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Introduction

A novel is a relatively long work of narrative fiction, normally in prose, which is typically published as a book.

The genre has been described as having "a continuous and comprehensive history of about two thousand years", with its origins in classical Greece and Rome, in medieval and early modern romance, and in the tradition of the novella. The latter, an Italian word for a short story to distinguish it from a novel, has been used in English since the 18th century for a work that falls somewhere in between. Ian Watt, in The Rise of the Novel, suggested in 1957 that the novel first came into being in the early 18th century.

Selected article

Frontispiece of 1901 Avil Publishing Company edition of Cousin Bette
La Cousine Bette is an 1846 novel by French author Honoré de Balzac. Set in mid-19th century Paris, it tells the story of Bette, an unmarried middle-aged woman who plots the destruction of her extended family. Bette works with Valérie Marneffe, an unhappily married young lady, to seduce and torment a series of men. The book is part of the Scènes de la vie parisienne section of Balzac's novel sequence La Comédie humaine. In the 1840s, a serial format known as the roman-feuilleton was highly popular in France, and Balzac wanted to prove himself the most capable feuilleton author in France. Writing quickly and with intense focus, Balzac produced La Cousine Bette, one of his longest novels, in two months. It was published in Le Constitutionnel at the end of 1846, then collected with a companion work, Le Cousin Pons, the following year. The story explores themes of vice and virtue, as well as the influence of money on French society. Bette's relationship with Valérie is also seen as an important exploration of homoerotic themes. La Cousine Bette is considered Balzac's last great work. His trademark use of realist detail combines with a panorama of characters returning from earlier novels. Several critics have hailed it as a turning point in the author's career, and others have called it a prototypical naturalist text.

Selected novel quote

Anagallis arvensis 2.jpg
  • "The Scarlet Pimpernel?" said Suzanne, with a merry laugh. "Why! what a droll name! What is the Scarlet Pimpernel, Monsieur?"
    She looked at Sir Andrew with eager curiosity. The young man's face had become almost transfigured. His eyes shone with enthusiasm; hero-worship, love, admiration for his leader seemed literally to glow upon his face. "The Scarlet Pimpernel, Mademoiselle," he said at last "is the name of a humble English wayside flower; but it is also the name chosen to hide the identity of the best and bravest man in all the world, so that he may better succeed in accomplishing the noble task he has set himself to do."
    "Ah, yes," here interposed the young Vicomte, "I have heard speak of this Scarlet Pimpernel. A little flower — red? — yes! They say in Paris that every time a royalist escapes to England that devil, Foucquier-Tinville, the Public Prosecutor, receives a paper with that little flower designated in red upon it.

The Scarlet Pimpernel

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