The relationship between summer reading and women readers was a strong one in the nineteenth century. Paintings and posters of the period often framed summer reading as a cool and calm indulgence. A few artists, though, turned a wry eye on the practice. See the images below as well as links to three popular summer novels of the period.
(Clockwise from left): Frederick Childe Hassam, “Summer Sunlight, Isles of Shoals,” 1892; “Ten Pound Island;” and “Couch on the Porch”
Winslow Homer, (left) “The New Novel; (right) “The Girl in the Hammock”
William Merritt Chase, “Idle Hours” (1894)
SOME POPULAR SUMMER NOVELS OF THE PERIOD
Blanche Willis Howard’s One Summer, first published in 1875, remained a popular summer offering for more than two decades. Some editions of the novel included illustrations by Augustus Hoppin, perhaps best known for his work on The Autocrat at the Breakfast Table.
THEIR WEDDING JOURNEY
William Dean Howells effectively launched the genre known as the American summer novel with his first novel, Their Wedding Journey (1873).
AN OPEN-EYED CONSPIRACY
Set in Saratoga Springs, William Dean Howells’s An Open-Eyed Conspiracy (1897) was greeted with favor in the taste-making press of the time with many reviewers noting the author’s return to the sunshine of a marriage plot after his economic and Christian socialist works.