Category Archives: 18th-Century Literature

New News from Tavistock Books!

First off, we’d like to wish each and every one of you a very Happy New Year from Tavistock Books! Whether you are a customer, colleague, pure bibliophile, or my mother and father, we have appreciated your attention and custom this past year and wish you all the best of luck in 2015! There are a lot of things happening around here in the near future, and we thought we’d send out this update from TB to keep you in the loop.

Most importantly! Upcoming Antiquarian Book Fairs:

Later this January and early February features the annual California book fairs – the 48th California International Antiquarian Book Fair to be held in Oakland, CA (right near us! Check it out here: from February 6th to the 8th, and the Pasadena Book, Print, Photo & Paper Fair the previous weekend (at the Pasadena Convention Center, January 31st & February 1st). The fairs are a great chance to meet with like-minded book-loving folk from all over the United States, and both fairs will be host to a handful of international booksellers as well. Tickets are available for purchase online as well as at the fairs. Come on out and support your local booksellers! OR ELSE.  

A Recent Acquisition:

Why yes, you can purchase me! Please, sir, I need a new home.

Why yes, you can purchase me! Please, sir, please, I need a new home.

Beaumont, Francis [1585? – 1616]. Fletcher, John [1579 – 1625]. Massinger, Philip [1583 – 1640] – Bush attributed to.  BEGGARS BUSH.  A Comedy.  [bound with] The MAID’S TRAGEDY.  London:  Printed for J. T. And Sold by J. Brown at the Black Swan without Temple-Bar. 1717.  56; 64 pp.   Typographical ornaments to t.p.  4to: A – G^4; A – H^4.  8-1/2″ x 6-1/8″.   Early full leather boards, with modern respiniing to style.  Renewed eps.  Raised bands.  Red leather title label in second compartment; author label in 4th compartment.  Date gilt stamped at spine base. Wear & staining to boards, with front paste-down showing faint evidence of prior damping.  Paper aged, with foxing & staining.  Running title occasionally closely trimmed.  An About Very Good – Very Good copy.

Bush: 1st edition thus, the unaltered version (NCBEL I, 1712; Tannenbaum 7).  Maid: 1st edition thus (NCBEL I, 1711; Tannenbaum 293).   Regarding Bush, authorship attributed to Fletcher & Philip Massinger by John H. Dorenkamp in his 1967 edition of the play. The play is one of several works of English Renaissance drama that present a lighthearted, romanticized, Robin Hood-like view of the world of beggars, thieves, and gypsies; in this respect it can be classed with plays of its own era like The Spanish Gypsy, Massinger’s The GuardianSuckling’s The Goblins, and Brome’s A Jovial Crew… Yet the play also contains serious aspects that have caused it to be classified as a tragicomedy by some commentators; ‘Through mixed modes Beggars Bush exhibits serious sociopolitical concerns to earn a classification that at first seems incongruous — a political tragicomedy'” (Clark, The Moral Art of Phillip Massinger, p. 116). Click on the picture to see more!

Lists & Blogs on the Horizon:

Dame Agatha Christie

              Dame Agatha Christie

And folks, despite an upcoming busy schedule for us here at Tavistock Books, we still want to take a little time to give you a short overview of what to expect in your inboxes from us in the near future. Our monthly Tavistock Books newsletter will go out next Tuesday, January 13th. January 21st will be a large blog on the English crime author Agatha Christie, the best-selling novelist of all time (according to the Guinness Book of World Records).  A list of Select Book Fair Highlights featuring a few of the items that we will be presenting at the California fairs will be announced on the 27th of January, closely followed by a small recap blog of the Pasadena Book Fair on February 3rd. Then look out on the 11th of February for our monthly newsletter once more with a large feature on the Oakland ABAA fair front and center!

We do hope to see you all at the California Book Fairs later this month and early next – just remember, these are the biggest book fairs on the west coast of the United States! Feel free to contact us with any questions – and definitely stop by the Tavistock Books (Pasadena Booth #L1 & Oakland Booth #100) booths to say hi!


