July 6, 2011

Women Reading

The New Novel - 1877 - Winslow Homer

I have a soft spot for paintings of women reading. It's hardly surprising. Reading is an obsession that I picked up very early. Like many other bookish kids, I loved everything about the experience. I eagerly anticipated my trips to the library and made a beeline for the "new arrivals" shelf when I walked in; I read the first paragraph of each book I thought I might borrow to see which would best suit my mood (I still do this); and I loved walking home with my week's stash, wondering which book I'd read first. I've been a bookworm ever since.

So you can see why I define myself as a reader. It's the first thing i say if I'm asked about my interests. It's followed closely by 'learning,' and the two are inseparable for me. Much of what I learned about the world as a child came from books, and as as I matured, I realized that books could also help me learn about myself. 

I'm an introvert who found herself working in a field usually reserved for extroverts. Over time, I learned to use the extrovert's tools so proficiently that most people are surprised when I tell them that the role doesn't come naturally --or easily-- to me. Channeling an extrovert can leave me depleted, sometimes exhausted, and I often turn to books to renew my energy.

Over the years, I've collected print and digital images of readers, almost always women. It's been a popular motif for painters over the years --it's hard to think that women holding their electronic reading devices will strike the same chord for artists, but, hey, who knows? From time to time, I'll share some of my favorites with you in this blog. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. The New Novel, above, is the first of these.

Note: The following appeared in Popular Amusements, a book by Rev. J.T. Crane. The book was published in 1869, only 8 years before Winslow Homer completed The New Novel. Here's the table of contents for the chapter "Novels and Novel-Reading." (Be warned, the "Seven Reasons Against Common Novel-Reading" make it pretty clear that reading a novel can ruin you for life.)

Novels and Novel-Reading
Definition of a Novel – A Vice of the Age – FOUR MAXIMS:
1. No Fiction if Little Leisure
2. Only the Best
3. Fiction to be but Small Part
4. If any Harm results, Stop at Once!
1. Wastes Time
2. Injures the Intellect
3. Unfits for Real Life
4. Creates Overgrowth of the Passions
5. Produces Mental Intoxication
6. Lessens the Horror of Crime and Wrong
7. Wars with all Piety, Disciplinary Rule.


  1. Lovely! Oh to recline with a good book.....

  2. Maybe that's why I like this images so much, Kathy. So many of them are lying down ;-)

  3. I love reading and am addicted to books! But I guess that's better than being addicted to drugs and such. The only harm done with books is that I can run out of money fast!