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The Pre-romantic Period in English Literature

(1798-1837)

There is no generally accepted definitions of the word ‘romantic’. It first appeared in the 17th
century in the sense of extravagant, fictitious, unreal, but at the end of the 18th century it had
already assumed a somewhat different meaning and was particularly connected with feelings,
imagination and motivational pleasures.

In literature it was applied to a movement, not implying a certain school, but rather a spirit, a
state of mind. It was not limited to England alone, but appeared in most western countries
between the late 18th century and the 3rd decade of 19th century. The dates are obviously
approximate, they are however certain historical events which can be cited as reference points
since with their emphasis on freedom and democratization; they forested the growth of
romanticism and its future developments. These historical events are: the American Revolution,
The French Revolution, and the Napoleonic wars. For some time almost every Englishman of
letters was strongly sympathetic to the democratic ideas coming from America and to the French
fight for ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’, but the period of terror in France with its violent purges
left many ________ and eventually turned them into conservatives.

The French Revolution, which was supposed to create a new society in France creating a
model for the world that would lead to the liberation of the human spirit, accomplished none of
these things. After the Treaty of Versailles, many young people were profound disappointed. As
for Napoleon, although admired by some writers as a symbol of titanic, individual, grandeur, he
aroused a wave of nationalism over the country through his increasingly threatening plans for
invasion.

As a literary movement, English Romanticism presented a clear and sharp break with the
insistence on reason, common sense and realism that had characterised the Augustan age. It
encouraged individualism and the free expression of personal feelings and turned to emotion and
imagination as sources of inspiration. As such, the romantic period was largely a reaction against
the ideology of the enlightenment period that dominated much of the Europen philosophy ,
politics and arts from the middle of the 17th century until the close of the 18th century.

Whereas enlightenment thinkers valued logic, reason and rationality, romantics valued
emotion, passion and individuality. “Rejecting the order rationality of the enlightenment as
mechanical, impersonal and artificial, the romantics turned to the emotional directness of
personal experience and to the boundlessness of individual imagination and aspiration.” The
literary background of the Romantic Movement is very complex besides the already mentioned
historical events. Other factors of great importance were:
- The philosophical thought of such French writers as Voltaire and Rousseau with their
attacks on privileged and social stratification and their concern with nature and men’s
emotional and imaginative powers.
- The German literary movement called ‘Sturm and Drang’ which reached its climatic in
1770’s, strongly nationalist and including among its members such names as: Goethe and
Schiller. It was inspired by Rousseau’s idealism, it emphasised the value of the
individual, opposed the nationalism and revolted against the dependence of literature on
ancient, classical cannons and advocated a return to nature. The way was thus ready for
the literary movement which spread throughout Europe, which proved revolutionary in
France, philosophical in Germany, patriotically in Italy and literary in England.

Not all romantic literature or all romantic writers can be included into one cathegory.
However, some general ideas may provide a reasonable description of tendencies which would
have less fairly commonplace among romantics:

 Art as the product of individual creation is highly priced. Many romantics are prone to
hero-worship the artist as a genius of prophet;
 Nature, rural life and pastured imagery make common subjects for poetry;
 Individual achievements are highly valued. This notion applies both to actual people
(artists, writers, military heroes, explorers) and to fictional characters. This tendency
produced the notion of the ‘romantic hero’ and the ‘Byronic hero’.

Many romantic writers, especially the poets, believed that all people, regardless of wealth,
social class, should be able to appreciate the art and literature and artists should create art or
literature accessible to everyone. Their success in this endeavour is debatable.

Romantic era. Poetic forms.

Lyric poetry: brief emoted poem written in the first person, which emphasises sound and
pictorial imagery rather than narrative or dramatic movement.

The ode/ odal hymn: a long stately lyric poem in stanzas of varied metrical patters. The poem
represents divine created power, separate from the poet, but which the poet seeks to possess.

Eulogy: a poem on mourning, of lamentation, usually about death.

Sonnet: a poem of fourteen lines and a particular end/ rhyme scheme. This form was used by
woman during the romantic era to move away from the logic and reason and more toward feeling
and move. However, the ones which remained were by male author: Petrarchan or Italian sonnet
considerate the legitimate form. His structure is formed of 14 lines: and octave, a sextet and the
rhyme scheme is abbaabba edeede. The Shakespearian/ English sonnet is considerate the
illegitimate form: 14 lines: 3 quatrains ending with a rhyming couplet. The rhyming scheme is:
abba cdcd efef gg.

A series of sonnets are linked together by exploring the varied aspects of relationship
between lovers by indicating a development in the relationship that constitutes a kind of implicit
love.

Preromantic Poetry

The last 20 years ot the 18th century can be considered as being a separate period in the study
of English poetry. These years are part of a long transition which will eventually led to
romanticism.

The essential feature of preromantic evolution lies in the -------------------------------- its


yearning for the past. The past in not only felt as a superior part, but it stands in direct conflict
with the present, symbolising the spirit of protest. The Renaissance of imagination consisted in
the literary and artistic re-evaluation of the middle ages. The relicts of the past were examined
and its ---------- simplicity and its pathos lived again being all that was different in a century of
rationalism and lucidity. One distinct feature is the past played by the Scandinavian influence.
The study of the gothic and ------------- received new attention and runic poetry (Anglo-Saxon,
Norwegian and Icelandic poems dating from the 16th century) is translated by Thomas Percy.
The effect of Scandinavian poetry is neutralized by the stronger prestige of Celtic morals as a
form which had been rendered popular, by the success of the Oceanic Tales translated from the
Irish mythology by James Macpherson.

The most popular representative of preromantic poetry are James Macpherson, Thomas
Percy, Thomas Charleston, Robert Burns (the national poet of Scotland) and William Blake.
William Blake
(1757-1827)

Blake was a remarkable wit, a great poet and an extremely original painter. The man of ‘mist
nad fire’ as the English poet Charles Swinburne called him lived and died almost unknown and
rejected by his contemporaries who didn’t understand him and called him ‘Blake the mad.’

His name was passed over in silence, until the first half og the century. Today, he stands
together with Milton and Shakespeare being considered one of the men of great genius of the
modern world.

In his art, which combines picture and texts, Blake claimed that he painted his visions and
wrote down the words that were dictated to him. To his imaginative eyes, a physical object was
only the vehicle of a meaning not of this world and the empty spaces he filled with figures of
eternity.

The man who lived of the richest and most dramatic lives of mind was never sent to school
and spent almost all his life in the heart of London where he was born. As a engraver’s
apprentice he made drawings of monuments in Westminster Abbey and other old churches in
London and thus came under the direct influence of the gothic art.

His first volume of poems, Poetical Sketches (1783) contained poem written between the
ages of -------. They demonstrate his dissatisfaction with the classic tradition and his quest for
new poetic forms and techniques. With the illustrated texts of his ‘songs of innocence and
experience’, B. has inaugurated the original method of publication, he used for all his later
works.

With the help of his wife, the illiterate daughter of a garner, he engraved both the text and
its coloured pictorial design on a copper plate paper and then coloured the page by water paints
by hand, the result being a unique fusion of text, picture and decoration. The poems in this
volume describe a world of suffering, but according to Blake’s -------------------- the world of
fallen experience is a state through which the soul must open in order to achieve his salvation in
a rewarded and lighter innocence, that of Jerusalem, the city of heavenly King and of creative
imagination.

His almost exclusive theme is the feeling of a child’s soul, the universe seen through his
sense, judged through his heart. Many elements of romanticism are present in the short poems of
this cycle: the search for wonder, the contemplation of nature through flesh eyes, the obsession
for the past, the absorbing sense of the self. In these poems, the words are perfectly adapted to
the thought, because they are both simply. They have the --------- flow of music.
In Blake’s latest poems, there is a wide gulf between the symbol and the reality it conveys.
Gradually, he developed and integrated his symbols into a mythology of his own which appeared
from his lack of classical education. The close association of classical mythology with
neoclassicism, which he detested; his own independence and power of mythmaking: ‘I must
create a system or be enslaved by another man’s.’

Blake’s numerous Prophetic Books are complex and difficult works which------------- and
preoccupation, despair numerous critics. They deal with some aspects of Biblical matter, the
apocalyptic destruction of man, salvation, the restoration of the New Jerusalem, all in a visionary
form. “Tiriel” (1789) is the first in the series telling the story of tyrant Tiriel, a former King of
the west and father of 130 sons.

The book of Thel (1789) belongs to the same period and treats the old pervading spirit of
mutual life and self-sacrifice. Thus, that not means final extinction, but the supreme
manifestation of the sacrifice of the self.

The Marriage between Hell and Heaven, composed between 1790-1793, is probably Blake’s
most influential work. There the stress is laid on the identity for the universal and particular
spirit, the oneness of God and Man. This vision and a permanent energized Hell has been a
source of inspiration for many artists and musicians and it is seen as a anticipation of Freud’s
theory concerning the struggle between a repressing superego and are amoral id. The book ends
with a proclamation for the different people of the world to break the bonds of both religions and
political suppression.

America a Prophecy (1793) is engraved on 18 plates and survived in 14 known copies. It is


the first of Blake’s Continental Prophecies and the most beautifully engraved of his books. It also
brought an advance in the use of symbolism and deals with the strength against aggression. In
conflict between England and her colonies is forgetting of the ---------------- annihilation of
authority and its establishment. The American Revolution raised many expectations in Blake, but
he was disappointed with the maintenance of slavery. He gave up hero-worship and expressed
his believe that God could only exist in man.
The Romantic Period

Most critics identify the beginnings of romanticism with the moment when William
Wordsworth published his Lyrical Ballads in 1798, but no writer in WW life time thought of
himself as a romantic. The word was no applied until half a century later by English and German
historians. However, there was a peculiar intellectual climate of the time, which was called: ‘the
spirit of the age’. WW undertook to justify the new poetry by a critical manifesto of poetic
principles in the form of an extended Preface to the second edition to his Lyrical Ballads (1800)
to which Coleridge also contributed. But the friendship with Coleridge was so close( the latter’s
even finishes some poems which WW left unfinished), that is impossible to define the share of
each of these two poets in the elaboration of those poetical and theoretical doctrines, which they
seem to hold in common unconscious of the differences between them.

Some of the concepts of this influential essay can be taken as points of departure for a survey of
the distinctive elements in the theory and poetry of the romantic period:

 The concept of poetry:

In classic theory, poetry had been regarded as primarily an imitation of human life designed to
instruct and give artistic pleasure to the reader. WW defines all goo poetry as “the spontaneous
overflow of powerful feeling: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity”. He
located the source the poetry not in the outer-world , but in the individual poet and identified as
its essential material not men and their action, but the feelings of the writers himself.

 Poetic spontaneity and freedom:

In tradition theory poetry had been regarded as an art perfected by endeavours which could be
successfully practiced only by a craftsman who was aware of the rules governing the kind of
poetry he was writing. To WW although the writing of a poet may be preceded by reflection and
followed by second thoughts and revisions, the immediate act of composition must be
spontaneous, that is so unforced arising from impulse and free from all rules.

Keats and Shelley also insisted on total autonomy and spontaneity of poetic activity. However,
despite their theoretical insistence, the worksheets of the romantic poets show that they worked
and reworked their texts at least as the craftsmen of the earlier ages.

 Romantic nature and poetry :

A glance at the table of contents of any collection of poem of the period will indicate the
astonishing degree to which the natural scene (flora, fauna) have become a poetic subject. WW,
C. and S describe natural phenomena with an astonishing accuracy of observation. As a
consequence of the prominence of the landscape, romantic poetry became synonyms of the
nature poetry to the popular minds. Romantic nature are in fact descriptive, meditative poems in
which the scene described also serves to raise an emotional response.

 The glorification of common place:

WW stated in the preface that the aim of the lyrical ballads was to choose incidents and
situations from common life and to use a selection of language nearly spoken by men. The
special source of this subject matter and the principle model for this language is, said WW:
‘humble and rustic life.’

 Supernatural and strangeness in beauty:

When WW published L.B. with a Few other Poems, most of them had been written by him, C.
contributing with only four poems to the collection. WW’s share consisted in his more precise
observation of nature and common life. To this, C. added his metaphorical gifts. WW was to
make wonderful the familiar and the ordinary and C. was to make familiar the wonderful and
strange. WW’s subject were the events of everyday life by preference in its humblest form, while
C.’s share had to do with the supernatural. His “Kubla Khan” opened up to English poetry the
realm of mystic and magic in which ancient folklore and superstitions are used to startle
sophisticated readers by impressing them of the sense of occult powers. Such poems are usually
set in the distant past or in faraway places.

