Travel Literature and the Evolution of the Novel
Although much has been written about how the novel relates to the epic, the drama, or autobiography, no one has clearly analyzed the complex connections between prose fiction as it evolved before 1800 and the literature of travel, which by that date had a long and colorful history. Percy Adams skilfully portrays the emergence of the novel in the fiction of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and traces in rich detail the history of travel literature from its beginnings to the time of James Cook, contemporary of Richardson and Fielding. And since the recit de voyage and the novel were then so international, he deals throughout with all the literatures of Western Europe, one of the book’s chief themes being the close literary ties among European nations. Equally important in the present study is its demonstration that, just as early travel accounts were often a combination of reporting and fabrication, so prose fiction is not a dichotomy to be divided into the “adult” novel on the one hand and the “childish” romance on the other, but an ambivalence – the marriage of realism and romanticism. “Travel Literature and the Evolution of the Novel” not only shows the novel to be amorphous and changing, it also proves impossible the task of defining the recit de voyage with its thousand forms and faces. Often the two types of literature are almost indistinguishable; even before “Don Quixote,” Adams writes, many travel accounts could have been advertised as having “the endless fascination of a wonderfully observed novel.”This study by Percy Adams will both modify opinions about the novel and its history and provide an excellent introduction to the travel account, a form of literature too little known to students of belles lettres.