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COURSE 11

THE NOVEL IN THE ROMANTIC PERIOD
1780-1830

The novel was the most popular literary form in the period from 1780 to
1830, in the Romantic period. This was due primarily to the industrial revolution
which turned England from an agricultural country to an industrial one bringing
wealth and prosperity to the country at large, but at the same time the growing
feeling that the prosperity of a small group brought the poverty of many.
Nevertheless the period saw the rise of the novel as a consequence of
industrialization on one hand and development of ‘circulating libraries’, on the
other, despite the fact that the novels were expensive at their first appearance.
The character, Sir Anthony Absolute in Sheridan’s The Rivals sentenced: ‘A
circulating library in a town is an ever-green tree of diabolic knowledge!’ This is
particularly because it is well-known the fact that women were acknowledged to
be large contributors to the development of literature of that period.
The popular novel was the conveyor of some ideas usually associated with
Romanticism. One of these Romantic ideas is the cult of feelings, known as
‘sensibility’, known to have a certain history. It is said to have arisen out of a
reaction against the sheer1 brutality of eighteenth-century life and it is based on
the philosophical beliefs in the innate2 goodness of man. Therefore the
eighteenth-century novel was imbued with characters responding emotionally to
life. We can find such examples in Richardson 3, Sterne4, Henry Mackenzie5,
Rousseau6 and Goethe7. Sensibility was expressed in human relations and in
1
Sheer/ absolute (English Assistance UK)
2
Inmate/ inborn/ native (idem)
3
Samuel Richardson (19 August 1689 – 4 July 1761) was an 18th-century English writer and printer. He is best
known for his three epistolary novels: Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded (1740), Clarissa: Or the History of a Young
Lady (1748) and The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753). Richardson was an established printer and
publisher for most of his life and printed almost 500 different works, with journals and magazines.
4
Laurence Sterne (24 November 1713 – 18 March 1768) was an Anglo-Irish novelist and an Anglican clergyman.
He is best known for his novels The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, and A Sentimental
Journey Through France and Italy; but he also published many sermons, wrote memoirs, and was involved in
local politics. Sterne died in London after years of fighting consumption (tuberculosis).
5
Henry Mackenzie FRSE (August, 1745 - 14 January 1831) was a Scottish lawyer, novelist and miscellaneous
writer. He was also known by the sobriquet "Addison of the North." Mackenzie had attempted to interest
publishers in what would become his first and most famous work, The Man of Feeling, for several years, but
they would not even accept it as a gift. Finally, Mackenzie published it anonymously in 1771, and it became
instantly successful.
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Jean-Jacques Rousseau (French: [ʒɑɑ ʒak ʁuso]; 28 June 1712 – 2 July 1778) was a Genevan philosopher, writer,
and composer of the 18th-century. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the
overall development of modern political, sociological, and educational thought. He argued that private property
was the start of civilization, inequality, murders and wars.
Rousseau's novel Émile, or On Education is a treatise on the education of the whole person for citizenship. His
sentimental novel Julie, or the New Heloise was of importance to the development of pre-romanticism and
romanticism in fiction.
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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (German: [ˈjoːhan ˈvɔlfɡaŋ fɔn ˈɡøːtə], 28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a
German writer and politician. His body of work includes epic and lyric poetry written in a variety of metres and
styles; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; treatises on botany,

