser students of life. His faults were in part merely a
reflection of his time; its low-pitched morality, its etiquette
which often seems so absurd. Partly it was his own, too; for he
utterly lacked humor (save where unconscious) and never grasped
the great truth, that in literary art the half is often more
than the whole; The Terentian ne quid nimis had evidently not
been taken to heart by Samuel Richardson, Esquire, of
Hammersmith, author of "Clarissa Harlowe" in eight volumes, and
Printer to the Queen. Again and again one of Clarissa's bursts
of emotion under the tantalizing treatment of her seducer loses
its effect because another burst succeeds before we (and she)
have recovered from the first one. He strives to give us the
broken rhythm of life (therein showing his affinity with the
latter day realists) instead of that higher and harder thing--the
more perfect rhythm of art; not so much the truth (which
cannot be literally given) as that seeming-true which is the aim
and object of the artistic representation. Hence the necessity
of what Brunetiere calls in an admirable phrase, the true
function of the novel--"to be an abridged representation of
life." Construction in the modern sense Richardson had not
studied, naturally enough, and was innocent of the fineness of
method and the sure-handed touches of later technique. And there
is a kind of drawing-room atmosphere in his books, a lack of
ozone which makes Fielding with all his open-air coarseness a
relief. But judged in the setting of his time, this writer did a
wonderful thing not only as the Father of the Modern Novel but
one of the few authors in the whole range of fiction who holds
his conspicuous place amid shifting literary modes and fashions,
because he built upon the surest of all foundations--the social
instinct, and the human heart.

If the use of the realistic method alone denoted the Novel,
Defoe, not Richardson, might be called its begetter. "Robinson
Crusoe," more than twenty years before "Pamela," would occupy
the primate position, to say nothing of Swift's "Gulliver's
Travels," antedating Richardson's first story by some fifteen
years. Certainly the observational method, the love of detail,
the grave narrative of imagined fact (if the bull be permitted)
are in this earlier book in full force. But "Robinson Crusoe" is
not a rival because it does not study man-in-society; never was
a story that depended less upon this kind of interest. The
position of Crusoe on his desert isle is so eminently unsocial
that he welcomes the black man Friday and quivers at the human
quality in the famed footprints in the sand. As for Swift's chef
d'oeuvre, it is a fairy-tale with a grimly realistic manner and
a savage satiric intention. To speak of either of these fictions
as novels is an example of the prevalent careless nomenclature.
Between them and "Pamela" there yawns a chasm. Moreover,
"Crusoe" is a frankly picaresque tale belonging to the elder
line of romantic fiction, where incident and action and all the
thrilling haps of Adventure-land furnish the basis of appeal
rather than character analysis or a study of social relations.
The personality of Crusoe is not advanced a whit by his
wonderful experiences; he is done entirely from the outside.

Richardson, therefore, marks the beginning of the modern form.
But that the objection to Defoe as the true and only begetter of
the Novel lies in his failure, in his greatest story, to center
the interest in man as part of the social order and as human
soul, is shown by the fact that his less known, but remarkable,
story "Moll Flanders," picaresque as it is and depicting the
life of a female criminal, has yet considerable character study
and gets no small part of its appeal for a present-day reader
from the minute description of the fall and final reform of the
degenerate woman. It is comparatively crude in characterization,
but psychological value is not entirely lacking. However, with
Richardson it is almost all. It was of the nature of his genius
to make psychology paramount: just there is found his modernity.
Defoe and Swift may be said to have added some slight interest
in analysis pointing towards the psychologic method, which was
to find full expression in Samuel Richardson.



It is interesting to ask if Henry Fielding, barrister,
journalist, tinker of plays and man-about-town, would ever have
turned novelist, had it not been for Richardson, his
predecessor. So slight, so seemingly accidental, are the
incidents which make or mar careers and change the course of
literary history. Certain it is that the immediate cause of
Fielding's first story was the effect upon him of the fortunes
of the virtuous Pamela. A satirist and humorist where Richardson
was a somewhat solemn sentimentalist, Fielding was quick to see
the weakness, and--more important,--the opportunity for
caricature, in such a tale, whose folk harangued about morality
and whose avowed motive was a kind of hard-surfaced, carefully
calculated honor, for sale to the highest bidder. It was easy to
recognize that Pamela was not only good but goody-goody. So
Fielding, being thirty-five years of age and of uncertain
income--he had before he was thirty squandered his mother's
estate,--turned himself, two years after "Pamela" had appeared,
to a new field and concocted the story known to the world of
letters as: "The Adventures of Joseph Andrews and His Friend
Abraham Adams."

