World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

English novel

Article Id: WHEBN0000173560
Reproduction Date:

Title: English novel  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: John Dickens, Edward Dickens, Elizabeth Dickens, Leah Price, Augustus Dickens
Collection: History of Literature in the United Kingdom
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

English novel

Portrait of Samuel Richardson by Joseph Highmore.National Portrait Gallery, Westminster, England.

The English novel is an important part of English literature. This article focuses on novels, written in English, by novelists who were born or have spent a significant part of their lives in England, or Scotland, or Wales, or Northern Ireland (or Ireland before 1922). However, given the nature of the subject, this guideline has been applied with common sense, and reference is made to novels in other languages or novelists who are not primarily British where appropriate.


  • Early novels in English 1
  • Romantic period 2
  • Victorian novel 3
  • 20th century 4
  • Survey 5
  • Famous novelists (alphabetical order) 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8

Early novels in English

The English novel has generally been seen as beginning with Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Moll Flanders (1722),[1] though John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress (1678) and Aphra Behn's Oroonoko (1688) are also contenders, while earlier works such as Sir Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur, and even the "Prologue" to Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales have been suggested.[2] Another important early novel is Gulliver's Travels (1726, amended 1735), by Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift, which is both a satire of human nature, as well as a parody of travellers' tales like Robinson Crusoe.[3] The rise of the novel as an important literary genre is generally associated with the growth of the middle class in England.

Other major 18th century English novelists are Samuel Richardson (1689-1761), author of the epistolary novels Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1740) and Clarissa (1747-8); Henry Fielding (1707–54), who wrote Joseph Andrews (1742) and The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749); Laurence Sterne (1713–68) who published Tristram Shandy in parts between 1759 and 1767;[4] Oliver Goldsmith (?1730-74) author of The Vicar of Wakefield (1766); Tobias Smollett (1721–71) a Scottish novelist best known for his comic picaresque novels, such as The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle (1751) and The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771), who influenced Charles Dickens;[5] and Fanny Burney (1752-1840), whose novels "were enjoyed and admired by Jane Austen," wrote Evelina (1778), Cecilia (1782) and Camilla (1796).[6]

A noteworthy aspect of both the 18th and 19th century novel is the way the novelist directly addressed the reader. For example, the author might interrupt his or her narrative to pass judgment on a character, or pity or praise another, and inform or remind the reader of some other relevant issue.

Romantic period

Sir Walter Scott

The phrase Romantic novel has several possible meanings. Here it refers to novels written during the Percy Shelley and John Keats, though two major novelists, Jane Austen and Walter Scott, also published in the early 19th century.

Horace Walpole's 1764 novel, The Castle of Otranto, invented the Gothic fiction genre. The word gothic was originally used in the sense of medieval.[8] This genre combines "the macabre, fantastic, and supernatural" and usually involves haunted castles, graveyards and various picturesque elements.[9] Later novelist Ann Radcliffe introduced the brooding figure of the Gothic villain which developed into the Byronic hero. Her most popular and influential work, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), is frequently described as the archetypal Gothic novel. Vathek (1786), by William Beckford, and The Monk (1796), by Matthew Lewis, were further notable early works in both the Gothic and horror genres.

Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein (1818), as another important Gothic novel as well as being an early example of science fiction.[10] The vampire genre fiction began with John William Polidori's "The Vampyre" (1819). This short story was inspired by the life of Lord Byron and his poem The Giaour. An important later work is Varney the Vampire (1845), where many standard vampire conventions originated: Varney has fangs, leaves two puncture wounds on the neck of his victims, and has hypnotic powers and superhuman strength. Varney was also the first example of the "sympathetic vampire", who loathes his condition but is a slave to it.[11]

Among more minor novelists in this period Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849) and Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866) are worthy of comment. Edgeworth's novel Castle Rackrent (1800) is "the first fully developed regional novel in English" as well as "the first true historical novel in English" and an important influence on Walter Scott.[12] Peacock was primarily a satirist in novels such as Nightmare Abbey (1818) and The Misfortunes of Elphin (1829).

