‘”Literary Champagne”: or the fiction of seaside reading’

Oulton, C. (2016) ‘”Literary Champagne”: or the fiction of seaside reading’. In: Victorian Popular Fiction Conference, 14th-15th July, 2016, IES, London.

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The opening of direct railway lines from London to the Kent coastal resorts in the 1860s stimulated the promotion of holiday reading as a special activity, with publishers branding their lists as holiday or seaside ‘recommendations’ in a bid to capture this growing market.

Over the decades writers responded with stories of crime and romance, such as The Season at Brighton: a Romance of Fashionable Life written by Bracebridge Hemyng in 1872) and Burford Delannoy’s 1902 The Margate Murder Mystery. In addition to fiction, New Humourists of the 1880s and ‘90s wrote comic guides to Thanet that competed with the ephemeral local guides aimed at the lower and middle class tourist.

But the image of London holidaymakers relaxing with a book on the beach is itself problematic. The author of an 1874 guide to Margate advises travellers who have brought books on the train not to read them; and despite the upsurge in what one Folkestone journal in 1891 called ‘literary champagne’, the local library report from the same year shows that ‘balmy June’ was the month in which books were least likely to be taken out. While the paucity of fiction in the local libraries was a staple joke of the holiday periodicals, in the numerous photographs of visitors relaxing on deck chairs on the beaches of Kent, a notably small number appear to be reading.

These contradictory messages raise the question of who was actually reading seaside fiction and to what end. Tantalisingly There and Back: Judy’s Seaside and Holiday Book published in 1876 is intended ‘For the delectation of all gad-abouts and some stay-at-home travellers.’

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English Literature > PR0161 By period
P Language and Literature > PR English Literature > PR3991 19th century (1770-1900)
P Language and Literature > PR English Literature > PR0931 Wit and humor
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Humanities
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Prof Carolyn W. de la L. Oulton
Date Deposited: 09 Jun 2016 08:33
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2016 08:33
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/14561

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00