Reference > Cambridge History > The Period of the French Revolution > The Growth of the Later Novel > Charlotte Smith; Regina Maria Roche; Eaton Stannard Barrett
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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

XIII. The Growth of the Later Novel.

§ 14. Charlotte Smith; Regina Maria Roche; Eaton Stannard Barrett.


Many people know that Jane Austen, in that spirited defence of the novelist’s house which appears in Northanger Abbey, showed her grace as well as her wit by a special commendation of Belinda; but, even those who have forgotten this are likely to remember that the greater art of the same book turns upon satire of a certain department of novel-writing itself to which Miss Edgeworth did not contribute. To this department—the terror novel, novel of mystery, novel of suspense, or whatever title it may most willingly bear—we must now come. With the revolutionary group, 8  it practically divides the space usually allotted to the novel itself for the last decade of the eighteenth, and the first of the nineteenth, century; though there was an immense production in other varieties. Its own courts or precincts were populous, but with a folk, in general, astonishingly feeble. If such a man, or even such a boy, as Shelley could perpetrate such utter rubbish as Zastrozzi and St. Irvyne, the gutter-scribbler was not likely to do much better. And, as a matter of fact, all those who have made exploration of the kind will probably agree that, except to the pure student, there is hardly a more unprofitable, as well as undelightful, department of literature than that of the books which harrowed and fascinated Catherine Morland and Isabella Thorpe and the “sweet girl” who supplied them with lists of new performances piping hot and thrillingly horrid. 9    26
  It is, however, not without justice that three writers—two of the first flight of this species, and one of the second—have been able to obtain a sort of exemption—if though of a rather curious and precarious character—from the deserved oblivion which has fallen on their companions. These are Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Gregory Lewis and Charles Robert Maturin.   27

Note 8. This group spread its ripples very widely, and affected some of the work of Charlotte Smith, whose best known book, however, The Old Manor House, despite its date (1793), is “terrorist” in neither sense. Nor is the once, and long enormously, popular Children of the Abbey of Regina Maria Roche (1796). [ back ]
Note 9. It is only of late years that justice has been done to another novel-satire on these absurd novels, The Heroine of Eaton Stannard Barrett (1813). [ back ]

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  Tales for the Young Clara Reeve  
 
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