This Joseph purports to be the brother of Pamela (though the
denouement reveals him as more gently born) and is as virtuous
in his character of serving-man as the sister herself; indeed,
he outvirtues her. Fielding waggishly exhibits him in the full
exercise of a highly-starched decorum rebuffing the amatory
attempts of sundry ladies whose assault upon the citadel of his
honor is analogous to that of Mr. B.,--who naturally becomes
Squire Booby in Fielding's hands--upon the long suffering
Pamela. Thus, Lady Booby, in whose employ Joseph is footman,
after an invitation to him to kiss her which has been gently but
firmly refused, bursts out with: "Can a boy, a stripling, have
the confidence to talk of his virtue?"

"Madam," says Joseph, "that boy is the brother of Pamela and
would be ashamed that the chastity of his family, which is
preserved in her, should be stained in him."

The chance for fun is palpable here. But something unexpected
happened: what was begun as burlesque, almost horse-play, began
to pass from the key of shallow, lively satire, broadening and
deepening into a finer tone of truth. In a few chapters, by the
time the writer had got such an inimitable personage as Parson
Adams before the reader, it was seen that the book was to be
more than a jeu d'esprit: rather, the work of a master of
characterization. In short, Joseph Andrews started out
ostensibly to poke good-natured ridicule at sentimental Mr.
Richardson: it ended by furnishing contemporary London and all
subsequent readers with a notable example of the novel of
mingled character and incident, entertaining alike for its
lively episodes and its broadly genial delineation of types of
the time. And so he soon had the town laughing with him at his
broad comedy.

In every respect Fielding made a sharp contrast with Richardson.
He was gentle-born, distinguished and fashionable in his
connections: the son of younger sons, impecunious, generous, of
strong often unregulated passions,--what the world calls a good
fellow, a man's man--albeit his affairs with the fair sex were
numerous. He knew high society when he choose to depict it: his
education compared with Richardson's was liberal and he based
his style of fiction upon models which the past supplied,
whereas Richardson had no models, blazed his own trail.
Fielding's literary ancestry looks back to "Gil Blas" and "Don
Quixote," and in English to "Robinson Crusoe." In other words,
his type, however much he departs from it, is the picturesque
story of adventure. He announced, in fact, on his title-page
that he wrote "in imitation of the manner of Cervantes."

Again, his was a genius for comedy, where Richardson, as we have
seen, was a psychologist. The cleansing effect of wholesome
laughter and an outdoor gust of hale west wind is offered by
him, and with it go the rude, coarse things to be found in
Nature who is nevertheless in her influence so salutary, so
necessary, in truth, to our intellectual and moral health. Here
then was a sort of fiction at many removes from the slow,
analytic studies of Richardson: buoyant, objective, giving far
more play to action and incident, uniting in most agreeable
proportions the twin interests of character and event. The very
title of this first book is significant. We are invited to be
present at a delineation of two men,--but these men are
displayed in a series of adventures. Unquestionably, the
psychology is simpler, cruder, more elementary than that of
Richardson. Dr. Johnson, who much preferred the author of
"Pamela" to the author of "Tom Jones" and said so in the
hammer-and-tongs style for which he is famous, declared to Bozzy
that "there is all the difference in the world between characters
of nature and characters of manners: and there is the difference
between the characters of Fielding and those of Richardson.
Characters of manners are very entertaining; but they are to be
understood by a more superficial observer than characters of
nature, where a man must dive into the recesses of the human

And although we may share Boswell's feeling that Johnson
estimated the compositions of Richardson too highly and that he
had an unreasonable prejudice against Fielding--since he was a
man of magnificent biases--yet we may grant that the critic-god
made a sound distinction here, that Fielding's method is
inevitably more external and shallow than that of an analyst
proper like Richardson; no doubt to the great joy of many weary
folk who go to novels for the rest and refreshment they give,
rather than for their thought-evoking value.

The contrast between these novelists is maintained, too, in the
matter of style: Fielding walks with the easy undress of a
gentleman: Richardson sits somewhat stiff and pragmatical,
carefully arrayed in full-bottomed wig, and knee breeches,
delivering a lecture from his garden chair. Fielding is a master
of that colloquial manner afterwards handled with such success
by Thackeray: a manner "good alike for grave or gay," and making
this early fiction-maker enjoyable. Quite apart from our relish
of his vivid portrayals of life, we like his wayside chatting.
For another difference: there is no moral motto or announcement:
the lesson takes care of itself. What unity there is of
construction, is found in the fact that certain characters, more
or less related, are seen to walk centrally through the
narrative: there is little or no plot development in the modern
sense and the method (the method of the type) is frankly

In view of what the Novel was to become in the nineteenth
century, Richardson's way was more modern, and did more to set a
seal upon fiction than Fielding's: the Novel to-day is first of
all psychologic and serious. And the assertion is safe that all
the later development derives from these two kinds written by
the two greatest of the eighteenth century pioneers, Richardson
and Fielding: on the one hand, character study as a motive, on
the other the portrayal of personality surrounded by the
external factors of life. The wise combination of the two, gives
us that tangle of motive, act and circumstance which makes up
human existence.

