Popular Reading Tastes

  • Haydn Mason


We have dealt at length with high literature, its context and its audience. What, however, was read by, let us say, the archers in Manon Lescaut? One does not know. We cannot guess with any accuracy how much they would have been influenced by the popular tastes that prevailed in the country or affected by the sophistication of city life. Given the high illiteracy figures, they probably did not read at all. Indeed, it may well be true if paradoxical that peasants had more contact with literature of a kind than the ordinary townsman, since their more settled existence allowed people to gather together in veillées, particularly of a winter evening, to be read to as they mended their tools or span around the hearth. At least we have some information about what was popular in the countryside, thanks above all to Robert Mandrou’s pioneering study of the collection of popular literature still surviving at Troyes, and Geneviève Bollème’s subsequent anthology. The cultural picture revealed in these works could hardly be farther removed from the world of the Enlightenment.1


Eighteenth Century Popular Literature Divine Intervention Ancien Regime French Writer 
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  1. 1.
    R. Mandrou, De la culture populaire aux XVII’ et XVIII’ siècles: La Bibliothèque bleue de Troyes ( Paris: Stock, 1964 );Google Scholar
  2. G. Bollème, La Bible bleue: Anthologie d’une littérature ‘populaire’ (Paris: Flammarion, 1975).Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    G. Bollème, Les Almanachs populaires aux XVII` et XVIII siècles: Essai d’histoire sociale ( Paris/The Hague: Mouton, 1969 ).Google Scholar

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© Haydn Mason 1982

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  • Haydn Mason

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