Poisonous novels

“The contemptible rage for novel-reading*, is a pernicious and deplorably prevalent taste, which vitiates and palls the appetite for literary food of a more nutritive and wholesome kind. It surprises me that superior genius stoops to feed this reigning folly, to administer sweet poison for the age’s tooth*.” Anna Seward, 1789 [*my emphasis]

Ian McEwan’s latest heroine, Serena, is a voracious novel reader and her MI5 mission, Sweet Tooth, gives the novel its name. I wonder if this Seward quote was a source of inspiration.

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