Tavistock Books’ Almost-Annual Reference Book Workshop

There is a significant difference between booksellers who advertise their wares with professional descriptions, a clear understanding of the item in question, an honest assessment with regard to the item’s condition… and your typical eBay/Amazon blasters: “FREE SHIPPING! May or may not have highlighting and/or missing pages.” The pride in being a Good (or VG+) bookseller comes from the ability to sell something about which you are knowledgeable and which is priced confidently and accurately.

Oftentimes, as booksellers, we hear the question “Why?” Why is this book worth $495? Why would I pay that much for a book which Joe Shmoe, Bookseller offers for $29.99? There is no shame in asking these questions. Even booksellers can look at their colleagues’ wares and stare confusedly at the screen while waiting for the computer to sprout tiny-computer legs and giggle, while simultaneously erasing that last 0 or two. All that being said, however…. what can give booksellers the ability to price confidently and describe accurately? Two words.

Reference Books.Reference Books

If you are reading this blog, there is a good chance you have looked at listings of antiquarian books before and have noticed some crazy notations in our write-ups. What is a BAL11092? Or a Gabler G2390? An average person has a good chance of not particularly understanding what the numbers mean. Heck, another bookseller might not even have a clue to what you are referring. A good bookseller will know, however, that the inclusion of those small jumbles of letters and numbers beyond their edition statements represent the dedication and honesty of the person offering the item. They have gone to the trouble of understanding what they hold in their hands, so that their customer can have the guarantee and peace-of-mind that they are buying a 1st/1st, a 1st edition thus, or a reprint. What allows a reference book to (sometimes) up the price or (often) lower the price? Well… I guess you’ll just have to take the Tavistock Books’ Reference Book Workshop to find out!

This year’s course took place this past Saturday, the 23rd of August. The day-long course consists of an intense look at different genres of reference books, their scope, and their usefulness to the book-selling, book-collecting and book-cataloguing trades. Sections covered include Literature (do the acronyms NUC or NCBEL mean anything to you? Here’s where you will find them explained!), Americana (with an emphasis on Western Americana & California… can you say Kurutz three times fast?), Children’s Books, Early Printed Books, and Online Reference Tools. This course is a fast-paced survey, useful for any bookseller, collector, or librarian interested in understanding the tools booksellers use to identify and price their books.

Workshop 2014

This year’s workshop was attended by 4 booksellers (some new, some slightly seasoned), two librarians, and a lover of all things book-related. Intelligent questions were asked, anecdotes shared, and quite a bit of knowledge imparted on these smiling (though, by the end of the day, slightly haggard) faces. Due to the limited amount of space in the shop (where the workshop is held), we cap the number of “pupils” at 7 per year. Should you be interested in attending, please email and ask to be included on our mailing list, so that when the reminder comes about next spring to sign up, you can be first on the list!

The workshop truly is helpful to those dealing with the book-trade, and the Tavistock Books Reference Collection of over 3,000 reference volumes alone are worth the trip to see! And, as per tradition, lunch is on us at a great sushi place on our charming island of Alameda, CA. Interested in attending a workshop one day? Let us know!



William Page, Dandified Highwayman


We’ve long been fascinated with the exploits of criminals, so much so that an entire genre of literature has blossomed out of our curiosity. In the eighteenth century, a staple of true-crime literature was the confession, in which a convicted criminal shared his life story, detailed the sordid details of his crimes, and repented of his sins. These stories were often published as broadsides or pamphlets—and distributed to the audience who gathered to witness the criminal’s execution. Longer accounts sometimes appeared after the fact.


