Date of Award
Although novels hold a secure, unquestioned place in twentieth century culture, they have not always claimed such a position. The novel, as everything else, had to have its beginning sometime, and, for this genre, that 'sometime' was the eighteenth century.
Called for by a greater literacy rate and the increasing leisure time of a society which fostered few forms of public entertainment, the novel began as an experiment. It was conceived in the minds of imaginative artists, was tested on paper, then evaluated and revised. Variables were constantly being brought into play, modified, or enlarge, while 'tried and true' became a watchword for early novelists. Elaboration, (often exhaustive) of details, broad satire of the times, and very true or very wicket religious men characterized the early novels. Other elements commonly encountered in the fledgling state of this genre were: wonderfully happy endings, unrealistically pat and neat; the contrast of a sober life with the life of frivolity and affectation often indulged in by the youth; 'women of the world', men-chasers, who often rule their men; preoccupation of the older generation with property, social position and education, mundane matters that don't seriously bother the young; the severe contrast of the nobility and extreme poverty, of the unloved orphans with the secure upper-crust kids, and of a quiet provincial life with the wickedness of the city.
About a century after these first novels were molded, George Eliot shared top honors with Dickens as the novelists of the day. Much progress can be seen in the form of the work, as Eliot lends her imaginative insight and background experience to studies of individuals' relationships to other individuals, family and provincial society. Two of her works are briefly reviewed in this paper.
Four early-twentieth century novels are finally included. These works, John Galsworthy's art, show a drastic improvement in ease of style and sophistication of form. All the novels included in this summarization deal with life in the English provinces, even though the pictures that they present are quite varied, due to the span of three centuries. These two common denominators, nationality and provinciality, were the factors used to determine what works would be included in this paper, and provide a thematic ground for comparison, in addition to an actual study of the development of this genre, the novel.
[Included in this annotated bibliography are Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe; Amelia, Joseph Andrews, and Tom Jones by Henry Fielding; Humphrey Clinker, Peregrine Pickle, and Roderick Random by Tobias Smollett; Sentimental Journey and Tristam Shandy by Laurence Sterne; Adam Bede and Middlemarch by George Eliot; Forsyte Saga and A Modern Comedy by John Galsworthy.]
Pounders, Robin, "Fifteen English Novels: An Annotated Bibliography" (1974). Honors Theses. 703.