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The Best Hundred Novels (1898 Edition)
November 6, 2013 8:50 PM   Subscribe

The Queenslander, April 4, 1898: "Mr. Clement K. Shorter, asked by 'The Bookman' to write out a list of 100 of the best novels in the English language, supplied the following list, naming only one book of each author, and giving the date of publication :--" [Via.]

1. Don Quixote, 1604, Miguel de Cervantes
2. The Holy War, 1682, John Bunyan
3. Gil Blas, 1715, Alain René le Sage
4. Robinson Crusoe, 1719, Daniel Defoe
5. Gulliver's Travels, 1726, Jonathan Swift
6. Roderick Random, 1748, Tobias Smollett
7. Clarissa, 1749, Samuel Richardson
8. Tom Jones, 1749, Henry Fielding
9. Candide, 1756, Voltaire
10. Rasselas, 1759, Samuel Johnson
11. The Castle of Otranto, 1764, Horace Walpole
12. The Vicar of Wakefield, 1766, Oliver Goldsmith
13. The Old English Baron, 1777, Clara Reeve
14. Evelina, 1778, Fanny Burney
15. Vathek, 1787, William Beckford
16. The Mysteries of Udolpho, 1794, Ann Radcliffe
17. Caleb Williams, 1794, William Godwin
18. The Wild Irish Girl, 1806, Lady Morgan
19. Corinne, 1810, Madame de Staël
20. The Scottish Chiefs, 1810, Jane Porter
21. The Absentee, 1812, Maria Edgeworth
22. Pride and Prejudice, 1813, Jane Austen
23. Headlong Hall, 1816, Thomas Love Peacock
24. Frankenstein, 1818, Mary Shelley
25. Marriage, 1818, Susan Ferrier
26. The Ayrshire Legatees, 1820, John Galt
27. Valerius, 1821, John Gibson Lockhart
28. Wilhelm Meister, 1821, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
29. Kenilworth, 1821, Sir Walter Scott
30. Bracebridge Hall, 1822, Washington Irving
31. The Epicurean, 1822, Thomas Moore
32. The Adventures of Hajji Baba, 1824, James Morier
33. The Betrothed, 1825, Alessandro Manzoni
34. Lichtenstein, 1826, Wilhelm Hauff
35. The Last of the Mohicans, 1826, Fenimore Cooper
36. The Collegians, 1828, Gerald Griffin
37. The Autobiography of Mansie Wauch, 1828, David M. Moir
38. Richelieu, 1829, G. P. R. James
39. Tom Cringle's Log, 1833, Michael Scott
40. Mr. Midshipman Easy, 1834, Frederick Marryat
41. Le Père Goriot, 1835, Honoré de Balzac
42. Rory O'More, 1836, Samuel Lover
43. Jack Brag, 1837, Theodore Hook
44. Fardorougha the Miser, 1839, William Carleton
45. Valentine Vox, 1840, Henry Cockton
46. Old St. Paul's, 1841, Harrison Ainsworth
47. Ten Thousand a Year, 1841, Samuel Warren
48. Susan Hopley, 1841, Catherine Crowe
49. Charles O'Malley, 1841, Charles Lever
50. The Last of the Barons, 1843, Bulwer-Lytton
51. Consuelo, 1844, George Sand
52. Amy Herbert, 1844, Elizabeth Sewell
53. Adventures of Mr. Ledbury, 1844, Albert Smith
54. Sybil, 1845, Lord Beaconsfield (Benjamin Disraeli)
55. The Three Musketeers, 1845, Alexandre Dumas
56. The Wandering Jew, 1845, Eugène Sue
57. Emilia Wyndham, 1846, Anne Marsh
58. The Romance of War, 1846, James Grant
59. Vanity Fair, 1847, W. M. Thackeray
60. Jane Eyre, 1847, Charlotte Brontë
61. Wuthering Heights, 1847, Emily Brontë
62. The Vale of Cedars, 1848, Grace Aguilar
63. David Copperfield, 1849, Charles Dickens
64. The Maiden and Married Life of Mary Powell, 1850, Anne Manning
65. The Scarlet Letter, 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne
66. Frank Fairleigh, 1850, Francis Smedley
67. Uncle Tom's Cabin, 1851, H. B. Stowe
68. The Wide, Wide World, 1851, Susan Warner (Elizabeth Wetherell)
69. Nathalie, 1851, Julia Kavanagh
70. Ruth, 1853, Elizabeth Gaskell
71. The Lamplighter, 1854, Maria Susanna Cummins
72. Doctor Antonio, 1855, Giovanni Ruffini
73. Westward Ho!, 1855, Charles Kingsley
74. Debit and Credit (Soll und Haben), 1855, Gustav Freytag
75. Tom Brown's School Days, 1856, Thomas Hughes
76. Barchester Towers, 1857, Anthony Trollope
77. John Halifax, Gentleman, 1857, Dinah Mulock
78. Ekkehard, 1857, Viktor von Scheffel
79. Elsie Venner, 1859, Oliver Wendell Holmes
80. The Woman in White, 1860, Wilkie Collins
81. The Cloister and the Hearth, 1861, Charles Reade
82. Ravenshoe, 1861, Henry Kingsley
83. Fathers and Sons, 1861, Ivan Turgenev
84. Silas Marner, 1861, George Eliot
85. Les Misérables, 1862, Victor Hugo
86. Salammbô, 1862, Gustave Flaubert
87. Salem Chapel, 1862, Margaret Oliphant
88. The Channings, 1862, Ellen Wood (a. k. a. Mrs Henry Wood)
89. Lost and Saved, 1863, The Hon. Mrs. Norton
90. The Schönberg-Cotta Family, 1863, Elizabeth Charles
91. Uncle Silas, 1864, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
92. Barbara's History, 1864, Amelia B. Edwards
93. Sweet Anne Page, 1868, Mortimer Collins
94. Crime and Punishment, 1868, Fyodor Dostoevsky
95. Fromont Junior, 1874, Alphonse Daudet
96. Marmorne, 1877, P. G. Hamerton
97. Black but Comely, 1879, G. J. Whyte-Melville
98. The Master of Ballantrae, 1889, R. L. Stevenson
99. Reuben Sachs, 1889, Amy Levy
100. News from Nowhere, 1891, William Morris

