The Role of Fiction

Donald G. Mitchell, “With my Reader,”  Dream Life: A Fable of the Seasons, (New York: Charles Scribner, 1867), pp.12-13:

There are thousands of mole-eyed people who count all passion in print a lie, — people who will grow into a rage at trifles, and weep in the dark, and love in secret, and hope without mention, and cover it all under cloak of what they call — propriety. I can see before me now some gray-haired old gentleman, very money-getting, very correct, very cleanly, who reads the morning paper with unction, and his Bible with determination, – who listens to dull sermons with patience, and who prays with quiet self-applause; and yet there are moments belonging to his life, when his curdled affections yearn for something that they have not, – when his avarice oversteps all the commandments, – when his pride builds castles full of splendor; and yet put this before his eye, and he reads with the most careless air in the world, and condemns as arrant fiction, what cannot be proved to the elders.

We do not like to see our emotions unriddled: it is not agreeable to the proud man to find his weaknesses exposed; it is shocking to the disappointed lover to see his heart laid bare; it is a great grief to the pining maiden to witness the exposure of her loves. We do not like our fancies painted; we do not contrive them for rehearsal: our dreams are private, and when they are made public, we disown them.

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