March 29, 2012

Impoliteness: Reading a Book in the 1850s



Below is an excerpt from an 1857 issue of the Happy Home and Parlor Magazine, a Christian publication, which details some of the impolitenesses that younger people exhibited.

Numbers two and nine on this list demonstrate reading as a very social activity. Much like families and friends gather around the tv today, the radio in the 1940s, people in the age of inexpensive publication, would gather and listen to readings by their friends and families.









Sometimes reading with friends went beyond just reading and became a dramatic reading. Poems and short plays were published frequently in magazines of the 19th and 20th centuries for people to entertain each other with in the parlor.

Dramatic readings of literature were even public events. Remember in Anne of Green Gables when Anne gets to recite two poems at a concert? (I never miss a chance of inserting an Anne of Green Gables reference.)    

We still have this innate desire to share our reading adventures with others. We frequently discuss books we read with friends, some people belong to book clubs and there are numerous online book forums. Not to mention the recent popularity of book series' such as Harry Potter, Twilight (okay, using the word "book" loosely here,) and the Hunger Games.   

Some Civil War Era Reading Material for Your Pleasure:



This next one is a skit from Godey's Lady's Book from 1860 about an artist and his highly stereotyped house servant, Tillie.  It is an interesting read because you can see the use of derogatory terms and stereotypes as were used in a commonplace way during the period. You might have to right click on the images and open the them in a new window to zoom in.




Does anyone still read aloud with family and friends? Andy and I have been reading Sherlock Holmes together (among other things) over the last few years. Reading aloud is slow going but the dramatics and conversation are irreplaceable. It's much different than watching a movie together because you and your friends contribute to the story. Parts in the story become memorable because of the interactions that accompany the story.

16 comments:

  1. Reading aloud is still very much alive and well in our household. I think any family with young children will follow suit, as it will hopefully instill a love of reading in the upcoming generation. Our family was also involved in student debate tournaments--where you'll be glad to know that the "Individual Events" category includes many dramatisations from literature, where a student memorized a portion of a book and delivers it as a one-man show, or sometimes as a two person team...no props, no costumes...just as if reading it aloud dramatically. Still very entertaining to watch!

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    1. I'm glad that you all read together and hope it doesn't end when people start feeling "too old."

      The one man shows seem pretty cool! I was never good at public speaking but like to think I'd be a lot better at it now if I did things like that when i was younger.

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  2. Reading aloud is still a treasured activity we do in my family. My mother used to read aloud all the classics, and if I go back and read those books again they seem much more alive because of the voices and memories. Ah, good times! Great post :)

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    1. I know. To me, no one will ever be a better Dr. Watson than Andy. :)

      How does your family decide what books you will read together?

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    2. Aw, thanks, Steph. :) Wait until you see my Sam Watkins.

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  3. Reading aloud is so much fun in a group. I remember my mom and I reading together when I was little. We read so many books, some of my favorites over and over. She started reading to me, and eventually, when I learned, I got to read to her. I got to read a few to my class when I was young, too.

    Many of my elementary school teachers read books aloud to us as well. Normally, for children's books, there was a pause between pages while the teacher turned the book around to show the class the illustrations. I remember some books where I couldn't wait to get to the next page to see what happened.

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    1. I used to like reading as a class. I remember having the librarian read to us in the library during the younger grades.

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    2. Oh yeah, I almost forgot about that. We did that too. :)

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  4. Personally, I like ten on that list the most and think it can cover a wider range than merely forgetting to say thank you for a present: I feel that there are too many people who forget simple gratitude/common courtesy nowadays (and this is a problem in both the US and the UK, though some regions of either country are politer than others). Fifteen comes a close second: I can't stand it when I am interrupted and lose track of what I was saying.

    Dad read most of the Harry Potter books out to my brother and I, but he stopped when we got to the sixth book (I was fourteen by then). However, I actually get read to quite a lot at the moment, though people haven't been reading books to me: I have people reading the news to me...even though I can read it myself! :D

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    1. :D I think at the teenage years we feel "too old" for reading with the family. I get the news read to me too.

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  5. The 1896 Harper's Roundtable you will soon get your hands on has quite a few plays in it that were meant to be read aloud at home :)

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    1. I'll look forward to it. I think the 1890s stuff is pretty funny.

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  6. We read aloud as a family. We have daily worship and when I was younger (up until 16 or so) our Dad would read aloud every Sunday evening from various books like Pilgrims Progress or missionary stories.

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    1. That's so nice, I hope it's something you revive. :)

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  7. I don't know another way to reach you to ask so I'll do it here, where did you get the title of this blog?

    There is a book by a Louis Towles titled "A World Turned Upside Down" which I have and have read and it is wonderful. I am curious if you got the name from that book by chance?

    Cassandra
    http://clmt-an-edwardian-victorian.blogspot.com/

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  8. Hi Cassandra, I got the title from a 1700s song that was purportedly played by the British when they surrendered at Yorktown.

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