With respect to the NOVELS of our day, those imported from abroad, and chiefly those translated from the German, have lately presented nothing but an incongruous and cumbrous mass of fair captives, enchanted castles, or dreadful and mysterious apparitions, fit only to captivate or alarm weak imaginations. French novels, too, although a more faithful picture of modern manners, have been found to contain licentious and seductive descriptions of unbridled passions and abandoned profligacy. . . .
          Our domestic Novelists, absurdly imitating the German literati, have long dealt in the marvellous; and, though they seem for the present to have abandoned the idle and frightful dreams of a distorted imagination, they are nevertheless to be deprecated for teaching youth to mistake loose sentiments for liberal opinions, heedless profligacy for benevolent disposition, and impiety for strength of mind. Happy would it be, for the welfare of the present generation, if those ridiculous fabrications, of weak minds and often depraved hearts, which constitute the enchantment of circulating libraries, could be entirely annihilated.

[Rev. F. Prevost and F. Blagdon (eds), Flowers of Literature; for 1801 & 1802 (London: B. Crosby, 1803), n.p.n.]

Invective against Novelist Goblin-Mongers

O ye goblin-mongers! ye wholesale dealers in the frightful! is it not cruel to present to the imagination of a lovely female such horrid images, as skulls with the worms crawling in and out of their eyeless sockets? Is it not cruel to conjure up ghosts, murderers, magicians, faries [sic], devils, all those things invented to murder sleep, the innocent sleep of your poor terrified readers? To conjure up haunted castles, amid thunder, lightning, and all the other dreadful operations of nature? To make a man ride with a ghost in a post-chaise and four with, doubtless, two devils as postillions, over every hedge, and ditch, and quagmire, to be found or imagined? To depict the great devil himself taking a man up in the air by the crown of his head, as an eagle would a tortoise, to precipitate him on a rock, that he might the more expeditiously become possessed of his prey! And, lastly, to bring him to conclude the scene, as he is brought into a puppet-show, by flying away with the hero and heroine? Avaunt, ye enemies to sleep! Do not keep your fair readers tremblingly alive throughout the night, to make them look haggardly the next morning, for want of balmy rest. Does not Cicero call sleep the sweetest of the gods; and Seneca pars humanæ melior vitæ, the better part of human life? O ye goblin-mongers, cease then to disturb it, by the introduction of haunted castles, magic wands, murderous daggers, or poisonous bowls*!

(* It is the continual influx of those wretched novel-writings, and the rare appearance of the good, that has brought this branch of literature in such merited disrepute. The generality of people hold them, with reason, in great contempt; and, perhaps, few deride them more than those who read them most. – This is strange; but there is one thing yet more strange, and that is, that those, who have for a series of years constantly and avowedly despised this species of composition, should in the end sit down to the very work. Such was the case with Jean Jacques Rousseau, and with Lord Bolingbroke the same, who wrote a romance in folio, called Parthenissa. It is reported in a life of his lordship, that he was sick all the time: whoever will read it, will not doubt it.)

[Rev. F. Prevost and F. Blagdon (eds), Flowers of Literature; for 1801 & 1802 (London: B. Crosby, 1803), pp. 393–4]


It is a remarkable circumstance, that the most obscene dramatist, whose writings ever polluted the English stage, was a woman [i.e. Aphra Behn]; and it is a circumstance as remarkable, and as much to be regretted, that, with the exception of a certain monkish author [i.e. M.G. Lewis], the most indecent playwright, and the grossest and most immoral novelists of the present day, are women!
          The fair author of Zofloya [i.e. Charlotte Dacre] had before distinguished herself, in the annals of literary libertinism; and she has now treated HER admirers with the development of such scenes, as, we had hoped, no female hand could be found to trace.
          But, as we wish not to initiate our readers in the mysteries of brothels, or in the more secret vices of the cloister, we dismiss the ungrateful subject.

[Francis William Blagdon (ed.), Flowers of Literature; for 1806 (London: B. Crosby, 1807), pp. lxxiv–lxxv]

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