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.
Portrait of Samuel Richardson by Joseph Highmore.National Portrait Gallery, Westminster, England.
1 Early novels in English
2 Romantic period
3 Victorian novel
4 20th century
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A noteworthy aspect of both the 18th and 19th century novel is the way the novelist will directly address 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[edit source | editbeta]
Sir Walter Scott
The phrase Romantic novel has several possible meanings. Here it refers to novels written during the Romantic era in literary history, which runs from the late 18th century until the beginning of the Victorian era in 1837. But to complicate matters there are novels written in the romance tradition by novelists like Walter Scott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, George Meredith. In addition the phrase today is mostly used to refer to the popular pulp-fiction genre that focusses on romantic love. The Romantic period is especially associated with the poets William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, George Byron, 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. This genre combines "the macabre, fantastic, and supernatural" and usually involves haunted castles, graveyards and various picturesque elements. 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. 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.
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. 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...