THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
THE critic who can set the date when the so-called eighteenth century poetry began, should perform a like service for the new school of eighteenth century narrative. Or, perhaps, the historian of tastes and morals would be more successful, for it was when the gay libertinism of the Restoration first lost modishness that the intriguing, loose-mannered, artificial novel of the seventeenth century began its decline. Just as soon as the reform of les mæurs brought literature into its service, the new narrative of the eighteenth century was potentially present. Manley and Haywood are already a little out of tone with their times. In the dedication of Mrs. Haywood's somewhat immoral Lasselia, written about 1725, there is an assertion (insincere of course) which runs thus, "My design in writing this little Novel (as well as those I have formerly publish'd) being only to remind the unthinking Part of the World, how dangerous it is to give way to Passion." This is enough to show that didactic stories were in style.
But there was more than didacticism in this new narrative. The short stories now to be considered, in their humble way are part and parcel of that movement to picture, to study, and to reform English manners, taste,