Anna Barbauld has been recognized as advancing the critical study of the novel in her edition of The British Novelists. This article considers closely the attention Barbauld pays to novelistic form in the preface and critical essays in that work. She prioritizes carefully-conceived plot above aspirations to realism and to moral didacticism, and places considerable emphasis on narrative closure. This attention to closure is examined in light of both contemporary and later critical debate on the importance and value of novelistic ending. There is some irony in Barbauld's disparagement of disrupted narrative forms considering her reputation as the author of the Gothic fragment "Sir Bertrand." While this was firmly attributed to her brother John in the 1820s, there is some correlation between the expository essay to "Sir Bertrand" and Barbauld’s later writing on Gothic works in The British Novelists. In both "Objects of Terror" and in The British Novelists more generally there is an interest in the construction of readerly curiosity and the power exerted over the reader by a work's end.
Toner, A. C.
"Anna Barbauld on Fictional Form in The British Novelists (1810),"
2, Article 3.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/ecf/vol24/iss2/3
Anne Toner is a fellow and director of studies in English at Trinity College, Cambridge. She has published on the history of ellipsis marks in English literature.