Pre-Eighteenth-Century Romance

  • Hubert McDermott


The ancient Greek romances were rediscovered in sixteenth-century Europe and eventually translated into the vernacular of most countries. Their introduction into England during the second half of the century, played a major part in the resuscitation of a perfectly moribund fiction. The first romance to be translated into English was the Aethiopica of Heliodorus, in 1569, and it is hardly coincidental that the stirrings of native creativity began in the following decade.1 The Aethiopica was an immensely popular work, appearing in ten editions during the remainder of the sixteenth century: in 1572–3 a stage play based on the Aethiopica, and entitled Theagenes and Charidea, was performed in London. Longus’ Daphnis and Chloe was translated into English in 1587, and Clitopho and Leucippe in 1597. One of the first English beneficiaries of Greek romance was, it seems, John Lyly. The influence of ancient romance on Euphues (1578), was an indirect one, however, as Samuel Wolff points out. The plot of Euphues is, Wolff claims,2 based on a story in the Decameron called ‘Titus and Gissippus’.3


Eighteenth Century Seventeenth Century Sixteenth Century Happy Ending Passionate Romance 
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  1. 19.
    Charlotte E. Morgan, The Rise of the Novel of Manners: A Study of English Prose Fiction between 1600 and 1740 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1911), p. 13.Google Scholar
  2. 39.
    Roger Boyle, Parthenissa, (London, 1676), pt. 4, ii, 523.Google Scholar
  3. 47.
    William Congreve, Incognita and the Way of The World, ed. A. N. Jeffares (London: Edward Arnold, 1966), pp. 32, 33.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Hubert McDermott 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hubert McDermott
    • 1
  1. 1.University College GalwayIreland

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