I will surely want to keep Waller’s book very close. I’m not sure it’s in the stores in Nairobi, my city. I grew up reading books such as George Meredith’s Celt and Saxon, but the collection from which I accessed them is no more, only fond and hazy memories. As a literary enthusiast in a place where not much in the way of literary matters is discussed beyond the 1950s, Waller’s tome will be a good guide to a world that fills me with nostalgia.
Dinah Burch’s review comes at a propitious moment — the very week that Google rolls out the first results of its massive digitation project of free public domain books. While modern-day publishers may turn up their noses at the likes of Nat Gould and others, the Internet will not. While Gould may be scarce in the bookstores, we can expect him in full flower eventually on the Internet and whole new generations can enjoy his work and profit from it along with the work, I suspect, of all those writers mentioned in Waller’s work. Maybe not today, but eventually. The marketplace and its constraints are one thing; the Internet another. Thanks to the Internet, to Google and all those putting up works by the likes of Nat Gould, the afterlife of Victorian fiction has just become much longer along with all literature in the public domain.