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« Nineteenth-century ancestor | Main | The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë »

July 20, 2009



The motto immediately conjures up an image: Little Professor as the "Scrubbing Bubbles" of literary criticism. (If you have never seen those commercials, the tag is "we work hard so you don't have to").


The same is true of a lot of genre fiction. I like many of the "proper British mysteries" written in the mid-20th century, but reading a contemporary "cozy" is by turns tedious and annoying. It doesn't matter to me if a book from, say, 1937 contains errors, anachronisms, and poorly-drawn characters, but when I encounter such things in a recent book, I give up on it. Perhaps we judge our own times more severely, because we're living through them.

I enjoy your blog--and the obvious knowledge, care, and dedication you bring to your subjects.


I think, too, that to some extent they really are different things. Bad Victorian fiction is a very different thing from bad imitation of Victorian fiction (or, worse, bad imitation of bad Victorian fiction!). And we also cut people a bit of slack the first time around: the sort of awful writing that should have gone out with the Victorians is not as bad a thing when it is written by Victorians than when it is written by people much later.

Although I sometimes wonder if there is really a decline in quality: many (although if there are exceptions, I imagine you could name some) older bad novels are written by people who should have been writing something other than a novel. But many newer bad novels are written by people who shouldn't yet be writing anything for publication at all....


Maybe it's to do with the intentions that are coming through. The Victorian authors' intentions (to teach or persuade, to entertain or thrill, to produce a recognizable novel) vs. the modern authors' intentions (to entertain or thrill, to imitate the tone of yesteryear). At any rate, bad imitation is hard to bear.


As a sucker for mysteries set in other times, I have noted to others in the past that from the productions of our own time I get a clear sense of how cold, wet, and smelly things were in a 12th-century monastery or 18th-century London that I don't get from real 12th-century or 18th-century literature. Never go to a fish to learn about water, I suppose.

D G Myers

The Little Professor ought to be required reading for every first-year graduate student in English literature.


I think my students really had a similar response to Drood (which I taught this spring).

I like your new photo, by the way (I usually read from the feed, so hadn't stopped by in awhile).

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