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the romantic error of amiable minds’. is said to be the most famous of the novelists. the heroine is under the influence of a wicked guardian and after many adventures she marries the hero of sensibility. as OIHEL states. the exponent of the contemporary fashion. She often has a tendency to blur (fuzzy and unclear image) the lines between fiction and reality. The OIHEL also states that these works are contemporary with those of Marquis de Sade (1740-1814). Jane Austen. but the rage did not make the world nicer and the heroines of 1790s novelists warned upon the danger of sensibility. in northern Europe or the Alps. 2 . begun in 1790 and published in 1811. expresses her criticism of sensibility through her heroine Marianne . in her Sense and Sensibility. Their dark. She enjoys reading the mysterious and frightening gothic novels that were popular in her time. but it a self-centred emotion which makes its possessor unwilling to recognize the claims of others. This idea embraced many forms: with some writers it led towards the pursuit of spiritual reality. ‘irrational’ architecture and labyrinthine passages symbolize what Coleridge called ‘the unfathomable hell within”. Another Romantic idea is the interest in non-rational experience. Goethe was ennobled by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar. though a direct influence cannot be traced. mountainous landscape.000 drawings by him are extant. guilt and horror. and nearly 3. The Gothic villain is similarly sublime. The fashionable sensibility might seem civilizing and emotional in a man. 8 Catherine Morland is the principal character in Jane Austen's book Northanger Abbey. Nonetheless the Gothic castle is usually set in a sublime. even if it has nothing to do with Hellenic sunshine. as a reaction against eighteenth-century rationalism. with others it led to the exploration of a personal and social underworld. and colour. is warned by her dying father to avoid the dangers of sensibility.000 letters. The Gothic novels became the exponents of the world of nightmare. One such area was the world of dreams – heightened dreams induced by opium and De Quincey describes the phantasmagoria of such dreams and discusses the slavery to the drug which tormented Coleridge in Confessions of an English Opium- Eater (1821). and four novels. which causes her a great deal of trouble. heroine of Anne Radcliffe’s novel. Carl August in 1782 after first taking up residence there in November of 1775 following the success of his first novel. both physically and emotionally. Aubert. The Mysteries of Udolpho. The Sorrows of Young Werther. These kinds of novels set in a ‘medieval’ world explore the emotions of terror. Gothic novels were designed to keep fearful reader awake at night: Catherine Morland8 – “what can it be? – But do not tell me – I would not be told upon any anatomy. ‘the pride of fine feeling. The Mysteries of Udolpho. Gothic novels make use of the medieval settings of castle and convent aiming at providing the idea of prison. In addition. yet tended to make a woman dangerously feeble and vulnerable. Two examples here: Emily St. more than 10. A literary celebrity by the age of 25. This character exercises a sadistic power over a helpless heroine.response to nature and art. Sensibility has become a fashionable attribute. Anne Radcliffe.that it is not only dangerous to its possessor. numerous literary and scientific fragments. These settings express the extreme manifestation of physical power and moral outrage.

already bears the features of psychological Gothic preparing the terrain for Wuthering Heights and the contemporary techniques of the Gothic films. Calvinists broke with the Roman Catholic church but differed with Lutherans on the real presence of Christ in the Lord's supper. as the Romantic poets consider them. 9 Astringent/ harsh 10 Character of Northanger Abbey 11 Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice of John Calvin and other Reformation-era theologians. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman – milestone in the history of feminism. the radical philosopher and novelist. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was nineteen and it was part of a plan she made together with Byron and Shelley while they were staying on the Lake Virginia. while her mother was Mary Wollstonecraft. The protagonist of the novel is possessed by the devil and the atrocious deeds committed are ‘justified’ according to a perverted form of Calvinism 11. gigantic and hideous with needs which have not been anticipated nor satisfied. are the witnesses of a scene in which the creature makes his demands after having read Prometheus Unbound. Thus a creature is laid in the world. Her project was the only completed. Mary Shelly’s craft may be said to reside on the intellectual tradition behind her. The character of Frankenstein embodies a scholar preoccupied to find the principle of life. ‘glorious presence-chamber of imperial Nature’. Gothic villains may be detected behind Mr. The book is built in its first part with a focus on the creator’s responsibilities. The feelings here are terror and fear combined with moral and physical horror. Mary Shelley is considered the founder of scientific Gothic”. The mountains above Chamonix. among other things. who was part of a group of radicals which also included William Blake. Rochester in Jane Eyre and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. The novel. while Catherine Morland interprets life in Gothic terms. here we have a similarity with Doctor Faustus’s laboratory. I know it must be a skeleton…” The delicacy in Anne Radcliffe’s novels is absent in The Monk of Mathew Gregory. and the use of God's law for believers. 3 . The Romantic period saw the birth of the Doppelgänger effect in The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) of James Hogg. The novel presents the raping of a young girl by a monk. The Gothic here resides in extreme religious mania. Despite the mocking references upon ‘the tribe of lady novelists”. Because Frankenstein refuses to supply a mate for him the monster take revenge in destroying all those the scholar loves and this is to be seen as a psychological reflection of his creator. her father was William Godwin. through its enigmatic structure and abrupt narrative shifts. John Thorpe 10 claims he has read The Monk.account. At the beginning of nineteenth century the vogue of Gothic renewed. Jane Austen in her Northanger Abbey takes an astringent9 view of the Gothic as she had of sensibility. theories of worship. in 1790 she published A Vindication of the Rights of Men and in 1792. whereas in the second part the focus shifts.

