By the second half of the eighteenth century, the novel had established itself as one of the most important media for examining contemporary social developments and cultural concerns. In this chapter, we move back from the cusp of Revolution to consider the visions of Britain that were offered in two novels published during the 1770s: Tobias Smollett’s Humphry Clinker (1771) and Frances Burney’s Evelina (1778). Working both the comic and the sentimental seams of the genre’s development, these novels constituted perhaps the most successful attempts that had thus far been made to synthesize the panoramic social vision of Fielding with a Richardsonian attendance to the minutiae of personal feeling and individual situation. Following the lead of scholars such as John Brewer and Roy Porter, who have tracked the transformation of British culture between the English Restoration and the French Revolution, we focus here particularly upon the novels’ portrayal of a leisure culture of pleasure gardens, assembly rooms, spa towns and sociable pastimes — all part of a new ‘entertainment industry’ that included the novel itself.1 Through the observations of their central characters, Smollett and Burney’s novels recreate in vivid detail the contemporary experience of this commercialized culture of pleasure and politeness.
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- Narrating the Nation: Leisure, Luxury and Politeness
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