The exhibition “Louisiana for Bibliophiles: A History of Reading in the Bayou State” is now online.
Proper young ladies read works that contributed to their moral character, spiritual growth, or development in the domestic sphere; novels were often condemned as corrupting influences.
Sarah Wright wrote her daughters Esther and Mary, in school at the Female Institute in Mansfield, Louisiana, and cautioned them against reading novels. Her admonitions prompted Esther to write in response:
I am very sorry I ever touched a novel. I begin to feel the effects of it. I have promised not to read any more while I am going to school, and hope I’ll not wish to read any afterward. When I get to reading any beautiful poetry, or other things, I sometimes think, I could not read a novel.
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Image from Harvey Newcomb, The Young Lady’s Guide to the Harmonious Development of Christian Character. New York: M. W. Dodd, 1853.