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interesting facts concerning the philosophy of mind, which we thus study not in an abstract and introspective method, but in a manner certain and experimental. It retrieves from oblivion a number of individuals, whose now obsolete works are perhaps in detail unworthy of public attention, but which promoted and diffused, in their own day, light and pleasure, and form as it were landmarks which; estify the course and progress of genius. By contemplating also not only what has been done, but the mode in which it has been achieved, a method may perhaps be discovered of proceeding still farther, of avoiding the errors into which our predecessors have fallen, and of following the paths in which they have met success. Retrospective works of this nature, therefore, combine utility, justice, and pleasure ; and accordingly, in different branches of philosophy and literature, various histories of their progress and fortunes have appeared.
I have attempted in the following work to afford such a delineation as is now alluded to, of the origin and progress of fiction, of the various forms which it has successively assumed, and the different authors by whom the prose works in this department of literature have been most successfully cultivated and promoted. I say prose works, since such alone are the proper objects of this undertaking. It was objected to a former edition, that I had commenced the History of Fiction only in the decline of literature, and had neglected the most sublime and lofty efforts of mythology and poetry. But it never was my intention to consider fiction as connected with these topics, (an enquiry which, if properly conducted, would form a work of greater extent than the whole of the present volumes, and which well deserves a peculiar treatise,) but merely to consider the different fictions in prose, which have been given to the world under the name of romance or novel. That I have begun late, arises from the circumstance, that the works of which I have undertaken a description were late in making their appearance; and I am the more strongly induced to direct my enquiries to this subject, as I am not aware that any writer has hitherto presented a full and continued view of it, though detached parts have been separately treated with much learning and ingenuity.
Huet, who was the first that investigated this matter, has written an essay on the Origin of Romances. That part of his work which relates to the Greek romances, though very succinct, is sufficiently clear, and stored with sound criti. cism, But having brought down the account of fiction to the later Greeks, and just entered on those composed by the western nations, which have now the name of Romances almost appropriated to them, “ he puts the change on his readers,” as Warburton has remarked, (Notes to Love's Labour's Lost,) "and instead of giving us an account of the Tales of Chivalry, one of the most curious and interesting parts of the subject of which he promised to treat, he contents himself with an account of the poems of the Provençal writers, called likewise romances ; and so, under the equivoque of a common term, he drops his proper subject, and entertains us with another which had no relation to it except in the name."
Subsequent to the publication of this treatise by Huet, several works were projected in France, with the design
of exhibiting a general view of fictitious composition. The first was the Bibliothèque des Romans, by the Abbé Lenglet Dufresnoy, in two volumes, published in 1735, under the name of Gordon de Percel. It is a mere catalogue, however, and wants accuracy, the only quality which can render a catalogue valuable.
In 1775, a work, also entitled Bibliothèque des Romans, was commenced on a much more extensive plan, and was intended to comprise an analysis of the chief works of fiction from the earliest times. The design was conceived and traced by the Marquis de Paulmy, whose extensive library supplied the contributors with the materials from which their abstracts were drawn. The conductor was M. de Bastide, one of the feeble imitators of the younger Crebillon. He supplied, however, few articles, but enjoyed as co-operators, the Chevalier de Mayer, and M. de Cardonne; as also the Comte de Tressan, whose contributions have been likewise published in the collection of his own works, under the title Corps d'Extraits.
In the Bibliothèque des Romans, prose works of fiction are divided into classes, and a summary of one romance from each order is exhibited in turn. This compilation was published periodically till the year 1787, and four volumes were annually given to the world.
Next to the enormous length, and the frequent selection of worthless materials, the principal objection to the work is the arrangement adopted by the editors. Thus, a romance of chivalry intervenes between two Greek romances, or is presented alternately with a French heroic romance, or modern novel. Hence the reader is not furnished with a view of the progress of Fiction in continuity; he cannot trace the imitations of successive fablers, nor the way in which fiction has been modified by the manners of an age.
There is besides little or no criticism of the novels or romances which are analyzed, and the whole work seems to have been written under the eye of the sultan who said he would cut off the head of the first man who made a reflection. But even the utility of the abstracts, which should have been the principal object of the work, is in a great measure lost, as it appears to have been the intention of the editors rather to present an entertaining story, somewhat resembling that of the original, than a faithful analysis. Characters and sentiments are thus exhibited, incongruous with ancient romance, and abhorrent from the opinions of the era whose manners it reflects. It is only as presenting a true and lively picture of the age, that romance has claims on the attention of the antiquarian or philosopher; and if its genuine remains be adulterated with a mixture of sentiments and manners of modern growth, the composition is heterogeneous and uninstructive. (Rose's “Amadis de Gaul.")
Abstracts of romances omitted in the Bibliothèque des Romans have been published in Mélanges tirées d'une Grande Bibliothèque, which is a selection from the scarce manuscripts and publications contained in the library of the Marquis de Paulmy. The work has also been continued in the Nouvelle Bibliothèque des Romans, which comprises abridgments of the most recent productions of the French, English, and German novelists.
In this country there has been no attempt towards a general History of Fiction. Dr. Percy, Warton, and others, have written, as is well known, with much learning and ingenuity, on that branch of the subject which relates to the origin of Romantic Fiction—the marvellous decorations of chivalry. . This enquiry, however, comprehends but a small part of the subject, and even here research has oftener been directed to the establishment of a theory, than to the investigation of truth.
In the following work I shall try to present a faithful analysis of those early and scarce productions which form, as it were, the landmarks of Fiction. Select passages will occasionally be added, and I shall endeavour by criticisms to give such a sketch as may enable the reader to form some idea of the nature and merit of the works themselves, and of the transmission of fable from one age and country to another.
EDINBURGH, 10th Feb., 1816.
HISTORY OF FICTION.
ORIGIN OF FICTITIOUS NARRATIVE. - EARLIEST WRITERS
OF GREEK ROMANCE.-HELIODORUS, - ACHILLES TATIUS. -LONGUS. CHARITON. -JOANNES DAMASCENUS. - EUSTATHIUS.-REMARKS ON THIS SPECIES OF COMPOSITION.
THE 'HE nature and utility of fiction having been pointed
out, and the design of the work explained in the introductory remarks, it now remains to prosecute what forms the proper object of this undertaking,-the origin and progress of prose works of fiction, with the analysis and criticism of the most celebrated which have been successively presented to the world.
We have already seen that fiction has in all ages formed the delight of the rudest and the most polished nations. It was late, however, and after the decline of its nobler literature, that fictions in prose came to be cultivated as a species of composition in Greece. In early times, the mere art of writing was too difficult and dignified to be employed in prose,
and even the laws of the principal legislators were then promulgated in verse. In the better ages of Greece, all who felt the mens divinior, and of whose studies the embellishments of fiction were the objects, naturally wrote in verse, and men of genius would have disdained to occupy themselves with a simple domestic tale in prose. This mode of composition was reserved for a later period, when the ranks of poetry had been filled with great names, and the very abundance of great models had produced satiety. Poetical productions too, in order to be relished, require to