The Age of the Novel
The novel was the dominant literary form of the nineteenth century, and it was therefore a genre of the utmost importance to the publishing industry. Indeed, because the novel was a product of the age of printed publication1 the relationship between form and text, and between author and publisher, was unusually close. While the dramatist wrote for the stage, the essayist for the editor and the poet for a small literary elite, and the novelist wrote for his publisher. It was the publishers who exploited the mass market which the novel could command, to the extent that they even allowed market forces to dictate the physical form in which novels were produced. Throughout the century, from Scott at the beginning to Hardy at the end, the great novelists commanded a large popular audience, reached through a multitude of channels. Not only the bookshop but also the circulating library was crucial to the commercial success of the Victorian novel, and the various forms in which it was published — single-volume, multi-volume, three-volume, serialised in parts or serialised in magazines — reflected changing tastes, changing outlets and changing market demands.