The Great Modern English Stories: An Anthology

The Great Modern English Stories: An Anthology

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The Great Modern English Stories: An Anthology

The Great Modern English Stories: An Anthology

Read FREE!

Excerpt

While it is true that the short story as a literary form is almost the youngest child of the writing art, it is interesting to realise that the germ of the modern short story may be found in the earliest literatures, and that the human craving for an interesting short tale is as old as the history of the race. The short story, as we know it to-day, is a highly developed and most sophisticated form, but its tradition extends backward through many literatures to old Eastern tales. Even in English literature, it is hardly stretching a point to claim that Chaucer was the first great English short story writer, and if we examine the English literary heritage, going backward from century to century, we shall see that the tradition of tale telling is, on the whole, continuous, though for the most part the tale is told for its own sake, and not for the sake of characterisation or the dramatic presentation of forces in conflict.

But the modern short story in its more rudimentary form does not extend much further back in English literature than Defoe, and as such it is more or less the contemporary of the English novel. Defoe’s narrative of the Strange Apparition to Mrs. Veal is probably the first conscious effort to write a modern short story in English. And for some time to come it was the last. There were brief narratives and allegories to be sure, such as Addison’s Vision of Mirzah, which approaches the short story form more nearly than that of the essay, and there were occasional episodes in novels, which had a narrative unity and could be detached without injury from their setting, such as The Tale of the Old Man of the Hill in Fielding’s Tom Jones. But these were only short stories by accident, and it does not seem to have occurred to English writers of fiction that the short story was a literary form susceptible of elaborate development until nearly a century had passed.

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