This essay on the subject of wanders through their history, classification, and “usefulness,” explaining that novels of the 1850s weren’t as dangerous as those earlier inveighed against — an attitude not shared by all critics. Ten years earlier, M. M. Backus provided a more jaundiced history of the medium.

Transcriber’s note: This article includes a certain amount of Greek, which I have attempted to transcribe; however, due to the poor quality of my copy, the hazards of HTML, and the fact that I know nothing about the Greek alphabet, those wishing to see how it actually read should consult the original.
“Novels: Their Meaning and Mission” (from Putnam’s Monthly, October 1854; pp. 389-396)

The announcement of philosopher Fourier, that “Attractions are proportioned to destinies,” albeit false in many, is, nevertheless, true in some respects. Thus, in literature, every longing and every susceptibility of the soul, and, in fact, every mental want, creates for itself a satisfaction and a supply. So, too, we may regard every phasis of literature as a typal manifestation of some profounder necessity that underlies and procreates it. For example: The Epos gives utterance to all the untold heroisms of our nature; and the Iliad is at once the embodiment of a nation’s warlike daring, and the realization, to a certain extent, of a heroic ideal that finds its home and birth-place in every soul of man. Each man is, in a measure, an Achilles, and burns with the flame of his awful ire [Mmniz Onlomznh]; but genius alone, in elevating everything she touches to the dignity of apotheosis, has touched with her mystic wand this side of the many-sided soul; and lo! it lives and breathes perennially.

History, again, develops the infinite in man; and, as Frederick Schlegel remarks, “replies to the first problem of philosophy—the restoration in man of the los image of God; as far as this relates to Science.”

So, both the physical and the meta-physical sciences respond to opposite and distinctive poles in our mental organism; while the fine arts, which hold a maesothetic position between the two, are, in all their provinces, an effort after the realization of that which finds full expression only in that absolute, which is the birth-place of the soul. Thus, the mind, unsatisfied with itself and subjec-

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tive existences, ever struggles after objective forms and embodiment; for “nature,” as Emerson tells us, “will be reported.”

But, besides those faculties and tendencies already named, and which find expression in some form or other, we have to take cognizance of that class which have relation to the imagination and the fancy; and which also find for themselves “a local habitation and a name,” as well as a place in the world of letters. I refer to romance literature.

That this species of composition is a normal and legitimate development of the mind, mankind have endorsed by the fact of every nation’s having given birth to productions of this kind, and by the extreme avidity with which fabulous and romantic narratives have in all times been received. Finding its primeval home in the gorgeous East—amid scenes of vastness and of splendor, where the magnificence of nature’s visible forms, and the voluptuous quiescence of life, invite to lolling repose, giving birth to dreamy fancies; while every balsamic breeze and Sabean odor wafts on its wings reveries of grandeur—it reached its full Eastern perfection in those wonderful phantasies: The Thousand and One Tales.

Of Eastern romance, we may remark, en passant, that it will be found the almost unmixed product of fancy (or phantasy). The tendency of the oriental mind was not sufficiently introspective to elevate them to the dignity of works of imagination; and, besides, everything in nature was symbolical and suggestive, and speech itself was nearly pure metaphor. The East is the home of the language of flowers, and the poetry of mathematics.

Transported to the West, romance assumed a more intellective and also a more emotional cast; losing many of its outer splendors, it clothed itself in a stronger garb, and partook of the active form of Western life. This is the hey-day of the European chivalry and romance epoch, displayed in the genial satire and the glorious humor of its brightest exponent, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra; and the gallant or amatory harp of the Troubadors and the Minnesingers.

The subsequent course of romance literature, down to the present time, is known to every one, and need not here be pursued; as it modified its original form, and extended the boundaries of its province of action—now taking in one field, and again another—jutting out in strange extravagances and outre developments, and then rising to the natural and the true; till now, when its domain embraces infinity and absorbs every subject of human feeling and action, thought and emprise. Carlyle says that romance has not ceased to exist; that, on the other hand, it is now in its full meridian splendor. And verily, we are inclined to believe it—if not in life, yet in literature.

