(1) Henry James (1843-1916):
He was a prolific writer who has left behind him a number of novels, short stories, essays, articles and critical tracts. The Portrait of a Lady and The Ambassadors are his masterpieces.
He developed his theory of the novel in his famous critical work The Art of Fiction (1884). According to James the main business of the novelist is to give his impressions of life in such a manner as to create an illusion of reality in his work.
In his view the novelist is an impressionist, competing with, “his brother the painter in his attempt to render the look of things, the look that conveys their meaning, the colour, the relief, the expression, the surface, the substance of the human spectacle.” James believed that a novel should not be used for preaching of imparting moral lessons.
Henry James departed from the Victorian tradition, in as much as he paid no attention to the construction of his plots. There is very little action in the novels of James. He is concerned more with the study of mental processes than with the emotions of the human heart.
He evolved the technique of presenting his story “through the consciousness of a single character, thus discarding the ubiquity and omniscience of traditional novelist”. He is the first of the impressionists.
(2) George Moore (1852-1933):
George Moore was a realist, his aim being to paint life realistically. In the view of Walter Allen, he took over the “naturalistic novels” from France and tried to popularize it in England. He was an Irishman who, early in his life, came under the influence of Zola and Flaubert, from whom he learned the subtle art of presenting the reality of things in an impartial and impersonal manner.
In his novels like A Modern Lover (1813), A Mummer’s Wife (1885), Spring Days (1888) and Esther Waters (1894), he made a sympathetic study of the poor people and their miserable existence. His realism often grows morbid and oppressive, for his novels present a lose and realistic study of the sordid side human life bringing to view the misery and suffering of the poor and the down-trodden. The sympathy of the novelist is always with those whose lot is to suffer.
(3) George Gissing (1857-1903):
Gissing was essentially a realist, like Moore, interested in the study of the people and their mean and squalid existence. However he did not sympathies with the poor as did George Moore. He simple focused the attention of social reformers on the miseries of the underdog and the socially alienated.
His pictures of the sordid and seamy side of life have been drawn convincingly. He exhibited a rare skill in his unflinching realism, concrete detail, and a graphic description of the poor in an urban industrialized society.
But he could not achieve the detachment of Moore; he is subjective and often colored his accounts of the poor with his own personal experiences. His main works are the nether World (1889), Grub Street (1891), and The House of Cobwebs (1906).
The Private Papers of Henry Rye craft is autobiographical in character and presents realistic studies of the squalid and savage people whom he had personally known, but without much sympathy with their unhappy lot.
However he is more sympathetic to women; the range of his female characters is considerably greater than that of his men. This makes The Odd Women and in the year of the Jubilee, his most successful novels.
(4) Samuel Butler (1835-1902):
Butler “the literary bad boy of the Victorians”, whom he scandalized almost as badly as his namesake had scandalized the Puritans, and for the same reason, because he understood neither their idealism nor the moral earnestness from which it sprang.
The fame of Samuel Butler rests chiefly on three novels, Erewhon (1872), and its equal Erewhon Revisited, and The Way of All Flesh (1903), which is his best known work. In these novels Butler blazed a new trail which ran counter to the prevailing tendencies of the Age. Butler’s book (The Way of All Flesh) was dominated by his opinions and prejudices. His book sprawled over several generations and suffered a major fracture half-way through. He often contented himself with basic summary of both scene and conversation.
Butler exercised considerable influence on the younger novelists who were bent flouting Victorian taboos and conventions. As a scientific rationalist, Butler subjected the sentimental sanctions of the home and Parental love and filial duty to a chilly anthropological scrutiny, and as an evolutionist he traced the ancestry of his central character to show how the dominant was all the more thorough by being reinforced by Butler’s antipathy to Christian faith in general and the Church of England in particular. Butler is an original thinker and a great iconoclast, though not a great technician.
(5) Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936):
He was a prolific and versatile writer. He was a poet, a journalist, a novelist and a teller of tales. He was both a realist and a romance. He was a realist in his setting and character, which are however romantically treated. Realism is the basis of his romance.