With regard to the morals of the story, a word may here be said,
having all Fielding's fiction in mind. Of the suggestive
prurience of much modern novelism, whether French or French-derived,
he, Fielding, is quite free: he deals with the sensual
relations with a frank acknowledgment of their physical basis.
The truth is, the eighteenth century, whether in England or
elsewhere, was on a lower plane in this respect than our own
time. Fielding, therefore, while he does no affront to essential
decency, does offend our taste, our refinement, in dealing with
this aspect of life. We have in a true sense become more
civilized since 1750: the ape and tiger of Tennyson's poem have
receded somewhat in human nature during the last century and a
half. The plea that since Fielding was a realist depicting
society as it was in his day, his license is legitimate, whereas
Richardson was giving a sort of sentimentalized stained-glass
picture of it not as it was but, in his opinion, should be,--is
a specious one; it is well that in literature, faithful
reflector of the ideals of the race, the beast should be allowed
to die (as Mr. Howells, himself a staunch realist, has said),
simply because it is slowly dying in life itself. Fielding's
novels in unexpurgated form are not for household reading to-day:
the fact may not be a reflection upon him, but it is surely
one to congratulate ourselves upon, since it testifies to social
evolution. However, for those whose experience of life is
sufficiently broad and tolerant, these novels hold no harm:
there is a tonic quality to them.--Even bowdlerization is not to
be despised with such an author, when it makes him suitable for
the hands of those who otherwise might receive injury from the
contact. The critic-sneer at such an idea forgets that good art
comes out of sound morality as well as out of sound esthetics.
It is pleasant to hear a critic of such standing as Brunetiere
in his "L'Art et Morale" speak with spiritual clarity upon this
subject, so often turned aside with the shrug of impatient

The episodic character of the story was to be the manner of
Fielding in all his fiction. There are detached bits of
narrative, stories within stories--witness that dealing with the
high comedy figures of Leonora and Bellamine--and the novelist
does not bother his head if only he can get his main characters
in motion,--on the road, in a tavern or kitchen brawl, astride a
horse for a cross-country dash after the hounds. Charles
Dickens, whose models were of the eighteenth century, made
similar use of the episode in his early work, as readers of
"Pickwick" may see for themselves.

The first novel was received with acclaim and stirred up a
pretty literary quarrel, for Richardson and his admiring clique
would have been more than human had they not taken umbrage at so
obvious a satire. Recriminations were hot and many.

Mr. Andrew Lang should give us in a dialogue between dead
authors, a meeting in Hades between the two; it would be worth
any climatic risk to be present and hear what was said; Lady
Mary, who may once more be put on the witness-stand, tells how,
being in residence in Italy, and a box of light literature from
England having arrived at ten o'clock of the night, she could
not but open it and "falling upon Fielding's works, was fool
enough to sit up all night reading. I think "Joseph Andrews"
better than his Foundling"--the reference being, of course, to
"Tom Jones"; a judgment not jumping with that of posterity,
which has declared the other to be his masterpiece; yet not an
opinion to be despised, coming from one of the keenest
intellects of the time. Lady Mary, whose cousin Fielding was,
had a clear eye alike for his literary merits and personal
foibles and faults, but heartily liked him and acted as his
literary mentor in his earlier days; his maiden play was
dedicated to her and her interest in him was more than passing.

The Bohemian barrister and literary hack who had made a love-match
half a dozen years before and now had a wife and several
children to care for, must have been vastly encouraged by the
favorable reception of his first essay into fiction; at last, he
had found the kind of literature congenial to his talents and
likely to secure suitable renown: his metier as an artist of
letters was discovered, as we might now choose to express it; he
would hardly have taken himself so seriously. It was natural
that he should publish the next year a three volume collection
of his miscellany, which contained his second novel, "Mr.
Jonathan Wild The Great," distinctly the least liked of his four
stories, because of its bitter irony, its almost savage tone,
the gloom which surrounds the theme, a powerful, full-length
portrayal of a famous thief-taker of the period, from his birth
to his bad end on a Newgate gallows. Mr. Wild is a sort of
foreglimpse of the Sherlock Holmes-Raffles of our own day.

