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French Novels and the Victorians$
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Juliette Atkinson

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266090

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266090.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 23 September 2021

Fictional readers

Fictional readers

(p.195) 4 Fictional readers
French Novels and the Victorians

Juliette Atkinson

British Academy

Fictional Victorian readers were often prone to enjoying French novels. The dangers lurking for female readers in improper material had been something of a literary cliché for some time, and can be found in contemporary poems and cautionary tales. However, Victorian novelists were as concerned with the effects of the novels on male readers. Numerous novels engage less with ideas of immorality than with anxieties surrounding idleness and its effect on the British male. Increasingly, though, novels offered more ambivalent and thoughtful reflections on the cultural discourse surrounding French works. Their dangers were shrugged off, and their pleasures dealt with sympathetically by novelists such as Braddon and Ouida. Cautionary tales about French novel-reading never quite went away, but critics found it increasingly hard to determine the extent to which the cautionary tales themselves might be mimicking the very dangers which they purported to condemn.

Keywords:   readers, idleness, Thackeray, Braddon, Ouida, Robinson

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