He is an impressionist whose pictures of reality are colored by his own personal impression, and so are tinged with romance. Instead of finding romance in the past and the middle Ages, he finds romance in the present realities of life. “He is the romance of the present, of the modern social order, on which shines from afar a light as resplendent as that which shone on medieval society, for it is the same light of the imagination. Kipling feels the presence of romance in shot and shell as well as in bow and arrows, and in red coats as well as in buff jerkins” (W.L. Cross).
Kipling was an imperialist and his tales are so many glorifications of the British rule and British Empire. “His insistent proclamation of the superiority of the white races, of Britain’s undoubted mission to extend through her imperial policy the benefits of civilization to the rest of the world, his belief in progress and the value of the machine, found an echo in the hearts of many of his readers” (E. Albert). This account for his contemporary popularity.
(6) Arnold Bennett (1867-1931):
Bennett was essentially a realist and a regionalist, and his realism is well brought out in the vivid and real pictures of the pottery districts of England or in his study of the Five Towns. The Old Wives’ Tale, Clay hanger, Imperial Palace, etc., are among his better known novels.
Bennett became an interpreter of the life and society of a particular region, the Five Towns, which he knew well. But it is to his credit that like a true artist he maintained an air of impartiality and detachment in the presentation of the life of this region.
He did not aim at any propaganda or moral preaching through the medium of his art. A charming Dickens-like humor plays over all, and makes the reading enjoyable. The impression of drabness dullness and sordidness that might be-created from the study of his realistic pictures of the life of Five Towns is further removed by his addition of romance, specially the romance of love. Besides finding romance in love, Bennett, like Kipling, finds romance in the ordinary things of life.
He refused to identify romance, “with the merely picturesque or the merely extraordinary” God had endowed him with the ability of “evoking the beauty and romance of the romance of the ordinary lives of ordinary folk and it is one of the most attractive features of his best novels”.
(7) H.G. Wells (1866-1944):
Wells was a prolific writer and thinker, who produced novels pamphlets, histories, stories and romances with unceasing regularity. His novels such as The Time Machine, The First Men in the Moon, The Food of the Gods, The Island of Dr. Moreau, deal with scientific subjects in an imaginative way. He had his own ideas about the nature and function of fiction.
For him the novel was not a mere matter of relaxation and entertainment. He considered it as a powerful instrument of moral and social suggestion and propaganda. In his hands, the novel became an instrument of social, political and educational discussion, criticism and reform.
He did not remain in the world of scientific fantasies for long, and soon drifted away from the world of scientific dreams to the wider field of social life. He became a social critic and attacked social evils with the vehemence of an inspired reformer.
In the History of Mr. Polly he exposed educational impostures and in Tone Bunge he attacked modern commercialism. His method as a social reformer is different from that of Charles Dickens. Whereas Dickens attempted to gain his object of social reform through persuasion, Wells adopted a more aggressive attitude.
Writes A.C. Ward: “When he (Wells) laughed at abuses he was a second Dickens; when he grew fretful over them, he became a second-rate edition of himself. And he was perhaps the first of that army of propagandist writers that, more particularly in the nineteen-thirties, endeavored to hector rather than to persuade and convince.”
(8) Joseph Conrad (1857-1924):
Canard is a Pole by birth; he did not know a word of the English language till he was over twenty, and yet he wrote in English with distinction. He was the contemporary of such traditional novelists as Arnold Bennett, H.G. Wells and Galsworthy, and yet his work is entirely different from theirs. He is a great technical innovator.
His experiences on the sea and in many lands made him a man of no single specially the Malayan Archipelago. His character is drawn from many nations. Malays, Borneo’s, Swedes, and other Europeans living in the East, the Negroes, the Germans and the Dutch, and people of many other lands move across his pages and are painted with deep insight and sympathy. They have national differences, and yet basically they are the same.
He was a great romantic, yet at the same time a great realist. Romantic-realism is the keynote of his work. He did not invent his plots. He was almost incapable of such invention. His material1 was reality, subjected to the transmuting processes of a lively imagination. Seeds of fact planted in his mind germinated into a ‘romantic-realistic’ novel or tale.
