Western Literature
  The Beginnings of Literature. Myths and Legends

Classical Myth

Myth and Mystery

Bible. Hebrew literature

Ancient Greek literature

Ancient Greek literature. Greek theatre

Ancient Greek literature. Philosophical prose

Latin (Roman) literature

Latin (Roman) Literature. The Silver Age

Latin (Roman) Literature. Renaissance

Modern Italian Literature
The Middle Ages Literature

The Middle Ages. Elizabethan England

The Restoration

The Rise of the Novel

Cervantes and Spanish literature

The Enlightenment


Classicism and Naturalism

The 19th century - Prose

The 20th century - Modernism

The 20th century - The Political Novel

The 19th century


In the 19th century the Romantic movement, the Industrial Revolution and the -
largely hostile - interaction between them, combined to create a culture markedly
different from the assured and orderly world of the 18th century. The attempt made
by European statesmen in 1815 to bottle up the effects of the French Revolution and
the reforms of the Napoleonic era looked to be in constant danger of disintegration,
especially in the first half of the century. After 1848, growing material prosperity
reduced the likelihood of bloody revolution and class war, especially in Britain, but
that is only evident in hindsight. Large social problems remained: they occupied the
attention of many practitioners of what became the major literary form - the novel.




The development of the novel in the 19th century is an extraordinary episode in literary history. Less than 100 years separates Fanny Burney's Evelina, highly regarded by discerning judges of the time, from George Eliot's Middlemarch, but the cultural gap is similar to that between the Bronze Age and the Renaissance.



The 19th century provided plenty of evidence for the idea that the novel is not so much a literary form amenable to categorization as the product of limitless aspects of popular culture. As the Russian critic Bakhtin remarked, the novel draws from 'that broadest of realms, the common people's creative culture . . . ', and the 19th-century novel is so rich and various that it is impossible to characterize generically. The number of novels published in Britain alone during the course of the century has been conservatively estimated at 40,000. Few topics were excluded from their pages, few contem­porary problems went unaddressed and, in judging 19th-century novelists, the social and political context is no less important than the purely artistic.

As for form or character, a profusion of '-isms' can be distinguished, which often represent contradictory trends. Many themes can be listed, however none can be said to encapsulate the spirit or character of the age.
Melville's Moby Dick and Dickens's David Copperfield were published within a few months of each other; though both were novels, and were written in the same language, in nearly every other respect they were totally different works of art.


Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866) is an exam­ple of a novelist who belonged to no literary movement and obstinately avoids classifica­tion. A close friend of Shelley, he was also a satirist of Romanticism — and of most other contemporary styles, notions and fashions. Not much interested in characterization or plot, he set up ideas — and deftly demolished them - m ingeniously constructed dialogue.

Scott, it was possible to be a success­ful professional novelist, even a comparatively rich one, but only for a very few; even those with the most compelling vocation were often forced to seek other means of support. Peacock was saved from penury by having a clerkship for most of his life in the East India Company, winning plaudits for designing an iron steamship.

A novelist such as Edward Bulwer Lytton (1803-73), who had an active political career and became a peer, exemplifies another way in which sonic 19th-century novelists elude accepted categories: sheer versatility. His novels, over 20 of them and in most cases very long, were only part of his huge literary-output, but they embraced a vast range of forms — historical novels in the tradition of
Scott, novels of social protest, of crime, or 'terror', and a Utopian novel The Coming Race (1871). He was a literary giant in his day, though he is all too seldom read now.

Social commentary is a major ingredient of 19th-century fiction, and many novelists became embroiled in public events, notably
Zola in the Dreyfuss affair. The most remarkable exponent of politics combined with novel writing was Benjamin Disraeli (1804— 81), British Prime Minister and international statesman. The political novels for which he is best known, Coningsby, Sybil, and Tancred, upholding his romantic, one-nation ideals, were written in the 1840s, before he achieved high office, but his last novel, Lothair, was published in 1870, between his two spells as prime minister. It was almost as lively as his first, the absurd (but amusing) Vivien Grey, published 44 years earlier.


Although novel reading was often regarded as a frivolous activity, nearly everyone read novels, as Trollope said, 'from the Prime Minster down to the . . . scullery maid'. The majority of readers (as well as a large propor­tion of the writers) were women - more middle-class wives than hard-worked scullery maids, no doubt — and it is ironic that, for most of the century, novelists male and female were seriously hampered by the need to follow Victorian notions of respectability, so that female characters had to be either virtuous or damned.

For most of the 19th century, novels in Britain were commonly published in three volumes and, priced at 55p, were beyond the means of many readers. However, the price of a couple of novels could buy a year's membership of a circulating library. Later, novels, including those of nearly all the major novelists, were published as monthly serials, either as slim single volumes published independently or, more often as time went on, in a weekly maga­zine such as
Dickens's Household Words. These arrangements had important effects on the form that novels took. Mudie's, the largest of the circulating libraries, in practice exercised a kind of censorship by declining novels of which they disapproved: a refusal could have a disas­trous effect on sales. Serial publication, like TV soap operas today, were inclined to end each instalment with a cliff-hanger to keep the read­ers' interest. Plots might be altered, popular characters written up, unpopular ones dropped, according to public reaction.

'Two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other's habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones or inhabi­tants of different planets; who are informed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws.'
'You speak of — ' said Egremont hesitatingly.
'THE RICH AND THE POOR.' Disraeli, Sybil, bk. ii, ch. 5.



The difference between the two most distinguished novelists of the early 19th century was summed up in his Journal by one of them, Sir Walter Scott, in a comment on the other, Jane Austen: 'The Big Bow-Wow strain I can do myself like any now going; but the exquisite touch, which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting, from the truth of the description and the sentiment, is denied to me.'



The father of Jane Austen (1775—1817) was rector of Steventon in Hampshire until his retirement in 1801, when the family moved to the fashionable spa city of Bath, returning to Hampshire after his death in 1805. Jane Austen never went to school, but was taught by her father, who encouraged her to read widely. She never married, though she had several suitors, and continued to live with her mother and sister, Cassandra, until her death at 41. It was a remarkably uneventful life, but provided the material for a series of novels which, though not particularly successful in her own time, have held their readership ever since - and have recently proved extraordinarily popular in film and television adaptations. Her career coin­cided almost exactly with the era of Napoleon (her brother served in the Navy under Nelson at Trafalgar), but these were matters famously excluded from the world of her novels (as one of her characters complained about history, all the men were good-for-nothings and there were hardly any women at all).

