8 min read
In looking at the novels released prior to, at the same time as, and after Frances Burney's Evelina, I discovered some interesting patterns and changes over the course of the novels published that are listed in James Raven's The English Novel, 1770 - 1829; a bibliographical survey of prose fiction published in the British Isles. Literary works published in 1776 and contained titles that specifically mentioned the name of the main character(s), a trend that would continue through to 1780. However, various titles would also include the themes and characteristics prevalent in the character or novel, in what appears to be an attempt to instill the same attributes in the reader. In fact, you see works like Isabella, OR The Rewards of Good Nature republished as Isabella: OR The Rewards of Good Nature. A Sentimental Novel, Intended Chiefly to Convey United Amusement and Instruction to the Fair-Sex. By the Author of the Benevolent Man, and the History of Lady Anne Neville, doing away with subtly to make sure that readers clearly understand the characteristics of the characters that the authors and publishers want them to learn. This is the case with various other novels in this time period as The Rambles of Mr. Frankly was republished as The Rambles of Mr. Franky. Published by His Sister. Vol. III/IV in which one of the reviewers lists the following;
“... the principles of virtue, and especially of benevolence, so plentifully sown in these literary rambles, may produce a valuable crop in the minds of young readers and to such, it seems probable, this performance will be most acceptable. Those who have more experience of human life and manners will think it romantic.”
Therefore, the reader has evidence that individuals in the literary world had the target audience in mind when publishing and reviewing such novels, in an attempt to persuade or instill in readers characteristics through the characters in novels. Thus, by looking through Raven's survey of novels during this period, we see that the republication of particular literary works could hold other motives besides monetary. In fact, in a 1778 review of Memoirs of the Countess D'Anois: Written by Herself Before Her Retirement. In Two Volumes. , William Enfield says,
“When books that have long been forgotten are revived, it is to be supposed, either that they have extraordinary merit, or are peculiarly seasonable. Neither of these reasons can, however, be assigned, for the revival of these memoirs.”
This holds as in 1779 the literary work Modern Anecdote of the Ancient Family of the Kinkvercanotsdarsprankengotchederns: A Tale for Christmas is released and eventually republished in later years in other countries. In the case for the novel from which the review comes from, one can assume that the countess' influence or monetary wealth could have led to the additional circulation of her memoirs.
As the years continue, we find that the title of novels continue to change as all novels listed in the survey of 1777 contain the words "History," "Memoir," or "Letters." There are also a greater number of titles that list the author of the work, something that would not continue into 1778, instead, they are replaced by a vague description of the author such as "lady" or "warrant officer belonging to the navy." In 1779 and 1780, after the release and success of Evelina, again there are a large number of literary works whose titles indicate that they are composed of letters. There are fewer titles that explain the themes within the novel or characteristics of the main character(s). Instead, various LENGTHY titles list events of the novel, the author and their previous works, and/or the exclusivity of the material found within the material. From this shift, I can assume that perhaps there was increased competition between literary writers for readership, and the possibility for additional reprints, or the need to give a greater insight of the contents of the literary work to those of lower classes who could not buy multiple works or allowed to look through the contents of the novel.
In Step 2, I compared the 1779 edition of Evelina with the novels The History of Miss Temple. IN Two Volumes. By a Young Lady (1777)The History of Eliza Warwick. In Two Volumes. (1778), The Sylph; A Novel. In Two Volumes (1779), and The Indian Adventurer; OR The History of Mr. Vanneck, A Novel, Founded on Facts (1780). Except for The Sylph, all the novels I selected indicate containing some connection to historical individuals or events, and yet, only The Indian Adventurer chronicles historical events without constant relation to romance, but does so in an autobiographical format more similar to nonfiction. All novels are written in a first-person narrative, but The Indian Adventurer does not do so in an epistolary format, choosing to only shift to dialogue between the author and other characters throughout their life. It is also of interest to mention how the characters of Miss Temple, Eliza Warwick, Pamela, and Julia (of The Sylph) are similar in their origin of a woman from a lower class who is the object of desire by a man of a higher class, but Eliza's story has a shift in power dynamics. The novel begins with the mother of the Marquess writing to Eliza, who is already in an unknown location to prevent the Marquess from trying to marry her, begging Eliza to try and put an end to his love for her as he is willing to give up his role and go immediately to her as he feels like he cannot live without her. It is interesting how the female character holds all this power and the history of the character, and the remainder of the novel is written in a letter by Eliza to the Marquess as to why he should not marry her. The author of this novel is aware of the sharp contrast this power dynamic is to characters of previous novels as the author includes a "To the Reviewers" section in the novel in which she begs the male reviewers to allow her novel to be submitted to publication, referring to them as merciful and just. She uses her gender, as a woman, to justify why her characters are structured the way they are, stating, "not being written, perhaps, so accurately as you would expect it should be, did it come from one of your own sex." She also proceeds to beg that if they refuse to publish her novel, that they do not attack her character in satires, a reference to Pamela and Shamela, as she cares about such a character. So even though we see a character in which the power dynamics are reversed from the male dictating the female, given the male-dominated literary and publishing world, the female is still at the mercy of the decisions of the male.
In Step 3, I compared the collection of texts of English Fiction from two different time periods, 1770 - 1800 and 1750 - 1779. In analyzing the texts from the two periods of time, I discovered the differences in the focus of the first 100 words of literary works and categories surrounding them for the two time periods. The categories for 1770 to 1800 were History, Author, Novel, Life, Adventures, and Death. The categories for works from 1750 to 1779 were Life, "Containing," Adventures, Wife, Famous History, and Novel. One thing I do want to note is that rather than selecting the wheel option, which would then provide arrows to show the other categories hidden from view, the tile option gives a greater understanding of the proportion of words and categories represented for the first 100 words in each literary work. I was interested as to why Death was a category in the fiction between 1770-1800, but not in 1750 - 1779, assuming it was due to the lack of representation of the word and other words associated with it in comparison to the other 99 words for each literary text. Therefore, I used the Term-Frequency tool to compare the top categories for the two time periods as well as the top words for each category in the two periods. In doing so, I found that the Word Frequency tool available for ECCO is flawed in creating categories as "Adventures" and its top topic "Adventure Fiction" appeared significantly less than the term "Death" did, but in the other group where "Death" is a category, there are terms that appear as frequently as Death and words associated with it, and yet they are not categories themselves. Perhaps this speaks to the flaws the system presents both in creating categories and not giving an accurate representation of the focus of literary works by only sampling from the first hundred words of each literary work.
#Exercise5 #Bibliography #WhyIsContainingACategory?