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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