Something last week (probably a comment at Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog, but of course I didn't bother to note it at the time) prompted me to track down George Eliot's essay "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists."
Which, it turns out, is a little package of awesome.
Go read the whole thing. I'm going to try to figure out what "adolescence repressed by gin" looks like.
"We may remark, by the way, that we have been relieved from a serious scruple by discovering that silly novels by lady novelists rarely introduce us into any other than very lofty and fashionable society. We had imagined that destitute women turned novelists, as they turned governesses, because they had no other 'lady-like' means of getting their bread. On this supposition, vacillating syntax and improbable incident had a certain pathos for us, like the extremely supererogatory pincushions and ill-devised nightcaps that are offered for sale by a blind man."
"It is true that we are constantly struck with the want of verisimilitude in their representations of the high society in which they seem to live; but then they betray no closer acquaintance with any other form of life."
"symptoms so alarmingly like those of adolescence repressed by gin"
"Of course! Greek and Hebrew are mere play to a heroine; Sanscrit is no more than abc to her; and she can talk with perfect correctness in any language except English."
"We have often met with women much more novel and profound in their observations than Laura Gay, but rarely with any so inopportunely long winded."
"On the whole, however, frothy as it is, we rather prefer 'Rank and Beauty' to the two other novels we have mentioned. The dialogue is more natural and spirited; there is some frank ignorance, and no pedantry; and you are allowed to take the heroine's astounding intellect upon trust, without being called on to read her conversational refutations of sceptics and philosophers, or her rhetorical solutions of the mysteries of the universe."
"There seems to be a notion abroad among women, rather akin to the superstition that the speech and actions of idiots are inspired, and that the human being most entirely exhausted of common sense is the fittest vehicle of revelation."
"We are getting used to these things now, just as we are used to eclipses of the moon, which no longer set us howling and beating tin kettles."
"We are aware that our remarks are in a very different tone from that of the reviewers who, with a perennial recurrence of precisely similar emotions, only paralleled, we imagine, in the experience of monthly nurses, tell one lady novelist after another that they 'hail' her productions 'with delight.'"