Fiction is no longer a mere amusement; but transcendent genius, accommodating itself to the character of the age, has seized upon this province of literature, and turned fiction from a toy into a mighty engine.
Fiction is not falsehood, as some seem to think;—It is rather the fanciful and dramatic grouping of real traits around imaginary scenes or characters.—It may give false views of men or things, or it may, in the hands of a master, more truthfully portray life than sober history itself.
I have often maintained that fiction may be much more instructive than real history.
Man is a poetical animal and delights in fiction.
The best histories may sometimes be those in which a little of the exaggeration of fictitious narrative is judiciously employed.—Something is lost in accuracy, but much is gained in effect.—The fainter lines are neglected, but the great characteristic features are imprinted on the mind forever.
Every fiction that has ever laid strong hold on human belief is the mistaken image of some great truth.
Many works of fiction may be read with safety; some even with profit; but the constant familiarity, even with such as are not exceptionable in themselves, relaxes the mind, which needs hardening; dissolves the heart, which wants fortifying; stirs the imagination, which wants quieting; irritates the passions, which want calming; and, above all, disinclines and disqualifies for active virtues and for spiritual exercises. The habitual indulgence in such reading, is a silent mining mischief. Though there is no act, and no moment, in which any open assault on the mind is made, yet the constant habit performs the work of a mental atrophy—it produces all the symptoms of decay; and the danger is not less for being more gradual, and therefore less suspected.
The most influential books and the truest in their influence, are works of fiction.—They repeat, rearrange, and clarify the lessons of life, disengage us from ourselves, constrain us to the acquaintance of others, and show us the web of experience, but with a single change.—That monstrous, consuming ego of ours struck out.
Those who delight in the study of human nature, may improve in the knowledge of it, and in the profitable application of it by the perusal of the best selected fictions.
Fiction allures to the severe task by a gayer preface.—Embellished truths are the illuminated alphabet of larger children.