 Nonconformity and individualism:

Though the greatest part of the 18th century man was viewed as a limited being in an especially
unchanging world. The romantic period was an age of radical individualism in which both the
philosophers and the poets put immensely high estimation on men’s potentialities. The aspect of
men which to the moralists of the preceding age had been the essential scene on his tragic error
now became his glory and his triumph. The great classic writers had dealt with men as members
of an organized society and of this society the author regarded himself as an integral part. The
romantic writers on the other hand deliberately isolated themselves from society. In almost all of
WW’s poems the words ‘alone’, ‘solitary’, ‘by himself’ , ‘alone’ constitute a leitmotiv. C. also
and even more strikingly Byron and Shelley like to deal with a solitary protagonist who is
separated from society because he has rejected it or because society rejected him. Thus, the
theme of exile was introduced of the disinherited mind which can’t find a spiritual form in its
native land and society or in the whole modern world. The solitary romantic nonconformist was
sometimes also a great sinner. Writers of the time were fascinated by the outlaws of myth, legend
or history such as Cain, Satan, Faustus or Napoleon, about whom they wrote and on whom they
modelled a number of their villains or heroes.
 The innovation of form:

Romantic poets experimented in poetic language, versification and design. They continued to
cultivate a number of forms current in the 18th century including the sonnet and combining
description and meditation. Their longer poems struck out in a new direction and in a space of a
few decades. They produced an astonishing variety of forms constructed on new principles of
organization and style.

The first generation of romantic poets, named The Lake Poets, included Wordsworth, Coleridge
and Robert Southey.

William Wordsworth
(1770-1850)

WW’s vision of the world is not a fantastic one, of his invention, but the world of all of
us. His originality is present in his poetry of nature and of man and it lies in the ordinary ----------
of giving ------ to some of the most elementary and deepest sensation of men controlled of
natural phenomena. Poetical psychology is his triumph.

The poem “There was a Boy” is one of the most striking instanced of WW’s power. The
sudden revelation to the boy of the--------- landscape, his thrill of delight at discovering the
beauty of nature is additional to man’s knowledge and enjoyment of his own sensation.

Among the pictures which WW has felt us about the influence of nature on human
character, his long poem “Peter Bell: a Tale” marks one end and “Lucy” the other end of the
scale. Peter Bell lives in the --------- of nature untouched alike by her terror and her charm.
Lucy’s whole being is moulded by nature’s self. She is responsive to sun and shadow, to silence
and to sound. Between these 2 streams, there are many other possible shades of feeling. In
“Ruth” nature’s influence is only salutary as long as she herself is in keeping with man. Many of
WW’s nature poems are still famous today. One of them is “I Wondered Lonely as a Cloud.”
Also known as Daffodils, which came to be as classic of English romanticism and which was
included in Poems in Two Volumes (1807). The four-six line stanzas in iambic tetrameter were
inspired by a walk the poet took with his sister Dorothy, during which they discovered a field of
daffodils with their heads tossed by the wind that was blowing on them. The poem creates strong
images in the readers’ mind and offers the feeling of complete reconciliation between man and
his environment. To the same volume belongs “The Solitary Reaper” consisting of four stanzas
written in iambic tetrameter in which the poet describes his emotion at the sight of a girl in the
Scottish Highlands reaping grain alone and singing in a solitary field. Although he doesn’t
understand the words, the poet is impressed by the song because of the blissful mood it creates.

WW was as interested in man as he was in nature. On his first contact with the French
Revolution he realises the irresistible claim of human nature upon his interests and for a while
nature took second place in his mind. He set himself with stubborn tenacity to examine the
poorest, simplest, human beings: beggars, deserted women, countrymen, mentally defected
people. He found in the elementary feelings and passions of humble people the same beauty
power, power and mistery which he already knew in the form and forces of nature. The two
worlds were one. Pople were not ---------------------------, but living men and women like the goal
singing in the field or lee-gatherer in the Moorish pond in “Resolution and Independence” (also
belonging to Poems in Two Volumes) or the shepherd building his sheepfold in a mountain
valley in “Michael” (L.B.).

WW admired these people’s independence, their habit of silence and solitude, the
capacity of understanding life intuitively. He atributed to these humble creatures a mysterious
power that united them with nature. It was this aspect of irrationality that he sometimes
exaggerated as in his lin narrative poem “-------------------” which is set in the countryside and
speaks in plain language about -------------- emptions of her mother and her friend. WW was a
bold experimenter in language and metre. He started as a imitator of the fashionable heroic
couplet of the period, but soon set out to pull down the rhetoric poetic style of the age. In the
Lyrical Ballads he adopts ballad metres and a variety of simple stanzas forms and obtains a
simplicity, a living force in language ______________ theme which are unique by his own.

In “Tintern Abbey” may be the most elaborate poems of the L.B.; he uses very tightly
structured blank verse. The full title of the poem gives reference as to its origin “Lines
Composed A Few Miles above Tintern Abbey on Revisiting the Banks of the River Wye during
a Tour, July 13, 1798”. The poem is unrhymed mostly in iambic pentameter and contains
elements of the old and the dramatic monologue.

Therefore WW’s style is way unequal. He reaches high degrees of excellence but frequently
mixes the highest poetry with the flatness of uninspired prose. Sometimes his poetry is derived of
ease and elegance, other times he is more solemn and pompous than needs be, but he left
sufficient, magnificent verses which remain among the most valued treasure of romanticism.

His work broke the spell of an old tradition---------------------------. All the English poets of
the 19th century are indirectly his heirs.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
(1772-1834)

Among the English romantic poets of the 1st generation, Coleridge possessed the most
vigorous mind. His life, work and thought were marked by unhappy circumstances which
prevented him from reaching self-fulfilment. His first poems, which appeared in 1797, deal with
miscellaneous subjects and consist partly of rhymed irregular odds on eminent characters and
partly of a blank verse poem: “Religious musings”, dealing with religious, but also political
issues, such as the British Parliament or French Revolution.

In the 20th century, literary critics grouped eight of these poems under the common name
Conversation Poems with the exception of The Eolian Harp. These poems do not rank higher
than rhetorical common place. They lack individuality and don’t offer a promise of the work
which made Coleridge famous.

“Dejection: an Ode” (1802) was Coleridge’s fair way to happiness, health and poetic
creation. The cause of his decline was opium eating, and although he eventually succeeded in
tearing himself loses from the bondage, the long years of struggle left scars which nothing could
heal and the prime of his life had largely been wasted.

All that is really great and lasting of his work could easily be contained in 50 pages and
was all written during the 6 years of his friendship with Wordsworth. The greatest of all his
poems, almost the only one which stands as a finished whole, is The Ancient Mariner. The
circumstances of the birth of this immortal ballad were shown in some manuscripts Coleridge
left behind. The poem uses, in a modified way, a very popular theme with the romantics that of
the wondering Jew. One of the versions of the traditional tales relates about a Jewish tradesman
who refused Christ opposed for rest on his way to the place of crucifixion. His condemnation
was to keep on recounting his sin until The Second Coming.

In Coleridge’s poem, the Ancient Marine denies nature and receives similar punishment.
The fable is a story of crime, punishment, repentance and reconciliation. It is an example of the
archetypal story of rebirth. The Mariner shoots an albatross and suffers various pains: loneliness
and spiritual anguish until recognising the beauty of some sea creatures. He experiences a gush
of love, is able to pray and blesses them. The curse is now relived and he is miraculously
returned to his harbour where he discovers the joy of human communion and utters the moral:
“he prays best who loves best”. In the poem, behind the natural events, there lies a supernatural
world. The thoughts which nature’s powers awake in a sensitive soul are believed, by Coleridge,
to have correspondent existences which derive their being from nature. These bodily beings may
be felt by us as enemies or friends, as actual presences, but only in circumstances made
emotional by loneliness or in the middle of untraveled sears or in the deep forest of romance.
The scenery of The Ancient Mariner is laid in such remote. The spiritual world is on the
side of pity, love and men who violate these are punished by hardness of heart: they cannot pray,
cannot bless the creatures of the land, sea and sky. These become his enemies until he changes
his disposition of his heart. To support this atmosphere in which the laws of the spiritual world
take the form of a living being, all the things of nature: the ocean, the sun, the moon, death and
life in death, are impersonated, have a life and a will. The Mariner is endowed with spiritual
power which enables him to know the man to whom he must tell his tale and who must listen to
him. This is the actual spiritual power of the poem which gives it its deepest strangeness.

Christabel is another lengthy poem, written in two parts; the first and best one in 1797,
nd
the 2 in 1800. Three more parts were planned, but never achieved. In the poem, Coleridge
adapts and transforms according to his own imaginative concepts and ideas taken from folklore
and the classical tradition. Such are the stories about lamiae, a man eating monster with the head
and breasts of a woman, joined to a servant’s body, the medieval concepts of the vampire and
tales of gothic terror. Christabel is the only child of Sir Leoline who’s wife died in childbirth.
One night, while praying, Christabel finds a lady in distress, the fair Geraldine, and brings her to
the palace, offering her hospitality. Geraldine joins Cristabel and hypnotises her into accepting
the strange happenings that followed.

In the 2nd part Geraldine claims to the daughter of Roland de Vaux who had once been a
friend of Sir Leoline before they were estranger by a fight and she also claims to have been
kidnapped from her home. In reality, she is a malignant supernatural creature who has assumed
Geraldine’s appearance in order to work evil. Christabel has seen through her disguise, but she is
forced to silence by the spell. Sir Leoline, completely enchanted with Geraldine, sends his bard
to her father to tell him that his daughter is safe and to offer consignment. The poem ends here,
but we know the proposed ending. In the absence of the bard, Geraldine gains power over Sir
Leoline. With the bards return, Geraldine changes her appearance into Christabel’s absent lover.
His courtship distresses Christable who feels something is wrong, but finally agrees to the
marriage. As the pair approached the altar, Christabel’s real lover appears producing the ring
heard, the proper marriage proceeds and Sir Leoline is re-consigned with his daughter.

As a work of art, Christabel ranks very high. The miraculous element which lays on the
surface on the Ancient Mariner is here driven beneath the surface. We are made aware of the
supernatural forces by many suggestions. Coleridge’s aim was to fill the world with the presence,
unseen, but felt of the supernatural, to tell a tale of human joy and sorrow and make it seem “a
story of the world of spirits”, but none was more aware than him what the obstacles of his
achievement. Speaking about this poem, he said: “I had, as I always had had the whole plan
entire from beginning to the end in my mind, but I fear I couldn’t carry on with equal success the
execution of the idea, an extremely delicate one”. It is not surprising that he couldn’t end the
poem in the same tone with which it was begun. Much of the charm and musicality of the poem
results from its versification. Coleridge proves to be an imitator in meter; he consciously
formulated the return of English verse to the principles of accentuation which is most suitable to
its spontaneous reader. Christable is written in 4 line accents, but the number of the syllables
varies on a large scale.

“Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment” (1797) remained in manuscript till
1916. It is only a short fragment, but one of the strangest and most beautiful. As Coleridge tells
us, the poem, which takes its title from the Mongol and Chinese emperor Kublai Khan of the
Yuan Dynasty, is an opium induced hymn. It’s extensively imagery caused some critics to
consider that it is just the poets vision while others insisted on its theme and purpose. Martin Day
interprets it as “a poem about secondary imagination and simultaneously a perfect demonstration
of the works of that kind of imagination”. Coleridge, like Kant, distinguished between primary
and secondary imagination, man and genius. The secondary imagination brings down the
familiar perception of the primary imagination and constructs a new creative unity-the poet’s
unique vision of truths. The “sacred river” is the secondary imagination, a deep intuitive force
wheeling from unconscious reservoirs of nature. It doesn’t submit itself to rational discipline, but
goes where it wills. Kubla Khan has attempted in his “pleasure doom” to recreate the conscious
world of art. “The sacred river” in its progress reveals opposites of warmth and in which the
rational mind cannot cope with. Coleridge’s intention is to recreate imaginatively the picture of
reality, reconcile the opposites and reveal the totality of human experience in poetry that will be
truly immortal. Coleridge’s poetry is the supreme embodiment of all that is ethereal and pure in
the romantic spirit.

However, his most lasting achievement is in literary criticism. His Biographia Literaria is
one of the world’s most famous and significant treaties of the nature of poetry and of the poet.
To him, the essence of poetry is its unifying sympathising power. Poetry brings the whole soul to
a man into activity with the subordination of its faculties to each other according to their relative
worth and dignity. Coleridge subscribes to the ancient concept of beauty and harmony. The poet,
therefore, sums up the conscious and unconscious, the constructive and the emotional, the
pleasant and the truthful.

The most important Coleridge’s contribution in the field of criticism lays in the theory of
imagination. The power of primary imagination is not peculiar to poets, but it is not standard for
all men. Secondary imagination is the specialised poetic faculty, differing in degree and in its
modal operation-it is the poet’s power of unifying chaotic experience into a significant form of
art. Fancy differs in kind from imagination while poetic imagination is organic producing truth to
God’s creation, fancy is mechanical and it is at best imitative rather than symbolic, the
instrument of talent rather than a genius.

Coleridge’s importance in English philosophy is not to be denied as he himself would have


been the 1st to acknowledge he was building on the foundation laid by Kant and to a less degree
by Johan Fichte and Friedrich Shelling. His aim was to show the necessity of replacing the
mechanical interpretation of life and nature.
The second generation of Romantic poets

Just like the Lake poets, the 2nd generation of romantics never actually constituted a
school, but they offer many points of resemblance. Born as they were either like Byron on the
Eve of the French Revolution or like Shelly and Keats: shortly after.

