I have been perplexed all day by the origins of a certain quote defending the reading of fiction as a harmless pasttime. It’s from (probably) early- to mid- 1800s England, and points out that reading is a comfort to bored clerks and bookkeepers, staves off monotony, allows a harmless escape, etc. It might be and expanded version of Trollope’s “The habit of reading is the only enjoyment in which there is no alloy; it lasts when all other pleasures fade,” but I can’t find an expanded version of that quote anywhere on the Web.
This is, of course, research for the most brilliant book ever written, so your efforts will be adancing the cause of civilization.
“Men and women say that they will read, and think so,–those, I mean, who have acquired no habit of reading,–believing the work to be, of all works, the easiest. It may be work, they think, but of all works it must be the easiest of achievement. Given the absolute faculty of reading, the task of going through the pages of a book must be, of all tasks, the most certainly within the grasp of the man or woman who attempts it! Alas, no;–if the habit be not there, of all tasks it is the most difficult. If a man have not acquired the habit of reading till he be old, he shall sooner in his old age learn to make shoes than learn the adequate use of a book. And worse again;–under such circumstances the making of shoes shall be more pleasant to him than the reading of a book. Let those who are not old,–who are still young, ponder this well.”
From “The Claverings” by Anthony Trollope (p.379)
Perhaps the “alloy” quote is in the nearby vicinity of the above paragraph. <gazes into crystal ball> I forsee a library trip for you (unless some Good Doper has a Claverings copy and could follow up.)