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A History of English Prose Fiction

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120 pages
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Ajouté le : 08 décembre 2010
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Project Gutenberg's A History of English Prose Fiction, by Bayard Tuckerman This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: A History of English Prose Fiction Author: Bayard Tuckerman Release Date: March 13, 2005 [EBook #15350] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK A HISTORY OF ENGLISH PROSE FICTION *** Produced by Ted Garvin, Lynn Bornath, Leonard Johnson and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net. A HISTORY OF ENGLISH PROSE FICTION BY BAYARD TUCKERMAN NEW YORK & LONDON G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS The Knickerbocker Press 1894 COPYRIGHT BY G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS 1882 TO MY FATHER, THIS VOLUME IS AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED PREFACE. It is attempted in this volume to trace the gradual progress of English Prose Fiction from the early romance to the novel of the present day, in such connection with the social characteristics of the epochs to which these works respectively belong, as may conduce to a better comprehension of their nature and significance. As many of the earlier specimens of English fiction are of a character or a rarity which makes any acquaintance with them difficult to the general public, I have endeavored so to describe their style and contents that the reader may obtain, to some degree, a personal knowledge of them. The novels of the nineteenth century are so numerous and so generally familiar, that, in the chapter devoted to this period, I have sought rather to point out the great importance which fiction has assumed, and the variety of forms which it has taken, than to attempt any exhaustive criticism of individual authors—a task already sufficiently performed by writers far more able to do it justice. THE AUTHOR. "The Benedick." NEW YORK, Aug. 22, 1882. B.T. CONTENTS CHAPTER I. THE ROMANCE OF CHIVALRY 1 CHAPTER II CHAUCER, TALES OF THE YEOMANRY, SIR T. MORE'S "UTOPIA" 42 CHAPTER III THE AGE OF ELIZABETH. LYLY, GREENE, LODGE, SIDNEY 60 CHAPTER IV. THE PURITANS, "THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS" 102 CHAPTER V. THE RESTORATION. ROGER BOYLE, MRS. MANLEY, MRS. BEHN 112 CHAPTER VI. THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY. SWIFT, ADDISON, DEFOE, RICHARDSON, FIELDING, SMOLLETT 134 CHAPTER VII. THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY CONTINUED. STERNE, JOHNSON, GOLDSMITH, AND OTHERS. MISS BURNEY AND THE FEMALE NOVELISTS. THE ROMANTIC REVIVAL 220 CHAPTER VIII. THE NOVEL IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY. THE NOVEL OF LIFE AND MANNERS. OF SCOTCH LIFE. OF IRISH LIFE. OF ENGLISH LIFE. OF AMERICAN LIFE. THE HISTORICAL NOVEL. THE NOVEL OF PURPOSE. THE NOVEL OF FANCY. USE AND ABUSE OF FICTION 274 [1] CHAPTER I. THE ROMANCE OF CHIVALRY. I In the midst of an age of gloom and anarchy, when Feudalism was slowly building up a new social organization on the ruins of the Roman Empire, arose that spirit of chivalry, which, in its connection with the Christian religion, forms so sharp a division between the sentiments of ancient and modern times. Following closely on the growth of chivalry as an institution, there came into being a remarkable species of fiction, which reflected with great faithfulness the character of the age, and having formed for three centuries the principal literary entertainment of the knighthood of Europe, left on the new civilization, and the new literature which had outgrown and discarded it, lasting traces of its natural beauty. Into the general fund of chivalric romance were absorbed the learning and legend of every land. From the gloomy forests and bleak mountains of the North came dark and terrible fancies, malignant enchanters, and death-dealing spirits, supposed to haunt the earth and sea; from Arabia and the East came gorgeous pictures of palaces built of gold and precious stones, magic rings which transport the bearer from place to place, love-inspiring draughts, dragons and fairies; from ancient Greece and Rome came memories of the heroes and mysteries of mythology, like old coins worn and disfigured by passing, through ages, from hand to hand, but still bearing a faint outline of their original character. All this mass of fiction was floating idly in the imaginations of men, or worked as an embellishment into the rude numbers of the minstrels, when the mediæval romancers gathered it up, and interweaving it with the traditions of Arthur and Charlemagne, produced those strange compositions which are so entirely the product and repository of the habits, superstitions, and sympathies of the Middle Ages that they serve to "Hold the mirror up to Nature, To show Vice its own image, Virtue its own likeness, And the very age and body of the times, His form and pressure." [2] The men who wrote, and the men who read these romances, the first springs of our modern fiction, were influenced by two dominant ideas: "One religious, which had fashioned the gigantic cathedrals, and swept the masses from their native soil to hurl them upon the Holy Land; the other secular, which had built feudal fortresses, and set the man of courage erect and armed within his own domain."[1] These two ideas were outwardly expressed in the Roman Church and the Feudal System. During the anarchy of the Middle Ages, every man was compelled to look upon war as his natural occupation, if he hoped to preserve life or property. His land was held as a condition of military service. As long as there was no effective administration of justice, redress for the aggrieved lay in the sword alone. A military career had no rival in the eyes of the ambitious and the noble. There was no learning, no art, to share with skill in arms, the honors to which a youth aspired. Religion and love, the most powerful inspirations of his moral life, made force of arms the merit most worthy of their rewards. The growth of the people in the mechanical arts took the direction of improving the instruments of warfare; the increase of refinement and humanity tended less to diminish war than to make it more civilized, showy, and glorious. The armies of the Romans seem prosaic when we turn to the brilliant array of chivalry, to the ranks of steel-clad knights couching the lance to win fame, the smile of woman, or the reward of religious devotion;—men to whom war seemed a grand tournament, in which each combatant, from the king to the poorest knight, was to seek distinction by his strength and valor. It was through the senses, and especially through the eye, that the feudal imagination was moved. Every heart was kindled at the sight of shining armor, horses with brilliant trappings, gorgeous dress, and martial show. The magnificent Norman cathedrals struck the mind with devotional awe; the donjons and towers of the great baronial castles were suggestive of power and glory. To
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