Published by Primary Source Microfilm
Based on William H. McBurney's Check List of English Prose Fiction, 1700-1739 and Jerry C. Beasley's Check List of Prose Fiction Published in England, 1740-1749, Early British Fiction: Pre-1750 contains hundreds of primary texts gathered from the holdings of major American and British libraries. The collection provides a self-contained and comprehensive library of these important texts.
The English novel's beginnings were not entirely prestigious. Due to the public's disapproval of "invented" stories, Daniel Defoe, Tobias Smollett, Henry and Sarah Fielding and their contemporaries labeled their fictions as "histories," "lives," "memoirs," "voyages," "travels" and "adventures." A number of these works were indeed based upon truth, but so greatly embellished that the appeal was the same as that of total imagination.
In addition, the inept efforts of Grub Street literary hacks and talented, but starving, artists lent credence to the proposal that prose fiction was dangerous and frivolous. These people wrote rapidly and badly, yet they achieved real popularity, expanding the early audience for fiction. Eventually, with the rise of major British writers and with the influx of the higher quality (and better written) French and Spanish prose, the novel gained acceptance as an art form.
Early British Fiction: Pre-1750 includes texts from serious novelists; women authors including Sarah Fielding and Aphra Behn; the works of Grub Street literary hacks; continental and other authors. Among the authors included are Defoe, Smollett and Fielding.
As well as being a source of study for literature students, the collection has a significant meaning to the historian. Contemporary fiction of this period reflected, in one way or another, the political and social currents of the era. A printed guide is included.