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British and Commonwealth Literary Studies

Victorian and Edwardian Popular Fiction

The Collection

Location: Department of Special Collections, Green Library

Finding Guides: Individual titles are listed in Socrates by author and title. A complete catalog of the collection is also available online or in printed form in the Reading Room of the Department of Special Collections.

Research Access and Use: Materials in the Department of Special Collections are non-circulating and must be used in the Special Collections' Reading Room in the Cecil H. Green Library. The Reading Room is open 10:00am to 5:00pm Monday through Friday. Photocopies, photographs, and microfilm can be made of some materials in the collections. For more information about the collections and access policies, please contact Special Collections by telephone at (650) 725-1022, by electronic mail at or by regular mail at the Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, California 94305-6004.

Content: A collection of 450 books of fiction produced from about 1860 to the end of the First World War. These books, frequently directed at juveniles, presented cautionary tales which extolled the virtues of hard work and piety as a route to social achievement, having the primary function of altering behavior in the working classes to conform with social norms. Many of them were issued by the great religious publishers and were often explicitly moral and improving in tone. An outgrowth of the Sunday School and Charity Movements and their push to educate the children of the poor in the expanding industrial towns, these cheap, attractive, and undaunting books were designed for the semi-literate and newly literate classes to use in the pantry, factory school, or orphanage. They were frequently illustrated with woodcuts or engravings and typically bound in bright decorated or pictoral cloth covers. The stories range from wholesome adventures for girls and boys to temperance tales and stories of destitution and heroism amidst the hardship of city life. The great majority of the writers were women, who chose this medium to further the Victorian endeavor of educating, improving and bringing religion to the masses. They provide pictures of life in Victorian and Edwardian England and are an interesting source of insight into the values and attitudes of that age.

Last modified: July 14, 2006

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