The Silver Fork Novel

The Silver Fork Novel : Fashionable Fiction in the Age of Reform

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In the early nineteenth century there was a sudden vogue for novels centering on the glamour of aristocratic social and political life. Such novels, attractive as they were to middle-class readers, were condemned by contemporary critics as dangerously seductive, crassly commercial, designed for the 'masses' and utterly unworthy of regard. Until recently, silver-fork novels have eluded serious consideration and been overshadowed by authors such as Jane Austen. They were influenced by Austen at their very deepest levels, but were paradoxically drummed out of history by the very canon-makers who were using Austen's name to establish their own legitimacy. This first modern full-length study of the silver-fork novel argues that these novels were in fact tools of persuasion, novels deliberately aimed at bringing the British middle classes into an alliance with an aristocratic program of political reform.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 6 b/w illus.
  • 1139511971
  • 9781139511971

Table of contents

1. Cultural contexts; 2. Edgeworth, Burney and Austen; 3. Reform and the silver fork novel; 4. Newspapers and the silver fork novel; 5. The topography of silver fork London; 6. Performing reform, silver fork heroines.
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Review quote

'Copeland's reading shows what informed, incisive historicist literary criticism can do.' The Times Literary Supplement 'Copeland's literary 'search and rescue' effort is thoroughly impressive ... Well written, informative, and thoroughly engaging, [his] book offers fertile ground for further sustained study of a genre still largely unplumbed.' Review 19 (
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About Edward Copeland

Edward Copeland is Emeritus Professor of English at Pomona College, Claremont, California.
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