Jane Austen's (1775-1817) works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century realism.[13] Her plots, though fundamentally comic, highlight the dependence of women on marriage to secure social standing and economic security.[14] Austen brings to light the hardships women faced, who usually did not inherit money, could not work and where their only chance in life depended on the man they married. She reveals not only the difficulties women faced in her day, but also what was expected of men and of the careers they had to follow. This she does with wit and humour and with endings where all characters, good or bad, receive exactly what they deserve. Her work brought her little personal fame and only a few positive reviews during her lifetime, but the publication in 1869 of her nephew's A Memoir of Jane Austen introduced her to a wider public, and by the 1940s she had become accepted as a major writer. The second half of the 20th century saw a proliferation of Austen scholarship and the emergence of a Janeite fan culture. Austen's works include Pride and Prejudice (1813) Sense and Sensibility (1811), Mansfield Park, Persuasion and Emma. The other major novelist at the beginning of the early 19th century was Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), who was not only a highly successful British novelist but "the greatest single influence on fiction in the 19th century ... [and] a European figure".[15] Scott established the genre of the historical novel with his series of Waverley Novels, including Waverley (1814), The Antiquary(1816), and The Heart of Midlothian (1818).[16] However, Austen is today widely read and the source for films and television series, while Scott is neglected.

Victorian novel

It was in the Victorian era (1837–1901) that the novel became the leading literary genre in English. Another important fact is the number of women novelists who were successful in the 19th century, even though they often had to use a masculine pseudonym. The majority of readers were of course women. At the beginning of the 19th century most novels were published in three volumes. However, monthly serialization was revived with the publication of Charles Dickens' Pickwick Papers in twenty parts between April 1836 and November 1837. Demand was high for each episode to introduce some new element, whether it was a plot twist or a new character, so as to maintain the readers' interest. Both Dickens and Thackeray frequently published this way.[17]

The 1830s and 1840s saw the rise of social novel, also known as social problem novel, that "arose out of the social and political upheavals which followed the Reform Act of 1832".[18] This was in many ways a reaction to rapid industrialization, and the social, political and economic issues associated with it, and was a means of commenting on abuses of government and industry and the suffering of the poor, who were not profiting from England's economic prosperity.[19] Stories of the working class poor were directed toward middle class to help create sympathy and promote change. An early example is Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist (1837-8).

Adam Bede was published in 1859. Her works, especially Middlemarch 1871-2), are important examples of literary realism, and are admired for their combination of high Victorian literary detail combined with an intellectual breadth that removes them from the narrow geographic confines they often depict.

H. G. Wells studying in London, taken circa 1890

An interest in rural matters and the changing social and economic situation of the countryside is seen in the novels of New Grub Street (1891).

Important developments occurred in genre fiction in this era. Although pre-dated by The Princess and the Goblin and Phantastes (1858). William Morris was a popular English poet who also wrote several fantasy novels during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Wilkie Collins' epistolary novel The Moonstone (1868), is generally considered the first detective novel in the English language, while The Woman in White is regarded as one of the finest sensation novels. H. G. Wells's (1866-1946) writing career began in the 1890s with science fiction novels like The Time Machine (1895), and The War of the Worlds (1898) which describes an invasion of late Victorian England by Martians, and Wells is seen, along with Frenchman Jules Verne (1828-1905), as a major figure in the development of the science fiction genre. He also wrote realistic fiction about the lower middle class in novels like Kipps (1905) and The History of Mr Polly (1910).

