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(1) Charles Dickens (1812-1870):

Dickens’ remedy for various social evils is private benevolence has also no faith in charitable institutions.

As a social reformer, he expresses the conscience of his age, which despite all its shortcomings, he accepted and loved.

He is the best of all the English novelists. Previous to his day, the novelists only wrote of the life and adventures of the rich and aristocratic sections of society. Dickens was the first to introduce to the reading public life of the poor and the oppressed. His Oliver Twist (1838) is a powerful indictment of the education of poor children of his day.

Dickens is pre-eminently the novelist to nowhere does this note ring clearer and truer than in David Copperfied.

In David Copperfied he treats particularly of evils of child labour and the reform of schools. No one can be more tender than Dickens in protecting the innocence of childhood and the purity of young womanhood, in the latter case he comes once more into line with Shakespeare and Scott.

To write of Charles Dickens at all is to presuppose his humour; it was the supreme quality of his genius. It was as a humourist that Dickens made his name. Pickwick Papers abounds in farce, now quite distinct from, and now all but blending with, the higher characteristics of Humour. At his worst, he is capable of facetiousness as in Nicholas Nickleby.

The scene between little David Copperfield and the waite, in Chapter V of David Copperfield, seems to Gissing. In the celebrated Mrs. Gamp, the same perfect method of idealisation, as in Shakespeare’s Falstaff, is used in converting into a source of pleasure things in life repel or nauseate. And in both cases, the sublimation of character and circumstance is affected by a humour that seems unsurpassable. Consider Spenlow and Jorkins in David Copperfield and Tadgers in Martin Chuzzlewit. Dickens had remarkable acquaintance with the Inn Waiter: read the Waiter’s autobiography in somebody’s Luggage.

Inseparable from the gift of humour is that of pathos of which Dickens has abundance, the earliest instance being that of the death of the chancery prisoner in the Pickwick Papers. He is at his best in bringing out the pathos of child-life. We see how closely the truly pathetic and quick observations are allied in Dickens. Little Dorrit is strong in both pathos and humour.

Pathos of a graver and subtler kind is the distinguishing note of Great Expectations. Perhaps, however, his best pathos is seen in The Chstmas Book. He continues the work of two writers whom he always held dear, Goldsmith and Sterne. Goldsmith’s sweetness and Sterne’s sensitive humanity had no small part in forming Dickens. There is a foretaste of Dickens’ humour is Moses, the son of Goldsmit’s Vicar of Wakefield. “Dickens is truly and profoundly, national; of humour the very incarnation, he cannot, think of his counter without sunny smile.”

(2) Charles Reade (1814-1884):

Charles Reade visited prison and studied the law business, banking, even life between the decks on an ocean steamer. He also knew the life of the gold-diggers in Australia. He poured his experience and his reading into his novels. As a novelist of social reform he ranks very high. He needs documentation to the novel as a weapon for the social reformer.

His masterpiece, The Cloister and the Hearth (1861) is a historical romance. Reade was a poet at heart, and this helped him to produce Cloister and the Hearth which contains true, “Renaissance of wonder, in its pages. It is Reade’s passport to immortality.

(3) Wilkie Collins (1824-1889):

Wilkie Collins with an admirable grasp of the market brought Gothicism up-to-date. He was influenced by Poem, Richardson and Dickens. It was he who handed over the detective story from Poem to the author of Sherlock Holme;

His formula for a successful novel was “Make’ em laugh, make’ em cry, make’ em”. “In the Woman in White he whirled his theatrical characters through a fantastic plot, broken by a series of climaxes, preceded breathtaking suspense, seeking and finding the depths of depravity below the apparently rosy surface of middle-class life” (Dinna Neil).

His most important contribution to the Victorian novel was the detective novel of crime and mystery. We still remember him and read him at least for two of his novels, The Woman (1860) and The Moonstone. “They are the most brilliant detective novels ever Written.” (Walter Allen)

(4) Richard Blacknore (1825-1900):

The one single novel on which rests the fame of Blacknore is Lorna Doone (1869), “The scene of this fascinating romance is laid in Exmoor in the seventeenth century. The story abounds in romantic scenes and incidents; its descriptions of natural scenery are unsurpassed; the rhythmic language is at times almost equal to Poetry; and the whole tone of the book is wholesome and refreshing. Altogether it would be hard to find a more delightful romance in any language, and it well deserves the place it has won as one of the classics of our literature” (W.J. Long).

(5) Anthony Trollope (1815-82):

Anthony Trollope is regarded as a, “garrulous male Jane Austen unware of the stress and storm of the world.” His superiority to his contemporaries is mainly nagative, he did not make their mistakes. His positive superiority resolves itself into one quality – he observed the surface of life more accurately than they did. His greatness depends on his power to use his observation to make a new world in his creative imagination.”

