Friday, September 25, 2009

List: The Daily Telegraph's 1899 List of “100 Best Novels in the World”

In 1899, The Daily Telegraph of London offered its readers a list of the “100 Best Novels in the World,” as assessed by the editor and a small committee of consultants. Although compiled at the end of the 19th Century, the list is not limited to that century. Allan Massie has a good essay comparing the 1899 list to a similar list compiled by The Daily Telegraph in 1999.

I have been halfheartedly (more like deci-heartedly) working on this list for a couple of years now. Inspired by Rebecca Reid’s Classics Circuit – described as “A Blog Tour of Classic Authors” – and a lively discussion on Wuthering Expectations about “overrated” books, I am adding this list to my List of Lists, with the hopes that I will then devote more attention to it.

Those few I have read are in red. Those on my TBR shelf are in blue. Several are out of print or otherwise hard to find, so I am resigned to the fact that I will never finish all these books. Which isn't such a bad thing -- those Victorians sure did love their seafaring tales!

The Tower of London by W. H. Ainsworth

Old St Paul's by W. H. Ainsworth

Windsor Castle by W. H. Ainsworth

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austin

Pere Goriot by Honoré de Balzac

A Window in Thrums by J. M. Barrie

The Golden Butterfly by Walter Besant and James Rice

Robbery Under Arms by Rolf Boldrewood

Lady Audley's Secret by M. E. Braddon

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Shirley by Charlotte Bronte

The Deemster by Hall Caine

Valentine Vox by Henry Cockton

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Last of the Mohicans by J. Fenimore Cooper

The Pathfinder by J. Fenimore Cooper

The Prairie by J. Fenimore Cooper

Mr Isaacs by F. Marion Crawford

Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

The Firm of Girdlestone by Conan Doyle

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Scenes of Clerical Life by George Eliot

Tom Jones by Henry Fielding

Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding

Mary Barton by Mrs Gaskell

The Aide de Camp by James Grant

The Romance of War James Grant

Gabriel Conroy by Bret Harte

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Elsie Venner by Oliver Wendell Holmes

The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope

Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Toilers of the Sea by Victor Hugo

Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

Two Years Ago by Charles Kingsley

Alton Locke by Charles Kingsley

Hypatia by Charles Kingsley

The Recollections of Geoffrey Hamlyn by Henry Kingsley

Soldiers Three by Rudyard Kipling

Guy Livingstone by George Lawrence

Harry Lorrequer by Charles Lever

Charles O'Malley by Charles Lever

The Atonement of Leam Dundas by E. Lynn Linton

Handy Andy by Samuel Lover

Rory O'More by Samuel Lover

Last of the Barons by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Night and Morning by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Rienzi by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

The Caxtons by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

The King's Own by Captain Frederick Marryat

Peter Simple by Captain Frederick Marryat

Jacob Faithful by Captain Frederick Marryat

Midshipman Easy by Captain Frederick Marryat

Diana of the Crossways by George Meredith

John Halifax, Gentleman by D. M. Mulock

Under Two Flags by Ouida

It is Never Too Late to Mend by Charles Reade

Peg Woffington and Christie Johnstone by Charles Reade

Hard Cash by Charles Reade

The Headless Horseman by Captain Mayne Reid

Virginia of Virginia by Amelie Rives

The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner

Tom Cringle's Log by Michael Scott

Cruise of the Midge by Michael Scott

Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz

Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott

The Bride of Lammermoor by Sir Walter Scott

Old Mortality by Sir Walter Scott

Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott

Guy Mannering by Sir Walter Scott

Woodstock by Sir Walter Scott

The Talisman by Sir Walter Scott

Frank Fairlegh by Frank E. Smedley

Roderick Random by Tobias Smollett

Peregrine Pickle by Tobias Smollett

On the Face of the Waters by Mrs F. A. Steel

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (reviewed here)

Soapey Sponge's Sporting Tour by Robert Smith Surtees

The Wandering Jew by Eugene Sue

The History of Henry Esmond by William Makepeace Thackeray

The Newcomes by William Makepeace Thackeray

The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Orley Farm by Anthony Trollope

Robert Elsmere by Mrs H. Ward

£10,000 a Year by Samuel Warren

The Wide, Wide World by Elizabeth Wetherell

Market Harborough by G. J. Whyte-Melville

Inside the Bar by G. J. Whyte-Melville

East Lynne by Mrs Henry Wood

Last updated on July 17, 2016.


Wuthering Expectations
My Reader's Block

If you have adopted this list, please leave a comment with a link to any related posts -- progress reports, reviews, similar or personal lists, etc. -- and I will add the link below.


