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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.

Page 1

I.   The Beginnings of Fiction

1. Arguments and Experiments

  PROSE fiction, by the outbreak of the American Revolution one of the most popular forms of literature in Europe, had as yet a small and insecure reputation in the British colonies which subsequently became the United States. Not only were there still no native novels, but the great English masters of the art had little vogue. Richardson’s Pamela, indeed, a book read everywhere as much for its piety as for its power to entertain, had been printed in 1744 at Philadelphia by that shrewd judge of public taste and private profits, Benjamin Franklin, and there were editions the same year at New York and Boston. But Richardson’s later novels, like Fielding’s Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones, did not appear for more than forty years, when all of them were brought out in abridged editions in 1786. Even Robinson Crusoe had to wait nearly fifty years for an American printer, while Rasselas and The Vicar of Wakefield only tardily crossed the Atlantic. English editions, of course, had a moderate circulation, but it could not have been great or a keener rivalry would have been awakened in such towns as Boston


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