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Stock emotions are always easily aroused through stock devices, but both the aim and the technique are generally eschewed by serious writers.(1796), which countered 18th-century “rationalism” with scenes of mystery, horror, and wonder.
To make fiction out of the observation of social behaviour is sometimes regarded as less worthy than to produce novels that excavate the human mind.Such novels, which include such immensely popular works as those of Georgette Heyer, or Baroness Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel stories in England in the early 20th century, and (1944) by Kathleen Winsor in the United States, may use the trappings of history but, because there is no real assimilation of the past into the imagination, the result must be a mere costume ball.On the other hand, the American novelist (1960) that mock historical scholarship—preposterous events served up with parodic pomposity—could constitute a viable, and not necessarily farcical, approach to the past.Few practitioners of the form seem prepared to learn from any writer later than Scott, though Virginia Woolf—in , which can be taken as a historical study of a phase in America’s development, is a reminder that experiment is not incompatible with the sweep and amplitude that great historical themes can bring to the novel.
of Dickens—whose eponym is a respectable and even childishly ingenuous scholar—can be accommodated in the category.And yet the social gestures known as manners, however superficial they appear to be, are indices of a collective soul and merit the close attention of the novelist and reader alike.