"Mr. Shorter also named eight of his favourite novels, by living authors, as follow :--"

An Egyptian Princess, 1864, Georg Ebers
Rhoda Fleming, 1865, George Meredith
Lorna Doone, 1869, R. D. Blackmore
Anna Karenina, 1875, Leo Tolstoy
The Return of the Native, 1878, Thomas Hardy
Daisy Miller, 1878, Henry James
Mark Rutherford, 1881, W. Hale White
Le Rêve, 1889, Émile Zola

Around the same time, Shorter contributed a list of "A Hundred Books for a Village Library," which yielded several replies.
posted by Monsieur Caution (57 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite

 
Now this is a list!
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:03 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't believe that in 1898 they did such an obvious ploy for page clicks!
posted by Metro Gnome at 9:11 PM on November 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


No Moby-Dick. Interesting.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:25 PM on November 6, 2013


Contrary to my stereotypes, there seems to have been more recognition in 1898 of the literary merit of novels written by women than there is now.
posted by escabeche at 9:28 PM on November 6, 2013 [20 favorites]


Hmmm... I've read 14 of these. That other list of 20th and I think 21st century books, floating around here a few days ago, I had read only 5. Maybe I live in the 19th century and didn't know it.
posted by njohnson23 at 9:43 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, Melville was still in his critical nadir in 1898 -- pretty much nobody liked his later, weirder stuff (including Moby-Dick) in his lifetime, and until the 1920s he had only a small cult following. All of his work had been out of print for more than forty years by the time he was rediscovered by critics and mainstream readers.

Apparently The Brothers Karamazov wasn't translated into English until 1912. I was wondering whether Crime and Punishment being better was the consensus in the English-speaking world at the time, but it looks like it won by default.
posted by thesmallmachine at 10:12 PM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


When I say "apparently," I mean "according to Wikipedia." I'm probably not alone in this tic.
posted by thesmallmachine at 10:13 PM on November 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


Salammbô seems an odd call if you deem Flaubert worthy of a place on the list.
posted by Wolof at 10:55 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have to thank Miss Foster, my tenth grade teacher, for Silas Marner--and others on this list that I actually enjoyed.
posted by Anitanola at 11:02 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


This list also answers every libertarian's burning question. The answer? "Author of The Ayrshire Legatees"
posted by dhens at 11:09 PM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Five. Heads head in shame. And three partially. Goes off and sulks in a corner.

I haven't even heard of most of these. This ... this ... this is a total book-geek fail on my part. Pardon me while I grab a flashlight and go read all night under the covers. For the next two years.

The only redeeming quality to this damnable list? I'm pretty sure I can get them all for free on kindle.
posted by kanewai at 11:35 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ten Thousand A-Year? I'm apparently one of the very, very few who has read it (I wrote it up here), and although I enjoyed it, I doubt it belonged on a top 100 even pre 1900!

Poe wrote in Blackwoods that it was "shamefully ill-written" and called the characters "stupid and beastly indecencies." The best character is the villain, Mr Gammon, by a long shot.

Lots of these are definitely on my list, though. How wonderful. Keeping this for later reference.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:01 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Relatively high proportion of works by women; more than you might find in a comparable list made today.
posted by communicator at 12:38 AM on November 7, 2013


More than a quarter by women. I know that I shouldn't consider that a 'high' proportion but you see so many lists nowadays with only one or two. I am surprised he didn't choose Middlemarch.
posted by communicator at 12:40 AM on November 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I love this comment on the TLS post:

On the 8th February 1886, the 'Pall Mall Gazette' - which had been running a series on 'The Best Hundred Books' by 'The Best Hundred Judges' - published a letter from Oscar Wilde who suggested that books 'may be conveniently divided into three classes': 1. Books to read (Cicero's 'Letters', Vasari's 'Lives of the Painters'); 2. Books to re-read (Plato and Keats); 3. Books not to read at all (Thomson's 'Seasons', Voltaire's plays). Wilde thought the third class by far the most important. 'To tell people what to read is, as a rule, either useless or harmful . . . but to tell people what not to read is a very different matter, and I venture to recommend it as a mission to the University Extension Scheme. Indeed, it is one that is eminently needed in . . . an age that reads so much that it has no time to admire, and writes so much that it has no time to think. Whoever will select out of the chaos of our modern curricula 'The Worst Hundred Books', and publish a list of them, will confer on the rising generation a real and lasting benefit'.
posted by Marauding Ennui at 1:10 AM on November 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is a hugely substantive post, thank you so much. I enjoy books of the period, have read a small minority, and only heard of a barely larger minority.

Interesting to see what was selected from authors still in critical vogue today. For example, I think Silas Marner is a worthy call, but I dunno, I reckon Little Dorrit and a few others are stronger Dickens. L
Ten Thousand A-Year? I'm apparently one of the very, very few who has read it (I wrote it up here), and although I enjoyed it, I doubt it belonged on a top 100 even pre 1900!

Indeed, there are a few on there that must have been the contemporaneous Life of Pis, or many other Booker winners; destined to sink without a trace in decades to come.

Even the Woman in White. I mean, really, it's okay. Possibly better than The Moonstone, and thus arguably Collins best, but not terrific.

But where is The Monk?! Eh! Takes a big shit all over Radcliffe (better in every way except possibly descriptions of landscapes), and Walpole while we're at it.

And Germinal should definitely be on there, too. Though I understand Zola was viewed as irredeemably trashy. At least he made the "other" list.
posted by smoke at 2:21 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Additionally, it's interesting how Smollett has basically fallen off the radar these days. He was quite the critical darling once upon a time, and up to around the twenties, I believe.
posted by smoke at 2:53 AM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've read only eleven of these, outnumbered by far by the number I've never even heard of.

The comments section to the linked story is remarkably civil and even informative. :-)

It's interesting that a list of novels "in the English language" includes so many translations - today that would mean books written not just available in English.
posted by Rain Man at 3:58 AM on November 7, 2013


Barchester Towers instead of either Can You Forgive Her? or The Way We Live Now? This will surely go down as history's greatest mistake.
posted by mittens at 4:01 AM on November 7, 2013


How the hell have I never heard of Catherine Crowe? I've read it a gazillion times that the genre of the detective story begins with Edgar Allan Poe, but apparently Susan Hopley was published four months before Rue Morgue and is a straight-up murder mystery. Unfortunately, my rhetorical question has an answer, I haven't heard of Catherine Crowe and Susan Hopley because women writers have been actively and passively suppressed in literary history.
posted by Kattullus at 4:23 AM on November 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Here is more about the detective fiction of Catherine Crowe:
Her first novel Susan Hopley (1841) deals with the title heroine's struggle to solve the mysterious disappearance of her brother and murder of her guardian. Though the truth of what has happened is revealed early on to Susan through a dream, the whole of the novel is spent trying to produce evidence that validates the dream. Men and Women (1844) also deals with an unsolved murder and a female protagonist is instrumental in seeing her fiance cleared of the crime.
[source]
posted by Kattullus at 4:30 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Interesting that Edward Bulmer-Lytton makes the list. Wonder who from today's lists will be a barely-remembered joke in a century's time?
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:48 AM on November 7, 2013


Catherine Crowe on Project Gutenberg, a book called Ghosts and Family Legends.

I would hesitate to recommend it. I don't want to make fun of it, but the thudding "I don't believe in ghosts, but one night I saw one, and the next day had my vision validated" rhythm makes it not the best series of ghost stories I've ever read.
posted by mittens at 4:50 AM on November 7, 2013


Looking about, I don't think Susan Hopley's novel was published before The Murders in Rue Morgue. The latter came out in April 1841. Most sources seem to cite Crowe's novel as 1842 (Wikipedia being an exception). It is an important question as to who was first. Crowe's book was popular and could easily have inspired Poe or Poe who was reasonably well-known by this time could have inspired Hopley.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:44 AM on November 7, 2013


Barchester Towers instead of either Can You Forgive Her? or The Way We Live Now? This will surely go down as history's greatest mistake.

Trollope on MPs >>>> Trollope on vicars for sure. But He Knew He Was Right might be the very best.
posted by escabeche at 5:46 AM on November 7, 2013


Interesting that Edward Bulmer-Lytton makes the list. Wonder who from today's lists will be a barely-remembered joke in a century's time?

Thing is, if you're a literary historian, Bulwer-Lytton is absolutely not a joke at all (although his readability is another issue...). In effect, he invents, popularizes, or updates a whole slew of genres--the silver fork novel, the Newgate crime novel, the philosophical novel, the historical novel, the ghost story... He's absolutely central to our understanding of Victorian fiction.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:55 AM on November 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


Salammbô seems an odd call if you deem Flaubert worthy of a place on the list.

Salammbô is hilarious. I can imagine Flaubert's agent yelling at him: "More sex and violence, that's what readers want these days, you idiot!"
posted by ovvl at 5:56 AM on November 7, 2013


I can imagine Flaubert's agent yelling at him: "More sex and violence, that's what readers want these days, you idiot!"

I don't think so, I think it was rather the opposite. Flaubert was a weird-ass cat.

I'm surprised there is only one Austen on the list.
posted by OmieWise at 6:07 AM on November 7, 2013


So, Black, But Comely, one of the many on this list I'd never heard of before, turns out to be something like Vanity Fair, at least according to the one review I was able to find, from 1879 ("Like Becky, however, she also has a good side to her character; and, unlike her, she allows this good side to come uppermost at the last, after a variety of experiences during which it has been steadily kept under"). It starts with a very promising scene:

The day had not yet gone by when murderers were hanged in public. Capital punishment still afforded the multitude opportunity to keep holiday, and combine with the excitement of a tragedy the refreshments and relaxation of a picnic. Therefore a pieman, selling his dainties all hot, did good business in a crowd round Newgate, and accepted with resignation--even thankfulness--the judicial catastrophe that brought grist to his mill.

Why should he trouble himself about the culprit, a journeyman tailor, who had stabbed his wife in a fit of drunken ferocity, and been convicted on the evidence of his sister-in-law? He could not look along the whitewashed passages of the prison, nor into the bare blank cell, where the doomed man cowered and shook before that awful Unknown to which he was gliding so smooth and swift and sure, upheld, it may be, for a moment at a time, by the presence of two robust turnkeys, who guarded him, as a timid passenger feels upheld in a storm by companionship with some stout skipper and his mate; yet now and again stung to agony at the contrast between their situation and his own.
posted by mittens at 6:10 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


> "Most sources seem to cite Crowe's novel as 1842 ..."

Then they are incorrect. Susan Hopley was published anonymously as "Adventures of Susan Hopley, or, Circumstantial evidence" by Saunders and Otley in January, 1841. It was later re-published as "Susan Hopley, Or, The Adventures of a Maid-servant" by W. Tait in 1842, which is the source of the confusion.

With very little effort, I was easily able to find several contemporary sources which have publicly available online scans (such as the Athanaeum and the Examiner) which list Susan Hopley among Saunders and Otley's new publications for January 1841:

"Conduit St. January 14, 1841
NEW WORKS published by Messrs. Saunders & Otley
...
V. In 3 vols ... ADVENTURES OF SUSAN HOPLEY
or, Circumstantial Evidence"

There really is no question. Susan Hopley came first.
posted by kyrademon at 6:14 AM on November 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


It seems like Lucy Sussex (linked above), who has brought attention to Susan Hopley, has written a fascinating book called Women Writers and Detectives in 19th-Century Crime Fiction There's an interesting review of it here. I really need to see if I can find some of her work at my local university library. I couldn't find anything in JSTOR.
posted by Kattullus at 6:20 AM on November 7, 2013


I like this list precisely because there are so many entries that, today, would be considered minor works, if not outright "I have never heard of this book" books. It's a beautiful reminder. The literary canon likes to project an aura of trans-historical objectivity. Its booster like to talk as if literary worth is a timeless quality that exists outside of cultural and historical context, a quality obvious and identifiable to the reasonable and well-trained — and of course that's all utter bullshit. Why we value something, and the degree to which we value it, is gonna be in constant renegotiation, and that's a beautiful, liberating thing. A list such as this should strike us, generations later, as oddly stuffy, full of weird omission and weird inclusions. It's nice that this is the case.
posted by erlking at 6:25 AM on November 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


As a minor addendum to the post, here's Shorter's original article. It turns out that The Bookman had a separate UK edition that published a different selection of his stuff, making the piece harder to Google, but I stumbled across it eventually.

Also, for the Queenslander link's date, I recall wavering between writing 4/9/1898 and April 9, but apparently I split the difference and wrote April 4. Le sigh.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 6:34 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rather more women than I expected from a pre-1900 list.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:53 AM on November 7, 2013


Also, since these are the games folks tend to play with such lists:

Read: 9
Haven't Read, But Have Read Something Else By Same Author: 6
Haven't Read But Have Heard Of: 17
I Do Not Know This Book: 68

Well, that last number was higher than I expected it to be!
posted by erlking at 6:55 AM on November 7, 2013


Clements' intro to his list, from M. Caution's link:
WILL you write me out a list of the hundred best novels in the English language? They may be French or German or Chinese novels, but there must be accessible translations." This, in effect, is what I am asked to do, and the task is one admirably calculated to expose the limitations of one's reading, or the defectiveness of one's memory. It would be easy, it is true, to cut the knot by naming some twenty-six novels by Scott, some sixty by Balzac and Dumas, and a dozen by Turgenief, and thus providing the hundred in an instant. The delightful editions of Balzac and Dumas that we owe to Mr. Dent and the edition of Turgenief that comes from Mr. Heinemann, would satisfy all conditions with regard to translations. But to make the subject more interesting I prefer to make the restriction that only one novel of each author be named. I hope that by giving the date of publication of each novel I shall have added an element of interest as indicating developments in the history of fiction. My list will probably recall numerous omissions to the mind of this reader or of that, but it may serve, I hope, as a suggestion to the makers of libraries, if not as an actual incentive to the youthful student of literature.
posted by notyou at 6:56 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, but also, we've had another 115 years to accumulate good writing. A Top 100 Novels list today would necessarily drop some of these off to make room for new masterpieces.

That's not to say that there isn't an element of fashion in these lists.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:57 AM on November 7, 2013


But just saying "fashion" might run the risk of underselling/dismissing how the goalposts constantly shift, don't you think? I mean, the criteria people use to judge what a "masterpiece" looks like, what it sets out to do and how it accomplishes those goals, change (and there is no trans-historical bedrock of "true literary worth" that lies underneath). That's why Moby Dick isn't on here: for decades after it was published, people in-the-know didn't think of it as a masterpiece, they thought of it as a hot mess. Neither view is the 'correct' one (I say as someone who was absolutely blown away by Moby Dick).
posted by erlking at 7:07 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kyrademon - thanks for clearing that up for me. I was rushed when I jotted down my post, probably should have waited to perform more research.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:14 AM on November 7, 2013


Wow, apparently Stendhal's major works had not been translated until 1901 for The Charterhouse of Parma and "c. 1900" for The Red and the Black.

It's interesting to note that the top 17 books had come out in the 18th century or before - nothing like the patina of time before a book can be accepted as a classic.

