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Abstract

William Congreve's only novel, Incognita; or: Love & Duty Reconcil'd (1692), is often mentioned in studies that undertake to trace the origins of the English novel. The action or "contrivance" of Incognita involves several days and nights of confusion in the carnivalesque setting of Renaissance Florence and the ultimate union of the young aristocrats, Aurelian and Hippolito, with the belles, Incognita-Juliana and Leonora. Congreve's preface has attracted more critical attention than the novel itself. Some critics have even called this document "the critical locus classicus in English"' for the crucially important end of the seventeenth century, when novelists were striving to replace "improbable," "marvellous" romances with more consistently authenticated and psychologically developed fiction.

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