Quotes from a few titles I'm going through as I revise a book chapter, due Aug. 1:
How to Read by Amelie V. Petit, 1878
Reading should be done in an orderly manner: "A confused jumble of unclassified books, however large the collection, is not properly a library; neither is a confused jumble of unclassified knowledge an education." (p. 2)
Reading requires work: "While the cream of literature undoubtedly rises to the surface, it must be worked over and over by the intellect before it yields its best, most desirable product." (p. 20)
Fiction should be only one part of a varied course of reading: "We advise the reader to intersperse with them [books of fiction] books of travel, biography, history, and poetry, relating to their authors, or the country wherein the scene of the story is laid."
(list of recommended books follows, with explicit mention that these are a good course of reading for the young)
"A professed novel-reader will say, 'What a meager list, when there are so many hundred fine stories unmentioned.' We grant this true; but no person who does not wish to almost utterly wreck his intellect, and destroy all zest for real life, will need farther reading of novels." (p. 57)
Books and Reading by Noah Porter, 1871
chpt 7, the moral influence of books and reading--the reading of fiction
In discussing which books are bad... starts on p. 72-73 with a long quote about noticing the ill effects and influence of reading something bad.
"The ground of moral exposure is not the fact that evil is painted, nor that it is painted boldly; but it is in the manner in which it is represented,--whether with fidelity to the ordinances of nature, or falsely to her eternal laws as written on the heart of man." (p. 83)
Follows with examples from Milton, where Satan is depicted in unflattering terms, vs. Byron's depiction of Lucifer "who discourses atheism and blasphemy with such specious and passionate force that the trusting reader's faith in God and conscience is shaken and confounded, and it is well if, with heated brain and unbelieving heart, or passionate and despairing scorn, he does not plunge himself into some rash act of passion or crime [...]" (p. 84)
About the influence of reading on the imagination: "The imagination forms and controls the conscience so far as it form and enforces the ideals of what we can and ought to become. The ideal which it actually forms and enforces must inevitably raise us upward or drag us downward."
About mass-market books:
"There is a very abundant class of writings that are sometimes denominated cheap literature, which, only by courtesy, deserve to be called literature at all. It is a class somewhat miscellaneous and comprehensive, consisting as it does of novels, novelettes, journals, and newspapers, in which so-called stories abound. Of many of these productions nothing worse can be said--though that is bad enough--than that they are utterly frivolous and vapid, that they while away the time, and interest the feelings, but neither elevate the tastes nor brighten the life. [...] They are make to take and make to sell, and they both take and sell, because they humor what their readers like[...] Much of this sort of literature is open to the more serious objection tha tit stimulates and inflames the passions, ignores or mislead the conscience, and studiously presents views of life that are fundamentally false." (p. 97-98)
The Librarian of the Sunday School by Elizabeth Louisa Foote, 1897
Discussing what kind of books belong in these libraries, gives an example of one library:
"The South Congregational church of New Britain, Conn., in a little pamphlet on its Sunday school library, states its govening principle to be the admission of 'books which inculcate, directly or indirectly, moral or religious truth, and also those which contribute to a knowledge of Church history or minister to the upbuilding of character.'"