epistolary Novel

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A story written in the form of letters, or letters with journals, and usually presented by an anonymous author masquerading as ‘editor’. The first notable example in English was a translation from the French in 1678, Letters of a Portugese Nun. In 1683, A. Behn published Love‐Letters between a Nobleman and His Sister, and many similar tales of illicit love and love manuals followed. Thus when Richardson, the first and perhaps greatest master of the form, came to write Pamela (1741) he felt a duty to rescue the novel from its tainted reputation. Between the 1740s and about 1800 the form flourished; it was employed by Richardson, Smollett, Bage, J. Moore (the elder), and F. Burney, among many others. After 1800 M. Edgeworth, J. Austen, Swinburne, H. James, and others experimented with the form but it is now rarely adopted. W. Golding's Rites of Passage (1980) provides an interesting variation in the form of an epistolary journal. See also novel, rise of the.

Subjects: Literature.

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