The Enlightenment and the Book

The late eighteenth century witnessed an explosion of intellectual activity in Scotland by such luminaries as David Hume, Adam Smith, Hugh Blair, William Robertson, Adam Ferguson, James Boswell, and Robert Burns. And the books written by these seminal thinkers made a significant mark during their time in almost every field of polite literature and higher learning throughout Britain, Europe, and the Americas. 

In this magisterial history, Richard B. Sher breaks new ground for our understanding of the Enlightenment and the forgotten role of publishing during that period. The Enlightenment and the Book seeks to remedy the common misperception that such classics as The Wealth of Nations and The Life of Samuel Johnson were written by authors who eyed their publishers as minor functionaries in their profession. To the contrary, Sher shows how the process of bookmaking during the late eighteenth-century involved a deeply complex partnership between authors and their publishers, one in which writers saw the book industry not only as pivotal in the dissemination of their ideas, but also as crucial to their dreams of fame and monetary gain. Similarly, Sher demonstrates that publishers were involved in the project of bookmaking in order to advance human knowledge as well as to accumulate profits. 

The Enlightenment and the Book explores this tension between creativity and commerce that still exists in scholarly publishing today. Lavishly illustrated and elegantly conceived, it will be must reading for anyone interested in the history of the book or the production and diffusion of Enlightenment thought.


The Art of Writing Fiction

The Art of Writing Fiction guides the reader through the processes of creative writing from journal-keeping to editing, offering techniques for stimulating creativity and making language vivid. Readers will master key aspects of fiction such as structure, character, voice and setting.

Andrew Cowan provides an insightful introduction that brings his own well-crafted prose style to bear on the processes and pleasures of writing fiction, offering practical and personal advice culled from his own experience and that of other published writers. He lays open to the reader his own notes, his writing, and the experiences from his own life that he has drawn on in his fiction allowing the reader to develop their own writing project alongside the author as they go through the book.


The Oxford History of the Irish Book, Volume V

The Oxford History of the Irish Book is a major new series that charts one of the most venerable book cultures in Europe, from the earliest manuscript compilations to the flourishing book industries of the late twentieth century. For the first time, it offers a history of the Irish book as a created object situated in a world of communications, trade, transport, power, and money, and examines the ways in which books have both reflected and influenced social, political, and intellectual formations in Ireland. It is an important project for the understanding of Ireland’s written and printed heritage, and is by its nature of profound cross-cultural significance, embracing as it does all the written and printed traditions and heritages of Ireland and placing them in the global context of a worldwide interest in book histories. Books have played a role of key importance in shaping Ireland’s twentieth century cultural and political heritage. Volume V: The Irish Book in English 1891-2000 charts that heritage from the beginnings of the Literary Revival in the 1890s to the end of the twentieth century. Part One consists of general survey chapters which examine developments in the cultures of Irish reading and publishing during the twentieth century. These chapters cover four specific periods, divided as follows: 1891-1921 covering the Literary Revival, and the often turbulent developments which led to the partition of the island; 1922-1939 looking at the social, economic and political machinations of print culture amidst an atmosphere of intense cultural conservatism, and during the so called economic ‘war’; 1939-1969 examining the difficulties which Irish publishers continued to face, as well as the popular trends of reading ‘Westerns’; 1969-2000 looking at the renewal of the Irish publishing industry, and the growth of cultural self-confidence which came about as literary censorship receded into the past. Part Two examines some of the thematic issues raised in these survey chapters, including the financial and market factors governing the Irish book trade; the concerns of Irish regional publishing; the creation and reception of Irish books in the US and Australia; censorship; the Irish book in the informatics age; and publishing for Catholic Ireland. Part Three is concerned with assessing the specific achievements of some of Ireland’s most culturally significant publishing houses, and includes chapters on Gill and Macmillan; the Cuala Press; Maunsel and Company; the Dolmen Press; the Gallery Press and Blackstaff Press. This section also includes chapters on two British firms which have done much to support Irish writers: Macmillan and Faber. The book concludes with a bibliographical chapter outlining ‘Sources for Irish Book History, 1891-2000’. This is the first attempt to comprehensively outline the history of twentieth century Irish book culture, and will be the standard guide for many years to come.