They were influenced by the state of political unrest in Europe at the time and they firmly
adhered to the cause of progress. It was a long time before public taste could adapt itself to the
work of these poets. Byron, in the full possession of his full powers, lost his native country and
conquered Europe; Keats and Shelly were neither recognised nor understood by people. The
younger generation differ from the previous one in some of the main principals of literary
criticism. The early masters of the romantic school, in their war against the neoclassic canons
and their discovery of the medieval romance, returned to regard to the poetry and mythology of
Greece. The younger poets turned to the myth and fables of Ancient Greece and arouse the
Hellenism of the early 19th century with Keats and Shelly as its prophets. To Byron, the political
movements of modern Greece were of more account than its ancient poetry. Yet, in him too there
is a strong reaction against the romance of the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads. A study of his work
shows that while much of his poetry is essential romantic, in his spirit he never broke away with
the Augustan Poetic Diction.
George Gordon Lord Byron
(1788-1824)

Byron is a paradoxical personality, attracted his contemporaries as much as his poetry


did. He had a variable temperament and refused to suppress any of his moods which varied
between a strong passion for the freedom of nature and the individual and the
_______________________ of count.

His 1st published poems Hours of Illness (1807) show a union of classicism and romance.
A large space was occupied by the generous tributes to old school, friends and love themes: “To
Ann”, “To Mariah”, “To Caroline”, “To a Lady”. These poems reveal a keen perception of
natural beauty and a tendency towards romantic subjects.

Byron’s travels to South Europe, between 1809-1810, had a great influence upon his
poetic career. They put end to his classic sympathies and made him an admirer of romance. His
life in Turkey and Albania was in itself romantic and displayed to him a new world: oriental in
its colouring and medieval in its feudalism. The work which made his popularity is “Child
Harold’s’ pilgrimage”, cantos I and II published in 1812, the III in 1816 and the 4th in 1818.

The poem describes the travels of a young English gentleman who is seeking for diversion
in foreign land.

The 1st canto contains impression of Portugal and Spain in the period when the two
countries were struggling.

In the 2nd canto, Byron meditates on the past and future of Turkey, Greece and Albania. In
the same period when he was writing these two cantos, the poet conceived his Byronic Hero,
Child Harold, a mysterious youth of noble, origin, sick at heart, loveless and friendless who
travels in quest of forgetfulness.

The 3nd canto is a description of Waterloo. Napoleon’s defeat was a fit retribution for he
had become a tyrant, but the victory of his enemies didn’t mean a triumph of liberty being only
the victory of an old form of tyranny against a new one.

The 4th canto presents his wondering through the most romantic cities of Italy, Venice,
Florence and Rome, the ruins of the latter reminding him of the past glory and power of the
country. The last two cantos are no longer a simple diary of the age; they are mostly the
monologue of the free thinker observing life and meditation on what he sees.

The great success of the poem was due to the fact that both the subject and the manner, in
which it was treated, corresponded to the spirit of age. The novelty lay in the character of the
hero, Child Harold. Byron denied the identification of his character with himself. In reality,
Child Harold is neither a near product of the poet’s creativity nor a purely autobiographical
reflection. He is a complex and contradictory with positive principles, such as hatred against all
forms of tyranny combined with negative ones: individualism. Harold is an exceptional
character, acting under exceptional surroundings. He figures under many names, sometimes
Muslim or Christian, but under his disguises he retains the same essential personality and speaks
the same language. He is a projection of a certain habit of Byron’s mind into surroundings which
are partly imagination and partly based upon personal experience. He is a mysterious rebel
revealing nothing of his past and future. He is a man of uncommon outer appearance, consumed
by fears, pride, a great will and doubtless courage who demands from life either everything or
nothing.

Harold made Byron legendary overnight and established himself as a protagonist in the
poets next works romantic verse tales known as The Oriental Tales. They are “The Giaour”
,“The Bride and Akeydos” both in 1813, “The Corsair” and “Lara” in 1814, “The Siege of
Corinth” and “Parisina” in 1816.

Byron imitates Walter Scott in making the same appeal to the instinct of adventure and
romantic colour. He lack’s Scott’s gift of lucid narration and the sense of large issues, but he has
greater passions and offers a larger disclosure of the human heart. These tales represent a new
phase in the development of the Byronic hero: he becomes a man of exceptional destiny, marked
out for great deeds, a typical romantic hero. Man’s faith in society and the destiny of the
individual were in the foreground Byron’s preoccupation and he takes them up in his next two
works Manfred in 1817 and Cain in 1821, where the action oversteps reality and history and
enters the sphere of philosophic symbolism. In creating the 3 acts: the dramatic poem Manfred,
Byron was greatly indebted to Walpole (The Castle of Otranto), Marlow (Doctor Faust), and
Goethe (Faust) as well as to Aeschylus (Prometheus Bound). Like Faust, Manfred is a great
scholar who has spent his life in searching the truth, but has found that the principle of
knowledge is not that of life. Now he lives alone in the Alps. The knowledge of the greatest
secrets of the Universe has given him power over the spirits inhabiting the invisible world. They
can satisfy all his wishes, but one that of forgetfulness and self oblivion. Manfred, the being who
masters everything in the world: Wind, Ocean, Stars, Night, can’t master his own questioning
mind and feelings, he can’t find inner peace. The cause of this despair is some mysterious guilt
connected with a sad love story. The 7 spirits he summons in seeking forgetfulness cannot help
him, because they can’t control past events. All through the play, Manfred refuses to yield to the
spirits of Evil; he also rejects the support of the church and his redemption from sins. He dies as
he had lived alone.

Manfred towers above the earlier Byronic heroes, both by the greater intensity of his
anguish of mind and by the iron resolution of his will. He has here a psychological depth which
he certainly didn’t have in childhood. His dissatisfaction with the world of man, assumes the
extreme form of a complete estrangement from his fellow creatures. Manfred realises that there
is no place in the world for him and his aspiration towards infinity caries him to the top of the
mountain. Unlike Faust, who looked for salvation in work for the benefit of mankind, Manfred is
the Alien, mysterious and gloomy spirit, waging his war with faith all by himself. Unlike Faust,
who finally made a pact with the Devil, Manfred refuses to yield to any higher power. His
renunciation to fight is according by total negation to existence. The wondering Jew cursed with
eternal life of wondering becomes a motif of major importance in Manfred. He is too proud to
submit to anyone and in disrespect he bares resemblance to Satan and Prometheus.

Cain-a mystery is what came to be called “a closet drama” that is a play intended to be
read not played. In it, Byron approaches the problems of man’s destiny on a cosmic plane. The
characters are taken from the Bible. The story of Cain has fascinated Byron since a child: the
question why we should consider God as a benevolent being if he created man just to make him
suffer and then die and why God didn’t stop Cain from his murder, have obsessed him just as the
idea of predestination. Cain refuses to be thankful to God, because he considers his morality an
unjust punishment for Eve and Adam’s sin. He doesn’t know what death is until Lucifer takes
him to “The Abyss of Space” where he present him with a catastrophic vision of the earth’s
history. The imagination of universal death depresses Cain. On his return, he kills Abel and is
vanished. Cain inherited both the features of Faust being consumed by the thirst for knowledge
and of Lucifer in his revolt against submission to God. Manfred’s dissatisfaction with his
condition is expressed in terms of cosmic symbols and contrary to tradition; both Cain and
Lucifer are depicted as positive characters because they are champions of man’s freedom against
spiritual tyranny. Lucifer and Cain represent the final stage in the development of Byronic hero.
And although the Byronic hero added much to Byron fames and affected immensely the life, art
and philosophy of the 19th century being the model for such protagonists in later literature as
“Ahab” and “Heathcliff”, Byron hadn’t yet written the works in which his genius and personality
found full expression. This happened only when he turned from drama and realistic and satirical
narrative poetry.

“Beppo” (1817) is an example of masterly use burlesque in its presentation of the Italian
morals compared to the English ones, which the poet considers hypocritical. “Beppo” mixes
fictional elements with biographical ones and contains ironic references with figures of that time.

Another strong and direct satire is “The Vision of Judgement” (1812), written as an answer
to Robert Southey’s poem “A Vision of Judgement” in which he praised King George the 3 rd. In
Byron’s poem, the King’s soul is to be permitted in heaven, but a delegation of devils claim it. In
the middle of the dispute, Southey appears and reads his ode dedicated to the King. Angel and
devils flee alike in disgust while King George the 3rd slips into heaven unnoticed.

Byron’s last satirical poem is “The Age of Bronze” (1823). When the congress of the
homely alliance took place in Verona, where the massacres of Europe discussed the means of
supressing the revolutionary movement, By attacks with extreme violence the revolutionary
policy of the monarchs and their governments.
The finest expression of Byron’s genius is Don Juan started in 1819, but not completed at
Byron’s death in 1829. In its 16 thousand verses (16 completed cantos) every mood of Byron’s
complex nature is vividly reflected: the romanticist, the realist, the impassionate, lover of liberty
and the faux of hypocrisy. The chief models were the itaian comic versions of medieval chivalric
romances: Swift and Stern.

The hero, Don Juan, the Spanish libertine had been in the original legend superhuman in his
sexual energy and wickedness. Throughout Byron’s verses, the unspoken but persistent joke is
that this fatal man of European legend is in fact more acted upon, than acting, never the seducer,
always the seduced.

Don Juan is an epos of Byron’s time, just as the Iliad was in Homer’s time a satire of all
human vices and feelings, the work of a man who has learnt to look upon a society with
searching eyes. Love is considerated a society game, marriage and friendship are based on
unfaithfulness, education is full of hypocrisy, fanatism and conventions, science degraded and
used for purposes of war, history is just a series of lines in service of political parties.

Byron didn’t give up some of his favourite themes mainly nature and love; in Don Juan
there are some of the best descriptions of nature he ever wrote. With him, nature lacked the
mysteries Wordsworth and Coleridge found in it and often became cruel. While in the Ancient
Mariner Coleridge catches the magic of the moon and the stars before the coming storm, Byron
dwells on the freezing atmosphere before the storm and man’s helplessness before nature. Byron
also lacked Stern’s gift of seeing love as a union of souls, guided by the powers which move the
universe, not were the women of his numerous love affairs incarnations of heavenly virtues.
When dealing with love, Byron could only describe an ideal condition which he was seeking, but
never found.

Byron is less known nowadays lyrical poems although they ranked high in an age dominated
by romantic feeling. “When We Two Parted” (1808), “She Walks In Beauty” (1814), “The
Dream” (1816), “So We’ll Go No More A Roving” (1830) are poems inspired by passion and
imagination. Byron was an innovator in the details of his composition and in the structure of his
verse. He was called ‘the Napoleon of the Empire of Rhymes.’
Percy Bysshe Shelley
(1792 - 1822)

Wordsworth wrote about Shelley that ‘he is one of the best artists of us all: I mean in
workmanship of style.’ However, besides those who greatly admired him, there are even those
who intensely disliked him because they assimilated his unconventional life with his poetry.
Shelley was a great poet and a philosopher, who became a voice of authority voice truly
appreciated only be the generations of poets following him.

Shelley’s major belletrist writing was Queen Mab; A Philosophical Poem, With
Notes(1813) which contains in 9 cantos, his collection of philosophic aesthetic, religious and
political concepts at the time . it starts with Ianthe being asleep. During her sleep, Queen Mab,
the ruler of the fairies takes her soul and a wonderful voyage begins among the stars and the
moon against the cosmic world where space and time vanish. She takes Ianthe to the place where
she can show her the past, present and future in a vision which in a n opportunity to meditate on
the futility of the mankind.

Written in the form of a fairy-tale, Queen Mab is the anguished protest by a sensitive and
idealistic youth against a corrupt age. With all its endebtness to Shakespeare, Erasmus and
Homer, it achieves a perfectly original poem which despite a few shortcomings such as a
exaggerated rhetoricism, is valuable through its deep sympathy with humanity and its
imaginative setting forth of the idea of the unity in nature, the vast and seize-less flow of being
subjected to a process of evolution and development.

The 2nd stage of Shelley’s activity meant a transition from scepticism to idealism. “Alastor or
the Spirit of Solitude”(1815) is one of his best poems. Written in blank verse it is a quest
romance, a dream allegory of the poet’s faith in the world. It is also an autobiographical poem
which begins a formulation of Shelley’s doctrine of love. The poet’s scientific studies left him
with a sense of isolation. In latter terms, the poet’s psyche are in vain because of the vision, a
voice from his own soul can never be embodied.

Shelley dialogues the ecstasy and tragedy of his own and of all romantic love. The lover
conceives of the ideal beloved and searches the world for her only to find that no real woman can
exemplify the perfection of his dream.

“Hymn to Intellectual Beauty”(1817) reveals Shelley’s understanding of beauty and indicates


a conversion to Platonic and Neo-Platonic idealism. Beauty is not in the object or the beholder,
but in the Platonic idea of beauty, a spiritual essence which momentarily touches the physical
world. If men could live eternally with the pure ideal, he would be an Immortal God. Shelley saw
as a great fact of the age a vast movement towards the reconstruction of society in which the
French revolution had been the starting point. He was impressed by the suffering of the people
and indignant at the triumph of the counterrevolution.

In “The Revolt of Islam” (1817) he tackles the subject of religion and shows himself as being
an atheist, quite a shocking notion of that time. The two protagonists: Cythna and Laon initiate a
bloodless revolution and wage the eternal was of love and truce against tyranny. Shelley’s desire
was to present the true ideal of the revolution as being a natural movement based on moral
principles inspired by justice and charity.

