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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


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and Philadelphia in spite of the coldness of utilitarians and Puritans. Probably the Southern and Middle colonies read more novels than New England. William Byrd of Virginia, owner of one of the largest private libraries in America, possessed novels by Defoe, Fielding, Smollett, Le Sage, and Cervantes (who as satirist and moralist was widely admired), as well as more trivial performances. There was at least one copy of Joseph Andrews in Philadelphia in 1744, for Dr. Alexander Hamilton of Maryland, then on a leisurely vacation, read it there and thought it the best work of the kind he had ever seen. And New England was by no means innocent of novels. Jonathan Edwards himself, conspicuous among the saints, read Sir Charles Grandison, and with such interest that he resolved to correct his own hitherto neglected style upon the example of Richardson; while Stephen Burroughs, as conspicuous among the sinners, later charged many of his offenses to his early reading of such books as Guy, Earl of Warwick, which he read about the time of the Revolution.
  In part this apathy to fiction was due to the common colonial tendency to lag behind in matters of taste and culture. Pope in poetry and Addison in prose long sufficed for models among the Americans, and theological and political discussion proceeded with little reference to prevailing modes in imaginative literature. But even more important than mere apathy was the positive antipathy which showed itself when, soon after the Revolution, novel reading began to increase with great rapidity, and native novelists appeared in respectable numbers. The moralists were aroused and exclaimed against the change—their cries appearing in the magazines of the day side by side



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