The romance tradition in eighteenth-century fiction

Material Information

The romance tradition in eighteenth-century fiction a study of Smollett
Raymond, Michael Wayne, 1946-
Publication Date:
Copyright Date:
Physical Description:
viii, 377 leaves. : ; 28 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Fiction ( jstor )
Literary characters ( jstor )
Literary criticism ( jstor )
Love ( jstor )
Morality ( jstor )
Narrative plot ( jstor )
Narratives ( jstor )
Novels ( jstor )
Poetry ( jstor )
Writers ( jstor )
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- UF
English fiction -- 18th century ( lcsh )
English thesis Ph. D
Romanticism -- England ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Thesis -- University of Florida.
Bibliography: leaves 364-376.
General Note:
General Note:
Statement of Responsibility:
by Michael W. Raymond.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Copyright [name of dissertation author]. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Resource Identifier:
000582539 ( AlephBibNum )
14121041 ( OCLC )
ADB0916 ( NOTIS )


This item has the following downloads:

Full Text










I wish to express heartfelt appreciation to a few

of the various multitude who provided incalculable tangible

and intangible assistance in bringing this quest to an

ordered resolution.

Professors Aubrey L. Williams and D. A. Bonneville

were most generous, courteous, and dexterous in their assist-

ance and encouragement. Their willing contributions in the

closing stages of the journey made it less full of "toil

and danger" and less "thorny and troublesome."

My wife, Judith, was ever present. At once heroine,

guide, and Sancho Panza, she bore my short-lived triumphs

and enduring despair. She did the work, but I am most grate-

ful that she came to understand what the quest meant and

what it meant to me.

No flights of soaring imagination or extravagant

rhetoric can describe adequately my gratitude to Professor

Melvyn New. He represents the objective and the signifi-

cance of the quest. He always has been the complete scholar

and teacher. His contributions to this work have been un-

tiring and infinite. More important to me, however, has

been and is Professor New's personal example. He embodies

the ideal combination of scholar and teacher. Professor

Melvyn New shows that the quest for this ideal can be and

should be attempted and accomplished.



ACKNOWLEDGEMENT . . . . . . . .. iii

ABSTRACT . . . . . . . ... ... v

INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . 1

NOTES. . . . . . . . . ... .. 13

CHAPTER I .................... 15

I. The Enduring "Disease" of Romance . 15

II. The Aesthetic Urge Toward Realism . 41

III. The Movement from "Pattern" to

"Life" . . . . . . .. 75

NOTES. . . . . . . . . ... .. . 96

CHAPTER II ................... 105

I. Romance as the Design and Contexture

of Plot. . . . . . . ... 112

II. Romance as Order in Variety . . .. 140

III. Romance as World View . . . .. 178

NOTES. . . . . . . . . ... .. 232

CHAPTER III. .................. 246

I. Smollett's Design and Contexture

of Plot. . . . . . . ... 250

II. Smollett's Order in Variety . . .. 316

III. Smollett's World View . . . ... 344

NOTES. . . . . . . . . ... .. . 359

BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . .. 363

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. . . . . . . ... 377


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Michael W. Raymond

December, 1974

Chairman: Melvyn New
Major Department: English

The modern critical concern with and celebration

of the development of the realistic novel unfortunately

hampers an evaluation of eighteenth-century fiction on

its own merits. The twentieth century's disillusionment

with the values and form of romance has been allowed to

shape disproportionately most critical approaches to

eighteenth-century fiction into the traditional "rise of

realism" formula. Through an examination of Tobias Smol-

lett's fiction in particular and eighteenth-century fic-

tion in general, this study suggests that the best fiction

of the age was steeped in the romance, and can be under-

stood best through the conventions and intentions of the


Chapter One demonstrates: that romance enjoyed

an enduring popularity throughout the eighteenth century;

that an aesthetic urge toward realism was a long-standing

critical emphasis well before the rise of the novel in the

eighteenth century, and consequently question the novel

and realism equation; and that the commitment of fiction

to the authentic reporting of human experience and the

individual apprehension of reality was not as pervasive

in the eighteenth century as has been proposed.

Based upon a survey of the conventions and inten-

tions of romance since the Greeks, Chapter Two defines the

romance tradition in eighteenth-century England in terms

of plot, structure, and world view. The design and con-

texture of romance plot is characterized as: the narra-

tion of a hero's successful progression through a series

of adventures usually motivated and rewarded by love; the

testing pattern of involved complications and delaying en-

tanglements; the movement toward satisfaction marked by

fortuitious events over expansive settings; and the final

total resolution with virtue rewarded and vice punished.

As Order in Variety, romance structure involves interpo-

lations, digressions, and conscious attention to authorial

design as it imitates an idealized ordered universe. The

romance presents a world view that reflects a pattern of

order, a providential design, and a providential justice

characteristic of a coherent Christian vision.

Chapter Three documents that in the fiction of

Tobias Smollett there is a tangible presence of the inten-

tions and conventions of the romance tradition. While

recognizing other viable traditions, the inquiry into

Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, Ferdinand Count Fathom,

Sir Launcelot Greaves, and Humphry Clinker suggests an

observable trend in the use of romance conventions and

intentions that indicates that Smollett emerges as part

of the movement to rather than the culmination of the move-

ment to the novelistic conceptions of fiction.

Roderick Random seems most evenly divided in its

reflection of various traditions. The picaresque and

satire are significant influences in the shaping of the

1748 work's plot and intentions. Clearly the romance tra-

dition cannot be seen to dominate. It is as if Smollett

had been introduced to a variety of traditions and had yet

to decide his favorite. However, with the writing of Pere-

grine Pickle, Ferdinand Count Fathom, and Sir Launcelot

Greaves, the favorite becomes more and more clear-cut.

In terms of plot, structure, and world view, the romance

tradition is dominant. The only apparent lessening of its

dominance is in the occasional satire and humor. Peregrine

Pickle represents Smollett's most expansive use of the ro-

mance tradition; Ferdinand Count Fathom represents the most

explicit; and Sir Launcelot Greaves represents the most

compact. With the publication of Humphry Clinker, there

seems to be a shift in Smollett's use of the romance tra-

dition. Interests in the comic exploitation of romance

conventions, in the raw experience of life, and in the

empirical exploration of individuals receive increasing




In surveying critical commentary dealing with the

English novel, one apparently axiomatic assumption con-

sistently asserts itself: the "growth," "development,"

"advancement," or "evolution" of English prose fiction is

inextricably related to the rise of realism and the pass-

ing of romance. As John J. Richetti has pointed out,

literary historians are for the most part simply content

to document a critical distinction by "recording with a

kind of neo-Hegelian confidence the historical progress

from the factually careless and improbable fictions called

romances to the mimetically sensitive stories called

novels."l Twentieth-century critics have presented the

history of prose fiction as the ultimate victory of an

enlightened realism over reactionary romance and the de-

velopment or evolution of a superior literary mode.

This modern critical concern with and celebration

of the development of the realistic novel unfortunately

hampers an evaluation of eighteenth-century fiction on

its own merits. Arguing that "fiction aims now at an

intensification of reality rather than an escape from the

actual," critics such as Pelham Edgar and F. R. Leavis

often find little of importance in eighteenth-century

novelists other than that they anticipate the "great

tradition" of those who, like Jane Austen, George Eliot,

Henry James, and Joseph Conrad, were aware of the possi-

bilities of life.

As an early Victorian novelist presenting his

critical conception of the novel, William Makepeace Thack-

eray reflects this restrictive approach as he summarizes

nineteenth-century attitudes toward eighteenth-century

fiction and suggests what was to be inherited as the early

twentieth century's view. The notion that the best eight-

eenth-century novelists represented a rise of realism and

a reaction against romantic fiction is characteristic of

Thackeray's expectation that the novel should be an his-

torical record of the manners of a particular time, encom-

passing all levels of society in an objective and consistent

method of treatment. Thackeray asserts that "the Art of

Novels is to represent Nature: to convey as strongly as

possible the sentiment of reality";3 hence his partiality

for some eighteenth-century fiction is clearly based on

what he sees as the author's disdain for the frivolous and

his proportionate devotion to realism. This is particularly

apparent in his use of Fielding and Smollett to call for

greater social realism and objectivity and to attack the

unnatural and sensationalistic Newgate and Silver Fork


I am sure that a man who, a hundred years
hence, should sit down to write the history of our
time, would do wrong to put that great contemporary
history of "Pickwick" aside as a frivolous work. It

contains true character under false names; and,
like "Roderick Random" an inferior work, and
"Tom Jones" (one that is immeasurably superior),
gives us a better idea of the state and ways
of the people, than one could gather from any
more pompous or authentic histories.4

His compliments for the previous century's realistic fic-

tion contrast vividly with his castigation of contemporary

novels as improbable, inaccurate, and unnatural. Thackeray

believed the great accomplishment of the eighteenth-century

novel was its endorsement of "reality against the romance."

Thackeray's belief clearly represents an idea which emerged

in the nineteenth century that fiction had developed from

romance to realism one hundred years earlier.5

Early twentieth-century thinking about the novel

and its eighteenth-century development solidified the

polar approach incipient in Thackeray. A survey of

twentieth-century critical histories of English fiction

might begin with the distressing remarks of Sidney Lanier.

Proposing in his eighth Johns Hopkins lecture of "Histori-

cal Retrospect of English Fiction," Lanier turns from "the

many-petalled rose of George Eliot's fiction to the begin-

ning of the English novel" and finds "the unsavory muck

in which its roots are embedded."6 Unfortunately, this

attitude is not uncommon to the innumerable literary his-

tories that followed; and even more prevalent is Lanier's

hypothesis that the advent of the modern novel was based

almost wholly on a "revolutionary departure from the wild

and complex romances" (p. 176). This departure from ex-

travagant romance represents Lanier's only explanation on

how the "rose" was able to rise from the "muck."

In 1906, Francis H. Stoddard's The Evolution of

the English Novel marked the "birth" day of the novel:

For there came a day when wild stories of
the adventures of knights, and kings, and princes;
when tales of unreal characters, unreal scenes,
unreal emotions; when tales of adventure, in
lands far away, under circumstances impossible,
and with help of enchantment, and magic, and super-
human assistance, -- there came a day when the
tale of all these external, far-off, glorious
unrealities passed away, and in its place came
the simple story of the emotion of a simple,
homely, struggling soul; the story of a Pamela,
or a Marianne, of a Manon Lescaut, of a Joseph
Andrews, of a Clarissa Harlowe.7

To Stoddard, this movement from the romance of chivalry

to the depiction of objective reality was the first step

in the evolution of the novel, an evolution based on an

underlying "law of tendency" in literature that art evolves

in the progress from external embellishment to inner life

(p. 12). According to Stoddard, for the modern novel to

attain its superior achievement, it had to begin from the

expression of the external form, from the consideration of

external characteristics, from the suggestion of external

remedies for evils and rewards for endeavor in order to

progress to the sophisticated expression of abstract

thought, che consideration of internal character, and the

study of causal relationships (p. 13). The middle years

of the eighteenth century with its desire for realism

represent the novel's beginning from the external em-


bellishment of fiction's earlier representations.

Primarily interested in the eighteenth-century

novel, Charles H. Huffman is more sympathetic toward the

century and its literature than either Lanier or Stoddard.

Nevertheless, his The Eighteenth-Century Novel in Theory

and Practice exhibits essentially the same views concerning

the rise of the novel and its connection with a realistic

tendency. Huffman conceives of eighteenth-century prose

fiction as "a new kind of writing; new not only in form,

but in content as well."8 Seen as a denouncement of the

romance, this "new kind of writing" was based theoreti-

cally on the following principles of realism:

I. The piece should profess and disclose a
moral purpose, as against a purely fictitious nar-
rative designed solely for entertainment. II. The
characters, the conversations, the situation, and the
incidents should have their basis in human nature;
should evolve from a close study of real life -- of
contemporary English life -- as against the far-off
unknown people of distant lands, and ancient times.
III. Reason and common sense should predominate as
always, as against mythic reality, the highly imagina-
tive, and the purely fanciful. IV. The plot, the
persons, and the machinery of the piece should cone
well within the bounds of probability, and easily with-
in the range of credibility, thereby dismissing the
absurd and marvelous of ancient romance. (p. 27)

In addition to these principles, Huffman categorically

asserts that from Richardson onward "the realistic tendency

never ceased" and that the new novel owed its origin and

subsequent development largely to the reaction of English

thought against all that was manifestly incredible and to

the growing genuine respect for truth in art (p. 42).

Following Huffman's approach to eighteenth-century

fiction, historians of the full range of English prose

fiction began more and more to structure their surveys

on a realism-romance dichotomy. In 1925, Wilbur L. Cross

entitled the first two chapters in his The Development

of the English Novel "From Arthurian Romance to Richard-

son" and "The Eighteenth-Century Realists."9 The prin-

ciple of action-reaction provides for Cross evidence that

the struggling and misdirected literary form of romance

passed eventually into a well defined form, the realistic

novel. The third volume of Ernest Baker's monumental The

History of the English Novel, "The Later Romances and the

Establishment of Realism," perpetuates the same assumption

that the eighteenth-century novelist found the romances

to be old-fashioned and ridiculous because of their improb-

ability, and therefore submitted to the overwhelming force

of realism.10 Baker believes that the first half of the

eighteenth century marks a great epoch in the history of

the novel because its writers recognized that their busi-

ness was with life as it is and accordingly implemented

the techniques of realism. With its sense of the actual

and its circumstantial method, realism theoretically set-

tled fiction into its own proper sphere and established

the novel as an independent art form (p. 277).

The quarter century following Baker demonstrated

no perceptible change in this approach to the progress

of prose fiction in the eighteenth century. Arnold Kettle,

for example, posing the rhetorical questions of "why were

the first novels written" and "why did the modern novel

arise at all" provides the traditional answers that the

romance was no longer acceptable to the writers and read-

ers of the eighteenth century and that the eighteenth

century marked an historical development away from ro-

mance toward the novel. Specifically, Kettle theorizes

the novel arose "as a realistic reaction to the medieval

romance and its courtly descendants of the sixteenth and

seventeenth centuries"; "with the growth for the first

time of a large, widely-distributed reading public"; as

"an art-form written by and for the now-powerful commer-

cial bourgeoisie"; and as a sociological necessity "that

the bourgeoisie, in order to win its freedom from the

feudal order, had to tear the veil of romance from the

face of feudalism" (pp. 30-37).

A decade later, Lionel Stevenson in his The English

Novel: a Panorama declines even to explain the supposed

philosophic shift behind the "rise of realism." Approach-

ing his panorama chronologically, Stevenson assigns "Ro-

mance, Allegory, and Scandal" (Chapter II) to the seven-

teenth century and "The Discovery of Realism" (Chapter

III) to the first half of the eighteenth century.12 Sub-

sequent chapter titles, "The First Masterpieces" (Chapter

IV) and "Establishing the Tradition" (Chapter V), reflect

the importance Stevenson attaches to the discarding of

romance and the significance of realism as the "vital stage

in the process by which the novel came to birth" (p. 78).