In spite, or because, of her remoteness from the literary world,
Jane Austen had a clear idea of the scope of her own talent, and was never tempted to stray beyond it. Her novels were all set within the narrow circle of the country gentry and her plots were all concerned with courtship and marriage. At the time, largely as a result of the tales of terror and romance that supplied the circulating libraries, fiction was widely regarded as not entirely respectable, but the remark in Northander Abbey that in the novel 'the greatest powers of the mind are displayed', although charaetenstically ironic, nevertheless indicates a thoroughly serious approach. Like Fielding, Jane Austen saw the novel as an art form, demanding close study and careful planning. What appears a straight­forward story casually told, tempting the ill-informed into remarks about 'Regency soap opera', is in fact the result of hard-won precision, all the more remarkable m the light of our knowledge that the later novels at least were written at the table in the family parlour, where concentration must have been difficult.


Owing to the vagaries of publishers,
Jane Austen's novels were not published in the order m which she wrote them; two, Northanger Abbey, known to be an early work, and Persuasion, were not published until after her death. Her first work, written at fifteen, was a burlesque of Richardson. She had no time for Richardson's high moral tone, nor for sentimentality either, which she mocked in other early exercises. Her satirist's eye was directed at the popular taste for the macabre; in North anger Abbey the episode presented a perceptive view of how imagined horrors may work on the mind. It was sold to a publisher (for £10) in 1803, several years after it was written, but remained unpublished until 1818. Pride and Prejudice was first written in 1797 as 'First Impressions', and rejected by a London publisher. Revised and retitled, it appeared in 1813. It is probably Jane Austen's best-known, perhaps her best, book. The intelligent, headstrong Elizabeth Bennett, the author's favourite heroine, and the supercil­ious but romantic Mr Darcy provide the conflict between 'pride' (Darcy) and 'prejudice' (Elizabeth). Although there is a deepening subtlety m the later novels. Pride and Prejudice represents an author in full command of her art, and has a certain extra sparkle of youth. Some vivid minor characters are almost as familiar as the characters of Shakespeare or Dickens.


There is a considerable interval in
Jane Austen's work during roughly the first decade of the 19th century, probably caused by family matters and her father's death in 1805, when she abandoned work on her current book. The Watsons. Sense and Sensibility dated back to a sketch of 1795, and was rewritten twice before publication in 1811. After Pride and Prejudice there was little difficulty with publishers, and it was followed by Mansfield Park (1813) and Emma (1816), warmly reviewed by Scott. Persuasion was written in 1815 and her last book, Sanditon, was unfinished when she died of Addison's disease.

Jane Austen had many contemporary admirers, including the Prince Regent (later George IV), but also some critics, including Charlotte Bronte and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Her cult status in English literature dates from the late 19th century, and her reputation has gone on rising, though many different views of her as a writer have been put forward, especially since the rise of feminist criticism.




The novel in France underwent extraordinary development between about 1830 and 1880, with a succession of innova­tions introduced by novelists of genius. The central theme was the ascendancy of Realism. It has always been a thread through the novel, but it was used in a special sense of the French novel of the mid-19th century, influenced by the rise of science and the positivism of Auguste Comte (1798-1857).



The novels of
George Sand (Amandine-Aurore Dupin, 1804—76) fall into two groups. The early novels, written m Paris in the 1830s, were Romantic tales of women struggling against social restrictions. The second, more popular today, were deceptively simple pastoral tales, set in the Berry countryside where she lived. "They included autobiographical elements, including her liaisons with Chopin and the poet Musset.


A prolific writer on many subjects, especially music and art,
Stendhal (Henry Beyle, 1783— 1842) was nearly always entertaining, if unreli­able. His novels include two classics, Le Rouge et le Noir (Scarlet and Black, 1830) and La Chartreuse de Parme (The Charterhouse of Parma, 1839). They are generally regarded as the precursors of Realism, highlighting social life in the provinces and political life in France and Italy (where Stendhal spent many years) during the post-Napoleonic era. They are remarkable for their psychological insights and the passions of the central characters.


The first night of Hernani (1830), a verse drama by
Victor Hugo (1802-85), provoked a riot involving the supporters of Hugo's Romantic doctrine - that human nature should be freed from the restraints of Classicism -and those loyal to the tradition of Corneille and Racine. Hugo is regarded as a great French lyrical poet, but is mainly remembered outside France for two great novels, Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1833 [1831 in Hutchison Encylopedia]), and Les Miserables (1862), written while Hugo was m exile as a republican. Returning in 1870, he found himself a national hero, who received a state funeral when he died.


The other great French Romantic, Alexandre Dumas (1802—70), is known as Dumas pere to distinguish him from his son Dumas fits (1824— 95), author of La Dame aux camehas (Camille, 1848). In energy, ebullience and productivity (his Complete Works occupy over 300 volumes), Dumas pere challenged such giants as Hugo and Balzac. His novels of 16th and 17th century France, full of sudden twists and coincidences, were written over half a century. "The Three Musketeers" (1844-45), has been the most popular. The Count of Monte Cristo (1844), set in the Napoleonic era, has also proved a lasting favourite.


Henry James regarded
Honore de Balzac (1799—1850) as the greatest of novelists, whose influence on the novel has been huge. His Comedie Humaine (1842—48) was originally planned as 137 separate but interconnected novels and stories, of which Balzac completed 97, plus rough drafts of several more - all in under twenty years. Balzac's aim was to present in fictional terms a comprehensive picture of French society in the years after the Revolution; it was also to be a critical analysis, drawing on techniques similar to those of the scientist or the historian. He divided the novels into three groups: customs, covering social and political life; philosophical; and analytical, including aspects of the supernatural. Among the author's main interests were the working of human emotions, the relationship between the individual and the environment, and the effects of money, ambition and energy in social rela­tions. The work glows with Balzac's formidable vitality (he was physically and metaphorically a giant) and includes more than 2,000 characters, some of whom reappear in different novels. Notwithstanding contemporary success, Balzac, who lived an eventful life in spite of intense work, was constantly in debt until he married a rich Hungarian countess m 1850, only to die months later.