Nothing is more easy or gratuitous than the vituperation, condemnation and contempt that have so often been lavished on novels and novel writing. They are “trash,” “yellow-covered literature,” “wishy-washyism,” [“]namby-pambyism,” &c., &c. The guardian makes it a point to keep his ward as carefully from a novel as from the measles, and would as lief that she would dose herself with rats-bane as devour a romance. Our venerated ancestor (peace to his manes), who, in early manhood, was so annoyed by the flirtations of his gay younger sister, which seemed always to succeed profound and long-continued brooding over the pages of the novels sent her from London, had, one should say, some reason for cautioning us, among his last words of advice, to “Beware of novels.”

Uncle Greybeard, too, imagines that he has completely annihilated the whole tribe when he utters a “Pshaw!” and something about “vapid sentimentality,” and “man-millinerism.” True, O grave Greybeard; those which chiefly filled the shelves of your village library were most deserving of the epithets, and even at the present day many a heated press labors day and night to satiate the public appetite for just such “trash.”

The truth, however, is, that the domain of romance-composition has been so materially extended within the last quarter of a century, the fields of thought and feeling commented upon so altered and the type of popular novels so completely changed, that what could, to a great extent, be very well predicated of novels fifty years ago, is totally false in its sweeping application to our present species. We have now no desire for the extravagances of sentiment and action that, with a few brilliant exceptions, characterized English novels of former times. On the other hand, we are disgusted with such productions, and covet, above all, the natural in thought and

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feeling. What is wanted to constitute a good modern novel, is not a monstrous assemblage of grotesquely illusive pictures of life and nature, interlarded with inconceivable sentiments, unheard-of adventures, and impossible exploits. Not at all. We demand that they be veritable and veracious segments of the great life-drama, displaying Nature and Man as they are, sentiments as they are felt, and deeds as they are done. Novels are judged as Art products, and as little sympathy is felt with the bizarreries that are heaped together, for the gratification of very weak brains, as for the fantastic adornings of a Dutch house, or the architectural proportions of a Chinese pagoda.

We are now-a-days really very little interested in the history of that amiable creature, Miss Angelica Celestina Sugarheart, with whom that equally generous gent, Peter Giraldine Gingerbread, fell in love. The life-views and vicissitudes of this sentimental pair—how Ma was opposed to it, how Peter (poor Peter!) took to melancholy and the sea, and, after innumerable prodigious adventures with pirates on the Gulf of Mexico, returned just in time to shoot a rival, and espouse Angelica Celestina, who afterwards lived, in great connubial felicity, in a charming cottage by the side of a lovely lake. Even Miss Blandish would not declare that this is quite “divine” now-a-days. On the whole, we have come to receive these overwhelming communications with very considerable sang froid. Novels are now, many of them, the productions of men of the highest intellectual and moral worth, and are at present more generally read, and probably exercise a greater influence than any or all other forms of literature together. Then, in the name of truth and common sense, let us throw down the báton, and cry “Halt!” to sneers and sneerers at novels. Rather would we endeavor to investigate the nature and legitimate field of novel writing, and point out the meaning and the mission of such works.

A few words prefatory, however, on the subject of a name.

There is no more unfortunate circumstance than the lack of an appropriate and experienced name for that kind of composition which we are necessitated, in lieu of a better, to affix the appelation, Novels, Romances, &c. They are total misnomers, every one of them. The fact is, that the thing itself has repeatedly changed, while the name has not, and thus thing and name are mutual contradictions. And, indeed, it is very much to be desiderated that Samuel Taylor Coleridge, instead of racking his and our brains with Exemplastics, and other such, had given us a good title for this very important class of works which are, even to the present day, denied Christian baptism. Novel is just quelque chose de nouvelle—something new, novel; and thus is as applicable to one thing as to another. Romance, as the word itself imports,* is confined to the middle ages; and Fiction, though originally a harmless enough word, and, in fact rather expressive, denoting the result of mental picturing—(fingo) imagining—has now come to be symbolical simply of a fib.

