Daily Archives for: February 10th, 2021

Advice to Young Ladies on Reading Novels — From Early Female Authors

Is it possible that early female authors actually warned their target audience —female readers —against the practice of reading novels? It’s not only possible, but seemed to be a fairly common occurrence. 

Excerpted from Killing the Angel: Early British Transgressive Women Writers ©2021 by Francis Booth. Reprinted by permission.

When Madame Bovary first commits adultery, Flaubert tells us that it was her early reading of novels that was to blame: “she recalled the heroines of the books that she had read, and the lyric legion of these adulterous women began to sing in her memory with the voice of sisters that charmed her.”

In his A Plan for the Conduct of Female Education of 1797, Erasmus Darwin warns that ‘many objectionable passages’ are to be found in novels and Rousseau said ‘no chaste girls ever read a novel.’ But even groundbreaking literary ladies who wrote novels themselves were in two minds about letting their daughters, granddaughters and nieces read them. Here’s a sampling:

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