J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Teaching All the Malignity of Vice

Carnivalesque, a blog carnival from Denmark, recently took note of Boston 1775's entry on Josiah Quincy, Jr., and in turn alerted me to a discussion on Earmarks of Early Modern Culture of what one British critic had to say about novels in 1778:

Every corner of the kingdom is abundantly supplied with them. In vain is youth secluded from the corruptions of the living world. Books are commonly allowed them with little restriction, as innocent amusements; yet these often pollute the heart in the recesses of the closet, inflame the passions at a distance from temptation, and teach all the malignity of vice in solitude.
That sort of rhetoric would have resonated in Revolutionary Boston, with its Puritan roots, but the war and the coming of the republic seems to have shaken up the culture. The town got its first (underground) theater in 1792, and it had connections with many of America's earliest novels:

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