The almost idolatrous admiration of Trollope in the nineteen-thirties and forties was inspired by his perfect studies of English clerical life, The Warden (1855), Brachester Tcwer (1857), Doctor Thorne (1859) and The Last Chronicle of Barcel (1867). These novels reflect the Cathedral world that is peculiarly English. The Warden is his masterpiece.

He is novelist of the middle and upper-middle classes. With urbane familiarity and shrewd observation he presents an accurate, detailed picture of their quiet, uneventful lives in a matter-of-fact way which gives his work the appearance of chronicles of real life. His main concern is with character rather than with plot. The framework of his a series of parallel stories moving with the leisureliness of everyday life. His style, efficiently direct, simple and lucid, is seen to particular advantage in his dialogue. A vein of easy satire runs through many of his novels, and he makes skilful use of pathos.

(6) Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1868):

Thomas Love Peacock stands alone and apart from the whole sequence of English novelists this career overlapped Jane. Austen’s at the one end his son-in-law Meredith’s at the other.

He has been imitated but he has never been seriously rivaled. His work exists in a purity, his disciples have not been able to match his limits were narrow and strict, and to attempt to broaden them is merely to destroy the delicately poised world they contain. In this way Peacock achieved perfection, and more than once. Headlong Hall, Nightmare Abbey, Crotchet Castle are among the more important of his novels.

They are full of “sublimely comic passages in which a congeries of events is explained and the future forecast in terms of a single overriding theory. His novels form a comic dramatization of the intellectual notions of his age.

For anything comparable in our time we would need to imagine a novelist intellectually powerful enough to satirize in one book the exponents of, say, Marxism, psycho-analysis, the psychology of Jung, logical positivism, neo-Catholicism, existentialism, Christianity, science, abstract painting.

Peacock’s intellectual ability, together with the neutral position he himself seems to hold, makes him a devastating critic of the theories of his, and since the counterparts of those theories always exist he remains a formidable critic whose work, because of his insight into the implications of the ideas he satirizes, is permanently topical (Walter Allen).

(7) Charles kingsley (1819-1875):

Charles Kingsley, a novelist of the second rank, belonged to the Romantic school and that particular side of the Romantic school which followed in the wake of Scott. He wanted in the novel stirring episodes, varied excitement, and a past that seemed richer in colour than the drab futilities of contemporary Victorian Cathedral towns. “He is capital writer for boys and in any case is best enjoyed in the uncritical days of youth. But his strong anti-catholic sentiment and horror of celibacy and ascetic life become rather troublesome obsessions in his stories” (Compton-Rickett).

Westward Ho, published in 1855, is the most important of his novels. It is a patriotic tale of adventure, Jesuit intrigue, and naval enterprise. The action is set in the age of Queen Elizabeth. The Elizabethan setting of Westward Ho brings the partisanship more prominently forward and this spirited story with its patriotic note would have been all the better had Kingsley been less anxious to idealise our attractive but not over-squeamish old sea dogs, Hawkins and Drake, and to paint in such lurid colours the catholic Spaniard.

(8) Mrs. Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865):

She is one of those novelits who have effectively used the novel as an instrument of social reform. Her early novels Mary Barton (1948) and North and South (1865) depict industrial life, her object being the amelioration of the condition of labourers and workers.

She was made an interesting study of female life and psychology in her masterpiece Cranford (1853). Life of women spending their time in tea-drinking, stale gossip, and basking in the sun is presented faithfully and psychologically.

In her next novel, Ruth, Mrs. Gaskell deals with an ethical and moral subject. “All deals however hidden and long passed by have their eternal consequences”, is the theme of this novel.

Ruth becomes a study of inner life. The novel “announces the approach of the psychological novel in a restrictive sense.” Mrs. Gaskell, “did not possess the clearness of vision, the equipment of knowledge, and the breadth of horizon required for completely satisfying the definition of the psychological novel. What she did in part was fully accomplished by George Eliot” (Cross).

(9) The three Bronte Sisters:

The three Bronte Sisters Charlotte, Emily, Anne-made notable contribution to the English novel during the early part of the Victorian era.

Their chief novels are the following:

(a) Charlotte Bronte:

The Professor, Jane Eyre; Shirley, and Vilette.

(b) Emile Bronte:

Wuthering Heights – a great classic.

