Novels of the Eighteen-Forties

Novels of the Eighteen-Forties

Novels of the Eighteen-Forties

Novels of the Eighteen-Forties

Excerpt

The plan of this book ought to explain itself, the whole of the first being introductory; part but some of my principles of selection need to be made clear at the outset. My book is not what is sometimes called a 'decade-study'; I do not refer to all the main preoccupations of the time, but only to those that seem especially relevant to the novels. And, though I hope I am never careless of chronology, I do not proceed through the decade year by year, but risk generalizations, some of which are perhaps more applicable to the late eighteen-forties. I have sometimes gone to other decades, especially the fifties, for illustrative material, but my general policy has been to reserve this for the footnotes. I have not attempted a survey of all the novels of the forties, but rather of those kinds of novels and contemporary views about novels (assumed or expressed) which contribute to our fuller understanding of the great novels of the period. The four novels chosen for detailed study are some of those which I believe stand to gain most from such an exploration of 'background'; they are novels which are essentially 'of' the forties as well as 'for all time'. With that intention, I was precluded from choosing the novel which on other counts demands full-length treatment-- Wuthering Heights. This novel, which speaks so clearly to our generation, hardly spoke at all to its own. Then, since the forties produced no historical novel of any distinction, I say the less about that . . .

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