James Lackington, that expert in marketing books, wrote in a well-known remark in 1795 that “all ranks and degrees now READ”; but by general agreement fiction was the preferred form of reading. As Anna Lætitia Aikin (later Barbauld) wrote in 1773, “To the writer of fiction alone, every ear is open.” The result was belief in a split in reading between learned and professional (male) culture on one hand, and entertaining and fanciful (female) culture on the other. As early as 1751 Francis Coventry noticed that “learned men . . . are willing to monopolize reading themselves, and therefore fastidiously decry all books that are on a level with common understandings, as empty, trifling, and impertinent,” whereas, from at least the late seventeenth century it was widely assumed that women were the main readers of novels. Thomas Christie, writing in 1788, attributed this “fact” to women’s defective and superficial education, which unfitted them for “solid learning,” such as history, usually assigned to men.
unbecoming a heroine :: novel reading and romanticism and barrett’s The Heroine – garry kelly
note: in jane austens “kloster northanger” weigert sich die “heldin” catherine. geschichtliche buecher zu lesen