Don Quixote, woo!
posted by ersatz at 7:17 AM on November 7, 2013


I've read 15 completely and two partially. But I made it through Clarissa so I think I get some kind of badge.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:19 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


ersatz: It's interesting to note that the top 17 books had come out in the 18th century or before - nothing like the patina of time before a book can be accepted as a classic.

The list is in chronologial order.

posted by Kattullus at 7:21 AM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


A book I idly scooped out of a remainder bin a few years ago but which keeps worming its way back to my bedside table because it's so damned endlessly fascinating is "Making the List. A Cultural History of the American Bestseller 1900-1999" (Barnes & Noble Books).

By former editor-in-chief at Simon & Schuster Michael Korda (he is a nephew of Korda the movie magnate), Making the List (2001) gives you the data on best sellers over the last century (fiction & non fiction - which is crucial) - with some light, super informed, commentary about the cultural context.

(I just thought of this wonderful book again because of this post. I don't know why it didn't become a Bill Brysonesque best seller - I keep giving copies to book loving friends.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:39 AM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


> "That's why Moby Dick isn't on here: for decades after it was published, people in-the-know didn't think of it as a masterpiece, they thought of it as a hot mess."

Totally. And in a similar vein, there's no way on earth Kenilworth would appear on such a list today, much less a statement that Scott by himself could have filled up a quarter of the whole list had the person who made it not restricted himself to one book per author! Scott's reputation has dropped from "greatest novelist of all time" in 1898 to "the guy who wrote Ivanhoe" today, with nothing changing but taste.

> "... thanks for clearing that up for me. I was rushed when I jotted down my post ..."

No worries; I just wanted the historical Metafilter-record to be accurate.
posted by kyrademon at 7:48 AM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Count me another reader who was surprised at how many women were on this list. What I remember from my period history classes was that the novel was originally a woman's form of writing and was therefore considered low and less interesting (and then more men started writing them and they became serious in the nineteenth century), but O-levels were a long time ago and I'm more than willing to be corrected on that point.
posted by immlass at 8:20 AM on November 7, 2013


WILL you write me out a list of the hundred best novels in the English language? They may be French or German or Chinese novels, but there must be accessible translations.

Is the inclusion of "Chinese" on this list an instance of comedic exaggeration, like "I don't care if they're from France, Germany, or the moons of Jupiter!", or were there Chinese novels well-regarded enough in the 19th century that there was a chance they'd be included on a Top 100 Novels list? I assume that it's the former, though I know that the Orientalism of the time period had led to non-Western works getting greater circulation among readers.
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:38 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fantastic. Many thanks!

For the sake of comparison, here's a list from one generation further on. It was compiled in 1916 by that transcendental nutbar John Cowper Powys, the hardest working man in the chautauqua business at the time. "The only more popular speaker was William Jennings Bryan...Powys, by contrast, spoke almost exclusively on literature, in a throbbing, high-church kind of voice, with many dramatic gestures." 13 years later he would break through as a novelist in his own right.

The list is "frankly subjective in its choice; being indeed the selection of one individual, wandering at large and in freedom through these realms of gold." (Powys' method results in more than a few eccentric clumpings. Items 42 through 52, for example, are occupied by "Dostoievsky," "Turgeniev," "Gorki," "Tchekoff," and "Artzibasheff.") I've linked the more obscure items when possible.

