These interesting questions are the ones we are going to try to give an answer reading several passages from Daniel Defoe's ROBINSON CRUSOE, Jonathan Swift's GULLIVER'S TRAVELS as well as working in small groups on projects about Tobias Smollet, Henry Fielding, Samuel Richardson and Laurence Sterne.
These are also the questions a celebrated scholar like Ian Watt tried to answer in his well-known essay "The Rise of the Novel". Here's an excerpt from the opening pages:
with them. The present inquiry therefore takes another direction: assuming that the appearance of our first three novelists within a single generation was probably not sheer accident, and that their geniuses could not have created the new form unless the conditions of the time had also been favourable, it attempts
to discover what these favourable conditions in the literary and social situation were, and in what ways Defoe, Richardson and Fielding were its beneficiaries..."
The 18th century writer's primary aim was no longer to satisfy the standards of patrons and literary élite but to write in a simple way in order to be understood by the less educated new readers: middle class men and women. The new stories had to be particularly appealing to the practical - minded tradesman or manufacturer who was self-made and self-reliant. These were among the most influential factors in the "shaping" of the new genre.