Ideas and innovations


Rule of Darkness

A major contribution to the cultural and literary history of the Victorian age, Rule of Darkness maps the complex relationship between Victorian literary forms, genres, and theories and imperialist, racist ideology. Critics and cultural historians have usually regarded the Empire as being of marginal importance to early and mid-Victorian writers. Patrick Brantlinger asserts that the Empire was central to British culture as a source of ideological and artistic energy, both supported by and lending support to widespread belief in racial superiority, the need to transform “savagery” into “civilization,” and the urgency of promoting emigration.

Rule of Darkness brings together material from public records, memoirs, popular culture, and canonical literature. Brantlinger explores the influence of the novels of Captain Frederick Marryat, pioneer of British adolescent adventure fiction, and shows the importance of William Makepeace Thackeray’s experience of India to his novels. He treats a number of Victorian best sellers previously ignored by literary historians, including the Anglo-Indian writer Philip Meadows Taylor’s Confessions of a Thug and Seeta. Brantlinger situates explorers’ narratives and travelogues by such famous author-adventurers as David Livingstone and Sir Richard Burton in relation to other forms of Victorian and Edwardian prose. Through readings of works by Arthur Conan Doyle, Joseph Conrad, H. Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, John Hobson, and many others, he considers representations of Africa, India, and other non-British parts of the world in both fiction and nonfiction.

The most comprehensive study yet of literature and imperialism in the early and mid-Victorian years, Rule of Darkness offers, in addition, a revisionary interpretation of imperialism as a significant factor in later British cultural history, from the 1880s to World War I. It is essential reading for anyone concerned with Victorian culture and society and, more generally, with the relationship between Victorian writers and imperialism, ‘and between racist ideology and patterns of domination in modern history.


Writers, Readers, and Reputations

Charles Dickens died in 1870, the same year in which universal elementary education was introduced. During the following generation a mass reading public emerged, and the term “best-seller” was coined. In new and cheap editions Dickens’s stories sold hugely, but these were progressively outstripped in quantity by the likes of Hall Caine and Marie Corelli, Charles Garvice and Nat Gould. Who has now heard of these writers? Yet Hall Caine, for one, boasted of having made more money from his pen than any previous author.

This book presents a panoramic view of literary life in Britain over half a century from 1870 to 1914, teasing out authors’ relations with the reading public and tracing how reputations were made and unmade. It surveys readers’ habits, the book trade, popular literary magazines and the role of reviewers, and examines the construction of a classical canon by critics concerned about the supposed corruption of popular taste. Certain writers were elevated as national heroes, yet Britain drew its writers from abroad as well as from home.

Authors became stars and celebrities, and a literary tourism grew around their haunts. They advertised products from cigarettes to toothpaste; they were fashion-conscious and promoted themselves via profiles, interviews, and carefully posed photographs; they went on lecture tours to America; and their names were pushed by a new professional breed: the literary agent. Some angled for knighthoods, even peerages, and cut a figure in high society and London clubland. The debated public issues of the day and campaigned on all manner of things from questions of faith and women’s rights to censorship and conscription. During the Great War they penned propaganda. Meanwhile the cinema was developing to challenge the supremacy of the written word over the imagination. Authors took to that too, as an opportunity for new adventure. Writers, Readers, and Reputations is richly entertaining and informative, amounting to a collective biography of a generation of writers and their world.


Cruelty and Laughter

Eighteenth-century British culture is often seen as polite and sentimental—the creation of an emerging middle class. Simon Dickie disputes these assumptions in Cruelty and Laughter, a wildly enjoyable but shocking plunge into the forgotten comic literature of the age. Beneath the surface of Enlightenment civility, Dickie uncovers a rich vein of cruel humor that forces us to recognize just how slowly ordinary human sufferings became worthy of sympathy.

Delving into an enormous archive of comic novels, jestbooks, farces, variety shows, and cartoons, Dickie finds a vast repository of jokes about cripples, blind men, rape, and wife-beating. Epigrams about syphilis and scurvy sit alongside one-act comedies about hunchbacks in love. He shows us that everyone—rich and poor, women as well as men—laughed along. In the process, Dickie also expands our understanding of many of the century’s major authors, including Samuel Richardson, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Tobias Smollett, Frances Burney, and Jane Austen. He devotes particular attention to Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews, a novel that reflects repeatedly on the limits of compassion and the ethical problems of laughter. Cruelty and Laughter is an engaging, far-reaching study of the other side of culture in eighteenth-century Britain.