The new medium of realism allowed the emergence of fiction

as a form of art. Unlike the romance, it did not handi-

cap prose fiction with traditional literary genres that

resulted in an incompatibility between material and form.

With realism, "a more sensible era was setting in" (p. 54).

Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel, though published

three years before Stevenson and followed by a number of

critical histories on the novel, may be seen as a com-

pendium of this type of criticism because of its widespread

acceptance and influence. Watt suggests that the rise of

prose fiction coincides with a great evolutionary shift

in social structure from hierarchy to individualism, when

in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England, religion

moved from church to conscience, and "reality" moved from

ideas to items, from the general to the specific, from

Plato to Locke. Accordingly, when the daily life of the

ordinary individual became a new focus of interest, the

novel became the new voice of everyday reality.13 For

Watt, as for his predecessors and successors, "realism"

is the primary characteristic which differentiates eight-

eenth-century prose fiction from its predecessors (p. 10).

This realism is critical, anti-traditional, and innovative.

It manifests itself in the novel as a philosophical asser-

tion that the pursuit of truth is wholly a matter of the

individual apprehension of reality as opposed to older

notions of received or revealed truths of universal appli-

cability. The particular, the circumstantial, and the

original replace the general, the formal, and the conven-

tional. Watt sees the novel in general as partaking in a

rejection of traditional plots for causal structures; as

the use of individualized characters; and as the employ-

ment of a referential rather than a rhetorical medium.

For Watt,

S. the novel is a full and authentic report
of human experience, and is therefore under an ob-
ligation to satisfy its reader with such details
of the story as the individuality of the actors
concerned, the particulars of the times and places
of their actions, details which are presented
through a more largely referential use of language
than is common in other literary forms. (p. 32)

These premises establish the novel as the narrative embodi-

ment of a formal realism that Watt attributes to eighteenth-

century novelists such as Defoe and Richardson.

The most recent decade of criticism does not indi-

cate any marked divergence from the now traditional assump-

tion that the rise of the novel is directly related to the

rise of realism and the passing of romance in the eight-

eenth century. Ronald Paulson's approach, for example, in

Satire and the Novel in Eighteenth-Century England is only

superficially different from what had come before. Paulson

develops an evolutionary history of prose fiction that

traces the eclipse of satire by the novel; however, he

assigns to the desire for realism the impetus for this

eclipse, and also finds realism the common ground between

the two forms.L Their mutual realism, according to Paul-

son, is based upon two preferences: a preference for

ordinary experience over the world of romance and a pref-

erence for the illusion of a literary work that attempts

to disguise itself as literature over a literary self-

consciousness in the conventions of romance. Thus the

novel developed: "If the novel as it emerged in the

seventeenth and eighteenth centuries has any generic aim

at all, it is a commitment to the presentation of reality --

not moral truth but the truth of actual experience -- and

the avoidance of convention and artifice."15

As suggested by the above brief survey, from the

turn of the century to the present, the critical approach

to the history of English prose fiction is fundamentally

the same. Seen as breaking with the old-fashioned romance

and its association with a heritage of universals, formal

conventions, and the emblematic, the novel in the eight-

eenth century, it has been argued, reflects a transforma-

tion in world views, embodying essentially "a developing

but unplanned aggregate of particular individuals having

particular experiences at particular times and at parti-

cular places."16 Theoretically, this increasing commit-

ment to realism by the writers of prose fiction in the

eighteenth century resulted in their eventual separation

from the classical and medieval heritage of artistic and

philosophical universals which had permeated fiction

(romance) up to that time. Unencumbered, prose fiction

was able thereafter to rise in the eighteenth century and

to proceed to respectability and maturity as the modern


In their zeal to connect eighteenth-century fiction

and the modern novel and therefore to indicate merit through

association, historians of fiction have limited their

approach to, and therefore their conception of, eighteenth-

century fiction. The critical concentration on the rise

of realism insinuates that students of the English novel

have assumed that to trace antecedents of the modern novel

and to write on early fiction are the same thing.17

I propose to question the validity of the following

twentieth-century commonplaces about eighteenth-century

fiction: 1. that the eighteenth century was the turning

point in the historical development away from romance

toward the novel; 2. the rise of the novel in the eight-

eenth century was made possible because the romance was no

longer acceptable; and 3. that the rise of realism in

the eighteenth century was primarily responsible for both

the historical and aesthetic development away from romance.

In order to question these assertions, I propose, in turn,

to demonstrate: 1. that romance enjoyed an enduring popu-

larity throughout the eighteenth century; 2. that an aes-

thetic urge toward realism was a long-standing critical

emphasis well before the rise of the novel in the eight-

eenth century, and consequently argue that to equate the

novel and realism is questionable; and 3. that the commit-

ment of fiction to the authentic reporting of human ex-

perience and the individual apprehension of reality was

not as pervasive in the eighteenth century as has been

proposed. Contrary to the assumption that the rise of

the novel took place over the corpse of romance, I hope

to demonstrate through an examination of Smollett's fic-

tion, though it is true of all the major novelists of the

century, that the best fiction of the age was steeped in

the romance, and can be understood best through the conven-

tions and intentions of the romance.


John J. Richetti, Popular Fiction Before Richard-
son (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), pp. 1-2.
Pelham Edgar The Art of the Novel: From 1700 to
the Present Time (New York: Russell and Russell, 1933;
rpt. 1965), pp. 41-45; F. R. Leavis, The Great Tradition
(New York: New York University Press, 19653, pp. 1-28.

The Letters and Private Pars of William Makepeace
Thackeray, ed. Gordon N. Ray (Cambridge, Massachusetts:
Harvard University Press, 1945), II, 772.

The Work f William Makepeace Thackeray, ed.
Lady Ritchie (London: Smith, Elder and Company, 1911),
XXII, 99.
5"Review of Jack Sheppard," Fraser's Magazine, XXI
(1839), 227-45.
The Engish Novel: A Study in the Development of
Personality (New York: Charles Scribners' Sons, 19037,
pp. 175-176.
7The Evolution of the English Novel (New York:
Macmillan, 1906), pp. 41-42.

The Eighteenth-Century Nbvel in Theory and Prac-
tice (Dayton, Virginia: Ruebush-Kieffer, 1920), p. 26.
It is interesting that Huffman insists on a "moral purpose"
within his demands for realism; the existence of a "moral
purpose" in romance is one of its distinguishing character-
The Development of the Englisn Novel (New York:
Macmillan, 1925). The significance of Cross's position
is apparent when one notes that his influence in the study
of eighteenth-century fiction was solidified by his import-
ant biographies of two of its most important practitioners,
Fielding and Sterne.
1The History of the English Novel (New York:
Barnes and Noble, 1929), III, 129.
lAn Introduction to the English Novel (London:
Hutchinson University Library, 1951), pp. 27-40.


12The English Novel: a Panorama (Boston: Houghton
Mifflin, 1960).
13The Rise of the Novel (London: Chatto and Windus,
1957), pp. 35-59.
SSatire and the Novel in Eighteenth-Century England
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967), pp. 3-51. Another
representative example of the most recent critical trends
is loan Williams' introduction to Novel and Romance, 1700-
1800: A Documentary Record (New York: Barnes and Noble,
1970) which uses the now familiar decline of heroic romance
and rise of realistic novel pattern to structure an approach
to the history of eighteenth-century prose fiction.

15Paulson, p. 11. Paulson presents an interesting
contradiction of Huffman's insistence upon "moral purpose."
See note 8.
16Watt, p. 31.
17Richard Davis, Idea and Action in Elizabethan Fic-
tion (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), p. 1.



Any critical theory based upon the assertion that

the eighteenth century rejected the romance requires re-

examination. To promulgate the theory that a new desire

for realism led to a turning away from the seventeenth-

century romance tradition is to deny the overwhelming

evidence to the contrary found in the publication history

of, and the critical commentary on, romance in the eight-

eenth century. It is to bury the corpse before a proper

autopsy is performed; in this case, the critics seem to

have buried their victim while it was still alive and


A perusal of Arundell Esdaile's A List of English

Tales and Prose Romances Printed Before 1740 and the Bri-

tish Museum's General Catalogue of Printed Books reveals

much evidence of the general popularity of romance through-

out eighteenth-century England. Although the most prolific

period of publication for the medieval romance was from

1660 to 1720, Esdaile's list and the British Museum's cata-

logue document a considerable popularity for medieval

romances well beyond 1720.1 The publication records of

Guy, Earl of Warwick, The Seven Champions of Christendom,

Valentine and Orson, and Bevis of Hampton, for example,

all disclose a widespread popularity in the eighteenth

century of medieval romance literature. New editions of

Bevis of Hampton were published at regular intervals through-

out the century (1700, 1750, 1775, 1780). The British Mu-

seum has fourteen separate editions of Valentine and Or-

son that were published between 1700 and 1800 in England.

With as many editions apparently appearing in the second

half of the century (1769, 1780, 1790, 1795, 1800, 1800)

as did in the first (1700, 1710, 1724, 1736, 1741, 1749),

there is every indication that the popularity of this

particular romance, at least, did not flag as the century

progressed. Printers published The Seven Champions of

Christendom twelve times between 1705 and 1790. Guy,

Earl of Warwick is another of a number of romances from

the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that continued to

be published and to find appreciative readers in the

eighteenth century.2 The British Museum's catalogue lists

eleven different editions between 1706 and 1800. There is

evidence, then, that medieval romances enjoyed throughout

the eighteenth century an enduring popularity which rivaled

their reception in previous centuries.
Records documenting the persistence of Renaissance

romance publication during the eighteenth century further

substantiate that the life signs for romance were still

vital. The popularity of many Elizabethan tales such as

Arcadia, Parismus, the renowned Prince of Bohemia, Monte-

lion, Knight of the Oracle, and Pandosto, or Dorastus and

Fawnia was unbroken through the eighteenth century; they

were all frequently adapted to contemporary idiom, abridged,

or published as chap-books. The British Museum's General

Catalogue of Printed Books records adaptations of Sidney's

Arcadia for the years 1701, 1710, 1715, 1726, 1750, 1760,

1770, and 1788. Emanuel Ford's Montelion, Knight of the
Oracle was published at least seven times between 1700 and

1809, with three editions following the 1750 issue. His

Parismus, the renowned Prince of Bohemia appeared in at

least eight editions in the eighteenth century. The demand

for Robert Greene's Pandosto, or Dorastus and Fawnia lasted

well into the eighteenth century when it was republished

as late as 1764.3 The catalogues of chap-books advertised

by Henry Woodgate and Samuel Brooks (circa 1750) and by

Cluer Dicey and Richard Marshall (1764) provide further

evidence that the Renaissance romances like those of Ford

and Greene were still very popular in eighteenth-century


Recognized as dominant in the mid-seventeenth-century

production of prose fiction, the French heroic romance

exhibits a publication history that reflects its conta-

gious popularity beyond the English Restoration or the

last years of Louis XIV. Regnauld de Segrais's Zayde, a

Spanish history or romance, according to the British Mu-

seum's holdings, apparently was successful in both French

and English editions. Providing the upper class English

audience an opportunity to read this 1671 romance in its

original language, at least five editions of Zayde were

published in French between 1700 and 1764. Eighteenth-

century English translations of Segrais's most popular ro-

mance appeared in the 1722 and 1729 issues of Samuel Crox-

all's Select Collection of Novels and Romances and in the

1777 and 1780 issues of Mrs. Elizabeth Griffiths' A Col-
lection of Novels. Another translation of a popular French

heroic romance that the British Museum's General Catalogue

lists as being in all editions of the Croxall and Griffiths

collections is Marie Madeleine Motier, Countess de la

Fayette's The Princess of Cleves. As well as the 1679

and 1688 English translations, the British Museum has

five eighteenth-century French editions of The Princess of

Cleves. Marin le Roy, Sieur de Gomberville's Polexandre

was translated and published in eighteenth-century England

several times. Another example is Gautier de Costes de

la Calprenede's Cassandre. At least three English editions

appeared in the eighteenth century (1705, 1725, 1737).6

The overwhelming success of Franpois de Salignac

de la Mothe Fenelon's The Adventures of Telemachus (1699)

provides an additional basis for the suspicion that the

popularity of romance was more widespread in the eight-

eenth century than is currently assumed. There are

twenty-eight eighteenth-century English renditions of

Fenelon's The Adventures of Telemachus in the British

Museum; twenty-one of them were printed in the second half

of the century. In order to warrant the publication of a

single work so many times within relatively short periods

of time (often twice a year; usually once every two years),

there must have been a significant public demand to engage

profit-minded publishers and booksellers in such a costly

business venture so many times. It does not seem unreason-

able to conclude that the appeal of The Adventures of Tele-

machus is perhaps symptomatic of the eighteenth century's

overall delight in the disease of romance.

To fully diagnose the symptoms of the eighteenth

century's delight in romance, one should recognize other

possibilities for contracting and satisfying the affec-

tion for romance literature besides enumerating the ob-

vious inundation of materials by profit-minded publishers.

For example, the popularity of French heroic romances in

eighteenth-century England cannot be measured solely by the

tabulation of English editions printed in that century.

First, a tabulation of translated editions does not consider

that, in all probability, the French romances were well-

known before the English versions appeared. There are

grounds to argue that as many prided themselves upon read-

ing the original during the eighteenth century as did in

the previous century.7

Second, modern critics repeatedly state "that the

long-lived popularity in England of the Romances by La

Calprenede and Mademoiselle de Scudery was simply amazing."8

In comparison to other French, medieval, Renaissance, and

seventeenth-century romances, the publication of d'Urfe's

L'Astree, La Calprenede's Cassandre, Cleopatre, and Fara-

mond, and Scudery's Ibrahim, or the Illustrious Bassa,

Clelie, Almahide; or the Captive Queen, Amaryllis to Tityrus,

and Artamene or the Grand Cyrus was uncharacteristically

meager. Despite the apparent paucity of published editions,

these same romances were still widely read in the middle

and late eighteenth century. Whether romances were passed

on from generation to generation, given as personal gifts,

or loaned from personal libraries, considerable testimony

disclosing the breadth of these romances can be found in

the correspondence and autobiographies of the not-so-famous

as well as the famous.

