The silver fork novels were very conscious about the act of reading. Authors frequently referenced events that had happened in the society pages of the newspaper, encouraging readers to read more in general.
Further, since silver fork novels depicted fashionable life, and the genre was itself very popular and fashionable, aristocratic characters in the novels would often be seen reading or discussing other silver fork texts. This indicated to middle-class readers that they were successfully emulating the aristocracy simply by reading the novels which instructed them precisely about how to emulate the aristocracy.
This was not an unfounded assumption, since many silver fork novels were written by people in high society and their novels were romans-a-clef (i.e. ‘novels with a key’, stories about real people, with their names changed. A good description or allusion could provide the ‘key’ to the real person on whom the character was based).
- “’But do tell me your favourite novels. I hope you like nothing of Miss Edgeworth’s or Miss Austen’s. They are full of common-place people, that one recognizes at once’” (Granby 1:148)
- “I prefer Miss Austen’s [books]: they are the truest pictures of country life . . . but her pen is like a pair of skates – it glides over the surface; you seek in vain for any deep insight into human thought or human feeling. Pride and Prejudice is her best work; but I cannot forgive Elizabeth for her independence, which, in a woman, is impertinence; and Mr. Darcie [sic] is just a stiff family portrait, come down from its frame to be condescending” (Romance and Reality 1:195-196).
- “No man should read after nineteen. From thirteen to nineteen, hold your tongue, and read every thing you can lay your hands on . . . From nineteen to twenty-two, action, action, action.” (The Young Duke 2:6-7).
- “The stupid novels we have had on the subject of Fashion, have made us sick and weary, without teaching us any thing” (Godolphin 1:298).
- “’those ‘fashionable novels, as they are called, do us a devilish deal of mischief – make us seem quite unamiable and heartless. I declare I think almost ill of society, after having read one of those books’” (Godolphin 3:107).
- “Everybody being very rich, has afforded to be very literary, books being considered a luxury almost as elegant and necessary as ottomans, bonbons, and pier-glasses” (Vivian Grey 2:161).
- “she . . . had forbidden her brothers (with whom she was an oracle) to read the Pickwick papers, because, as she said, they were so ‘very low and ungenteel,’ and for her part she could not conceive why people thought them so clever” (Cheveley 190-191).
- “Have you read “David Copperfield,” by the way? How beautiful it is – how charmingly fresh and simple! In those admirable touches of tender humour – and I should call humour, Bob, a mixture of love and wit – who can equal this great genius? “ (Sketches and Travels in London 238).
- “great geniuses never read” (Pelham 2:2)
- “’ Be over fond of Italian poets, in particular if you do not understand the language” (Graham Hamilton 1:62)
- “Read French authors. Read Rochefoucalt. The French writers are the finest in the world, fro they clear out heads of all ridiculous ideas” (Contarini Fleming 1:279).
- “read none of the French novels” (Victims of Society 18).
- “’I never read them [novels] when I have anything else to do’” (High Life 1:6).
- “’I can’t see why women should read any thing but novels, and the ten commandments of a Sunday’” (Conduct is Fate 2:117).