(c) Anne Bronte:

Agnes Grey and the Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

The three sisters represent the,” stormy sisterhood”, i.e., the passion in English fiction. They imparted the romantic note of imagination and passion to the English novel. They were not interested in the portrayal of social life; rather they chose to study the feminine heart and presented the woman’s point of view in their fiction. They inaugurated a new conception of the heroine in English fiction, as a woman of vital strength and passionate feelings. Jane Eyre, Shirley, Agnes, are fine studies of feminine life and soul, providing glimpses into the tortured and suffering souls of their respective heroines.

The Bronte sisters experienced life within a narrow confine, but their narrow and limited experience did not stand in the way of their achieving excellence in their work. Charlotte the Bronte and Anne Bronte had experience of life as governess, school teachers and pupils and they repeated the same scenes and experiences again and again in their novels. Professor is enjoyable but the repetition of the same theme in Villette makes the book uninteresting.

As regards plot construction, the Bronte sisters have not much to their credit. The plots of their novels are complex and often formless, and in many cases there are loose ends and episodes, but this deficiency in the management of their plots, they make up by the characterisation.

The Bronte poetised the English novel. There are passages that almost border on poetr Wuthering Heights,one comes across many beautiful poetic passages that move u ecstasy and joy. Their imagery is poetic, their nature-descriptions are poetic, and treatment of passion, specially love is poetic.

Another most obvious contribution of the Bronte sisters is the presentation of the life Yorkshire and its rich and beautiful nature background. Their work is a Yorkshire tu played of an Irish harp by varyingly strong and skilful fingers. To this tune Charlotte ad passionate, Anne pious, and Emily cosmic harmonies.

(10) George Eliot (1819-1880)

She stands at the gateway between the old novel and the new no unworthy heir to Thackeray and Dickens and no unworthy forerunner of Hardy and Henery James. She was essentially a novelist of intellectual life. She contributed to the English novel an air of sobriety, sternness and seriousness which it had not attained in the hands of the early Victorian novelists. AdamBede, Silas Marner, Middlemarch, Romola, etc., are among her greatest novels.

George Eliot did not care much for plot-construction, at least of the traditional kind; she was governed not by the story but by her idea.

In fact, the laws conditioning the form of George Eliot’s novel are the same laws condition those of Henery james and wels and Conrod and Arnold Bennet. Hers are the first examples in English of the novelin its mature form; in them it structurally comes of age.”

The early novels of George Eliot,Adam Bede, Mill on the Floss, and Stlas Marner are concrete in the presentation of the life of the Midland countries of Warwickshire and Derbyshire, which she had intimately known. Realism and faithful portraiture of life and character known to her the hallmarks of her novels.

In her later novels beginning with Romola and upto Daniet Deronda she laid see her store of experience which she had also exhausted in Adam Bede, Mill on the Floss and Silas Marner and turned to political experiences of other people (Felix Holt), problems of racial integration (Daniel Deronda) and presentations of life in Florence during the fifteenth century. “But when she left familiar grounds for unknown and untrodden fields, she faltered, and failed, and it is only once again in Middlemarch that she could hold out a gleam of her former glory, for this novel, like her earlier work, is also a faithful picture of the life of the Midlands and of her people, such as the Garths and the Vinceys”.

George Eliot is more successful in the presentation of scenes of pathos. She could depict moving incidents which touch the crore of our heart. Her tragedies are heart-rending. “George Eliot completed the work of Wordsworth. He dealt with the pathos of pastoral life in a spirit of measureless humanity, she mingled its pathos with humour and produced the greatest dramatic effect.”

“George Eliot’s style is lucid, and, to begin with, simple, but later in reflective passages, it is often overweighed with abstractions. Her dialogue is excellent for the revelation of character, and her command of the idiom of ordinary speech enables her to achieve a fine naturalness. Only rarely does she rise to the impassioned poetical heights of the Brontes, but her earlier novels, particularly The Mill on the Floss, are full of fine descriptions of the English countryside, and her faculty for natural description she never lost entirely” (E. Albert). And Cazamian writes, “Her style, through many a page; through whole chapters and episodes, has the indefinable quality that suggests a lesson in psychology, ethics or history.”

(11) William Makepeace Thackeray:

While in his own age Thackeray was regarded by Anthony Trollope as one of the greatest of English novelists, by W.E. Bronwell one of the few great novelists of the world, but in the 20th century Walter Allen regards his view of life as, “trival”, and Arnold Kettle regards the ending of Vanity Fair as the feeblest of ending. “One, in the decline of his popularity is his great concern with the Sephemeral customs, traditional, ideals, and way of life, of his own age. Otherwise it was Thackeray who perfected the fielding-novel. He was the first to impart to the scale panoramic English novel a coherent plot and structure. His novels mark an immense advance over Fielding as far as plot-construction is concerned.

