Villains Galore: The Heyday of the Popular Story Weekly

Villains Galore: The Heyday of the Popular Story Weekly

Villains Galore: The Heyday of the Popular Story Weekly

Villains Galore: The Heyday of the Popular Story Weekly

Excerpt

SWEETNESS and violence are the unchanging elements of popular literature. These, by the unerring masses, have been adjudged "escape." Where is the sweetness in scolding the children, or even in washing the dishes? Where is the violence in going to the office? War, to be sure, is shrieked from the headlines of every newspaper. But with the disciplined horrors of modern warfare the literature of escape has little to do. It is concerned with the direct, personal, uninhibited violence of crime, of vengeance, of unlicensed Indian warfare. The highest rewards have frequently gone to those who, like Mrs. Southworth, or Ned Buntline, or the author of Our Gal Sunday , have inextricably combined the sweetest of sentiment with the blow of the well directed fist.

The characters of popular literature have changed only gradually. Down the ages the wood and tinsel parade has passed. The ghost, the witch, and the fortuneteller, the high-born criminal, the heroic street boy, the country-girl-in-the-city, the softhearted highwayman, the cool detective, the poor-but-noble working girl, have for generations filed before the eyes of the plain man in his leisure hour. Each generation a character or two have dropped out of the procession, another one or two have been added. The new characters have never faced any problem of adjustment. They have always fitted perfectly into the traditional environment. Even the latest comers, Superman and the confession girl, seem to have always "belonged."

The customs of popular literature have changed as the customs of society itself have changed. Popular literature reflects the fleeting notions, the less enduring ideals, the physical settings, the mannerisms, of the time that passes. Because popular literature is a deliberate . . .

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