Encouraged by the response of the avid novel-reading public in early nineteenth-century England, minor novelists produced a staggering number of volumes that shaped styles, formed attitudes, and gave to the novel a new status and respectability. These novels were read by both sexes, but the majority were written by women. Vineta Colby examines the works of such minor novelists as Mrs. Gore, Maria Edgeworth, Charlotte Yonge, and Harriet Martincau, arguing that they prepared the way for the novels of the great Victorian era.
Antiromantic and bourgeois in spirit, these domestic novels were concerned with daily living in ordinary society. As the form developed, the novels turned away from "idle romance" to a serious treatment of basic questions of human and social values. Professor Colby demonstrates how the preoccupation with high society, childhood, and village life laid the thematic foundations for the more sophisticated works of the later Victorians.
The author concludes by showing that the disruption of the family unit by technology, urbanization, and scientific materialism led the domestic novel into the realms of literary naturalism and social realism.
Originally published in 1974.
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