20th century

Thomas Hardy stopped writing fiction after Jude the Obscure (1895) was severely criticized, so that the major novelists writing in Britain at the start of the 20th century were an Irishman James Joyce (1882-1941) and two immigrants, American Henry James (1843-1916) and Pole Joseph Conrad (1857-1924). The modernist tradition in the novel, with its emphasis "towards the ever more minute and analytic exposition of mental life", begins with James and Conrad, in novels such as The Ambassadors (1903), The Golden Bowl (1907) and Lord Jim (1900).[24] Other important early modernists were Dorothy Richardson (1873-1957), whose novel Pointed Roof (1915), is one of the earliest example of the stream of consciousness technique and D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930), who wrote with understanding about the social life of the lower and middle classes, and the personal life of those who could not adapt to the social norms of his time. Sons and Lovers (1913), is widely regarded as his earliest masterpiece. There followed The Rainbow (1915), though it was immediately seized by the police, and its sequel Women in Love published in 1920.[25] Lawrence attempted to explore human emotions more deeply than his contemporaries and challenged the boundaries of the acceptable treatment of sexual issues, most notably in Lady Chatterley's Lover, which was privately published in Florence in 1928. However, the unexpurgated version of this novel was not published until 1959.[26] Then in 1922 Irishman James Joyce's important modernist novel Ulysses appeared. Ulysses has been called "a demonstration and summation of the entire movement".[27] Set during one day in Dublin in June 1904, in it Joyce creates parallels with Homer's epic poem the Odyssey.[28]

Another significant modernist in the 1920s was Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), who was an influential feminist and a major stylistic innovator associated with the stream-of-consciousness technique. Her novels include Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), and The Waves (1931). Her essay collection A Room of One's Own (1929) contains her famous dictum; "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction".[29]

But while modernism was to become an important literary movement in the early decades of the new century, there were also many fine novelists who were not modernists. This include E.M. Forster ((1879-1970), John Galsworthy ((1867-1933) (Nobel Prize in Literature, 1932), whose novels include The Forsyte Saga, Arnold Bennett (1867-1931) author of The Old Wives' Tale, and H. G. Wells (1866-1946). Though Forster's work is "frequently regarded as containing both modernist and Victorian elements".[30] E. M. Forster's A Passage to India (1924), reflected challenges to imperialism, while his earlier works such as A Room with a View (1908) and Howards End (1910), examined the restrictions and hypocrisy of Edwardian society in England. The most popular British writer of the early years of the 20th century was arguably Rudyard Kipling ((1865-1936), a highly versatile writer of novels, short stories and poems and to date the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature (1907).

A significant English writer in the 1930s and 1940s was Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and Animal Farm (1945). Evelyn Waugh (1903–66) satirised the "bright young things" of the 1920s and 1930s, notably in A Handful of Dust (1934), and Decline and Fall (1928), while Brideshead Revisited (1945) has a theological basis, setting out to examine the effect of divine grace on its main characters.[31] Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) published his famous dystopia Brave New World in 1932, the same year as John Cowper Powys's (1872-1963) A Glastonbury Romance. Samuel Beckett (1906–89) published his first major work, the novel Murphy in 1938. This same year Graham Greene's (1904–91) first major novel Brighton Rock was published. Then in 1939 James Joyce's published Finnegans Wake. In this work Joyce creates a special language to express the consciousness of a character who is dreaming.[32]

William Cooper's (1910-2002) naturalistic Scenes from Provincial Life (1950), which was a conscious rejection of the modernist tradition.[34] Other novelists writing in the 1950s and later were: Anthony Powell (1905-2000) whose twelve-volume cycle of novels A Dance to the Music of Time (1951–75), is a comic examination of movements and manners, power and passivity in English political, cultural and military life in the mid-20th century; comic novelist Kingsley Amis is best known for his academic satire Lucky Jim (1954); Nobel Prize laureate William Golding's allegorical novel Lord of the Flies (1954), explores how culture created by man fails, using as an example a group of British schoolboys marooned on a deserted island; philosopher Iris Murdoch was a prolific writer of novels that deal with such things as sexual relationships, morality, and the power of the unconscious. Her works including Under the Net (1954), The Black Prince (1973) and The Green Knight (1993). Scottish writer Muriel Spark's also began publishing in the 1950s. She pushed the boundaries of realism in her novels. Her first, The Comforters (1957), concerns a woman who becomes aware that she is a character in a novel; The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961), at times takes the reader briefly into the distant future to see the various fates that befall its characters. Anthony Burgess is especially remembered for his dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange (1962), set in the not-too-distant future, which was made into a film by Stanley Kubrick in 1971. In the entirely different genre of Gothic fantasy Mervyn Peake (1911–68) published his highly successful Gormenghast trilogy between 1946 and 1959.