The eighteenth-century printer Thomas Gent (1693-

1778) alludes to the popularity in 1715 of Cassandre, a

celebrated romance in the early years of his autobiography.9

Writing to Mrs. Martha Blount, Alexander Pope devotes an

entire letter to the usual practice of reading romances,

while notifying her that he had sent to her the five volumes

of Scudery's The Grand Cyrus.lO In a letter to Philip

Dormer Stanhope, the Earl of Chesterfield refers to "three

celebrated Romances" (Grand Cyrus, Clelie, Cleopatre) when

he counsels his illegitimate son in 1740 about proper read-

ing materials.1l In a number of letters in 1743 and 1746,

H. S. Conway cites Cleopatre as the kind of old romance

that Horace Walpole knew by heart.12 Among the other ro-

mances that Walpole supposedly owned and loved, Conway

lists The Grand Cyrus, Cassandre, Zayde, and The Princess

of Cleves. The undistinguished novelist and commonplace

playwright Thomas Holcroft (1745-1809) recalls in the auto-

biographical chapters of his Life that during his youth

in the 1750's the romances were "as familiar to me as my

catechism, or the daily prayers I repeated kneeling before

my father."15

The popularity of romance literature in the eight-

eenth century is also reflected in its influence upon the

other forms of literature. Besides the ballads, opera,

and chap-books, an outstanding illustration is the senti-

mental comedy and heroic drama of the century. The mere

titles are sufficient indication of their source of inspira-

tion: Dryden's Secret-Love, or the Maiden Queen (L. Grand

Cvrus), Lee's The Rival Queens, or the Death of Alexander

the Great (Cassandre) and Theodosius. or the Force of Love

(Pharamond), and Bankes' The Rival Kings, or the Loves of
Orondates and Statira (Cassandre). Many comic writers

drew their plots, characters, and much of their style from

these same romances: for example, Farquhar's The Constant

Couple (1700), Gay's The Beggar's Opera (1728), and Sheri-

dan's The Rivals (1775).

For seventeenth-century England, the translating

and reading of medieval, Renaissance, and French heroic

romances were not sufficient for a society so enamoured of

romances. The composing of original English romances be-

came a fashionable and profitable pastime for English

writers who produced an ever increasing volume of a variety

of new romances. Whether these romances were imitations

of the French, Italian, or Spanish, or whether they were

written by a struggling hack-writer or an aspiring noble

apparently made no difference to the extent of their popu-

larity or influence.

These English romances burst upon the seventeenth-

century market in all sizes, models, interests, and levels

of achievement almost unceasingly throughout the period.

Charlotte Morgan's "Chronological List of the Prose Fic-

tion First Printed in England between 1600 and 1740" and

William Harlin McBurney's A Check List of English Prose

Fiction, 1700-1759 provide comprehensive documentation of

the volume and variety of seventeenth-century English ro-

mances published in these years, as well as the diversity

of foreign romances that were imported to satisfy what

must have been an equally sizeable demand.14 Some of the

English romances are: Barclay his Argenis: or, the Loves

of Poliarchus and Argenis (1625); John Reynolds' The Flower

of Fidelitie (1650); Cloria and Narcissus (1653); Roger

Boyle's Parthenissa, the Famed Romance (1654); Nathaniel

Ingelo's Bentivolio and Urania (1660); Sir George Macken-

zie's Aretina, or, the Serious Romance (1660); John Bul-

teel's Birinthia (1664); John Crowne's Pandion and Amphy-

genia: or, The History of the Coy Lady of Thessala (1666);

Roger Boyle's English Adventures (1676); Robert Boyle's

The Martyrdom of Theodora and Didymus (1687); Richard

Blackburn's Clitie (1688); Francis Quarles' The Unfortunate

Lovers: the History of Argalus and Parthenia (1701); and

Celenia: or, the historyy of Heyempsal, king of Numidea

Although many English romances like Boyle's Parthe-

nissa and Ingelo's Bentivolio and Urania were frequently

reprinted during the seventeenth century, fewer were re-

produced in the eighteenth century. The 1772 edition of

Barclay's Argenis, the ninth edition of Reynolds' The

Flower of Fidelitie in 1735, and the eleven renditions of

Cynthia; with the Tragical Loves of Almerin and Desdemonia

between 1687 and 1760, while sound evidence of the con-

tinuing popularity of romance, apparently represent excep-

tions to the pattern of publication for the seventeenth-

century English romances. The catalogues of Esdaile,

Morgan, McBurney, and the British Museum suggest the pre-

dominant republication of these romances was before 1700.
There is other evidence, however, which suggests

that seventeenth-century English romances were popular

well into the eighteenth and even early nineteenth century.

In 1834, William Henry Miller (1789-1848), a solicitor

and a member of the House of Commons, began collecting

books that were to become the library of Britwell Court,

Buckinghamshire.15 The short-title catalogue of this

library isolates another symptom of the romance's popu-

larity. It gives some indication of the esteem held for

English romances written nearly a century before Miller

began collecting his library. There are four editions

listed in the Britwell Handlist of Barclay's Argenis, three

of Quarles' Argalus and Parthenia, and two of Cloria and

Narcissus and Ingelo's Bentivolio and Urania. Single copies

of some of the more famous romances were also in this

private collection: Reynolds' The Flower of Fidelitie,

Braithwaite's Panthalia, Bulteel's Birinthia, Boyle's The

Martyrdom of Theodora and of Didymus, and Blackburn's

Clitie. The presence of even the lesser known romances

such as Robert Baron's The Cyprian Academy (1648), Rowland

Carleton's The Italian Princess (1681), and Eliana, A New

Romance formed by an English hand (1661) on the Britwell

Handlist perhaps indicates the extent of the interest in

these romances and others like them.

William Henry Miller was not unique in his interest

in and collection of romance literature for his library.

In five volumes arranged alphabetically, The Catalogue of

the Huth Library presents a record of fifty years of book

collecting which began in the first half of the nineteenth

century.16 As with the Britwell Handlist, Henry Huth's

personally compiled bibliographical descriptions harbor

symptoms of an extensive interest in romances with, among

other things, a proportionate number of seventeenth-century

English romances. Boyle's English Adventures, Bulteel's

Birinthia, Reynolds' The Flower of Fidelitie, and Carle-

ton's Diana, Dutchess of Mantua; or, the Persecuted Lover:

A Romance are among the more prominent of the numerous seven-

teenth-century romances listed. Others in the Huth Li-

brary which seem to indicate the popularity of these ro-

mances are Richard Braithwaite's The Two Lancashire Lovers:

or, the Excellent History of Philocles and Doriclea, Pan-

thalia: or, the Royal Romance, and The Life and Death of

Rosamond, King Henry the Second's Concubine.

As symptoms of the popularity of romances through

the eighteenth century, the libraries of William Henry

Miller and Henry Huth are neither unique nor restricted

to romances of seventeenth-century England. It seems as

if everyone had romances of some kind in his library. In

a Catalogue of a Curious and Valuable Collection of Books,

Among which are included The Entire Library of the late

Reverend and Learned Laurence Sterne (1768), there are

medieval, Renaissance, and seventeenth-century romances.17

The predominant variety, however, is the French romance

with such representatives as La Calprenede's Cleopatre,

Fenelon's Telemachus, Le Vayer de Boutigne's Tarsis and

Zelie, and La Fontaine's Daphnis et Chloe. Horace Wal-

pole's library also contained a great number and variety

of romances. The fourteenth and fifteenth century romances

are represented by Amadis de Gaule, The Seven Champions of

Christendom, Gesta Romanorum, and Appianus of Alexandria;

the Renaissance romances of Sidney, Greene, and Lodge re-

quire extensive listing.18 Walpole possessed complete

editions of Marie de la Fayette's, Jean de la Fontaine's,

and Vincent de Voiture's works. Individual copies of la

Fayette's Princess of Cleves and Princesse de Montpensier

and la Fontaine's Daphnis and Chloe are also listed with

La Calprenede's Cleopatre and Cassandre, Segrais's Zayde,

and Fenelon's Telemachus. The seventeenth-century English

contingent of romances is represented by Barclay's Argenis

and Baron's The Cyprian Academy, while Guarini's The Faith-

ful Shepherd and Loredano's Dianea: an Excellent New

Romance are instances of the many European romances (other

than the French) that Walpole was able to obtain.

The symptoms of an interest in romances exhibited

by the Britwell Handlist are not restricted to the pre-

viously discussed seventeenth-century English romances.

The catalogue of Miller's library registers numerous edi-

tions of a variety of romances from diverse national ori-

gins and historical periods. The Britwell Library con-

tains four different editions of Valentine and Orson,

five of Gesta Romanorum and Bevis of Hampton, six of Palm-

erin of England, and seven of The Seven Champions of Chris-

tendom. Of the Renaissance romance writers, the entries

of Sidney are outnumbered only by Greene and Lodge. All

three of Emanuel Ford's romances (Montelion, Ornatus and

Ortesia, Parismus) were owned by Miller in multiple edi-


An Italian edition accompanies Francis Kirkman's

and John Shirley's translations of The Honour of Chivalrie;

a translation of Jorge de Montemayor's Diana (1598) is

tabulated with those of Loredano's and Guarini's romances.

The abundance of French romances possessed by Miller even

overshadows the volume and variety in Walpole's library.

As well as the more celebrated works of Honore d'Urfe

(Astree), La Calprenede (Cassandre, Cleopatre, Pharamond)

.and Madeleine de Scudery (Almahide, Clelie, Ibrahim), there

were copies of Boursault's The Prince of Conde, Jean Des-

marets de Saint-Sorlin's Ariane, and Pierre d'Ortique

de Vaumoriere's The Grand Scipio also apparently held in

continued esteem.

The catalogues of libraries collected during and

at the end of the eighteenth century suggest other evi-

dence that corroborates the argument that romance litera-

ture was not dead. Nearly every library contained copies

of books written in the eighteenth century that either

imitated or burlesqued romances.

The native English writers' attempts during the

Restoration and eighteenth century to take advantage of

the earlier romances' popularity provide a publication

history that rivals the romances themselves. Reflecting

attributes of successful romance literature rather than

foreshadowing techniques of prose fiction that were to

develop later, such writers as Aphra Behn, Penelope Aubin,

Jane Barker, Mary Manley, and Elizabeth Haywood wrote

many volumes of prose fiction that were repeatedly published

as romances during the first half of the eighteenth century.

Aphra Behn must be considered the leader of this essen-

tially feminine movement to exploit, and thereby perpetuate,

the romance's popularity. Such efforts as The Fair Jilt:

r., the History of Prince Tarquin and Miranda, Love-Letters

between a Nobleman and his Sister, The History of Agnes

de Castro, Lycidus: or the Lover in Fashion, and Oroonoko:

or the Royal Slave which are characteristic of Behn's prose

fiction were read long after her death in 1689. The collec-

tion of her "histories and novels" had reached eight edi-

tions by 1735. As one of more than a score of prose works,

her Love-Letters between a Nobleman and his Sister appeared

as a ninth edition in 1759 and was still being printed in

1800. Significantly it accompanied The Princess of Cleves

and Zayde in Mrs. Griffiths' 1777 and 1780 collection of

"novels" and was published in French (1745) and German

(1709, 1789).

Penelope Aubin wrote a number of "lives and ad-

ventures" stories which were apparently popular. First

published in 1721, The Life of Madam de Beaumont, with

its encouragement for virtue and confidence in Providence,

was still being reprinted in 1741. Having appeared in

1722 and 1730, The Noble Slaves is another work that Mrs.

Griffiths collected with the French heroic romances and

English romances for further publication in 1777 and 1780.

Beginning with the 1715 publication of Exilius: or, the

Banish'd Roman. .A New Romance, Written after the Manner

of Telemachus, for the Instruction of Some Ladies of Qual-

ity, Jane Barker contributed a number of fictional works

which were popular throughout the first half of the century.

The Collection of the Entertaining Novels of Mrs. Jane

Barker reached a third edition by 1736 and was reprinted

in 1743. Mrs. Mary Manley's popularity exceeded her life

span by a number of years as nearly every one of her publi-

cations went into multiple editions. The Power of Love:

in seven novels was reissued twenty-one years after its

first 1720 edition; The Secret History of Queen Zarah was

printed in 1705, 1711, 1746, and 1749; The New Atalantis

achieved eight editions before 1740. From 1719 to 1753,

Mrs. Elizabeth Haywood followed the pattern of the seven-

teenth-century French romances successfully enough to find

publishers for more than twenty separate works. A collec-

tion of her Secret Histories, Novels, and Poems reached

a fourth edition by 1732. The publication of Mrs. Hay-

wood's individual editions usually resulted in more than

a single printing. Love in Excess: or, The Fatal Enquiry

came out in six editions by 1725; The History of Miss

Betsy Thoughtless was printed in 1751 and 1783; The Fruit-

less Enquiry was selected for Mrs. Griffiths' collection

(1777, 1780) ten years after its original publication.
Like Mrs. Behn and Manley, Elizabeth Haywood recognized

the popularity of this particular variety of romance fic-

tion and was astute enough throughout her career not to

tamper with a successful imitative pattern.

Like the feminine imitations of the French romances,

the mock-, burlesque-, or anti-romances were a large and

heterogeneous group that demonstrates the popularity of ro-

mance by the very attention they give to it. The repeated

reprintings of mock romances provide another tangible

manifestation of a popularity that continued in the eight-

eenth century. Cervantes' Don Quixote is the most cele-

brated reaction to romance literature. Popular in Spain

and France as well as in England, this burlesque was pub-

lished in four major translations during the eighteenth

century. The British Museum's catalogue lists six editions

of Shelton's translation between 1700 and 1740, eleven

editions of Motteux's between 1700 and 1803, eight of

Jarvis's between 1742 and 1801, and eighteen printings of

Smollett's between 1755 and 1803.

The French were most zealous in continuing Cervantes'

assault on romances with such writers as Charles Sorel,

Antoine Furteriere, Paul Scarron, and Moliere. Trans-

lated as The Extravagant Shepherd: The Anti-Romance: or,

the History of the Shepherd Lysis in 1653, Sorel's Le Berger

extravagant (1627) was published in several editions as a

burlesque of Astree. Translations of Scarron's most

famous anti-romance, Le Roman Comique (1651), were still

being reprinted in Great Britain as late as 1780. Often

mistaken for Scarron's, Furteriere's Le Roman Bourgeoise

(1666) elicited two distinct translations (The Adventures

of Covent Garden and Scarron's City Romance) with its

attack upon the extremely popular Clelie and The Grand

Cyrus. Broadening the scope of the usual mock-romance,

Molikre takes on the entire genre of heroic romance in

Precieuses ridicules (1659). It was as popular as the

others appearing in English translation as late as 1762.

Some other anti-romance writers who attained dis-

tinction in eighteenth-century England were: Cyrano de Ber-

gerac (Histoire comique des Etats et Emires de la Lune and

Histoire comique des Etats et Empires du Soleil), Pierre

Carlet de Camblain de Marivaux (Pharsamond), Guillaume

Hyacinthe Bougenat (Voyage merveilleux du Prince Feredin

dans la Romancie), Count Anthony Hamilton (Histoire de Fleur

d'Epine), Perdou de Subligny (La Fausse Clelie), and Eng-

land's own Mrs. Charlotte Ramsay Lennox (The Female Quixote:

or the Adventures of Arabella). As with a majority of the

non-English anti-romances, these works were translated

into English after repeated French publication and are

frequently listed in catalogues including the libraries

of such men as Fielding, Sterne, Gibbon, Walpole, Miller,

and Huth. Also included is Mrs. Lennox's quixotic romance

which required at least four editions between 1752 and

1810. The Female Quixote was so popular that it reversed

a normal pattern by being translated into German (1754)

and Spanish (1808).

