Ans. The novel is a fictitious prose-narrative involving some pot of greater or less intimacy and professing to give a picture of real life. It is to distinguished from romance, which deals with what is heroic, marvelous, mysterious and supernatural. But the novel professes to relate only what is credible. A modem novel possesses certain well-defined characteristics. It has a distinct plot divided into exposition, complication, climax and finally, the denouement. But before the novel as a literary form reached its perfect form. It had to pass through a long period of evolution.Short notes on 18th Century Novel
There is little doubt that the modern novel has its roots in the medieval romances, Another source of the novel was the collection of ballads and verse-romance. We have some elements of the novel in Chaucer’s verse-tales and Lyly’s Euphues and Sidney’s Arcadia. As fiction, these tales narrated imaginary stories. It is strange that the beginning of fiction in the Elizabethan Green. Lodge, Nash, and Sidney do not develop in the seventeenth century John Bunyan in the Pilgrim’s Progress present a type of moral allegory, but it, not the novel proper.
The English novel was born in the eighteenth century. It is left yo the eighteenth century to consolidate fiction as a form of literature. The beginnings of the English novel in the eighteenth century were almost accidental. Daniel Defoe Did not discover the modern novel. His Robinson Crusoe has a plot which is too simple and characters; who are too few, for a novel. His Moll Flanders had greater claims to be called a novel, but it is, on the whole, the story of an adventure that prepared the way for the picaresque novels of Smollett. Never the less, Defoe contributed to the development of the novel in this sense of realism.
But the real discovery of the novel was Samuel Richardson (1689-1761). He is traditionally regarded as the first English novelist. As an apprentice printer, he was asked to prepare a series of model letters for those who could not write for themselves. This humble takes of helping maid-servants, apprentices and young people how to write letters, led Richardson to learn the art of the novelist. His famous sentimental novel, Pamela (1740) was written in the form of several consecutive letters. It is the first novel of humble domestic life with the requisites of plot, character, and dialogue.
But Richardson concealed the method of the novelist under the clumsy disguise of a series of letters. As the sub-title says, Pamela, the first regular novel in English Literature, is a story of ‘Virtue rewarded’ In this novel, the character is more important than a situation. Short notes on 18th Century Novel
It shows great insights into the workings of the feminine heart. The novelist’s purpose is moral. He teaches that the pursuit of virtue is the way to material prosperity The heroine of the novel Clarissa (1747-48) is a virtuous lady as contrasted with Pamela, who is a virtuous maidservant. Once again Richardson deals with the theme of seduction. The third novel, Sir Charles Grandison (1753-54) presents as its hero a model gentleman, who rescued one lady, and was betrothed to another. Sir Charles Grandison controlled this situation with great delicacy. Richardson’s novel is highly sentimental. They appeal to middle-class morality.
Henry Fielding (1707-54) disliked Richardson’s work for its excessive sentimentality and took an early opportunity of satirizing it in his first novel. Joseph Andrews. He wrote this novel to burlesque (satirize) Richardson’s Pamela. Fielding made Joseph a bi her of Pamela, and as a servant ina noble house, he passed like Pamela through various temptations, but he came out without harm. Fielding’s method is to ridicule Richardson by reversing the situation.
However, Fielding soon forgot his origínal intentions and became engrossed in his narrative and the exercise of his comic gifts in the creation of Parson Adams. Fielding made his mark as a creator of comic characters Fielding’s masterpiece, Tom Jones ( 1749) is a novel of epic dimensions for which Byron describe Fielding “as our prose Horner”, This is a picaresque novel, a novel which deals with the adventures of Tom Jones through a variety of situations. The full title of the’ novel is “The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling”.
The novel has been praised for its fine plot-construction. Tom as a foundling discovered by Mr. Allworthy, a rich person, succeeds in discovering his noble birth. This makes him worthy of the lovely Sophia Western. The pattern followed is that of biography. Tom’s boyhood is faithfully described. Tom Jones has been described as a comic epic in prose. Indeed, the canvas of the novel is very wide with its large number of characters ‘in varied situations. More than any other novel, Tome Jones gives us a faithful picture of contemporary English society. Short notes on 18th Century Novel
Fielding’s next novel. Amelia (1751) was highly popular. But this novel is artistically inferior to Tom Jones in plot construction. Social Criticism is more direct but it excels in description and characterization, particularly of the minor characters. Fielding has been justly described as the father of the English novel. What makes Fielding greater than Richardson is his humanity, his vitality, his abounding sense of humor and zest for life.
Tobias Smollett (1721-1775) wrote novels of adventure. He was Fielding’s contemporary, though he is not of equal stature. He writes about his experiences in the sea. He was able to introduce a new background in accounts of the sea. His novels Roderick Random (1748), Peregrine Pickle (1751) may be described as picaresque novels. In the picaresque novel, the hero is a rogue. In both the novels, he portrays the life of his rogue-hero again the background of the reckless and ferocious sea life. With these two novels, Smollett had exhausted his own experience.
The rest of his work is less impressive. His other two novels Ferdinand Count Fathom (1753) and Humphrey Clinker (1771) are inferior to the two earlier novels with violent and boisterous stories. He influenced Charles Dickens in his portrayal of rouge-heroes. Short notes on 18th Century Novel
Of the eighteenth century novelists, the strangest and the most variously judged is Laurence Stem (1713-68). With his Master’s degree from Cambridge, he became an odd Clergyman. He took to writing fiction almost by chance and produced his masterpiece. Life and Opinions of Tristram -Shandy Genfi (1760-71). That novel is without predecessors. It is the product of an original mind. This highly experimental work took the literary world of the age by storm.
The most interesting character- Uncle Toby-is an idealized portrait of Sterne’s father. Tristram Shandy appears to be an absurd work. A fantastic novel. The reader has to wait until the third book before the hero is born. The narrative consists of episodes, conversations, perpetual digressions, excursions in learning, blank poems, fantastic syntax, and bawdy humor and sentiments.Short notes on 18th Century Novel
This fantastic novel seems to anticipate James Joyce’s Ulysses, another experimental novel. Sterne wrote the novel of the sensibility ‘of the novel of sentiments. In Sentimental Journey (1761) Sterne indulges in sentimentality. Historians of literature speak of the four wheels of English fiction or the English novel. Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, and Sterne may be considered as the founders of the English novel. Fielding was the greatest of them all and the title “Father of the English novel” is most appropriately applicable. Short notes on 18th Century Novel