Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

(20) Late Eighteenth-Century Novel

Sense and Sentiment

- both Charlotte Smith and Frances Burney were directly touched by the French Revolution, but neither espoused radical causes in her fiction, Burney in particular increasingly emphasized the passivity of her female protagonists

- the novels of both writers present the world as an unstable, oppressive, and uncomfortable environment which tests the moral maturity of men and women and finds it not wanting

- their women protagonists are not seen as threatened victims, rather as dependants, sojourners in the shadow of energetic men, and decision-makers only in so far as they are presented with moral choices

Charlotte Smith (1749 - 1806)

- as a result of her miserable marriage turned to writing in order to make money to support her children

- her contemporary reputation was based largely on her poetry, which adopts the persona of a melancholy narrator modelled deliberately on Goethe's Werther

- her novels are far less personal and emotional, preoccupied with money, inheritance, and the country house life

> Elegiac Sonnets, and other Essays (1784):

- the sensitive speaker of the poems is responsive to seasonal change, but also alert to a disjunction between nature's outward harmony and a private restlessness

- the power of her poetry lies in a combination of detailed observation and recurrent evocation of misery

> Emmeline (1788):

- the novel plays with the Gothic by initially confining the female protagonist in a rambling country fortress and allowing her to elude unwanted suitors by escaping down labyrinthine corridors

> The Old Manor House (1793):

- also deals with seclusion in a mansion, adding what prove to be unfounded suspicions of ghosts (the bumps in the night are made by smugglers who are effectively undermining the house's foundations)

- despite the its title the novel focuses on the dilemmas, the politics, and the sentiments of the present

- contrasts the views of the manor's owner, an old-fashioned Tory, who dwells on her family's ancient chivalric pretensions, and her young cousin, a daring pacifist, who experiences the miseries of army life when fighting with the British army in North America

- these conflicts serve but as a background, the novel's proper focus is romantic love and a proper line of succession

> Desmond (1792):

- a limited attempt to defend the liberal principles of the first stages of the French Revolution

> The Emigrants (1793):

- a poem capturing her disillusion with the bloody progress of the Revolution and her active sympathy with and support for French refugees in England

Frances (Fanny) Burney (1752 - 1840)

- spent five years as a lady-in-waiting at the court, accepted the place to please her father, but felt tormented by the paralysing etiquette and lack of independence

- in her early forties married a French emigrant, despite the disapproval of her father, the marriage was happy, but the couple's visit to France was prolonged to ten years as the Napoleonic wars prevented their return to England

- her novels, letters, and diaries sparkle with humour, but can be cruel in exposing bad manners or a selfish heart

- her writings manifest a gift for catching character, a wonderful ear for dialogue, wry humour, and a swift pace

- her special subject is social embarrassment, often her own

- typically follows young innocent women entering society at an awkward age or in unfavourable circumstances, their learning through mistakes, embarrassments, and reverses, and their final success in the love of an upright suitor and the ultimate prospect of a happy marriage

> Evelina, or the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World (1778):

- written in secret and published anonymously, but delighted readers of the novel soon found the author out

- features a girl with 'a virtuous mind, a cultivated understanding, and a feeling heart' who is initially ignorant of the ways of the world, but comes to learn the value of decorum in fashionable society and also acquires a modest wisdom which transcends the limits of that society, finally she is rewarded be becoming the wife of a worthy lord

> Cecilia, or Memoirs of an Heiress (1782):

- her second novel confirmed her reputation as a writer, it further develops the themes of Evelina, but with a far blunter satirical edge than in the first novel and a more emphatic assertion of moral conventions

> Camilla; or, a Picture of Youth (1796):

- the comedy is yet more subdued in favour of a defence of social values in the face of revolutionary questioning

- emphasizes the moral message about the importance of good conduct, especially in the "Sermon" addressed to Camilla by her father and putting forward an ideal of female action

- the "Sermon" is a counterblast to Mary Wollstonecraft's demands for female education, equality, and independence, puts a Christian stress on patience, self-conquest, and good sense as the means of controlling passion

- these ideas were evidently in accord with Burney's own views, for she later allowed this sermon to be separately reprinted as a part of a conduct book for young ladies

> The Wanderer: or, Female Difficulties (1814):

