A course of steady reading

“Emma has been meaning to read more ever since she was twelve years old. I have seen a great many lists of her drawing up at various times of books that she meant to read regularly through – and very good lists they were – very well chosen, and very neatly arranged – sometimes alphabetically, and sometimes by some other rule. The list she drew up when only fourteen – I remember thinking it did her judgement so much credit, that I preserved it some time; and I dare say she may have made out a very good list now. But I have done with expecting any course of steady reading from Emma…”

—Mr Knightly knows too much.

So what is this, exactly?

I was a voracious reader from an early age, and as I grew older I developed an increasing fascination with what I’m tempted to call “The Golden Age Of The Novel” – say, the years 1750 – 1900. Many great works of literature were published during that time – and many, many stinkers, too; and it is the latter that currently hold my interest. You may notice on the way through some absence of the usual suspects: my prevailing interest at the moment is those novels and authors who have slipped through the cracks of history, sometimes with good reason, occasionally unjustifiably.

However – never let it be said I ever did anything without completely overdoing it. The recent explosion in electronic access to previously rare and inaccessible documents has seen my reading list not only lengthen dramatically, but slide backwards into the era of what we might call “The Rise Of The Novel”: the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

My intention is to start out by taking a more or less chronological journey through the very early days of novel-writing, the time before anyone was quite sure what “a novel” was; and to support my fiction reading with a few necessary dips into works about literary, social and political history.  My hope is to a few kindred bibliophile spirits to join me for some reading and a chat over virtual coffee.


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