Immigrant Kazuo Ishiguro (1954- ) was born in Japan, but his parents immigrated to Britain when he was six.[36] His works include, The Remains of the Day 1989, Never Let Me Go 2005.

Scotland has in the late 20th-century produced several important novelists, including James Kelman (1946- ), who like Samuel Beckett can create humour out of the most grim situations. How Late it Was, How Late (1994), won the Booker Prize that year; A. L. Kennedy (1965- ) whose 2007 novel Day was named Book of the Year in the Costa Book Awards.[37] In 2007 she won the Austrian State Prize for European Literature;[38] Alasdair Gray (1934- ) whose Lanark: A Life in Four Books (1981) is a dystopian fantasy set in his home town Glasgow. Another contemporary Scot is Irvine Welsh, whose novel Trainspotting (1993), gives a brutal depiction of the lives of working class Edinburgh drug users.[39]

Angela Carter (1940-1992) was a novelist and journalist, known for her feminist, magical realism, and picaresque works. Writing from the 1960s until the 1980s, her novels include, The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (1972) and Nights at the Circus (1984). Margaret Drabble (1939- ) is a novelist, biographer and critic, who has published from the 1960s until this century. Her older sister, A. S. Byatt (1936- ) is best known for Possession published in 1990.

Martin Amis (1949- ) is one of the most prominent of contemporary British novelists. His best-known novels are Money (1984) and London Fields (1989). Pat Barker (1943- ) has won many awards for her fiction. Novelist and screenwriter Ian McEwan (1948- ) is another of contemporary Britain's most highly regarded writers. His works include The Cement Garden (1978) and Enduring Love (1997), which was made into a film. In 1998 McEwan won the Man Booker Prize with Amsterdam, while Atonement (2001) was made into an Oscar-winning film. McEwan was awarded the Jerusalem Prize in 2011. Zadie Smith's (1975- ) Whitbread Book Award winning novel White Teeth (2000), mixes pathos and humour, focusing on the later lives of two war time friends in London. Julian Barnes (1946-) is another successful living novelist, who won the 2011 Man Booker Prize for his book The Sense of an Ending, while three of his earlier books had been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Among popular novelists historical romance genre.


In 2003 the BBC carried out a UK survey entitled The Big Read in order to find the "nation's best-loved novel" of all time, with works by English novelists Tolkien, Austen, Pullman, Adams and Rowling making up the top five on the list.[40]

Famous novelists (alphabetical order)

