The Minerva Press, 1790-1820

The Minerva Press, 1790-1820

The Minerva Press, 1790-1820

The Minerva Press, 1790-1820

Excerpt

Among the numerous works which issue from the prolific brains of those who seek their almost daily bread at the great manufacture in Leadenhall-street, it would be singular if there were not some that rose pre-eminently.

Critical Review , 1804.

FEW authors whose reputation has endured until to-day have owned to a connexion with the Minerva Press. Later editions of the novels of Mrs. Radcliffe and of Charlotte Smith were issued from Leadenhall Street, but writers of their distinction were not usually introduced to the public by William Lane. Of the numerous company who were sponsored by the proprietors of the Minerva Press, probably not more than half a dozen are at all familiar to a modern reader, and these are known less through actual acquaintance with their books than through the comments of more distinguished persons.

I. Anonymous Authors

The lack of names for many of these shadowy figures suggests one reason for their oblivion. In the minor fiction of the eighteenth century anonymity was the rule. All of the thirteen novels which Lane published in 1785, for example, appeared anonymously in the first instance, and only two were later claimed by their authors. As the profession of novelist became less discreditable, writers were more ready to acknowledge their works; but in 1800 anonymous books still formed about half the annual output of the Minerva, and twenty years later the proportion was almost as large.

Women writers in particular--and the majority of Minerva authors were women--affected this concealment. 'The utter . . .

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