This cursory survey of the many anti-romances that

were published in the eighteenth century argues strongly

for a recognition of the romance's popularity. Without

the "disease" of romance, there would have been little

need for the "cure" of anti-romance. For an audience to

appreciate a burlesque, they must be familiar with the

object ridiculed. Therefore, to pronounce the demise of

romance in the eighteenth century is not only to disregard

the symptoms of the romance's publication history and

presence in libraries, but also to misread the evidence

of the anti-romance's success in the same century.

Vital signs of life for the popularity of romance

are also conspicuous in the critical writing about romance

that persisted from the seventeenth to the nineteenth

century. This category of evidence can be subdivided into

(1) historical considerations and (2) critical attacks and

defenses of romance. The first subdivision includes the

many attempts made to explain the origin of romance fic-

tion and to trace its progress. To believe the assumption

that interest in the romance had vanished by the end of

the seventeenth century, one need only review the number

of major critical studies between 1672 and 1797 that dealt

directly with the historical development of the romance


In 1672, Pierre Daniel Huet's Sur L'origine des Ro-

mans was one of the first of a series of treatises on the

romances and their origins to be published.19 William

Wotton's 1694 Reflections Uron Ancient and Modern Learn-

ing contains a section on the correlation of the medieval

romance with modern love stories and how the historical

development of the earlier literary form influenced suc-

cessive forms. Stephen Lewis's 1715 adaptation and trans-

lation of Huet's 1672 treatise was published as The History

of Romances. Huet's epistolary-document to Segrais on the

origin of prose fiction was modified further in 1720 when

it became the preface to Samuel Croxall's Select Collection

of Novels and Romances and appeared again in the 1729 edi-


With William Warburton's "Dissertation on the Ori-

gin of Books of Chivalry" prefixed to Charles Jarvis's

translation of Don Quixote in 1742, the frequence of these

critical histories of the romance began to increase. Thomas

Warton the younger produced his first contribution in

1754 with Observations on the Faerie Queene of Spenser.

To allow a better understanding of a literary work by

understanding its era, Warton endeavored to place himself

and his reader in the age of tournaments, knights, and

damsels by studying the medieval civilization as well as

the representative romance. This work was reprinted in

1762 and in 1807.

Richard Hurd's Letters on Chivalry and Romance was

published in 1762. Using an epistolary approach, Hurd

attempted to defend the romance element in literature

as conducive to the sublime. Historical, philosophical,

and aesthetic tendencies from the Middle Ages to his time

are discussed within the changing context of romance.

Significantly this extensive treatise on the romance was

reprinted and expanded in the three-volume edition of

Hurd's Moral and Political Dialogues in 1765 and reached

its sixth edition in 1788.

In the same year that the original Letters on

Chivalry and Romance appeared (1762), Hugh Blair presented

a lecture entitled "On Fictitious History" that was printed

later in his Lectures on Rhetoric and Poetry. In his lec-

ture, Blair structures his history around the stages of

romance writing.

The third volume of Thomas Percy's Reliques of

Ancient English Poetry contains an extended essay entitled

"On the Ancient Metrical Romances." Originally appearing

in 1765, this essay presents an historical investigation

of the metrical romances' origin, a correlation of the

romances with succeeding literature, and a catalogue of

what Percy thought to be the extant romances. The three-

volume work was reissued five more times in the eighteenth

century (1766, 1767, 1775, 1790-91, 1794).

The final third of the century shows no signs that

this interest in the romance was weakening. Thomas War-

ton's second contribution was an essay in the first volume

of his expansive History of English Poetry (1774). En-

titled "Of the Origin of Romantic Fiction in Europe,"

this critical essay provides an eclectic theory of the

romance's origin by inculcating most of the existing theo-

ries into his own system. John Richardson's contribution

to the historical considerations of romance was prefixed

to his two-volume A Dictionary, Persian, Arabic, and Eng-

lish in 1777. Entitled "Dissertation on the Language,

Literature, and Manners of the Eastern Nations," this ex-

tensive work stresses the Eastern origin of the romance.

It was apparently relatively popular because it was issued

separately under its original title in the same year the

dictionary first appeared and a second edition was pub-

lished in 1778.

Clara Reeve endeavored to trace the progress of

the romance through its stages and variations, to point

out its effect and influence, and to provide a list of

the most worthy for reading in her The Progress of Romance

(1785). Significantly, she acknowledged her indebted-
ness to predecessors such as James Beattie's "On Fable

and Romance" that appeared in Dissertations Moral and

Critical (1783), Paul Henri Mallet's Introduction a L'his-

toire de Dannemare (1755-6) which Percy translated in 1770,

and Susannah Dobson's renditions of The Literary History

of the Troubadours (1779) and Memoirs of Ancient Chivalry

(1784) by Sainte-Palaye.20 Also listing the work of Thomas
Warton and Percy, Mrs. Reeves' survey reflects a breadth

of interest in the romance that can, by 1785, cite an

extensive background of critical tradition in the his-

torical study of the romance.

John Moore's "A View of the Commencement and Pro-

gress of Romance" presents a standard history of the ro-

mance and the usual endeavor to explain its origin. As

a segment of the introduction to Moore's 1797 edition of

Tobias Smollett's works, this essay also weighs the romance

against other prose fiction of the early and mid-eighteenth

century. Hence Moore's essay not only represents one of

the many historical considerations of romance that appeared

near the end of the century, but in addition can be seen

as an illustration of the critical commentary which con-

stitutes that other group of writings about romances.

These, to be sure, often overlap. One implication of them

both, however, remains clear: they both argue clearly

that the romance was a current and viable art form.

Straightforward statements of the romance's pres-

ence are not unique. Critical pamphlets, prefaces, and

related materials are readily available as evidence attest-

ing to the eighteenth century's continual recognition of

romance. Very broadly, the critical commentary on romance

during the eighteenth century may be classified into attacks

on romance and defenses of them. For example, the attacks

on romance note with chagrin the continuing popularity of

romance and respond by calling for a national ameliora-

tion in moral taste. Responding to an enquiry concerning

the legality of reading romances, John Dunton advises the

1692 readers of The Athenian Mercury to avoid a literature

that excites the pride and softens the brain.21 In his

1722 preface to Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe found the world

"taken up of late with Novels and Romance" and seemingly

felt compelled to present this work as a "private History

to be taken for Genuine."22 An article in the May, 1749,

issue of The London Magazine cites "the present reigning

taste for Novels and Romances" and describes this taste

as "fettering," "foolery," "vulgar," and "a national

evil." 23 Another example of the mid-eighteenth-century

awareness of the romance's popularity is An Essay on the

New Species of Writing founded by Mr. Fielding (1751)

which discovered that "the world had been pester'd with

Volumes, commonly known by the Name of Romances, or,

Novels, Tales, etc." until Fielding produced his design

of Reformation.24

This anonymous critic attributed too much influence

to Fielding's reformation. Statements expressing an anxiety

over the romance's popularity continued to appear well

into the latter part of the century. On May 10, 1753,

William Whitehead lamented in The World (XIX) that "the

present age is over-run with romances, and yet so strong

does the appetite for them continue. . ."25 Eight years

later in 1761, romances continue to suffer accusations

that, because they contain stories of love as a ruling

passion, they are dangerous fictions and instruments of

debauchery.26 This disease of "growing evil" and corrupt-

ing influence called romance was still inflaming periodi-

cal critics who reviewed romances in 1753, 1756, 1757,

and 1773.27 The Gentleman's Magazine, December 1767,

asserts that "it must be a matter of real concern to all

considerate minds, to see the youth of both sexes passing

so large a part of their time in reading that deluge of

familiar romances, which, in this age, our island over-

flows with."28 In 1773, John and Anna Laetitia Aikin

note with some distress the still continuing popular de-

mand for the romance:

Of all the multifarious productions which
the efforts of superior genius, or the labours
of scholastic industry, have crowded upon the
world, none are perused with more insatiable

avidity, or disseminated with more universal
applause, than the narrations of feigned events,
descriptions of imaginary scenes, and delinea-
tions of ideal characters. The celebrity of
other authors is confined within very narrow

Romance was, then, the object (and victim) of critical

assaults that were almost uninterrupted for more than a

century. The most frequent and severe of these attacks on

the romance's continued vogue in the eighteenth century

were on moral rather than aesthetic grounds. Romances were

attacked because they were thought to be a frivolous waste

of time, the presentation of fancy as fact, an allurement

to vice, a chaotic representation of life, and generally

more concerned with delight than instruction. As with

most moralistic attacks on literature, they indicate no

success in their endeavors, but only the continuing pres-

ence of the phenomenon they attack. They also suggest,

perhaps, why writers of romance sought every other possible

label for their works, the most popular being, of course,

"Histories" and "Life and Adventures" (i.e. biography).

Given this climate, it is a grave error to accept these

labels as valid generic distinctions; or to accept the

disclaimers of authors that they were not romance writers

as a matter of fact.

Commentary on romance literature was not restricted

to attacks. Also indicating the romance's popularity

throughout the eighteenth century, the favorable treatises

usually either reviewed the nature of the romance's form

or compared romance with other forms of prose fiction.

As one would expect, critical commentary on the romance's

form was plentiful when the romance's popularity was at

its zenith. Beginning with the translator's "Preface"

to the 1703 edition of Cassandre, the eighteenth century's

interest in romance was also demonstrated by the numerous

attempts to define the form. From Mrs. Manley's 1705 dis-

tinction between the old and the modern romances in her

"Preface" to The Secret History of Queen Zarah to The

Monthly Review's 1761 review of Almoran and Hamet as a

drooping romance, innumerable accounts of the romance's

nature and responsibility were offered. Critical discus-

sions of romance literature during the first half of the

century by men such as John Dennis, Daniel Defoe, and

Samuel Johnson are quantitatively balanced by those of the

century's second half such as William Whitehead, Horace

Walpole, and George Canning.30 Covering a broad chronolog-

ical spectrum, one may note William Congreve's "Preface"

to Incognita (1691) as an illustration of early compari-

sons of fictional forms and Clara Reeve's "Preface" to

The Old English Baron (1778) of the later ones. The middle

period features such representatives as Mrs. Haywood's

Preface to The Disguis'd Prince (1733), The Monthly Review's

March, 1751, review of Peregrine Pickle, or John Hawkes-

worth's November 18, 1752, article in The Adventurer.

Each example conceives of the romance as a form to be used

to measure other forms of fiction such as the novel, or as

a literary work to be evaluated as a variation from such

genres as the epic or history. Regardless of their criti-

cal acumen, it is clear that in a period of acute awareness

concerning generic forms these and other critics recognized

the existence of the romance as a genre and were conscious

of its popularity. I shall depend heavily upon their dis-

cussions in reaching some conclusion as to the eighteenth-

century definition of romance in Chapter Two.

In view of the evidence, it seems to me dangerous

to suggest that the rise of the novel took place over the

corpse of romance. If something new was taking place, it

was doing so with extreme caution and hesitance, and the

older form of the romance was clinging to the public mind

with great tenaciousness.


In their attempts to discover the favorable condi-

tions in the literary and social situation that differen-

tiated early eighteenth-century novels from previous fic-

tion, modern critics such as Ernest Baker, Lionel Stevenson,

Ronald Paulson, and Ian Watt rely upon attacks on romance

to suggest that there had been a new literary urge for

realism that led directly to the rise of thenovel. Popular

periodical writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth cen-

tries such as John Dunton, Charles Gildon, and William

Whitehead provide what twentieth-century literary historians

believe to be convincing evidence that there occurred a new

and decisive commitment to the close correspondence be-

tween life and literature in prose fiction soon after the

turn of the eighteenth century.31 Although disdaining

"the invidious suggestion that all previous writers and

literary forms pursued the unreal," the first chapter of

lan Watt's The Rise of the Novel does in fact imply this

when it begins to construct a working definition of the

novel by citing eighteenth-century writers who viewed their

work as involving a break with the romances, and by stating

that a novelist's primary task is to convey the impression

of fidelity to human experience.2

Watt, as well as the others, assumes that philosoph-

ical and literary realism arose with a particular evolu-

tionary shift in the English social structure during the

eighteenth century. As a new literary form, the novel

represents this new philosophical and literary desire to

imitate and portray all the varieties and circumstances

of human experience. The novel's process emphasizes real-

istic particularity. Characters are particular indivi-

duals; time and space require a particular locus; style

is a production of what purports to be an authentic account

of actual experiences. The novel is a "closeness to the

texture of daily experience." Thus, for Watt,

the narrative method whereby the novel
embodies this circumstantial view of life may
be called its formal realism; formal, because
the term realism does not here refer to any
special literary doctrine or purpose, but only
to a set of narrative procedures which are so
commonly found together in the novel, and so
rarely in other literary genres, that they may
be regarded as typical of the form itself. (p. 52)

This formal realism is more than just a feature of the

novel form, it is the novel form. Modern historians of

fiction have equated the novel and realism.

As with the assertion that the eighteenth century

rejected the romance, the equation of realism and the

novel requires re-examination. To argue that realism was a

new literary urge resulting in and defining a new literary

form is to deny overwhelming evidence to the contrary;

that the romance in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries

consistently endeavored for consonance with the probable,

the representative, and the verisimilar; that realism was

one of the general critical desiderata of this earlier

fiction; and that realism has always been an aim in litera-

ture. Considering the extent of this evidence, one must

argue that the "realism equals novel" equation is question-

able and has been instrumental in distorting most critical

approaches to eighteenth-century fiction.

While romance did undoubtedly connote a fabulous

approach that evoked accusations of extravagance, exaggera-

tion, and embellishment, in actuality the romance writers

of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries strove for

realism as one of the general critical desiderata of their

work. No romance writer admitted to intentionally creating

"a perpetual succession of absurdities," "a finished Piece

of nothing but Chaos and Incoherency," "monsters of the

imagination" or "some worthless book."33 A glance at the

titles of, the prefaces to, and the critical commentary on

romances published during the seventeenth and eighteenth

centuries reveals that most pretended to historical or

biographical writing as they endeavored to establish a

reasonable harmony with the ordinary, realistic counterpart

of everyday.

Although a vast variety of romances from nearly

every era and national origin was published throughout the

seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in England, one notes

an extensive similarity in their titles. Many titles

reflect the respective writer's, translator's, or pub-

lisher's desire to pass his work off as some form of his-

torical document such as a biography or an historical

annual. The most Excellent and Famous History of the Most

Renowned Knight, Amadis of Greece, and The Gallant History

of the Life and Death of that most noble knight, Sir Bevis

of Southampton are typical titles of medieval romances.