See also


  1. ^ "Defoe", The Oxford Companion to English Literature, ed. Margaret Drabble. (Oxford: Oxforsd University Press,1996), p. 265.
  2. ^ J. A. Cuddon, A Dictionary of Literary Terms (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1984), pp. 433, 434.
  3. ^
  4. ^ The Oxford Companion to English Literature, p. 947.
  5. ^ Robert DeMaria (2001), British Literature 1640–1789: An Anthology, Blackwell Publishing,  
  6. ^ The Oxford Companion to English Literature, ed Margaret Drabble. (Oxford: Oxford University Press,1996), p. 151.
  7. ^ J. A. Cuddon, A Dictionary of Literary Terms. (Harmondsworth:Penguin Books, 1984), p.582.
  8. ^ J. A. Cuddon, A Dictionary of Literary Terms, p.289.
  9. ^ The Oxford Companion to English Literature, ed. Margaret Drabble. (Oxford: Oxford University Press,1996), p.411.
  10. ^ The Oxford Companion to English Literature, p. 886.
  11. ^ Skal, David J. (1996). V is for Vampire, p. 99. New York: Plume. ISBN 0-452-27173-8.
  12. ^ The Oxford Companion to English Literature, p. 310.
  13. ^ Litz, pp. 3–14; Grundy, "Jane Austen and Literary Traditions", The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, pp.192–193; Waldron, "Critical Responses, Early", Jane Austen in Context, p. 83, 89–90; Duffy, "Criticism, 1814–1870", The Jane Austen Companion, pp.93–94.
  14. ^ A. Walton Litz, Jane Austen: A Study of Her Development. New York: Oxford University Press, 1965. p. 142; Oliver MacDonagh, Jane Austen: Real and Imagined Worlds. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991. pp.66–75; Collins, 160–161.
  15. ^ J. A. Cuddon, p. 435.
  16. ^ The Oxford Companion to English Literature, p. 890.
  17. ^ The Bloomsbury Guide to English Literature, ed. Marion Wynne-Davies. (New York: Prentice Hall, 1990), pp. 97-8.
  18. ^ Bloomsbury Guide, p. 101.
  19. ^ "James, Louis(2006)"
  20. ^ Abrams, M.H., et al. (Eds.) "Elizabeth Gaskell, 1810–1865". The Norton Anthology of English Literature, The Major Authors: The Romantic Period through the Twentieth Century, 7th ed., Vol. B. New York, London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001. ISBN 0-393-97304-2. DDC 820.8—dc21. LC PR1109.N6.
  21. ^ Dennis Taylor, "Hardy and Wordsworth". Victorian Poetry, vol.24, no.4, Winter, 1986.
  22. ^ Gillian Beer, Darwin's Plots. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  23. ^ "Aristotelian Tragedy and the Novels of Thomas Hardy"
  24. ^ John Carruthers, Scheherazade: or the Future of the English Novel (1928), quoted in Randall Stevenson,Modernist Fiction: An Introduction. (Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1992) pp 18, 19, 22.
  25. ^ The Oxford Companion to English Literature, p. 562.
  26. ^ The Oxford Companion to English Literature, p. 562.
  27. ^ Beebe, Maurice (Fall 1972). "Ulysses and the Age of Modernism". James Joyce Quarterly (University of Tulsa) 10 (1): p. 176.
  28. ^ The Bloomsbury Guide to English Literature, ed. Marion Wynne-Davies. (New York: Prentice Hall, 19900, p.644.
  29. ^ The Cambridge companion to Virginia Woolf. By Sue Roe, Susan Sellers. p.219. Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  30. ^ The Bloomsbury Guide to English Literature, ed. Marion Wynne Davies (New York: Prentice Hall, 1990), p.118.
  31. ^ Memo dated 18 February 1947 from Evelyn Waugh to  
  32. ^ The Bloomsbury Guide to English Literature, p. 644.
  33. ^ The Bloomsbury Guide to English Literature, ed. Marion Wynne-Davies. (New York: Prentice Hall, 1990), p.1008.
  34. ^ Bradbury, Malcolm. "Introduction to Scenes from Provincial Life. (Macmillan, London, 1969).
  35. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Literature 2001". 
  36. ^ The Oxford Companion to English Literature, p.506.
  37. ^ Brown, Mark (23 January 2008). "Perfect Day for AL Kennedy as she takes Costa book prize". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  38. ^ "Literatur-Staatspreis an Britin verliehen". ORF Salzburg (Austrian Broadcasting Company). 27 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  39. ^ Irvine Welsh plans Trainspotting prequel The Sunday Times Retrieved 15 March 2011.
  40. ^ BBC - The Big Read - Top 100 Books Retrieved 2010-27-11
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.