Abstract and Keywords
The eighteenth century provided the socio-economic, cultural, and philosophical conditions wherein the novel, a ‘new species of writing’, could flourish. The restive theological climate of the time, with its threatening extremes of enthusiasm and deism, also coloured the outlook of the pioneer novelists of the time. Reliance upon the providence of God in a world increasingly perceived as unstable served as a major thematic backcloth. This article traces a slow but steady movement in the presentation of the place of the divine from the somewhat artless representation of providence in the work of Daniel Defoe, through Samuel Richardson's world as a proving ground of suffering and redemption. It also examines Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy and Henry Fielding's attempts to reassure people with his Shaftesburian morality that all is well.
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