“Only this, and nothing more.”

On the other hand, you can scarcely, with strict propriety, call them works of imagination or fancy: for, in so doing, we include, under that term, poetry, oratory, and everything else to some extent. We shall, then, have to be satisfied with the old names—earnestly desiring that a new and more interpretative term may be speedily devised.

The domain of the novel ranges over the entire field of the real and the ideal, and thus touches at every point of man’s consciousness—in the evolution of individual character, and the development of human life and nature, in their actual phases. And in these points, it is co-ordinate and co-extensive, at once, with poetry and the drama. With poetry, in being a veritable poihsiz—an art-creation; and with the drama, in its plan or plot—in the involution of circumstance, character, and passion, and the evolution from the complexity of these life-and-death commingling scenes of grand vital results and important practical lessons. Thus, novels, especially those that are the transcendent productions of the imagination, take hold of everything that is in rapport with the infinite in man. The artist who created them

“Builded better than he knew;” †

for, in displaying the phenomenal, an enticing hint has, at times, been thrown

* The word is French. The language was then called Lingua Romana, and any book written in that tongue received the name of livre Romane (liber Romanus), or simply Romans; that is, Romans book—romance, whence romance.

† Emerson’s Poems—The Problem.

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out, that led us on with winning smiles to the home of the real: one touch of the human harp-chord, the Infinite, has set a-thrilling the old “Eternal Melodies.” For so it is, that everything in life has a relation at once to the me and the not-me; and while the obverse carries the relative, the reverse bears the stamp of the absolute.

Regarding these idealistic creations, a remark or two may, at the present moment, not be inappropriate.

There be persons to whom nothing is comprehensible but what comes through the gross palpabilities of the senses. They can appreciate nothing that comes not in positive cuffs and downright hard blows. Now with these it is no intention of ours to discuss the question as to the comparative value of the real and the ideal—the practice and the theoretic. We have but to say that there are two worlds: there be two sides to everything in this world and out of it. There is the world of which your senses are cognizant—that which your eyes see, and your ears hear, and your hands handle—the physical. We will even become sensationalists enough to admit, that you have a solid frame of integument, muscle, and adipose tissue surrounding you, and a epigastric region somewhere about the middle of said framework; we will accede to your proposition, that the earth you tread on has a solidity and a reality (contingent); and admit that if you apply a loaded pistol to your head, and pull the trigger, it will stand a chance of blowing out what nature meant for your brains. There is no denying your creed so far. But, if you insist that that is all, then we cry “halt,” in heaven’s name! To your doctrine, friend we can’t subscribe Credo! Nay, on that score we are utter skeptikoi—unbelievers. And if ye were not

——“Quanti cherci
Si della mente” *——

so squint-eyed in mind, you could not help knowing that there is another world—the world of your longings and your dreadings and your imaginings—the spiritual. Where roam

“Those thoughts that wander through eternity,”

with fields and blessed isles of its own, and an infinite blue concave stretching all around. As for the predilection for the real and the practical, it might be well to remember that theory ever stands at the base of practice; and the ideal, being the greater, includes the real. And, indeed, Leigh Hunt, in one of his papers, argues that it would be extremely difficult to prove that imaginings have not as real an existence as those to which we are in the habit of applying that rather ambitious title. Besides, if the dictum of our great master-philosopher be true, that

——“We are such stuff

As dreams are made of, and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep,”——

why may not those remembered characters that jut out with a glorious psychal existence, be as veracious to me as any of the shadows in buckram by which I am surrounded. Apply sensuous tests to them. Were you never influenced most materially by a book-character? Were you never stopped—physically arested—by a thought? Were you never “struck” by some purely brain-delineation? Did Sir John Falstaff never sit and swear with you at your drinking bouts; or what do you think of a poor Burns carrying in his pocket a copy of Paradise Lost to fortify his mind and stay himself up with the defiant courage of Milton’s Satan? Aha! my friend, you will have to come to the confession, that:—

“There are more things in Heaven and Earth

Then are dreamt of in your philosophy!”

