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|GR: Novel Reading
Written by J. Dillehay
(3/30/2003 8:16 p.m.)
I remember being surprised the first time I read NA, when I came to the part in Ch. 5 where JA goes off on a tangent about novel reading. I was somewhat surprised because having read P&P and S&S previously, I didn't recall any time when JA spoke so directly to the reader in an off-the-subject manner. However, it started me to wondering. I suppose that in our day, although novels do not carry the stigma that they seem to have carried in JA's day, one would still feel more superior if someone caught them reading Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, than Interview with the Vampire.
If I remember my English History correctly, the English novel first developed in the early 18th century, with men like Defoe, Swift, Richardson, Fielding, Smollet and others. My question is: why exactly were novels considered to be something undesirable to read? Clergymen of the day such as the great John Wesley were all well read in the Greek and Latin classics as well as in Shakespeare and Milton, so why should novels have been taken exception to? As I understand, Richardson's Pamela or Virtue Rewarded was commended by clergymen for the good example of its heroin, and its moral lessons. And Robinson Crusoe has a large amount of Christian content.
Now John Thorpe is a far cry from John Wesley, so why would someone like him so disparage novels as he did (although he admitted that he had read Tom Jones, The Monk, more than one of Mrs. Radcliffe's novels, and Camilla; so obviously he was just blowing off hot air about not reading novels, but yet why was this such a popular thing to say whether you really meant it or not?)
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