In contrast with the prodigious output of
Hugo, Dumas and Balzac, Gustave Flaubert (1821-80) published only five novels, plus some first and most famous novel Madame Bovary (1857), the story of a doctor's wife oppressed by the dull restrictions of life in a small Normandy town who escapes through adultery and eventually suicide, is one of the most influ­ential novels ever. Flaubert was tried for offences against public morals, and acquitted, the trial doing wonders for sales. Flaubert, who disliked the label 'Realist', was the supreme stylist. Plot and characterization interested him less, although, as befits an acute commentator on the art of the novel, he acknowledged their importance. He sought a style 'as rhythmic as verse, as precise as the language of science' and believed that the author must be 'like God . . . present everywhere but visible nowhere'. Salammbo (1862), set in a minutely researched ancient Carthage, restored him to favour with the Establishment, but his remaining novels (A Sentimental Education, 1869, The Temptation of St Anthony, 1874, begun 25 years earlier, and Bouvard et Pecuchet) were less successful.




There are clearly generic differences between the English novel and the French, or the Russian, novel. Without entering too deeply into a subject where all generalizations are suspect, it can be said that one feature of the novelists of the English Victorian novelists is that they always recognized that part of their duty was to entertain. Dickens was the great entertainer, and at one time was regarded as almost exclusively that. More recently, his social criticism has been taken more seriously, and his darker, more complex, later works have attracted respectful attention from serious academic critics.



Charles Dickens (1812—70)) came from the poor­est reaches of the middle class. His father was imprisoned for debt when Charles was twelve and he went to work in a warehouse at 30p a week. He became a reporter, recording Parliamentary debates in shorthand, and in 1833 sold the first of his 'Sketches by Bo/.' to a maga­zine. Pickwick Papers began m 1836, Oliver Twist the following year, and Dickens's triumphant career was off to a flying start. In less than 30 years, he produced 14 major novels and a number of lesser fictions. Yet this was only a part of his almost frenetic activity.

Dickens was a driven man, who never let up, constantly busy editing magazines, organizing amateur theatri­cals, charitable projects and protest campaigns, entertaining and being entertained by a huge circle of friends, lecturing, travelling (two trips to America), and of course writing, and all with extraordinary energy. In his later years, he had huge popular success with public readings from his novels, one-man shows by a born actor, and these exhausting performances on tour are said to have hastened his death. His private life was less happy. His marriage ended, after 10 children in 20 years. Gossip linked him with his wife's sister; in fact he was in love with the actress Ellen Ternan, for a time his mistress.


Dickens's popular reputation rests on his humour, his spirited narration, and his ability to create larger-than-life minor characters. He was such a 'natural' that he never needed to rewrite, which partly explains the dynamism of his prose and the breathtaking vigour of his set-piece descriptions, such as his famous descriptions of London, the city with which he was so strongly and ambivalently involved. His faults are also obvious: sentimentalism, the vapid nature of his heroines, and, to some extent, his heroes too. It can also be said that his highly original minor characters, are generally two-dimensional, more caricature than character.

Besides Pickwick, containing the immortal coachman Sam Weller, and Oliver Twist, with the two disparate villains Fagin and Bill Sykes, his outstanding novels are (dates given here arc of first serial publication): NichoLis Nicklcby (1838), a swingeing attack on private schools (Dotheboys Hall, Wackford Squeers, headmaster), but with many joyful and lively episodes; The Old Curiosity Shop (1840), containing the notorious tearjerking scene of Little Nell's death, adored by the Victorians but not us; Rarnaby Rudge (1841), set in the time of the anti-Catholic Cordon riots; Martin Chuzzlewit ; 1843), partK' based on
Dickens's experience of America (he was critical), but one of his funniest; A Christmas Carol (1843), first of a projected Christmas series, in which miserable old Scrooge is redeemed by his Christmas dream; Dombey and Son (1848), written in Switzerland and taken as marking the beginning of a more serious approach by Dickens to his art; David Copperfield, partly autobiographical (Mr Micawber seems to owe some­thing to Dickens's likable but improvident father); Bleak House (1852), Dickens's most impressive novel of social protest, especially for its devastating attack on the Court of Chancery; Hard limes (1854), an attack on soulless utilitarianism in the person of Mr Cradgrind (a typically inspired name); Little Dorrit (1855), including an attack on the absurdities of the system in which honest men (like Dickens's father) could be imprisoned indefinitely for debt, and emphasizing the responsibility of the individual; A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Dickens's untypical - it is historical, set partly abroad and has little humour - novel of the French Revolution; Great Expectations (1860—61), many people's favourite, with a more believable hero (also the narrator) whose development from selfish youth to humane young man is the unifying theme, some memorable descriptive passages, an espe­cially rich assortment of minor characters and, until he was persuaded to change it, a down­beat ending; Our Mutual Friend (1864), Dickens's most pessimistic novel, a dense, complex and, despite initial impressions, coherent picture of contemporary society. Dickens died suddenly in 1870 leaving The Mystery of Edwin Drood unfinished. The question who, if anyone, murdered Edwin Drood has exercised the ingenuity of surpris­ingly numerous writers since and spawned several attempts to complete the novel.




At the 1997 Booker Prize, the annual British award for fiction, someone drew up a short list that might have figured in 1847, had the Booker Prize existed then. On it were Dickens's Dombey and Son, Thackeray's Vanity Fair, Trollope's The Macdermots of Ballycloran, and novels by each of the three Bronte sisters, Wuthering Heights (Emily), Jane Eyre (Charlotte) and Agnes Grey (Anne). Suffice to say that all those authors, and most of the books, are more familiar to readers today than any one of the six authors or books nominated in 1997.
A telling illustration of the standard and range of Victorian fiction.



