Nield, Jonathan. A Guide to the Best Historical Novels and Tales. 3rd ed. London: Elkin Mathews, 1904.
‘A novel is rendered historical by the introduction of dates, personages or events, to which identification can be readily given’ (3).
Nield discusses the ‘discrepancy between Fact and its Narration’ (11) and the limitations of representing anything at all: ‘neither can he reproduce the life and events of yesterday’ (12).
Nield argues that ‘if Historians themselves have differed (and still differ!) may it not be pleaded on behalf of the Historical Novelist that he also must be judged according to the possibilities of his time? For, while he may have too readily adopted false conceptions in the past, why, in the future, he also – profiting by the growth of Critical Investigation-should not have due regard, in the working out of the Historical background, for all the latest “results”' (14).
'I may note, as a last word, the use of the Historical Tale to those who have the training of young folk. That “desire to know,” which is essential for all true learning is sometimes best fostered by methods outside the ordinary School routine. Thus, as regards history, where the text-book fails in arousing interest, the tale may succeed, and, once the spirit of inquiry has been stimulated, half the battle is gained' (15-16).
Nield presents “Suggested Courses of Reading,” originally produced as two separate reading lists, one for boys and another for girls.
FIFTY REPRESENTATIVE HISTORICAL NOVELS
Those who are in the habit of reading the literary weeklies may have noticed how, in certain critical quarters, a growing hatred (I can give no milder term) of historical romance has been evinced. Doubtless, after the large number of mere ‘Cloak and Steel’ novels which the last decade has seen on both sides of the Atlantic, one can hardly wonder at this condemnation of the ‘Historical Novel,’ when such effusions are taken to represent it. But, it must be asked, what right has the critic to condemn an entire class of fiction on the basis of its worst modern examples? And even if this be not done, it is hardly fair to prejudge the question of romance-writing possibilities by setting forth (as some critics do) all the theoretical objections which can be urged against the blending of history with the narrations of fancy. As to the arguments pro and con, I have attempted to deal with these elsewhere, and I will do no more here than name a few leading critics who have expressed themselves, more or less openly, for or against historical romance.
SUGGESTED COURSES OF READING. (JUVENILE).
“It is no wisdom to make boys prodigies of information, but it is our wisdom and our duty to cultivate their faculties each in its season, first the memory and imagination, and then the judgment, to furnish them with the means, and to excite the desire of improving themselves.”—Dr. Arnold, quoted in Sir Joshua Fitch’s “Thomas and Matthew Arnold.”
As likely to assist Parents and Teachers, I propose to give a list (covering Eglish History from the Norman Conquest) for Juvenile Readers; but a passing allusion may, first of all, be made to tales dealing with more ancient periods. For the illustration of Greek and Roman History, those books of Professor A. J. Church which are entered in my Pre-Christian section may be safely recommended; while the pictures of First Century life given in Wallace’s “Ben Hur,” Lytton’s “Last Days of Pompeii,” and Whyte Melville’s “The Gladiators,” are, perhaps, as likely to interest an intelligent boy or girl in the “teen” stage as any similar productions that could be mentioned. Turning to the Early History of our own isle, I would specially mention Mr. Henty’s “Beric the Briton “; the “iEscendune” series of tales (“ Edwy the Fair,”“Alfgar the Dane,” and “The Rival Heirs “) by the late Rev. A. D. Crake; Mr. C. W. Whistler’s “Havelok the Dane,”“A Thane of Wessex,” &c.; and the various books chosen to represent Alfred and his times (143).
In preparing the following list, I have had in view, for the most part, the average Juvenile taste; doubtless many of the more advanced works might be offered in special cases, but in regard to that, the Parent or Teacher can alone judge. A reference to the General List will, in most cases, reveal a more exact specification; for the sake of convenience, the tales are here grouped according to Reigns only (143-4).