Renaissance romance writers such as Emanuel Ford and Robert

Greene followed the pattern of establishing a biographical

and historical context by respectively entitling their

works The Most Famous, Delectable, and Pleasant History

of Parismus, the Renowned Prince of Bohemia and Pandosto,

the Triumph of Time. Wherein is discovered b_ a pleasant

Historie. . or The pleasant and delightful History of

Dorastus, Prince of Sicily, and Fawnia, only daughter and

heir of Pandosto, King of Bohemia. Seventeenth-century

titles of French romances such as Zayde, A Spanish history,

or romance, Pharamond: or, the History of France. A new

romance, and The History of Polexander; and of English ro-

mances such as Pandion and Amphigenia; or, the History of

the Coy Lady of Thessaly, The Unfortunate Lovers: the

History of Argalus and Parthenia and Don Carlos; an histori-

cal relation of the Life and Death . of that Spanish

Prince son to Philip II continued to attempt to suggest

that factual accounts were enclosed. Mrs. Manley's The

Secret History of Queen Zarah and the Zarazians, Penelope

Aubin's The Life of Mme. de Beaumont, and the anonymous

author's Celenia; or the history of Heyempsal, King of

Numidier indicate that even such eighteenth-century romances

that elicited condemnations of perverting the fair sex
"with the chimerical ideas of romantic love" insisted through

their titles that they deserved the respect accorded to pri-

vate and public histories. But the titles of these ro-

mances that Watt found so antithetical to formal realism

are only external manifestations of a qualitative and quan-

titative commitment to the appearance of history and the

critical establishment of verisimilitude that appeared in

the prefaces to these romances.

Curiously, both eighteenth- and twentieth-century

critics who have either attacked or dismissed romances on

the basis of their fabulous nature have found it convenient

to assign the responsibility for this extravagance to

seventeenth-century French romance writers. For example,

the anonymous author of An Essay on the New Species of

Writing founded by Mr. Fielding (1751) was upset by the

English delight in importing the chaos and incoherency of

French romances:

France first gave Birth to this strange
Monster, and England was proud to import it
among the rest of her Neighbour's Follies. A
Deluge of Impossibility overflow'd the Press.
Nothing was received with any kind of Applause,
that did not appear under the Title of a Romance
or Novel; and Common Sense was kick'd out of
Doors to make Room for Marvellous Dullness.34

As a representative of the modern view on romance and its

relationship to the novel's emergence, loan Williams

describes romance as a product of seventeenth-century France

that in England "was decisively rejected in favour of forms

which related more closely to the conditions of ordinary


This attribution of the "Deluge of Impossibility"

to the French romances is curious because the theory of

romance which accompanied these influential seventeenth-

century French romances to England included cardinal criti-

cal doctrines requiring probability and the use of an

historical background. The prefaces, prologues, and

dedications to the seventeenth-century romances of the

popular writers such as Gautier de Costes de la Calprenede

and Madeleine de Scudery all insist that "amongst all the

rules which are to be observed in the composition of these

works, that of true resemblance is without question the

most necessary; it is, as it were, the fundamental stone

of this building, and but upon which it cannot subsist;

without it nothing can move; without it nothing can please."36

Based on this "most necessary" rule, the French romance

writers sought vraisemblance (true resemblance) by pursuing

more natural action, likely scenes, character propriety,

and a just mediocrity of style (constraint against the

vulgar or the extravagant). For instance, Scudery insists

in the preface to Ibrahim, or the Illustrious Bassa: "I

have laboured then never to eloigne myself from it [true

resemblance as a rule], and to that purpose I have observed

the Manners, Customs, Religions, and Inclinations of People:

and to give a more true resemblance to things, I have made

the foundations of my work Historical, my principal Per-

sonages such as are marked out in the true History of

illustrious persons, and the wars effective."37 Calprenede

is as adamant in his preface to Faramond (Pharamond) about

his adherence to truth:

In effect I can truly say that in the Cassandre
and the Cleopatre not only is there nothing contrary
to truth, though there may be things beyond truth;
but also that there is no passage in which one can
convict me of lying, and that through all the cir-

cumstances of the History, I can prove it is as
true when I please. I shall add nothing of my
own to the matters of importance.58

Both Calprenede and Scudery are typical of French romance

writers with their proclaimed dependence upon history as

a framework for establishing probability and vraisemblance.

These announcements of the use of an historical background

provided a means to repudiate any suggestion that they

violated the "most necessary" rule by including anything

that did not exist or never had existed. Calprenede's

introduction to the fourth part of Cassandre shows the

desire to exhibit the apparent influence that history had

over the romancer's art: "If all the adventures of it

[Cassandre] are not equal, and if you find some places in

them not so strong, nor so diverting as others; you will be

pleased to consider, that my invention has not had an entire

liberty, and that it has been rack'd by chronology, by the

truth of the History. . ." The association of romances

with history (and therefore probability, verisimilitude,

and truth) was a commonplace of the French romancer's art.

The author's epistle to Cassandre at the beginning

of the third part of Cassandre indicates how pervasive

truth's demands were. Asking Cassandre to relay his ex-

cuses to Calesta, Calprenede apologizes profusely for

taking liberties with truth in his art:

Take care also, if you please, to excuse
me to her; and if she thinks it strange, that
having kept my self hitherto enough within
probability, I take a little liberty in the

description of some particular actions, in
that instead of following the manner of
writing used by Plutarch, Quintus Curtius,
Justin, and other authors, from whom I have
drawn the foundation of your History, I make
my Heroes march unto the fight, in a way
somewhat nearer to that of Homer, Virgil,
Tasso, and other writers of that nature, who
have beautified the truth with some ornaments,
rather more pleasing, than confined to a strict
and regular likelihood. . but yet without
making them remarkable by impossible actions
or extravagant inventions. (III. 360)

Rather than a new aesthetic urge, realism to seventeenth-

century French romance writers like Marin le Roy (Sieur

de Gomberville), Pierre d'Ortiques (Sieur de Vaumoriere),

and Armand Desmarets de Saint-Sorlin, as well as Calprenede

and Scudery, was a fundamental concept to be borrowed from

"those great Geniuses of antiquity." Moreover, considering

the importance of probability and history to the theory

of romance in France, it is indeed ironic that the dismissal

of romance was theoretically on the grounds that it was

unrealistic and the product of a nation devoted to extrav-


French critical emphasis upon a correlation of the

romance with what might be reasonably expected to occur in

the normal course of human affairs assumes a greater mean-

ing for a study of English fiction when one recognizes that

the English theory of romance was almost entirely a product

of France.40 The English translators of the extremely

popular French romances significantly emphasize and reiter-

ate in their prefaces the romance's designed affinity with

truth, history, imitation, and nothing improbable or impos-

sible. P. Porter's dedicatory epistle to his 1678 transla-

tion of Regnauld de Segrais's Zayde, A Spanish History

ascribes considerable power to this romance: "It is a

Romance, but so like a True Story, that your Grace may reap

by it the use and profit of a true History."41 The 1687

dedicatory epistle to Robert Loveday's translation of

Calprenede's Cleopatre insists that history and truth are

central: "Thou wilt here find History Enameled with Fic-

tion, and truth Drest like a May-Lady who through the gay

Disguise of her Flowery Ornaments, does often shew her own

Simplicity." 42 English translators did not deny the crea-

tive and artistic faculties of romance writers; they

merely wanted to make it clear that the primary ends and

means were truth. The translator's preface to Artamene

ou le Grand Cyrus (1691) contrasts Scudery with those

false romance writers who deceive their readers: "Whereas

Monsieur Scudery, a Person of great Understanding, profuse

Fancy, and clear Judgment, pursues exactly the Truth of

History in most things; and where he deviates a little,

'tis only to accomplish his Particular Worthy, with the

Virtues of Many: urging nothing either improbable, or

impossible." 4 The 1705 translator's preface to Calprenede's

Cassandre again testifies that "there is something of the

Artist's rich Conceits interwoven with the truth of those

Histories, on which it is primarily grounded" and that

"the design is the best that ever was laid on any History,

and that this is so upon Plutarch and other Ancient Wri-

ters." Not only did the translators make sure to reit-

erate the original French author's critical devotion to

truth and history, they likewise made a point of establish-

ing a classical precedent for this objective and the method

used to obtain it.

The English adaptation of the French requirements

for probability and the use of historical background in

romances was not restricted to frequent re-emphasis in

translators' prefaces. Critical prefaces to native seven-

teenth-century and eighteenth-century romances clearly

indicate a thorough familiarity with and wide acceptance

of "realism" as a critical desiderata. Critical discourses

prefaced to Parthenissa, A Romance (1655), Bentivolio and

Urania (1660), and The Martyrdom of Theodora and of Didymus

(1687) were typical as they reproduced what must be con-

sidered commonplaces of the romancer's art. In "The Pre-

face" to Parthenissa, A Romance Roger Boyle, Lord Broghill,

recounts "reading Romances as an invitation to Studdy"

and finds the ignorance of them as bad as having never

heard of Aristotle or Euclid.45 Boyle relates how resi-

dence in France led to the reading of romances which in

turn gave him a "passionate desire to separate the Truth

from the Fixion" (p. Al). It is this passionate desire that

shapes his romance. Rejecting the purely fabulous, he

pledges to follow historians, to be entrenched upon or

borrowed of truth, and to exhibit a rationality and proba-

bility that invites imitation.

In Bentivolio and Urania, Nathaniel Ingelo's "A

Preface to the Reader, Concerning the Design of this Book"

associates the writing and reading of romances with men

such as Homer, Plato, Plutarch, and Horace. In light of

these associations Ingelo is sensitive to the negligence

"one may perceive in Some Romances of a later date."46

He attacks the "grossest indecorums of Invention, as odious

misrepresentations of Divinity, unnaturall Descriptions of

Human Life, Improper and Profane Allusions to Sacred Things,

frequent and palpable Contradictions, Sottish stories, and

in short, all the absurdities of wild Imagination" (pp. D1-

D2). But the scorn is not upon romance, only those who

have blotted and corrupted the chief design of romance.

By returning to and continuing to pursue proper elements

of romance such as truth, propriety of speech, and resem-

blance, true romance writers in Ingelo's mind will return

to their noble stature:

But some that mean well, and think they are
not mistaken in the sense of their proposition,
humbly desire that those Excellent Wits would lay
their design of Romance deeper than'the Shallows
of Fancy that so the Reader may not stick upon
every Shelf of Fiction, and that the Streams of
Wit be made navigable for the Inspiration of such
Wisdom as is necessary for our best life. The
design to please is then as well accomplished;
but not terminating to the surface of Recreation,
it is improved into a higher advantage of those
nobler faculties which God hath given us. (pp. D3-D4)

To submit truth and probability to the "cunning invegle-

ments of Fancey" is to violate the moral as well as the

artistic characteristics of a well formed romance.

Robert Boyle's "account" of the creation of The

Martyrdom of Theodora and of Didymus elucidates the ro-

mance writer's customary struggle between imagination and

truth and the conventional outcome:

S. I found my self tempted so to enlarge
this Story, as that it might be contriv'd into a
somewhat voluminous Romance: But upon second
thoughts, it appeared incongruous to turn a
Martyr into a Nymph or an Amazon; And I con-
sider'd too, that (to omit what else might be
objected against that sort of Composures) as
true Pearls are Cordials and Antidotes, which
counterfeit ones, how fine soever they may
appear, are not; so True Examples do arm and
fortify the mind far more efficaciously, than
Imaginary or Fictitious ones can do. . .47

Citing Livy and Plutarch as his models, Boyle outlines

how he used historical sources for the basis of his narra-

tive; how the use of an historical past in a remote region

established probability of action; and how his study of the

historical facts permitted him to write speeches suitable

to the occasion as well as the speaker. Moreover, he in-

forms the reader in some detail that he felt no liberty

to feign surprising adventures, to adorn the historical

part, or to violate the laws of decency. Boyle's dedica-

tion to the victory of true examples is so integral to his

conception of the romance that he apologizes for any devia-

tion he feels he has made, such as in subject material

(". . a youthful and heated fancy transported my Pen. .")

or style (". . I was induc'd to allow my self a more

fashionable Stile, than would perhaps be suitable to a

meer Sermon, or Book of Divinity, because I fear'd, that

the Youthful Persons of Quality of both Sexes . ., would

scarce be sufficiently affected by unfortunate Vertue, if

the interweaving of passages relating to Beauty and Love,

did not help to make the Tragical story, Delightful, and

the Excellent Sufferers Piety, Amiable" [pp. A2-A31).

Eighteenth-century prefaces repeat the commonplaces

found in critical introductions to seventeenth-century

French romances, English translations, and English romances.

Although eighteenth-century romances were published gener-

ally as "histories," "travels," and "lives," their prefa-

tory material clearly indicates their source of inspira-

tion. Mary de la Riviere Manley's 1705 preface to The

Secret History of Queen Zarah expresses the typical theory

which was supposed to serve as the basis for the writing

of these fictional histories. By asserting that her "little

histories" have replaced the long and extraordinary romances,

Mrs. Manley elaborates upon the principles which resulted

in her success. Fundamental to her discussion of charac-

ters, action, and style is that the "Probability of Truth"

should be observed with great care. She advises "His-

torians": to "give them [characters] Passions, Vertues

or Vices, which resemble Humanity; thus all the World will

find themselves represented in these Descriptions"; to

"place the Accidents as they Naturally happen, without en-

deavoring to sweeten them for a greater Credit"; and to

"take Notice of the Time and Sense where those Accidents

happened, that the Reader may not remain long in Suspence."48

Regardless of Mrs. Manley's repudiation of romance, her en-

tire discourse echoes seventeenth-century commentary on the

artistry of romances with its emphasis on an aesthetic urge

toward realism.

The distinction between the critical theories

attached to eighteenth-century "secret histories" and the

assorted "travels" and "lives" is as indiscernible as the

distinction between Mrs. Manley's fiction and the romances

she repudiates. For instance, Andrew Ramsay in his pre-

face to the Travels of Cyrus (1727) answers charges of

plagiarism, a lack of imagination, and an over rapidity of

episodes by asserting that his work is a travel history

and that "history simply relates facts as they happen, with-

out endeavoring after the intrigues, speeches, and surpriz-

ing adventures of romance" (p. vi).49 Furthermore he

rhetorically argues that "travels cannot surely appear

unnatural" (p. vii) and that consequently he "has endea-

vored so to introduce his ideas as not to transgress the

bounds of probability" and "to range each truth in its

proper place" (p. v). As a representative of eighteenth-

century 'lives and adventures" fiction, The Life and enter-

taining Adventures of Mr. Cleveland, Natural Son of Oliver

Cromwell, Written by Himself (1734-1735) contains a pre-

face which also exhibits a determination to provide an

aesthetic foundation based upon what might be reasonably

expected to occur in the normal course of human events.

After citing the advantages of the study of history, this

preface outlines how a private history can instruct through

recapitulation of personal experiences and true reported

facts. The "editor" and "translator" then establishes the

veracity of Mr. Cleveland's particular history by telling

how the document came into his hands and how it "agrees

in a great many particulars with the most authentic his-

torians."50 Furthermore, it is evident from their pre-

faces that most popular writers of secret histories, tra-

vels, and lives in the eighteenth century such as Pene-

lope Aubin, William Chetwood, Edward Kimble, Alexander Smith,

Aphra Behn, and Elizabeth Haywood were as much a part of

the mainstream of critical theorizing on romance as Mrs.

