"The novel is easily first among book that people read willingly and it is rightfully first. It has known how to keep the charm of the story, and to add to it the attraction of almost every interest. ...Scarcely any predicament, moral or psychological, has escaped its study, and it has so refined and perfected its methods that antiseptic surgery itself has hardly made a more beneficent advance. It began with the merest fable, excluding from the reader's interest all but the fortunes of princes and other dignified personages for whose entertainment it existed, until now it includes all sorts and conditions of those men, who turn to it for instruction, inspiration, consolation. It has broadened and deepened down and out till it compasses the whole of human nature; and no cause important to the race has been unfriended of it. Sometimes I have been vexed at its vicious pandering to passion, but I cannot think, after all, of any great modern novel which has not been distinctly moral in effect. I am not sorry to have had it go into the dark places of the soul, the filthy and squalid places of society, high and low, and shed there its great light. Let us know with its help what we are, and where we are. Let all the hidden things be brought into the sun, and let every day be the day of judgement. If the sermon cannot any longer serve this end, let the novel do it."
- William Dean Howells, from "Novel-Writing and Novel-Reading: an Impersonal Explanation"