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208 JOHN CARROLL RECENT STUDIES OF THE EIGHTEENTH·CENTURY NOVEL' In the opening pages of The Shaping Vision Robert Donovan bewails the sorry state of modem criticism of the eighteenth· and early nineteenth-century novel. Donovan claims that the current interest in formal analysis, which, in his terms, chiefly values "works of considerable technical sophistication," has led to the neglect of "more primitive" novels. Indeed, he remarks in injured tones, 'The attitude of much, possibly most, modem criticism" toward the early novel has ranged "from outright contempt to a kind of patronizing condescension." Apart from a reference to F. R. Leavis and his hobby horse, The Great Tradition, Donovan does not tell us who these condescending critics are. (Even Mr. Leavis remarks, in a burst of ambiguous praise, that he might prefer a rereading of Clarissa to a reperusal of Remembrance of Things Past.) The recent flourish of critical writings on the eighteenth-century novelranging from a study of epistolary fiction before Richardson to the comic art of Sterne- not only shows a lively interest in the early masters but proves that formal analysis can be used, with tact, to illuminate their themes and techniques. Difficult as it is to take Donovan's lament seriously, it is even harder to understand how someone who writes well on these novels-as Donovan does-could describe them as Hprimitive." It was, after all, Virginia Woolf who remarked, 'We do not come to write better; all that we can be said to do is to keep moving." Donovan is on much firmer ground when he suggests that the Jamesian gospel according to Percy Lubbock is not always well equipped to handle the works of Defoe, Sterne, and Smollett. This difficulty, however, is less a matter of increasing sophistication through the ages than of the novel's propensity to assume a variety of forms. Some novels in the earlier period lend themselves to recent methods of analysis; some do not. Clarissa, for example, can be discussed in the terminology of critics as diverse as Leslie Fiedler, Arnold Kettle, and Lubbock himself (who sees Richardson's technique :¥-Robert A. Donovan, The Shaping Vision: Imagination in the English Novel from Defoe to Dickens. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1966. Pp. xii, 272. $5.75. C. A. Starr, Defoe and Spiritual AHtobiography. Princeton: Princeton University Press. [Toronto: Saunders of Toronto.] 1965. Pp. xvii, 203. $6.50. Robert Adams Day, Told in Letters: Epistolary Fiction Before Richardson. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. [Toronto: Ambassador Books Ltd.) 1966. Pp. 281. $7.50. Andrew Wright, Henry Fielding: Mask and Feast. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. 1965. Pp. 214. $3.50. Morris Golden, Fielding's Moral Psychology. University of Massa· chusetts Press. 1966. Pp. ix, 171. $6.00. William B. Piper, Laurence Sterne. Ncw York: Twayne Publishers, Inc. [Toronto: Bums & MacEachern Ltd.l 1965. Pp. 138. $3.50. John M. Stedmond, The Comic Art of Laurence Sterne. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1967. Pp. 178. $5.50. Richard Graves, The Spiritual Quixote, ed. Clarence Tracy. London and Toronto: Oxford University Press. 1967. Pp. xxiii, 504, $7.00. Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy, ed. Gardner D. Stout, jr. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. 1967. Pp. xvii, 377. $10.00. THE EIGHTEENTH~CENTURY NOVEL 209 as comparable to that of James in The Ambassadors). Searching for a key to all novels, Donovan advances the idea that a flshaping vision" gives both life and form to any work of prose fiction. His central assertion is that "the achievement of form, which is the heart of the artist's mystery, is inseparable from, and indeed identical with, the imaginative act of seeing which provides him with his subject matter in the first place: the artist's vision is itself the shaping instrument. As soon as the artist Isees' his subject, the form is in it...." By this definition, it would seem that every novel has organic unity; integrity of form may not be evaluated but only demonstrated. When Donovan turns his own shaping vision on nine novels-ranging from Moll Flanders to Bleak House-we find that this theory becomes in practice the familiar business...


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