Henry Fielding

One criminal who shared his story has an interesting connection to none other than Henry Fielding. Also a magistrate, Fielding sentenced famous highwayman William Page to death for his crimes. Page was hanged in 1758, but an account of his life survives in A Genuine Narrative of the Life and Surprising Robberies and Adventures of William Page. Page has often been likened to Fielding’s character Tom Jones, though Fielding penned that eponymous novel before ever encountering Page.

Page was born in 1730 to a working class family. His father died early, so his mother sent him to be an apprentice to a relative, who was a haberdasher. Page hardly had a taste for the work, but he did develop a penchant for fashion and frippery. Alas, a haberdasher’s apprentice hardly earned much income. To fund the fashionable lifestyle he desired, Page undertook his first crime: he robbed his own employer. Likely because of the family connection, Page faced no criminal charges.

Next Page managed to secure a position as a footman to a gentleman, no easy feat given that he had no references. The position gave Page another taste of society life. One day while Page was traveling with his master, the carriage was ambushed by highwaymen. No one was injured, but the robbers made off with a small fortune in a matter of minutes. Page resolved to seek his fortune as a “gentleman of the road.”

After acquiring a horse and pistols, Page immediately committed a series of robberies at Highgate Hill and Hampton Court. Then he held up a Canterbury stage coach on the road from London to Kent. Aware that this early success was thanks to luck, Page decided to take some time and plan future robberies. Posing as a law student, he took lodgings at Lincoln Inn. He traveled extensively around London, creating intricate road maps and scoping out ideal spots for future robberies. Page found a number of suitable locations within about twenty miles of London.

Page also decided that he should assume a disguise to reduce suspicion. He would set off from London dressed as a gentleman driving a phaeton and a pair. Page would find an isolated spot near his intended ambush point, shed his fine attire, and put on old clothes and a wig. After perpetrating his heist, Page would then return to the phaeton and change back into his everyday clothes.


In one instance, Page’s plot went awry. While Page was holding up a carriage, a couple of haymakers stumbled upon his phaeton. Assuming it was abandoned, they took it to the closest village. Page returned to find his carriage—and his fine clothing—had disappeared. He correctly assumed that the thieves would go to the next town and immediately headed there. Page found his phaeton parked outside the local inn. Thinking quickly, Page stripped down to his underwear and threw his clothes down a well. He burst into the inn and announced that he’d been robbed of his carriage and clothes and thrown into a ditch. The innkeeper helped to detain the haymakers till the authorities. Later, Page simply refused to testify against the men.

Over the course of the next three years, Page would commit approximately 300 robberies. All the while, he enjoyed a life of luxury and privilege. Then his accomplice and childhood friend John Darwell made a fatal error. Darwell held up a carriage on his own, and the majority of the men inside were armed. They easily captured Darwell, who then offered to give up Page in exchange for his own release.

Page was apprehended at the Golden Lion in Grosvenor Square. Despite having been captured with a black wig and a detailed map of London in his possession, Page was acquitted due to lack of evidence, but found himself immediately sent to Maidstone Gaol on other charges. Fielding presided over the case and sentenced Page to death. He was hanged on April 6, 1758.

A Genuine Narrative of the Life and Surprising Robberies and Adventures of William Page was originally sold for one shilling. Today it’s a much more valuable record of the era’s attitudes toward crime, punishment, and justice.


Related Posts:
A Brief History of True Crime Literature
Charles Dickens’ Debt to Henry Fielding
Charles Dickens and Capital Punishment


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A Quick Look at Revolutionary Quakers

The early English Quaker movement emerged in the wake of King Charles I’s regicide, between the English Civil Wars and the Restoration. Multiple sects emerged between 1640 and 1660, and the word “Quaker” had yet to have a definitive meaning; in the media, the word was applied to people with quite divergent beliefs. Even among people who called themselves Quakers, views greatly varied. For instance, George Fox believed in the “Dwelling Spirit.” Meanwhile, a militant wing of the group advocated the use of violence to achieve its goals for the Second Coming and even attempted to assassinate Oliver Cromwell.