Of the romances dealing with American and Foreign History to be found in the foregoing pages, many are suitable for young readers; but the sequence not being very close (for any lengthy period at least), separate lists would appear superfluous. Such writers (to mention only a few) as Fenimore Cooper, Mrs. J. G. Austin, G. C. Eggleston, Kirk Munroe, and Elbridge S. Brooks, may be particularly recommended for American History; while Scott, Dumas, Charlotte M. Yonge, Miss Roberts (author of “Mademoiselle Mon “), and G. A. Henty have all illustrated—in more or less adequate fashion—the course of events in Foreign Countries. The novels of Dumas are not infrequently considered somewhat “strong meat,” but his” She- Wolves of Machecoul” and “Black Tulip” may be safely placed in any hands (144).
*In the original edition of this work two separate lists were furnished for Boys and Girls respectively. It has been suggested, in more than one quarter, that an amalgamated list would be better in many ways; not a few girls have a taste for those books of adventure which are supposed to appeal primarily to their brothers and boy contemporaries, and it is impossible to draw the line exactly in that class of fiction. Accordingly, I now offer a single list, merely indicating by a letter (B for Boys, and G for Girls) those tales in which tendencies are somewhat pronounced (144).
This is an example of the tables Nield's book contains:
In connection with this subject of Juvenile Literature, I would draw attention to Messrs. Constable’s “Library of Historical Novels and Romances” so admirably edited by Mr. 0. Laurence Gomme. Readers (old as well as young) are still further indebted to Mr. Gomme for his well-arranged series of extracts taken from Romantic Literature in the tour volumes entitled, “The King’s Story Book,”“The Queen’s Story Book,”“The Prince’s Story Book,” and the Princess’s Story Book.” (Constable & Co.; and Longmans & Co., U.S.A.).
A little work, likely to prove useful for purposes of selection and identification, is Mr. Henry Grey’s “A Key to the Waverley Novels in Chronological Sequence” (Sonnenschein & Co.). (163)
In the School World for August, 1903, may be found an article (“Some Holiday Reading in Fiction “) by Mr. C. S. Fearenside, mentioning a large number of novels and tales which cover the period 1763—1878 in British Colonial History. I would bring under notice yet another article by Mr. Fearenside on “True Story-Books of English History” in the School World for August, 1902; in an interesting manner the author touches on some representative examples of a class of literature which, though it is naturally outside the scope of the present volume, may be alluded to at this point as coming between Fiction and History proper. And this leads me to specify another important historical medium —that of Poetry. Miss C. L. Thomson’s “Carmina Britanni” (Horace Marshall & Son) contains an excellent selection of “poems and ballads illustrative of English History”; useful aid in the same direction is offered by Mr. J. A. Nicklin in his “poems of English History” (A. & C. Black)—besides giving ballads and shorter pieces, he has selected illustrative passages from Shakespeare and the Dramatists. In “War Songs of Britain.” (Constable & Co.) Mr. Harold K Butler has given us a collection of Poems and Songs relating to Battles, &c., in British History (Boadicea to Ladysmith). In “Songs of England’s Glory” (Isbister, 1903), we find yet another anthology of British Poems and Ballads, selected to illustrate “episodes of our National History.” A volume of special interest to American readers is the very charming “New England History in Ballads,” by Edward Everett Hale and his children, “with a few additions by other people” (Little, Brown, & Co., 1903) (163-4).
How fab is this source material: contemporary critical perspectives on historical fiction:
Article on Historical Romance in The Quarterly Review. Vol. XXXV., page 518. (March, 1827.)
Article on Historical Romance (“ Sir Walter Scott and his Imitators,”) in Fraser’s Magazine. Vol. V., pages 6 (Part I.) and 207 (Part II.). (February and March, 1832.)
Article on “The Picturesque Style of Historical Romance” in Blackwood’s Magazine. Vol. XXXIII., page 621. (April, 1833.)
Article on “Historical Romance in Italy,” by G. W. Greene, in The North American Review. Vol. XLVI., page 325. (April, 1838.)
