Timothy Shay Arthur (1809 - 1885) was a popular 19th-century American author. He is most famous for his temperance novel Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There, which helped demonize alcohol in the eyes of the American public. He was also the author of dozens of stories for Godey's Lady's Book, the most popular American monthly magazine in the antebellum era, and he published and edited his own Arthur's Home Magazine, a periodical in the Godey's model, for many years. Arthur did much to articulate and disseminate the values, beliefs, and habits that defined respectable, decorous middle-class life in antebellum America. As a young man, Arthur devoted as much time as he could to reading and fledgling attempts to write. By 1830, he had begun to appear in local literary magazines. He also participated in an informal literary coterie called the Seven Stars (the name drawn from that of the tavern in which they met), whose members also included Edgar Allan Poe.The 1830s saw Arthur mount a number of efforts to become a professional author and publisher. 1854 was also the year Arthur published Ten Nights in a Bar-Room. The novel sold well, but insinuated itself in the public consciousness largely on the basis of a very popular stage version that appeared soon after the book. The play remained in continuous production well into the 20th century when at least two movie versions were made. Arthur attained great popularity while he lived, but was not well regarded by the era's literati. His old acquaintance Poe, for example, wrote in Graham's Magazine that Arthur was "uneducated and too fond of mere vulgarities to please a refined taste." Conscious of his own lack of brilliance, Arthur thought stories should impart beneficial life lessons by means of plainly written, realistically depicted scenes. Though often ruined by strident moralism and pious sentimentalism, Arthur's writing at its best-as in Ten Nights in a Bar-Room-can be both brisk and poignant. Arthur's ideas seem simplistic, even oppressive, today, but many readers in his time found him relevant, helpful, reassuring, and compelling.
Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw Thereby Timothy Shay Arthur
'Ten Nights in a Bar Room,' considered by many to be one of the best temperance novels of the 19th century, tells the story of a mill owner who sells his mill to build a tavern in town, A morality tale, it portrays the evil of alcohol as told by a visitor to the town who stays at the tavern for ten days over a period of ten years. As the book so vividly portrays, customers and owner are all too weak to resist the temptations of demon rum. Written by Timothy Shay Arthur, this book provides a fascinating glimpse into the pro-temperance literature of the 19th century.
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