The English Novel properly came into being in the 18th century. Its four originators were Samuel Richardson (1689-1751), Henry Fielding (1707-1754), Tobias George Smollett (1721-1771), and Lawrence Sterne (1713-1768). These four novelists are called the four pillars or the four wheels of the van of the English Novel. The novel proper with realistic and well-planned plots and individualistic characters came into vogue with the above named four novelists.
Samuel Richardson: Richardson was the first real novelist. His first novel Pamela; or Virtue Rewarded was published in two volumes in 1740. Two more volumes were added to it later on, so the complete novel ran into four volumes. The novelty of this novel is that its plot has been developed through the medium of letters or epistles. With this method of developing the plot, Richardson started a new type of novel called the Epistolary novel. Richardson’s next two novels were Clarissa Harlowe and Sir Charles Grandison.
Henry Fielding: The second of our 18th century novelists, and by far the greatest of them all, was Henry Fielding. He founded Picaresque Novel. The Adventures of Joseph Andrews was his first novel. This is followed by The History of Tom Jones. It is called the greatest Novel of the 18th century. Fielding’s third novel Amelia appeared in 1751. Fielding was a man of very different type. His was a virile, vigorous, and adventurous nature, and his knowledge and experience of life was deep and wide.
Smollett: Tobias Smollett is the third pillar or the third wheel of the English Novel. He has a long experience of the drudgery and hardships of naval service. He made full use of his knowledge and experience in his novels. He wrote about half a dozen novels of which only three are popularly known. They are The Adventures of Roderick Random, The Adventures of Peregrine pickle, and The Expedition of Humphry Clinker.
Sterne: Laurence Sterne was the fourth pillar or the fourth wheel of the van of the English novel. His first novel was Life and opinions of Tristram Shandy. It appeared in nine volumes from 1759 to 1767.