- Nov 26, 2016
- central NC
"Young Woman Reading" by Alfred Stevens, 1856.
Do you enjoy reading a novel every now and then? Perhaps one set in the 19th century that represents people and events with some degree of realism. If so, beware!
In 1864 the warnings below were published in a New York religious tract entitled, “A Pastor's Jottings; or, Striking Scenes during a Ministry of Thirty-Five Years.” It was printed anonymously according to the introduction because the author "could thus write with more freedom." That same introduction assures readers that "the statements of this volume are all literally true." According to the anonymous pastor, reading novels was dangerous not only for women, but for men too! Who knew?
In fact, novels are at the top of the list of the many things (this religious tract is nearly 350 pages long) that distress this unknown pastor. He writes, "The minds of novel readers are intoxicated, their rest is broken, their health shattered, and their prospect of usefulness blighted." Yikes folks! I’m in trouble.
“Little Bookworm” by Josef Geyling Eduard Swoboda.
But he doesn't want us simply to take his word for it. Apparently even novels by Charles Dickens are suspect, and he quotes the 19th century educator Dr. Thomas Arnold of Rugby School fame to prove it:
"Childishness in boys even of good ability seems to be a growing fault; and I do not know what to ascribe it, except to the great number of exciting books of amusement, like Pickwick, Nickleby, Bentley's Magazine, etc...that leave [a boy] totally palled, not only for his regular work, but for literature of all sorts."
Naturally women are the most susceptible to the terrible influences of novel-reading. In fact (and keep in mind ladies, "the statements of this volume are all literally true."), the pastor says women suffer even more than children or men:
"Listen to the evidence given by a physician in Massachusetts: 'I have seen a young lady with her table loaded with volumes of fictitious trash, poring day after day and night after night over highly wrought scenes and skillfully portrayed pictures of romance, until her cheeks grew pale, her eyes became wild and restless, and her mind wandered and was lost – the light of intelligence passed behind a cloud, and her soul was forever benighted. She was insane, incurably insane from reading novels."
Of course insanity is only the beginning:
"Not very long since, a double suicide was committed...by a young married couple from Ohio, who were clearly proved to be led to ruin and death by these most pernicious books.... some of our own large cities, have given mournful evidence of the results of some of these novels when dramatized and performed on the stage, as leading to burglaries and murder."
Suicide, insanity, burglaries, and murder! As a lover of historical fiction, I may be in trouble and I certainly don’t want to be a bad influence on any of my CWT friends. So if you'd like to read more of the unnamed pastor's enlightenment, this is the link to his book. Save yourselves!
Source: Two Nerdy History Girls