Page images

Scottish birth, and under the immediate shadow of the Author of Waverley, John Galt, Mrs. Johnstone, Miss Ferrier, the Ettrick Shepherd, Allan Cunningham, Scott's son-in-law Lockhart, Professor Wilson, Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, Andrew Picken, and David M. Moir; in Ireland, or of Irish birth, Mr. Thomas Colley Grattan, Banim, Crofton Croker, Gerald Griffin, and William Carleton; and in England, and chiefly of English birth, Godwin's daughter Mrs. Shelley, Lady Caroline Lamb, Mr. Peacock, Thomas Hope, Leigh Hunt, Theodore Hook and his brother Dr. James Hook, James Morier, Mr. Lister, Mr. Plumer Ward, Mr. Gleig, Mr. Horace Smith, Miss Mitford, Miss Landon, Mr. Disraeli, Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, Mrs. Gore, Captain Marryat, Mr. James, and Mrs. Trollope. The majority of these, it will be observed, survived Scott; and not a few of them, though they had taken their places as novelwriters while Scott was alive, attained their full celebrity in that capacity after Scott was gone. In the group of some ten or twelve active novel writers upon whom the future hopes of the British novel were supposed to rest in 1832, the year of Scott's death, were Theodore Hook, Miss Mitford, Mr. Disraeli, Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, Mrs. Gore, Mr. James, and Mrs. Trollope. Several of these are still with us, and


have certainly done more for the novel, in the matter of quantity at least, than could have been expected from them, Sir Bulwer Lytton having produced in all some five-and-twenty novels; Mrs. Gore and Mrs. Trollope I know not how many; Mr. James I know not how many; and Mr. Disraeli having escaped similar productiveness only by that series of events which diverted his attention to politics, and has made him a British minister. To this group of

novelists left in the field at Scott's death there have been added, in the course of the quarter of a century which has elapsed since then, a little legion of new recruits. I will not venture on a complete list of their names; but when I mention those of Lady Blessington, Miss Martineau, Mrs. S. C. Hall, Mr. Harrison Ainsworth, Mr. Leitch Ritchie, the Howitts, Mr. Folkestone Williams, Charles Dickens, Mr. Lever, Mr. Samuel Warren, Douglas Jerrold, Elliot Warburton, Mr. James Grant, Mrs. Crowe, Miss Jewsbury, William Makepeace Thackeray, Mr. Lewes, Mr. Shirley Brooks, Mr. Whyte Melville, Mr. Wilkie Collins, the brothers Mayhew, Mr. Charles Reade, Mr. James Hannay, Mr. Whitty, Mr. Anthony Trollope, Mrs. Marsh, Mrs. Oliphant, Miss Kavanagh, Miss Mulock, Miss Sewell, Miss Yonge, Miss Craik, Miss Brontë, Mrs. Gaskell,

Charles Kingsley, and the author of Tom Brown, they will suffice to suggest the others. All in all, were we to include in the catalogue of "British Novelists since Scott," all who have written novels with some degree of popular success from the date of the first Waverley Novels to the present time, the catalogue, I believe, would include over a hundred names.1 You will understand that I do not suppose included in this catalogue the contemporary American writers of prose fiction. These also have been numerous, and there have been among them, as you know, writers whose works have interested as powerfully on this side of the Atlantic as on the other; but, except by implication, I do not take them into


If a list of the British novelists since Scott seems formidable, how much more formidable would be the sight of the novels produced by them gathered into one heap! On this point allow me to present you with some statistics. The British Museum authorities cannot be sure that they receive copies of all the novels published in the British Islands; but it is

1 The names cited by me are those of the writers with whose works my own acquaintance, direct or indirect, chances to be greatest; but, in the list prefixed to the second volume. of Mr. Jeaffreson's Novels and Novelists (1858), I count thirtyfive additional names, and every season is adding fresh ones.

likely that their collection is more complete, for the period with which we are now concerned, than any other that exists. Now, I have been informed that the number of novels standing on the shelves of the British Museum Library as having been published in Britain in the year 1820-i. e. when the Waverley Novels were at the height of their popularity—is 26 in all, counting 76 volumes; that, ten years later, or in 1830, when the Waverley series was nearly finished, the yield to the Library in this department had increased to 101 books, or 205 volumes within the year; that, twenty years later, or in 1850, the yield was 98 books or 210 volumes; and that for the year 1856, the yield was 88 books or 201 volumes. Taking these data as approximately accurate, they give us the curious fact that the annual yield of British novels had been quadrupled by the time of Scott's death as compared with what it had been when he was in the middle of his Waverley series-having risen from 26 a-year, or a new novel every fortnight, to about 100 a-year, or nearly two new novels every week; and, moreover, that this proportion of about 100 new novels every year, or two every week, has continued pretty steady since Scott's death, or, if there has been any change, has fallen off lately rather than increased. Making an average calculation from

these facts, I find that there may have been in all about 3,000 novels, counting about 7,000 separate volumes, produced in these islands since the publication of "Waverley." And this corresponds pretty well with a calculation made on independent grounds. In the London Book Catalogue, giving a classified Index of all books published in Great Britain from the year 1816 to the year 1851 inclusive, the novels or works of prose fiction occupy twenty-two pages, and amount to about 3,300 separate entries. In this list, however, reprints of old novels as well as translations and reprints of imported novels are included. Balancing these against the probable yield of the six years, from 1852 to 1857 inclusive, not embraced in the Catalogue, I believe that my calculation, as just stated, may pass as near the truth.

Now, you don't expect me to have read, during my pilgrimage, these 7,000 volumes of British novels. The thing is practicable. It is satisfactory to think that, by sticking to two novels a-week, any one who chooses may, at the present rate, keep up with the velocity of the novel-producing apparatus at work among us, and not have a single novel of deficit when he balances at the year's end. But I have not done it. I have read a good many novels-perhaps specimens, at least, of all our best novelists; but, in what I have to say, I have no objection that you

« PreviousContinue »