Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Reading Public

While doing research for my Beau Monde talk back in July (Sex During the Regency: What Jane Austen Knew and Lord Byron Didn’t), I came across this charming cartoon. It’s dated 1826 and is called “Four Specimens of the Reading Public”. The captions above the four are way to small to read, here they are from right to left:

Frank a la Mode: “Pray is a Waverley’s new Novel out----?”

Political Dustman: “I vants a Cobbett”

Sir Larry Lascivious: “Have you the last of Harriette Wilson?”

Romancing Molly: “Hav’nt you no Romances in 5 Wollums?”

That’s “Volumes” by the way, and I have no idea why the Dustman sounds German (or Russian). Cockney doesn’t sound like that. *scratches head*

Anyway, take a look at our Lascivious gent: older, rich, elegantly dressed. This, according to my reading, was the primary demographic for obscene publishers. Secondary, and more likely to come “innocently” come across these novels, were women of the middle and upper classes. That’s how my heroine in SHOW ME from last year, came across this “obscene” literature.

What would a “Four Specimens of the Reading Public” look like today? I’ll leave that to your imagination.


Anonymous said...

The literary reader, who thinks no book is worth reading unless it's been studied as part of a university course, and sneers at Oprah's book club.

The pulp reader, who only takes from the bestseller lists.

The pretend reader, who watches movies made from books and prefers magazines, and internet articles.

The romance reader, who defiantly insists it's literature, but still hides book covers when in public.

Erastes said...

Richard & Judy: "This is going to be a best-seller" (all of his others were, so we won't lose face by this prediction.)

Dan Brown or DB Clone: Hmmm. This book looks like it has an interesting theory.. *makes notes*

Historical Romance Reader: "It doesn't have to be accurate! I don't want to be tutored by my novels!"

Female Gay Fiction Reader: "Where's the sex in this book?"

Jane Lockwood said...

I don't think it's Germanic, Celia, it's the so-called "Dickensian" London speech, with Ws and Vs reversed, alive and well in 1826--I've heard that he reproduced the speech patterns of his youth.