There are sound reasons for concluding in 1870–1. The Franco-Prussian War affected attitudes towards France, some of France’s major novelists died, a new generation of novelists led by Zola was on the rise, and the 1870 Education Act created fresh concerns about the composition and tastes of the reading public. Although interest in French literature did not begin in the 1870s, as many critics have claimed, the decade did mark a more defiant attitude towards supposed Victorian prudery, and a willingness to highlight and champion the transgressive qualities of French literature. It was in this period that censorshiptook centre stage, but those who resisted it were also ambivalent about the wisdom of allowing readers to access French works indiscriminately. As in previous decades, the critical discourse was often quietly challenged by reading practices.
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