The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Eighteenth-Century Writers and Writing, 1660-1789

The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Eighteenth-Century Writers and Writing, 1660-1789

The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Eighteenth-Century Writers and Writing, 1660-1789

The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Eighteenth-Century Writers and Writing, 1660-1789

Synopsis

The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Eighteenth-Century Writers and Writing 1660-1789 features coverage of the lives and works of almost 500 notable writers based in the British Isles from the return of the British monarchy in 1660 until the French Revolution of 1789.
  • Broad coverage of writers and texts presents a new picture of 18th-century British authorship
  • Takes advantage of newly expanded eighteenth-century canon to include significantly more women writers and labouring-class writers than have traditionally been studied
  • Draws on the latest scholarship to more accurately reflect the literary achievements of the long eighteenth century

Excerpt

Amongst the many conversations with Samuel Johnson recorded by James Boswell in his Life of Johnson (1791), this one, dated 18 September 1777, has a particular resonance for this volume:

We talked of a collection being made of all the English Poets who had published a volume of
poems. Johnson told me “that a Mr. Coxeter, whom he knew, had gone the greatest length
towards this; having collected, I think, about five hundred volumes of poets whose works were
little known; but that upon his death Tom Osborne bought them, and they were dispersed,
which he thought a pity, as it was curious to see any series complete; and in every volume of
poems something good may be found.”

Earlier in the year, Johnson had signed a contract with a group of leading publishers to supply biographical and critical prefaces to a poetry series they were in the process of publishing; his part of this work is generally known now as Lives of the Poets (1779–81). Johnson’s series included only 52 poets, all male, mostly relatively familiar to a modern audience, beginning with Abraham Cowley (1618–67); it was, in commercial and critical terms, a kind of exercise in canon- formation. the project begun by the antiquary Thomas Coxeter (1689–1747) and dispersed by the hard- nosed book dealer and publisher Thomas Osborne (c.1704–1767), one of Johnson’s own former employers, was an attempt at a more comprehensive study of English poetic writing, taking as its cue the mere achievement of appearance in print.

We have been slightly more selective than this, not least because the Encyclopedia includes many more branches of writing than poetry. Nonetheless, the Coxeter idea represents a typically eighteenth- century conception of information- gathering within the dominant medium of print: where once it had been an aristocratic preserve, culturally confined to manuscript circulation and “scribal publication,” poetry now aspired (in most, but not all, cases) to the public domain of print. Having got there, it was easily supplanted by the next volume, and Coxeter was not alone in trying to preserve an archive of the apparently stable and durable but actually quite fugitive output of the publishing industry. Coxeter’s work was later partly recovered in the indefatigable researches of the printer and antiquary John Nichols, with whom Johnson worked quite closely on the Lives of the Poets. Johnson drew, additionally, on . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.