Women’s Reading in Britain, 1750–1835: A Dangerous Recreation

The growth of female reading audiences from the mid-eighteenth century to the early Victorian era represents both a vital episode in women’s history and a highly significant factor in shaping the literary production of the period. This book offers for the first time a broad overview and detailed analysis of this growing readership, its representation in literature, and the extent of its influence. It examines both historical women readers, including Laetitia Pilkington, Elizabeth Carter, Frances Burney and Jane Austen, and a wide range of texts in which the figure of the woman reader is important, from Gothic (and other) novels to conduct books and educational works, letters, journals and memoirs, political and economic works, and texts on history and science. Jacqueline Pearson’s study offers illuminating insights which help to make sense of the ambivalent and contradictory attitudes of the age to the key figure of the woman reader.

• The first broad and detailed overview of women’s reading 1750–1835, its representation and influence - important for literary, social, educational and women’s history • Examines both evidence of real historical readers and the representation of readers in literary and non-literary texts covering a wide range of forms and subjects • Looks at popular as well as ‘high’ culture and a range of social classes


Introduction; 1. Pygmalionesses and the pencil under the petticoat: Richardson, Johnson and Byron; 2. What should girls and women read? 3. The pleasures and perils of reading; 4. Pleasures and perils of reading: some case histories; 5. Where and how should women read? 6. Preparing for equality: class, gender, reading; 7. A dangerous recreation: women and novel reading; Conclusion; Notes; Select Bibliography; Index.


‘… manages to be both scholarly and readable. the breadth of research is impressive, and covers a wide range of women readers, including both the well known and the less familiar … this will be a valuable text for anyone studying any aspect of gender and writing or reading during this important era.’ Harriet Devine, Review of English Studies

Nøkkelord: Historie Kulturhistorie