Virginia Woolf Loved Dostoevsky, Oscar Wilde Sometimes Despised Dickens & Other Gossip from The Reading Experience Database

woolf dost

The Read­ing Expe­ri­ence Data­base (RED), host­ed by the Open Uni­ver­si­ty, pro­vides a vast, open-access com­pendi­um of British authors’ read­ing habits from 1450 through 1945. The resource is a con­tin­u­ous­ly updat­ed repos­i­to­ry of lit­er­ary ref­er­ences, com­piled using excerpts of biogra­phies, let­ters, news­pa­pers, mag­a­zines, and oth­er infor­ma­tive texts. Among oth­er things, the data­base pro­vides both a humor­ous and fas­ci­nat­ing look at what var­i­ous authors thought of their peers.

Vir­ginia Woolf, it seems, cham­pi­oned Fyo­dor Dos­to­evsky (“It is direct­ly obvi­ous that he [Dos­to­evsky] is the great­est writer ever born.”), but spurned Hen­ry James (“… we have his works here, and I read, and can’t find any­thing but faint­ly tinged rose water, urbane and sleek, but vul­gar…”). Robert Louis Steven­son, a friend of James’, was too con­flict­ed about some of his writ­ing (“I must break out with the news that I can’t bear the Por­trait of a Lady. I read it all, and I wept, too; but I can’t stand your hav­ing writ­ten it, and I beg you will write no more of the like”). Oscar Wilde, mean­while, char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly con­trar­i­an, despised cer­tain aspects of Dick­ens (“peers were sur­prised to hear him speak dis­parag­ing­ly of Dick­ens, the most pop­u­lar nov­el­ist of the day. While Wilde admired the author’s humor and his gift for car­i­ca­ture he loathed Dick­en­s’s mor­al­iz­ing”).

Don’t see your favorite British author’s delight­ful­ly snarky com­men­tary? Help your fel­low read­er and sub­mit it your­self.

To learn more about the Read­ing Expe­ri­ence Data­base, watch this intro­duc­to­ry video.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Vir­ginia Woolf Writes About Joyce’s Ulysses, “Nev­er Did Any Book So Bore Me,” and Quits at Page 200

The His­toric Meet­ing Between Dick­ens and Dos­to­evsky Revealed as a Great Lit­er­ary Hoax

Vladimir Nabokov Makes Edi­to­r­i­al Tweaks to Franz Kafka’s Novel­la The Meta­mor­pho­sis

Stephen Fry Reads Oscar Wilde’s Children’s Sto­ry “The Hap­py Prince”

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