First novel in English
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The following works of literature have each been claimed as the first novel in English.
- Thomas Malory, Le Morte d'Arthur, (written c. 1470, published 1485)
- William Baldwin, Beware the Cat, (written 1553, published 1570, 1584)
- John Lyly, Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (1578) and Euphues and his England (1580)
- Philip Sidney, The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia (1581)
- Margaret Cavendish, The Blazing World (1666)
- John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress (1678)
- Aphra Behn, Oroonoko (1688)
- Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (1719)
- Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders (1722)
- Samuel Richardson, Pamela (1740)
The following are some other early long works of prose fiction in English:
- William Caxton's 1483 translation of Geoffroy de la Tour Landry, The Book of the Knight of the Tower (originally in French)
- Thomas Nashe, The Unfortunate Traveller, or The Life of Jack Wilton (1594)
- Jonathan Swift, A Tale of a Tub (1704)
- Daniel Defoe, The Consolidator (1705)
- Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels (1726)
There are multiple candidates for first novel in English partly because of ignorance of earlier works, but largely because the term novel can be defined so as to exclude earlier candidates:
- Some critics require a novel to be wholly original and so exclude retellings like Le Morte d'Arthur.
- Most critics distinguish between an anthology of stories with different protagonists, even if joined by common themes and milieus, and the novel (which forms a connected narrative), and so also exclude Le Morte d'Arthur.
- Some critics distinguish between the romance (which has fantastic elements) and the novel (which is wholly realistic) and so yet again exclude Le Morte d'Arthur.
- Some critics distinguish between the allegory (in which characters and events have political, religious or other meanings) and the novel (in which characters and events stand only for themselves) and so exclude The Pilgrim's Progress and A Tale of a Tub.
- Some critics require a novel to have a certain length, and so exclude Oroonoko, defining it instead as a novella.
- Some critics distinguish between the picaresque (which has a loosely connected sequence of episodes) and the novel (which has unity of structure) and so exclude The Unfortunate Traveller.
Due to the influence of Ian Watt's seminal study in literary sociology, The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (1957), Watt's candidate, Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719), gained wide acceptance.
- The article novel for detailed information about the history of the terms "novel" and "romance" and the bodies of texts they defined in a historical perspective.
- Category:Novels by date for earlier claimants in English and other languages.
- Ringler, William A. and Michael Flachmann eds. "Preface." Beware the Cat. San Marino: Huntington Library, 1988.