Fielding's wife died this year and it may be that sorrow for her
fatal illness was the subjective cause of the tone of this
gruesomely attractive piece of fiction; but there is some reason
for believing it to be an earlier work than "Joseph Andrews"; it
belongs to a more primitive type of story-making, because of its
sensational features: its dependence for interest upon the seamy
side of aspects of life exhibited like magic lantern slides with
little connection, but spectacular effects. The satire of the
book is directed at that immoral confusion between greatness and
goodness, the rascally Jonathan being pictured in grave mock-heroics
as in every way worthy--and the sardonic force at times
almost suggests the pen of Dean Swift.

But such work was but a prelude to what was to follow. When the
world thinks of Henry Fielding it thinks of "Tom Jones," it is
almost as if he had written naught else. "The History of Tom
Jones, A Foundling" appeared six years after "Jonathan Wild,"
the intermediate time (aside from the novel itself) being
consumed in editing journals and officiating as a Justice of
the Peace: the last a role it is a little difficult, in the
theater phrase, to see him in. He was two and forty when the
book was published: but as he had been at work upon it for a
long while (he speaks of the thousands of hours he had been
toiling over it), it may be ascribed to that period of a man's
growth when he is passing intellectually from youth to early
maturity; everything considered, perhaps the best productive
period. His health had already begun to break: and he was by no
means free of the harassments of debt. Although successful in
his former attempt at fiction, novel writing was but an aside
with him, after all; he had not during the previous six years
given regular time and attention to literary composition, as a
modern story-maker would have done under the stimulus of like
encouragement. The eighteenth century audience, it must be borne
in mind, was not large enough nor sufficiently eager for an
attractive new form of literature, to justify a man of many
trades like Fielding in devoting his days steadily to the
writing of fiction. There is to the last an effect of the gifted
amateur about him; Taine tells the anecdote of his refusal to
trouble himself to change a scene in one of his plays, which
Garrick begged him to do: "Let them find it out," he said,
referring to the audience. And when the scene was hissed, he
said to the disconsolate player: "I did not: give them credit
for it: they have found it out, have they?" In other words, he
was knowing to his own poor art, content if only it escaped the
public eye. This is some removes from the agonizing over a
phrase of a Flaubert.

Like the preceding story, "Tom Jones" has its center of plot in
a life history of the foundling who grows into a young manhood
that is full of high spirits and escapades: likable always, even
if, judged by the straight-laced standards of Richardson, one
may not approve. Jones loves Sophia Western, daughter of a
typical three-bottle, hunting squire: of course he prefers the
little cad Blifil, with his money and position, where poor Tom
has neither: equally of course Sophia (whom the reader heartily
likes, in spite of her name) prefers the handsome Jones with his
blooming complexion and many amatory adventures. And, since we
are in the simple-minded days of fiction when it was the
business of the sensible novelist to make us happy at the close,
the low-born lover, assisted by Squire Allworthy, who is a deus
ex machina a trifle too good for human nature's daily food, gets
his girl (in imitation of Joseph Andrews) and is shown to be
close kin to Allworthy--tra-la-la, tra-la-lee, it is all
charmingly simple and easy! The beginners of the English novel
had only a few little tricks in their box in the way of incident
and are for the most part innocent of plot in the Wilkie Collins
sense of the word. The opinion of Coleridge that the "Oedipus
Tyrannus," "The Alchemist" and "Tom Jones" are "the three most
perfect plots ever planned" is a curious comment upon his
conception of fiction, since few stories have been more plotless
than Fielding's best book. The fact is, biographical fiction
like this is to be judged by itself, it has its own laws of

The glory of "Tom Jones" is in its episodes, its crowded canvas,
the unfailing verve and variety of its action: in the fine open-air
atmosphere of the scenes, the sense of the stir of life they
convey: most of all, in an indescribable manliness or humanness
which bespeaks the true comic force--something of that same
comic view that one detects in Shakspere and Moliere and
Cervantes. It means an open-eyed acceptance of life, a
realization of its seriousness yet with the will to take it with
a smile: a large tolerancy which forbids the view conventional
or parochial or aristocratic--in brief, the view limited. There
is this in the book, along with much psychology so superficial
as to seem childish, and much interpretation that makes us feel
that the higher possibilities of men and women are not as yet
even dreamed of. In this novel, Fielding makes fuller use than
he had before of the essay link: the chapters introductory to
the successive books,--and in them, a born essayist, as your
master of style is pretty sure to be, he discourses in the
wisest and wittiest way on topics literary, philosophical or
social, having naught to do with the story in hand, it may be,
but highly welcome for its own sake. This manner of pausing by
the way for general talk about the world in terms of Me has been
used since by Thackeray, with delightful results: but has now
become old-fashioned, because we conceive it to be the
novelist's business to stick close to his story and not obtrude
his personality at all. Thackeray displeases a critic like Mr.
James by his postscript harangues about himself as Showman,
putting his puppets into the box and shutting up his booth:
fiction is too serious a matter to be treated so lightly by its
makers--to say nothing of the audience: it is more, much more
than mere fooling and show-business. But to go back to the
eighteenth century is to realize that the novel is being newly
shaped, that neither novelist nor novel-reader is yet awake to
the higher conception of the genre. So we wax lenient and are
glad enough to get these resting-places of chat and charm from
Fielding: it may not be war, but it is nevertheless magnificent.