Shelley’s Italian period (1818 - 1822) was one of Platonic idealism. His reputation rests
chiefly upon the writings of approximate 3 years in Italy, a productive effort almost without
parallel. His interests turned wholly away from materialistic determinism to a belief in human
free will. His first work in Italy was “Julian and Maddalo: a conversation” (1819) meaning
Shelley’s conversation with Byron, a poem of the extreme simplicity of form and thought. The
conversation concerns God, freedom and destiny and while Julian is against despondency and
despair, Maddalo remains a pessimist.

“Prometheus Unbound, a Lyrical Drama in Four Acts”(1820) is another version of the ideal
hero confronting a tyrant. His figure appealed to several poets of the age. In Aeschylus’s version,
Prometheus finally surrenders to Jupiter; this was intolerable to Shelley, who felt that the moral
interest of the fable, so powerfully sustained by the sufferance of Prometheus would be
annihilated if we would conceive of his as quelling before his successful adversary. The story
had to undergo a major transformation to fit Shelley’s faith in the perfectibility of the men.
Jupiter is defeated, and Prometheus victorious. The characters in the drama include not meanly
embodiments of human forces, but also natural things: the Earth, the Ocean, who speak their own
language. Everything that exists is alive and manifests the influence of some central directing
power. Prometheus has been compared too Byron’s Titans, but there’s a great difference between
them: while Byron’s heroes rebelled against oppression and tyranny out of personal revenge,
Prometheus devoted himself to mankind and to helping people. Shelley denies the romantic ideal
of man’s natural goodness. Man, he thinks always possess the potential for evil, but by an active
assertion of love he can guide human destiny to righteousness.

The Cenci, A Tragedy, in Five Acts (1819) is a verse drama. In the Preface, the poet writes
that a manuscript was communicated to him which was copied from the archives of the Cenci
Palace in Rome and contains an account of the horror which ended in the extinction of one of the
noblest families of that city during the Pontificate od Clement the 8th in 1599. The old Count
Francesco Cenci spends his life in debauchery and murders and ruled his family with brutality
since he implacably hates all his children, especially Breatrice whom he approaches with
incestuous passion. Beatrice, after long attempts to escape, plots with her brother Jacomo and her
stepmother Lucretia to murder the common tyrant, but the deed is discovered and in spite of the
appeals to the Pope, the criminals are put to death.
Then again, the theme is heroic resistance against tyranny and Shelley seems to admit the
necessity of violence as a mean of fighting against it. Besides the fact that it is Shelley’s first
great work in which reality is treated directly this drama reveals the reactionary essence of
Catholicism and its corruption. The old count had, during his lifetime, repeatedly bought his
pardon from the Pope at the price of one hundred thousand crowns. Whoever killed him deprived
the Pope’s treasury of one of its sources of income.

Shelley’s lyrical poems fall into three groups:

1. The political poems: dealing with social injustice inciting the masses of people to resist
of fight. His ideals are cleared, his style simple and accessible.

“The Mask of Monarchy”(1819) was inspired to the poet by the workers’ struggle and the
hostility of the government which lead to the Peter Loo massacre when the cavalry
charged into some 80 000 people gathered at St. Peter’s field in Manchester to ask for a
reform of parliamentary representation. Shelley uses transparent symbols: Anarchy is the
English bourgeoisie order, Murder is the Prime Minister Castlereagh, and Hypocrisy is
the Home secretary, Lord Sidwinth.

“Peter Bell the 3rd” (1819) is an attack on Wordsworth, the reactionary politician and
“the dull poets who had once hailed the Don of the revolution, but had been forced to his
early ideal.” Shelley identifies him with Peter Bell, his own symbol of the dull man. The
action takes place in England and in Hell, the latter resembling London where the Devil
is again Castlereagh. Coleridge is also there and quite a few other political figures of the
time.

2. Shelley’s poetry of nature includes some of his best lyrics: “Ode to the West Wind”,
“The Cloud”, “To a Skylark”, “Hymn to Apollo”, “Hymn to Pen”. Nature ad been the
perpetual background for his longer poems. In them he described beauty and the
aspiration of his soul. The contemplation of nature is the source of his belief in progress
in a continual renewal of society.

“Ode to the West Wind” in 5 cantos reveals dialectal concepts of nature. Unlike the Lake
Poets, who sought an idyllic refugee in nature Shelley considered the background of
human’s struggling, the fight of mankind for liberty in which all nature participated. The
wind is the living symbol of the forces which regenerate the decadent life of nature. The
last line of the poem: “The trumpet...”have become famous and show Shelley’s trust in
the wind of liberty and renewed. This poem was considered his most symmetrically
perfect one. His other nature lyrics are written in the same spirit. The skylark announced
light and the poet wants to share its destiny so he may sing for mankind. The cloud means
change and the poet convinced of the unlimited power of life sees the glory of the
material life.

3. Love poems (not many and for the ones he wrote his wife was the muse):
“Epipsychidion” (1821) is an autobiographical poem written under the influence of
Dante’s vita nova and the biblical Song of Solomon. It was inspired by a beautiful Italian
girl, Emilia Viviani imprisoned in a monastery near Pisa by her father and stepmother.
She disillusioned Shelley by accepting her father’s choice of a husband. Shelley does not
describe a flesh and blood sentiment, but a spiritual love, the eternal principle he had
been searching all his life.

“Love and Philosophy” expresses the same idea of the unvanquished form of love in a
more concentrated form.

In 1812 Shelley also wrote an essay called A Defence of Poetry which was published
only in 1840. It was conceived as an answer to his friend Thomas Love Peacock’s article:
The Four Edges of Poetry published in 1820. In the latter, Peacock argued that poetry had
outlived its usefulness in an age of knowledge and reason. As Shelley’s age developed,
the polemic element disappeared and the essay emerged as a large theoretical statement
of the nature and value of the poetry. Shelley’s argument was written in terms of
passionate___________________ reminiscent of some of the great Renaissance critical
documents. Then is more of Plato in A defence than in any other earlier poems of
criticism, but Shelley was also familiar with the poetic theory of Wordsworth and other
contemporaries. This various traditions remained imperfectly assimilated so one can
identify two threads of thought is Shelley’s aesthetics one Platonist and mimetic and the
other psychological and expressive applied alternatively to catch on the major topics after
discussion. This combo affected a loosely articulated critical theory, but a set of
magnificent passages on the power and glory of art.

Shelley forged a language which was highly capable of expressing adequately abstract
thought and intellectual ideas. Although many of his poems remained unfinished and his early
ideas are immature, he remains in English literature as one of the greatest lyric poets to whom
later poets even those of the 20th century are deeply indebted. He finally became the great poet
he was always acknowledged would be.
John Keats
(1795 - 1821)

John Keats was an English Romantic poet. He was one of the main figures of the second
generation of Romantic poets, along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, despite his
works having been in publication for only four years before his death at age 25 in the year 1821.

Although his poems were not generally well received by critics during his lifetime, his
reputation grew after his death, and by the end of the 19th century, he had become one of the
most beloved of all English poets.

Keats was educated at a school in Enfield. In 1816, he abandoned medicine to concentrate


on poetry. His first volume of poetry was published the following year. In 1818, Keats nursed his
brother Tom through the final stages of tuberculosis. After that he met and fell in love with
Fanny Brawne.

Endymion is A Poetic Romance, Keats's first major work, was published in 1818 and it is
considered as one of the masterpieces of the early nineteenth-century Romantic movement in
English literature. The most often-quoted line, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever," tells that a
beautiful thing of nature always provides a satisfying pleasure to the soul.

Endymion is an extended narrative poem divided into four books of about one thousand
lines each. The title Endymion is named after a figure from Greek myth. The poem starts from
Endymion’s impossible desire to get the love of the goddess Diana. In the end when he feels the
love for the mortal Indian maiden, he realizes she is really Diana, his immortal desire in mortal
disguises.

He apprehends the dangers of denying his own human nature and learns that he can achieve
the abstract ideal only if he accepts the concrete human experience. This is the central idea the
Keats wants to deliver through this poem. Endymion (A thing of beauty) is usually read as a
direct and honest declaration which caters a main idea that any beautiful thing provides us with
continuous pleasure. Even if the beautiful thing fades away, decays, loss or dies, we never stop
loving them despite the adverse situation.

Ode to Autumn is an unconventional appreciation of the autumn season. It surprises the


reader with the unusual idea that autumn is a season to rejoice. Keats depicts the autumn season
and claims that its unique music and its role of completing the round of seasons make it a part of
the whole.

Although autumn will be followed by the cold and barren winter, winter itself will in turn
give way to fresh spring. Life must go on but it cannot continue in turn give way to fresh spring.
Life must go on but it cannot continue without death that completes one individual life and
begins another.

The theme of ripeness is complemented by the theme of death and that of death by rebirth.
So, in the final stanza, the personified figure of autumn of the second stanza is replaced by
concrete images of life. Autumn is a part of the year as old age is of life. Keats has accepted
autumn, and connotatively, old age as natural parts and processes them.

When I have Fears is the first sonnet of Keats, written in the Shakespearean form with its
abab, cdcd, efef, gg rhyme scheme and its division into three quatrains and a concluding
couplet.It is essential to mention that Keats was obsessed with death and his family members are
slowly disappearing. He himself felt like impending death hovering over him. Many critics agree
this poem is rather a death centered reading than a poetry centered.Though Keats fear death in
this poem, most of his poems have dealt with the theme of death, death of nature, death of love,
and death of memory.

This poem expresses two major themes: expression of fear and resolution of fear. Keats
states his fears of dying early, fears of not fulfilling himself as a writer and the fear of losing his
beloved. At the end of the poetry he resolves his fear by depicting the pettiness of love and fame.
The sonnet is superb from the point of ominous majesty and underlying current of profound
sadness. The theme is intensely personal and passionate. It reveals the poet's acute consciousness
of the nearness of death.
The Rise of the Novel
The Realistic Novel of Adventure

The English novel, one of the most accomplishments of the English Literature was
defined in the 18th century, although it had its roots in earlier times. During the 18th century the
novel went through considerable experiments largely because it was not yet and accepted literary
genre. Even our usage of the term ‘novel’ was not established until the end of the century.

Unfettered by the conventions, the 18th century novel was free to develop much to its
author’s pleased and consequently it did so. The ingredients were available: love and adventure,
romances, domestic and bourgeois tales, stories of horror. All the familiar types had already
appeared, but plots were often incoherent, backgrounds were vague and psychological
characterisation was meagre. The social conditions of the century provided the atmosphere to
achieve the qualities necessary to form a true novel, namely a unified and plausible plot
structure, individualized and believable characters and a stronger illusion of reality.

With the opening of the 18th century new ways of life and new social habits appeared.
The immediate result was a revolution in taste away from the chivalric romances which
represented the aristocratic outlook and which was vague and conservative of certain principles
of conduct and duty. These had to be replaced by a new form of art. Human society had seen
enough of the heroic. What the new middle class readers wanted were facts.

‘Realism’ became the defining characteristic which differentiates the work of the early
18 century novels from previous fiction. The novel’s realism does not reside in the kind of life
th

it presents, but in the way it presents that life. The term ‘realism’ itself is not a new one.
Philosophical realism has been critical, anti-traditional and innovating. Its method had been the
study of the particulars of experience by the individual investigator, who ideally at least is free
from the body of the past assumptions and traditional beliefs; and it has given a particular
importance to semantics, to the problem of the nature of the correspondence between words and
reality. All these features of philosophical realism have analogies to distinctive features of the
novel form, analogies which draw attention to the characteristic kind of correspondence between
life and literature which has appeared in prose and fiction since the novels of Defoe, Richardson
and their followers.

The writers were the first ones who did not take their plots from mythology, history,
legends or previous literature. In this they differed from Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton for
instance, who like the writers of Greece and Rome habitually used traditional plots because they
accepted the general premise of their times that since nature is essentially complete and
unchanging, its records, whether historical or legendary constitute of definite repertoires of
human experience. These writers broke with the accepted cannons of prose style and achieved
the immediate and closeness of the text to what was being described. Thus the novel became and
still is the form of literature which most truly reflects an individualist and innovating
reorientation, challenging literature traditionalism and setting as its primary criteria the truth to
the individual experience which is always unique and true.

The novel is thus the logical literature vehicle of a culture which in the last few centuries
has set and unprecedented value on originality, on the ‘novel’ and is therefore well named.

Daniel Defoe
(1660-1731)

Defoe was a complex personality. His busy life and versatile character present even after
three centuries of literary inquiry a number of unsolved problems. Middle class in his birth,
Presbyterian in religion D. belonged to a group of nonconformist tradesmen who after the
restoration slowly increased their wealth and began to achieve political importance.

His father’s name was Foe, he was a chandler. It is not known for what reason D. after
the age of fifteen assumed the ‘de’, sometimes as a separate particle of his name, sometimes in
compound. D. was intending to be a Dissenting Minister so he received a careful education, but
he soon gave up on learning and became a merchant who often travelled in trade’s interest on the
Continent in France, Holland, Spain. He was never successful in trade, became bankrupt and was
prosecuted for debts.