Following Venner’s Uprising in 1660, King Charles II and his government kept a close eye on the Quakers; the group had demonstrated its volatility, and some members were even suspected of murdering King Charles I. The king urged moderate Quakers to subdue its more radical members. The result: the group turned more of its attention to addressing England’s social problems, returning to its English Seeker roots. Meanwhile, the group increasingly turned to the pen, rather than the sword. Thus the history of the Quakers is one that we can trace through a rich body of literature, written by some of the sect’s most prominent (and sometimes controversial) figures.

George Whitehead

Born in Westmoreland, George Whitehead discovered the Quaker philosophy at age fourteen. He began preaching in a limited capacity only two years later. Shortly thereafter, Whitehead joined the Valiant Sixty, a group of itinerant preachers that started in northern England and gradually traveled south. He was one of the group’s youngest members: only he, James Parnell (age 16) and Edward Burrough (age 18) joined the group before they were “of age.” The seventeenth century was a time of religious intolerance in England, and the Quakers often had brushes with the law. Whitehead was thrown in jail on multiple occasions and was once publicly whipped. He spoke out against the Act of Uniformity in 1660 and was influential in the Bill of Rights of 1689 and the Royal Declaration of Indulgence.

Whitehead_Antidote-Venom_SnakeWhitehead published his journal, The Christian Progress of George Whitehead. He also wrote An Antidote Against the Venome of the Snake in the Grass, a rebuttal directed at Irish clergyman Charles Leslie the author of The Snake in the GrassSatan Disrob’d, and A Discourse Proving the Divine Institution of Water Baptism. Most notably, Whitehead defended women’s ability to preach if they were so inspired, saying “we do not institute Women’s Preaching as [Leslie] saith, but leave them free to the Gift and Call of God.” The volume also includes an early mention of Quakers in America, including William Penn’s Pennsylvania colony. Whitehead’s views ultimately proved too liberal; by the 1800’s, his philosophy and works had passed out of favor in the Quaker community.

Elias Hicks

Born in Hempstead, New York in 1748, Elias Hicks was a carpenter who became a Quaker in his early twenties. In 1778, Hicks helped to construct the Friends Meeting House in Jericho, New York, where he’d settled with his wife. By this time, Hicks was already preaching extensively. That same years, Walt Whitman heard Hicks preach at Morrison’s Hotel in Brooklyn. The famed poet, then still quite young, would later recall the preacher’s “resonant, grave, melodious voice.”

In 1799, Hicks and his neighbor Phebe Dodge manumitted their slaves. They were the first Quakers to do so in their community, and soon after all the families of Westbury meeting had followed suit. Hicks also campaigned for a boycott of all goods produced by slaves, which mostly included cotton and products that contained sugar. In 1811, he wrote Observations on the Slavery of Africans and Their Descendants, which outlines the economic reasons for continuing slavery and points to war as a primary cause of slavery. The book gave the free produce movement a firm foundation. Although the movement wasn’t meant to be religious in nature, the majority of its proponents were indeed Quakers. The first person to open a free produce store was Benjamin Lundy, a Quaker who opened up a free produce mercantile in 1826. Lundy advocated helping freed slaves emigrate to Haiti and raising mone to buy slaves and settle them as free citizens in the territories out West. Hicks was a key figure in abolishing slavery in New York.

Hicks_Testimony_ReviewWhile Hicks’ abolitionism certainly fit with Quaker tenets, the same was not so with his theological stance. Hicks believed that following the “Inner Light” was the most important aspect of worship. He also denied Jesus’ complete divinity and the virgin birth. Furthermore, Hicks argued that the Devil was not at the root of human failings and sin, but that urges were simply part of human nature–and created by God. Thanks to the Great Awakening and other factors, the Quaker community was ripe for a schism, and Hicks’ controversial philosophy provided the reason. Hicks engaged with fellow Quaker Anne Braithewaite in a debate that produced a flurry of publications. Eventually, in 1828, after Hicks actually stood a sort of trial, the Quakers decided a separation was necessary. Those who followed Hicks were mostly rural poor and came to be called Hicksites. His critics called themselves the Orthodox Friends. Each group considered itself to be the rightful bearers of the legacy begun by Friends founder George Fox. The two groups would not be the only factions to develop among the American Quaker community.

