Monday, October 20, 2014


No Time for Literature

John Davidson (1857-1909), Sentences and Paragraphs (London: Lawrence & Bullen, 1893), pp. 19-20:
People complain nowadays that they have no time for literature, there are so many newspapers to read, every right-thinking person being expected to know daily the current news of the world, not later in the evening than the issue of the "extra special." It is supposed that this is quite a modern excuse for the decay of the reading of literature; and sighs are deeply breathed for the time when "Clarissa Harlowe" was deemed too short, when "Evelina" was voted brilliant, or when nobody found the Waverley Novels tiresome. And yet, since we began to have a prose literature this complaint has always existed. The melancholy Butler, as far back as 1614, puts it thus, speaking of the majority: "if they read a book at any time, 'tis an English chronicle, 'St. Huon of Bordeaux,' 'Amadas de Gaul,' etc., a play-book or some pamphlet of news." The major part of the reading public has been perennially interested in current events, and the man who says he can't find time to read literature because it is a social duty to be acquainted with news, makes a virtue of curiosity, like any Greek frequenter of the Areopagus or Jacobean subscriber to the "Staple of News."
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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