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The first popular novels grew out of Elizabethan literature and Shakespearean drama in the late 1500s and early 1600s. The first authors to make a living writing novels because they had become popular wrote them in the late 1600s. However, the novel really came into its own as a popular literary genre in the late 1600s and early 1700s. At this time the public desired novels that left behind the romantic period in favor of realistic drama. The genre became very popular but that alone did not help the rise of the English novel. Society was changing and this brought about a new audience for reading. Rather than reading being a past time only of the upper class, advances in printing brought affordable printed material, books, to the middle class. Concurrently with the developments in printing technology came a change in literacy developments. Education was no longer only for the upper class. Middle and even lower class society, including women now, learned to read. The combination of this larger, more educated audience along with a popular genre now readily affordable in printed form, gave way to the rise of the English novel.
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