Joseph John Gurney

Born in 1788, Joseph John Gurney was a banker in Norwich, England. Raised in the Quaker faith, he joined the sect and became an evangelical minister in the Religious Society of Friends. Because he was a member of a non-conformist religious group, Gurney was ineligible to study at English universities, so he was educated by a private tutor at Oxford. Gurney’s sister Elizabeth Fry was a social reformer, and in 1817 the siblings partnered to protest the death penalty and to improve conditions in prisons. They had little success, but Gurney would remain committed to the cause.

Joseph_John_GurneyFinally Home Secretary Robert Peel introduced the Gaols Act of 1823, which required that wardens be paid salaries–rather than being supported by the prisoners themselves. The Act also placed female wardens in charge of female prisoners and outlawed the use of manacles and irons. Meanwhile, Gurney and Fry visited prisons all over Great Britain. They published their findings in Prisons in Scotland and the North of England.

In 1837, Gurney began a journey to America and the West Indies, where he promoted abolitionism. He also preached at local Meeting houses in America and grew concerned about the prevalence of the “Inner Light” philosophy. Gurney felt that the American Quakers did not give sufficient weight to the Bible and the New Testament in their theology. This created a yet another splinter, between those who followed Gurney and those who followed his opponent, John Wilbur. Their respective disciples, predictably enough, were called Gurneyites and Wilburites, respectively.

The literature of the Quakers offers considerable insight into colonial history, and it is full of fascinating personalities who shaped approaches to social issues in the Western World.

Related Posts:
Charles Dickens and Capital Punishment
The California Gold Rush, Slavery, and the Civil War

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A Panoply of Primers

For centuries, children’s literature consisted almost exclusively of didactic texts designed to teach basic skills like reading and writing or to impart religious lessons. During the Middle Ages, the vast majority of these texts were still written in Latin. Hornbooks with the Lord’s Prayer and the alphabet were the most common forms of children’s literature in the 1400’s, and alphabet books began showing up in Russia, Denmark, and Italy during the following century.

In the 1600’s, the concept of childhood shifted: children were no longer thought of as miniature adults, but as separate beings with their own juvenile needs and preferences. Publishers began printing books exclusively for children, though these, too, were often didactic. The seventeenth century also saw the rise of Puritanism, which again shaped people’s views of children. They were viewed not as young innocents, but as moral savages who needed stringent moral instruction.

It was not until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that children’s literature came into its own as a genre. A Little Pretty Pocket Book (1744) by John Newbery is considered the first book published for children’s pleasure reading. As technologies improved and it got cheaper to produce books, the industry blossomed. Even as pleasure reading became popular, the publication of educational materials maintained its momentum. Literacy rates began to improve, increasing the demand for, and interest in, primers and similar educational pieces.

Today, collectors can build quite extensive collections around educational materials printed for children. The broadest category of these is the primer. The first known use of the word “primer” was in the fourteenth century. The term derives from the Latin primarium, meaning “primary,” and was the name for a layperson’s prayerbook. At the time, literacy was relatively uncommon, but people did need to read their prayers. This book was often the only one in a home, so it was used to teach children to read. Eventually the term broadened and referred to any small book intended to teach reading. Today a “primer” may refer to a short, introductory piece about a specific topic or to a brief, informative piece of writing.

