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The Novel in the Early Nineteenth Century:
Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott
Background: Literature at the end of the 18th century:
 the emergence of Gothic novels: Horace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto (1765); Mrs. Ann
Radcliffe: The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794): Gothic characterized by suspense, mystery, terrifying, at
times even supernatural events, extreme landscapes, villains and heroes.
 emergence of women writers from the middle class: Frances Burney: Evelina (1778); Camilla
(1796); Maria Edgeworth: Castle Rackrent (1800) – their popular novels focused on manners and
morals (comedy of manners), heroines were women.
Jane Austen (1775-1817)
Born into a family of eight children, she lived her isolated life among the members of her family, never married.
Literary influence: high and low – Richardson and Fielding, Dr. Johnson, Burney, Radcliffe, Edgeworth.
Austen’s literary reputation is at present at its highest, she is appraised as a modern writer due to her handling of
form. She lived when Romanticism was at its peak but was never affected by it. Manuscripts of Northanger
Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice existed in the 1790s, but she reworked them a few years
before her death and added new novels to the existing ones. Main theme: marriage. Social setting: small world of
the country gentry. Detailed depiction of manners, speech. Keen interest and delight in character-drawing.
Pride and Prejudice (1813)
Mansfield Park (1814)
Emma (1815)
Persuasion (1816)
Pride and Prejudice - Narrative technique: the characters are observed from a single angle, narrator’s point of
view is Elizabeth’s. She is the “sifting agent”, through whom or by whom the other characters can be seen.
Characters are often described through their speech and manners.
Style: lucid, vivid, ironic, witty. Structure: like a three-act comedy: crescendo, crisis, dénoument. Epistolary
technique is used to help relate scenes where the heroine could not be present. Austen’s view on the best promise
of happiness in marriage: a sound education, a marriage based on similar dispositions as well as love and social
decorum. The faults of characters are due to mostly bad education (lack of good breeding and manners) and want
of training.
Walter Scott (1771-1832)
The “father” of the historical novel and the modern short story:
Historical novel – a novel in which the story is set among historical events and the time of action is not
synchronous with the lifetime of the author. It takes the reader into the past where the historical events serve as a
background. Historical characters may appear in the story. The novel is based on extensive research.
Scott first acquired fame through his poetry:
Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802-1803) collected and written together with John Leyden
The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805)
The Lady of the Lake (1810)
With Byron eclipsing his popularity as a poet, Scott turned to writing novels:
Waverley (1814) –the first historical novel
Guy Mannering (1815)
Rob Roy (1818)
The Heart of Midlothian (1818)
Ivanhoe (1820)
Kenilworth (1821)
Quentin Durward (1823)
Redgauntlet (1824)
“The Two Drovers” (short story) were included in the Chronicles of Canongate (1827). Conflict between
English and Scottish Highland culture. Scott was primarily interested in history and cultural changes, especially
the conflict of cultures (→ border theory). His best novels are on the Scottish theme (Waverley novels) – the
changes in history and how this affects the characters’ lives, mixing Scottish folklore into the text with the
vernacular. The marvelous, superstitious is present at times. Scott’s definition of the romance: “a fictitious
narrative in prose or verse, the interest of which turns upon marvelous and uncommon incidents;” whereas the
novel is a “fictitious narrative, differing from the romance, because the events are accommodated to the ordinary
train of human events, and the modern state of human society.”