The English short story in the 1890s
The aim of this thesis is to draw attention to the work of a sadly -neglected genre. The short fiction printed in England in the 1890s has great variety and scope, and there is much work of literary enterprise and value which merits close attention. The method of the thesis is to proceed by 'readings', in depth, of a large number of short stories, thereby highlighting the importance of the genre. The first chapter establishes the theoretical arguments which authors and critics of the 1890s applied to the genre, and places the short story in its general historical context. A distinction is made be- tween the traditional magazine story to which most of the fiction conforms, and a new creative story, written by authors alert to the potential of the form itself. Chapter Two considers the achievements and drawbacks of the traditional story, and Chapter Three the range of new short fiction, through a survey of the most important (though little discussed) avant -garde periodicals.The main concern of this thesis is with individual authors. My choice of which authors to discuss has been determined by considerations of quality: they are, in my opinion, the authors writing the best, most imaginative and innovative fiction in the period. These questions of literary excellence are investigated by detailed descriptions of the significant achievements of new authors as they experiment with, and so develop, the genre. Chapter Four documents Henry James's uneasy relationship with traditional magazine fiction, and his efforts to concentrate the reader's attention and his responsibilities towards the text. Chapter Five considers the work of Hubert Crackanthorpe in the wider context of realistic fiction in England and France, and contests the claim that English writers simply plagiarise the work of Maupassant. Chapter Six treats the stories of the radical feminist author George Egerton, and the way her work combines uncompromising themes with highly conventional narrative techniques. Chapter Seven considers the technical innovations made by Frederick Wedmore, another underrated figure. His allusive, sophisticated stories make an important contribution to short fiction. All the various possibilities of the short story are realised in the work of a single writer, Rudyard Kipling. The astonishing range of his work, which is discussed in the final chapter, shows the short story flourishing -at its finest and most mature. It is in Kipling's hands that the English short story of the 1890s becomes a great art form.