Nation and Novel: The English Novel from Its Origins to the Present Day

By Patrick Parrinder | Go to book overview
Save to active project

From Kipling to Independence:
Losing the Empire

IT was not until the British Empire was nearing its end that it became both a major presence in English fiction and a controversial topic in the discussion of English identity. Before Rudyard Kipling's birth in 1865 the English, in Sir John Seeley's words, had 'conquered and peopled half the world in a fit of absence of mind'.1 There had been representations of British seafaring, trading, plantation-owning, and colonial administration in English novels since the seventeenth century, yet these activities were mostly taken for granted and nearly always kept in the background. The heroes of the early journey novels and rogue novels were likely to visit Britain's overseas settlements, but not to stay there except as fugitives from British justice. In the novel of courtship, the need to manage a colonial estate provided a convenient explanation for a lover's or father's absence. Early Victorian novels such as David Copperfield, Mary Barton, and Charles Kingsley's Alton Locke (1850) end with the emigration of characters who cannot find a suitable place in English society. By the end of the nineteenth century, the emphasis was no longer on the wealth to be garnered from colonial exploitation but on imperialism as an extension, or even a quintessence, of the national identity.

In 1869 John Seeley, formerly a professor of Latin at University College, London, was appointed Professor of Modern History at Cambridge. Seeley made little impact as a historian until 1883, when his lectures on The Expansion of England offered a fundamental challenge to the conception of the modern British nation put forward by Macaulay and his successors. The proper subject for English historians, in Seeley's view, was not the domestic politics of the British Isles but the 'Greater Britain' or 'vast English nation' spread all over the globe. England, Seeley argued, was now and in the future 'wherever English people are found' (88–9, 141). Seeley's confidence in the strength of imperial institutions makes him an intellectual forerunner of the twentieth-century Commonwealth; he was strongly opposed to the conventional liberal view that the


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Nation and Novel: The English Novel from Its Origins to the Present Day


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 502

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?