By the end of the nineteenth century the vel unquestionably had become the most popular and influential of English literary forms. Yet it has t always been clear how the Victorians themselves regarded the nature of prose fiction. This volume is a collection of twelve 'landmark' essays that chart the development of English theories of fiction during the great age of the vel. Spanning the whole of the Victorian period, from Bulwer Lytton's 'On Art in Fiction' (1838) to Conrad's preface to The Nigger of the 'Narcissus' (1897), the volume also includes pieces by George Eliot, Henry James, Robert Louis Stevenson, and a number of the more important critics and reviewers of the time. The editors' introduction surveys the main issues, such as the debate between realism and romance, addressed by vel criticism throughout the period. Each of the selections that follow is set in its historical context by a prefatory essay and is fully antated for the student. There is a helpful bibliography of further reading.