Fielding in this fiction is remarkable for his keen observation
of every-day life and character, the average existence in town
and country of mankind high and low: he is a truthful reporter,
the verisimilitude of the picture is part of its attraction. It
is not too much to say that, pictorially, he is the first great
English realist of the Novel. For broad comedy presentation he
is unsurpassed: as well as for satiric gravity of comment and
illustration. It may be questioned, however, whether when he
strives to depict the deeper phases of human relations he is so
much at home or anything like so happy. There is no more
critical test of a novelist than his handling of the love
passion. Fielding essays in "Tom Jones" to show the love between
two very likable flesh-and-blood young folk: the many mishaps of
the twain being but an embroidery upon the accepted fact that
the course of true love never did run smooth. There is a certain
scene which gives us an interview between Jones and Sophia,
following on a stormy one between father and daughter, during
which the Squire has struck his child to the ground and left her
there with blood and tears streaming down her face. Her
disobedience in not accepting the addresses of the unspeakable
Blifil is the cause of the somewhat drastic parental treatment.
Jones has assured the Squire that he can make Sophia see the
error of her ways and has thus secured a moment with her. He
finds her just risen from the ground, in the sorry plight
already described. Then follows this dialogue:

'O, my Sophia, what means this dreadful sight?'

She looked softly at him for a moment before she spoke, and
then said:

'Mr. Jones, for Heaven's sake, how came you here? Leave me,
I beseech you, this moment.'

'Do not,' says he, 'impose so harsh a command upon me. My
heart bleeds faster than those lips. O Sophia, how easily
could I drain my veins to preserve one drop of that dear

'I have too many obligations to you already,' answered she,
'for sure you meant them such.'

Here she looked at him tenderly almost a minute, and then
bursting into an agony, cried:

'Oh, Mr. Jones, why did you save my life? My death would
have been happier for us both.'

'Happy for us both!' cried he. 'Could racks or wheels kill
me so painfully as Sophia's--I cannot bear the dreadful
sound. Do I live but for her?'

Both his voice and look were full of irrepressible
tenderness when he spoke these words; and at the same time
he laid gently hold on her hand, which she did not withdraw
from him; to say the truth, she hardly knew what she did or
suffered. A few moments now passed in silence between these
lovers, while his eyes were eagerly fixed on Sophia, and
hers declining toward the ground; at last she recovered
strength enough to desire him again to leave her, for that
her certain ruin would be the consequence of their being
found together; adding:

'Oh, Mr. Jones, you know not, you know not what hath passed
this cruel afternoon.'

'I know all, my Sophia,' answered he; 'your cruel father
hath told me all, and he himself hath sent me hither to

'My father sent you to me!' replied she: 'sure you dream!'

'Would to Heaven,' cried he, 'it was but a dream. Oh!
Sophia, your father hath sent me to you, to be an advocate
for my odious rival, to solicit you in his favor. I took
any means to get access to you. O, speak to me, Sophia!
Comfort my bleeding heart. Sure no one ever loved, ever
doted, like me. Do not unkindly withhold this dear, this
soft, this gentle hand--one moment perhaps tears you
forever from me. Nothing less than this cruel occasion
could, I believe, have ever conquered the respect and love
with which you have inspired me.'

She stood a moment silent, and covered with confusion;
then, lifting up her eyes gently towards him, she cried:

'What would Mr. Jones have me say?'

We would seem to have here a writer not quite in his native
element. He intends to interest us in a serious situation.
Sophia is on the whole natural and winning, although one may
stop to imagine what kind of an agony is that which allows of so
mathematical a division of time as is implied in the statement
that she looked at her lover--tenderly, too, forsooth!--"almost
a minute." The mood of mathematics and the mood of emotion, each
excellent in itself, do not go together in life as they do in
eighteenth century fiction. But in the general impression she
makes, Sophia, let us concede, is sweet and realizable. But
Jones, whom we have long before this scene come to know and be
fond of--Jones is here a prig, a bore, a dummy. Sir Charles
Grandison in all his woodenness is not arrayed like one of
these. Consider the situation further: Sophia is in grief; she
has blood and tears on her face--what would any lover,--nay, any
respectable young man do in the premises? Surely, stanch her
wounds, dry her eyes, comfort her with a homely necessary
handkerchief. But not so Jones: he is not a real man but a
melodramatic lay-figure, playing to the gallery as he spouts
speeches about the purely metaphoric bleeding of his heart,
oblivious of the disfigurement of his sweetheart's visage from
real blood. He insults her by addressing her in the third
person, mouths sentiments about his "odious rival" (a phrase
with a superb Bowery smack to it!) and in general so disports
himself as to make an effect upon the reader of complete
unreality. This was no real scene to Fielding himself: why then
should it be true: it has neither the accent nor the motion of
life. The novelist is being "literary," is not warm to his work
at all. When we turn from this attempt to the best love scenes
in modern hands, the difference is world-wide. And this
unreality--which violates the splendid credibility of the hero
in dozens of other scenes in the book,--is all the worse coming
from a writer who expressly announces his intention to destroy
the prevalent conventional hero of fiction and set up something
better in his place. Whereas Tom in the quoted scene is nothing
if not conventional and drawn in the stock tradition of mawkish
heroics. The plain truth is that with Fielding love is an
appetite rather than a sentiment and he is only completely at
ease when painting its rollicking, coarse and passional aspects.

In its unanalytic method and loose construction this Novel,
compared with Richardson, is a throw-back to a more primitive
pattern, as we saw was the case with Fielding's first fiction.
But in another important characteristic of the modern Novel it
surpasses anything that had earlier appeared: I refer to the way
it puts before the reader a great variety of human beings, so
that a sense of teeming existence is given, a genuine imitation
of the spatial complexity of life, if not of its depths. It is
this effect, afterwards conveyed in fuller measure by Balzac, by
Dickens, by Victor Hugo and by Tolstoy, that gives us the
feeling that we are in the presence of a master of men, whatever
his limitations of period or personality.

How delightful are the subsidiary characters in the book! One
such is Partridge, the unsophisticated schoolmaster who, when he
attends the theater with Tom and hears Garrick play "Hamlet,"
thinks but poorly of the player because he only does what
anybody would do under the circumstances! All-worthy and Blifil
one may object to, each in his kind, for being conventionally
good and bad, but in numerous male characters in less important
roles there is compensation: the gypsy episode, for example, is
full of raciness and relish. And what a gallery of women we get
in the story: Mrs. Honour the maid, and Miss Western (who in
some sort suggests Mrs. Nickleby), Mrs. Miller, Lady Bellaston,
Mrs. Waters and other light-of-loves and dames of folly, whose
dubious doings are carried off with such high good humor that we
are inclined to overlook their misdeeds. There is a Chaucerian
freshness about it all: at times comes the wish that such talent
were used in a better cause. A suitable sub-title for the story,
would be: Or Life in The Tavern, so large a share do Inns have
in its unfolding. Fielding would have yielded hearty assent to
Dr. Johnson's dictum that a good inn stood for man's highest
felicity here below: he relished the wayside comforts of cup and
bed and company which they afford.

"Tom Jones" quickly crossed the seas, was admired in foreign
lands. I possess a manuscript letter of Heine's dated from Mainz
in 1830, requesting a friend to send him this novel: the German
poet represents, in the request, the literary class which has
always lauded Fielding's finest effort, while the wayfaring man
who picks it up, also finds it to his liking. Thus it secures
and is safe in a double audience. Yet we must return to the
thought that such a work is strictly less significant in the
evolution of the modern Novel, because of its form, its
reversion to type, than the model established by a man like
Richardson, who is so much more restricted in gift.

Fielding's fourth and final story, "Amelia," was given to the
world two years later, and but three years before his premature
death at Lisbon at the age of forty-nine--worn out by irregular
living and the vicissitudes of a career which had been checkered
indeed. He did strenuous work as a Justice these last years and
carried on an efficacious campaign against criminals: but the
lights were dimming, the play was nearly over. The pure gust of
life which runs rampant and riotous in the pages of "Tom Jones"
is tempered in "Amelia" by a quieter, sadder tone and a more
philosophic vision. It is in this way a less characteristic
work, for it was of Fielding's nature to be instantly responsive
to good cheer and the creature comforts of life. When she got
the news of his death, Lady Mary wrote of him: "His happy
constitution (even when he had, with great pains, half
demolished it) made him forget everything when he was before a
venison pastry or over a flask of champagne; and I am persuaded
he has known more happy moments than any prince upon earth. His
natural spirits gave him rapture with his cook-maid and
cheerfulness in a garret." Here is a kit-kat showing the man
indeed: all his fiction may be read in the light of it. The main
interest in "Amelia" is found in its autobiographical flavor,
for the story, in describing the fortunes--or rather
misfortunes--of Captain Booth and his wife, drew, it is pretty
certain, upon Fielding's own traits and to some extent upon the
incidents of his earlier life. The scenes where the Captain sets
up for a country gentleman with his horses and hounds and
speedily runs through his patrimony, is a transcript of his own
experience: and Amelia herself is a sort of memorial to his
well-beloved first wife (he had married for a second his honest,
good-hearted kitchen-maid), who out of affection must have
endured so much in daily contact with such a character as that
of her charming husband. In the novel, Mrs. Booth always
forgives, even as the Captain ever goes wrong. There would be
something sad in such a clear-eyed comprehension of one's own
weakness, if we felt compelled to accept the theory that he was
here drawing his own likeness; which must not be pushed too far,
for the Captain is one thing Fielding never was--to wit, stupid.
There is in the book much realism of scene and incident; but its
lack of animal spirits has always militated against the
popularity of "Amelia"; in fact, it is accurate to say that
Fielding's contemporary public, and the reading world ever
since, has confined its interest in his work to "Joseph Andrews"
and "Tom Jones."

