Sensibility in English Prose Fiction, 1760-1814: A Reinterpretation

Sensibility in English Prose Fiction, 1760-1814: A Reinterpretation

Sensibility in English Prose Fiction, 1760-1814: A Reinterpretation

Sensibility in English Prose Fiction, 1760-1814: A Reinterpretation

Excerpt

Characteristics , 1707.

Marianne , 1736-42 (tr.).

Pamela , 1740.

Clarissa , 1747-48.

Grandison , 1753-54.

The History of the Marquis de Cressy , 1759 (tr.).

The Letters of Juliet Catesby , 1760 (tr.).

Letters from the Countess of Sancerre , 1767 (tr.).

FOR analytical treatment I have divided the emotions manifested in English prose fiction from 1760 to 1814 into three major groups. In the first group belong those common emotions which every human being is likely to experience with greater or less intensity. The pleasant feelings of complacency, repose, relief, and contentment; the painful ones of sadness, sorrow, grief, and regret; and the mixed ones of sympathy and pity are the chief emotions common to all normal people. They may arise from a man's own troubles or good fortune, from the vicissitudes of family life, from observation of the suffering or happiness of another, from the contemplation of mankind in general, or even from speculation about the moral order of the universe. In any prose fiction which is not concerned with fanciful idealism, on the one hand, or with sordid naturalism, on the other, the emotions aroused are likely to include them.

These feelings were the most emphasized in the novel before 1760. Of the writers who were moved by them, there were four whose works became popular and exerted a strong influence upon later novelists. They were Shaftesbury and Richardson in England, and Marivaux and Mme. de Riccoboni in France.

Shaftesbury's Defense of Emotion as the Source of the Highest Poetic Inspiration

Even in the age of reason emotional unrest was expressed in the essays of Shaftesbury, who manifested dissatisfaction with the limi-

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