Artic1 on Historical Romance in Blackwood’s Magazine. Vol. LVIII., page 34!. (September, 1845.)
(Afterwards appeared in Vol.111. of Sir Archibald Alison’s “Essays.”)
Article on Historical Romance, by G. H. Lewes, in The Westminster Review. Vol. XLV., page 34. (March, 1846.)
Article on “History in Fiction,” in The Dublin Review. Vol. XLV., page 328. (December, 1858.)
Lecture III. (“Scott and his Influence”) in David Masson’s “British Novelists and their Styles.” (Macmillan, 1859.)
Article on “Historical Novels,” by H. James, jun., in The Nation. Vol. V., page 126. (August 15th, 1867.)
Article on Historical Romance in The Argosy. Vol. XVII., page 364. (May, 1874.)
The Historical Sections in the Boston Public Library Catalogue of “English Prose Fiction.” (Boston, 1877.)
[The brief Preface by Justin Winsor has some interesting remarks on the Historical Novel.]
Chapter X. (“ The Waverley Novels”) in R. H. Hutton’s “Sir Walter Scott.” (Macmillan’s English Men of Letters Series, 1878.)
The Essay on “The Waverley Novels” in Vol. II. of Walter Bagehot’s “Literary Studies.” (Longmans, 1879.)
“A descriptive Catalogue of Historical Novels and Tales. For the use of School Libraries and Teachers of History. Enlarged from the List in the ‘Journal of Education,’ March, 1882.” Compiled and described by H. Courthope Bowen, M.A. (Edward Stanford, 1882; and Scribner & Welford, U.S.A., 1884.)
The section on “The Historical Novel,” in Bayard Tuckerman’s “History of English Prose Fiction.” (S. Low & Co.; and G. P. Putnam’s Sons, U.S.A., 1882.)
The list of Historical Novels given in W. F. Allen’s “The Reader’s Guide to English History. With Supplement, extending the plan to other countries and periods.” (Gino & Co., 1888.)
[A useful, but very unequal list.]
The Essay on “Historical Fiction” in W. F. Allen’s “Essays and Monographs.” (Geo. H. Ellis, Boston, 1890.)
[An extremely interesting essay by one who was well qualified to treat of the subject.]
The partially-selective list of Historical Novels in “A Guide Book to Books,” by E. B. Sargant and B. Whishaw. (H. Frowde, 1891; and Macmillan, U.S.A.)
The partially-selective list of Historical Novels given in the “Subject and Chronological Index to Fiction,” compiled by Alfred Cotgreave, F. R. H.S.—being a section of the Guille-Allés Library “Encyclo. pdic Catalogue.” (Guernsey: Guille-Allès Library; London and Manchester: Henry Sotheran & Co., 189E.)
The essay on “Sir Walter Scott,” in Vol. I. of Leslie Stephen’s “Hours in a Library.” (Smith, Elder, & Co., 1892; and Putnam, U.S.A. New edition, with additions.)
[Sir Leslie Stephen is one of the most formidable critics with whom the lover of Historical Romance has to deal. That which it is possible to say against such fiction is said more forcibly by him, perhaps, than by anyone else.]
The series of articles dealing with “History in Fiction,” &c., by J. B. Carlile, in Great Thoughts, October, 1892, to March, 1894.
Article “The Historical Novel,” by Prof. A. J. Church in Atalanta for April, 1893.
The Useful and partially-selective lists of Historical Tales given in “The Intermediate Textbook of English History,” by C. S. Fearenside and A. Johnson Evans. (W. B. Clive, University Tutorial Press, Ltd., 1893, &c.)
The short selective list of Historical Tales given in the appendix to John Fiske’s “History of the United States for Schools.” (James Clarke & Co., 1894; and Houghton, Mifflin, & Co., U.S.A.)
Article on “The Historical Novel as illustrated by Sir Walter Scott,” by Edwin Lester Arnold, in Atalanta for March, 1894.
