In this study intended for general readers, eminent critic Patricia Meyer Spacks provides a fresh, engaging account of the early history of the English vel. Novel Beginnings departs from the traditional, narrow focus on the development of the realistic vel to emphasize the many kinds of experimentation that marked the genre in the eighteenth century before its conventions were firmly established in the nineteenth. Treating well-kwn works like Tom Jones and Tristram Shandy in conjunction with less familiar texts such as Sarah Fielding s The Cry (a kind of hybrid vel and play) and Jane Barker s A Patch-Work Screen for the Ladies (a vel of adventure replete with sentimental verse and numerous subnarratives), the book evokes the excitement of a multifaceted and unpredictable process of growth and change.
Patricia Meyer Spacks is Edgar Shannon Professor of English Emerita, University of Virginia. A recognized authority on eighteenth-century fiction and culture, she is the author of numerous books, including Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind.