Manfroné; or, The One-Handed Monk (Gothic Classics)
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But such an anchor for the articulation of the novel was developing. Written thirty-five years later than Johnson's or Coventry's criticism, Reeve's Progress of Romance composes what seems to be the first scholarly literary history of novels in English. Within the term romance Reeve comprehends not only the Greek romance, the medieval romances in both verse and prose , and the seventeenthcentury heroic romance; she also goes backward to the epics of Homer and forward to the "modern novels" of France and England. The inclusion of Homeric epic in the category of romance is a classification dubious enough to have been rejected by virtually every subsequent literary historian of the novel; but it gives Reeve's protagonist, Euphrasia, a way to refute the high-culture bias of her polemical antagonist, Hortensius.
In addition, by developing the term romance into a global category inclusive of fictional entertainments produced over a vast expanse of "times, countries, and manners," she uses the historicist horizon of her study to develop an indulgence that protects the now unfashionable romances as well as the modern novels under contemporary attack.
The literary history and criticism of the English novel that has developed over the two hundred years since Reeve's text-from John Dunlop and Hippolyte Taine to Ian Watt and Michael McKeon-inevitably comes to be implicated in the task Richardson and Fielding seemed to set going in England: that of securing an elevated cultural address for the novel. In order to articulate the general cultural value of fiction over history Dunlop quotes Lord Bacon:. Fiction gives to mankind what history denies, and, in some measure, satisfies the mind with shadows when it cannot enjoy the substance:… Fiction strongly shows that a greater variety of things, a more perfect order, a more beautiful variety, than can any where be found in nature, is pleasing to the mind.
And as real history gives us not the success of things according to the deserts of vice and virtue, Fiction corrects it, and presents us with the fates and fortunes of persons rewarded or punished according to merit. And as real history disgusts us with a familiar and constant similitude of things, Fiction relieves us by unexpected turns and changes, and thus not only delights, but inculcates morality and nobleness of soul.
It raises the mind by accommodating the images of things to our desires, and not like history and reason, subjecting the mind to things. By appealing to Bacon on the value of fiction, Dunlop not only invokes the authority of a major British thinker but also neatly hurdles almost two hundred years of wrangling over the morally dubious effects of taking pleasure from fiction. By using the general term fiction for his history of romances and novels, Dunlop encompasses the polemical terms of the debate he would nonetheless inflect and recast.
Fiction is developed by Dunlop as a third term that can at once finesse and reconcile these polar oppositions. Fiction does this by becoming art, delivering "a more perfect order, a more beautiful variety" than "nature. Through Dunlop's use of Bacon, Renaissance and Romantic aesthetics meet in a justification of fiction that is, finally, psychological. Dunlop's translation of Bacon assumes yet reverses the anxiety about the reader's pleasure that had motivated earlier condemnations of the novel.
When Dunlop glosses Bacon's emphasis upon "delight," it becomes apparent that the pleasure Dunlop promotes is quite different from the pleasure that novel readers had been accused of indulging. Instead of obsessive, personal, deluded, erotic pleasures, we are called to soft and social ones: "How much are we indebted to [fiction] for pleasure and enjoyment! This powerful instrument of virtue and happiness, after having been long despised, on account of the purposes to which it had been made subservient, has gradually become more justly appreciated, and more highly valued.
Works of Fiction have been produced, abounding at once with the most interesting details, and the most sagacious reflections, and which differ from treatises of abstract philosophy only by the greater justness of their views, and the higher interest which they excite.
Dunlop's description of his project helps us to apprehend the broader purpose of his literary history: to sublimate the novel so as to produce a new disposition, or arrangement, of the pleasure of novel reading. What results, in both Reeve and Dunlop as well as in every subsequent literary history, is a chronological panorama, a certain spectacular sequential cinematography of culture in which selected cultural practices and productions are narrated as significant and valuable.
By this means literary history selectively licenses sublimated pleasures. Through this literary history, novels produced in the market can be inserted into a more or less continuous narrative and turned toward higher cultural purposes: for example, serving as an expression of "the voice of the people" Taine or being part of "the Great Tradition" Leavis. Dunlop writes as though the culturally elevating role for fiction were already achieved. In fact, his own literary history is designed to promote that end. To argue the centrality of fiction to culture, Dunlop begins his introduction with an elaborate analogy between gardening and fiction making, which quickly implicates his own literary history.
The analogy also indexes what we might call the necessary violence of literary history. The collector of agreeable facts finds, in like manner, that the sympathy which they excite can be heightened by removing from their detail every thing that is not interesting, or which tends to weaken the principal emotion, which it is his intention to raise.
He renders, in this way, the occurrences more unexpected, the enterprises more successful, the deliverance from danger and distress more wonderful.
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The same process that describes the "fine arts" of gardening and fiction making-selecting, weeding, and intensifying with an eye toward pleasure-applies also to the literary history Dunlop composes. By using the fiction of widely different epochs to survey the variety of cultural achievements, literary history makes novels more than instruments of private kinky, obsessive gratification. They are drawn into the larger tableau of cultural accomplishment-which Dunlop calls "the advance of the human mind"-until a certain disinterested moral and aesthetic pleasure appears to be the telos of all fiction making.
But the gardening metaphor insinuates certain assumptions into the project of this literary history. Literary history as cultivation spatializes time, so that the successive conflicts between the often antagonistic types of fiction written in England over the course of a century by, for example, Behn, Richardson, Fielding, and Radcliffe, are arranged to appear as one harmoniously balanced array of species that can be surveyed in one leisurely stroll, as one wanders through a garden. However, it proves as implausible to have a literary history without a literary historian as it is to have a garden without a gardener.
