This chapter looks at the accounts of those who have something to relate concerning their own reading practices. Evidence of what individual women were actually reading throughout the Victorian and early Edwardian period, and the ways in which they incorporated references to their reading activities into autobiographies, letters, and journals, considerably complicates our view of the woman reader, challenging many of the generalizations advanced by contemporary commentators. It emphasizes the extreme heterogeneity of readers and their texts throughout the period and provides a set of examples and narratives through which we may examine the relationship between theory and practice. Simultaneously, it reminds us of the specificities of circumstance, the variables of parental occupation and family affluence, of urban or rural lives, of religious affiliations, enthusiastic relatives, and modes of education which militate against establishing neat patterns of generalization, whether contemporaneous or retrospective. Many of the women who thought it valuable to publish their autobiographies were to some degree unusual in that they were in the public eye, whether as writers, educationists, activists in the women’s movement, or administrators.
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