Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Notes On The History Of The Novel

The greatest novelist is Balzac. Not the most perfect, not the most artistic, but the greatest.  He realised there was nothing- from Swedenborgian speculation about angels to an inventory of the furnishings of a bourgeois drawing room- that you couldn't put into a novel.  No-one before or since has crammed so much of human experience into the pages of any set of books. 

British and American 19th century novelists were hobbled by Victorian prudery and piety.  Dickens must be the most limited- the most provincial-  of truly great writers.  Towards the end of the period Stevenson confessed to keeping women out of his books because he would rather avoid sex than lie about it. 

In the late 19th century the drapes came off - and it became possible for English novelists to write as frankly about sex and religion as the French had been doing all along.  H.G. Wells - with his enormous range of interests- is the most Balzacian writer of the period. The quarter century between 1890 and 1914-  and not the High Victorian period- is the golden age of the English novel.
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