Stories Told Via Letters, Diaries & Journals on AbeBooks: Epistolary fiction is a popular genre where the narrative is told via a series of documents. You have almost certainly read one of these books. Letters are the most common basis for epistolary novels but diary entries are also popular. The word epistolary comes from Latin where epistola means a letter.
In the days before emails and text messages, letters were an essential part of everyday life and it was only natural for authors to embrace this form of communication.
This genre became very popular in the 18th century. Samuel Richardson wrote two successful epistolary novels – Pamela in 1740 and Clarissa in 1749. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther was another important example in 1774. The History of Emily Montague (1769) by Frances Brooke is another 18th century novel of this type. Epistolary fiction become so widespread that Henry Fielding parodied Pamela with a novel called Shamela in 1741.