Charlotte Smith's novels indicate the direction in which literary tendencies were turning at the close of the 18th century. Romantic incidents and sentimentalism were products of a revolt from coarse realism or an exclusive appeal to the senses. By their extravagance and exaggeration they in turn produced a reaction; but this time the reaction took the shape, not of a recoil into some contrary extreme, but of a compromise.
The new masters of fiction did not fly off at a tangent in some different direction, but blended in one the elements which their predecessors had contributed. On the one side, a new impulse was given to the realistic novel of social life and manners; on the other, the growth of the historical romance was fostered, and poetry and imagination found a more legitimate scope than in the improbable creations of a vapid sentimentalism.
This new school of novels and romances was broadly distinguished from earlier forms of fiction because it no longer relied on the interest of the mere accumulation of incidents, or painting allegorical beings in the midst of ideal circumstances. Their creations ceased to be specimens of the human race, known to us only as actors in events, or self-described in autobiographies or letters. They became individuals of the English, Irish, or Scottish races, distinguished by their national characteristics, and dramatically represented by their conversation and by the internal effects of outward events.
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About the Author
Charlotte Smith is Curator of The Darnell Collection. She was born in Hong Kong to an English mother and an American father. She grew up with her brother and sister on the east coast of America and graduated with a degree in Art History from Hollins College in Virginia. Charlotte has worked for art dealers, ran her own business manufacturing decorative lampshades and was the proprietor of a French country antiques shop. Her interests include horse riding, interior decorating, writing and gardening.