Abstract and Keywords
The sentimental strain in English fiction, which represents men of feeling and women of sensibility engaging in acts of sympathy and benevolence, became prominent in the 1760s through the novels of Charlotte Lennox, Oliver Goldsmith, Laurence Sterne, Henry Mackenzie, and others, building primarily on the work of Samuel Richardson and Henry and Sarah Fielding. The reformation of male manners, the feminization of taste and consumption, the grounding of ethics in human nature rather than rationalism or faith, and the emergence of a theory of moral sensibility all contributed to the popular reception of sentimental fiction. Frances Burney’s first two novels, Evelina and Cecilia, successfully combined sentiment with the comedy of Fielding and the moral sententiousness of Richardson, but in the third, Camilla, Burney felt the pressure of an increasing taste for realism, which eventually lessened the predominance, though it did not entirely eliminate, the sentimental form.
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