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The 19th Century Novel

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The 19th Century Novel

A Novel is defined as a long story about fictitious characters,
written in prose as opposed to poetry. Novels were first written in
the 18th Century so by the 19th Century, the novel, often in
serialised form was an established form of entertainment which was
also helped by the increased adult literacy rate over the whole of the
1800s. The idea of the novel had changed from being purely for the
amusement of women to being available to a wider audience, covering a
wider variety of issues. It was also over this century that it began
to be increasingly acceptable, if not usual to write novels with an
underlying moral tone, particularly towards social standards among the
lower classes. Another theme of many 19th Century novels was the
creation and depiction of strong and great female characters, many
through the new generation of female writers.

Walter Scott, born in Scotland in 1771 was famous for his escapist
literature such as ‘Waverley’ (1814) and ‘Ivanhoe’ (1819), both of
these escapist in their setting further back in the past (1745 and
Norman Times respectively). Scott had been a poet until he turned to
novel writing having been outsold by Lord Byron's poetry. ‘Ivanhoe’, a
historical romance is credited as being meticulously researched and
seemed to make the novel genre acceptable for men. He attracted a wide
range of people through setting it in Scotland and delving into the
past, capturing early Victorian’s imaginations with his eight hundred
year old characters, seeking refuge in the past and firing their
imaginations. ‘Ivanhoe’ famously sold ten thousand copies within its
first two weeks and led to a gothic revival, most famously Sir Charles
Barry’s Houses of Parliament i...

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...long struggle. Both ‘Jude
the Obscure’ and ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ were highly criticised at
his time of writing, the brutality of his stories shocking the
Victorian Public. However, he remains popular due to the strength of
his stories and characters.

Beyond the six authors that I have touched upon, the 19th Century
literature collection is vast, many surviving and others falling into
obscurity. Although the early 20th Century writers felt revolutionary
in their casting off of the old Victorian novel style, I feel that the
19th Century Novelists were equally revolutionary in what they did for
the novel. They created similar novel genres to what exists today and
entertained and often shocked an uptight century. They introduced the
art of observance and intricacy to the novel form and have formed the
basis for the inspiration of novelists ever since.

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