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Ranking 18th century novels?

18th Century British Literature

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1ostrom
Mar 24, 2008, 11:32pm Top

An impossible question, I know, but what are your greatest hits re: 18th century novels? Tristram Shandy and Moll Flanders are at the top for me, but this only goes to show how hard such ranking is--because these are such different kinds of novels. I do feel as if I should like the works of Samuel Richardson more than I do--and perhaps some of the gothic novels less than I do. ;-)

2KidSisyphus
Mar 25, 2008, 3:30pm Top

Well, I know that its status as a novel is debatable (and I'm biased because I'm doing my thesis on it), but I'm partial to Gulliver's Travels.

Richardson and Fielding are great, too.

3ostrom
Mar 25, 2008, 5:57pm Top

Nice choice, Gulliver's Travels, and a certainly don't question its status as a novel. It's just a different kind of novel--as is Shandy!

4krolik
Mar 25, 2008, 6:03pm Top

Jacques le Fataliste is still good fun and thought-provoking. Gulliver has everything; I can always go back to it. But I'm too much of a 21st century channel surfer to find the patience for Richardson.

5ostrom
Mar 26, 2008, 1:11am Top

Yes, I find Richardson tough-going, Fielding not so much, but one still has to be "in training." Gulliver remains an astonishing achievement. There seems to be a Fanny Burney revival--Cecilia, etc.

6KidSisyphus
Mar 26, 2008, 1:10pm Top

My Richardson story: I read Clarissa over a summer break as an undergrad only to learn when class started that the professor assigned us an "abridged" reading! Argh!!! Oh well. Would you believe that I enjoyed it?

7ostrom
Mar 26, 2008, 9:35pm Top

Well done! The unabridged Clarissa! You deserve the LT croix de guerre or something equivalent.

8Eurydice
Edited: Mar 27, 2008, 3:29am Top

Indeed! Congratulations!

I keep hoping to get to Clarissa, and haven't as yet. I accidentally ended up with an abridgment, using one of the trading sites, and haven't been willing to read it, that way - while looking to the other and a nice span of time. But I found Pamela utterly absorbing.

My own top novel is Tristram Shandy. Though not the greatest, by any means, and debatable as a novel, I'm also fond of Rasselas. Defoe obviously gets high marks...

Sorry, my thoughts aren't collected, but I keep meaning to contribute.

(edited to fix touchstones)

9Pepys
Mar 27, 2008, 6:44am Top

I had difficulties to get to the end of Tristram Shandy because I found the book got looser & looser towards the end, but I agree this is something you remember as outstanding & incredibly modern.

BTW, I liked the movie entitled '....(something)... in an English Garden'. I saw it two years ago, & I found that it contained the same foolish atmosphere as the book by Sterne. What's your opinion on the movie? Did you see it?

10beschrich
Jun 3, 2008, 6:36pm Top

My favorite would have to be Caleb Williams by William Godwin, very exciting and suspenseful yet thought-provoking at the same time. Runner-ups are Tom Jones, Moll Flanders, and The Monk. I haven't read Tristram or Clarissa yet, although I've read some of their shorter works (A Sentimental Journey and Pamela, respectively), neither of which really moved me.

11SusieBookworm
Apr 10, 2009, 10:22am Top

I have read the first fifty pages of Tristram Shandy but found it confusing and boring. I'll try again later.

I'm currently reading An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews by Henry Fielding and I think it's very humorous after reading Pamela. My favorite 18th century books are The Castle of Otranto and Tom Jones.

12Leseratte2
Edited: Apr 12, 2009, 6:20pm Top

I read the unabridged Clarissa, which, despite its length, I liked better than Pamela. I have yet to tackle Sir Charles Grandison, though.

Other faves:

Roxana by Defoe, a rather strange, dark novel, which is perhaps why I liked it.
Joseph Andrews by Fielding
The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless by Eliza Haywood, often funny, with some surprisingly modern themes/ideas
The Adventures of Roderick Random by Smollett
The Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph by Frances Chamberlain Sheridan, left me wanting more
Evelina by Frances Burney, her first and best novel
The Old Manor House by Charlotte Smith

13gregorcles
Edited: May 6, 2009, 1:46am Top

I haven't read very much 18th century fiction, but I greatly enjoyed Defoe's Moll Flanders and Robinson Crusoe for the most part. But I had those in modern reprint. Early editions, I've got Smollett's The Adventures of Roderick Random 2-in-1 printed 1778, which I consider one of my favourite works of fiction. And also, the 4 volume Chrysal, or The Adventures of a Guinea, printed 1783 - but I haven't gotten past the first volume yet. I'm more of a history reader, Hume's History of England, the 1795-6 Philadelphia / Campbell edition, is also in my collection and one of my favourites. Focusing more on 17th century printings these days.

14SusieBookworm
Sep 3, 2009, 9:10am Top

I think The Monk is great, too.

15DanMat
Mar 19, 2010, 4:35pm Top

I was going to make a puerile observation about Fanny Hill, but I'm better than that. I guess I'll throw my hat in with Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield since it hasn't been mentioned yet. Obviously not a top ten though.

That last book of Gulliver is so misanthropic, it really has no equivalent. There have been cynical books, but to me nothing comes close (for better or worse) to what Swift did there.

Moll Flanders is probably my favorite with Tristram Shandy close behind. I intially found it confusing and boring, but I think the text is an inherently difficult nut, or chestnut rather, to crack. Well worth the reader's patience.

>12 Leseratte2:
I think the only place you are going to get that is at the internet archive or similar venue. But congrats on finishing the full-length Clarissa!

16almigwin
Edited: Apr 5, 2010, 6:39pm Top

Castle Rackrent, Belinda and Helen by Maria Edgeworth, another vote for Evelina, another vote for Tristram Shandy, a vote for Tom Jones, a vote for Gil Blas by Le Sage, (translated by Smollett), Pamela by Richardson, and Roderick Random, Humphrey Clinker and peregrine Pickle by Smollett.

17SusieBookworm
Apr 14, 2010, 7:52am Top

The Italian by Ann Radcliffe, Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft, and Memoirs of Emma Courtney by Mary Hays are some of my favorites.

18alans
Edited: Nov 29, 2010, 12:02pm Top

Can someone suggest a good Aphra Behn to begin with.

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