Recent developments in the polyhedric field of Digital Humanities offer a desirable perspective for corpus-driven literary studies. This is mainly due to both the implementation of tools for the statistical treatment of textual data, as well as the rapid expansion of the Internet in terms of online availability of archives and collections. Notwithstanding a series of contributions highlighting the mutual benefits derived from the combination of computational methods and literary scholarship, traditional criticism seems to ignore the epistemological continuum between qualitative and quantitative approaches to literature, treating them as two separate impermeable realities. In this article I will attempt to reconcile these approaches by presenting an exercise in computational criticism about the linguistic and ideological constructions at the basis of the rising genre of Augustan England: the novel. The aim is to examine the keywords at the core of the extensively theorised modern paradigm of empirical narratives so as to disclose which lexical units may be seen as the distinctive trait of fictionality as well as those which constitute the figure of the novelistic canon. In this way, the article provides an example of how the application of quantitative methods in literary and cultural scholarship can enhance the quality of individual research in the pursuit of the validity of interpretation.