This chapter studies how novels circulate among readers between the eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries. The circulation of texts was plainly central to the broader culture of this period as well as to the social history of its literature. In fact, it performed many important functions in a rapidly changing environment. The mechanisms employed provided ample opportunities for sociability, for the cultivation and display of politeness, and even for genuine philanthropy. They also gave scope for the determined pursuit of self-improvement, for personal education, and, not least, for deep inward satisfaction. In all of this the novel was a crucial factor—helping, as it also benefited from, these vital transformational processes. Above all, its extraordinary cultural and commercial success between 1750 and 1820 confirms much about the scale and sophistication of the methods by which texts were now becoming available to readers.
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