He started taking part in the political life of the period and in 168 he participated in the
rebellion against James the 2nnd. Three year later, he joined the army of William the 3rd who
came from Holland to ascent to English throne. An ardent Whig at first D. was helped several
times while in different circumstance by the week politician William Harley, who recognised in
him, as he was to in Swift, a useful ally. For 11 years D. served his benefactor secretly as a
political spy and confidential agent. In 1710, when Harley became a Tory, D. followed him but
after the fall of the Tories he went back to the Whig Party and served it loyally.
D.’s activity as a pamphleteer, editor and journalist became with the last years of the 17th
century. In 1697 he published ‘Essay upon Projects’ in which he defends the idea of reforms in
various fields of social life, a surprising work, both practical and fantastic, going into minute
detail, suggesting schemes, some of which were 200 years old ahead of their time. Here are some
of his proposals:

-construction of better roads

-the necessity of a Commercial Court

-the setting up of an asylum for mentally defected people

The most significant suggestion regarding the social changes is that of an Academy for women.

In D.’s youth the educated middle class woman was a wonder. He argued view. The
unbounded face in education is characteristic of D.’s age and especially of the new class, the
bourgeoisie and in speaking as he did D. expressed the determination of the new class to
cultivate itself.

In 1698 D. wrote another pamphlet ‘A Poor Man’s Plea’ in which he attacked the
injustice and immorality of the laws which made distinction between the rich and the poor. D.
asked what the good of all the talk about reformation was if it merely meant that the poor were
preached about virtue by degenerate masters.

In 1701 D. published a satire ‘The True Born English Man’ which enjoyed great success.
It was a defence of William the 3rd against those who thought that it was intolerable for him to
govern “true born English men.” D. was supporting the parliamentary compromise and the
Oranian foreign monarchy. The pamphlet was written in verse and it gained the King’s
sympathy. With the arrival of Queen Anne at the throne in 1702 a prosecution was established
against the Dissenters. In the same year, D. wrote ‘The Shortest Way with the Dissenters’ in
which he ironically recommended the Dissenters preachers be hanged and their congregation be
banished. Unfortunately for him, both the Anglican Church and clergy which he had caricatured,
and the Dissenting masses, who didn’t understand him, turned against him.

He was in prison at Newgate and condemned to remain there at the Queen’s pleasure.
Further he was sentenced to stay three times at the pillory. D. begged frantically to be let off and
used all the means in his power to escape the more degrading part of his punishment. On finding
his pleas useless, with magnificent courage, he wrote against his persecutors his famous ‘Hymn
to the Pillory’ in which he defended himself and in sharply satirical attacks upon practical figures
declared that it was they who should stand in his place. Whether in appreciation of this bravery
or for political sympathy the mob turned his humiliation into a triumph. When he was pilloried,
instead of being booed and pelted he was hailed as a hero. Nevertheless, the episode was
disastrous for not only did it mean the ruin of his business, but also he would forever be
despised. His sense of isolation was exacerbated.

On reading the autobiographical 3rd part of Robinson Crusoe we came to conclude that he
came to be possessed by persecution mania, filled with an abiding sense that he was never given
a chance – a man who has experienced the ‘universal contempt of mankind’ and was destroyed
by ‘calumny and reproach’. This affair was also, where literature is concerned, the turning point
in his career for after five months in prison he undertook the greatest work of his life, a
publication which began in 1704 an ‘weekly review of the affairs of France and of All Europe’
and which ended simply as ‘Review’ in June 1713. It appeared twice a week, written by D.
himself who expressed in it his opinions on all current political topics, much valuable
information on England and foreign affairs of the period, such as the church, the union of
England and Scotland, the movement of the Jacobites, British commerce, morals and manners.
From a political point of view the review was an organ of political moderation a model of
straightforward journalistic prose, a prototype of the later great periodicals. The article helped D.
a lot in the crystallization of his style. He was almost 60 when he began writing the series of his
great novels, which made him famous in English literature.

In 1719 he published the 1st volume of his best-known novel Robinson Crusoe, the
further adventures of his hero following a few months later on. It was followed by Life and
Adventure of Mister Duncan Campbell, Captain Singleton, Serious Reflections during the Life
and Surprising Adventures of R.C.; with his Vision on the Angelic World and Memoirs of a
Cavalier in 1720; Moll Flanders, Colonel Jack and a Journal of the Plague Year in 1722;
Roxana; the Fortunate Mistress and A New Voyage ‘Round the World by a Course Never Sailed
Before in 1724. His A Tour Thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain, Divided into Circuits and
Journeys is a delightful guidebook which appeared in 3 volumes between 1724 and 1727. During
the last years of his life his main works were The Complete English Tradesman and The
Complete English Gentleman. In addition to these, D. published quite a few others, a total of
250 works.

His reputation as a writer went into a partial eclipse which lasted until the close of the
century. As time passed on it came to be more and more admitted as a writer and important man
of his age, he was only second to Swift. Some incline to regard him today as the most wonderful
man of his time, seeing in him a master journalist, influential politician and economist of
advanced views, an unequalled novelist of adventures and a man with a fascinating personality.

The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who
lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near
the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein
all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver'd by
Pyrates.(1719)
In spite of his numerous novels, for centuries and many generations of readers, D. was
the R.C. alone. The story of this novel is founded on a real event: Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish
mariner accompanied Capt. Dampier in a long voyage in 1704. Through a quarrel with the Capt.
he was marooned on the Island of Huen Fernandes where he was found after 4 years and 4
months in 1709 by Capt. Woods Rogers who then told the story in his book Cruising Voyage
‘Round the World (1712). The same year a similar book was published by Capt. James Cook and
Richard Steel also describing Selkirk’s adventures in an essay published in The Englishman in
1713. Defoe used all these materials as a starting point for a work that was in all particulars his
own invention.

D. never admitted he wrote fiction, showing in the Premise that he believed the things
described as just a history of facts ‘neither is there’ ‘ay appearance of fiction in it.’ This was not
entirely true for the story and characters of D.’s novel were largely his own creation. Despite
this, in the incidents in Crusoe’s life were more reality than in any of the travel books he had
written.

R.C.’s story is true to life in most of its aspects and details. 1st of all, it presents the
outlook of a definite character, in a definite historical period. 2nd the activities of R.C. on the
island and the way in which he builds, shelters, tames animals, works the soil, hunts, makes pots,
etc. are in confirming to the truth of what people do in real life. All these details give the book
perfect similitude and aliveness. D. put in his hero much of himself and particularly of his
outlook and he admitted later that the book contained autobiographical elements.

The author also invested his hero with the most striking features of his own class; as such
C. was in the first place a man of property and an individualist. He was filled with joy at the sight
of a deserted island of which he was the only master. His sense of property is also obvious in the
fact that he dealt with man as with any other merchandise. He sold the slave boy Xury to the
Portuguese Capt. without any regret or remorse, although the Moorish boy saved his life. When
R.C. settled down as a planted in Jamaica and Brazil, he joined with other planters in a scheme
of slave trade. He considered himself an owner of Friday, the savage whose life he had saved and
also the ruler of the sailors on the English ship.

Another distinctive feature of R.C. is his sense of profitableness of things and situations.
The lion he killed with Xury was of no use for them at that moment, but he thought: ‘perhaps the
skin of it might be of some value’ therefore he made of his mind to kick it off. The same feature
is also evident from his attitude towards money. It was the last thing he needed on the isolated
island and at first he wanted to throw it, but then he wrapped it in paper for its value.

Like a true born English tradesman, C. kept a detailed account of his profit and loss, but
he was not merely a bourgeoisie. He represented the middle class in the early stages of
development when they were full of energy, enterprise and optimism arising from the confidence
in their futures and themselves. It is this quality in R.C. which is not exclusively bourgeois that
makes him such a remarkable character. The most important characteristics are his practical
sense and ingenuity.

During his long stay on the island, he had to solve a lot of problems and to overcome all
sorts of difficulties. Necessity helped and taught him to make pots, to cloth himself, to profit by
the seasons and so on. Many things he discovered by the observation of the world and
phenomena around himself. There were many critics and economists of the 18th century who saw
in R.C. a symbol of ‘man of nature’ who reconstitutes on his island all the basic productive
processes. There were others who saw in him the ‘empire builder’ leaving a crowded homeland
for a wide, open place establishing a little city in a tropical forest. D. it is certain didn’t write all
this, but we must admit surely of the prophetic nature of his tale.

Writing for the puritan middle class, D. felt the obligation to import a moralizing
tendency to his novel. Moral was to result from the moral and religious reflections of the hero
and from the progress of his conduct, but as D. was not a thinker, his reflections were naïve
contemplations as far as God was concerned. Although R.C. invokes Him, the reader realises that
at the bottom of his heart, he is more confident in his own abilities, than in God’s help.

Encouraged by the great success of the 1st edition, D. elaborated a second part which was
issued the same year 1919. The Further Adventures of R.C. being a description of his travels
through Russia, Africa and Siberia and speaking about the numerous obstacles he had to face. A
3rd part The Serious Reflections was later added in 1920.

R.C. has become so much part of the English literature that it is accepted as a myth beside
other great myths such as Dr. Faust, Don Juan and Don Quixote. R.C. is the myth of a man
struggling against circumstance and coming out victorious from the confrontation. He lives in the
reader’s imagination mainly as a triumph of human achievement and enterprise.

D.’s novels after R.C. are considered of minor importance however some of them are if
not better, at least equal to it. In 1720 The Life Adventures and Pyraces of the Famous Captain
Singleton was printed, a work which just like Colonel Jack and Roxana is a picaresque novel in
which the subject is the succession of adventure. What is again striking is the realism of the
description and the impression of authenticity which the novel conveys. So real is every detail in
his narrative that one would firmly believe that D. was putting on paper the verbal narrative of
some adventures experienced by him. Besides Capt. Singleton, William the Quaker Pyrate is a
masterpiece of shroud humour. Many pages are vivid commentary on the life in D.’s time. As
compared with the books of Renaissance, Capt. Singleton marks a step forward both in structure
and the realistic portrayal of the characters. As the action is mostly led at sea, the novel can be
regarded as the first novel of maritime adventure in English literature.

M. Flanders is another novel whose popularity is showed by the fact that it was followed
by a second and third additions connected. The whole title is The Fortunes and Misfortunes of
the Famous Moll Flanders. Efforts to trace the origins of the book were made, but they remained
unsuccessful and in the absence of proof, we must regard its identity is a product of the author’s
imagination although the idea of the story was probably taken from the life of a real woman. The
book is a remarkable example of true realism. M. Flanders has often been described as a
picaresque novel but it holds a superficial resemblance to the old picaresque stories of the time of
Gil Glas. The interest of a picaresque novel lies in the adventures and events described and the
main character is a rather schematic figure On the contrary, in D.’s novel the readers interest is
fixed upon the main character that is subtly delineated. In psychological analysis and the detailed
description of M.F.’s behaviour and gestures mark a progress in comparison with the early novel
of the picaresque type in which the succession of events and adventures did not lead to the
delineation of the characters.

M.F., like other thieves, pirates and pickpockets is the victim of some hard circumstances
and of a hostile society. All these men and women became rascals because the society neglected
them. M.F. is the daughter of a thief and was born in the prison of Newgate. She is deserted in
infancy and corrupted in her youth. It is true that most of her intrigue and bad actions are brought
upon by the desire for money, but they are a necessity as well to keep off starvation. D. doesn’t
blame M.F. on the contrary he holds society responsible for her decay. The reader realises that
the idea which D. emphasises here is the thief’s cause of moral degradation and criminality
among the poor is not the wickedness of man’s nature, but their class condition in the
Bourgeoisie society. D. skilfully handles the details when depicting M.F.’s career as a thief, her
life and her relation to society, rendering the story true to life. His own experiences at Newgate
helped him to depict many of the realistic scenes in his novel. In the Preface the author shows the
moralising purpose of the story: ‘all the exploits of this body of fame and her degradations upon
mankind…. As warnings to the honest people to beware of them, intimating to them by what
methods innocent people are drawn in, plundered and robbed and by consequence how to avoid
them’ also in the Preface, the author meets at length the charge that the story was of a corrupt
nature.

In support of his statement that he was justified in recommending the book, D. brings the
argument that every wicked actions in the book was rendered unhappy and unfortunate, every
villain was brought to an unhappy end , every ill thing mentioned was condemned, every
virtuous thing carried its race. All the heroine’s exploits were warnings to honest people and her
ultimate reform was a story full of instruction to the unfortunate classes who would see that
nobody could have fallen so low as to be without hope of relief by unwearied industriousness.
But the moral in D.’s book does not totally agree with the plot since forgetting that in the Preface
he stated that every wicked action is rendered unhappy, D. leaves M.F. to enjoy the fruit of her
deeds: her ill-gotten games instead of being given up on her financial prosperity,
unconsciousness may be settled later on.

The inconsistence of the moral doesn’t diminish the value of the book. D. was so much
taken with the facts he related that his story went much deeper than the moral he proposed to
convey by it. Many critics considered M.F. D’s best novel. It is richer in feelings than R.C., it
contains some of D’s best written episodes and its heroine is successfully portrayed. The theme
concerns the individual struggles against society and it’s rendered in a fashion that mixes humour
and drama. M.F. was written with a more conscious literary craftsmanship than R.C. and its
orientation forward the social and emotional world brings it much closer to the modern novel.

