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We learn a number of things from the bibliography: that the majority of the works published in England were published in London, that the majority of the works published in Ireland were published in Dublin, and that most novels cost between 5 and 7 shillings, depending on if one wanted them sewed, or bound, the latter being the more extensive option. (The bibliography also mentions ‘the circulating library’, suggesting that those who didn’t have the money to purchase books could acquire them in that way). The Monthly and Critical Reviews also tell us what, at least according to these critics, made a work of fiction good: an ‘unexceptionable’ moral stance, and a focus on writing realistically; many works were criticized for not accurately representing real life. The reviewers seem afraid of the very possibility for fiction that Armstrong argued for—that novels, through discussing life in non-traditional ways, could encourage people, especially women, to want to lead non-traditional lives. Although both reviewers give Evelina praise, the Monthly Review criticizes Captain Mirvan as having the manners rather of “a rough uneducated country ‘squire, than those of a genuine sea-captain” (Garside). Though this also raises a question—why do they criticize Captain Mirvan for not being a genuine sea-captain, but they don’t criticize Lord Merton and Willoughby for not being genuine gentlemen? This might become clearer if we had a better idea of who was responsible for writing the reviews. Were they upper class or middle class? Did they acquire the position through literary skill or social status?
In addition to Evelina, I chose to analyze Disinterested Love, Misplaced Confidence, a Tale for Christmas, and The Man of Experience. I found it interesting that none of the texts referred to themselves as “novels” on the title page. Instead, each text labeled itself in a different way—Evelina was “a series of letters”, as was Disinterested Love, which also described itself as a History. Misplaced Confidence is a “genuine narrative of real misfortunes”, The Man of Experience is an adventure, and A Tale for Christmas is a Modern Anecdote. Misplaced Confidence, which has the most text on the title page (this text explains the contents of the story in a way that none of the other title pages do), is the only text that explicitly claims to be true. The Man of Experience, on the other hand, is the only text whose author is listed on the title page; the rest either leave it out or say that the text was “Printed for the AUTHOR.” However, in most ways, the texts are fairly standard. The title is in large font spread across the page in alternating font sizes, and contains a very short description of the work and frequently the name of one or more of the people involved (Honorius, Evelina, Sir Charles Royston and Emily Lessley). Three of the texts, Evelina, Disinterested Love, and Misplaced Confidence, all were epistolary novels, while the other two were written in the third person.
Of all these texts, Evelina has by far the best review. Although the critics praise Disinterested Love for its “refinement and delicacy of sentiment”, it also makes note of its “feebleness of expression” and “confusion of incident” (244). Misplaced Confidence and The Man of Experience are both cited as being inappropriate. A Tale for Christmas is an “agreeable hour’s amusement” (278). But the praise for Evelina is the most abundant; the reviewers described it as “one of the most sprightly, entertaining, and agreeable productions of this kind” (270), both a moral and literary success (and, perhaps because of this, it costs 2 shillings more than any of the other books).
Step 3: Artemis offers some large-scale information about the nature of the books being published in the selected time period. I chose 1750 to 1800 and did some searches in the term frequency box I thought might be interested based on the questions we answered in the previous steps. I found that while the phrase “in a series of letters”, which was present in the first 100 pages of about 45% of novels in 1753, has since jumped up and down before settling at about 0% in 1800. The word “novel” on the other hand was in about 10% of texts in 1750 but by 1800 was present in 40% of texts. “Virtue” was consistently popular, at almost 100% all four years. I also found the Frequency chart to be initially deceiving; the graph increases rapidly at the end for whatever phrase you type in, but I imagine this is just because more novels were published at the end of the century than in the middle of it.