Manley and Andrew Ramsay with their obstinate attention to

the claims of history, truth, and fidelity to human experi-


Independent critical comments on the essence of

romance also suggest that realism was a critical desiderata

for the romance in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Some, like Sir George MacKenzie's An Apologie for Romances

(1660), were by romance writers who were defending their

own works against charges that romances were a waste of

time, were written with an intent to deceive, and were

"ante-doting vertues."52 MacKenzie's three-pronged rebut-

tal characteristically relies on ancient precedent, an

affiliation with historical writing, and an attack on the

errors of the earlier romance writers.53 Stressing the

importance of avoiding the stuffing of romances "with

things impracticable, which because they were above the

reach of man's power, they should never have fallen within

the circle of his observation" and of refraining from an

inimitable soaring style (p. 8), the writer of Aretina;

Or, the Serious Romance is confident that, if they are

are written by excellent wits and perused by intelligent

readers, romances are "vessels which strain the christal

streams of vertue from the puddle of interest" because

they are bundled up with truths (pp. 6-7).

What would seem to make MacKenzie's treatise and

the prefaces discussed earlier even more significant is

that their expressed requirement of probability and the

use of historical background is substantiated by critics

who apparently had no vested interest in the defense or

marketing of romances. An early instance of independent

criticism, written originally in 1670, is "The History

of Romances" (1715) which contains "the Best Instructions

for Composing Romances, with all Necessary Dispositions

for the Perfection of the Art."54 Considerable space is

allotted to a discussion of what is essential to a romance --

probability. Moreover, citing the authorities of Aris-

totle, Plato, Pigna, and Strabo, this tract presents ro-

mance as one resource for fulfilling man's need for a

"Knowledge of Truth." Since romances are characteristically

"True in Appearance," a "Shew of Truth," and have their

source in history, they provide recourse to truth through


Nor can we simply say that with the passage of the

eighteenth century the romance became less "romantic" as

demands for realism created the novel; if anything, ro-

mances became more not less divorced from reality as its

long tradition culminated in the gothic quest for oddity

and suspense. Surely some reader demand was being satis-

fied by this tendency, though to be sure, critical reviewers

vigorously prescribed to the imitation of nature, the obser-

vation of real life, and sober probability, the familiar

desiderata which we have already seen in abundance in

critical commentary on the romance.55 Reviewers in such

periodicals as The Analytical Review, the Gentleman's

Magazine, The Critical Review, the Monthly Review, and The

British Critic again and again invoked the concepts of

realism that had long been associated with the theory of

romance in their evaluation of mid- and late-eighteenth-

century fiction. For example, Owen Ruffhead discusses

in the Monthly Review the drooping genius of romance in

his May, 1761, review of Almoran and Hamet: An Oriental

Tale. Ruffhead blames the general decline of romance and

his particular disappointment in Almoran and Hamet upon

the deviation from the principle that romance "ought never

to exceed the bounds of probability."56 Similarly, a July,

1788, review of Emmeline, the Orphan of the Castle laments

Charlotte Smith's tendencies to preposterous sentiments,

wild scenes, and absurd characters, as well as her general

lack of "many touches of nature."57 Some works, on the

other hand, were praised because of their close imitation

of nature, their variety of natural circumstances, and

their interesting minuteness. For instance, a review of

Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph in The Critical Review of

March, 1761, praises the artistry of Francis Sheridan in

sustaining with propriety all the different personages, in

strengthening the resemblance of the portraiture, and in

observing probability throughout three volumes.58

The point is, that all of these works under discus-

sion would today be called romances rather than novels in

any common acceptance of either term. This being the case,

we can, on the one hand, limit our definition of realism

to the old saw about lower-class characters, effectively

destroying its usefulness as a critical tool; or, on the

other hand, we can face more squarely than before the fact

that the aesthetic urge toward realism was not an eight-

eenth-century phenomenon, but a demand imposed by writers

and critics alike on prose fiction from its very beginning.

The eighteenth-century novel, I would argue did not arise

at the wake of the romance as Watt argues; rather, a

"novelist" like Smollett can best be understood by accept-

ing the continued viability of romance as an eighteenth-

century genre.

We may continue our argument on yet another ground.

The equation of the rise of the novel with the rise of

realism can be further questioned when one recognizes that

the emphasis on realism had been even more widespread and

long-standing than thus far indicated. This particular-

ly apparent in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century criti-

cism of the most traditional and most important of genres --

the epic narrative. A significant portion of epic criti-

cism before and during the era considered to mark the rise

of the novel employs the same critical terminology so

frequently associated with that rise and fiction's alleged

growing critical concern with realism. The problems of

probability and verisimilitude for example,cited to in-

dicate fiction's revolutionary commitment to the presenta-

tion of circumstantial reality, had long characterized

discussions of conventional forms such as the epic. As

a matter of fact, the narrative procedures of realism can

be traced as general critical desiderata for the epic

alone from the time of the ancients through the eighteenth

century, and in the critical heritages of the Greeks, the

Romans, the Italians, and the French, as well as the Eng-


Aristotle's literary criticism provided the founda-

tion for almost every writer who later designed a plan
for the epic. In the twenty-six parts of the Poetics

outlining the epic and tragedy in general and their spe-

cies, the number and nature of their constituent parts,

and the causes of success or failure in them, Aristotle

distinctly anticipates the "new desire for realism" that

is so frequently tied to the rise of the novel.

The master-concept of the Poetics is imitation.60

For Aristotle, the writing of epic and of tragedy is an

imitative or mimetic art, where characters and experi-

ences and actions are copied from nature. The first four

chapters outline the general origin of this poetic art of

imitation and its media, objects, and method. Arguing that

man is naturally mimetic, and that the reproductions created

are pleasurable as well as educational, Aristotle outlines

certain desirable traits for plot, characters, and narra-

tive devices that clearly resemble the narrative proce-

dures Watt finds so common in the novel and so rare in

other genres. As an imitation of action, the plot should

be composed of events, both probable and necessary (ix.

51a36-58bl); the structure of these events, too, should

be probable or necessary; "peripity" as a shift in the

action towards the opposite should be in accordance with

the principles of probability or necessity (xi. 52a22-25).

Aristotle prescribes appropriateness, naturalness,

and consistency for the imitation of characters. He wants

the artist's imitation to be faithful to the character

of human beings in general. Furthermore, in the charac-

ters one must also seek constantly for either the necessary

or the probable in exactly the same way as in the struc-

ture of the incidents (xv. 54a33-35). As a result, the

conclusions or resolutions of a work should come from the

characters themselves, not from external machines, in order

to avoid improbabilities in the plot.

Aristotle's theory is based obviously on the Homeric

epic. It is Homer who is contrasted to a poet that violates

his duty of imitation by becoming intrusive in his narra-

tion (60a5-ll); it is Homer who knows how to tell untruths

in the right way (60all-65). The twenty-fourth section

dealing with the probable and marvelous in the epic sum-

marizes the Aristotelian view on telling the truth about

man and his actions. Aristotle clearly prefers probable

impossibilities over improbable possibilities. The story

should never be made up of improbable incidents, but, if

unavoidable, the improbable should be outside the plot

structure. The twenty-fifth section of the Poetics lists

how the author as imitator may represent things: either

as they were or are, or as they are said or thought to be

or to have been, or as they ought to be. Finally, Aristotle

concludes with a catalogue of the kinds of mimetic faults.

Three of the five possible failures violate aspects of what

Watt attributes to circumstantial realism: being impos-

sible; being improbable; or being contradictory.

In the long history of epic criticism, recognition

of and concern with the realistic properties associated with

verisimilitude, credibility, and probability are rarely

far from view. Horace's Ars Poetica illustrates this con-

cern, and along with Aristotle's comments clearly provides

the foundation of all subsequent epic criticism. Intended

to teach the business and duty of a writer, Horace's com-

mentary on the art of poetry argues for representing life

as it is and for not indulging in incongruities. An artist

of good judgment shall: choose a subject within his powers;

be simple and consistent in characterization and diction;

avoid disgust and incredulity by observing the characteris-

tics of each age; and include details only relevant to the

subject as a whole (11. 38-41).61 Horace feels that a

writer of the epic, as any other, should be basically true

to nature.

respicere exemplar vitae morumque iubebo
doctum imitatorem et vivas hinc ducere voces.
(I shall bid the clever imitator look to life
and morals for his real model, and draw thence
language true to life.) (11.317-318)

The outstanding A History of Literary Criticism

in the Renaissance reveals that Italian Renaissance criti-

cism of the epic presents only variations on the themes

of Aristotle and Horace. Using Strabo's definition of

poetry as a key to the Renaissance Theory of poetry,

J. E. Spingarn isolates the Italian emphasis on poetry

as an imitation of life.62 He cites medieval literature's

repeated reliance upon impossibilities as influential in

forcing the critical writers of the Renaissance to lay

particular stress on the element of probability and a

closer approach to the seeming realities of life (p. 38).

This theory of poetry as imitation found expression in the

mirror metaphor and the rhetorical concept of enargeia

throughout the middle and late Renaissance. Both suggest

the portraiture of real life particulars. The mirror

metaphor emphasized the poet's function of holding a mirror

up to nature, and the concept of enargeia involved the

putting of scenes concretely and vividly before a reader.

Some of the important treatments of these concepts of

imitation are to be found in Giovan Battista Pigna's I

romanzi (1554), Giovambattista Giraldi Cinthio's "Discorso

intorno al comporre de i romanzi" (1554), Bartolomeo Caval-

canti's La Retorica (1559), Girolamo Muzio Giustinopoli-

tano's Dell'arte poetica (1551), Giacopo Mazzoni's Della

difensa Comedia di Dante (1688), Paolo Beni's Compara-

zione de Omero, Virgilio, e Torquato and In Aristotelis

poeticam commentarii, and Torquato Tasso's Discorsi del

poema eroico.63

Tasso in his Apologia in difensa della sua Gerusa-

lemme agli Accademici della Crusa (1585), as well as his

expanded Discorsi del poema eroico (1594), insisted that

good poetry is not an imitation of what does not exist.

He believes that true invention uses only existing things.

In phrases that reverberated throughout the remainder of

the Renaissance, Tasso added that fantastic imitators are

the sophists of poetry, who hunt for their materials in

darkness, whereas the true poet should search in the light

of reality, in the splendor of what really exists:

Anyone who, in defining the poet, makes him
a good man and a good imitator of the actions and
habits of men for the purpose of giving profit by
means of delight will not perhaps offer a definition
that fits all poets; yet he will define the best
and most excellent poet. Then if the poet is an
imitator of human actions and habits, poetry will
be an imitation of the same thing, and if the poet
is a good imitator his poetry will be an imitation
equally well done.64

For Tasso, as well as the critics such as Giulio Gustavini

Antonio Menturio and Julius Caesar Scaliger who preceded

and succeeded him, art became most perfect as it approached

most closely to nature.

The conception of poetry as an imitation of life

survived both the Italians and the Renaissance. Seven-

teenth-century French criticism also contributed to the

preservation of the epic and the critical concern with

narrative procedures of realism. Considered the most

expansive and authoritative treatise on the epic in the

seventeenth century, Rene Le Bossu's Traite du pogme egioue

(1675) propounds an epic theory which includes many of the
"new"realistic techniques ascribed now to the eighteenth-

century novel. Le Bossu's definition of the epic reflects

in itself an interest in the business of life: the epic

is "a discourse invented by art, to form the Manners, by

such instructions as are disguised under the allegories

of some one important action, which is related in verse,

after a probable, diverting, and surprising manner."65

Apparently intending to emphasize the importance of prob-

ability, he later abridges the definition to "a Fable grace-

fully form'd upon an important Action, which is related in

Verse after a very probable and surprising manner" (p.7).

As Le Bossu expounds on the nature of the epic in

six books concerning definition, subject matter, narra-

tion, manners, machines, and thoughts and expression, the

regard for verisimilitude becomes more and more apparent.

The epic's foundation is "Truth" and "Fiction"; the "Fic-

tion's" role is to allegorically disguise this "Truth"

(p. 14). Required to be rational and probable, the epic

should "imitate an action that is compleat and important"

and seem to be taken out of history. The narration of this

imitated action "should be extended and amplified by prob-

able circumstances" (p. 64). Le Bossu calls for substan-

tiation of the narrations' probability by the test of

divinity, morality, nature, reason, experience, and vulgar

opinion (III. vi). The discussion of characters reiterates

the necessity of reason and probability with a preference

for the natural over the extraordinary and the "out of the

common Road."

Under the name of manners, Le Bossu considers

"all the natural or acquired inclinations" of the epic.

Significantly, the three qualifications demanded of the

manners, besides "Goodness," are "Suitableness," "Resem-

blance," and "Evenness" (IV. vii). The discussion of

each manner characteristically comes back to the require-

ments of common report, history, circumstances, and veri-

similitude. Even a portrayal of gods is to be suitable to

internal and external causes, likely, and even. The fifth

book of Le Bossu's treatise outlines "the method of making

use of those Machines probable, that are not of themselves

Probable enough" (p. 224). The final book, "Concerning

the Thoughts and the Expression," emphasizes that descrip-

tions should be suitable (II), similes should employ fami-

liar objects (III), style should be unembellished, nontech-

nical, and familiar (VII).

For Le Bossu, the epic is a poem written with the

primary purpose of teaching a lesson and pointing a moral.

For a student of Le Bossu's Traite du Do'me epiaue, it is

obvious that, for this seventeenth-century French critic,

an important avenue to these moral lessons and their truths

is probability. Le Bossu prefers "a Probable Falsity before

an Improbable Truth" and an epic using both Truth and

Probability in its Expressions and its Dresses (p. 1355)

for to teach a truth "'tis likewise necessary that this

Truth appear such, and convince those, we are willing to

convince, that is is profitable" (p. 133). As a result,

his treatise on the epic reads much like a recitation of

maxims prescribing realistic narrative techniques.

