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« Student commentary | Main | Scene of instruction, feline edition »

May 02, 2013

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Laura Vivanco

"there's room for more archival research on readers responding to and interacting with non-anonymous religious novelists. Did they send fan mail? Did they ask for spiritual guidance? Did they make pilgrimages to authors' homes?"

I don't know the answers to those questions, but Augusta Jane Evans'

most successful novel, St. Elmo (1866), sold a million copies within four months of its appearance and remained in print well into the twentieth century. The sexual tensions between the book's cynical Byronic hero, St. Elmo, and its beautiful Christian heroine, self-made writer Edna Earl, inspired the christening of villages, plantations, steamboats, railway carriages, male infants, a punch, a cigar. (New Georgia Encyclopedia)

I wrote a couple of blog posts about it a few years ago (here and here). There's been quite a bit of work done on Evans, so perhaps someone else would know the answers to your questions with regards to the reader response to her novels.

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