Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 November 2021
William Jones observed in 1780 that “compositions are like machines, where one part depends upon another: the art is to use method as builders do a scaffold, which is to be taken away when the work is finished; or as good workmen, who conceal the joints in their work, so it may look smooth and pleasant to the eye, as if it were all made of one piece.”1 As he noted, relations between parts of a composition are not necessarily obvious because, in good writing, the method of construction is artfully concealed. The same may be said of the contemporary thinking on which a method of construction draws and upon which it rests. This chapter therefore offers an overview of the scaffolding. It addresses the formal conventions and the ideas that good narrative-epistolary builders used their joints to connect during the period book-ended by Trollope and Behn, and concludes by discussing some key continuities and changes during this extended period in writers’ treatment of history, narrative, and letters.