The organic unity of his novels is amazing. Character, setting, and language, all contribute to the total effect aimed at by the novelist. His aim was to render the human soul, and with this end in view he adopts the impressionistic technique.
He addressed to the philosophical purpose of awakening that feeling of unavoidable solidarity which binds men to each other and all mankind to the visible world.”
He was much concerned with the problem of Evil, all of the above and he saw Evil within man, as well as in the environment in which he lived and had his being. In his philosophy, it is only Fidelity, the sense of solidarity with the human race, which can enable him to wage a successful war against Evil and overcome it.
Sea and Seamen:
One of his main themes is the corrupting effect of the East on the white men who live there, and Nature in her Eastern guise is a complex power, working through men and things.
But, he did not organize his plots well; Too often he delayed he is a novelist of extreme situations; he does not explore human relationships; the action and interaction of character is rare in him; many of his stories are merely melodramatic and sensational; he offers few triumphs of feminine portraiture; his novels are deficient in his love-interest; and the unrelieved gloom of his tragedies, his depressing philosophy of life, makes his novels cheerless reading, and repels and horrifies. But these limitations do not count for much, when we remember the astonishing range and variety of his achievement.
(9) Somerset Maugham:
Maugham is one of the prominent novelists and short story writers of the 20th century. The Moon and Six Pence, Of Human Bondage, Cackles and Ale, and The Razor’s Edge, are among his masterpieces. These novels bring out his interest not only in his own country but also in other countries like Italy, France, India and the South Seas. The settings of his novels are cosmopolitan; they are not confined to any one country or climate.
Maugham is interested in three problems – the problem of renunciation and materialistic craze for possession, the problem of love, and the human predicament, the futility and meaninglessness of human life.
In his view renunciation of worldly power and pelf is the ultimate solution to all our problems, cares and worries. In his treatment of Love, Maugham presents the tragedy of love rather than its triumph.
Love does not come out successful and happy in his novels. Everywhere we come across the tragedy of love. Life seems to Maugham, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. Of Human Bondage is his final judgement on the meaninglessness and loneliness of human life. “It is one of the most moving accounts of loneliness in our language” (W. Allen).
Maugham’s greatness lies in his thought. As a thinker he is original and provoking. He makes us think about life and its problems. He gives jerks to our self-complacent ideologies, and forces us to view life in a philosophic way. He convinces us that, “art, unless it leads to right action, is no more than the opium of the intelligentsia”.
(10) E.M. Forster: E.M:
Forster is one of the prominent novelists and short story writers of the 20th century. “As a novelist Forster is rather difficult to understand, partly because of the symbolism that works its way through his work, and partly because of the manner in which he seeks to impart his message.
As a novelist he is often delightful and always baffling and ambiguous, and he has always stood apart from his contemporaries” (Walter Allen). Passage to India is his masterpiece and his best known novel.
E.M. Forster is a symbolist, and what could not be expressed adequately through words is suggested by Forster through symbols. In The Longest Journey, Forster employs the symbol of the Train, representing salvation and the passing away of evil and wickedness. In Howard’s End motor car is the symbol of the rush and recklessness of modern fast moving civilization.
It is a symbol indictment of our civilization with its feverish rush and activity. In A Passage to India, the symbolism is represented in the very title. “Passage” is symbolic of “link” or “connection”, and by giving the title A Passage to India, the author advocates and link or connection between the Anglo-Indians and the natives of India. Glen O. Allen is of the view that the three fold division of the novels symbolizes three attitudes towards life; the path of activity, the path of knowledge and the path of devotion. Forster was a social critic and reformer who used symbolism as a means of his social purpose. In so doing, he added poetry to the English novel.
(11) D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930):
D.H. Lawrence is one of the most disputed geniuses in the history of the modern English novel. His has been excessively praised as well as excessively abused. His pre-occupation with sex has resulted in his being condemned as a sex- maniac, and there are many who still regard him as a turner out of cheap sex novels.
