Professional Imaginative Writing in England, 1670-1740: Hackney for Bread

By Brean S. Hammond | Go to book overview

Introduction

I

Permit me to begin by giving an account, necessarily autobiographical, of this book's genesis. If any single book can be credited with kindling my enthusiasm for the study of early eighteenth- century English writing, it is Pat Rogers Grub Street: Studies in a Subculture, which I read when I was an undergraduate.1 In that book, Rogers set out to show that the London topography of the realm of duncehood in Alexander Pope The Dunciad, however it may be elaborated into metaphor and urban myth, nevertheless has a literal and realistic foundation. There really was a loose union of hack writers whose way of life had enough in common to constitute a subculture; and they did live in the manner and in the locations depicted by Pope in the poem. I read Rogers and reading him made me want to read more Pope. The work that I went on to do on my own account was more concerned, however, with politics and the history of ideas than with literary sociology. Elaborating upon earlier work by Maynard Mack, Isaac Kramnick, Bertrand Goldgar, H. T. Dickinson, and others, my first book examined the interplay of personality, ideas, and experience between Alexander Pope and Henry St John, Lord Bolingbroke.2 I argued that Pope's poems written in the 1730s were conceived as a form of political action. His satire and Bolingbroke's political and philosophical writings were two wings of a campaign to arrest a decline in the nation's moral fibre.3 Between finishing the writing of this book

____________________
1
Pat Rogers, Grub Street: Studies in a Subculture ( London: Methuen, 1972).
2
Brean S. Hammond, Pope and Bolingbroke: A Study of Friendship and Influence ( Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1984).
3
'Because Bolingbroke's philosophy claimed moral reform as its objective and because it applied to public life a model of virtuous conduct that was based on friendship and cultivation of the domestic virtues and that was partly lived out at Dawley and at Twickenham, its appeal for Pope was very great. This emphasis on friendship and the domestic virtues gives an identifiable consistency to Pope poetic voice in the series of Imitations of Horace that Bolingbroke urged him to write in the

-1-

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