The essay on “The Historical Novel” in W. P. James’s “Romantic Professions and other papers.” (Elkin Mathews and John Lane, 1894.)
[A reprint, in somewhat revised form, of the suggestive article appearing in Macmillan’s Magazine, November, 1887.)
Chapter X. (“Sir Walter Scott”) in Prof. Raleigh’s “The English Novel.” (John Murray, 5894; and C. Scribner’s Sons, U.S.A.)
The essay on “La Roman Historique” in “La Vie at les Livres” (First Series) by Gaston Deschamps (Armaud Cohn et Cie., Paris, 1894).
[A brief survey of certain modern French Novelists as represented in the excellent “Bibliothèque de Romans historiques” (Armand Cohn); the introductory remarks are suggestive and possess some general interest.)
Chapters X., XL, and XII. in Prof. Saintsbury’s “Essays in English Literature, 1780—1860. Second series.” . M. Dent & (Jo,, 1895; and C, Scribner’s Sons, U.S.A.)
[Originally appeared in Macmillan’s Magazine, August, September, and October, 5894. A contribution to the subject of quite exceptional brilliance and value.]
“A descriptive List of Novels and Tales dealing with the History of North America,” by W. M. Griswold. (Cambridge, U.S.A., 1895.)
The Section headed “Historical Tales” in “Guide to the Study of American History,” by E. Channing and A. B. Hart. (Ginn & Co., 5896.)
A Letter on “Historical Novels, Past and Present,” by “Mazarin,” in The Bookman (English), October, 5896.
The various historical sections in “The Comprehensive Subject Index to Universal Prose Fiction” compiled and arranged by Zella Allen
Dixson, A.M., Associate Librarian of the University of Chicago.
(Dodd, Mead, & Co., New York, 1897.) [Excellent in scope, but not always accurate.]
Article on “The Indian Mutiny in Fiction,” in Blackwood’s Magazine, February, 5897.
Article on “The Importance of Illustrating New England History by a series of Romances,” by Rufus Choate, In the New England Magazine, November, 1897.
[Reprint—somewhat abridged—of an Address delivered at Salem in 1833. See also the volume “Addresses and Orations” (Little, Brown, & Co., 5878).]
Paper read before the College of Preceptors, on “The Use of Historical Romances In the Teaching of History,” by R.F. Charles, in The Educational Times, November, 1897.
Article on “The American Historical Novel,” by Paul Leicester Ford, in The Atlantic Monthly, December, 1897.
[In this article a definition of the “Historical Novel” at variance with my own, has been suggested. In spite of Mr. Ford’s argument, I am still of opinion that the line of demarcation between the Historical Novel proper and the Novel of Character or Adventure can be more clearly drawn than he allows. I was careful, when dealing with this question in my Introduction, to avoid making the test one of actual historical accuracy, but there are, I have implied, certain readily verifiable personages and events which form a basis amply sufficient for purposes of distinction. The pirates of “Treasure Island’ are taken (as Mr. Ford says) from actual figures of the Eighteenth Century, but under my definition Stevenson’s novel is not thereby constituted “historical” in the strict sense.)
Article on “The Neo-Romantic Novel,” by G. R. Carpenter, in The Forum, March, 1898.
Article on “Historical Novels Past and Present,” by Harold Frederic, in The Bookman (American), December, 1898.
[An admirably written, stimulating article.)
List of Historical Novels, &c., illustrating the Period 1066 to 1815, in the volume “Work and Play in Girls’ Schools,” by Dorothea Beale, Lucy H. M. Soulsby, and Jane Frances Dove (Longmans, 1898.)
La Roman Historique a 1’Epoque romantique,” by Louis Maigron (Hachette et Cie., Paris, 1898.)
[Contains a fine tribute to Scott, and much interesting matter.]
Chapters III. and IV. of “The Development of the English Novel,” by
W. L. Cross (Macmillan, 1899).
[A very full treatment. In the Appendix are some useful lists of the earlier Historical Novels.)