It is the valuative role of the literary historian-the critic holding the scales over each text read-that produces the synchronic moment of judgment through which a narrative of the progress or history of romance, novel, and fiction can be grasped and told. This is the ironic terminus of a hegemonic literary history. Literary history can easily become tautological and self-confirming, a garden wall to protect specimens collected against the very factors it might have interpreted: history, change, difference.
Once Dunlop's literary history gets under way, it becomes apparent that civilizing the novel requires a certain calculated violence. But before offering this schematic overview of what we would now call the eighteenth-century novel, Dunlop does some weeding by giving cursory negative treatment to the novels of Behn, Manley, and the early Haywood.
Behn's novels, we are informed, "have not escaped the moral contagion which infected the literature of that age.
By orientalizing these early novels and by characterizing them as inappropriately erotic-too feminine, too European, and too immoral-Dunlop relegates to the margins of The The History of Fiction some of the most popular novels published in England between and How is the eclipse of an influential strain of popular fiction to be understood? Dunlop's dismissal of Behn, Manley, and Haywood from his history confirms a judgment that critics of the early amorous novel had been making since the s.
This negative judgment might be attributed to changes in sensibility, taste, or style, or to the idea that a certain formula has exhausted its appeal. But these words merely relabel rather than explain the cultural change we are trying to interpret. It is, no doubt, correct to argue that the novels of amorous intrigue are an integral expression of the culture of the Restoration, with the zeal of Charles II's court for sexual license, its eschewal of the dour asceticism of the Commonwealth, and its enthusiastic translation of French cultural forms.
Such a historical placement of the early novel allows one to align its passing with the reaction, after , against the excesses of the Restoration. Pleasures disowned become discomforting, and through embarrassment, a kind of unpleasure. Some feminist literary historians have attributed the devaluation of Behn, Manley, and Haywood to their gender.
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However, even before Richardson and Fielding won ascent from the market for their novels of the s, the moral improvement of the novel of amorous intrigue was undertaken by Elizabeth Rowe, Jane Barker, and Penelope Aubin. Explanations based upon taste, political history, and gender fail to come to terms with the particular way in which the novels of Behn, Manley, and Haywood were devalued and overwritten in the s. The erasure or forgetting of earlier cultural formations is an obscure process.
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Unlike material objects, cultural ideas and forms do not become used up or out of date. Cultural forms-from letters and love stories to national constitutions-can be rejuvenated by new technology, foreign transplants, and political strife. In other words, recycling seems to be the rule rather than the exception in culture. Thus, for example, the novel of amorous intrigue, developed in the late Restoration by Behn under strong influence from the Continental novella and the aristocratic literature of love, was exploited for politically motivated scandal and satire by Delariviere Manley in the New Atalantis Then, following the spectacular success of Love in Excess — , this species of novel was turned into repeatable "formula fiction" on the market by Eliza Haywood in the s.
As I have noted above, novelists like Richardson and Fielding promote this forgetting, first by defacing the novel of amorous intrigue and then by providing their own novels as replacements for the novels they characterize as degraded and immoral. These new novels overwrite-disavow but appropriate, waste but recycle-the novels they spurn. Reeve and Dunlop do not commit their literary histories to exercising a "good memory. Instead they are constrained by the protocols of a culturally elevating literary history to be critical and selective, and thus forgetful.
In the introduction to The Progress of Romance, Reeve tells her readers that she seeks "to assist according to my best judgment, the reader's choice, amidst the almost infinite variety it affords, in a selection of such as are most worthy of a place in the libraries of readers of every class, who seek either for information or entertainment.
Thus, while Reeve is generous with Behn-"let us cast a veil of compassion over her faults"-and Dunlop is severe, both ignore all her novels except Oroonoko. By contrast, the novels of Richardson and Fielding are given positions of special priority in both accounts of the novel's rise. From Reeve forward, scholarly literary history develops a paradoxical relationship to the forgotten texts of the past.
It retrieves from the archival memory of culture and reads again what its contemporary culture has almost completely forgotten. This activity pushes Reeve toward a certain regret about the shifts in cultural value that can look quite arbitrary to one who has looked long enough down the "stream of time.
Romances have for many ages past been read and admired, lately it has been the fashion to decry and ridicule them; but to an unprejudiced person, this will prove nothing but the variations of times, manners, and opinions. This passage naturalizes the process of disappearance and forgetting-by its reference to the wheel of fortune that gives "princes and priests, bishops and heroes… their day" and then takes it away, as well as by its metaphorical characterization of the movement of a "work of… merit" down "the stream of time" into "the gulph of oblivion.
Since one of the meanings of gulf is a "whirlpool, or absorbing eddy," I can accommodate my thesis about the novel's rise to Reeve's metaphor. Where one kind of reading is thrown up, another is thrown down; where one kind of pleasure is licensed, another is discredited. This turbulent vortex of reciprocal appearance and disappearance is mis-seen as the origin of the novel. But in order for the elevated novel to appear, the novel of amorous intrigue must be made to disappear into a gulf of oblivion.
Thus birth requires a burial, but only after the murder of the other novel.
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While this vortex first appears in the cultural strife of the s, it is also readable in every subsequent literary history devised to tell of the novel's rise. To apprehend "the rise of the novel" as a vortex of cultural conflict helps to refocus the way gender difference and strife crosscut the expansion of novel reading in early modern culture. The romance was associated with women because of its popularity with women readers.