His novels like The Rainbow and Lady Chatterley’s Lover were proscribed on grounds of immorality, his Sons and Lovers was condemned as a mass of sexuality and mother-love, and the controversy raised as a consequence has come in the way of a fair and impartial assessment of his worth as a novelist. Let us examine the merits and demerits of Lawrence as a novelist and thus form an impartial estimate of our own of his true place and significance in the history of the English novel.
He has made significant contribution to the development of the English novel. His work is continuous with the richest tradition of the English Novel, but at the same time his work modifies that tradition by adding something new. He altered the dimensions of the English novel, and revealed its hidden possibilities. His novels are something new and not mere copies of earlier novels.
(12) Aldous Huxley:
Huxley’s works present satirically the disillusionment and frustration with contemporary social life. Chrome yellow (1921), his first novels, “is something of a youthful firework display.” Point Counter Point (1928) is a serious novels representing satirically the conflict between passion and reason, and the foolishness of sticking to only one point of view without ever caring to look at the other side of the picture.
This novel dopiest a special technique which may be called, “the musicalization of fiction.” It is rah in witty and satirical epigrams. In The Brave New World (1932) Huxley satirizes a scientific Utopia in which everything is controlled and conditioned by considerations of scientific uniformity.
The severe critic of this scientifically organized world is the savage John who pleads for greater freedom of the individual and for spiritual life. The satire lies in the fact that he fails to persuade the inhabitants of this scientific world to five up to his ideal of a free, spiritual life.
Huxley is a novelist with a mission and a message. In Point Counterpoint; he lays emphasis on synthesis and harmony between sense and reason. In Eyeless in Gaza we have the message of non-attachment. He does not mortify the flesh. He lays emphasis on the fact that the spirit is determined by the body.
He say’s “Sooner or later very soul is stifled by the sick body, sooner or later there are no more thoughts but only pain and vomiting apustupor. The spirit has no significance; there is only the body.” Huxley will always live as a thought- provoking and stirring writer of our times.
(13) James Joyce (1882-1941):
She is one of the prominent novelists of the 20th century. He is the main exponent of the stream of consciousness novel and his Ulysses is the finest example of the use of this technique in modern fiction. In Joyce, “the twentieth century passion for experiment in literary form reached its climax.” Dubliners, A portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Finnegan’s Wake are among his more important works.
In Dubliner (1914), a collection of short stories, he throws light on the life of the slum- dwellers of Dublin. The stories are objective and realistic in character and are written in a simple and direct style.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) \s an autobiographical work and the artist Dedalus, the chief protagonist, stands for the novelist. “As a revelation of Joyce’s power to explore the psychology of his own nature with detachment and scientific curiosity.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is unparalleled in a period rich in self- analysis. Pride and sensuality struggle for the possession of the soul of Stephen Devalues, who, having rejected the help of religion, seeks to escape into tranquility through the impersonality of art” (Diana Neill).
Ulysses (1922) is Joyce’s masterpiece. In this novel the stream of consciousness technique finds its best exposition. The novel is set in Dublin and seeks to represent and reconstruct Dublin life in all its sordid realism. It narrates in a rambling manner the wanderings of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Devalues through the city of Dublin, on one particular day.
The novel is extremely formless, loose and incoherent. It is the educational absurdum of the extreme subjective method. Diana Neill says rightly that, “the book is unintelligible and its formal complexities have left readers baffled and confused. However, its style is marked with rare ingenuity, witticism and satirical flashes.
The novel has been called a ‘comic epic’ in which the novelist went deeper and farther than any other novelist in his handling of the interior monologue and the stream of consciousness technique. Ulysses may be little read today, but Joyce’s greatness as an artist cannot be questioned.
In Finnegan’s Wake (1939),”Subtlety and complexity produce incomprehensibility. Tisa study of the history of the human race from its earliest beginnings, as seen through the incoherent dreams of one Mr. Ear wicker. The use of an inconsecutive narrative and of a private vocabulary adds to the confusion, but it cannot conceal the poetic fervour, the power and brilliant verbal skill of the work.” (E. Albert).
