Epistolary novel

The rise in letter writing led to the development of a new style of literature – epistolary. An epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of letters, diary entries or newspaper clippings.

It is said that the use of letters adds greater realism to the story as it mimics the thoughts of real life and demonstrates differing points of view. The first epistolary novel in English is said to be ‘Familiar Letters’ (1645–50) by James Howell. The work includes letters about prison, foreign adventure and women.

The form continued to be used during the 19th century. Examples include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), Anne Brontë's novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897).