The philosophical novel traces its history back to the 4th century CE, and many people are familiar with 20th-century works such as Siddartha by Hermann Hesse. Voltaire is well known for his philosophical novels Candide (1759) and the work depicted here, Zadig (1747). Novelist’s Magazine published an English translation by Francis Ashmore in 1784, illustrated with this scene when Zadig rediscovers his former lover Astarté as she writes his name in the earth. The novel presents its eponymous protagonist as one of the first systematic detectives in Western literature, which might have inspired Poe and Conan Doyle in their writings (see Thomas Henry Huxley’s article).
Even earlier than Poe, William Godwin wrote one of the first novels that could be included in the detective fiction genre: Caleb Williams (1794). For more on this late 18th-century detective novel, see the following Eighteenth-Century Fiction articles, free to read on the journal’s archive: