Fear of Fiction: The Novel
Novels were subversive of the highest moral principles or, in short, were the primer of the Devil. A world of morality and rationality was threatened by the romanticism, sensationalism, and emotionality of the novel. Powerful attraction to the more emotional/sensational aspects of fiction inevitably was met by powerful opposition to religious literature. The menace that was fiction was then fully unleashed upon an eager public, to the chagrin of literary critics, moralists, educators, and clergy. Early prose fiction, as serialized in periodicals or published in book form, soon was denounced and damned as an evil influence. In Richardson's story, Pamela Andrews, a poor-but-virtuous servant girl in a wealthy household faced severe moral and physical trials following the death of her mistress. Fielding's Shamela satirized the story, morality, and sentiment of Pamela. Readers followed the events by means of a series of letters written by Pamela at critical moments, rather than by way of any storytelling narrative.