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date: 29 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This essay offers a detailed overview of the full range of prose fiction produced in Britain in the 1750s. Beyond the handful of familiar canonical texts, this decade produced more than 200 now-forgotten novels, across an unexpected variety of genres. Recent expansions of the canon—most notably the feminist recovery project—still ignore most of these texts. Looked at seriously, they perturb some major preconceptions about mid-century fiction, including the importance of mimetic realism, the predominance of sentimentalism, and assumptions about the genre’s didactic functions. These questions come together, at the end of the essay, in a detailed discussion of episodic comic fiction that appeared in the wake of Fielding’s Tom Jones.

Keywords: 1750s, ramble novels, Henry Fielding, Sarah Fielding, Edward Kimber, Joe Thompson, Tom Jones

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