“Democracy not only gives the industrial classes a task for letters but also brings an industrial spirit into literature.
“In aristocracies readers are few and fastidious; in democracies they are immensely more numerous and easier to please. In consequence, among aristocratic nations no one can hope to succeed unless he takes a great deal of trouble, and even then, though he may win great renown, he will never gain much money, whereas in democracies a writer may hope to gain moderate renown and great wealth cheaply. For this purpose he does not need to be greatly admired; it is enough if the people have a taste for his work.
“The ever growing crowd of readers always wanting something new ensures the sale of books that nobody esteems highly.
“A democratic public often treats its authors much as kings usually behave towards their courtiers: it enriches and despises them. What more do the venal souls who are born in courts or deserve to live there merit?
“Democratic literature is always crawling with writers who look upon letters simply as a trade, and for each of the few great writers you can count thousands of idea mongers.”
▪ Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Harper Perennial Classics edition, 2006) extract from page 475 (Volume 2, Part 1, Chapter 14).
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