The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.
§ 10. His literary descendants
This general, diffused effect is of more importance than the direct and particular influence of Richardson on his imitators or disciples in England. The course of the English novels was not shaped by him alone, since Fielding rose to eminence almost simultaneously with him; but who can gauge the exact indebtedness of Tom Jones to Pamela and Clarissa? Is not a negative impulse an efficient motive power in its way; and, besides, was not the example of the older writer of positive value to the younger? Among the novelists who came after them, Sterne, in a large measure, may be included among the descendants of Richardson. So may Henry Brooke, whose Fool of Quality (1766–70) bears some resemblance in matter to Sir Charles Grandison, Oliver Goldsmith, the kind-hearted moralist of The Vicar of Wakefield (1766), and Henry Mackenzie, author of The Man of Feeling (1771). Special mention should, also, be made of Fanny Burney, who wrote her first novel Evelina (1778) in the epistolary style, and of Jane Austen, who used the same method in the first form of Sense and Sensibility (1811). With both these writers, Richardson’s influence, engrafted on a passionate admiration, was supreme; yet it need hardly be added that they both and, preeminently, Jane Austen, achieved distinct originality. It is a characteristic fact that, within the fifty years which followed Richardson’s death, it should be impossible to single out any novelist on whom his individual spirit may be said to have descended, while there is hardly one who might not be said to have inherited something from him. With the new century and its new literature, his action did not cease to be felt; but it sank into subterranean channels, and dissolved into the general tendency in fiction to realism, accepted morality and mental analysis. These sources of inspiration are still fresh and running in the English novel of the present day; and, through them, the impulse given by Richardson is as notable as ever.