- contrasts the individual struggles of two young women, one a disorientated French refugee in England from revolutionary persecution, another an English enthusiast for revolutionary liberty

- the revolutionist is unhappy in love and incapable of adjusting to the stodgy stability of upper middle-class English society, while the refugee finally triumphs with her practical sense and her ability to profit from the customs and conventions of society


- the term is derived from the frequent setting of Gothic novels in a gloomy Middle Age castle

- inaugurated by Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1764), flourished at the close of the 18th century

- reacted against comfort and security, political stability, and commercial progress by resisting the rule of reason

- exploits mystery and terror, the supernatural, dark and irrational aspects of human nature, perverse impulses, etc.

- uses past settings, sullen landscapes, decaying mansions, dark dungeons, secret passages, stealthy ghosts, etc.

- features the protagonist of a 'homme fatal', a villain with elements of diabolism, sensuality, and sadistic perversion, torturing others because being himself tortured by an unspeakable guilt

Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797)

- realized how the sublime is related to vastness, infinity, and astonishment, wild and mountainous scenery in nature, castle ruins and medieval cathedrals in architecture

- recognized that modified danger and pain in Gothic novels produce a 'delightful horror'

- his concepts were influenced by Aristotle's tragedies as evocations of pity and fear purging of these emotions, by John Milton's Paradise Lost, and William Shakespeare's tragedies

- his own writings however focus on contemporary politics, he was a member of the Parliament and one of the most polished parliamentary orators of his day

> Reflections on the Revolution in France and on the Proceedings in Certain Societies in London Relative to that Event (1790):

- a political tract attempting to check and condition the libertarian optimism about the first stages of the Revolution

- from a firmly British constitutional standpoint stresses a need for tradition rather than innovation and for gradualism rather than radicalism

Horace Walpole (1717 - 1797)

- the son of the Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole (1676 - 1745)

- received university education, undertook a two-year Grand Tour on the continent with the poet Thomas Gray, but the two quarrelled and Walpole returned to England

- served as Member of Parliament, was devoted to King George II, but politically unambitious

- initiated a neo-Gothic architectural trend with his mock castle built at Strawberry Hill (near Twickenham outside London) and filled with an eclectic collection of art and a small press

- notable as a connoisseur, antiquarian, art historian, and a figure of considerable cultural importance

> The Castle of Otranto (1764):

- a Gothic novel blending 'two kinds of romance, the ancient and the modern', presented as a translation of the manuscript of a medieval Italian tale of improbable catastrophes

- originally accepted favourably, but vilified by the press when revealed to be not a translation but a contemporary creation of the politically and socially well-connected son of the Prime Minister

> The Mysterious Mother (1768):

- a Gothic drama, unperformed in his lifetime

- concerned with incest, the mother seduces her ignorant son and gives birth to a daughter whom the son marries, not aware who her mother and father are

> Anecdotes of Painting in England (1762 - 1780):

- a four-volume writing on art history, today still a prime source for the study of the early pictorial arts in Britain

> Historic Doubts on Richard III (1768):

- an attempt to rehabilitate the historical character of Richard III, the King of England between 1483 and 1485

> Letters (published posthumously):

- his collected highly readable correspondence with the most important cultural and political figures of his time

> Memoirs (posthumously):

- a portrayal of the Georgian social and political scene, still a useful source for historians, though heavily biased

Ann Radcliffe (1764 - 1823)

- started writing when she found herself in a childless marriage, her husband encouraged her literary efforts

- became increasingly famous and financially successful, but quit writing suddenly before the year 1800

- became reclusive in her later life, possibly as a result of an acute lifelong sense of propriety, decorum, and reserve

- her novels were enormously popular in her day, especially with upper and middle class young women

> "On the Supernatural in Poetry" (published in 1826):

- a serious essay presenting her view of her own work

- defines terror, which 'expands the soul, and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life', as contrasted to horror, which 'contracts, freezes, and nearly annihilates them', and locates the source of her own fictional sublime in terror

- her notion of the sublime is closer to that of Edmund Burke rather than to the supernatural sensationalism of the later Gothic novelists

- her own novels blend moralism, aesthetics, and drama, and stand for a more genteel strain of Gothic fiction

