The Cambridge Companion to English Novelists
Cambridge University Press, $69.95 pb, 479 pp
The Cambridge Companion to the Twentieth-Century English Novel
edited by Robert L. Caserio
Cambridge University Press, $46.95 pb, 299 pp
While spying in Scotland in 1706, Daniel Defoe wrote a letter to the queen’s secretary of state explaining his technique: ‘I Talk to Everybody in Their Own Way.’ In his energetic and instructive introduction to The Cambridge Companion to English Novelists, Adrian Poole takes Defoe’s declaration as a neat summation of the novelist’s method. It was following the success of Robinson Crusoe that the word ‘novelist’ was first recorded in the OED, heralding an art form whose great virtue has been its receptivity to all kinds of experience, its mimicry of all manner of voices: rich, poor, black, white, male, female.