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Novel in the form of a series of letters written by one or more characters. It allows the author to present the characters' thoughts without interference, convey events with dramatic immediacy, and present events from several points of view. It was one of the first novelistic forms to be developed. It was foreshadowed by Aphra Behn's poem cycle Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister (1683). The outstanding early example is Samuel Richardson's Pamela (1740); distinguished later works include Tobias Smollett's Humphry Clinker (1771) and Pierre Laclos's Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782). The genre remained popular up to the 19th century. Its reliance on subjective points of view makes it the forerunner of the modern psychological novel.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on epistolary novel, visit Britannica.com.
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