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least, a conceivable species of oratory, which might be called the Prose Ode, or Rhapsody. The prose counterpart to the metrical Drama is, of course, the Drama in prose. There thus remains, as the prose counterpart to Narrative Poetry, the Romance or Novel. The Novel, at its highest, is a prose Epic; and the capabilities of the Novel, as a form of literature, are the capabilities of Narrative Poetry universally, excepting in as far as the use of prose, instead of verse, may involve necessary differences.
This association of the Novel with the narrative kind of metrical Poetry, this theory of the Novel as being, at its highest, the prose counterpart of the Epic, will be found, I believe, not unimportant. Apart from any hope it may give as to the Novel of the future, it is not without value in reference to our judgment of the novels of the past. No one seems recently to have had a clearer perception of this than Baron Bunsen. "Every romance," he says in his preface to one of the English translations of the popular German novel Debit and Credit, " is intended or ought to be a new Iliad or Odyssey." Very naturally, by those who take a more common view of the subject, this statement may be received as a philosophic extravagance. What! a Circulating Library novel and the Iliad; one of our thousand
and one stories of society in Mayfair and Homer's old story of the wanderings of Ulysses and Penelope's troubles with her suitors? But, as Baron Bunsen is demonstrably right in theory, so he is able to verify the theory by an appeal to experience. "If we pass in review," he says, "the romances of "the last three centuries, we shall find that those only have arrested the attention of more than one "or two generations which have satisfied this (i. e. "the epic) requirement." In fact, any unwillingness that there may be to admit his statement will be found to arise from the circumstance that people, in testing it, think only of the great epics, but think indiscriminately of all novels, small as well as great. When we think of the Iliad or the Odyssey, or of the "Jerusalem Delivered," or of "Paradise Lost," it is certainly difficult to remember a prose romance, or at most more than one or two prose romances, that could for a moment be seriously put in comparison with such works of epic genius. But, on the other hand, if there are specimens of the metrical epic with which we can hardly dare to compare the best prose romances extant, there are as certainly hundreds of performances, ranking in the same general class of poetry as these epics, which we should as little dare to compare, in respect of genius,
with some of our best novels. Take, as an instance, Don Quixote. If we hesitate about elevating this great work quite to the altitude of the three or four metrical Epics which the world prefers to all others, we have no hesitation whatever in pronouncing it a work of far higher, and even of more truly poetic genius, than many works of narrative verse which have yet deservedly earned for their authors no mean reputation-the metrical stories of Dryden, for example, and the Fables and Tales of Lafontaine. In short, if we think only of good novels in connexion with good narrative poems, throwing equally out of sight what is inferior in both departments, the association of the Novel with the Epic will not seem so much amiss. At all events, in tracing the history of the Novel, there will be some advantage in recollecting the association. The phases through which the Novel has passed will be found to be not unlike those through which Narrative Poetry has passed; and, in any particular country, the ProseFiction of a period will be found to exhibit the characteristics seen also in the contemporary Narrative Poetry.
Perhaps, however, in studying more closely the relation thus suggested between the two kinds of literature, it is better to use the general phrase,
"Narrative Poetry," instead of the special word,
Epic." For, though Epic Poetry is a term synonymous at times with Narrative Poetry, there are many varieties of Narrative Poetry which we distinguish from what we call peculiarly the Epic. There is the metrical Fable, as in Gay and Lafontaine ; there is the light amorous or humorous story in verse, as in Lafontaine again and parts of Prior; there is the Ballad; there is the long romantic or pathetic tale, or the comic tale of real life, as in. Chaucer's "Canterbury Pilgrimage" and the rest of his poetry; there is the satirical burlesque or mockheroic, as in Butler's "Hudibras; " there is the pastoral or idyllic phantasy, as in the poetry of William Browne or the "Princess" of Tennyson; and there is the sustained heroic and allegoric romance, as Spenser's "Faery Queene." These, and still other forms of metrical narrative that could be named, we distinguish from the Epic proper, notwithstanding that in some of them-as in the tales of Chaucer, the idyls of Tennyson, and Spenser's great allegoric romance—we have specimens of poetic genius which we should hardly subordinate to the poems actually called Epics. Now, so it is in Prose Fiction. Though Prose Fiction corresponds to Narrative Poetry, the correspondence is that of two wholes which severally
consist of corresponding parts. For each variety of Narrative Poetry there is, or there might be, a corresponding variety of Prose Fiction. We have the Fable in prose; we have the light amorous or humorous story in prose; the short prose legend answers to the Ballad; of romantic or comic prose tales of considerable length, but not reaching the dimensions of the Novel, most modern languages are full; and we have also the prose burlesque, the prose pastoral or idyl, and the prose allegoric romance. Subtracting these, we have, or we might have, as the variety of Prose Fiction answering specially to the Epic proper, that serious and elaborate kind of composition, styled more expressly the Novel, of which worthy specimens are so rare, and in which, as in the Epic, the aim is to give, as Baron Bunsen says,
a poetic representation of a course of events con"sistent with the highest laws of moral government, "whether it delineate the general history of a people
[the Iliad as type] or narrate the fortunes of a "chosen hero [the Odyssey as type]." Bearing all this in mind-bearing in mind that Narrative Poetry itself consists of numerous varieties, and that Prose Fiction contains, or may contain, varieties as numerous and exactly corresponding-we may repeat our former assertion in a somewhat modified shape,