1. THE PSALMS OF DAVID.
2. HOMER. THE ODYSSEY.
3. THE BACCHÆ OF EURIPIDES.
4. HORACE.
5. CATULLUS
6. DANTE 'S DIVINE COMEDY.
7. RABELAIS.
8. CANDIDE.
9. SHAKESPEARE.
10. MILTON.
11. SIR THOMAS BROWNE. RELIGIO MEDICI AND URN BURIAL.
12. GOETHE. FAUST, WILHELM MEISTER, CONVERSATIONS WITH ECKERMAN.
15. NIETZSCHE. ZARATHUSTRA, THE JOYFUL WISDOM, AND ECCE HOMO
18. HEINE. HEINE'S PROSE WORKS WITH THE "CONFESSIONS."
19. SUDERMANN. SONG OF SONGS.
20. HAUPTMANN. THE FOOL IN CHRIST.
21. IBSEN. THE WILD DUCK.
22. STRINDBERG. THE CONFESSIONS OF A FOOL.
23. EMERSON.
24. WALT WHITMAN.
25. EDGAR LEE MASTERS. SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY.
26. THEODORE DREISER. THE TITAN.
27. CERVANTES. DON QUIXOTE.
28. VICTOR HUGO. THE TOILERS OF THE SEA.
29. BALZAC. LOST ILLUSIONS. COUSIN BETTE. PÉRE GORIOT. HUMAN COMEDY.
32. GUY DE MAUPASSANT. LE MAISON TELLIER.
33. STENDHAL (HENRI BEYLE). LE ROUGE ET LE NOIR.
34. ANATOLE FRANCE. L'ORME DE MAIL. L'ABBE JEROME COIGNARD. LE LIVRE DE MON AMI.
37. REMY DE GOURMONT. UNE NUIT AU LUXEMBOURG.
38. PAUL BOURGET. LE DISCIPLE.
39. ROMAIN ROLLAND. JEAN CHRISTOPHE.
40. GABRIELE D'ANNUNZIO. THE FLAME OF LIFE. THE TRIUMPH OF DEATH.
42. DOSTOIEVSKY. CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. THE IDIOT. THE BROTHERS
KARAMAZOV. THE INSULTED AND INJURED. THE POSSESSED.
47. TURGENIEV. VIRGIN SOIL. A SPORTSMAN'S SKETCHES.
50. GORKI. FOMA GORDYEFF.
51. TCHEKOFF. SEAGULL.
52. ARTZIBASHEFF. SANINE.
53. STERNE. TRISTRAM SHANDY.
54. JONATHAN SWIFT. TALE OF A TUB.
55. CHARLES LAMB. THE ESSAYS OF ELIA.
56. SIR WALTER SCOTT. GUY MANNERING. BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR. HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN.
59. THACKERAY. THE HISTORY OF HENRY ESMOND.
60. CHARLES DICKENS. GREAT EXPECTATIONS.
61. JANE AUSTEN. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.
62. EMILY BRONTË. WÜTHERING [sic] HEIGHTS.
63. GEORGE MEREDITH. HARRY RICHMOND.
64. HENRY JAMES. THE AMBASSADORS. THE TRAGIC MUSE. THE SOFT SIDE. THE BETTER SORT. THE WINGS OF THE DOVE. THE GOLDEN BOWL.
70. THOMAS HARDY. TESS OF THE D'URBEVILLES. THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE. THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE. FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD. WESSEX POEMS.
75. JOSEPH CONRAD. CHANCE. LORD JIM. VICTORY. YOUTH. ALMAYER'S FOLLY.
80. WALTER PATER. MARIUS THE EPICUREAN. STUDIES IN THE RENAISSANCE. IMAGINARY PORTRAITS. PLATO AND PLATONISM. GASTON DE LATOUR.
85. GEORGE BERNARD SHAW. MAN AND SUPERMAN.
86. GILBERT K. CHESTERTON. ORTHODOXY.
87. OSCAR WILDE. INTENTIONS. THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. DE PROFUNDIS.
90. RUDYARD KIPLING. THE JUNGLE BOOK.
91. CHARLES L. DODGSON. ALICE IN WONDERLAND.
92. JOHN GALSWORTHY. THE COUNTRY HOUSE. THE MAN OF PROPERTY. FRATERNITY.
95. W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM. OF HUMAN BONDAGE.
96. GILBERT CANNAN. ROUND THE CORNER.
97. VINCENT O'SULLIVAN. THE GOOD GIRL.
98. OLIVER ONIONS. THE STORY OF LOUIE.
99. ARNOLD BENNETT. CLAYHANGER.
100. OXFORD BOOK OF ENGLISH VERSE.

posted by Iridic at 11:40 AM on November 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


erlking: Also, since these are the games folks tend to play with such lists:

I want to play erlking's game!

Read: 7
Haven't Read, But Have Read Something Else By Same Author: 5
Haven't Read But Have Heard Of: 15
Heard of the author but not the book: 11
I Do Not Know This Book: 70

