As we saw in Chapter 4, during the 1740s Richardson and Fielding advanced both the art and the standing of prose fiction, each initiating a new line of novelistic development. Both authors would go on to publish one further novel in the early 1750s, Fielding with Amelia (1751) and Richardson with Sir Charles Grandison (1753–54). Right up to the end of the century, both authors would also continue to be honoured as the progenitors of modern prose fiction. But what about other novelists at this time, who found themselves writing in the wake of Richardson and Fielding? The fate of the novel in the second half of the eighteenth century has proved a perennial thorn in the side of literary histories of the early novel, particularly those that are concerned with tracing the ‘origins’ of the genre. Typically, the development of the novel post-Fielding receives only limited attention in such histories — a trend that was inaugurated by Ian Watt’s influential account, which concludes with just a brief, inconclusive discussion of Laurence Sterne. Implicit in this approach to the fiction of the second half of the century is the idea that, after Fielding, the future of the novel was essentially secured — that authors now knew precisely how to write a novel (or, like Sterne, how to parody the novel genre), and that a market of novel-readers was now firmly established.
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- Renewing the Novel: Novelty, Originality and New Directions
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