Sentimental fiction of the 1760s and 1770s

Helen F Thompson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


This chapter discusses sentimental fiction of the 1760s and 1770s. Sentimental novels of these decades are highly aware of their philosophical, figural, and generic conventions; many of them intermittently subvert moralizing, sympathizing, or feminizing reflex, whether by amplifying the textuality of feeling’s representation or by foregrounding feeling’s improbable excess. These novels employ sentimental discourse as the vehicle of what might be called meta-sentimental critique to query the sentimental actor’s powers of judgement and, inextricably, the resemblance of sentimental and aesthetic objects. The sympathetic person’s ability to determine who or what elicits feeling, and the conversion of sympathy into deracinated sensation, are addressed in Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey (1768), Oliver Goldsmith’s Vicar of Wakefield (1766), Henry Mackenzie’s Julia de Roubigné (1777), and Sarah Scott’s The History of Sir George Ellison (1766).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford History of the Novel in English
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 2: English and British Fiction 1750-1820
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780199574803
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Henry MacKenzie
  • Laurence Sterne
  • Meta-sentimental critique
  • Oliver Goldsmith
  • Sarah Scott
  • Sentimental discourse
  • Sentimental fiction
  • Sentimental novels
  • Sympathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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