The earliest novels were mainly picaresque novels, stories of adventure describing a characters, or picaro: a clever, unscrupulous rascal (= briccone) of low degree who travels in the hope of making his fortune, using his intelligence, but with little regard for morality or honour. Usually the plot was a journey in which the events were only connected because they happened to the same protagonist.
The major picaresque examples are the Spanish Lazarillo de Tormes (1554), anonymous, El Buscon (1626) by Francisco de Quevedo and Don Quixote (1805 – 1615) by Miguel de Cervantes.
England, an early picaresque novel was The Unfortunate Traveller, or The Life of Jack Wilton (1594) by Thomas Nashe, a portrayal (description = ritratto) of 16th-century with its sinister members of the clergy (= clero) , beautiful and endangered (= in via di estinzione) women.
The novel made few major advances in the 1600s as many people considered the new genre cheap(= di basso livello) and vulgar: it seemed to require less talent to create than verse (poems = versi) did, and its subject matter (topic = tema, argomento) was rarely as refined (=raffinato) as that of the other literary forms.
In the 18th century English writers like D. Defoe, H. Fielding and T. Smollett gave new vitality to this sub-genre (= sotto genre). In the original form of the Picaresque novel, there is little change in the hero’s character throughout his adventures; in the English novels, instead, we witness (= testimoniamo) the hero’s progress from innocence to experience