Though the instinct for a good story, on which the interest in fiction is based, is of immemorial antiquity, and may well be as old as human speech, the novel, as we understand it, is comparatively modern. The unsophisticated folk tale, represented by the contents of such collections as that of the brothers Grimm,〖Harvard Classics, xvii, 47ff.〗 lacks the element of lifelikeness both in incident and character, and is too limited in scale to be regarded as anything but a very remote ancestor. The “Fables” ascribed to Æsop〖H. C., xvii, 11ff.〗 are mere anecdotes with a moral. The myths〖As contained, for example, in the “Odyssey,” H. C., vol. xxii, and the “Song of the Volsungs,” xlix, 249ff.〗 of both the Mediterranean and the Northern nations are not primarily concerned with human life at all. Epic poetry,〖For examples in H. C., see “Odyssey,” vol. xxii; “Æneid,” vol. xiii; “Paradise Lost” and “Paradise Regained,” iv, 87ff. and 359ff.; and cf. the lectures on Poetry.〗 besides deriving from its verse a sustained emotional elevation usually impossible in prose, finds its central interest, not in individual personality or the passion of love, but in some great national or racial issue. The romances〖Cf., especially Malory, H. C., xxxv, 103ff.〗 of the Middle Ages, though usually centering in the fortunes of individuals and often dealing with love, and superficial in treatment, loose in construction, and primarily interesting as marvelous adventure. The fabliaux〖Such as the Tales of the Miller and the Reeve in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.”〗 of the same period, which, with the novelle〖Such as the stories in Boccaccio’s “Decameron.”〗 of the Renaissance, belong to the ancestry of the short story of the modern magazine, are concerned with single situations, and do not attempt to display a whole phase of life in its subtlety and complexity. All these forms contain, in the imaginative nature of their material, an element common to them and the novel; but the negative statements which have been made regarding each show how much they fall short or go beyond our modern conception of prose fiction.

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