Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Perils of Chicklit, circa 1883

"There is a great deal of talk just now about the dangers of the immoral French novel and of this paper-backed literature of which the modern girl is so fond. I asked a number of our well-read Washington women what they thought of the present craze and what effect it may have on our daughters.

The question seemed to have considerable interest for Mrs. General Sheridan, who devotes much time to the education of her three girls.

"My own three daughters," she said, "are too young to be allowed to read novels, so the question has not yet been forced upon me. But I do not approve of indiscriminate indulgences in modern novel reading for anyone. It drains and enervates the mind, making it unfit for more solid food. In my opinion, no young girl should be permitted to read such light literature until she has attained the age of eighteen.

"In my youth the unformed mind was not allowed the wide license in reading which is now granted to girls in their teens. George Eliot and Ouida fascinate them by the beauty of their style, veiling evil with a mantle of choice language, and so deceiving the unsuspecting young reader until she cannot tell the good from the bad. The literary merit of George Eliot tempts many to place her works on a footing with the best authors, but her moral influence is corrupting, or at least confusing.

"The writings of Tolstoy, of course, should not be allowed in any decent home." Mrs. Sheridan spoke with strong feeling. "His Kreutzer Sonata was written with no higher aim than to depict vice in alluring colors."

Mrs. General Miles agrees with Mrs. Sheridan on this point. "I think the two worst novels I ever read were Anna Karenina by Tolstoy and The Quick and the Dead by Amelie Rives," she said to me. " "Anna Karenina is without a doubt the most pernicious book on the market. It should never be placed in the hands of any young man or young woman."

Chapter XIV--Among the Literati
Carp's Washington
Frank G. Carpenter

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