The Historical Sections in “Descriptive Handbook to the more note. worthy works of Prose Fiction in the Library o the Midland Railway Institute, Derby,” by Ernest A. Baker, M.A. (Midland Railway Institute, Derby, 1899.)
Article on “Three American Historical Romances,” by W. E. Simonds, in The Atlantic MonThly, March, igo.
Article on “The Reading of Historical Novels and the Study of History,” by Ada Shunner, in The Scotr Ms,gazine, April, Igoo.
Chapter III. (“The Historical Novel”) in F. H. Stoddard’s “The Evolution of the English Novel” (Macmillan, zgoo).
[A highly important contribution.]
The two sections on Historical Fiction, relating to Greece and Rome respectively, in Arthur L. Goodrich’s “Topics of Greek and Roman History (Macmillan, 1900).1
[For those requiring afullar list of Greek and Roman tales than that given in my pages, the above will be found useful.]
Article on “Historical Novels and their uses in teaching,” by C. S. Fearenside, in The School World, November, x9oo.
[An exceptionally good article. The writer states his case clearly and forcibly, and his argument is all the more convincing by reason of its moderation.]
Article on “The New Historical Romances,” by W. D. Howells, in The North American Review, December, 1900.
The Essay on “The Historical Novel” in Prof. 3. Brander Matthews’ “The Historical Novel and other Essays” (C. Scribner’s Sons, 1901).
[Originally appeared in The Forum, September, 1897. Represents that School of Criticism which is most adverse to Historical Romance. Some of the Professor’s remarks convey the impression that he disbelieves in any reconstruction of the Past; such an article is, surely, unfavourable to History itself which is always more than any mere statement of “facts.”]
Article on “Great War Novels,” by Jane H. Findlater, in The National Review for July, 1901 (also appeared in The Living Age, August 24).
[Sienkiewicz, Tolstoy, and Zola compared as representing three different schools—the Epic, the Emotional, and the Realistic. Incidentally the authoress ably defines the province of Historical Romance.]
The Chapters on Ancient and Modern History in James Baldwin’s “The Book Lover.” (A. C. McClurg & Co., Chicago, 1902. Revised edition, with new lists and additional matter.)
The list of Historical Tales given in 3. S. Lindsey’s “Certificate Note. Book of European History, 1814—1848.” (Heifer & Sons, Cambridge, 1902.)
“History of English Romanticism in the Nineteenth Century,” by Henry A. Beers. (Kegan, Paul, & Co., 1902; and Henry Holt & Co., U.S.A.)
[Contains some valuable direct criticism. See especially Chapter I.]
Article on “The Novel of American History,” by Annie Russell Marble, in The Dial (Chicago) for the first half of June, 1902.
[An extremely interesting, well-balanced article.]
Article on “Venice in Recent Fiction,” by Louise Closser Hale, in The Bookman (American) for February, 1903.
[Marion Crawford, Mrs. Turnbull, and Max Pemberton compared. A good plea for Venetian History as “material.”]
Article on “Battles in Fiction,” by Eveline C. Godley, in The National Review for March, 1903.
[The authoress knows her subject well; in a brief but distinct survey she takes her examples from Tolstoy, Erckmann-Chatrian, Zola, &c.
The “Historical Appendix” in E. A. Baker’s “Guide to the Best Fiction.” (Sonnenschein & Co., London; and The Macmillan Co., New York, 1903).
[Seems to indicate, here and there, a lack of first-band investigation, but most useful and, on the whole, accurate.]
The useful classified lists of Historical Novels given in 3. S. Lindsey’s “Problems and Exercises in British History,” Parts I.—lV. (Heifer & Sons, Cambridge, 1903—4.)
Article on “History in Fiction,” by Philip Sidney in The Gentleman’s Magazine for December, 1903.
[Urges accuracy in Historical groundwork; it is contended that this may be effected “without wearying the reader with dry as dust information,” and “John Inglesant” is cited as a crowning instance.]