This project will provide the first comparative study of how conservative British novelists, from Walter Scott to Ford Madox Ford, participated in political debates about four major issues of the nineteenth century: the development of modern conservative doctrine, the social effects of industrialism, the crisis of religious moral institutions, and the late-Victorian emancipation of the lower classes. Their politics informed more than just their choice of themes. These conservative authors introduced narrative schemes designed to (1) assert the value of institutional continuity in a rapidly changing society, and (2) posit this continuity as a reliable solution to divisive social conflicts.
My examination of nineteenth-century literary conservatism will contribute to the study of the British novel in two ways. Firstly, as the literary influence of these conservative authors was prevalent across the political spectrum, my study will demonstrate links between the development of the historical and realist modes in British fiction and the socio-political issues mentioned above. Secondly, it will reveal literary-political networks in the interaction and reception of leading conservative novelists. Analysing selected novels and their critical reception in light of contemporaneous political theory and debates, I will research which elements of Romantic and Victorian-era conservatism have been integrated into the very form of the nineteenth-century novel.