Page:The Harvard Classics Vol. 51; Lectures.djvu/214

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204
PROSE FICTION

after all allowance for this has been made, many of the elements of effective story-telling remain common to both novel and play.


DEFOE AND RICHARDSON

The two chief claimants for the credit of founding the modern English novel are Daniel Defoe[1] and Samuel Richardson. Defoe's stories depend for their unity chiefly upon the personality of the leading character. They are usually series of episodes strung along the thread of the hero's or heroine's life. Many of them, from their pre-occupation with the criminal classes, approach the picaresque; and even "Robinson Crusoe," justly the most popular, is more an adventure tale than a novel. His most notable characteristic is a singular realism, achieved by a skillful selection of matter-of-fact details, which produces a circumstantial effect like that of a modern newspaper report. But the realism, clever though it is, is mainly external; and comparatively little in the way of insight into character or motive is to be found in most of his stories.

The great works of Richardson, "Pamela," "Clarissa Harlowe," and "Sir Charles Grandison," are novels without question. Not only does he achieve a large unity of action, building into a shapely structure round his central figure a complex of persons, motives and social conditions, but he deals in detail with the inner life of his characters, and he gives to passion and sentiment the pervading importance that has now become traditional in this form of literature. Sentiment, indeed, with him often enough degenerated into sentimentality, and he dwelt on the emotional and pathetic elements in his narrative with a deliberation and an emphasis successfully calculated to draw from his readers the greatest possible lachrymose response.


FIELDING, SMOLLETT, STERNE, GOLDSMITH

It was largely this exaggeration of the pathetic, and the idealizing of the chief character in order to gain an opportunity for the pathetic, that led Fielding[2] to begin his first novel, "Joseph Andrews," as a parody of Richardson's "Pamela." Pamela had been pictured as a virtuous maid-servant, chastely resisting the approaches of her

  1. H. C., xxvii, 132.
  2. H. C., xxxix, 176.