Had there been a prize awarded by popular vote in 1847,
William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-63) would have won. Vanity Fair was greeted as a challenge to Dickens. Set a generation earlier, it is a sweeping satire of contemporary English mores, in particular the materialism of the industrial age. It contrasts the fortunes of two female friends, Amelia Sedley and the immortal Becky Sharp, poor, bright, cynical and. inevitably, on the make, whom Thackeray, compelling his readers to make their own moral udgements, cannot bring himself to consign to the unhappy end that convention demanded for less than virtuous women. It also contains one or two set pieces of scintillating humour. Thackeray wrote for a living, demanding a huge journalistic output. None of his other novels quite measured up to Vanity Fair, although Henry Esmond (1852) comes close, followed by Pendennis (1848) and The Netycomes (1853). He was an admirer of, and expert on, the novels of the 18th century, and shares the vigour and liberality of Fielding and his contemporaries.


Anthony Trollope (1815—82) sat down every morning at 5.30 for three hours to write 3,000 words before leaving for his work in the Post Office. He bruised his reputation as an artist in his Autobiography (1883) by insisting that novel-writing is merely a craft. Framley Parsonage (1860) was written in only six weeks in response to an offer of £1,000 for serial rights from Thackeray's Cornhill Magazine. Trollope's straightforward image disguised a penetrating knowledge of human nature and in his later works, notably The Way We hive Now (1874), he took a less optimistic view of society than the image of the genial, fox-hunting chronicler of Barchester would suggest. It was the first of the Barchester novels, The Warden (1855), that made him famous. They are probably still the most read, though closely followed by the Palliser series, in which the theme is political rather than ecclesiastical.


Robert Louis Stevenson (1850—94) was once regarded as a children's writer and minor essayist — an entertainer then. In more recent times, Stevenson, a friend of Henry James, has come to be seen as a serious novelist and as an early exponent of modernism (his poetry and drama have not shared in this revival). Brought up in Edinburgh, as a child his lungs were weak, but fragile health did not prevent him travelling extensively; he is another example of the writer as wanderer. He finally left Britain for the Pacific in 1888, settling in Samoa, where he enjoyed a period of intense activity, much of it channelled into fierce attacks on European exploitation of the Pacific islanders. For most people, he is still pre-eminently the author of two classics: the children's tale of adventure, Treasure Island (1883), and the brilliant, resonant tale of horror, The Strange Case of Drjekyll and Mr Hyde (1886). Probably the best of his other novels are Kidnapped (1886) and The Master of Ballantrae (1889).


A poet first,
George Meredith (1828-1909) is today better remembered as a novelist. That he is not more popular is largely due to his convoluted style, cultivated in a prolonged attempt to develop a form of prose that shared the lyric intensity of poetry. His first novel, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, was not published until 1859, but 'the sage of Box Hill' (Surrey) still had fifty years ahead of him. At regular intervals he published novels, short stories, poetry and criticism, notably On the Idea of Comedy . . . (1897). By general consent, his best novel is The Egoist (1879), which, in its cool examination of the absurd Sir Willoughby Patterne, also reveals Meredith's gift for comedy.


The reputation of
George Gissing (1857-1903) has risen in the past 30 years. Unlike Trollope or Meredith, he fits the image of the born artist, devoted to his art, alienated from society - Gissing was drawn to the working class from which he unsuccessfully picked two wives. In spite of his grim realism, he was relatively prosperous and productive. His subjects were human misery, poverty and failure, and what he described as 'the hideous injustice of our whole system of society'. In Neif Grub Street (1891), he contrasts the careers of two writers, the first facile, selfish and successful, the second a genuine artist, hampered by poverty and rejection.




With the 19th-century novel, men and women for the first time in any literary genre stood on equal footing. The majority of novel readers were women, and possi­bly the majority of novelists were too. Plots and settings were usually domestic - traditionally the woman's sphere - even if they were concerned with non-domestic themes, and intelligent middle-class women whose activities were severely constricted by social convention found opportunities to express themselves in writing fiction. As George Eliot remarked in her essay, 'Silly Novels by Lady Novelists', 'No restrictions can shut women out from the materi­als of fiction, and there is no species of art which is sofree from rigid requirements.'

The literary significance of all this is hard to judge. Today, gender is perhaps exaggerated. Some feminist critics would say that there is no essential difference between male and female writers, and that to maintain otherwise is to perpetuate traditional prejudice.


Mrs Gaskell, wife of a minister, began writing to distract herself after the death of her baby son. She attracted favourable attention from Dickens, and most of her work was first published in Household Words and its successor. A thoroughly admirable person, devoted wife and mother, friend (and biographer) of Charlotte Bronte among many others, she was a perceptive and sympathetic observer of human nature, a sound researcher (notably on the conditions of industrial workers) and a powerful force for greater social cooperation. In her day, she was very highly regarded, and her reputation, which dipped after her death, is now again high. One novel in particular has always remained popular: Cranford (1851), a charming picture of life in her native town, Knutsford, and a quiet affirmation of ordinary human decency.


This extraordinary family grew up in the vicarage of Haworth, a bleak village on the Yorkshire moors and now one of the most visited literary shrines in Britain. They were never really happy anywhere else, though chiefly because life, and hereditary tuberculosis, gave them little chance to be. With their brother Branwell, the three girls, Charlotte (1816-55), Emily (1818-48) and Anne (1820-49), made up elaborate stories and fantasies and in 1846 published a combined collection of poetry as the brothers Bell. Charlotte, the eldest, then persuaded her sisters to publish the novels that all had by now written, and as a result her own "Jane Eyre", Emily's Wnthering Heights and Anne's Agnes Grey all appeared in 1847, still under the names Currer, Acton and Ellis Bell, suspected by many of being one person. All too soon, private disasters crowded out their public success. Branwell, an alcoholic, died in 1848, followed within months by Emily and, after her second, better novel. The Tenant of Wild fell Hall (1848), by Anne. Charlotte remained to cope with her stricken father. Although shy and lacking self-confi­dence, she did begin to mix in literary circles, becoming a close friend of Mrs Gaskell, and in 1854 she married her father's curate. She died at 39 when pregnant with her first child.

