Updated July 4, 2022
Romantic Age Novelists and their Novels are characterized by escapist urge off realism, imagination and glorification of nature. Austen, Edgeworth & Scott were the leading face of the fictional prose work. And, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Talisman, The absentee were popular novels of the time.
The scientific discoveries and inventions were plundering the faith of people on God and religion. And, the result appeared spreading doubts & despair in the mind of the common people. To, the literary community it was opportune to do something to restore old beliefs and values.
Harsh societal realities of the time also demanded an escapism heal for the people. Circumstances clubbed together gave rise to a soothing, sublime literature viz. Romantic age literature, of which Novel was a component. A glance through the major novelists of Romantic Age and their works can give you a fair idea as to what they stood for.
The Major Romantic Age Novelists
Austen, Edgeworth, Walter Scott, Anisworth, George James are some major faces of Novelists in Romantic Age. Please read on about them for correct appreciation of their Fiction works.
Jane Austen (1775-1817)
The legendary Jane Austen wrote six novels in about 27 years of her literary career. Her main works are “Sense and Sensibility”, “Pride and Prejudice”, “Mansfield Park”, “Northanger Abbey”, “Emma” and “Persuasion”. As an artist she took particular care of plot, dialogue, humour and character in writing her novels.
Austen has often been called a pure novelist because of these traits. All her novels are modeled on one particular pattern. Hence, there is little difference in her art in all the novels that she wrote.
“Sense and Sensibility” is Jane’s first novel. Essentially, It is satirical in tone and she ridicules the sentimentalists in a subdued ironical tone. She also ridicules the selfishness and worldly wisdom in this novel. Her Style is forcefully ironical.
Further, “Pride and Prejudice” is considered to be the finest novel of Jane Austen. It has an incomparable freshness and sharpness of outline. The novel excels in character delineation and the use of irony. The story of the novel revolves around the theme of love and marriage.
“Northanger Abbey” by Jane is a bit different from her other novels but the use of satire is praise-worthy. Similarly, “Mansfield Park” has a new gravity and it represents Jane Austen’s reaction to the wave of Evangelism. To add in the line, “Emma” is an important development in Austen’s making as a novelist. And, “Persuasion” is mild in satire and ridicule.
Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849)
Maria Edgeworth is a vital link between the 18th century and 19th century novels of manners. She became famous as a regional writer. She specialised in telling Irish tales. Her first important novel was “Castle Rackrent”. It traces the Account of a family through several generations. It was followed by “Belinda”, “Lenora”, “The Absentee”, “Osmond” etc. She laid emphasis on simplicity and morality.
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)
Walter Scott is another big name among the Romantic novelists. He is known as the Father of Historical novel. He wrote a number of novels during his life time. his contribution to the novel is very great indeed. To the historical novel, he brought a knowledge that was not pedantically exact, but manageable, wide, and bountiful. He added freshness in his works, as well as his broad and sensible handling of character and incident.
The main works of Scott are “Ivanhoe”, “Talisman”, “The Heart of Midlothian” and “The Old Morality”. In “Ivanhoe”, we have a brilliant picture of the medieval life at the time when Norman Conquerors (11th century) were beginning to become a nation.
“Talisman” also treats the same period i.e. the 20th century. “The Heart of Midlothian” tells of an event about 80-years prior to Scott’s writing. “The Old Morality” is more than a novel. It is a historical document, by far, the first of his representation of a past era, its manners, ideas and events. It is simply a masterpiece.
Scott is chiefly remembered as a historical novelist. “The Study of Adventures”, “The Realistic Sketch of manners”, and “The Saner Elements of the Gothic Romance” have placed him as a great historical novelist.
All three are the major novelists of the early Romantic age who highly grabbed the the readers’ attention. However, some minor but important novelists in the Romantic Age were also there. They tried their hands in fiction writing but none of them proved consistent and artistic at the same time.
Lesser Face to Romantic Age Novelists
Anisworth and George James are are other prominent faces apart from Major three of Romantic Era Fiction.
William Harrison Ainsworth (1805- 1882)
W.H. Ainsworth produced nearly 40 historical novels. His great success was scored with “Rookwood” (1834) and “The Tower of London” (1840). A few of the many others were “Jack Shepherd” (1839), Old St Paul’s (1841), Windsor castle (1843), The Star Chamber (1854).
Characterization by Anis is poor and the style is unpolished, but when he is in the right vein he can give the readers a vigorous narrative as he showed it in the “Rookwood”.
George P.R. James (1801-60)
“Richelieu- A Tale of France” (1829) is considered to be his best novel. Others notable work of the G.P.R James include Darnley or the Field of the Cloth of Gold (1830), De l’ Orme (1830), The Gipsey (1835), and Lord Montagu’s Page (1858). His style is ostentatious and monotonous and his dialogue is stilted and formal.
There were also many other novelists, among them were- Thomas Love Peacock who wrote three novels but they failed to impress the readers. Then we have Mary Godwin Shelley who wrote “Frankenstein” also known as “The Modern Prometheus”. This tale is thrilling and the horror is blood curdling.
Frankenstein cast significant influence on the heart and the mind of the readers and paved the way for scientific fiction in the coming years. Apart from these novelists, there were some other minor novelists but they failed to catch the imagination of the readers.
Romantic Age Novelists & Works in Conclusion
Romantic Age was a well distinguished era and hence its Novelists and Novels. In attaining a different identity of course, the societal conditions were in the hindsight. De-facto, the 19th century was an era of great political, social, economic and religious activities.
Politically, it was a period of transition from aristocratic rule to democracy. And, socially, it was an era of unrest because of the impact of the Industrial Revolution. The age was also witnessing the growing gulf between the poor and the rich. The scientific discoveries and inventions shook the faith of people on God and religion. And, the waves caused a sense of doubt and despair in the mind of the common people. These circumstances were appropriate for the growth of Romantic novelists.
The Romantic Age in English literature which started in the last decade of the 18th century was the immediate outcome of the impact of the French Revolution (1789). It was essentially an age of poetry but the temperament of time was also suitable for the growth of the novels.
The novelists of this Romantic age exhibited same tendencies in their words which were evident in the poetry of the age. These novelists were great story tellers. They portrayed the realistic social life as well as wrote some exquisite historical romances. Of course, an impartial critic of the literature will have to accept the fact that it was not a very rich period as far as the composition of novels is concerned.
Thus, we find that the Romantic Age Novels contributed immensely towards the development of literature. Of course, it was not the richest period in this direction but the contributions of novelists in this age can never be undermined.
Beyond Romantic Age Novelists & Novels Under Literature Reads
- A Note on Victorian Novelists and Novel of the 19th- 20th Century
- The Women Novelists of 18th- 19th Century & Their Contributions
- Note on Gothic Fiction & List of Prominent Novelists of this Genre
- Features of 18th Century English Literature & How it Stood for?
- The Four Wheels of English Novel w.r.t 18th Century Augustan Age
- Features of the Picaresque Novel & Influence on European Fictions