The Novel Archive

Long before television and video games, or before comic books and D&D, novels were the new and scary form of entertainment. They were accused of corrupting the youth, of planting dangerous ideas into the heads of housewives, and distracting everyone from more serious, important books. Here are some of our favorite examples that we stumbled upon while researching this episode of the podcast.

A National Enemy

Thetford & Watton Times | February 10th, 1894

The novel is becoming an enemy – a national enemy, in that it is sapping the minds of our youths of all that is manliest and noblest. It is more subtle because it attacks the individual and the family, it is more seductive because its sensations are pleasant, and its effects temporarily concealed. But it is there. It is working. It is developing. Its latest developments are everywhere visible. Some of its effects, too, every now and again, reach the light of day.


Dime-Novel Criminals

The Atchinson Tribune | June 25th, 1806

Three boys, readers of dime-novels, have gone to prison, one for life and the others for forty years each; but the publisher of the dime-novel has his liberty and doubtless much wealth. 

Too Much Reading Is Harmful

St. Petersburg Times | June 29th, 1938

“There’s Clare, with a book. Always reading. I never saw such a child for a book.” Didn’t she want to go to the party? I thought every child in town was there. They’re going to see the picture. They are all simply wild with excitement. Isn’t she well or what?”

Withdraw all encouragement related to the reading of books. Reduce the number available. Act so as to make reading inconvenient except for the set time.


Did Mottern Commit Murder From Reading Dime Novels?

Buffalo Evening News | January 9th, 1917

Interest and conjecture regarding the influence of the dime novel as an incentive to juvenile crime have been revived by the statement of Henry Ward Mottern, aged seventeen, now under sentence of death in Pennsylvania for complicity in murder, that one copy of Jesse James and one copy of Wild Bill comprised the only fiction he had ever read. He says he killed Haines the elder and helped to rob him because he and young Haines wanted money to go West and be cowboys. Unless the pardon board acts, he will die this month. “The direct result of reading dime novels,” their enemies will cry triumphantly. But is it?


A Youthful Murderer

St. John Daily Sun | March 18th, 1904

According to the residents the boys were addicted to dime novel reading.


Here’s A Defense of Dime Novels

Detroit Free Press | Januay 28th, 1917

Is It True That They Create or Foster Criminal Impulses in the Young?

T he dime novel, as most people understand the term, means a highly-sensational type of fiction issued in pamphlet form, and treating of Indians, cowboys, train robbers and “bad men” who rage through its…


The ‘Dime Novel’ Now Esteemed

Buffalo Evening News | Januay 9th, 1917

Parents complain about blood-and-thunder radio programs and gangster-story comic strips as chief problems in bringing their young hopefuls unspoiled through childhood’s impressionable years. Yesterday’s parents found a new menace in the movies. Before that, it was the dime novel, concealed under the pillow or read in the woodshed’s obscurity, which occasioned parental worries and prompted officious scoldings.


Multitude of Books

A Dictionary of Quotations in Prose

The multitude of books is a great evil. There is no measure or limit to this fever for writing; every one must be an author; some out of vanity to acquire celebrity and raise up a name, others for the sake of lucre and gain.


Too Many Books

San Francisco Examiner | April 27th, 1932

As one who contributes in a small way to swell the volume of the literary torrent, I feel a certain rather guilty concern about the almost frenzied book making of modern times. For surely there can be no doubt about the matter; there are too many books. 


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