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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 560 pages of information about Famous Reviews.

We are inclined to attribute this change, not so much to an alteration in the public taste, as in the character of the productions in question.  Novels may not, perhaps, display more genius now than formerly, but they contain more solid sense; they may not afford higher gratification, but it is of a nature which men are less disposed to be ashamed of avowing.  We remarked, in a former Number, in reviewing a work of the author now before us, that “a new style of novel has arisen, within the last fifteen or twenty years, differing from the former in the points upon which the interest hinges; neither alarming our credulity nor amusing our imagination by wild variety of incident, or by those pictures of romantic affection and sensibility, which were formerly as certain attributes of fictitious characters as they are of rare occurrence among those who actually live and die.  The substitute for these excitements, which had lost much of their poignancy by the repeated and injudicious use of them, was the art of copying from nature as she really exists in the common walks of life, and presenting to the reader, instead of the splendid scenes of an imaginary world, a correct and striking representation of that which is daily taking place around him.”

Now, though the origin of this new school of fiction may probably be traced, as we there suggested, to the exhaustion of the mines from which materials for entertainment had been hitherto extracted, and the necessity of gratifying the natural craving of the reader for variety, by striking into an untrodden path; the consequences resulting from this change have been far greater than the mere supply of this demand.  When this Flemish painting, as it were, is introduced—­this accurate and unexaggerated delineation of events and characters—­it necessarily follows, that a novel, which makes good its pretensions of giving a perfectly correct picture of common life, becomes a far more instructive work than one of equal or superior merit of the other class; it guides the judgment, and supplies a kind of artificial experience.  It is a remark of the great father of criticism, that poetry (i.e., narrative, and dramatic poetry) is of a more philosophical character than history; inasmuch as the latter details what has actually happened, of which many parts may chance to be exceptions to the general rules of probability, and consequently illustrate no general principles; whereas the former shews us what must naturally, or would probably, happen under given circumstances; and thus displays to us a comprehensive view of human nature, and furnishes general rules of practical wisdom.  It is evident, that this will apply only to such fictions as are quite perfect in respect of the probability of their story; and that he, therefore, who resorts to the fabulist rather than the historian, for instruction in human character and conduct, must throw himself entirely on the judgment and skill of his teacher,

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