The pathos of his ending, dying in Portugal whither he had gone
on a vain quest for health, and his companionable qualities
whether as man or author, can but make him a more winsome figure
to us than proper little Mr. Richardson; and possibly this
feeling has affected the comparative estimates of the two
writers. One responds readily to the sentiment of Austin
Dobson's fine poem on Fielding:

"Beneath the green Estrella trees,
No artist merely, but a man
Wrought on our noblest island-plan,
Sleeps with the alien Portuguese."

And in the same way we are sympathetic with Thackeray in the
lecture on the English humorists: "Such a brave and gentle
heart, such an intrepid and courageous spirit, I love to
recognize in the manly, the English Harry Fielding." Imagine any
later critic calling Richardson "Sam!" It is inconceivable.

* * * * *

Such then were the two men who founded the English Novel, and
such their work. Unlike in many respects, both as personalities
and literary makers, they were, after all, alike in this: they
showed the feasibility of making the life of contemporary
society interesting in prose fiction. That was their great
common triumph and it remains the keynote of all the subsequent
development in fiction. They accomplished this, each in his own
way: Richardson by sensibility often degenerating into
sentimentality, and by analysis--the subjective method; Fielding
by satire and humor (often coarse, sometimes bitter) and the
wide envisagement of action and scene--the method objective.
Richardson exhibits a somewhat straitened propriety and a narrow
didactic tradesman's morality, with which we are now out of
sympathy. Fielding, on the contrary, with the abuse of his good
gift for tolerant painting of seamy human nature, gives way
often to an indulgence of the lower instincts of mankind which,
though faithfully reflecting his age, are none the less
unpleasant to modern taste. Both are men of genius, Fielding's
being the larger and more universal: nothing but genius could
have done such original things as were achieved by the two.
Nevertheless, set beside the great masters of fiction who were
to come, and who will be reviewed in these pages, they are seen
to have been excelled in art and at least equaled in gift and
power. So much we may properly claim for the marvelous growth
and ultimate degree of perfection attained by the best novel-makers
of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It remains now
to show what part was played in the eighteenth century
development by certain other novelists, who, while not of the
supreme importance of these two leaders, yet each and all
contributed to the shaping of the new fiction and did their
share in leaving it at the century's end a perfected instrument,
to be handled by a finished artist like Jane Austen. We must
take some cognizance, in special, of writers like Smollett and
Sterne and Goldsmith--potent names, evoking some of the
pleasantest memories open to one who browses in the rich meadow
lands of English literature.



The popularity of Richardson and Fielding showed itself in a
hearty public welcome: and also in that sincerest form of
flattery, imitation. Many authors began to write the new
fiction. Where once a definite demand is recognized in
literature, the supply, more or less machine-made, is sure to

In the short quarter of a century between "Pamela" and "The
Vicar of Wakefield," the Novel got its growth, passed out of
leading strings into what may fairly be called independence and
maturity: and by the time Goldsmith's charming little classic
was written, the shelves were comfortably filled with novels
recent or current, giving contemporary literature quite the air
so familiar to-day. Only a little later, we find the Gentleman's
Magazine, a trustworthy reporter of such matters, speaking of
"this novel-writing age." The words were written in 1773, a
generation after Richardson had begun the form. Still more
striking testimony, so far back as 1755, when Richardson's
maiden story was but a dozen years old, a writer in "The
Connoisseur" is facetiously proposing to establish a factory for
the fashioning of novels, with one, a master workman, to furnish
plots and subordinates to fill in the details--an anticipation
of the famous literary menage of Dumas pere.

