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Outlines of English and American Literature
Other Fiction Writers
by Long, William J.


Of the work of Walter Scott we have already spoken. When such a genius appears, dominating his age, we think of him as a great inventor, and so he was; but like most other inventors his trail had been blazed, his way prepared by others who had gone before him. His first romance, Waverley, shows the influence of earlier historical romances, such as Jane Porter's Thaddeus of Warsaw and Scottish Chiefs; in his later work he acknowledged his indebtedness to Maria Edgeworth, whose Castle Rackrent had aroused enthusiasm at the beginning of the nineteenth century. In brief, the romantic movement greatly encouraged fiction writing, and Scott did excellently what many others were doing well.

Two things are noticeable as we review the fiction of this period: the first, that nearly all the successful writers were women; [Footnote: The list includes: Fanny Burney, Ann Radcliffe, Jane Porter, Maria Edgeworth, Susan Ferrier, Sydney Owenson (Lady Morgan), Mary Brunton, Hannah More, Mary Russell Mitford,--all of whom were famous in their day, and each of whom produced at least one "best seller"] the second, that of these writers only one, the most neglected by her own generation, holds a secure place in the hearts of present-day readers. If it be asked why Jane Austen's works endure while others are forgotten, the answer is that almost any trained writer can produce a modern romance, but it takes a genius to write a novel. [Footnote: The difference between the modern romance and the novel is evident in the works of Scott and Miss Austen. Scott takes an unusual subject, he calls up kings, nobles, chieftains, clansmen, robber barons,--a host of picturesque characters; he uses his imagination freely, and makes a story for the story's sake. Miss Austen takes an ordinary country village, observes its people as through a microscope, and portrays them to the life. She is not interested in making a thrilling story, but in showing us men and women as they are; and our interest is held by the verity of her portrayal. (For a different distinction between romance and novel, see "THE EARLY ENGLISH NOVEL" above, Chapter VI.)]

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