as one of her characters12 talked about. heroine of Northanger Abbey. was the novelist Jane Austen’s subject-matter as it manifested in ordinary English setting. waking up from her Gothic fantasies reflected that „Charming as were all Mrs. Jane Austen represented a tradition of the English novel lasting throughout the nineteenth century in writing novels with a realistic setting about reconciliation of the individual and the society where the concluding marriage indicated that harmony has been reached. Jane Austen’s (1775-1817) life was uneventful. The only novels she published herself were Pride and Prejudice (1813). Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816). Radcliffe’s works. Jane Austen wrote ‘3or 4 families in a country village is the very thing to write on’. 317] states that the abstract nouns occurring in the titles of several of the novels’ titles indicate that the heroines make full display of them as they are educated for marriage. The same history of English literature states that there were few novelists who had Austen’s economy and mastery of tone. Jane Austen began writing when she was twelve. All of them at the end of the novel succeed in having made the commitment which will occupy their entire happy lives – marriage. Jane Austen’s world is said to be an unromantic place where the reader is surprised by the neatness with which common topics are illuminated from different points of view. This kind of current tended to go opposite direction from the Romanticism. was to be looked for. that has never been a beauty and on the other hand from her brothers’ point of view that were relieved when their sister found a husband. author of a series of prose tales which satirized the fashionable ideas of the day. The procedure was for Peacock to utilize a large house full of guests. Giving an advice to a niece who attempting to write a novel. In other words. yet her six brothers’ (and one sister) active lives provided her some knowledge of the greater world. at the beginning of their adult lives. Human nature. The reader is presented the matter from Charlotte’s point of view. Collins who three days later proposed and was accepted by Charlotte Lucas.” [OIHEH: 317] 4 . her novels Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were to be published posthumously. As a daughter of a clergyman. She died when she was forty-two. at least in the midland counties. but her first novel was published when she was thirty-five and it was Sense and Sensibility. two of her brothers who entered the navy are owed sympathetic accounts of the navy in Mansfield Park and Persuasion. Jane Austen 12 Catherine Morland. The example here is from Pride and Prejudice where Elizabeth Bennet resists her mother in marrying Mr. it was not in them perhaps that human nature. each of them being the spokesman for some topical trait or enthusiasm. Jane Austen’s heroines are young. and charming even as were the works of her imitators. At this point of our endeavour it is worth mentioning that the Romantic creations did not escape mockery by Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866). The OIHEL [p. Many scenes in her novel are based on the visits of and to the gentry of Hampshire.