A Journal of the Plague Year (1722)

In writing the about the great Plague of London (1665-1666) D showed his usual skill in writing
upon a subject of general interest and using it for his own purpose. He had already written on this
new topic in a newspaper and in another narration of the plague. This works are all that can be
said to have survived of the many which were written at the time. In fact the popular knowledge
of the plague is made by D. The realism of D.’s book made Dr. Mead, the eminent physician at
that time to say about the book that it’s an authority on the subject. As usual, D. places the story
in the mouth of a middle class citizen who described in his own fashion what he saw and heard
around him and the apparent simplicity only adds to the awe-inspiring catastrophe. The pious
reflections are suited to the saddler and characteristic to D. who never forgot whatever other aim
he had in him to endeavour at the improvement of the reader.

Besides the didactic purpose, D. wished to warn people of the dangers of the plague and
induce them every possible precaution. The subject of the novel can be compared to that of R.C.
Here was not a single man, but a whole city visited by calamity, but the problem was similar:
how the man who come out of the problem, how they would behave to one another. D. creates
undying pictures, vivid descriptions of the state of the streets when ‘the pestilence spread from
parish to parish, the shut out houses, the dead cart, the plague stricken lunatics for purposes of
art. D. presents the situation of the plague as being more sudden and complete there in reality
and the great joy of people….. D. with an admirable closing scene. With these exceptions, there
is no reason to doubt that D.’s narration conveys a general, accurate impression of the pestilence.

General characteristics of D.’s novel

D. passed all his novels under the form of autobiographical relations with the
hero/heroine telling the stories of its life, treating tales of adventure, life, robbery as if they were
genuine documents of human experience. The object of this pretence was to enhance the
truthfulness and credibility of the novel..

D. never admitted that he wrote fiction, pretending that he simply edited memoirs written
by the heroes themselves. D. elaborated a literary technique which may be called that of
circumstantial evidence consisting in a mastery use of a mass of significant details. D. doesn’t
merely say that R.C. built a shelter or tamed goats, but he minutely relates each step taken by the
hero. The autobiographical form of his novel accounts for their structural peculiarities by
pretending that they had been written by the heroes themselves. The writer was obliged to follow
a conical succession of events and only record such incidents which the heroes were personally
involved in. Any departure from the principle was felt as a violation of the unity of the narration.
This compulsory linear structure of the story excludes therefore any amplification through
parallel narratives. D.’s novels have no plot because the adventures, the incidents and scenes lack
the organization following from a careful elaborated design. The only link between the incidents
it’s the pretence of the hero throughout the story. All D.’s characters belong to the middle or
lower class and all the adventures are typical of their times.

They are all active, ingenious, practical minded, which enables them to overcome all
difficulties that confront them in their eventful lives. They are all men and women who fashion
their own destinies and who are able to rise above nature and difficulties. They take their lives in
their own hands in spite of an apparently adverse fate and win the victory through their own
struggle and ability. To a large extent they are a projection of the author’s own self, but at the
same time many of them are felons or criminals. Capt. Singleton is a pirate, M.F. a thief and
harlot, Roxana a kept woman. Why did D. chose such heroes, his own life gives us an
explanation: the fallen human beings that he had lived among in the Newgate Prison interested
him and set him thinking. The central hero occupies the whole place in D.’s books. If in R.C. this
was for an obvious reason, in the other novels it is a manifest shortcoming as most second
characters remain sufficiently developed and individualized. Unable to treat the emotional life of
his heroes imaginatively and to examine the depths of human soul, D. only delineated them
minutely regarding their gestures and the most superficial aspects of their actions.

It has been said that D. had no style. After the allegorical style of his predecessors, after
the polished style of Addison and Steele, the simplicity of D.’s prose is not lack of style, but the
adaptation of the prose style to the prosaic act which it has to relate to. D.’s language is the
language of the people of the London streets which penetrates into literature with him. His
language is simple and straightforward but also vigorous, owing to the high number of words of
Anglo-Saxon origins. His sentences are often very long, but he somehow makes this part of his
air of authenticity. The lack of long pauses within the sentences gives his style an urgent
immediate breathless quality. When D. began to write fiction, he took little notice of the
dominant literary theory of the day. He allowed his narrative order to flow spontaneously from
his own sense of what his protagonists might plausibly do next, in so doing he initiated an
important new tendency in fiction: his total subordination f the plot to the pattern of
autobiographical memoirs was a define exertion of the primacy of the individual experience in
the novel.

D.’s life contradictory and agitate was in keeping with the turbulent epoch in which new
age was coming into being. D. was the representative of that tendency of the enlightenment
which accepted in the essence the existing social order. He praised the energy and the spirit of
initiative of the rising Bourgeoisie but he was above the limits of the Bourgeoisie ideology. As
for his contribution to and his place in the English literature, we must say that great as it was, the
revolution which he carried out in English prose fiction by establishing it on the solid foundation
of realism because of their still rudimentary structure and psychology can only be regarded as a
first step in the modern novel.

Period of the Enlightenment

-Sentimentalism-

The sentimental movement was born in the full swing of the Enlightenment; that is in the
middle of the 18th century. Towards the end of the century, it became predominant, announcing
the pre-romanticism. In its essence, sentimentalism expresses an attitude of dissatisfaction with
regard to the philosophy and literary dogmas of the Enlightenment. This 3d stage of 18th century
of English literature coincides with a period of great events and changes in the social life of
England; the main ones being the completion of the presence expropriation and the Industrial
Revolution. There was no more place for enlightened illusion, according to with the bourgeois
order that reason could secure general prosperity. The capitalist’s contradictions manifested
stronger. The first reactions against the contradictions of the bourgeois progress appeared in the
social thought and literature. The face in the possibilities of reason as a universal instrument of
investigation was highly shaken and writers of the new generation laid the stress on the effective
side of human life, hence the name of the new literary trend. In their works, the writers do not
appear to readers, but to sensitivity and period witnesses, revival on the interest for nature which
has almost disappeared in the first half of the 18th century. The main representatives of the
sentimentalist novel are: Oliver Goldsmith and Laurence Sterne.
Laurence Sterne
(1713-1768)

Laurence Sterne has been a problem of dispute among the literary critics for 3 centuries.
His life and work have been described sympathetically and unsympathetically by various authors
and critics. If Sterne presents more than an ordinary problem to critics and biographers, the
reason is inherent in the nature both of the man and his work. Like many other personalities, he
created for himself a role that did not only obscure the facts of life and time, but also stimulated
the extensions of fictions by enlarging its sphere. Sterne exceeded the limits of the 18th century
literary conception in his masterpiece. Tristram Shandy and century had to pass before a genuine
approach could be made to his whimsical work and to the relationship between work and author.
It was only in the 20th century that Sterne was more deeply studied interests towards his work
being aroused by the emergence of the stream of consciousness fiction which has its germs in his
practice of the novel.

Stern’s whole life is a pattern of contradictions. Second child of Robert Stern and ensign
in the King’s army, Sterne was born in November 1713, a few days after the arrival of this father
from Dunkirk regiment. Their family life was distressing for 10 years. The boy and his mother
moved from barrack town to barrack town mostly in island. When 7 years old, Sterne learned to
read and write and was sent to school in Yorkshire at Halifax where he was initiated in classic
languages, literature and philosophy which had as consequence the development of his taste for
reading and cultivating, but his genuine instruction began while at Cambridge where as a
resident student, he got acquainted with the work of the great masters of old times. Among them
were three great humorists: Lucian D, Rabelais, and Cervantes who influenced Sterne a lot.
Borrowing from them, helped him develop his own style, called sternian. While at Cambridge,
he also made friend with John Hale-Steven who great influenced both his life and culture. He
was a witty man, lasting for life, the owner of Skelton Hall, a castle called “Crazy Castle” which
was endowed with a huge library here Sterne could read a lot. He spent a lot of time there in the
company of his friends and together they founded the “Club of Demoniacs”, soon to be known
for their gatherings, for idle talks, drinking parties and episodes of debauchery.

Thus, Sterne’s eccentricity supplemented his singularity and his hedonist nature both in
mode of life and strange inclinations. After taken his BA, MA in 1737, Sterne became Vicar of
Sutton, a few miles north of York and a few years later he became prebendary of York minster
where his great-grandfather had been Archbishop. York at that time had its own company of
players and there were regular performances at the Playhouse. In 1741 he married Elizabeth
Lumley and five years later they had a daughter, but their marriage was not a happy one and
Sterne spent a lot of time alone, while his wife and daughter were in France. In spite of his odd
behaviour and his hedonist nature, in spite of his caprices of feeling, he was a man of exception
sensitivity and he found loneliness intolerable. All these are to be found in letters, in one of
which was found the first recorded use by an English writer of a word on which Sterne based a
large part of his celebrity and which was to find its way to the vocabulary in every modern
language – sentimental. This word ravaged the later half of 18th century and furthermore defined
a period in the history of English literature. It also defines Stern’s character, although as a man,
his singularity arose disapproval among common people and clergyman as an artist among
literary critics.

Sterne was already ill with consumption (tuberculosis) when in 1760 at the age of 46 he
started writing the first two volumes of his masterpiece Tristram Shandy which partly due to
public success, he continued with seven more volumes until his death. Before that, his only
works have been two volumes of sermons, published during his lifetime, a few political essays
and a satirical allegory of the local church and it dignitaries, called A political romance(1793). In
1762 when his health declined, he started a series of travels in the south of France and Italy. The
literary result of these two works were two volumes of highly emotional and subjective essays,
called A sentimental journey who’s narrator is one of the minor characters in Tristram Shandy.
Sterne superintended the publication of the volume in London, in December 1767. In March, the
next year, only a few weeks after the publication of his essays, he died in London.

When The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy began to appear, there was real danger
that the English novel would remain a reproduction, often photography of contemporary life.
Sterne shows himself against the traditional elders. The novel was to be considered a “smooth
tale mostly of love”. What the reader finds instead are the opinions, the caprices of the main
character and above all are the author himself, rendered in unorthodox punctuation and
accompanied by nonverbal devices, such as drawings. For Sterne, it is a channel for the
outpouring of the author’s persona. His purpose is to give free utterance to his own way of
looking at life. The theme of the novel is worked out with the slightest concern for order, unity,
and logic.

In spite of the title, the book gives very little of the life and nothing of the opinions of the
nominal hero. Instead, there is a group of humorous characters, such as Walter (Tristram’s
father), uncle Toby and his servant (Caporal Trim) as well as a few minor characters, such as Dr.
Slop, the maid Susannah and the pastor Yorick, all of whom are prevented from being
caricatures by a warm, human character. The book presents few incidents; the story consists of
long digressions in which a hundred topics are mixed together. Strange and odd is not only the
structure of the novel, but also its form: incomplete sentences, enigmatic paragraph, white and
blank pages added to the confusion of the book.

Two important devices are used and these make the book so singular and interesting: the
association of ideas and the digression. The first impression of the reader is that the novel is
chaos. The action is constantly disrupted, the basic story undergoes constant interruptions. Sterne
is influenced by John Locke’s philosophy. Locke in Human understanding speaks about ideas
that are connected “wholly owing to chance or custom”. He says “ideas in themselves are not all
of a keen, come to be so united in some men’s minds that it is very hard to separate them; they
always keep in company and the one no sooner at any time comes into the understanding, but its
associate appears with it. And if they are more than two, which they are thus united, the whole
gang, always inseparable, show themselves together.” Such unnatural association, extravagant
and odd ideas, reign the mind of Walter and Toby Shandy, but while Locke’s influence is
obvious, Sterne having Tristram as his spokesman, explain his own youths of the lockean
association; it is meant as a psychological device to explain character, a chief humour and irony.
The latter converge to a single point, namely criticising the irresolute man, who indulges in
useless action, prompted by a stream of chaotic feelings and emotions or the passing away of
life. This makes Stern a precursor of the stream of consciousness.

Digression in Tristram Shandy is a natural consequence of a specific relationship


between the author and the environment. Tristram Shandy, the author laments that external
impressions crowd in his life and soul from different parts of the time and he declares that he
can’t help recording them. He struggles to express his thoughts in a logical order, but his
conscious powers yield to the inner flows, letting them come out in digressions. This method of
the digression is used all through the book. Words, events and news occur in the course of the
narration or an unexpected idea that occurs suddenly in the narrator’s mind, prompts him to stop
the progress of the story and to turn its attention to the digressive ideas related to it. Therefore,
the digressions have no orderly arrangement and they are so many that they constitute the whole
body. The impression of the reader is that the work is an intricate maze in which the basic story
practically doesn’t exist. There are but several disconnected references concerning Tristram
Shandy who finally gets to be born in volume three, but account never goes beyond the 3d year
of his life. All the rests consists of Tristram’s short or lengthy digression concerning such odd
topics as the effect of a name or one’s nose upon human personality, sexual practices and insults,
warfare, fortifications, religion and philosophy.

The book seems to start in a tone of autobiography. After one page the narration slips into
digression and in the 4th book it reaches the first day of Tristram’s life. The atmosphere
converges imminently towards intricacy. Neither the novel nor its plot can be seen in the modern
sense of Joyce Woolf or Proust who’s discontinuous disposal events is meant to reveal or to
suggest the essence of human psychological life whereas Sterne doesn’t. He is most of all
humorous and the devices employed are exaggeration to such an extent that they bring laughter.
The author mocks with the reader no at him.

