Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School



Timothy Shay Arthur, an antebellum novelist and magazine publisher, served as one of the most influential popular writers of the nineteenth century. Arthur, primarily known for his temperance novel, Ten Nights in a Bar-room, and What I Saw There (1854), spurred America's slackening temperance movement that peaked in the mid 1800s, after Maine's controversial 1851 adoption of a prohibition law, and then quickly declined as abolition sentiment grew. However, temperance supporters did not wholly comprise Arthur's audience, as his dramatically realistic temperance novel fits into both the domestic novel genre and bildungsroman form by exemplifying salvation through submission. In Ten Nights in a Bar-room, Arthur mixes dark, conventional, transcendental, and ironic temperance novel methodologies, and such a mixture, coupled with his sentimental tone, makes the novel accessible to a wide audience. This thesis explains the history of alcohol consumption in America up to the late nineteenth century, how the temperance movement spread across the nation, how Ten Nights in a Bar-room accurately reflected popular sentiment, and why Hawthorne neglected making scathing remarks about Arthur, as he did about the "scribbling women." By 1900, Ten Nights in a Bar-room had sold over one million copies, a feat bested only by Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851). In fact, by the end of the nineteenth century, Arthur's works helped to substantiate a new literary genre, that of the temperance novel. Arthur portrayed the domestic lives of middle-class Americans, but did not offer intellectual stimulation, a necessary component, according to Hawthorne's notion of worthwhile literature. Nonetheless, Ten Nights in a Bar-room constitutes a valid work and part of American folklore, thus meriting recognition as literature.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Arthur, T. S (Timothy Shay), 1809-1885 -- Criticism and interpretation
Temperance in literature
American fiction -- 19th century



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University