The Hon. Able Goddard, member of the New York Assembly from St. Lawrence, has made a bid for immortality by introducing into that body a bill of which the following is the chief part:
Any person who shall sell, loan, or give to any minor under sixteen years of age any dime novel or book of fiction, without first obtaining the written consent of the parent or guardian of such minor, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment or by a fine not exceeding $50.
The length of the imprisonment is apparently left to the discretion of the magistrate, and if he were the peer of Mr. Goddard in this quality he might sentence an offender to imprisonment for life for this heinous offence, for all that appears in the bill. It will also be observed that no definition is given of “book of fiction,” so that as the bill stands it prohibits from giving a copy of “The Pilgrim’s Progress” to a minor without the written consent of his parent or guardian. The Examiner has never failed to lift up its voice against the demoralizing tendency of much of the fictitious literature of the day, but such crude legislation as this is worse than dime novels. Besides, the bill does not touch the worst class of demoralizing reading, the flash newspaper.
Source: Publishers Weekly. April 28, 1883: 500.