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Readers of the novel.

An important influence on the novel's development was its audience, for a group of new readers was developing for whom this form was adapted. Literacy was spreading in England from the upper classes to the lower. As the middle class solidified their economic position, they had more leisure for reading and more money to spend on books. Women especially began to read more as household drudgery began to yield to middle-class comfort. Even servants and apprentices began to have more than minimal literacy as urban centers grew and rural ignorance was replaced by town experiences. Circulating libraries were founded in provincial towns so that a person of modest means could have access to a great number of books for a small fee. This new readership meant that the author had a lucrative new field of opportunity. The form of the novel could be legitimately entertaining, not learned or weighted with classical allusion but depicting instead recognizable scenes and incidents. No one needed an elite education to relish a novel. On the contrary, authors appealed to the desire of ordinary readers for models of fashionable behavior and correct social attitudes, a need also addressed by the periodical essay.

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Author:McCoy, Kathleen; Harlan, Judith A.V.
Publication:English Literature to 1785
Article Type:Reference Source
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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