Thackeray is realistic, but his realism does not mean a photographic reproduction. There is selection and accentuation in the manner of the true artist and the selection is determined and conditioned by his moral purpose.

He was the first English novelist who used the novel to express “a conscious, considered criticism of life”. He tells us the truth about contemporary society. Generalising from particular experiences of his life, he gives to his readers a complete philosophy of life. His creative power shows itself not in transforming the facts he has observed about life, but in arranging them in a symmetrical order. Thackeray was the first to use the novel for satiric purposes on such a large, extended scale.

Thackerary imparted to the novel epic grandeur, sweep and dignity. His novels are all build on a grand scale; they present the sweeping panorama of contemporary life. Thus Vanity Fair is built on a vast scale, its action ranges over the whole of Weston Europe and over a period of fifteen years. The novel thus has the grandeur, the vastness, the sweep and movement of an epic. Like the epic, it brings out the very spirit of the age.

His Characters are extremely vital and varied. They are visualised dramatically, as well as by the use of telling names, words and phrases. They are universal types standing for certain permanent traits common to all ages and countries. But, at the same time, they are also suitable representatives of particular institutions and organisatgions of their own age.

Thackeray was a conscious artist with a turn for technical experiment. In other novels of his, he mainly follows the convention of Fielding. They have a conventional ‘hero’, ‘a villain, “intrigue’ and finally ‘marriage’. But in Vanity Fair he breaks free from convention altogether. The novel has an opertic symmetry. For the contrasted characters and careers of the to girls, Rebecca and Amelia, illustrate the same laws. “The structural scheme of Vanity Fair is Thackeray’s greatest technical achievement” (David Cecil). Herein lies his greatest claim to originality and recognition.

His method of narration is unique, Whibley says, “He plays the same part in his book as is played in a Greek Tragedy by a Chorus of tiresome elders”.

Irony is the key-note of Thackeray’s attitude. If Thackeray is out to expose, this irony is bitter; if to illustrate those domestic affections which he thought the most amiable of human impulses, it is almost dissolved in sentiment”.

For all these reasons, Thackerays may be regarded as a greatest novelist of second rank.

(12) George Meredith:

George Meredith is the founder of the psychological novel. He is also the founder of the “lyrical-comical” novel. His chief novels are: The Shaving of Shagpot, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, Evan Harringtion, Rhoda Fleming, The Egoist, Diana of the Crossways, etc.

Meredith was not a good narrator, and he hardly pretended to tell a story. Like Browning, instead of presenting his tale in plain, clear narrative, he prefers to give it to using flashes and half lights, as it is seen from different points of view. He plays round his story, seeming to miss a hundred strong situations for which the reader actually hungers. But this is his strategy of novel-writing.”

Often it seems that the novelist has no hold over his plots. His plots are merely pegs to hand his dramatic scenes upon. He himself explained his method of storytelling in the following words: “My method has been to prepare my readers for a comical exhibition of the personal and the into give the scene in the fullest of their blood and brain under stress of a fiery situation.

Meredith was essentially a psychological novelist. He was interested in the study of mental processes and analysis of motives.

He was opposed to Realism and the realistic school of novelists who aimed at the production of life with scrupulous minuteness and fidelity. He does not reproduce life, he does not decorate it, he does not idealize it, but he exemplifies it in types and situations of unusual meaning and power.

His novels have a hard intellectual tone. He was opposed to sentimentalism or softness of every kind. The egoism of Willoughby in The Egoist is treated as a queer exhibition of sentimentalism.

Meredith exposed and ridiculed these manifestations of sentimentalism in his novel. He subjected them to the hammer blows of the comic spirit. The novels of Meredith are comedies in spirit and are based on his concept of the comic spirit. He explains what he considers to be the essence of the comic spirit in the very opening sentences of The Egoist.

It is essentially a satiric spirit – a spirit of intelligence, reason, commonsense working against tradition or prejudice, social stupidity or individual folly.

His novels develop under the influence of the comic spirit, ridiculing and satirising folly, stupidity, egoism sentimentality, wherever these vices are found. The comic spirit, thus conceived, is exactly the spirit, not merely of The Egoist, but of the great bulk of Meredith’s prose as well, and the fact that there is often a strong infusion of tragedy no more alters the character of his novels than ‘he presence of Shylock transforms The merchant of Venice into a tragedy. Meredith’s comic spirit is very closely akin to Ben Jonson’s comedy and it plays the same role as it does in Ben Jonson’s comedies.

Meredith’s novels express his optimistic attitude towards life and his faith in evolution.

