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VII.

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The History of Ireland. By JOHN O'DRISCOL

Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable Richard Brinsley
Sheridan. By THOMAS MOORE

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415

V.

NOVELS, TALES, AND PROSE WORKS OF

FICTION.

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As I perceive I have, in some of the following papers, made a sort of apology for seeking to direct the attention of my readers to things so insignificant as Novels, it may be worth while to inform the present generation that, in my youth, writings of this sort were rated very low with us scarcely allowed indeed to pass as part of a nation's permanent literature-and generally deemed altogether unworthy of any grave critical notice. Nor, in truth-in spite of Cervantes and Le Sage-and Marivaux, Rousseau, and Voltaire abroad-and even our own Richardson and Fielding at home would it have been easy to controvert that opinion, in our England, at the time: For certainly a greater mass of trash and rubbish never disgraced the press of any country, than the ordinary Novels that filled and supported our circulating libraries, down nearly to the time of Miss Edgeworth's first appearance. There had been, the Vicar of Wakefield, to be sure, before; and Miss Burney's Evelina and Cecilia—and Mackenzie's Man of Feeling, and some bolder and more varied fictions of the Misses Lee. But the staple of our Novel market was, beyond imagination, despicable; and had consequently sunk and degraded the whole department of literature, of which it had usurped the name.

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All this, however, has since been signally, and happily, changed; and that rabble rout of abominations driven from our confines for ever. The Novels of Sir Walter Scott are, beyond all question, the most remarkable productions of the present age; and have made a sensation, and produced an effect, all over Europe, to which nothing parallel can be mentioned since the days of Rousseau and Voltaire; while, in our own country, they have attained a place, inferior only to that which must be filled for ever by the unapproachable glory of Shakespeare. With the help, no doubt, of their political revolutions, they have produced, in France, Victor Hugo, Balsac, Paul de Cocq, &c. the promessi sposi in Italy-and Cooper, at least, in America. - In England, also, they have had imitators enough; in the persons of Mr. James, Mr. Lover, and others. But the works most akin to them in excellence have rather, I think, been related as collaterals than as descendants. Miss Edgeworth, indeed, stands more in the line of their ancestry; and I take Miss Austen and Sir E. L. Bulwer to be as intrinsically original; as well as the great German writers, Goethe, Tiek, Jean Paul, Richter, &c. Among them, however, the honour of this branch of literature has at any rate been splendidly redeemed; and now bids fair to maintain its place, at the head of all that is graceful and instructive in the productions of modern genius.

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