Eighteenth-century English critics demonstrate an

acute awareness of the classical, Italian, and French em-

phasis on realism in the epic criticism which preceded

theirs. Like so many of his century, John Dryden was

attracted by the epic poem and reflected the influence of

Aristotle and Le Bossu. Most of his criticism consequently

contains much of the popular material and method that had

been and was current.66 A theme common to Dryden's epic

criticism is his concern with verisimilitude, probability,

and the imitation of human life. In the 1700 "Preface"

to Fables Ancient and Modern, he defines a poem as the imi-

tation of human life and suggests that the praise of an

epic poem should indicate how the design, the disposition,

the manners, and the thoughts contribute to this imitation.67

Elsewhere he defines the epic poem as the draught of human

life at length,68 and its genius as "a just and lively

image of human nature, in its actions, passions, and tra-

verses of fortune."69

Dryden's comments on epic action, characters, mach-

ines, language, and versification characteristically in-

clude an insistence upon either an exact image of human

life or a likeness of truth. In the "Dedication" to Con-

quest of Granada, he defends his use of an imperfect hero:

". a character of an eccentric virtue is the more

exact image of human life because he is not wholly exempted

from its frailities. . ."70 The preface to Troilus and

Cressida prescribes probability as a necessaryquality of

action. It need not be historical truth, but should be

more than barely possible in order to delight a reasonable
audience.1 Although strongly in favor of the use of

machines and the supernatural in the epic as well as drama,

Dryden was conscious of the "bounds of what is credible"

and often felt compelled to anticipate objections concerning

their improbabilities. For example, in the dedication to

the Aeneid, he seemingly apologizes for Virgil's epic

machines by suggesting they not only are specious things

to amuse the reader, but also "give a colour of probability

to things otherwise incredible."72 Dryden places con-

siderable importance on language and versification in the

pursuit of nobility and dignity in the epic. His remarks

in a letter to Sir Robert Howard as an account of Annus

Mirabilis indicate the avenues he felt appropriate for

this pursuit:

But to proceed from wit in the general notion
of it, to the proper wit of an Heroick or Historical
Poem, I judge it chiefly to consist in the delight-
ful imaging of persons, actions, passions, or things.
'Tis not the jerk or sting of an Epigram, nor the
seeming contradiction of a poor Antithesis, (the de-
light of an ill judging audience in a Play of Rhyme)
not the gingle of a more poor Paranomasia: neither
is it so much the morality of a grave sentence,
affected by Lucan, but more sparingly used by Virgil;
but it is some lively and apt description, dress'd in

such colours of speech, that it sets before
your eyes the absent object, as perfectly and
more delightfully than nature.73

For Dryden, success for the epic is to be found in the

portrayal of life. Although extremely conscious of the

rules, principles, and theories of epic structure, it is

what Watt and others describe as "realism" that Dryden

considers basic to poetry in general and the epic in par-


Whereas Dryden is representative of the general

unanimity of opinion around the turn of the century, Alex-

ander Pope has been observed to be "one of the freest agents

among the English critics" on the epic up to his time.74

Though Pope was clearly familiar with the methods and ter-

minology prevalent in the theory of the epic, a comparison

of his criticism with those of contemporary critics re-

veals frequent departures from the orthodox theorizing of

the day. An examination of his preface to his translation

of the Iliad (1715), of his notes to the Iliad (1715-

1720), and of his postscript to his translation of the

Odyssey (1726) documents, however, Pope's adherence to the

long-prevailing disposition toward probability. The pre-

face to the Iliad, for example, notes that the main story

of an epic poem is a probable fable with "the recital of

such actions as, though they did not happen, yet might,

in the common course of Nature, or of such as, though they

did, become fables by the additional episodes and manner

of telling them."75 This 1715 preface significantly di-

gresses from outlining what makes the Iliad a great poem

by chastizing Homer for an excess of invention:

Among these we may reckon some of his Marve-
lous Fictions, upon which so much Criticism has
been spent as surpassing all the Bounds of Probabi-
lity. Perhaps it may be great and superior Souls
as with gigantick Bodies, which exerting themselves
with unusual Strength, exceed what is commonly
thought the due Proportion of Parts to become
Miracles in the whole and, like the old Heroes of
that Make, commit something near Extravagance amidst
a Series of glorious and inimitable Performances.
Thus Homer has his speaking Horses, and Virgil has
Myrtles distilling Blood, without so much as con-
triving the easy intervention of a deity to save
the probability. (p. 13)

Pope himself found it difficult to accept wholly the trans-

gression of going beyond nature. Pope's notes to his

translation of the Iliad abound with remarks admiring the

poem's probability, verisimilitude, and resemblance to

life. For example, he finds Homer's whole design admirable

because it is given "an air of probability" with the founda-

tion of Achilles' wrath upon some visible distress.76

Characterization is well conducted because "the poet has

rather studied Nature than perfection in the laying down of

his characters" (I. 155). The beauty of the imagery lies

in its resemblance to nature and the things it represents

(XIV. 21).

Answering objections to his style and providing

a rationale for his particular translation, Pope's post-

script to the Odyssey asserts that this epic's aim is

different from the Iliad's: "The Odyssey is a moral and

political work, instructive to all degrees of men, and

filled with images, examples, and precepts of civil and

domestic life."77 The Odyssey has for its subject what

Watt and others believe to be the sole property of the

novel -- life -- and Pope points out the appropriateness

of the particular, the common, and the circumstantial in

his translation of this epic. For style, "there is a

real beauty in an easy, pure, perspicuous description even

of a low action. . It is often the same in History,

where the representations of common, or even domestic

things, in clear, plain, and natural words, are frequently

found to make the liveliest impression on the reader"

(p. 387). The characterization of Ulysses "shows him not
in that full light of glory but in the shade of common

life, with a mixture of such qualities as are requisite

to all the lowest accidents of it, struggling with mis-

fortunes, and on a level with the meanest of mankind"

(p. 386). Clearly in Pope's mind, the narrative proce-
dures of Watt's "realism" were neither restricted to prose

fiction nor new to the eighteenth century; he found them

in Homer and defended them as part of a venerable tradi-


Because Samuel Johnson reiterates the familiar

classical epic doctrine and because his approach strongly

resembles those of Le Bossu and Addison, many found him as

overly orthodox as they found Pope overly liberal.78

But Johnson's attention to poetry as the art of uniting

pleasure with truth in the Lives of the English Poets was

characteristic of epic criticism regardless of schools.

His evaluation of Paradise Lost in the "Life of Milton"

is another of the discussions of epic theory over the cen-

turies that emphasized the urge for realism. Assuming

moral instruction as the epic's objective, Johnson sug-

gests that history be used to supply the rudiments of

narration: ". . morality must teach him [the writer]

the exact bounds and different shades of vice and virtue;

from policy and the practice of life he has to learn the

discrimination of character and the tendency of the pas-

sions, either single or combined; and physiology must sup-

ply him with illustrations and images."79 Thus Johnson

considers "the appearances of nature and the occurrences

of life" as the avenue to truth and morality, and therefore

the fulfillment of the heroic poem's aim. As his evalua-

tion progresses in "The Life of Milton," an association

of excellence with truth underlies the commentary on

epic characterization, fables, sentiments, and the probable

and the marvelous. The level of excellence in any part is

proportionate to the level of propriety, appropriateness,

consistency, probability, and integrity.

Johnson's criticism of Paradise Lost includes a

mixed reaction to Milton's avoidance of "painting things

as they are." By choosing a subject on which too much

could not be said, Milton is able to avoid "the censure of

extravagance," while sporting in the wide regions of possi-

bility. But Johnson is not wholly satisfied with this

amplitude of imagination: the images and descriptions do

not have the freshness, raciness, and energy of immediate

observation (p. 178); the plan of the poem is inconvenient

and evokes little sympathy because it comprises neither

human actions nor human manners (p. 181); the confusion of

spirit and matter which pervades the whole narration fills

it with incongruity (p. 185). For Johnson, "the want of

human interest is always felt" and, as a result, Paradise

Lost is a duty rather than a pleasure (p. 183). Taking

into consideration his position in the mainstream of cen-

turies of epic theorizing, Johnson's criticism of Paradise

Lost in particular and of the epic in general reflects the

critical consciousness of realism that has existed almost

as long as the epic itself.

A more extensive and detailed investigation of

epic criticism would serve only to substantiate further

that "the doctrine of probability bulked large in the

minds of most critics who considered the epic poem."80

By the very breadth and consistency, these pronouncements

on probability and verisimilitude suggest that realism

was a critical desideratum long before its appearance
in eighteenth-century prose fiction;81 and that within
in eighteenth-century prose fiction; and that within

the century, realism was a staple of the critical vocabu-

lary concerning the most traditional of forms, the epic

narrative. To argue, then, that realism was a "new" liter-

ary urge, a product of the time, is perhaps not quite cor-

rect; and to argue further that this emphasis on realism

led directly to the rise of the novel is to ignore the

fact that its primary role in the eighteenth century was

to explain the efficacy of epic poetry. Furthermore, that

the epic narrative, and its close relation, the romance,

seem to stand in opposition to the novel -- at least in

the schemata of twentieth-century critics -- suggests,

on the one hand, that realism is not the best means of

distinguishing between them; or, on the other, that the

epic (with romance) and the novel are not as distinct as

the critics have thus far imagined. Our study of Smol-

lett's fiction will pursue both suggestions.


The twentieth-century commonplace most pernicious

to an understanding of eighteenth-century fiction on its

own merits is the assertion that the dismissal of romance

and the "new" urge toward realism culminated in a new set

of fictive values. These values are seen to have been

wholly separate from a classical and medieval heritage and

to have advocated the avoidance of convention. Depicting

seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England as a society

of pervasive changing needs and spirit, modern literary

historians argue for a concurrent movement in the artis-

tic tendencies of fiction.

To them, eighteenth-century fiction was: "the lit-

erary counterpart of the scientific rationalism that has

dominated the thought of the modern era"; "the literary

manifestation of modern urbanized relationships and social

complexity"; and "the literary medium of a bourgeoise

culture."82 By emphasizing an intellectual climate which

stressed science, diligent observation, and precise details

and a social system which was characterized by the growth of

the middle class, interested in the practical and everyday,

modern critics are well able to assert with confidence

that the novel with its critical, anti-traditional, and

innovative temper represents fiction's response to the

century's changes.

The novel is, these modern critics argue, the appro-

priate response because of all literary forms, the novel

best gives expression to the new values of modern human

experience, particularly those values most befitting a

scientifically rational and socially complex middle class

culture. Similar to the middle class, the novel is indeter-

minate and flexible in form; like the large new reading

public, it is interested in real people in real-life situa-

tions. It is only logical, critics such as Paulson, Stev-

enson, and Watt intimate, that, in a modern period with a

general intellectual orientation decisively rejecting

universals, a modern form of fiction with practical, indi-

vidual, empirical, and secular emphasis would arise.

Fundamental to this argument, it seems to me, is

the modern critics' distinction between the fictive values

that Arnold Kettle designates as "pattern" and "life."83

To Kettle the elements of "life" in fiction convey a sense

of life's gusto and vividness; the elements of "pattern"

tell a significance about life as it provides a vision of

life's essence. As indicators of the movement from the

medieval world view to secularism, "pattern" and "life"

reflect the difference between moral significance and sur-

face texture, respectively. Kettle categorizes "pattern"

with a predisposition to form, moral fable, and an alle-

gorical tradition; and "life" with a partiality toward

freedom, human interest, and the picaresque tradition.

It is the difference between a fictional-moralist who

affirms the medieval world view with his need to judge

in terms of general meaning and a fictional-scientist who

ignores this world view with a desire only to observe and

record everyday particulars. To most critics, it is the

distinction between romance and the novel.

These distinctions can be of considerable value

as an approach to fiction. But Kettle, as the others, in

his effort to "indicate something of the historical develop-

ment of fiction" and to answer the questions "why did the

novel arise at all?" and "why should it have arisen when

it did?" falls prey to the pitfalls of the "rise of real-

ism" formula. In fact, in an effort to parallel the novel's

rise with "the tearing of the veil of romance from the face

of feudalism," Kettle's study closely links the elements

of "life" with realism as he repeats the commonplace that

the impulse towards realism was responsible for the novel's

rise in the eighteenth century. By implication, with the

rise of the novel and its alliance with the elements of

"life," fiction becomes disassociated from the tendencies

of "pattern" such as meaning, form, convention, and theo-

dic world view. "Pattern" is relegated to romance and is

steadily rejected as a viable alternative in fiction.

Kettle, as well as others, maintains that "literature is

a part of life and can be judged only in its relevance

to life" and that "life is not static but moving and

changing."84 Thus, with an almost off-handed assuredness,

it is asserted that, as the eighteenth-century world be-

came "modern" and aware of "real life," it turned away

from the rigidity and stasis of tradition, convention, and

form so often aligned with the fictive values of "pattern."

With the acceptance of this assertion, the eight-

eenth century and its literature becomes a mirror to the

tendencies of the twentieth-century's fictive values

rather than reflecting an understanding of eighteenth-

century fiction on its own terms. The resulting critical

theory is more suggestive of and more appropriate to the

fictive vision of Robbe-Grillet than the narrative litera-

ture of the first half of the eighteenth century.

Consider the resulting critical treatment of Defoe,

Richardson, and Fielding. The fiction of Defoe repre-

sents to Kettle the anti-feudal realism that is primarily

concerned with "life" and surface texture rather than

"pattern" and moral significance. The concern with De-

foe's fiction is "not the concern which infuses and shapes

the moral fable." 5 For Ian Watt, Defoe begins the tra-

dition of the novel with works that "annihilated the re-

lationships of the traditional social order, and thus drew

attention to the opportunity and the need of building up

a network of personal relationships on a new and conscious

pattern; the terms of the problem of the novel and of mo-

dern thought alike were established when the old order of

moral and social relationships was shipwrecked with Robin-

son Crusoe, by the rising tide of individualism."86 Defoe's

novels are considered ethically neutral because they make

what Watt terms formal realism "an end rather than a means,

subordinating any coherent ulterior significance to the

illusion that the text represents the authentic lucubra-

tions of an historical person."87

According to Kettle, Watt, and others, Richardson's

fiction is likewise extremely realistic in subject and

presentation. "Moved by problems and situations which we

know through our experiences of life to be the real and

vital problems," Kettle finds Richardson's characters and

events presenting "a real and concrete human problem" deal-

ing with the conflicts of an individual heart and conven-

tional standards of a property owning class."88 Again,

Kettle decides that the firm and solid reality of "life"

dominated the "pattern" of moral significance and finds

its moral distribution of rewards and punishments offen-

sive. Similarly, Watt cites Richardson's "re-orientation

of the narrative perspective" for establishing Pamela,

Clarissa, and Sir Charles Grandison in the tradition of

the novel. As well as his authenticity of presentation,

Richardson's "deep imaginative commitment to all the prob-

lems of the new sexual ideology and his personal devotion

to the exploration of the private and subjective aspects

of human experience" produced novels that "develop so

freely and so profoundly under the impetus of its own

fictional imperatives."89

Interestingly enough, neither Kettle nor Watt con-

siders Fielding as "having made quite so direct a contri-

bution as Richardson to the rise of the novel."90 Watt

gives somewhat less extensive treatment to Fielding because

the distinguishing elements of his fiction have their roots

not so much in social change as in the neo-classical liter-

ary tradition. Minimizing literary tradition and suggest-

ing that the use of conventions contrary to formal realism

reflects a deficiency of technique, Watt evaluates Field-

ing's impact in terms of "the supreme problem which the

new genre had to face."91 For Watt, Fielding failed to

initiate a viable tradition because he departed too far

from formal realism. But he did provide a valuable service

by perpetually reminding novelists of the need to challenge

older literary forms by finding a way of conveying a con-

vincing impression and an assessment of life in terms of

individuals' experiences. Although more willing to admit

the existence of some "pattern" in Fielding's fiction,

Kettle on the other hand is also more insistent that the

author's aim was to create a realistic mirror and a cri-

tical consideration of the life of his time.92 He de-

scribes Fielding as presenting a panoramic commentary on

England that attacks the society of the time. The strategy

was to present a picture of human nature and its society

with an entirely non-symbolic plot. Fielding's approach

depended upon the implementation of the elements of "life"

rather than "pattern."

