The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

XIII. The Growth of the Later Novel

§ 11. Belinda

To mention these in what may be called hierarchical order, we ought, probably, to take first the attempts in what may be called the regular novel, ranging from Belinda in 1801 to Helen in 1834. This division, except when it allies itself with the next, has been the least popular and enduring part of her work; but, at least in Belinda, it deserves a much higher reputation than it has usually enjoyed. In fact, Belinda itself, though it does want the proverbial “that!” wants only that to be a great novel. The picture of the half-decadent, half-unfledged, society of the meeting of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is, at times, extremely vivid, and curiously perennial. In the twentieth, at least, one has not to look far before detecting, with the most superficial changes, Lady Delacour, and Mrs. Lutwidge, and even Harriot Freke. The men are not so good. Clarence Harvey, the hero, is a possible, but not an actual success, and the spendthrift Creole is mere stuff of melodrama; while the good people (in a less agreeable sense than the roly-poly pudding in The Book of Snobs) are “really too good.” This does not apply to Belinda herself, who is a natural girl enough; but, in her, also, there is the little wanting which means much. Belinda, let it be repeated, is not a great novel; but, an acute and expert reviewer might have detected in its author something not unlike a great novelist, at a time when there was nothing in fiction save the various extravagances criticised in other parts of this chapter.