What a glorious cloud of spiritual and intellectual witnesses have we all around us and taking up their home with us! To whom we refer as precedents in every action—with whom, consciously or otherwise, we advise every course of conduct, and from whom we draw untold consolations and benefits.

We think of a heroic Patience-man—a Prometheus Vinctus—chained to the craggy rock—enduring the gnawings of the vulture, and still exclaiming:

Kreison gar oimai thde latruein petow

H patri funai Zhni piston aggelon.Ӡ

or his parallel Sampson Agonistes; we think of:

“The great Achilles whom we knew,”‡

of Dantean paradises and infernos; of blundering yet sage old Don Quixote;

* Dante’s Inferno, Canto VII. ver. 40—1.

† Æschylus’ Prometheus Vinctus. 996.

‡ Tennyson’s Poems—Ulysses.

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of the hurrying words of Shakespeare’s metropolitan brain; we go on adventures with Tom Jones, or dwell in desert isles with Robinson Crusue; we philosophise with Moses (Vicar of Wakefield) and exclaim “Prodigious!” with Dominie Sampson; we muse with Manfred or we curse with Mephistopheles. And so it is throughout every province of human action—we are never without our compagnons de voyage. They hover around us, or dwell with us, and perhaps there could be no more noble tribute paid to the glory and veritability of such genius-creations.

Such and so vast is the scope of novel-composition taking in the Unseen and the Eternal as well as the Temporal; embracing at once the life that now is, and that which is to come. Their name is Legion—numbered by the million—while thousands of Ann street presses teem with untold quantities more—diurnally. Of every possible species—and of every grade of merit—from a “Pirate’s Revenge” or an “Alamance” (which may be taken as minimum) up to a “Vanity Fair,” or a “Wilhelm Meister” (which approach to the maximum)—a distance that you and I, friend, would rather not travel over. So, to assist us, we shall endeavor to make a few great general divisions, under which all Romance-productions may be included.

It is worthy of note that the terms “Novel” and “Romance,” though often confounded—are, in a general signification, analogous to the philosophico-metaphysical divisions, “Imagination” and “Fancy.” “The fancy,” says Coleridge in his Biographia Literaria, “the fancy combines, the imagination creates.” Now this, though perhaps not a rigidly philosophical distinction, is yet capital as a general definition. Putting them side by side, then, we have Fancy—Romance; Imagination—Novel; that is, the term Romance is indicative of a combination of wonderful deeds and darings; outreisms and bizarreries; while novel (not the name—for that is senseless in such an application—but the thing) carries the idea of an Art-creation; not an accretion of circumstances and particulars from without, but an inly production of the mind in its highest imagining of poetic moods. Of course, it is not intended to be insinuated that they are not found in constant affiliation—as are all the mental tendencies—yet the preponderance of the faculty will run in the direction above indicated. And more particularly is this true in regard to Novels since the rise of our present new and better school of imaginative writers, who have elevated this species of composition to its true dignity—and regarding which school, we have a few words to remark by and by. But, in the mean time to our divisions.

I. The purely Romantic: 1. The Apologue—the didactic; 2. Extravaganzas; 3. Romance Sentimental:

II. The Novel proper: 4. Historico-Descriptive; 5. Novels Analytic—of Men and Manners; 6. Novels Idealistic. Besides which classes, it will be necessary to include Novels—Philosophical—Political, Religious—Eclectic.

