The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.
§ 6. Summary
Even in an age of voluminousness, Lytton is an outstanding example; to his novels must be added a great mass of epic, satirical and translated verse, much essay-writing, pamphleteering and a number of successful plays. His wide range of accomplishment, his untiring industry, his talent in construction, his practice of dealing with imposing subjects, his popularity with the bulk of readers, give him an air of importance in the Victorian epoch. But he was rooted too deeply in the age of emotionalism and rhetoric. Richardson, Sterne and the weaker part of Byron, on the one hand, and the encyclopaedists on the other, encouraged in him the sentimentalism which, incidentally, ruined Great Expectations, and the didactic and abstract habit of thought and expression with which Thackeray made high-spirited play. The novel, in Lytton’s view, was a study of the effect of something upon something else; so, after Pelham, he rarely ever escaped from the discursive to the idiomatic style, or created character by dramatic sympathy. Finally, his early success confirmed him in the adoption of the pose, hotly resented by Thackeray and Tennyson, of the grand seigneur, dispensing the light of reason, knowledge and humanity.