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Sunday, July 13, 2003
The history of the English novel

Channel Four is running a series on the history of the English novel. (But, depending how far it goes, shouldn't that be 'The novel in English', a subtle but important distinction?) The first episode, starting last night, got off to a reasonable start. 'Robinson Crusoe' (Defoe, 1719 - but what about 'Moll Flanders'?), 'Pamela' and 'Clarissa' (Samuel Richardson), and 'Tom Jones' (Henry Fielding) were obvious initial choices.

The programme concluded with 'Northanger Abbey' (Jane Austen) so, unless I fell asleep, the series somehow mentioned the Gothic generally but not specifically, en passant, and made some very significant omissions.

'Evelina' (Fanny Burney) is an interesting precursor to Jane Austen. 'Tristram Shandy' (Lawrence Sterne) should not be ignored, either.

And then, of course, there's 'Don Quixote' (Cervantes, 1605). This work predated them all by more than one hundred years and it would be remarkable if it had had no influence on the English novel.

Still, if you've nothing better to do on a Saturday night, you could still catch up with your literary education, Mrs T.

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