The first three divisions, namely, the Apologue, Extravaganza, and Sentimental productions, have relation to the class we call Romances; the last three, and the minor subdivisions, are what we may with propriety name Novels, taking that term as indicating imaginative in opposition to fanciful works. And, whether intentionally or otherwise, we find that we have, with considerable correctness, given them place in the order of their development in actual literature. For it is a fact that tales, having their foundation in the fancy, ever precede the noble flights of imagination. Even as in the individual, the fancy precedes, in relation of time,t he imagination; so in the adolescence of a national literature, we have the grotesque and the arabesque before the lofty idealistic.

The first division, the Apologue, is one of the earliest developments in all literature. For the order of progression seems to be thus:—The madrigal—the primal form—merges into fable or allegory, and this continues until a higher type takes its place. And here again the circumstance to literature finds its analogue in life, for at no time are persons so didactic as in youth, except when a garrulous senility has brought back a second childhood. This fact is abundantly illustrated in European literature. There was first the troubadour and chivalrie period, when all was song. When “believers,” says Tieck, “sang of faith; lovers of love; knights described knightly actions and battles; and loving, believing knights were their chief audience.” But the age of chivalry passed away, the world awoke to the sternness and the reality, the mystery and the majesty of life, and they asked to be taught. And so arose the Fable, the Allegory, the Apologue.

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Of this class of writing, no finer type could be desired than that exquisite Gesta Romanorum, or that exquisite German, Reinecke der Fuchs, Reynard the Fox. This form of writing is, however, by no means a desirable one, and is always indicative of a transition state in literature.

The second division is that to which we have given the name of Extra[v]aganzas. Under which we may include not only those jeux d’esprit—the innumerable “voyages imaginaires” of former times—exemplificed lately in another field, that of astronomy, by Locke’s “Moon Hoax,” and the “Hans Phaall” of Edgar A. Poe, but also the bizarreries of Mrs. Radcliffe, Kotzebue, and numerous other German and French writers—those terifico-ghostly, blood-and-thunder books, as well as the stories of exploit and adventure, e. g., Captain Marryatt’s tales; and also productions which owe their effect to the illustration of practical joke, such as “Charles O’Malley” and “Harry Lorrequer,” “Valentine Vox” and “Stanley Thorn.” As a political extravanga, the “Utopia” of Sir Thomas More is undoubtedly the most capital thing extant.

Of the third division, we need fortunately say but little, as they are so perfectly familiar to every one, as to require no illustration. They are usually well seasoned with “molasses,” and generally conclude with the moral—“And they lived happily all the rest of their days.” They are still the bane of our literature, and are the chaff among which are found a few golden-grained products of true genius.

There is, however, another class of sentimental works, or rather (for that term is abused in its present application) works of sentiment, or (if the term be endurable) æsthetical productions, which have their foundation in heart-feelings, and make their thesis the emotional. These are some of the quiet home books of Grace Aguilar, Mrs. Kirkland, Elizabeth Oakes Smith, and (to be brief) Ike Marvel, as seen in his “Dream-life” and “Reveries of a Bachelor;” while of the sentimental, in its boldest and most analytical point of view, Rousseau and Bernardine de St. Pierre are undoubtedly to be taken as the most excellent representatives.

Division four brings us to the most prolific and popular type of novels—the Historico-Descriptive. Under this head there is such a multiplicity of writers, that the enumeration of any other than typal representatives is out of the question.

At the head of this class, in both its departments, stands, without doubt, Sir Walter Scott. He has harried not only every nook and cranny of Scottish life and manners, but has rummaged almost every salient point of history for material. If Scott, and Professor Wilson, and Mrs. Ferrier be the illustrators of Scotland and the Scotch, in their great national peculiaries, assuredly so may Mrs. Hall be considered of Ireland and the Irish, in the home-life of that people, while Charles Lever displays its more farcical phases. The English “Upper Ten” find at once a satirist and an exponent in Hook and Thackeray, while “John Bull” never had a more jolly appreciator, or more faithful chronicler, than Dickens; the salient and spirited soul of Parisian life is not so salient as to elude the grasp of a Balzac, nor so spirited as not to be seized by a Paul de Kock; German life has its thousand expositors; Italy its faithful Manzoni, and its eloquent Madame de Staël; while Northern Europe is familiar to us as household scenes through the felicitous sketches of Mrs. Bremer; and the East, in all its grandeur and gorgeousness, is ours through the pages of Anastasius and Eöthen.

