By Walter Lionel George
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Sometimes he reads a shocker, the sort that is known as 'railway literature,' presumably because it cannot hold the attention for more than the time that elapses between two stops. The more serious and scholarly man, who abounds in every club, is addicted to the monthly reviews, (price two-and-six; he does not like the shilling ones), to the Times, to the Spectator; that kind of man is definitely stodgy and prides himself upon being sound. He is fond of memoirs, rather sodden accounts of aristocrats and politicians, of the dull, ordinary lives of dull, ordinary people; when he has done with the book it goes to the pulping machine, but some of the pulp gets into that man's brain.
All their books are readable, but they do not take by the hand the person who has thought wrong or not thought at all. When you want to teach a child history you do not dump upon its desk Hume and Smollett, in forty volumes; you lead it by degrees, by means of text-books, that is according to plan. That is how I conceive literary education, but before suggesting a list, let us glance at Literary Taste and How to Form It. In this book the author shows himself much more unpractical and much less sympathetic than Sir William Robertson Nicoll (whom Mr Bennett delighteth to revile).
He commonly tells you that good novels are not written nowadays; he must be excused that opinion, for he never tries to read them. The only novels with which the weary Titan refreshes his mind are those of Thackeray, sometimes of Trollope; the more frivolous sometimes go so far as to sip a little of the honey that falls from the mellifluous lips of Mr A. C. Benson. The condition of women is different. They care for little that ends in 'ic,' and so their consumption of novels is enormous. The commonplace woman is attracted by the illustrated dailies and weeklies, but she also needs large and continuous doses of religious sentimentality, of papier maché romance, briefly, of novels described in literary circles as 'bilge,' such as the works of Mr Hall Caine, Mrs Barclay, Miss E.