Thursday, February 02, 2006

What was considered suitable reading?

There's been a lot in our reading about 19th century librarians disapproving of popular fiction, discouraging people from reading it, or even refusing to carry it in their libraries. What I want to know is, what sort of books did these librarians want people to read? I mentioned this question in class today, but we didn't really have time for it.

Part II of Apostles of Culture has detailed summaries of some of the popular but "immoral" novels of the late 19th century, books that librarians disapproved of, but doesn't say what they recommended instead. According to Quincy, Dickens and Hawthorne were suitable fiction, but that can't be all that was in the library. What sort of thing did the kindly ladies of the library encourage poor factory girls to read? Shakespeare? Plato? The Bible? I'm really curious to know.

1 comment:

Jeremy4031 said...

Probably NOT Shakespeare or Plato--too emotional and even quite bawdy in their own way. The Victorians did NOT like the Elizebethans.

Victorian librarians were probably advocates of any part of "literature" that wasn't an actual novel: Poetry, especially. I'm guessing they were fans of Tennyson: Very noble, very high-minded, and totally chaste. If they peddled philosophy it would have been of a more contemporary "books of morals" bent than actual primary sources.

BTW, did anyone else roll with laughter at chapter 4 of "Apostles"? The books that taught a young woman that the best thing to do was identify and entrap the weakest-willed man they could find, then have affairs on the side? Yowza! I had been thinking that what Garrison meant by "romances" was just sort of a Victorian-era Harlequin. Apparently it was more Dominatrix Lite.