Charlotte, having lived the longest, appears to be the most substantial novelist, though some regard Emily as the most brilliant. Charlotte's best novel after fane Eyre is probably Villette, based on the traumatic nine months she spent in Brussels in 1842 where she fell m love with her middle-aged and married employer. However, Emily's only novel, Wutbering Heights, is probably the best known of the works of the Brontes, a passionate and powerful love story with a positively terrifying lover in Heathcliff, saved from toppling into melodrama by its solid Yorkshire roots.


Virginia Woolf remarked that George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans, 1819—SO) was the first English novelist to write exclusively for adults. Her powerful intellect and insight extended the novel's range and gave it greater seriousness, and, notably in Middlemarch, she displayed detailed comprehension of an enormous range of subjects, from medicine to politics. She began writing articles in about 1850 and in 1853 started an affair, which developed into a life-time partnership, with a married man, G. H. Lewes. Though very learned himself, he put her literary ambitions first, encouraging her to write novels and forsaking his own work, which included the standard work on Goethe in English, to take over the housework. She adopted a male pseudonym, though Dickens for one, writing a fan letter in 1858, correctly deduced her sex.

Eliot's 1859 novel Adam Bede confirmed the accuracy of Lewes's judgement that his partner was the greater talent; The Mill on the Floss (I860) and Silas Marner ( 1861) followed. Not everything came easily - Remold (1863), set in Renaissance Italy, turned her, she said, from a young woman to an old one in two years - but in 1871 she published what is generally regarded as her masterpiece, Middlemarch. 'I he death of Lewes in 18~8 was a shattering blow, but two years later she married a man 20 years younger, shortly before her own death.



Russia's arrival on the literary scene was sudden and dramatic. In general, the great Russians, although well versed in European literature, owed little to the West. Their situation was entirely different. They lived in a vast and backward country, where the mass of the population was illiterate and the educated elite was very small. They were, or were expected to be, commit­ted. They were, in a sense, prophets, with serious purposes - social, politi­cal, philosophical or religious - and a novel was a manifesto. Under a reac­tionary regime, writing was a dangerous trade. A hint of subversion and there was a danger of being sent to Siberia, as Dostoevsky was.

Suspicion remains that Pushkin (1799-1837), who was killed in a duel, was the victim of a tsarist plot. His early death cut short the career of a great poet and deprived the world of a potentially great novelist.



1799, Moscow, Russia
died Jan. 29 [Feb. 10], 1837, St. Petersburg

Russian poet, novelist, dramatist, and short-story writer; he has often been considered his country's greatest poet and the founder of modern Russian literature.



Sometimes regarded as the first Russian realist and a progenitor of modernism,
Gogol (1809— 52) also belonged obliquely to the Romantic movement, as the man who 'put the gargoyles on the Gothic tower of Romanticism'. An admirer of Sterne, lie created a unique, fantastic, grotesque fictional world, aided by his formidable imaginative power and command of a language that was, like English in Shakespeare's time, young, vigorous and malleable. His famous play, The Government Inspector (1836), satirizes stupidity and corruption in a provincial town, representing Russian society, and his St Petersburg stories, including 'The Overcoat', take place in a surreal city. His masterpiece is the comic epic Dead Souls (1842), many years in the making. He subse­quently underwent a long spiritual crisis, and burned the second part of Dead Souls shortly before his death.


The most Westernized of the great Russians,
Ivan Turgenev  (1818-83) knew Flaubert, Dickens and George Eliot, and received an honorary degree from Oxford. The Goncourt brothers described him as 'a charming colossus . . . who looks like the good spirit of a mountain or a forest'. Once the most admired of the Russian writers, his reputation has declined partly because he is no great Russian wild man like Gogol or Dostoevsky, but an altogether gentler artist. His first large prose work, Notes of a Hunter (1847-51) is a neglected masterpiece. Turgenev's novels examine prevailing social, political and philosophical questions through the lives of individuals. The best known today is Father and Sons (1862), in which he intro­duced the word nihilist to describe the central figure, but the work probably most familiar today outside Russia is his play, A Month in the Country (1850), an influence on Chekhov, amongst others.


It is hard to imagine two more different writers than Russian contemporaries,
Turgenev, swanning around the literary salons of Paris and London, and Dostoevsky (1821-81) who, after a ghastly childhood, was condemned to four years in a hideous prison and four more in Siberian exile. He made use of these experiences in his first masterpiece, Memoirs From The House of the Dead (1860), first serialized in a magazine he started with his brother, in which he condemns as 'contaminated to its very foundation' a society that permits the brutality and savagery he had witnessed. He travelled in Western Europe in 1862, and was appalled by the excesses of capitalist England. London's Crystal Palace (built for the Great Exhibition of 1851) appears as a symbol of the corrupt modern world in Notes from Underground (1864), the first of the works that support his huge reputation today: Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1868) and above all The Brothers Karamazov (1880). Dostoevsky was admired by every 20th-century thinker from Freud to Sartre, and his influence on the novel is hard to exaggerate. His greatest single quality is his understanding of the most complex depths of individual character.


Not everyone liked
Dostoevsky. Henry James and D. H. Lawrence were notable dissidents. The Russian giant was not he but Tolstoy (1828-1910), author of probably the world's best-known novel, War and Peace (1863-69), a magnificent epic which traces the fortunes of three aristocratic families during the era of Napoleon's invasion. It was followed by the almost equally famous Anna Karenina (1873-7"7}. Tolstoy's profound concern with moral questions led to a spiritual revolution in the 1880s and a dramatic change in the character of his work, as manifest in novels such as The Death of Ivan lllich (1886) and
"The Kreutzer Sonata" (1889). His radical rejection of private property and of political and ecclesiastical authority led to his works being banned in Russia, but made him a revered sage and his home, a large inherited estate in central Russia where he lived all his life, a place of pilgrimage.


'. . . he had dreamt that the entire world had fallen victi.ni to some strange, unheard of and unprecedent­ed plague . . . Some new kind of trichinae had appeared, microscopic creatures that lodged them­selves in people's bodies. But these creatures were spirits, gifted with will and intelligence. People who absorbed them into their systems' instantly became rabid and insane. But never, never had people considered themselves so intelligent and in unswerv­ing possession of the truth as did those who became infected , . , each person thought that he alone
possessed the truth ..."

Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, vi, 11, (trans. David Me Duff 1991],



Naturalism, an allegedly more exact and 'scien­tific' extension of Realism, is associated in particular with Zola and the Goncourt brothers. It was influential primarily in French, German and European literature, to some extent in America but perhaps least of all in Britain. It never formed anything like a school or a move­ment in the English novel, though its influence is evident in the novels of Gissing, Arnold Bennet and especially the less well-known Arthur Morrison, author of the crusading novel of London's East End, Child of the Jago (1896).



Emile Zola (1840-1902), who described his ideas in The Experimental Novel (1880), saw human beings as creatures determined by heredity and environment. He was influenced by contemporary scientific ideas, especially the work of Prosper Lucas on heredity, and the writings of the determinist historian Hippolyte Tame, author of a notable history of English literature. He saw the novelist's task as akin to that of an experimental scientist, taking characters of distinctive temperaments, placing them in apposite social circumstances and observing the results. At heart he was a social reformer, and his characters generally belong to the lower or middle classes.

Zola's ideas were first deployed in Therese Raquin (1867), but were more fully expressed in his ambitious cycle of twenty novels under the general title Les Rougon-Macquart (1871— 93), in which he traced the 'natural and social history' of two branches of a particular family. Overall, he presents a wide-ranging prospect of mid-19th century social life, pain-stakingly researched, with the customary realist emphasis on the more grimmer aspects of human behaviour. Zola's individual novels deal with particular communities or topics, and the general pessimism is relieved by lyrical passages and, despite the overall impression of human beings as 'weasels fighting in a hole', by Zola's faith in the possibility of improvement. That emerges more strongly in his later, unfinished sequence, Les Quatres Evangiles [The Four Gospels, 1899-1902). The third land last) of these deals with the Dreyfuss Case, in which he had made a momentous intervention on behalf of justice with his open letter to the French president, J'accuse (1898), published in the newspaper L'Aurore.


The leading exponent of German naturalism was the young Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946), epic poet and novelist but most famous as a playwright, in which role he was strongly influenced by Ibsen. The best known of his novels, at least in his naturalistic phase, is Signalman Thiel (1888), and his first major theatrical success, Before Sunrise (1889), depicting peasant life, was a landmark in the development of the naturalistic German theatre. His most famous play, proclaimed a masterpiece by James Joyce, is The Weavers (1892) based on a weavers' revolt in his native Silesia in 1844, in which the protagonist is the group rather than an individual. A humane social critic, Hauptmann's work varied widely in style, form and subject matter, attracting comparisons with Goethe. Besides his social realism, he manifested profound spiritual yearnings, which are most evident in later works, where naturalism has long given way to poetic symbolism. The late works are also marked by his horror at what had happened to Germany under the Nazis — who, of course, had no time for him.


Although influenced by Zola, American Naturalism arrived later than in Europe and was less rigid in conception, placing more emphasis on environment than heredity, and owing much to the native regional novel. An early example was Maggie, Girl of the Streets (1893) by Stephen Crane, best known for his Civil War novel. The Red Badge of Courage. The most thoroughly naturalistic of American novels is An American Tragedy (1925) the masterpiece of Theodore Dreiser (himself a child of the slums), in which the failures of the weak-willed hero are blamed on the social environment and, implicitly, on the capitalist system. Naturalism is an element in the work of many other American writers, especially in its disposition in favour of the weak and oppressed. John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath (1939) is probably the most acclaimed work in this tradition.




In the 1840s, Dickens's sales in North America were relatively as high as in Britain, but in the years before the Civil War he was increasingly challenged by American novelists. As in England there were many women novelists, no Jane Austens or George Eliots perhaps, but Harriet Beecher Stowe far surpassed them (and everyone else) in sales of her first book, the melodramatic but influential, anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852). However, neither slavery nor the Civil War figured much in the work of the two great writers who, together with Walt Whitman, were chiefly responsible for the establishment of uniquely American literature on level terms with that of European countries.



Culturally, North America in the early 19th century lagged behind developments in Europe and, inasmuch as a dividing line can be drawn between Romanticism and Realism, it was situated in the Civil War, although the conflict had less of an effect than the rapid industrialization that followed. Both
Hawthorne and Melville were rooted in Romanticism.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-64) was descended from 17th-century Puritans in New England and one of his ancestors was among the persecutors of the accused witches of Salem, where Hawthorne was born. He had a solitary childhood with an eccentric widowed mother, read widely and in 1837 achieved fame with the publication of a collection of short stories in Twice Told Tales. He could not initially make a living from his writing (his first novel, Fansbawe, 1828, was published at his own expense), in spite of much hack editorial work and successful children's stories, such as Tanglewood Tales (1852-53), based on stories from classical mythology. He was influenced by Emerson and the Transcendentalists, although he took a far more pessimistic view of life, and spent some time at the Brook Farm community, the basis for his novel The Blithedale Romance (1852).


Hawthorne was concerned with the past, whereas the Transcendentalists were interested in nature and the present. The Scarlet Letter (1850) was set in 17th-century New England and its successor, The House of the Seven Gables (1851), though relating contemporary events, is rooted in the same period. The title of Hawthorne's masterpiece refers to the scarlet letter 'A' (for 'adulteress') which his heroine is forced to wear after she had produced a baby in her husband's prolonged absence and refused to name the father. It is a powerful allegory of the moral effects of sin and punishment, a subject with which the dark genius of Hawthorne was so deeply, not to say neurotically, concerned. The House of the Seven Gables was based on a curse, tradition had it, pronounced on the Hawthorne family (disguised as the Pyncheons) when the author's great-grandfather was a judge in the Salem witch trials.

In his last decade, much of it spent as U.S. Consul in Liverpool, Hawthorne seems to have been less tormented, and though continuing to write, he produced nothing to compare with The Scarlet Letter.