Also, I was wrong earlier when I thought I could find these for free on kindle. And based on the selections I found, that might be ok. I'm more intrigued now by some of the surprising selections by "known" authors ... such as Salammbô instead of Madame Bovary, and Le Rêve instead of Germinal.
posted by kanewai at 12:29 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Geez, Monsieur Caution. Why'd you have to go and include links to ebooks of all of these? Now I've got no excuses.
posted by notyou at 12:45 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's an interesting list, iridic. It's hard to draw any wider conclusions, since these are both lists by individuals and have different criteria, but I immediately noted that the representation of women writers had been reduced from 30% to 2%. It's long been a feeling of mine that women writers were afforded less honor by gatekeepers of the canon in the first half of the 20th Century than in the latter half of the 19th. Someone who's a better academic than me could perhaps disabuse me of my notion or confirm it, but it's the feeling I've gotten from writings about literature from both centuries.
posted by Kattullus at 1:23 PM on November 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Excellent, excellent post Monsieur Caution. I love to go rummaging every so often through Wikipedia/Project Gutenberg for old books slightly off the beaten path. There must be so many under-appreciated, half-forgotten or merely mid-tier novels waiting to be (re-)discovered (by me if no-one else). Even major authors' "other works" can be fairly obscure, let alone those of their contemporaries. Great to have all these collected in one place.

Scattergun reactions follow.

It looks like the male authors outnumber female ones roughly 2:1 which seems about on a par with most modern lists I see, better than some. The fact there were even that many and not a token smattering pleasantly surprised me.

The Adventures Of Roderick Random has been on my to-read list (or in my to-read folder) for ages. I knew Dickens was a Smollett fan, was looking for a picaresque and was was caught by that title. Really surprised/intrigued to see it mentioned in the same breath as Candide though. Definitely going to start reading novels off this list there.

Read: 10
Haven't Read, But Have Read Something Else By Same Author: 8
Haven't Read But Have Heard Of: 17
I Do Not Know This Book: 65

Cheers to Kattullus above for pointing out that the list is in chronological order. Completely missed that fact too. Barely glanced at your list yet Iridic, so my main impression is how awesome the English rendering TCHEKOFF is.
posted by comealongpole at 2:04 PM on November 7, 2013


how awesome the English rendering TCHEKOFF is.

I also love the gratuitous umlaut in WÜTHERING HEIGHTS. [juts out tongue, throws horns]

I'm fond of Smollett, and Roderick's his best. It doesn't plumb astonishing depths of character, but it's pretty much a perfect picaresque, with all the genre's required reversals, unexpected meetings, strokes of fortune, flights of mischief, and shotgun social critiques.

Shorter seems friendlier in general to books conceived and read for entertainment than Powys, and he also sets more places for older books: 65% of his picks were published at least fifty years before he compiled the list. I don't have comprehensive publication dates for Powys's list, but at a glance his selection seems tilted toward the new and newly translated.

It's tempting to call all these differences "trends" and connect them to birth of Modernism and the exclusion of women from the Canon; but like you said, Kattullus, it's dangerous to rule from the preferences of two individuals. Especially when one of those individuals is as eccentric as Powys.
posted by Iridic at 2:51 PM on November 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wow. I've read 28 of those, but that's largely since I've been studying Gothic fiction. I just want to point out, to people not aware, that in "The Castle of Otranto", someone is killed by a large stone hat. And I want to recommend "Uncle Silas", which is wonderful.
posted by acrasis at 4:59 PM on November 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


The list is in chronologial order.

Oh, this explains why John Bunyan is number two. Every time I look at this list I get the urge to reread Don Quixote.
posted by ersatz at 6:53 AM on November 8, 2013


acrasis: I just want to point out, to people not aware, that in "The Castle of Otranto", someone is killed by a large stone hat.

Ha! I would have read that by now if I had only been told sooner!

My own reading tastes regularly bend towards literature of the fantastic, although I'm always reading for pleasure not study. One book that stood out in my last drive-by of the gothic classics was #15 Vathek. A bit of a strange way to put it to say that I enjoyed the Orientalism of the novel, but overtly fantastic elements like the Jinns made a pleasant and surprising change from the mystery-housing attics and wind-swept moors of whatever else I was reading at the time.

So, yeah, in the spirit of acrasis's recommendation(s), if anyone wants their Arabian Nights buttons pushed then Vathek's a good choice.
posted by comealongpole at 4:07 PM on November 8, 2013


So it's a race?

Let's set a date for the First fifty!
posted by notyou at 1:08 AM on November 9, 2013


The list is in chronologial order.

Mental Floss made the same mistake, asssuming the first ten were the top ten, in their Watercooler Ammo e-mail yesterday. I guess we're conditioned to assume that lists are ranked, not just ordered.
posted by ogooglebar at 9:20 AM on November 15, 2013


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