Meredith’s characters, both male and female, are drawn from aristocratic and upper middle class society. He concentrates on the inner life of his characters rather than on the externals. He always probes deep into the hearts of his characters and studies their motives in undertaking a particular line of action.

In The Egoist, there is enough of psychological analysis and dissection of the motives of Clara who is unwilling to marry Willoughby. In his novels wit and poetry exist side by side, and each irradiates the other. It is this combination which gives Meredith his special place in the history of the English novel.

(13) Thomas Hardy (1840-1928):

Hardy is one of the greatest novelists in the whole range of English Literature.

His first novel the Desperate Remedies appeared in 1871, and thereafter novels after novels flowed from his pen in quick succession. His last novel Jude the Obscure, which was published in 1895, was vehemently criticised as being immoral. This hostile reception made him give up novel-writing for good, for exclaimed he, “a man would be a fool to deliberately stand up to be shot at”. The Mayer of Caster Bridge, The Return of the Native, Tess of the d’ Urbervillies and Jude the Obscure are regarded by universal consent as his masterpieces, and they have been compared to the four great Shakespearean tragedies.

He is a regional novelist. He is the creator of “Wessex”, a small tract of country consisting of six odd counties in South England. Wessex heaths and woodlands have an epic grandeur and his principal characters have the greatness of epic heroes and heroines. He has thus imparted a new emphasis and significance to the regional novels which had already been dignified by the Brontes.

He constantly inquires about the why and where of things and constantly attacks accepted beliefs. Man’s predicament in the universe is the theme of Thomas Hardy’s novels. He has no faith in the benevolent and omnipotent God of Christianity. He conceives of the First Cause as blind, indifferent and unconscious. Man suffers not owing to any fault of his, but owing to the imperfections of he powers on high.

To Thomas Hardy must go the credit of having democratised the English novel. The heroes and heroines of the great Hardian tragedies are all drawn from the lowest rand of life. Henchard, the hero of The Mayor of Caster Bridge, is a haytrusser. Tess is a milkmaid, Giles is a cider-maker and pine planter, Gabriel Oak is a shepherd, and Crym is a furze- cutter. He has thus completely broken away from tradition and his novels do not suffer in any way. Hardy’s tragedy is as great an apotheosis of the human spirit as the tragedy of Shakespeare.

He was the first English novelist who dared to make a woman who had sinned, or who was an adulteress, the heroine of his novels. Tess is a woman with a past, yet Hardy had made her the heroine of Jude the Obscutre, is an adulteress. Hardy thus shocked Vietorian notions of morality and was vehemently criticised as being immoral and a corrupter of the people. His books were burnt. But he did not yield, he rather choose to give up novel- writing when the bitter attacks of his critics were too much for him.

Thomas Hardy is a master of the art of characterisation. Some of his characters are among the immoral figures of literature. He chooses his characters from the lower strata of society. His female characters are better and more forceful than his male characters, because women are more elemental, “nearer to nature” than men. His range of characterisation is limited.

All his important characters belond to-Wessex and to the lower strata of society. He deals with the universal passions of man and so his characters are universal in their interest. They appeal to people in all ages and countries. One has to think only of Henchard, Clym, Tess Eustacia, Giles, Marty South, etc., to realise the truth of this statement.

Hardy’s characters may be divided into two broad classes – major and minor. His major characters include such unforgettable and forceful figures as – Henchard, Farfrae, Elizabeth- Jane, Clym, Eustacia, Giles, Marty Sough, Bathsheba, Gabriel Oak, Tess, Angel Clare, Sue, Sue, Jude, etc.

His minor characters are sons of the soil, real children of the earth. They are the representatives of antiquity. They are the main source of humour in his novels. They provide a norm by which to judge the main characters of his novels. Often they are the spokesmen of Hardy himself and express his views on life. They appear in groups and generally remain in the background. When they are absent, as from Tess, even the best of his novels lose something owing to their absence.

Harrdy’s novels have an architectural finish and symmetry. The architectonics of Hardy have been praised by all who have studied him.

But his plots are old-fashioned. They are all love stories. The wrong man meets the wrong woman or vice-versa and thus the complications arise leading the characters to their doom. The “eternal triangle” is always there.

His style is the best suited for his purposes. It is a poetic style. He has an almost Shakespearean felicity of expression and has the rare, and invaluable knack of using the best work for his purpose. His rustics speak their own dialect, but they use it most forcefully and effectively. He instinctively chooses the best possible vehicle of expression for them and himself.

His form is conventional, but as far as his matter is concerned he is entirely a modern. He is a modern in his views of God and religion and in his free and frank treatment of sex. Conclusively, Hardy occupies an important place in the development of the English novel.

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