and not enough sensation. Jane Austen’s reputation rose throughout nineteenth century. when Maria Rushworth runs away with Henry Crawford. In connection to her work there existed two criticisms. Emma is considered unusual among Austen’s novels in that there are no military men among the characters. In this sense she once wrote ‘an artist cannot do anything slovenly’13. appeared anonymously. and should not be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths. in her novels for the majority of popular novel readers. There was too much subtlety. Quentin Durward (1823) set in France. but she had some gratifying admirers.’[p.’ She is a rich and snobbish young girl who amuses herself by planning marriages for other people. Old Mortality. In 1819 he extended his range with medieval novels. – It is not fair. she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with the stormy Sisterhood14.’ The Oxford history believes these criticisms might be considered in relation to Emma. Ivanhoe set in England. but discouraged. and only two of them reached a second edition in her lifetime. during the time he became a successful poet. he abandoned it. In a couple of months Jane Austen complained to her niece: ‘Walter Scott has no business to write novels. They are mostly historical novels and are set in Scotland. The Heart of Midlothian. Scott’s novels. 15 Unassailable = so sound or well established that it cannot be challenged or overtaken (English Assistance UK) 5 . – I do not like him.proves a real artist devoting herself to the novel. especially good ones. the explanation would be that she wrote during the Napoleonic wars. 321] In July 1814. until she became established as one of our major novelists and the first woman writer in the English literary tradition who is unassailably15 in the first rank. & do not mean to like Waverly if I can help it – but fear I must. Rob Roy. Waverly or ‘Tis Sixty Years since. Then he went on with Scotland again Redgauntlet (1824). especially those set in Scotland earned their fame due to the portrayal of Scottish life – the clans of Highlands and the lards and peasants of the 13 Slovenly = carelessly 14 The close relationship among women based on shared experiences. The Antiquary. – He has Fame and Profit enough as a Poet. When he published it. concerns (Merriam Webster Dictionary online) In Jane Austen this may be detected when Jane Fairfaix breaks off her secret engagement and in Mansfield Park. it instantly became a success and went on writing Guy Mannering. About Jane Austen’s novels it is worth mentioning quoting Oxford Illustrated History of English Literature: ‘Her novels were not particularly popular. one of them was that her range is too narrow. The Bride of Lammermoor.’ Scott started writing Waverley in 1805. which are considered at the periphery of Jane Austen’s works. the second came from Charlotte Bronte who declared herself not particularly impressed by her novels ‘the Passions are perfectly unknown to her. Scott reviewed Emma favourably and the novel was dedicated to the Prince Regent at his request. Jane Austen herself said of Emma that she ‘was a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like her.

yet Peacock in Crotchet Castle (1831) gives the best conclusion in saying that before he died he would like to see a reconciliation of the great controversies: of the sentimental against the rational. through presenting various trades and professions. fishermen. the intense against the tranquil. The bitter years that followed are presented in his journal. he was paid large sums of money by his publisher. and lawyers. On the other hand. Scott remained in the history of literature as the creator of the historical novel. Scott became rich due to his novels. At the beginning of the chapter. the smuggler. shopkeepers. one can find similarities with Jane Austen’s novel in that the characters of both of them seek to impose his mental ideas on the real world. But there were other novels too that were set in the past. Unfortunately. Despite their different views. it was alleged that Romanticism appeared as a reaction to Rationalism. whereas Scott. a range of eccentrics on the periphery of the society. the intuitive against the inductive. In Scott’s characters the reader finds an awareness of the flow of history. like for instance the Gothic novels. the romantic against the classical. His characters have an ancestry which imposes a tradition which they have either to follow or reject and this is the central situation of his novels. It was obvious for the historical novels to be set in the past. he gained worldly recognition. as a historian set his novel in significant times. the ornamental against the useful. immensely popular were translated into most European languages and were avidly waited for in America. The writer was ruined. 6 .Lowlands. the people are consciously conditioned by the historical and political circumstances of their birth. but refused it. What is important to emphasize is that Scott remarked as a Romantic novelist because he will not abandon realism. the gipsy. Despite his bad health he went on writing and succeeded in paying his debts by his death in 1832. the village idiot. He was offered a Baronetcy by the Prince Regent. In comparison to Jane Austen’s novels. He was offered the post of Poet Laureate. the beggar. there were different reasons for the two types of novels to be set in the past: the Gothic novel wanted an escape from the present. and soon became the partner of the firm which printed them. an economic recession brought about the collapse of Scott’s publisher and jeopardized the position of the printing firm whose partner Scott was. His novel. farmers. Of all the writers of the times. in 1826. Scott’s novels are wide-ranging in theme and setting. It is worth mentioning that Scott’s writing influenced the writing of history in the nineteenth century.