Page:The Harvard Classics Vol. 51; Lectures.djvu/217
lived and the watering places, like Bath, where she spent an occasional vacation. But she had tact enough to confine her books to the life she knew; and this life, with its squires, its curates, its old ladies, its managing mothers and eligible daughters, is pictured with a minuteness and fidelity that has scarcely been surpassed. She writes smoothly, with an evasiveness in her characteristic irony that makes her personality hard to grasp, while it prevents that personality from coming between the picture and the spectator. Limited in scope, commonplace in incident, and deliberately ordinary in type of characters, her novels have the exquisite finish and perfection of a miniature.
Parallel in some respects to Miss Austen's novels of English provincial life are Miss Edgeworth's, dealing with the Irish, and Miss Ferrier's with the Scottish field. Together these ladies stand at the head of that still vigorous branch of fiction which in America is mapping the life of the whole country with sectional novels, like those of New England by Miss Jewett, Miss Wilkins, and Mrs. Riggs, of the South by James Lane Allen, George W. Cable, and Thomas Nelson Page, of the Middle West by Meredith Nicholson and Booth Tarkington.
THE GREATER VICTORIANS
Fifty years ago the world of readers was divisible into the partisans of two great novelists, who, despite their limitations, made more obvious by the development of fiction on the Continent, still rank among the highest. William Makepeace Thackeray, who went back, as has been said, to the work of Fielding for his models, devoted himself chiefly to the picturing of English society, in the more restricted sense of the word, from Queen Anne to Queen Victoria. Definitely and perhaps restrictedly English in his outlook on life, his view of the human scene is somewhat insular. His natural sentiment was tempered by an acute perception of the meaner elements in human nature to such a degree that his work has a strong satirical element, and some have even been misled into thinking him charac-
- E.g., "Pride and Prejudice," "Sense and Sensibility," "Emma." For a satire on. the Gothic Romance, cf. her "Northanger Abbey."
- E.g., "Castle Rackrent," and "The Absentee."
- E.g., "Marriage."