(14) Dorothy Richardson:
Dorothy though considered less important today than Virginia Woolf, yet she influenced her and the subsequent women novelists considerably with her novel. Pointed Roofs (1915). It was something new which Dorothy Richardson did in this novel. She endeavored to give both the subjective and the objective biography of a character – young women named Miriam Henderson.
The description is entirely subjective. It is the stream of Miriam’s consciousness that Miss Richardson reproduces without any interference on her own part. Her novel is truly feminine and she comes closest of all English novelists. To reality and accuracy in her study of the mind of a woman. No novelist has succeeded so well in presenting feminine psychology.
(15) Katherine Mansfield (1888-1929):
She is a writer of short stories and during her life-time five volumes of her stories were published. She was an impressionist in her art and sought to portray objectively, “the significant moment in human relationship, the curious and subtle adventure and the poignant ironies of contrasting human emotions.”
She studied life objectively and, “understood characters widely divergent from herself in both temperaments and accidentals.” In her stories, she has tried to present the weariness and frustrations of modern English life. “Her stories are marked with a note of somberness and are characterized with a haunting sense of pathos.” The Prelude, To the Bay, The Fly, The Garden Party, represent at its best the subtle psychological art of Katherine Mansfield.
(16) Mrs. Virginia Woolf – (1882-1941):
Mrs. Woolf belongs to the school of “stream of consciousness” novelists. She is one of those great English novelists of the 20th century who had the courage to break free from tradition, and then to give a new direction, a new form and a new spiritual awareness, to the English novel.
She began writing in the established tradition of the novel; her first two novels, The Voyage out and Night and Day are largely traditional. But soon she realised the inadequacy of the traditional novel, and adopted the stream-of-consciousness technique in the Jacob’s Room, her third novel. Her art rapidly matured and her next two novels Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse represent the very consummation of the novel of subjectivity.
Imparted Form and Balance to the Novel of Subjectivity :
She is no one of the architects of the “stream-of-consciousness novel”; she is no its originator, but it is in her novels that “the stream-of-consciousness” technique finds its balance. She has succeeded in imposing form and order on the chaos inherent in the novel of subjectivity.
In this way, as R.L. Chambers puts it, she has brought this particular genre of the novel out of the realm of “stunt literature”, and has made it an acceptable and coherent art form. She was also one of the most forceful and original theorists of,” the stream-of-consciousness novel”, and by her exposition of the aesthetics of this kind of novel, she did much to throw light on its technique and to bring out its superiority to the conventional novel.
Her novels need some painstaking on the part of the reader, but if followed imaginatively, they have the power to illuminate and transform. Giving an estimate of her achievement, G.S. Frazer in his book The Modern Writer and His World writes, “She offers us a lyrical abstraction from the pain with which she felt the world; the quality of her mind and spirit has a distinction that will make some readers always grateful to accept the offering.” She may not be one of the greatest of English novelists, but there can be no denying the fact that, “She is a delicate and subtle artist, who upheld spiritual and aesthetic values in a coarse, materialistic age.” Her influence has been profound and all-pervasive, so much so that R.A. Scott-James write, “After her, in her own country, the serious novel could never again be just what it had been before.”
(17) Elizabeth Bowen
She is a prominent novelist of exceptional individuality. She is a close follower of the technique of Virginia Woolf. The Heat of the Day and Last September are her chief novels. Like Mrs. Woolf, she is interested in the study of the human heart. She studies life around her with an artistic detachment, and presents her impressions of life in a delicate, subtle style characterized by feminine sensitiveness.
She presents the social comedy of manners with an ironically sympathetic understanding. She may not attain the extraordinary fullness of Virginia Woolf and her characters may not react to London life with the same intensity as does Mrs. Dalloway. “But our senses are always being appealed to by an observer who is more obviously feminine than Virginia Woolf; physical details of the body, careful appraisal of dress, match the insight into feminine moods’ (Collins), Like Virginia Woolf, she was achieved greater success in the depiction of her women that her men.