15.221 bedside and in-tub reading?

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Wed Sep 05 2001 - 02:09:59 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 221.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Wed, 05 Sep 2001 06:53:20 +0100
             From: jod@ccat.sas.upenn.edu (James J. O'Donnell)
             Subject: "bedside literature"

    Gazing upon the stack that threatens to topple over and crush me in my
    sleep, I wonder when the practice of reading in bed became commonplace.
    My *assumption* is that it requires electric light. OED finds "bedside"
    of books and literature in a citation from the Cornhill Magazine in 1920.
    Any good indications earlier?

    Part of this is idle curiosity, but the deeper question is the
    commodification of literary consumption -- when did reading become
    something you did for idle distraction? It was said, when Oxford
    University was introducing an honors syllabus in English literature in the
    1930s, that such a program was unnecessary because the students could read
    novels in their baths (presumably the tubs set up on the floor in their
    Oxford rooms and filled by scouts toting buckets of "hot" water to fill
    them) -- so when did bath-reading become common?

    Jim O'Donnell
    Classics, U. of Penn

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