McClelland, E. M. (1951)
The novel, in relation to the dissemination of liberal ideas, 1790-1820.
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The thesis deals with the part played by the novel, 1790-1820, in the dissemination of liberal ideas. The term 'liberal' has been used to cover the theories concerning the nature and destiny of man, his natural rights and the proper constitution of the society in which he lives. The ideas have been identified in their 18th century form, their philosophic origin traced, their effect estimated and their popularization, in the works of Godwin and other political reformers, illustrated. It has been shown that novelists were aware of current opinion, not only from a knowledge of the written works of the reformers, but from a common body of thought made familiar to them by such means as the work of the Political societies in enlightening the public, the literary coteries, the Conversation Clubs, the Westminster Forum and other debating societies; by reviews, pamphlets and tracts; by events indicating serious social unrest; by the publicity attendant on prosecutions for libel and other causes celebres; fey their connection with Methodism; by their effect on educational theory. Liberal ideas have been traced in various kinds of novel; in deliberate propaganda, in those revealing such opinion without particular urgency, or reflecting it unconsciously; in those attacking, or offering antidotes for, the new philosophy, and in the satires. Changes in, modifications of, themes used earlier have been noted. The material used is new and a critical estimate of it is submitted. The thesis aims at establishing two things; first, that the dissemination of these views did not cease, as critics have stated, with the reaction against the French Revolution, but persisted until after 1820; secondly, that the novel, used deliberately with an extra-literary purpose, is influenced by an unusually close connection with the historical background, shown in the use of current events and living people as material for plots and characters, and that this influence, by preserving the heterogeneous nature of the novel, retards its development as a literary form.
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Deposited by David Morgan (UBYL020) on
in Royal Holloway Research Online.Last modified on 01-Feb-2017
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Institution: University of London, Royal Holloway College (United Kingdom).