Fashionable novel

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Fashionable novels, also called silver fork novels, were a 19th-century genre of English literature that depicted the lives of the upper class. They dominated the English literature market from the mid-1820s to the mid-1840s.[1] They were often indiscreet, and on occasion "keys" would circulate that identified the real people on which the principal characters were based.[1] Their emphasis on the relations of the sexes and on marital relationships presaged later development in the novel.[2]

Theodore Hook was a major writer of fashionable novels, and Henry Colburn was a major publisher.[1] Colburn particularly advertised them as providing insight into aristocratic life.[3] Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Benjamin Disraeli and Catherine Gore were other very popular writers.[4] Many were advertised as being by aristocrats, for aristocrats.[5]

William Hazlitt coined the term "silver fork" in an article on “The Dandy School” in 1827.[3] He characterized them as having "under-bred tone" because while they purported to tell the lives of aristocrats, they were commonly written by the middle-class.[3] Thomas Carlyle wrote Sartor Resartus in critique of their minute detailing of clothing, and William Makepeace Thackeray satirized them in Vanity Fair and Pendennis.[3]

As more women wrote the genre, it became increasingly moralized.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Duncan Wu (1999-10-29). A Companion to Romanticism. John Wiley & Sons. p. 338. ISBN 978-0-631-21877-7. 
  2. ^ a b Silver Fork Novels
  3. ^ a b c d Tamara S. Wagner, The Silver Fork Novel
  4. ^ Catherine Gore 1799(?)-1861
  5. ^ Claire Harman, Jane's Fame, p 72 ISBN 978-0-8050-8258-6

Further reading[edit]