The device of the digression has several functions in Sterne’s novel: it allows the narrator
to tackle any kind of subjects whenever or whatever he wants; it allows the drawing of
characters, but also defines Stern’s technique: by digression he attempts to explain the
paradoxical union between chaos and order both in nature and life. He suggest that
heterogeneous phenomena, incidents and events meet unexpectedly and their file before a
conscious eyes draws the mind into discontinuous activity which one should face.
Stern’s literary contribution mainly relies on this one book with many fold merits; one of the
greatest being among the first novels in the history of the world’s literature that conveys
philosophical ideas by its structure and technique. Contrary to Samuel Johnson’s prediction of
the faith of the book- “nothing odd will last”- Stern’s influence can be seen beyond the stream of
consciousness period and later formal experimentation even today through contemporary writers
Salmon Rushdie who’s Midnight children contains explicit allusions to Stern both in point of
subject and technique even in tackling some of his subjects.

In Stern’s own time, critics found it difficult to separate his opinions and behaviour from
that of his character Tristram Shandy. While the public enjoyed the humour and the light-
heartedness of his novels, critical opinions were less favourable mostly due to Stern’s
eccentricities and reputation. Stern’s outpouring of his intimate inner feelings mainly in his letter
and in A sentimental journey caused critics to doubt his sincerity.

Ambiguity was increased by his ironic view on sentimental matters and his humorous
talking of the subject, less appreciated by the 18th century critics than by modern critics, who saw
in Stern’s way of writing an end in itself, just as they see his temperament and his concern close
to those of the man of the 20th century.

The Familiar and Social Novel of Manners

Henry Fielding
(1707-1754)

With Fielding, the E. novel marks one of the most important steps into its evolution, the
characteristics of the novel had already been unshadowed in The Spectator. As Defoe gave E. lit.
the first realistic novel of adventure, Jonathan Swift made the first attempt at social criticism in
the novel and Richardson was the first to introduce psychological analysis of the character and a
description of human being, Fielding gave a description of contemporary manners as well as a
picture of the 18th century England. Thus, his work became the social conscience of the age.

A gentleman by birth, H.F. was born in Somerset, April 22nd 1707, as the first child of
seven. After spending a few years with a private tutor, he went to Ethan College where he
learned to love Ancient Greek and roman literature. He started his literary career in London in
1728 with a play entitled Love in Several Masques, which ran at Drury Lane for 4 nights only.
The same year he went to Holland to study law, but he had to return to England for lack of
money. For the next 8 years F. plunged into play writing and produced a lot of comedies, all of
them satirical and enjoying a wide success, due to his style, which was lighter than that of the
traditional plays in 5 acts. Some of his plays are: The Author’s Farce And The Pleasured Of The
Town (1730), The Welsh Opera (1731) and The Life and Death of Ton Thumb the Great (1731).
The latter contains an attack against the government and Sir Robert Walpole, exposing
corruption. Since this kind of satire continued in other plays, Pasquin(1736), a dramatic satire of
the times and The Historical Register for the Year 1736 (1737), Walpole decided to bring in a
bill for putting an end to all offensive plays and political satires.

The licensing act passed in 1737 closed down 3 houses/ theatres among them The Little
Theatre in Haymarket where Fielding was managing partner and which was known as “The
Fielding’s scandal shop.” The effects of the Act were far reaching. It led to H.F.’s retirement as a
dramatist, only to redeploy his pen and become a major satirical novelist. But it also led to a
greater reliance on older texts which helped to conserve Shakespeare and his contemporaries
within the theatre.

H.H. resumed his career in law and became a barrister in 1740. He collected a
considerable library of legal books and with some friends he started a newspaper, The
Champion, which contains some of his most energetic criticism against the Walpole government,
but also passages where he rewarded virtue, honour and patriotism.

In 1741, his first novel was published, An Apology for the Life of Mrs Shamela
Andrews, under the penname of Mr Conny Keyber. The next year seize the appearance of The
History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and his Friend, Mr Abraham Adams, which
enjoyed such a huge success that F. kept writing and in 1743 published 3 volumes of
miscellaneous, the 3rd volume continuing his novel The Life and Death of Jonathan Wild, the
Great, an ironic treatment of Jonathan Wild, the most notorious underworld figure of the time.

In 1748 he was appointed Justice of the Peace for Westminster. F. took his job ver
seriously and though it was badly paid and he had never been at ease financially, he started a
titanic fight for the abolition of crime, the improvement of public morals, the introduction of
measure that would reduce the number of murders and crimes, restrict liquor traffic and make
provisions for the poor. The founding of London’s first professional police force, The Bow Street
Runners, is also accredited to him. To this period belonged: An Inquiry into the Causes of the
Late Increase of Robbers (1751) and A Proposal for Making an Effected Provision for the Poor
(1753). In the meantime, in 1749, F. produced his masterpiece, Tom Jones, which became
instantly successful and is his most wildly read book nowadays.

Two years later this was followed by another novel Amelia. Unfortunately F.’s health had
been declining since he was 35 and in 1754 when the situation became serious, he tried to restore
it by traveling. The change of climate didn’t help him and on October 8th 1754 he died and was
buried in the E. cemetery of Lisbon. The diary he kept during his journey was printed after his
death bearing the title Journey of a Voyage to Lisbon.

In 1740, Samuel Richardson published his epistolary novel, Pamela or Virtue Rewarded.
It’s a story of a poor servant girl whose master tries to seduce her and whose virtue is finally
rewarded by an honest marriage. The book became very popular with a category of readers and
was mocked at by others for its sentimentalism and unmanly strength upon the moral sight. F.
reacted to it by writing a 60 page booklet: An Apology for the Life of Mrs Shamela Andrews
imitating Richardson’s style and satirizing the novel and its pretence of moralizing. F. felt that
Pamela was rather prudent than virtuous, knowing that a good marriage was the only career for a
woman. Thus, a virtue is only a commodity, a disguise for her decision to secure Mr B as a
husband. A year later this parody was extended into a novel Joseph Andrews (1742), the first
chapters of which are again a close imitation of Richardson’s Pamela. Joseph is in the service of
the newly widowed Lady Booby, Mr B’s aunt and is subjected to the same assaults upon his
virtue that Pamela had to put up with. Joseph is faithful to his childhood love, Fanny Goodwill,
and finally he is ‘rewarded’ by being dismissed. With Joseph and his mentor Abraham Adams
peregrination on their way to London, the novel moves into the highroads of England presenting
the conflict between people of various conditions and professions. In loosely arranged episodes
combined with philosophical digressions, all specific to the picaresque novel.

The journey of initiation will allow Joseph to grow from a completely boring and inactive
character into a more mature and wiser man. The plot becomes a burlesque of romance with
extraordinary coincidences, startling declaration of identity, babies stolen and switched at birth,
foundlings restored to their heritage and virtue rewarded in the final chapters. Most of the
characters in J.A. are episodic. One exception is Parson Adams, the first memorable male figure
in the E. novel, whose exploits in the 2nd half of the story turn Joseph and Fanny’s love story into
the background. P.A. is constantly contradictory, “there is always a disparity between what he
believes the world to be (full of people as altruistic as himself) and what it is really like (full of
selfish opportunists)”. Adam is a quixotic figure comic in appearance, childish in his innocence,
absent minded and ignorant of the ways of the world, but with a good part, friendly and
generous, knowledgeable in the classical and modern languages. Though permanently the target
of practical jokes played on him, the Parson remains an example of Virtue and inner dignity. He
opens the gallery of kind hearted eccentrics, which will be continued by Goldsmith and Dickens.
In this novel, F. brings together 2 aesthetic lines of 18th century lit.: the mock heroic and the
neoclassical aristocratic approach. Already in the author’s Preface, Fielding lets the reading
public know of his intention to create a new formula for the novel, which he called ‘a comic epic
poem in prose’. The action becomes more extended and comprehensive, but at the same time,
light and ridiculous. Such a novel contains ‘a great variety of characters’ introducing ‘persons of
inferior rank and consequently of inferior manners’. The ludicrous replaces the sublime and the
burlesque in ‘something admitted’. Thus F.’s achievement in J.A. is unprecedented in originality.
The novel is an authentic document which depicts in great detail scenes of life, morals
and manners of the E society in the 18th century with the purpose of the entertaining and
educating the readers. Hypocrisy, vanity, false virtue, vice and corruption are criticised through
feeling. Goodness of heart is appreciated and these may lay the basis of a new class division. F’s
moral vision thus proves to be wide and practical.

The History of the Life of the Late Mr Jonathan Wild, the Great (1743) functions as a sort
of link between F’s plays to which it belongs in point of satirical vigilance and his novels, to
which it resemblance in form. The novel is an ironic biography of J.W., the most famous
criminal in England in the 18th century, who succeeded in manipulating public opinion to such
extent that he became the most beloved public figure, the leading policeman of London, while at
the same time running a gang of thieves. In 1725 he was hanged and his name became associated
with hypocrisy and corruption. The time of assumed admiration and false applause is the thin
veil behind which F. hid his long nurtured grudge and his renewed merciless attack on Walpole
and the Whigs. J.W. ‘the great man’ uses the same immoral principles: bribery and corruption as
Walpole when establishing his party and they both ruled ‘by complete ascendency over their
subjects’. The vicious system of administration of bribery weather involving money, places or
titles is attacked in this political satire.

Irony is the most important mean by which the satirical intention of the author is
achieved. Weather in individual scenes or whole chapters, the book is pervaded by biting irony,
mostly turning around the words ‘great’ and ‘greatness’. It is F’s strongest attack, but also most
lucid statement and penetrating analysis of social injustice in the Bourgeoisie society.

F. worked 3 years on his masterpiece: The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling which
appeared in 1749. The novel following the general picaresque scheme is F’s work of maturity, a
coherent complex structure with incidents, characters as well as authorial intrusions securing the
artistic unity of the whole. The book presenting the individual destinies of a few main characters
and a host of minor ones unfolds in 18 chapters divided into 3 equal parts, 6 chapters each.

The first part unfolding in the countryside tells the early years of T.J., a foundling
brought up in Squire Allworthy’s house where he lives together with his sister Miss Bridget and
her legitimate son, Blifil. Both boys compete for the favours of the same young lady, Sophia
Western, although for different reasons: the hot headed but good hearted Tom is in love with her,
while Blifil, calculating and hypocrite considers her a good marriage. Sophia prefers Tom and
Blifil plots against him until discredited, he leaves the house.

The next six chapter pretend the journey to London in a colourful way and using the same
picaresque means that F. has already used in J.A.. Tom and his comrade, Partridge, meet all sorts
of travellers and pass through a lot of adventures including Tom’s love affairs before they reach
London. The last 6 chapters show life in London where Sophia, aware of Tom’s sentimental
variations hides at her cousin’s Lady Bellastone. The novel seems to reach a dead end when
Lady B. herself falls in love with Tom, while he lands in prison accused of murder. This
is the moment the omniscient author chooses to throw off the main character’s mask. Tom is
saved by the discovery that he is Miss Bridget’s son and Squire Allworthy’s nephew and
therefore of genteel birth. He is now allowed to marry Sophia without disturbing class fixity.

Although Fielding’s palette of characters is extremely large and colourful, he himself


belonged to the gentry and therefore the question of birth is a determining factor of the conflict
which has to be solved without subverting to existing social order.

All along the story, the author succeeded in maintaining the readers’ curiosity and
mystery while preparing him or her to T.J.’s final happiness and wellbeing. The way he handled
his plot is telling of his literary as well as moral and social outlook. F. is interested in rational
grounds rather than shades of emotion and generally speaking he allots characterisation a lesser
significance. It is not individuals and their morals tribulations, but society at large and a moral
chronicle of it that preoccupies him; to relate facts rather than to explore minds is at the centre of
his interest. This is the reason why once his characters have been assigned a few defining
features, they exhibit very limited psychological development along the story.

The more representative figures are conceived as antithetic pairs although this
organisation is hidden by the multiple diversity of the minor characters. Thus, T.J., Squire
Allworthy, Sophia and Partridge are confronted with the gallery of hypocrites: Blifil, Bridget,
Squire Western, Lady Bellastone, all of them suffering from a host of other vices, such as
snobbism, aggresivity or superficiality. The most obvious contrast is the one drawn between
Tom’s and Blifil’s tutors, both inhabiting Allworthy’s household. Square and Thwachum have
symbolic names just like the Squire himself and they represent opposite pools of thought and
morality. The former stands for abstract thinking while the other is a champion of corporal
punishments, but they both lack the basic qualities of a good tutor: openmindness and goodness
and are ridiculed by the author.

Although F. does not openly reprove of T.J.’s sexual encounters and prefers to treat
humorously episodes of drunkenness, he is a moralist as much as Richardson and Defoe were
before him. Virtue in the novel is not the result of the suppression of instinct, but a natural
tendency to goodness or benevolence, prone to last healthy appetites, such as drinking, eating or
unchastity. F.’s moral perspective is much broader and he conveys it to the reader under the form
of essays and dissertation at the beginning of each book treating not only his handling of the art
of the novel, his aesthetic principles, the subject of the comic epic, but also comments on the
classical writers and philosophers on social and moral life in the 18th century on human nature as
well as literary topics, such as criticism or the writing of fiction.

