Chapter

Parlor Literature: 1833–1834

Joan D. Hedrick

in Harriet Beecher Stowe

Published in print July 1995 | ISBN: 9780195096392
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199854288 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195096392.003.0008
Parlor Literature: 1833–1834

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Parlor literature, like parlor music, was a centuries-old institution. Typical activities included singing, playing the piano, and readings of specially produced essays and poems. These domestic literary productions often contained humorous references to people and events known to the participants. The literature produced at home had a strong affinity with what is called “occasional verse,” lines written to commemorate an anniversary, an election, a memorable local event. Catharine Beecher was fond of such impromptu productions and contributed much to the hilarity of the Beecher household in Litchfield. An important institution mediating between oral tradition and print culture was the literary club. The step from writing letters for domestic consumption to writing for a literary club was small but significant. Parlor literature afforded Harriet Beecher an advantage she never lost: an intimate relationship to her audience. In some ways her initial audience, the Semi-Colons, were typical of the mass market her fictions would later address.

Keywords: parlor literature; occasional verse; Catharine Beecher; literary club; Harriet Beecher; Semi-Colons

Chapter.  6564 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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