S MOLLETT'S most enduring contribution to the English novel lay in combining diverse strains of satire and picaresque tales into a thoroughly original cast of fiction. Upon these preexisting narrative modes he imposed dozens of characters, 840 in all (excluding the characters in his Travels), and fabricated comic scenes that have delighted readers for over two centuries; and while it is wrong to think of him primarily as a "satiric novelist" or as the Georgian realist par excellence who embodied "picaresque satire in prose," it is fitting to acknowledge the prominent place of these features in his fiction. His "brisk, masculine, and nervous style," as he himself called it, possesses a stylistic force rarely found in the sweep of the English novel--indeed he seems to have converted his own rambunctious energy in real life into a kind of fictional jouissance. His complex systems of morality and didacticism resulted in his becoming one of the most profound social commentators of his era, and his hawk's eye for vivid detail rendered him the Hogarth of eighteenth-century prose, especially in the "progress pieces" and the depiction of "grotesques." These insignia are as crucial to his accomplishment as any incorporations of satire and the picaresque.
His vision of the world derived from a wide array of literary traditions that embraced the blend of idealism and irony of Cervantes's Don Quixote, revenge tragedy, comedy of "humors," the great satires of Swift and Pope, rogue tales, Hogarthian grotesque, and a more local British heritage of sea stories and Scottish lore that he knew firsthand. Scott,
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Publication information: Book title: The Columbia History of the British Novel. Contributors: John J. Richetti - Editor, John Bender - AssociateEditor, Deirdre David - AssociateEditor, Michael Seidel - AssociateEditor. Publisher: Columbia University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1994. Page number: 127.
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