Although there was, under these conditions, inevitable imitation
of the new model, there was a deeper reason for the rapid
development. The time was ripe for this kind of fiction: it was
in the air, as we have already tried to suggest. Hence, other
fiction-makers began to experiment with the form, this being
especially true of Smollett. Out of many novelists, feeble or
truly called, a few of the most important must be mentioned.


The Scotch-born Tobias Smollett published his first fiction,
"Roderick Random," eight years after "Pamela" had appeared, and
the year before "Tom Jones"; it was exactly contemporaneous with
"Clarissa Harlowe," A strict contemporary, then, with Richardson
and Fielding, he was also the ablest novelist aside from them, a
man whose work was most influential in the later development. It
is not unusual to dismiss him in a sentence as a coarser
Fielding. The characterization hits nearer the bull's eye than
is the rule with such sayings, and more vulgar than the greater
writer he certainly is, brutal where Fielding is vigorous: and
he exhibits and exaggerates the latter's tendencies to the
picaresque, the burlesque and the episodic. His fiction is of
the elder school in its loose fiber, its external method of
dealing with incident and character. There is little or nothing
in Smollett of the firm-knit texture and subjective analysis of
the moderns. Thus the resemblances are superficial, the
differences deeper-going and palpable. Smollett is often
violent, Fielding never: there is an impression of
cosmopolitanism in the former--a wider survey of life, if only
on the surface, is given in his books. By birth, Smollett was of
the gentry; but by the time he was twenty he had seen service as
Surgeon's Mate in the British navy, and his after career as Tory
Editor, at times in prison, literary man and traveler who
visited many lands and finally, like Fielding, died abroad in
Italy, was checkered enough to give him material and to spare
for the changeful bustle, so rife with action and excitement, of
his four principal stories. Like the American Cooper, he drew
upon his own experiences for his picture of the navy; and like a
later American, Dr. Holmes, was a physician who could speak by
the card of that side of life.

Far more closely than Fielding he followed the "Gil Blas" model,
depending for interest primarily upon adventures by the way,
moving accidents by flood and field. He declares, in fact, his
intention to use Le Sage as a literary father and he translated
"Gil Blas." In striking contrast, too, with Fielding is the
interpretation of life one gets from his books; with the author
of "Tom Jones" we feel, what we do in greater degree with
Shakespeare and Balzac, that the personality of the fiction-maker
is healthily merged in his characters, in the picture of
life. But in the case of Dr. Smollett, there is a strongly
individual satiric bias: less of that largeness which sees the
world from an unimplicated coign of vantage, whence the open-eyed,
wise-minded spectator finds it a comedy breeding laughter
under thoughtful brows. We seem to be getting not so much scenes
of life as an author's setting of the scene for his own private
reasons. Such is at least the occasional effect of Smollett.
Also is there more of bitterness, of savagery in him: and where
Fielding was broad and racily frank in his handling of delicate
themes, this fellow is indecent with a kind of hardness and
brazenness which are amazing. The difference between plain-speaking
and unclean speaking could hardly be better
illustrated. It should be added, in justice, that even Smollett
is rarely impure with the alluring saliency of certain modern

In the first story, "The Adventures of Roderick Random" (the
cumbrous full titles of earlier fiction are for apparent reasons
frequently curtailed in the present treatment), published when
the author was twenty-seven, he avails himself of a residence of
some years in Jamaica to depict life in that quarter of the
world at a time when the local color had the charm of novelty.
The story is often credited with being autobiographic, as a
novelist's first book is likely to be; since, by popular belief,
there is one story in all of us, namely, our own. Its
description of the hero's hard knocks does, indeed, suggest the
fate of a man so stormily quarrelsome throughout his days: for
this red-headed Scot, this "hack of genius," as Henley
picturesquely calls him, was naturally a fighting man and,
whether as man or author, attacks or repels sharply: there is
nothing uncertain in the effect he makes. His loud vigor is as
pronounced as that of a later Scot like Carlyle; yet he stated
long afterward that the likeness between himself and Roderick
was slight and superficial. The fact that the tale is written in
the first person also helps the autobiographic theory: that
method of story-making always lends a certain credence to the
narrative. The scenes shift from western Scotland to the streets
of London, thence to the West Indies: and the interest (the
remark applies to all Smollett's work) lies in just three
things--adventure, diversity of character, and the realistic
picture of contemporary life--especially that of the navy on a
day when, if Smollett is within hailing distance of the facts,
it was terribly corrupt. Too much credit can hardly be given him
for first using, so effectively too, the professional sea-life
of his country: a motive so richly productive since through
Marryat down to Dana, Herman Melville, Clark Russell and many
other favorite writers, both British and American. In Smollett's
hands, it is a strange muddle of religion, farce and smut, but
set forth with a vivid particularity and a gusto f high spirits

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