America has no national novel, for the very good reason that there is no such thing as American society. Particular portions, indeed, and particular sides thereof have found interpreters. Western and Indian life has a Cooper; Southern, a Kennedy; and New England, a Hawthorne and a Sedgwick; but her “idea” has never yet been embodied—her pulse, the state of it, has never yet been recorded; for the reason that arterial circulation has hardly yet commenced; her “mission” has not quite got itself evolved; and the American Novel, like her “Coming Man,” is only a-“coming.”

In a far higher than a historico-descriptive sense are Dickens and Thackeray, Rousseau and Bernardin de St. Pierre, Hawthorne and Mrs. Stowe, Richter and Goëthe; novelists, as recorders, not only of phases of society and national characteristics, merely, but of (5) men and manners; as students of elemental human nature; and observers and reporters of this great life-drama. This it is that brings them into rapport with Shakespeare and the heart of universal life;

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this is their crown of glory—every one of them; and that which will not allow them to perish, like the ephemeral productions of romance, but give them a lasting interest: an interest co-extensive with that human nature which they depict, and elevate them to the dignity of classics.

Closely allied with the former division are those works that have for their object a purely idealistic aim—which are not so much analyses of human nature as art-products—with a tendency purely koihtioz—creative; having the subjective as their basis, and, as thesis, the development of a subjective state in its connection with objective realities. These have their value in the involution of the mystic—mnstikoz—in the sense of the Schlegels. In regard to which productions, says Poe: “With each note of the lyre is heard a ghostly, and not always distinct, but an august and soul-exalting echo. In every glimpse of beauty presented, we catch, through long and wild vistas, dim and bewildering visions of a far more etherial beauty beyond. A Naiad voice addresses us from below. The notes of the air of the song tremble with the according tones of the accompaniment.”

This form is to be found in full perfection in the exquisite imaging of Jean Paul Richeter, in the etherial “Undine” of De la Motte Fouqué—analogous, in a different form, to that magnificent tragic embodiment of Æschylus, “Promethus Vinctus,” or the “Comus” of Milton, or Coleridge’s “Christabel,” or Shelley’s “Alastor.” Poe, too, has given us some curious specimens of ideal fantasying; and, like that of Paganini, it is fantasying on one string. No one could better push to its utmost a hoping or a dreading, or a vague longing, or a tendency of the mind or of the emotions, or an idiosyncrasy of character. Witness his “Gold Bug,” or “Legeia,” or the “Fall of the House of Usher.”

