King Arthur and English Novel

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It is somewhat curious that there is, so far as I know, no complete handling in English of the subject of this volume, popular and important though that subject has been. Dunlop’s History of Fiction, an excellent book, dealt with a much wider matter, and perforce ceased its dealing just at the beginning of the most abundant and brilliant development of the English division. Sir Walter Raleigh’s English Novel, a book of the highest value for acute criticism and grace of style, stops short at Miss Austen, and only glances, by a sort of anticipation, at Scott.

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The late Mr. Sidney Lanier’s English Novel and the Principle of its Development is really nothing but a laudatory study of “George Eliot,” with glances at other writers, including violent denunciations of the great eighteenth? century men. There are numerous monographs on parts of the subject: but nothing else that I know even attempting the whole. I should, of course, have liked to deal with so large a matter in a larger space: but one may and should “cultivate the garden” even if it is not a garden of many acres in extent.

I need only add that I have endeavoured, not so much to give “reviews” of individual books and authors, as to indicate what Mr. Lanier took for the second part of his title, but did not, I think, handle very satisfactorily in his text. I may perhaps add, without impropriety, that the composition of this book has not been hurried, and that I have taken all the pains I could, by revision and addition as it proceeded, to make it a complete survey of the Novel, as it has come from the hands of all the more important novelists, not now alive, up to the end of the nineteenth century.

And they also had—in one case certainly, in the other probably—no little influence upon the two great Elizabethan works which in a manner founded the modern novel and the modern romance in English—the Euphues of Lyly and the Arcadia of Sir Philip Sidney. The pamphlet stories (which are themselves often play? connected, as in the case of Lodge’s Rosalynde and Greene’s P andosto ) do not require much notice, with one exception—Nash’s J ack Wilton or the Unfortunate Traveller, to which some have assigned a position equal, or perhaps superior in our particular subject, to that of the Arcadia or that of Euphues.

This seems to the present writer a mistake: but as to appear important is (in a not wholly unreal sense) to be so, the piece shall be separately considered. The rest are mostly marred by a superabundance of rather rudimentary art, and a very poor allowance of matter. There is hardly any character, and except in a few pieces, such as Lodge’s Margarite of America, there is little attempt to utilise new scenes and conditions.

But the whole class has special interest for us in one peculiarity which makes it perhaps unreadable to any but students, and that is its saturation with the Elizabethan conceit and word? play which is sometimes called Euphuism. Nor is this wonderful, considering that m

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