This emphasis on the qualities associated with the

novel, realism, and the fictive values of "life" have

dominated critical perspectives to such an extent that

modern critics either ignore conflicting evidence or

label it "intrusive," "jejune," "perfunctory," "bogus,"

"contrived," or "paying lip service." For example, "Cru-

soe's occasional religious moralizing" represented Defoe's

concession to his readers' austerity;3 the religiosity

and moral distribution are strands and tints which weaken
Clarissa; and Fielding's use of literary conventions

and invocation of epic traditions seems to be an "attempt

to smuggle the novel into the critical Pantheon under the

disguise of an ancient and honored member.95

Because of the apparent discrepancy between the

twentieth-century critical conception of early eighteenth-

century English fiction and significant aspects of the fic-

tion itself, critics also often find the fiction of Defoe,

Richardson, Fielding, and others unsatisfactory as novels.

Ronald Paulson's dissatisfaction is representative. He

states that the problem indigenous to the eighteenth-

century novel in England is that "there is very often a

lack of congruence between stated intention and the total

book, between logical and psychological progressions, be-

tween plot and symbolism, and between differing conven-


Why do critics insist that eighteenth-century fic-

tion totally and exclusively represent the fictive values

of the novel (and "life"), when they themselves find the

works of the likes of Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding un-

satisfactory as novels? Rather than accept the view that

early eighteenth-century fiction is radically flawed, would

it not be a more legitimate procedure to re-examine the

intentions and conventions of this literature to ascertain

whether we are indeed reading it "with the same spirit

that its authors writ"? For example, one need only survey

the discussions of various narrative techniques in eight-

eenth-century epic criticism to find literary emphases

that are far from hostile toward tradition, convention,

and the fictive values of "pattern." The criticism records

little if any perceptible shift as the century progresses

from the Renaissance emphasis on moral significance.97

With seventeenth- and eighteenth-century critics assuming

that the epic narrative was foremost a moral force designed

to persuade man by positive precept and example, their

commentary on narrative elements such as structure, ma-

chines, characters, and language places little emphasis on

the surface texture of urbanized relationships, social

complexity, and everyday individual events.98 Not only

does this commentary, with its stress on the importance of

evoking the readers' admiration in order to elicit approval

and imitation of moral virtues and maxims, ignore the ends

of "life," it actively sustains the values of "pattern"

by consistently pointing to the epic's extensive tradi-

tion of narrative forms and conventions that have been

and still should be used. For example, the emphasis on

the didactic element in the epic led to the conclusion

that the work must end fortunately for the hero.99 If

the reader is to be properly edified and moved by the

admiration which the epic should engender, the epic writer

would logically construct an action and fable with a

happy conclusion.

Another example of the century's high regard for

the values of "pattern" is related to the critical con-

cern for unity of action and fable.100 Eighteenth-century

critics on the whole repeatedly expressed the necessity of

indicating a preconceived arrangement, of explaining the

harmony of episodic and digressive materials with the

strict theory of unity of action, and of showing the

significance of each ordered fable to the epic as a whole.

In their efforts to show that the action of a true epic is

completely unified, episodes were defined in terms of

their dependence upon connection and relation to the main

action. Digressions were either ornamental or essential

to the narrative development of the main action. Further-

more, the debate over the narrative effectiveness of

"natural" and "artificial" arrangement suggests how per-

vasive the concern was for order and the elements of

"pattern" in eighteenth-century literature. Although some

might allow the fundamentally chronological order of a

"natural" arrangement, the.historical precedent of the

conventions used by Homer and Virgil were influential in

shaping the tradition that the "artificial" or in media

res arrangement was more effective.

Discussions of the correct use of the probable and

the marvelous in the epic also challenge the opinion that

the values and techniques of "life" were dominant in the
literary ideas of the eighteenth century. Because the

governing objective was to raise admiration in order to

instruct, the epic poet was expected to soar above the ac-

tions of commonplace experience. The only restriction was

that it should not exceed what the mind of man is able to

conceive of as possible. Significantly, this restraint

was not very limiting, because the eighteenth-century mind

considered the use of the supernatural or the use of mira-

culous action based on popular beliefs or popular tradition

as ways of assuring probability while rising above the


The question regarding the use of epic machinery

also indicates how viable the tendencies of "pattern" were
in eighteenth-century narrative criticism.102 Demonstrat-

ing an interest in convention as well as a predilection

for tradition, most English critics of that time strongly

advocated using some form of machinery. They pointed to

Homeric precedent and Aristotelian commentary for docu-

mentation of the machines' ability to evoke admiration and

delight. Even allegorical interpretations were attached

to epic machines to strengthen their claim to being didac-

tic or moral instruments in the epic. Furthermore, the

debate over the relative merits of Christian and pagan

machinery argues not only the continuing rhetorical con-

cerns, but as well that secularism was not as pervasive in

literary circles as has been suggested. Some epic cri-

tics felt that the use of Christian theology tended to

debase the true faith by making it too familiar; others

responded that, inasmuch as the chief end is to instruct,

the epic must employ the true religion. Both schools ob-

viously hold fast to the Christian world view.

A final sample of epic criticism which verifies

that the literary values of "pattern" were still alive

well into the eighteenth century is the attitude toward

language in the epic.103 Rather than the unadorned, direct,

and largely referential style associated with the literary

tendencies of "life," the language and style of the epic

was connected with the sublime. That the epic should be

clothed in noble, majestic, serious, and exalted language

was almost a universal belief. In order to touch the pas-

sions and evoke the admiration of the reader, the epic's

language had to be perspicacious, to contribute to the

elevation of thought, and to avoid the common ways of


Even from this very condensed survey of eighteenth-

century epic criticism, it is clear that there existed

a substantial and sustained reliance upon and adherence

to the tendencies of "pattern." Rather than any pervasive

separation from a traditional, conventional, and moralis-

tic approach to literature, eighteenth-century criticism

dealing with the epic as a sacrosanct art-form suggests

a continued veneration for form and moral significance.

Most important for our purposes, however, is the fact

that the application of those literary values and con-

cepts I have termed "pattern" was not restricted in the

eighteenth century to the epic. One need not look far for

direct and obvious correlations between the fictive values

associated with the epic and the early eighteenth-century

fiction writers such as Defoe, Fielding, and Richardson.

The introductions, prefaces, and commentary printed with

their works use the same terminology and discuss similar

forms. For example, Defoe reiterates in both Robinson

Crusoe and its continuation his didactic and moral aims,

the just application of every incident to the whole, and

the balance between a "just history of fact" and the

variety of the strange and the surprising.104 Richard-

son likewise expresses his conviction in his prefaces that

each are vehicles of instruction, that a primary objective

is the preservation of decency in language and images,

and that all of the digressions, episodes, and reflections

arise naturally from his main subject.105 And finally,

the introductory chapters of Fielding are well known for

their debt to and use of epic criticism. As with Defoe

and Richardson, Fielding's chapters concerning the marve-

lous, unity of action, characters, and fable in Tom Jones

and Joseph Andrews not only suggest a similarity to epic

criticism, but also a sharing of fictive values closely

allied with "pattern," tradition, and conventions.106

Thus, not only does one find in early eighteenth-century

literature evidence that the fictive values of "life"

were not totally dominant, but also that writers such

as Fielding, Richardson, and Defoe perhaps shared a com-

mon ground in addition to being "failures" as novelists.

Recent critical studies of early and mid-eighteenth-

century fiction indicate further that interest in the

values of "pattern" were not restricted to the epic. A

growing number of investigations into the context of eight-

eenth-century prose fiction have identified and verified

a frame of reference for such writers as Defoe, Richardson,

Fielding, and others that take exception to an emphasis on

literary values which represent a rising tide of indivi-

dualism, secularism, and empiricism at the expense of

universal values, a theodic world view, and traditional

literary conventions. Not only do these scholars demon-

strate a context for the fiction which argues a disposi-

tion to moral significance, but they suggest as well,

through a re-reading of the fiction, an evaluation which

provides a sense of coherence rather than incongruity be-

tween stated intention and the total work, between logical

and psychological progressions, between plot and symbolism,

and between differing conventions.

These recent critical investigations into the mid-

eighteenth-century Christian context have touched upon

the major fiction writers of the period. For example,

in his The Reluctant Pilgrim: Defoe's Emblematic Method

and Quest for Form in Robinson Crusoe, J. Paul Hunter

convincingly demonstrates Defoe's Christian concern with

conversion and ethical conduct and his obligation to an

inherited Puritan tradition and a set of established asso-

ciations.107 As well as suggesting the milieu, the thought

processes, and the many techniques of form that Puritanism

provided for Defoe, Hunter shows how this tradition was

able to be articulated in a conscious artistic technique.

He painstakingly outlines the presence of artistic control

in the use of traditions such as spiritual autobiography

and allegory, the use of biblical and historical allusive-

ness, and of an emblematic method based on rhythmic patterns,

providential control, and representative details. In light

of the modern critical tendency to describe Defoe's "cir-

cumstantial method" and his "realistic" appeal,108 Hunter's

study is particularly significant in that it discusses

Defoe in regard to the fictive endorsement of values and

of moral significance. He contributes to the profitable

rethinking of categories of eighteenth-century fiction by

demonstrating that an early eighteenth-century fiction

writer existed in a tradition in which the artist explicitly

states a moral purpose and uses a plan which explicitly

and implicitly fulfills that intention.

John A. Dussinger's essay, "Conscience and the

Pattern of Christian Perfection in Clarissa" describes

how Samuel Richardson's fictional form and content also

can be seen in a frame of reference not dominated by

secularism, empiricism, and innovative method.109 Cit-

ing Richardson's explicitly declared intention of reviving

the Christian religion, Dussinger shows how Clarissa is

a parable illustrating the fundamental doctrine of the

cross and how it depicts the operations of conscience as

a means to salvation for the heroine. One indication

cited of the religious orientation of Richardson's fable

is the emulation of Milton's Christian epic through allu-

sions to Paradise Lost; another is the verbal echoes noted

between Clarissa's speeches and orthodox theology. Dussin-

ger then reveals and examines three related themes which

bear directly on the religious viewpoint in Clarissa: the

contemptus mundi theme; the doctrine of atonement; and the

doctrine of redemption.

Fielding's prose fiction has also occasioned stu-

dies indicating a disposition to traditional literary

conventions and the consideration of universalmoral values.

For example, Martin C. Battestin's The Moral Basis of

Fielding's Art: A Study of Joseph Andrews attempts to

understand the moral pattern and purpose of Fielding's

first novel in the ethical and religious contexts that

conditioned it.110 Presenting the essential Christianity

of Fielding's writings, Battestin asserts that the struc-

ture of Joseph Andrews was quite carefully designed --

given substance and shape by Fielding's Christian ethic

and by the principle of what Fielding liked to call "that

Epic Regularity."111 Battestin documents the Christian

backgrounds and contemporary evidence which indicate Field-

ing's basically latitudinarian beliefs; he illustrates in

Fielding's work the literary commonplaces of parable, alle-

gory, and neo-classical epic theory; and he cites the

varied uses Fielding found for the traditions of history

writing and the epic and for the vanitas vanitatum, deceptio

visus, locus classics, and rake's progress themes. Ulti-

mately, Battestin concludes that, as a writer with firm

Christian convictions, Fielding discovered within the

homiletic and the literary traditions useful suggestions
for shaping the meaning and method of Joseph Andrews.1

For further verification of the fictional disposi-

tion to "pattern" and moral significance, one might turn

again to the eighteenth-century writers' own prefatory com-

mentary. In his prefaces, Daniel Defoe insures the readers'

awareness of his intent to instruct by example and his

concern that the "Readers will be much more pleas'd with

the Moral, than the Fable, with the Application than with

the Relation, and with the end of the Writer than with the

Life of the Person written of."113 Defoe's prefaces in-

sist upon moral significance and the fictive values of

"pattern." In Robinson Crusoe it calls for the just appli-

cation of every incident to "justify and honour the wis-

dom of Providence."'14 Colonel Jack is a book founded on

a useful plan for "the Discouragement of Vice, and the

Recommendation of Virtue."115 Moll Flanders is described

as a "Work from every part of which something may be

learned, and some just and religious Inference is drawn."116

Richardson's editorial remarks also repeatedly em-

phasize the author's design to entertain and instruct

within the framework of a Christian system. The "Preface

by the Editor" to Pamela asserts the work's successful ful-

fillment of the desired aims "to Divert and Entertain, and

at the same time to Instruct."117 Instruction is to be

accomplished by "painting Vice deservedly Odious and set-

ting Virtue in its own amiable Light of Religion and Mor-

ality." The preface to Clarissa suggests further the

author's preoccupation with "the design of the whole."118

With prefatory hints and postscripts explicitly stating

his aim "to investigate the Doctrines of Christianity, and

to teach the Reader how to die, as well as how to live,"

Richardson explains the appropriateness of his selected

style, his editing, and the necessity of the distinction

between tragedy and comedy for an understanding of the

work's conclusion. The preface to Sir Charles Grandison

reviews all three works and how the last has "completed

the Plan" and fulfilled his "first Design."119 Outlin-

ing the "pattern propounded," Richardson defends the vol-

ume of his fiction: ". .not one Episode in the whole;

nor after Sir Charles Grandison is introduced, one letter

inserted, but what tends to illustrate the principal De-


The prefatory material to the distinct books of

'Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones, and Amelia suggests that Field-

ing's fiction was even more closely tied to the values of

"pattern." Each work proposes to either "ridicule affec-

tion and sow the seed of virtue,"121 to represent Human
Nature for instructional purposes, or to promote the

cause of virtue and expose some of the most glaring evils.123

Even more prominent than the concern for moral significance

is Fielding's emphasis on forms, traditions, conventions,

and a recognition of conscious artistry. Invoking a vari-

ety of epic, dramatic, and historic forms and citing the

precedents of many such as Homer, Horace, Cervantes, and

Marivaux, Fielding constantly strives to reiterate one of

the opening conjectures of Tom Jones that "the excellence

of the mental entertainment consists less in the subject

than in the author's skill in well dressing it up."124

The successive prefatory chapters substantiate his rhetor-

ical emphasis. In each, he points to matters such as:

his ornamentation of the parts; his elevation of style;

his contrasting of the comic and the serious; and his use

of principles governing critics, the marvelous, charac-

terization; and his use of sources.