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Early British Fiction: Pre-1750


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About this Collection

Introduction

Introduction

The microfilm collection, Early British Fiction: pre-1750, published by Research Publications, Inc., (now Primary Source Microfilm, an imprint of the Gale Group) is a self-contained, comprehensive library of English fiction through the year 1750.

The collection is based on William H. McBurneys Checklist of English Prose Fiction, 1700-1739 [Cambridge, 1960] and Jerry C. Beasleys Check List of Prose Fiction Published in England, 1740-1749 [Charlottesville, 1972].

Since no library can boast of holdings including all of the 600 or so separate works published between 1700 and 1750, hundreds of primary texts were gathered from the great but scattered holdings of the major American and British libraries, including the British Library in London, the University of Illinois, the University of Pennsylvania, the Newberry Library of Chicago, Harvard University, and the Huntington Library of California.

At first glance, many of the narratives published before 1750 might not seem to be works of fiction at all. But it is important to remember that in the first half of the eighteenth century a majority of people openly disapproved of frankly invented stories. Many writers, including Defoe, protested the "real truth" of their fictions; others, among them the author of Tom Jones, simply avoided calling their works "novels" or "romances" and instead used labels borrowed from factual genres. Hence the great number of novelistic "histories," "lives," "memoirs," "voyages," "travels," and "adventures," some of which are only marginal fictions that start with the truth about some real person or event but greatly embellish it, thereby making the same appeal as works entirely of the imagination.