The search for this week's quotation has caught me a little off guard, so I'm going to select a random book of the shelf, and go with the first sentence. I'm sure it will be as inspiring as it is serendipitous.
Ah, here we go: "In 1848, a review of Mary Barton published in the Athenaeum observed: 'How far it may be kind, or wise, or right to make Fiction the vehicle for a plain and matter-of-fact exposition of social evils, is a question of limitations which will not be unanimously settled in our times.'"
Introduction to Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton, by Jennifer Foster.
Hey, that turned out better than I thought. We got a quotation within a quotation, some 19th century class, and an issue I've always found fascinating: the didactic nature of literature. As the entertainment industry rose and the public speech went into decline, you might say that in our current state, fiction is the primary vehicle for exposition on social evils these days--sad as that is. For my two cents, I think all fiction contains a discourse on, if not exactly social evil, some sort of didactic message. Even the absence of any redeeming message can be interpreted as a statement on the purpose of fiction. And from what I remember, Gaskell's Mary Barton was fairly direct in tackling the issue of class inequality. And while I felt the mix between characters and broad social commentary was a little heavy-handed in places, the clear intent definitely made it stand out in mind compared to other 19th century works of the time that I've read.
And as everyone knows, Elizabeth Gaskell was a great believer in the proper celebration of birthdays.