chapter  2
Formulating a Genre
Pages 26

Fashionable novels were formulaic; that is, readers and writers had a certain set of expectations about what they would nd and/or include in a fashionable novel. Following Francis Russell Hart’s identi cation of the Regency as ‘a world in which social spectacle tried to ritualize an elusive and bewildering social reality, and fashion tried to stabilize a chaos of styles’, the formulaic nature of these novels emerges as part of the impulse, on the side of fashion, to give shape and meaning to a period that saw considerable social and political upheaval.3 e formula also had implications for the silver fork novel that a ected its relationship to the world of fashion, textual structure and situation within the literary marketplace. Since the nineteenth century, the silver fork formula has contributed to the dismissal of fashionable novels as ‘ u ’ literature; however, I would like to reconsider the formula to demonstrate how it did more than just facilitate the hasty productions of hack writers – it also served as an active artistic and marketing strategy for both authors and publishers. is chapter focuses on the literary history of the fashionable novel, providing an overview of the silver fork formula and using that formula as a starting place from which to examine how the genre was shaped by critical exchanges among silver fork authors and their critics. I begin with general critiques of the formula and then move to debates over speci c issues, such as subject matter and form, which were played out in

the pages of the periodical press and the novels themselves. In addition to establishing the silver fork genre and the place of that genre within the literary world of the early nineteenth century, these debates provided space in which writers could re ect on the role of the literary critic, the silver fork author and the nineteenth-century periodical press.