The characteristic and the glory of the new school of novelists is, without doubt, its vigor and earnest veracity. As we before observed, a quarter of a century has had the effect of completely revolutionizing this department of literature. By some this happy movement is referred to the influence of one writer, and by others to another. Some say Godwin’s “Caleb Williams” led the way; others make Fielding its great prototype; and so on. But the true secret of the new impulse is with greater probability to be sought for in the more profoundly earnest spirit of the age. We note, amid the crudities and absurdities of this era, the primal movement towards a radically stronger and nobler theorem of life and literature in all their departments—of a deeper theosophy and a more transcendent philosophy. The world’s “Idea” now is the true. This idea it is that is leading us back to the search after a more satisfactory solution of all the problems that affect human existence and its concerns; that makes physical science the offspring of the nineteenth century; that has turned criticism upside down; that has given us an Emerson and a Carlyle—a Schiller and a Goëthe; and that has swept away the “old drowsy shop” of Aristotelian logic and ontology, and erected—or, at least, laid the foundation—of that splendid fabric, of which some of the master-builders are Sir William Hamilton, and Kant, and Fichte and Schelling, and the Schlegels, and Novalis, and Jean Paul Richter. And this idea has at last taken possession of the field of imaginative writing—of novels; and is leading us back to the ultimate principles of the art, which are truth itself, to the investigation of the true, with reference to society and the legitimate field of the ideals. It is giving us, instead of the puling sentimentality of those eternal love-developments, true home-sentiments and honest heart-feelings; instead of solemn pedantry, true knowledge—all understood and clearly elaborated; instead of a conglomeration of fantastic bizarreries, fit only to bamboozle one, and cause him to wonder where he is straying, presenting us with high ideals of life, and pointing but to us the heroism of doing and daring. We will not take hyperism—we demand honesty. And hence our love for Bernardin de St. Pierre, and Mme. de Staël, and Manzoni, and De Foe, and Goldsmith, and Dickens, and Thackeray, and Kingsley, and Hawthorne, and Cooper, and Mrs. Stowe. Dickens, and Thackeray, and Kingsley, and Goldsmith, are universally satisfactory, just because they are faithful to life throughout its various phases; De Foe and Cooper and Manzoni we glory in on account of their minutiæ and likeness of detail—in the forest or on the sea they never fail us; Tieck and Hawthorne and Simms are artistic to a fault; while with Miss Bremer and Hans Andersen, we are delighted on account of the quietude and

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unwarped simplicity of their depiction of still life.

So much for the meaning of novels. Their mission, we think, is palpable enough. We spoke, in the introduction, of every desire and proclivity of the mind being the prediction of its satisfaction in literature. Novels (we think it will, by this time, be understood what class we mean) are the filling up and the satisfying of that in the soul which otherwise would be blank and vacant.

And peculiarly are they the product of this nineteenth era when there is such a fecundity and such an overflowing of mental and psychal life. They are one of the “features” of our age. We know not what we should do without them. And, indeed, there is a class of writers who, if they did not develop in this way, would find no other mode of utterance whatever. How could Kingsley have written except through “Alton Locke” and “Yeast?” What vehicle could Dickens have found for the communication of just his class of ideas but that of “Nicholas Nickleby,” of “David Copperfield,” or of “Hard Times?” How could Thackeray have given us his pictures of society, but through the camera obscura of “Vanity Fair” and “Pendennis,” and “The Newcomers?”

But still they (novels) are not the whole of literature. Assuredly not! no more than sauce piquante makes a dinner, or the hours we spend in jocularity and abandon a life. They are didactic; but it is philosophy wearing a smiling face, and holding out a winning invitation. They are the Utile clothed in the garb of the Dulce. And in this dulcet manner, they touch human consciousness at every possible point. They have already absorbed every field of interest. As pictures of life, and as developments of the passions, they have almost entirely superseded the drama; while every subject of interest, every principle of science, of art, of politics, of religion, finds a graceful appreciater and interpreter through the popular novel.

So that, do you wish to instruct, to convince, to please? Write a novel! Have you a system of religion or politics or manners or social life to inculcate? Write a novel! Would you have the “world” split its sides with laughter, or set all the damsels in the land a-breaking their hearts? Write a novel! Would you lay bare the secret workings of your own heart, or have you a friend to whom you would render that office? Write a novel! Have you “fallen out”—got into a consq[u]abulation with your wife (as an English baronet, a famous novelist, did), and are you fain to give her a public castigation (as the English baronet desire)? Write a novel! (The English baronet did so.) Or, on the other hand, should any wife feel like Caudleising and retaliating on her husband? Again we say, write a novel! (By the way, the baronet-novelist’s lady did so, also.) Have you any tit-bits of wit or humor—any morceaux of fun or frolic—any “insight” into art or æsthetics? Why, write a novel! Do you wish to create a sensation? Write a novel! And, lastly, not least, but loftiest, would you make (magnum et venerabile nomen!)—would you make money? Then, in Pluto’s and Mammon’s name! write a novel!

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