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Books by Thomas Hardy and George Eliot `falling out of fashion`

Tuesday - Nov 13, 2012, 01:40am (GMT+5.5)
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London -  Literary works by Thomas Hardy, George Eliot and EM Forster have fallen in popularity over the last two decades, according to a new research.

They are the books that have stood the test of time – not to mention the ones we are all supposed to have read, but an analysis of reading habits has revealed that some of the most celebrated classics of English literature have fallen out of fashion in recent years, the Telegraph reported.

While their popularity plummet over the last two decades, those by Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and George Orwell have fared much better.

The study involves a comparison of lending data from Britain’s libraries for 50 classics by British and Irish authors from the literary canon from the early 1990s, a decade ago, and last year.

It shows some clear winners and losers, with all featured works by the first three named authors rising in the list over the period and all of those by other three falling.

Academics said that the changes could show readers’ growing taste for more upbeat, comic novels with happy endings over more tragic, harrowing works.

Another likely factor behind the popularity of works appears to be whether or not they have featured in a television or film adaptation.

The biggest riser in the chart is Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell, which has risen from 49th place in the early nineties, and 44th a decade ago, to reach 16th. The novel, was made into a BBC series five years ago.

All the Dickens and Austen novels featured in the study have also been dramatised at least once during the period: Great Expectations (adapted for the screen in 1998 and 1999), David Copperfield (1999 and 2000), and Oliver Twist (1997, 1999, 2005 and 2007); Pride and Prejudice (1995 and 2005), Sense and Sensibility (1995 and 2008, Northanger Abbey (2007), and Emma (1996).

The work to see the biggest fall in popularity is the Jungle Book, which has sunk from third place in the 1990s to 36th.

Its author, Rudyard Kipling is now considered unfashionable by many for his views on the Empire.

The new study has been conducted by the Public Lending Right, which monitors data from libraries and collects payments for authors. In the case of the classics’ authors, it does not collect any money.

It compiled a list of 50 classics written before 1950 and then analysed the lending data for three years: 1993-94 and 2010-11 – the earliest and latest years for which records are available – and also 2001-02.

In total, the 50 books were lent 641,733 times in the most recent year available, compared with 1,170,303 at the start of the period.

This mirrors a general trend in libraries, which have seen loans fall during the period from 552 million to 300 million.

The top 20 books lent are:
1 (7 in 1993-94) – Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, 32,812 loans in 2010-11
2 (2) – Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte, 29,278
3 (1) – The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien, 28,414
4 (11) – Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell, 24,839
5 (4) – Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte, 23,985
6 (9) – Animal Farm, George Orwell, 22,396
7 (22) – Great Expectations, Charles Dickens, 21,308
8 (10) – Emma, Jane Austen, 21,066
9 (5) – Dracula, Bram Stoker, 19,046
10 (12) – Lord of the Flies, William Golding, 18,404
11 (16) – Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen, 18,360
12 (6) – Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier, 18,310
13 (34) – Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens, 17,876
14 (18) – Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stephenson, 17,463
15 (35) – Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stephenson, 15,591
16 (49) – Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell, 15,337
17 (20) – Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen, 14,716
18 (31) – The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins, 14,596
19 (8) – Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy, 13,593
20 (28) – Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh, 12,969


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