English realistic novel, Henry Fielding, The Sentimentalists

The development of the english realistic novel.
The foundations of early bourgeois realism were laid by Daniel Defoe and Jonathan Swift but their novels, though of a new type and with a new hero, were based on imaginary voyages and adventures supposed to take place far from England. Gradually the readers' tastes changed. They wanted to find more and more of their own life reflected in literature, that is to say, the everyday life of a bourgeois family with its joys and sorrows. These demands were satisfied when the great novels of Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, and Tobias Smollett appeared one after another. They marked a new stage in the development of the art of writing. The greatest merit of these novelists lies in their deep sympathy for the common man, the man in the street, who had become the central figure of the new bourgeois world. The common man is shown in his actual surroundings, which makes him so convincing, believable and true to life.

Henry Fielding. His life and work.
Henry Fielding, the greatest representative of bourgeois realism in the 18th century, was a descendant of an ancient, aristocratic family. He studied at the old-established boys' school of Eton.
At the age of twenty he started writing for the stage, and his first play "Love in Several Masques" was a great success with the public. The same year he entered the philological faculty of the University at Leyden, but in less than two years he had to drop his studies because he was unable to pay his fees.
From 1728 till 1738, twenty-five plays were written by Fielding. In his best comedies: "A Judge Caught in His Own Trap"(173O), "Don Quixote in England" (1734), and “'Pasquin" (1736). He mercilessly exposed the English court of law, the parliamentary system, the corruption of state officials. As a result of the popular success of Fielding's comedies, strict censorship was introduced, which put an end to Fielding's career as a dramatist. He was obliged to think how to earn his living. He tried his pen as a novelist; besides, at the age of thirty he became a student of a University law faculty. On graduating, he became a barrister and in 1748 accepted the post of magistrate. This work enlarged his experience, helped him to acquire a better understanding of human nature and greatly increased his hatred of social injustice. Being unable to do away with social evils, he exposed them in his books. In the period from 1742 to 1752 Fielding wrote his best novels: "Joseph Andrews" (1742) "The Life of Mr. Jonathan Wild the Great" (1743), "The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling” (1749), "Amelia" (1752). All these novels, excellent as they were, didn't make him rich: only his publishers prospered Fielding continued to act as a judge till the year 1754, when he had to leave England for Portugal to restore his health, which had begun to fail. But the warm climate of the country did not help him, he died in Lisbon in October, 1754 and was buried there. Fielding possessed qualities rarely found together: a rich imaginations great critical power, a keen knowledge of the human heart. He used to say that the three essential qualities in a novelist are genius, learning and experience of human nature. The qualities of candour and sincerity are especially apparent in Fielding's works. His characters are living beings of flesh and blood, a combination of contradictions of good and bad He appreciates such virtues as courage, frankness and generosity. The most detestable vices for him are selfishness and hypocrisy He can forgive frivolity and light-mindedness, but he has no pity for actions which arise from calculating or conventional motives. All this found the expression in Fielding's masterpiece "Tom Jones".
The novel consists of 18 books, each beginning with an introductory chapter where the author discourses with the reader, m a free and easy manner, on certain-moral and psychological themes. The plot of the novel is very complicated, its construction is carefully worked out every detail is significant. Depicting England of the 18th century, Fielding touches upon all spheres of life. We are shown the courts of law, the prison, the church, the homes of people of all classes, inns and highways, even the theatre. Many people of different social ranks and professions are introduced. The charm of the book lies in the depiction of Tom's character. He is human in the everyday sense of the word, neither idealized nor ridiculed and at the same time full-blooded. His open, generous and passionate nature leads him into a lone series of adventures. Tom acts on impulse, sometimes well and sometimes ill, but never from interested motives. He is light- minded and naive, but kind, honest and unselfish, always ready to help anyone who needs his assistance. Heaps of misfortunes happen to him, he makes fault after fault, because he falls a victim of prejudice. His intentions are noble and good, he is simple-hearted, and it is often coupled with bad luck, he is accused of vices he is not guilty of.

The Sentimentalists.
The optimism felt in literature during the first half of the 18th century' gave way to a certain depression as years went by. Towards the middle of the century a new trend, that of Sentimentalism, appeared. The first representative of the sentimental school in English literature was Samuel Richardson. His novels "Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded" (1740), "Clarissa" (1748), and "The History of Sir Charles Grandison" (1754) are works in which the inner world of the characters is shown. Richardson glorifies middle-class virtues as opposed to the immorality of the aristocracy. He makes his readers sympathize with his heroes. These novels were very much admired in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were well-known in Russia Much in the works of the novelists of the time does not appeal to readers today; but the novels of these writers are full of humour and truthful descriptions of men and things, and will always be read
Sentimentalists were influenced by the French writer Rousseau, they thought that civilization was harmful to humanity. They believed that man should live close to nature and be free from the corrupting influence of town life. In Oliver Goldsmith's novel "The Vicar of Wakefield" (1766) and Laurence Sterne's "Sentimental Journey", as well as in other novels of the time, the corruption of town life is contrasted to the happy patriarchal life in the country. Oliver Goldsmith was also a poet His famous poem "The Deserted Village" shows England at the time of the expropriation of the peasants.

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