- centres her sublime on descriptions of imaginary scenery, pioneers the fictional use of landscape

- her favourite setting is an imaged Italy with solemn or 'peculiar grandeur' serving both to elevate and awe the spirits of her protagonists, usually decorous and sensible women finding resource in their reasonableness

- her characteristic technique is introducing apparently supernatural events but explaining them afterwards carefully by purely natural means

- her novels create a bridge between the Augustans with their rationalistic explanations and the Romantics with their emphasis on the imagination and the supernatural

> The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne (1789):

- sets the tone of the majority of her work, focuses on an innocent but heroic young woman finding herself in a gloomy castle ruled by a mysterious baron with a dark past

> The Sicilian Romance (1790)

> The Romance of the Forest (1792)

> The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)

> The Italian (1797)

Matthew Gregory Lewis (1775 - 1818)

- nicknamed 'Monk' Lewis for his most famous Gothic novel

- educated for a diplomatic career, the ethical demerits of The Monk did not interfere with his reception into the best society, as he was noticed favourably at court, served as a Member of Parliament, etc.

- his Gothic writings stress the supernatural, or horror, as opposed to Ann Radcliffe's stress on the sublime, or terror

> The Monk (1796):

- a Gothic novel set in a Capuchin friary in Madrid, a small world of repression, obsession, ambition, and intrigue, starkly contrasting with the calm reflection of Radcliffe's convents

- investigates a tormented soul, semi-pornographically exploits incidents and images implying the labyrinthine nature of the protagonist's life, but lacks psychological depth

- plays with hidden chambers, subterranean passages, sealed vaults, and other images suggesting concealed passion

- the protagonist Ambrosio, a saintly monk, is led into a life of depravity by a fiend-inspired woman, becomes a rapist and murderer, and his Faustian compact with the Devil terminates in his physical and spiritual breakdown and an agonisingly slow death

- from the aesthetic point of view it is often messy, badly constructed, and extravagant in every sense, but includes some scenes of power

- achieved an immediate celebrity, but threatened to have its sale restrained because of its ethical demerits, the second edition omitted some objectionable passages, yet retained its horrific character

> The Castle Spectre (1796):

- a melodramatic musical drama, possessing little literary merit, but enjoying a long popularity on the stage

> The Minister (1797):

- a translation from Friedrich Schiller's Kabale und Liebe (Intrigue and Love, 1784)

> The Bravo of Venice (1804):

- a translation from a German romance, his best known novel second only to The Monk

Mary Shelley (1797 - 1851)

- the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft-Godwin and William Godwin, the second wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley

> Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818):

- originated in the literary circle in Switzerland including the Shelleys, George Gordon Byron, and others, which discussed philosophy and nature, the origins and meaning of life, the myth of Prometheus, and the enterprise of modern science, and concluded with a contest for which each member of the circle wrote a 'ghost story'

- the novel is a study of the consequences of experiment, of moving into the unknown, and a morally probing exploration of responsibility and science, remarkable not only for its 'terror', but also for its prophetic speculation

- its narrative layers include the first person account of the solitary explorer Robert Walton, the confessions of Dr Frankenstein, and the confessions of the Monster

- draws parallels between the classical myth and a modern experiment, compares Frankenstein successively to Prometheus, to the Biblical Adam, and to Satan

- the mythical Prometheus is punished by a jealous heaven for resisting the authority of God, the modern Prometheus Frankenstein is punished by a challenge to his authority on the part of the Monster

- both Adam and the Monster are ruined and questioning, insists on their loneliness and wretchedness, and turn to accuse their creators with an acute and trained intelligence

- the Monster overhears and grasps something from the reading of John Milton's Paradise Lost and comes to realize how much he has in common with Milton's Satan

- the Monster ends up a prey to envy, defeat, and unhappiness, which lead him to a jealous destruction

- the novel ends where it began, in a polar wasteland landscape with the shifting ice allowing for the opening of new perspective and uncertainties

Základní údaje

  • Předmět

    Britská literatura 3.
  • Semestr

    Zimní semestr 2008/09.
  • Přednášející

    Ema Jelínková.
  • Status

    Povinná přednáška pro III. blok.


Abrams, M. H., ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 1999.

Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.


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