In In the Midst of Alarms (1894) by Robert Barr, a man was talking about the library of a Canadian rural township:

“Well, the township can select the books if it likes, or it can send a committee to select them; but they didn’t think it worth the trouble and expense. People grumbled enough at wasting money on books as it was, even if they did buy them at half price. Still, others said it was a pity not to get the money out of the Government when they had the chance. I don’t believe any of them cared very much about the books, except father and a few others. So the Government chose the books. They’ll do that if you leave it to them. And a queer lot of trash they sent, if you take my word for it. I believe they shoved off on us all the things no one else would buy. Even when they did pick out novels, they were just as tough as the history books. ‘Adam Bede’ is one. They say that’s a novel. I tried it, but I would rather read the history of Josephus any day. There’s some fighting in that, if it is a history. Then there’s any amount of biography books. They’re no good.

I can't get the meaning of this whole statement.

1 Answer 1


It seems that Howard finds it entertaining to read stories that include fighting.

The context is that the speaker, a young man named Howard, is speaking to Renmark, a stranger to the area, about their local library and its selection of books. He is evidently not much of a connoisseur of literature, judging from his remark "They say that's a novel". He disdains books such as Adam Bede (a pastoral novel of George Eliot set in rural England) - for him it's "as tough" as a history book, and indeed he would prefer to read some history books such as those of Josephus, since at least they contain "some fighting". Like many young men, perhaps, he finds it more interesting to read about ancient battles and wars than about countryside love affairs. This is the intent of the sentence you've bolded: it directly follows "I would rather read the history of Josephus any day" and is intended as an explanation of that: at least a history book will have "some fighting in [it]", unlike novels such as Adam Bede.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.