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An early form of the novel, purporting to be true autobiographical history, often including diaries and journals, but in fact largely or wholly fictitious. The form arose in 17th‐cent. France, and Defoe, with Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Moll Flanders (1722), was the first English master. During the 18th cent. the author's claim to be presenting a genuine memoir dwindled to a literary convention; Smollett's Roderick Random, Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield, Mackenzie's The Man of Feeling, M. Edgeworth's Castle Rackrent, and many others were presented as memoirs under only the thinnest disguise. The popularity of the form declined sharply in the 19th cent., but Hogg's Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, Dickens's David Copperfield, Melville's Moby‐Dick, C. Brontë's Jane Eyre, and several novels of Thackeray (notably The History of Henry Esmond) are outstanding examples. See also novel, rise of the.

Subjects: Literature.

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