Tag Archives: Snobbery

Literature dead (1870) says Katawampus

Found in an obscure short-lived journal  The Trifle of September 1912 (edited  by Ernest Hicks Oliver, a writer on yachting and history.) Oliver  quotes the writer and lawyer Sir Edward Abbott Parry ('Judge Parry') the  speaker at the annual ladies' night debate of the Hardwicke Society. It is amusing to see someone declaring reading dead over 100 years ago- in fact in the view of the diehard Parry since 1870 - when the Elementary Education Act set the framework for schooling of all children between the ages of 5 and 13 in England and Wales.

There were many objections at the time  to the concept of universal education, primarily it was felt by some that it would make the poor 'think' and become dissatisfied with their lives, it might even encourage them to revolt. Parry's objections are more on aesthetic and elitist lines...He was a fairly prolific dramatist and writer for children. At the time of this speech he was writing Katawampus - A Musical Play for Children of All Ages and Katawampus: its Treatment and Cure:

The demand for good literature ended about 1870, when the Education Act came in and literature went out. Since that date every citizen has been taught to read, but not to know what to do with his reading. Any rubbish for which he has a taste is constantly supplied to him, he is exercising enormous influence on the so called literature of today. Men's ideas are formed today, not by their fathers and mothers in their homes, but by codes shot  from education departments, and carried out by half educated people. Good taste in books and literature is born in the home, and it is impossible to get it in schools. Today the demand for literature is really in the hands of the feeble-minded, who are in the great majority, and rule the market. One piece of evidence as to that feeble-mindedness is to be found in problem plays and problem novels. There is nothing in literature more degrading than the vogue for such plays and novels. People are not assisted by them in understanding any great problems, they are only enabled to swagger around as those who know a little more than their neighbours.