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I HOPE nobody will be shocked, but it is
only proper that I should confess, before
writing another line, that I am about to
disclose the existence of a Disreputable Society,
in one of the most respectable counties in
England.  I dare not be more particular as
to the locality, and I cannot possibly mention
the members by name. However, I have no
objection to admit that I am perpetual Secretary,
that my wife is President, that my
daughters are Council, and that my nieces
form the Society. Our object is to waste our
time, misemploy our intellects, and ruin our
morals; or, in other words, to enjoy
prohibited luxury of novel-reading.

It is a private opinion of mine that the
dull people in this countryno matter
whether they belong to the Lords or the
Commonsare the people who, privately as
well as publicly, govern the nation. By dull
people, I mean people of all degrees of rank
and education, who never want to be amused.
I don't know how long it is since these dreary
members of the population first hit on the
cunning ideathe only idea they ever had,
or will haveof calling themselves
Respectable; but I do know that, ever since that
time, this great nation has been afraid of
themafraid in religious, in political, and in
social matters. If my present business were
with the general question, I think I could
prove this assertion easily and indisputably
by simple reference to those records of our
national proceedings which appear in the
daily newspapers. But my object in writing
is of the particular kind. I have a special
petition to address to the writers of novels
on the part of the Disreputable Society to
which I belong; and if I am to give any
example here of the supremacy of the dull
people, it must be drawn from one or two
plain evidences of their success in opposing
the claims of our fictitious literature to fit
popular recognition.

The dull people decided years and years
ago, as every one knows, that novel-writing
was the lowest species of literary exertion,
and that novel-reading was a dangerous
luxury and an utter waste of time. They
gave, and still give, reasons for this opinion,
which are very satisfactory to persons
born without Fancy or Imagination, and
which are utterly inconclusive to everyone
else. But, with reason or without it,
the dull people have succeeded in affixing to
our novels the stigma of being a species
of contraband goods. Look, for example,
at the Prospectus of any librarian. The
principal part of his trade of book-lending
consists in the distributing of novels;
and he is uniformly unwilling to own that
simple fact. Sometimes, he is afraid to print
the word Novel at all in his lists, and
smuggles in his contraband fiction under the
head of Miscellaneous Literature. Sometimes,
after freely offering all histories, all
biographies, all voyages, all travels, he owns
self-reproachfully to the fact of having
novels too, but deprecatingly addsOnly the
best! As if no other branch of the great
tree of literature ever produced tasteless
and worthless fruit! In all cases, he puts
novels last on his public list of the books he
distributes, though they stand first on his
private list of the books he gains by. Why
is he guilty of all these sins against candour?
Because he is afraid of the dull people.

Look againand this brings me to the
subject of these linesat our Book Clubs.
How paramount are the dull people there!
How they hug to their rigid bosoms Voyages
and Travels! How they turn their intolerant
backs on novels! How resolutely
they get together, in a packed body, on the
committee, and impose their joyless laws on
the yielding victims of the club, who secretly
want to be amused! Our book club was an
example of the unresisted despotism of their
rule. We began with a law that novels
should be occasionally admitted; and the
dull people abrogated it before we had been
in existence a twelvemonth. I smuggled in
the last morsel of fiction that our starving
stomachs were allowed to consume, and
produced a hurricane of virtuous indignation at
the next meeting of the committee. All the
dull people of both sexes attended. One dull
gentleman said the author was a pantheist,
and quoted some florid ecstasies on the
subject of scenery and flowers in support of the
opinion. Nobody seemed to know exactly
what a pantheist was, but everybody cried
"Hear, hear,"—which did just as well for the
purpose. Another dull gentleman said the