In many places F. as an omniscient narrator intrudes into the novel only to explain a
character’s behaviour, making sure the reader correctly understands his intentions. However, he
often distances himself by saying that he refrains from speaking in the character’s name or about
things he can’t know for sure because they are not based on facts. This intrusions, while
diminishing the authenticity of the novel and of the imaginary reality it creates, are never the less
worthy treatments of almost all subjects of humour interest offering the readers a wise
assessment of life, coming from a mind with a true grasp of human reality.

F.’s last novel, Amelia (1751) witnesses a change of interest and a narrowing of the
social background against which the trivial incident of the middle class married couples’
everyday life in London are laid. The author is now wiser and sadder man, having experienced a
magistrate’s work for several years and therefore less inclined to ridicule or to laugh at people’s
fragilities rather pitying their selfishness and folly. Amelia is the first E novel of social reform,
an earnest study of the contemporary world. Amelia Booth and her soldier husband are an
opportunity for the writer to expose and condemn both civil and military establishments.
Paradoxically, of this novel, in which F.’s prevailing attitude is one of discontent and
indignation. He gets closer than ever to Richardson’s sentimental domestic novel.

F. is a pathfinder and a pioneer in several ways. He is the first E novelist who wrote his
novels without claiming that his stories were based on real events. He clearly states that he
delineated imaginary characters and circumstance primarily for depicting the characteristics of
contemporary society and the customs and conventions of the human times inhabiting it. F.’s
novels of manner offer a panorama of age a full manner of society at that time, including all
social classes noticing the fraction between the noble and the poor, speaking about the situations
of the women including characters from the underworld which he came to know as a magistrate.

To read F.’s novel just for the sake of the story would be completely wrong. A whole
philosophy of life and the sound knowledge of the classics and their books is contained in the
initial essays to all books of T.J. In these introductory chapters as well in the Preface of J.A., F.
offers the readers the critical theory on which his novels are based and explains how they are
different from the ones written before him. His method which critics called ‘intellectual realism’
uses theatrical devices which F. came to master while writing for the theatre such as the
dialogue, the soliloquy or the farce. Together with the two voices of the writer and narrator, the
former being the ‘informal voice of the novelist’, the latter belonging to ‘an unreliable
storyteller’, F. set the novelistic trend for the next hundred years. His novels contain the genres
of every kind of fiction that matured after him: the novel of characters/ situation/plot/adventure,
etc.
Jane Austean
(1775 - 1817)

The last 3 decades of the 18th century saw a shift not only in the paradigm of marriage
and the gender, but also in the literary taste. Austen is the first to sense the new taste of the
public and to write “intelligent” love stories that would satisfy it. She was the first to present
modern personality and the culture that was brought about. Moral life is her subject and never
before has it been conceived as such a complex and complicated matter.
Jane Austen’s literary career expands over a period on 31 years, between 1786 and 1817.
If her scope is quite limited and her world is trivial and ladylike, she adorns it with a wealth of
sly satire and cosmic observation which are ample compensation for the narrowness of her
experience and her material. Austen is not concerned with the whole range of the great passions
(spiritual aspiration passionate love, hate, ambition and greed) and she deliberately ignored the
public affairs that were filling men’s minds (the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars and the
vast social and economic changes, which were being brought about by the advance of the
Industrial Revolution). In spite of critics saying that her limitations were imposed on her by the
circumstances of her life, she narrowed her field to domestic life in the country village not
because she knew nothing else, since she lived in Bath (a social centre with a well-built
reputation) for several years and also in Southampton (a naval station), but because she felt that
this setting was what she needed for concentrating the essentials of her vision.
Her first novel: Lady Susan on which she worked for two years between 1793 and 1795 is
a short epistolary novel, but its plot has the construction of a play, probably under the influence
of the restoration drama of the 17th century. The heroine stands alone in Austen’s later gallery of
women, being a manipulator that does not refrain from betraying and abusing those who fall prey
to her charm and intelligence.

Austen had started writing Sense and Sensibility seven years before it was published in
1811, around the age of nineteen and signed it “a lady”. Now it is considered to be a typical 18 th
century novel, written under the influence of her predecessors and less original than her later
works. It is her first full-length novel, also written in epistolary form and introducing the plot
which revolves around the contrasting qualities of the two main characters Elinor, modelled on
Cassandra, James’s sister and best-friend, and Maryanne, modelled on herself.
When their father’s dies, the Dashwood women - two sisters and their mother - are on the
fringe of poverty, because of their brother’s selfish and greedy wife. With their feelings hurt,
they leave their own house and move to a cousin’s property, a cottage where they experience
romantic love and heartbreak alike. Elinor, the practical minded, knows how to control her
feelings even after she falls in love with Fanny’s brother, Edward Ferrars. She represents the
“sense” in the novel’s title, while Maryanne, the younger sister stands for “sensibility”.
When Maryanne falls in love with John Willoughby, her sister’s warnings that she’s
compromising herself reach a dead ear. When she finds out of his misconduct, everyone around
her has to put up with her unhappiness. In the end, both sisters find the appropriate matching for
them, which were not obvious from the beginning, and the story of which makes up the
entangled plot.

Jane Austen’s next novel Pride and Prejudice, 1813, brings more insight into
characterization and deeper social analysis. Set in the country side, in Herdfortshire, it presents
the story of the Bennet family focusing on the romantic ventures of the five daughters with an
emphasis on the fate of two of them: Jane and Elisabeth. The Bennet parents with five daughters
no dowry and no eligible young man around should be truly concerned about their daughters’
marriages, especially since a relative is going to inherit their home being the only male
descendent. Under this circumstances, their behaviour is quite different: Mr Bennet, the
intelligent and withdrawn country gentleman interferes little in his daughters’ romantic
tribulations while Mrs Bennet is wholly absorbed by the activity of finding appropriate husbands
for them, although her attempt at social ascension are quite embarrassing for her daughters.
When Mr Bingley, “the single man of large fortune” rents a nearby estate and brings with
him the London high society impersonated by his two sisters and by his friend Mr Darcy hope
flies high in the Bennet family and indeed Mr Bingly takes a liking to Jane, the eldest and
pretties of the daughters in site of his sisters’ and Darcy’s protests about Jane being inferior to
him. At the same time, Elisabeth is hurt by Darcy’s hauthingnees – he refuses to dance with her –
and decides to meet his arrogance with her own wit. Bingley leaves the place before proposing
and Elisabeth is left confused.
The rest of the novel presents the intricacies of the wooing process during which
characters have to reconsider first impressions and their opinnions about each other, to give up
both their pride and prejudices and in the end two of the Bennet daughters are married happily
and prosperously. Among the things that the novel takes up, a major importance is given to
emphasising the role of environment and of education in the development of young people’s
characters and morality. Lydia, one of the younger sisters, elopes with penniless George
Wickham, a militia officer succumbing to his superficial charm.
Mrs Bennet is blamed for her lack of moral judgement, especially since she encouraged
her favourite daughter’s enterprises: “they have none of them much to recommend them”, Mr
Bennet declares of his five daughters “they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy
has something more of quickness than her sisters.” This may be the reason why Austen chose
Lizzy to identify with. The novel is presented through her eyes and from her point of view with
which the author, although keeping an impersonal attitude, seems to agree. It is Austen’s own
independence of spirit, her spiritual and moral judgement and her refined irony, that are
expressed though the main character.
The narrative technique the author uses is free indirect speech and no one at the time was
better at providing insight into why fictional characters think, feel and act as they do. The story
of why Elisabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy misunderstand each other, what they have to
learn from each other and why they are after all a perfect match forms the backbone of the novel,
but it’s put into perspective by the wider panorama of life in the English country side at the turn
of the century, when the only perspective for a young girl without a dowry was to try and marry
above her.
Mansfield Park was published a year after Pride and Prejudice in 1814. It is the story of
Fanny Price, the eldest daughter in a large family who is sent to live at Mansfield Park, the estate
of her rich relatives. She is a timid child and feels inferior to her four rich cousins who treat her
for the poor relative that she is. Edmund, the younger brother is the only one who becomes
Fanny’s friend and benefactor helping her with her education and making sure she is looked after
when the rest of the family neglects her. Fanny is clever and her looks improve.
Over time, her gratitude over Edmund’s kindness secretly grows into romantic love.
Social and romantic entanglements prevent the characters finding the ideal match from the
beginning, but at the end of the novel Edmund realises how important Fanny is to him, declares
his love for her and they are married. Just like Austen’s other novels, this one too is a novel of
manners set among privileged British society, above Austen’s own family background, but as
different from the other novels, its interest greatly derives from the fact that it seems to
controvert everything that its predecessor novels tells us about life.
It was considered Austen’s most ambitious and ethically flawed novel; the over moral
didacticism and the lack of vitally that characterises the main protagonist Fanny as opposed to
Austen’s other female characters are not specific to her work. Nevertheless critics’ opinions
radically differ in relation to Fanny. Some see her as a static figure, embodying Christian virtue
and strict morality as opposed to the lack of authenticity and the superficiality of the other
characters. They seem to detect in Austen’s treatment of Fanny the same mocking tone that
characterizes her other works every time she ridicules the plight of young women desperately
seeking for a worthy husband. Others consider Mansfield Park a bildungsroman with Fanny a
complex feminine figure who greatly develops in the course of the novel. In spite of the
contradictory opinions, one can still admire Austen’s narrative talent and her brilliant sensitivity
of the human concerns of love, virtue and family.

The next year, 1815, saw the publication of another novel: Emma the last one to appear
before Austen’s death. It is her longest novel, a light-hearted comedy of manners in which she
skilfully combines satire and romantic sensitivity. Austen had decided to write about a heroine
that no one was going to like, except for her. Emma is rich, beautiful and intelligent and thinks of
herself as a droid matchmaker while she herself could remain immune to the charms of the
opposite sex since she is free from the burden of marrying for a fortune. Actually, she is the only
heroine with no financial concerns in Austen’s gallery, but she is also spoilt and overconfident
and makes some serious mistakes which cause her meddling to go wrong.
The young gentleman, who she singles out for herself, had she not decided not to marry,
is a less villainess version of Wickham of Pride and Prejudice or Willoughby from Sense and
Sensibility. Towards the end of the novel, Emma finally discovers that Mr George Nightly,
brother in law to Emma’s elder sister Isabella, Emma’s most frequent critic, may be her true
love. Like always, the story ends in their happy marriage, after taking the characters through the
elaborate dance of mismatched couples, intricately interwoven and finally unravelled into the
form it should have taken from the beginning.
Social critics in present in the presentation of the narrow scope of a wealthy woman’s life,
especially that of a woman who is single and childless. Emma lacks a noble purpose and her
playing the game of matchmaking is an attempt at invigorating her dull life. On the whole, the
novel is a magnificent attempt at exploring the self-contained lives of young women.

Northanger Abbey, 1817, the first of Austen’s posthumously published novels introduces
Catherine Morland, the seventeen years old gothic novel fan and through her turns this novel into
a parody of gothic fiction. Catherine is more of a tomboy at the beginning of the novel, but her
character grows and she becomes a real heroine at the end, when she learns the difference
between reality and fantasy and that gothic novels can not be applied to real life situations.
Because the writer’s tone is light-hearted and the novel has more explicit comic elements than
her earlier ones, also because it contains literary allusions which could make the joy of her
family, critics speculate that this novel was conceived as family entertainment.

Austen’s second posthumous novel Persuasion was originally bound up in the same
volume as the preceding one and is also connected with by the setting which is Bath. The plot is
simple than that of her precious novels and the number of characters is greatly reduced. The
reason may be the fact that Austen’s health was already failing her. However, the novel presents
the marks of her originality: it is the first one to present a woman Anne Eliot who at twenty-
seven, according to the standards of the time is past her prime and destines to spinsterhood.
Austen’s biographer says that the book is a present “to all women who had lost their
chance in life and would never enjoy a second spring”. Another novelty is Austen’s exaltment of
the self-made man probably under the influence of her two brothers’ success in the Royal Navy.
In the novel, Captain Wentworth started from humble origins and ensured himself an influential
status based on his merits not on his inheritance and the complex two dimensional organisation
of the chapters of this book completes its uniqueness. Although written in a hurry the novel is
acclaimed as a moving love story whose subtle structure overrides its fairy-tale aspects and
together with the plot and the narrative technique produces a satisfying whole.
Austen’s world is rooted in the social order as it is. It deals with the relationships in a
group and between particular individual within the group. On the one hand we are showed the
self-deception, the misreading of motifs, the confusions of reality and illusion, the frailties and
follies common to any social group and the sufferings they cause. On the other hand we see
equally clearly the standards of good feeling, good sense and good taste which can make for full
and fruitful living in this society narrow though it seems.
Although her social commentaries are sometimes biting, evil in a serious sense does not
exist in Austen’s world socially harmful and mischievous qualities and persons take the place of
evil. These are exposed for what they are, but they are not punished, they survive as an
eradicable element in the social scene. Austen has no illusion indeed, though she is neither bitter
nor cynical. She is not blinded by any romantic complacencies and refuses all sentimentality.
Her positive values are assured and convincing but she does not mask any of the triviality
or the boredom or the unattractiveness of existence in country villages or any of the difficulties
of attaining the good life in such surroundings. It is part of the maturing process in all her
heroines that they must learn to accept their world as it is and develop the necessary self-
knowledge humility and generosity of spirit to achieve serenity.