  1. What a great list! There are so many books on there that I haven't heard of, but it is great to see some books remaining on the list after 100 years. I might try to find one or two of the lesser known books and see what they're like - thank you for bringing it to my attention!

  2. This list is A. Scream.

    I'll probably mention it sometime. It's killing me, killing me. I counted 22 that I've read, by the way. None by Ainsworth

    If you read anything by Ainsworth, I'll be very interested! There must be some powerfully tiresome books on this list.

  3. Farmlane -- Glad you like this list. Let me know if you read any of the more random books.

    AR -- I thought you would get a kick out of this one. You have probably read more than any living person.

    I don't know why I have an Ainsworth book on my shelves -- I think I found it and read it in high school, but remember nothing about it. I'm sure there's a reason no one has heard of many of these books.

  4. Only 8 read for me...AR killed. I'm especially disappointed there are two Tobias Smolletts on there and neither is Humphry Clinker! Hmph.

  5. this is so awesome! I love it. It's very fun to see which books still hang around after 100 years. And I'm curious to see which ones hang around in another 100.

  6. I'm surprised by how many of these I've not even heard of. I've apparently only read six (will be seven after my planned reading of East Lynne this fall and possibly eight if I get to Oliver Twist).

    If I had to pick one that I can guarantee I will never read ... Tom Cringle's Log. What a dreadful title and its "classics of naval fiction" designation holds no interest for me.

  7. This is hilarious. Okay... not hilarious... amusing. Incredibly amusing. Take, for instance, the omission of Thackery's "Vanity Fair". True, not a splendid book, but that is what's remember today (I'm still not sure why). Or where is the ubiquitously popular "Wuthering Heights"? Another book apparently deemed "not good enough" at the turn of the century. How exactly did it end up so popular today? But where is "War and Peace"? I haven't read "Anna Karenina" yet, but "War and Peace" remains one of the greatest books I've ever read... Says a lot about the changes in the last 100 years, no?

    A truly fascinating list.

  8. AnCh, the wave of Russian translations was just hitting England at this point, and given the questionable quality of many of those English translations, I give the Daily Telegraph editors a pass on the Russian issue. They were ignorant, yes, but without Russian there wasn't much they could do about it.

    Where is Wuthering Heights? Serious criticism of E. Brontë's works did not begin until the 1920s. Modernists found her especially interesting. Her critical esteem dates from that period. Her popularity, a separate issue, has as much to do with the 1939 movie as anything else.

  9. This is terrific information, and I have shared it with others at Novels, Stories, and More. I'm now intrigued about the idea of reading everything on the list that I had previously overlooked. That, however, might be more than a person in the 21st century ought to attempt.

  10. Amateur Reader, I guess the case of "Wuthering Heights" goes to show that modern complaints that people only read certain books because of the movies are actually based on a fairly old concept. Take that, criticizers of the modern age!

    That said, a reread of this list is making me realize just how many of my favorite pre-20th century books are missing. Hmph.

  11. This list is seriously whacked. Did the English not get "Huckleberry Finn"? Twain was one of the most famous men in the world.

  12. Thanks for all the great comments. This is a list that stirs up discussion.

    And special thanks to Amateur Reader and R.T. for posting it on your blogs!

  13. What a cool list! I've read 5.5 (I read the abridged version of Les Mis in high school). I HIGHLY recommend The Moonstone which I see is on your To Read list. My bookclub read it a couple of years ago and it was great. You can really see how Collins influenced both Conan Doyle and Christie.

  14. Carin -- Thanks for visiting. Glad you like this list. It is an intriguing one, for sure! Moonstone is definitely moving quickly to the top of my TBR list.

  15. Thanks for this list. I've read 12 of them and I'm hoping to get a few more under my belt before the end of the year. I've blogged about it.


  16. Katrina -- How fun that you are working on this list. Leave a link to your progress report or other post and I will add it to my post -- if you want.

  17. Will only admit that some of my favorite novels are on this list. Thanks for finding and posting it.

  18. Wow. That's quite a list. I've only read six of these. There are several on the TBR pile (and I'm in the middle of trying to read The Woman in White...after loving The Moonstone, I didn't think it would be quite such a struggle). But what really knocks me for a loop is...I actually OWN The Caxtons by Lytton. I picked it up because it's a cool little first edition...that I thought I might get around to reading someday. I may have to move it up the list just to see if it really is all that.

  19. I'm going to see what I can do with this list. Here's my page for it. Any books from here on out, I'll be adding reviews (linked to this page):

  20. Great list---thanks! I'm adding it to my challenges for the year.


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