A famous passage in New Grub Street describes a moment’s delightful misreading on the part of Marian Yule, fatigued laborer of the literary soils of the British Museum:
Several issues which the novel treats in detail are contained in this. Marian sees her work as a writer as an anachronism, something which ought to be done not by “such poor creatures as herself,” but by “some automaton” perfectly programed to meet the requirements of present-day industry. In old-fashioned literary language (“Oh, to go forth and labour with one’s hands”) she dreams of an escape from books, a personal retreat into a pre-industrial culture of the land. But she adds to this the wish that her work be something “of which the world has truly need.” Implicitly what she produces now does not have this quality; yet she assumes, like Howells on novels and circuses, a necessity of a different order in the maintenance of the modern system “for today’s consumption.” It is the solution of a scientific “problem” which would set her free: mechanization is a condition of her liberation from it. So it makes scnse that she encounters what she takes as her offer of freedom in the modern, mass-produced context of a newspaper advertisement.