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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

XIV. Book Production and Distribution, 1625–1800

§ 11. Increase of the Reading Classes

A contributory cause of this improvement in the author’s social and commercial position is to be found in the fact that he could now appeal to a much larger public. Reading was no longer limited to the leisured few. The active part taken by the middle classes in politics, commerce and general culture could hardly fail to engender a habit of reading; and this advance towards literature, in its turn, applied itself to meet by appealing to a wider public and bringing its genius to bear more intimately on the interests and sympathies of daily life. At the same time as the rise of the professional man of letters, there may also be discerned the coming of that important person, the general reader. Buyers, as well as readers, of books became more numerous, and the large circulation of The Tatler and The Spectator, with their host of imitators and ephemeral successors, indicates the existence of a wide circle of readers who read for pleasure and recreation.