Hawthorne, Herman Melville (1819-91) was troubled by inner demons. After his father's bankruptcy and early death, Melville left school early, worked in assorted jobs and sailed as a cabin boy to Liverpool in 1839, gaining a lifelong love of the sea. In 1841, he sailed on a whaling ship to the South Pacific, jumped ship and lived on the Pacific Islands, working at one time as an agricultural labourer in Tahiti. He served a year on a U.S. warship, before returning to New England and embarking on a literary career, partly to support a growing family. His first five books were essentially pot-boilers, based on his varied experiences, and they, especially the first, Typee (1846), gained him a large readership and introduced him to literary circles. In 1847 he settled on a Massachusetts farm, and became a friend of Hawthorne.

"Moby Dick or The Whale"

Melville's greatest work,
"Moby Dick or The Whale" (1851), was dedicated to Hawthorne, who may have been partly responsible for his more ambitious approach to this new tale of the sea. The symbolic story of Captain Ahab's obsessive pursuit of the white whale responsible for crippling him is America's greatest tragic epic. It is written in a variety of styles, rang­ing from nautical slang to Shakespearean bombast, and the narrative is often interrupted by extraneous tales and dissertations. The book received some admiring notices, especially in Britain, where Melville - to a lesser extent Hawthorne too - was more highly regarded than in America. The general public, however, preferred its sea stories in Melville's earlier, less demanding style, and, although he contin­ued to produce both fiction and, increasingly, poetry (latterly printed privately), his popularity rapidly faded. Unlike Hawthorne, he was unable to land an appointment as a U.S. Consul and in his later years toiled as a customs officer in New York. On his death, which passed almost unnoticed in his own country, he left unpublished another minor masterpiece, Billy Budd.



Sam Clemens grew up in the riverside town of Hannibal, Missouri, apparently enjoying an enviably unfettered, frontier childhood, and he began writing for his brother's newspaper when apprenticed to a printer. Printing soon bored him, and he became a river pilot on the Mississippi steamships, an important character-forming experience, shortly before the railways made the magnificent old stern-wheelers redundant. He drew his pen name from the call of the leadsman sounding the depth, and years later gave a fascinating and knowledgeable account of Life on the Mississippi (1879), a minor classic. His early writing was encouraged by Artemus Ward and Bret Harte, with whom he collaborated. The volume of 'sketches' headed by the 'Celebrated Jumping Frog' in 1867 made him famous, and his popularity increased even further with his personal, irreverent accounts of his travels, The Innocents Abroad, 1869), Roughing It (1872), and A Tramp Abroad (1879). By that time he was a well-established and extremely popular lecturer, and was married and settled in the New England town of Hartford, Connecticut.

Mark Twain's most famous works are his novels of boyhood. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), which drew heav­ily on the author's experience and painted a vivid picture of life on the Mississippi frontier. Huckleberry Finn is his masterpiece and probably the best-known and most loved of all American novels. Relating Huck's picaresque adventures with a runaway slave on a raft down the Mississippi, it is a marvellous adventure story that is also a powerful commentary on American society and institutions, brilliantly conveyed through the observations of simple and naive characters. It is told in exuberantly racy and realistic language, employing local dialect that is entirely convincing without hindering the progress of the storv. Some critics have called it the first modern American novel; it certainly marked a great shift in language.

In 1894, as the result of the failure of a firm m which he had invested heavily, Twain was forced to declare himself bankrupt, though within four years, by dint of hard work includ­ing a world lecture tour, he paid off his debts. However, that experience, followed by the deaths of his daughter and his wife, encouraged the growth of the misanthropic element that was always evident in his character, as it is in that of most great humourists. There is a bitter note m his allegorical satire, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889) and his story 'The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg' (1898) takes a jaundiced view of human nature. His later writings, including two disappointing stories about Tom Sawyer, fell far short of his best work.



Crime and its ramifications has always been a concern of creative writers and plays a proportionately larger part in literature than it does in real life. In the past hundred -. years or so, crime has provided the subject matter for a huge variety of popular fiction under various labels -". mystery, thriller, suspense, 'whodunnit', spy novel, etc. - much of which, however entertaining, cannot honestly be classed as literature. However, the detective novel has long been established as a respectable subgenre of literature and one that can be easily identified by its form. In the detective novel, a crime and its solution are the primary ingredient; character analysis, social comment, etc., though they may be present, are secondary to the solution of the crime. As a rule, the reader is implic­itly invited to second-guess the detective, who may or may not be a professional investigator and is frequently a 'serial' character, such as Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, reappearing a succession of stories.



It is generally agreed that Edgar Allan Рое, pioneer of the modern horror story, originated the classic model of detective fiction with his stories of 'ratiocination' involving the French detective, С. Auguste Dupin. The best known is probably The Murders in the Rue Morgue. Like Sherlock Holmes later, Dupin is a brilliant eccentric whose somewhat blockheaded friend is the narrator of the story.

In Britain, the prototype of the full-length detection novel was
Wilkie Collins's (1824—29)
"The Moonstone" (1868). His early work consisted of articles written for the magazines of his friend Charles Dickens, and his first novel, Antonina (1850); was set in ancient times. "The Woman in White" (I860), a 'mystery' — related to the Gothic romance, rather than a detective novel - falls into the category that literary historians call the 'novel of sensation". With its gripping opening scene based on a real-life experience, it demonstrated Collins's mastery of suspense and skilful plotting.

T. S. Eliot described The Moonstone as 'the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels'. Brilliantly plotted, with a notable twist in the investigator's discovery that he himself was responsible for the disappearance of the eponymous stone, it is also sharply characterized: the gloomy Sergeant Cuff is a memorable detective. Collins wrote many more novels, but the stan­dard declined and his narrative gift was latterly almost submerged by his engagement with social issues, but he continued to command large sales, not only in English-speaking countries, but also in translation.


The most famous fictional detective of all time is without doubt Sherlock Holmes, the violin-playing, drug-taking intellectual of 22IB Baker Street:, the creation of Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930). Like Holmes's friend and narrator, Dr Watson, Conan Doyle was a physician, a G.P. who began writing stories when short of patients. The first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, appeared m a Christmas magazine in 1887, but his extraordinary popularity dates from the short stones that appeared in The Strand Magazine from 1891 and were later published in two volumes as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892) and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894). The first person to tire of Holmes was his creator, but when he attempted to kill him off in 'The Final Problem', the outcry was such that he had to resurrect him. The author never did shed the character with whom he came to be irritatingly (to himself) identified, but he wrote many other books. Non-Holmesian novels included The Lost World ;19I2). featuring another 'serial' protagonist. Professor Challenger, the progenitor of many science-fiction stories on the 'extinct monsters' theme.


The success of Holmes encouraged others. Among the most notable was Father Brown, the insignificant but astute priest invented by G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936). The short story was still the usual vehicle (there were only four Sherlock Holmes novels). A classic of the detective novel was F. C. Bentley's Trent's Last Case (1912), which refined the form of the genre and led to the 'golden age' of the 1920s—1940s, dominated by women writers such as Dorothy F. Savers, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh, and the 'queen' of the detective novel, Agatha Christie (1890— 1976). The creator of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple was one of the biggest international bestsellers of the century, but she was a writer whom it is hard to imagine working effectively in am' other milieu.




Although books for children were written as early as the 17th century, their purpose was generally didactic rather than entertaining. Children might find entertainment in adult books, such as Aesop's Fables or the travel tales of a Defoe or a Swift, but not until the late 18th century, under the influence of Rousseau and other educational reformers, did books appear that were written to amuse them, and a strong moral purpose still remained in many children's stories throughout the 19th century. Practically all the classics of children's literature date from the past 150 years.



Chapbooks were crudely printed pamphlets including versions of old romances and tales such as 'Dick Whittington' and 'Jack the Giant-Killer', illustrated with rough woodcuts. They circulated from the Renaissance to the 18th century. They sometimes included an alphabet, but were not exclusively designed for children. The name is modern, deriving from 'chapmen', the itinerant pedlars who sold them.

Fairytales may be read by children purely for amusement, but they generally have a moral purpose and, in the present century, they have been subject to 'deconstruction', especially under the influence of
Freud. That there was more to fairytales than mere amusement was realized long before. In the 19th century their suitability for children caused Inch' argument. The most influential early collection, based on French folk tradition, was published by Charles Perrault in 1697, and in English translation as Mother Goose Tales in 1729. It included such favourites as 'Cinderella'. The brothers Grimm published their famous collection of German fairytales in 1812—15 (English translation 1823). Some lesser-known tales - including an incident in which someone is rolled downhill in a barrel with inward-projecting spikes - seem hardly suitable for children. Nothing so repulsive is to be found m the haunting Danish tales of Hans Christian Andersen (1805—75), which were mostly based on Danish tradition ('The Ugly Duckling', 'The Emperor's New Clothes')


The generation after
Lewis Carroll produced several classics of English children's literature. Like Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit and company, the characters were often anthropomorphized animals, though in Kipling's stories they are authentic animals and in A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh (1926) they are toys, the central char­acter being a human child, Christopher Robin. Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows (1908) owes its continued appeal chiefly to the thoroughly 'human' character of the ineffable Mr. Toad. Other stories, notably those of E. Nesbitt (1858-1924), are about children, the greatest example being Peter Pan, originally a play (1904), the masterpiece of J. M. Barne.


A Book of Nonsense (1845) by
Edward Lear 1812-88) exploited children's love of the sound of words, regardless of meaning, and included main1 limericks of which Lear was the master, although not the inventor. Lear, who was an accomplished watercolourist, illustrated his own books. Since adult novels were often illustrated, children's stories naturally were too, but pictures were generally subsidiary, at least until the time of Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) in whose tales text and illustrations carry equal weight.


Probably the most famous children's story of the century was Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) by Lewis Carroll, the pseudonym of a somewhat cranky Oxford mathematician, C. L. Dodgson (1832-98). Like Lear, Dodgson was awkward in adult society and adored little girls, adapting the book from stories he told the daughter of a colleague. It blends humour and fantasy, set against a very down-to-earth heroine, and includes memo­rable comic verse, often parodying Victorian party pieces. The sequel, Through the Looking Class (1871) is almost equally good, but Carroll's later children's story, Sylrie and Bruno (1889-93; is less memorable. His nonsense poem, ' The Hunting of the Snark' (1876), employs the same mad logic typical of dreams, in which Alice's adventures are set. Like most of the best children's books, the Alice stories appealed as much to adults as to children. They have remained hugely popular both m English and, in spite of obvious problems of translation, other languages.


Born in India, but educated in England,
Rudyard Kipling (1865—1936) returned in 1882 as a journalist on the Lahore Gazette. His early stories were collected as Departmental Ditties (1886), Plain Tales From the Hills (1888), etc. Together with his poems, published as Barrack-Room Ballads in 1892, they established him in literary circles after he returned to England in 1889. In 1892, having married an American, he moved for some years to Vermont, where he wrote the classic jungle Book and its sequel. By 1897, the family were back in England, eventually settling in Sussex though Kipling spent long visits in South Africa, where he wrote some of the Just So Stories (1902). In 1911 he became the first English writer to win a Nobel Prize.

Kipling's masterpiece is his novel, "Kim" (1901, illustrations by the author's father) m which the loyalties of the bоу-hero are divided between an old Tibetan lama (representing the contemplative life) and the British spymaster Colonel Creighton (representing the life of action). The real interest of the novel lies in its panoramic picture of India and the characters encountered along the Grand Trunk Road. Most Indian and British critics agree that it is the best British novel about India, though admittedly a winner in a small field.

Kipling's reputation faded before his death, some critics finding him too facile. It suffered later because of his identification with British imperialism, but has recovered recently. Kipling is the inventor of many great characters, several of them boys (Mowgli, Kim), and some of them animals (Bagheera the panther, Rikki-tikki-tavi the mongoose). 'Tommy Atkins' ;the ordinary soldier) and 'the white man's burden' are among his contributions to the language. His output was huge (so were his sales) and he was extraor­dinarily fluent, especially in verse, with a good ear for colloquial speech. He knew intimately the everyday life of India, ordinary people of all sorts, Afghan horse traders and Bengali clerks, as well as British (and Irish) soldiers, the ways of the jungle and the military camp.