English literature, English fiction, 18th century, secret history
The secret history, a genre of writing made popular as opposition political propaganda during the reign of Charles ii, has been the subject of renewed critical interest in recent years. By the mid-1740s, novelists were using markers of secret histories on the title pages of their works, thus blurring the genres. This forgotten history of the secret history can help us understand why Ian Watt and other twentieth-century critics tended to end their narratives of the rise of the “realist” Whig novel with the works of the Tory novelist Jane Austen. In particular, the blended narrative perspective that Watt praises in Austen’s novels—in which the author balances a realism of presentation with a realism of assessment—may stem in part from the layers of narrative framing deployed in secret histories to shield the author from prosecution for libel. The opposition and Tory secret historians that Watt excludes from his Whiggish triple-rise theory may have contributed to the complex narratological perspective that he identifies as the culmination of the novel’s formal emergence.
Carnell, Rachel K., "Slipping from Secret History to Novel" (2015). English Faculty Publications. 78.
This work remains under copyright © 2014 Eighteenth-Century Fiction, McMaster University, doi: 10.3138/ecf.28.1.1, http://www.utpjournals.press/doi/abs/10.3138/ecf.28.1.1