A Selection of Primers

We’re delighted to offer a selection of primers in a variety of subjects and time periods. Should you have a question about an item, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

The London Vocabulary

Greenwood_London_VocabularyGrammarian James Greenwood published the first edition of The London Vocabularly, English and Latin in 1713. After working for years at the Hackney Academy, Greenwood opened up his own boarding school in Essex in 1711 and was later appointed surmaster of St. Paul’s School in London. He’s best known for his An Essay on Practical Grammar (1711), which received much positive praise from a number of scholars and critics, including Isaac Watts.  The London Vocabulary went through a number of editions, both English and American, of which this is the seventeenth English edition. Details>>

The Instructor

Fisher_InstructorA quite popular primer, George Fisher’sThe Instructor  appeared in numerous editions, both throughout the United Kingdom and in America. Like many educational books at the time, it purportedly offered an easier method of learning than other primers. And also like many educational books at the time, it reminds us of just how little people really knew about geography at the time, and that this truly was an age of exploration and discovery. In this Glasgow edition, printed in 1786, California is still an enigma: “Northward, on the Pacific Ocean, is New Mexico, and the island of California; but of these we know but little.” ESTC records five holdings of this edition. Details>>

The Young Child’s ABC

Anderson_Young_Childs_ABCWritten by Alexander Anderson and illustrated by Samuel Wood, The Young Child’s ABC (1806) contains a horn book-style alphabet and a syllabary. Letters are illustrated with objects in alphabetical order. This children’s chapbook was the first item published by Wood, who would go on to have an illustrious and prolific career in the trade. He had thousands of titles under his imprint. Although four copies of later editions have come to auction in the last three decades or so, none of this first edition have come to market. It’s quite rare in the trade. Details>>

A Book Explaining the Ranks and Dignities of British Society

Lamb_Ranks_Dignities_British_SocietyCharles Lamb is best remembered for his collaboration with his sister, Mary Lamb, on Tales from Shakespeare. But he also anonymously published A Book Explaining the Ranks and Dignities of British Society in 1805. The charmingly illustrated children’s book delineates the hierarchy of the nobility, clergy, army, navy, government & professions; with their history & origins, forms of address, order of precedence, honors, with their coronets & coronation robes described, etc.This is the second edition, published in 1809. The book has been occasionally at auction these last 30+ years, though not since 2003. It’s scarce in the trade. Details>>

Le Livre des Enfans

Livre_EnfansLe Livre des Enfans was published in Quebec in 1834. Illustrated with woodcuts, the work begins with two alphabets, which are followed by the usual primer material. The cover features a short verse by Racine. Le Livre des Enfans also includes thirteen pages of animal descriptions, such as Le Zebre, Le Cheval, and Le Hibou. It’s scarce in the trade. Details>>

The New England Primer

Howland_New_England_PrimerPublished around 1840, The New England Primer bears quite a drop title: Containing the Assembly’s Catechism; The Account of the Burning of John Rogers; A Dialogue Between Christ, A Youth, and the Devil; and Various Other Useful and Instructive Matter. With a Historical Introduction, by Rev. H. Humphrey, D.D. Rogers was a biblical translator and commentator, and the first English Protestant martyr under Mary I. He was burned at the stake for heresy in February 1555. This primer bears a frontis of Isaac Watts. Though this copy has some wear to its wrappers, it’s in good condition. Details>>

Girls’ and Boys’ Primer, Part II

Girls_Boys_PrimerGirls’ and Boys’ Primer, Part II was published around 1850 by Rufus Merrill in Concord, New Hampshire. The alphabet is illustrated with woodcuts. The primer features the usual material: alphabet, poems, and lessons in spelling and writing. This copy is in the publisher’s original buff paper wrappers with ornamental border to front and rear wrappers and the signature of “Eastman & Bogart.” Though there’s light wear and soiling to the wrappers, this is a very good copy. Details>>

A Farewell Present to a Female Scholar, on Going to Service

Farewell_Present_Female_ScholarsThanks to the Enabling Act of 1799, dissenters could teach without subscription to the Church of England. The London Sunday-School Union was formed in 1803 with the aim of educating poor children and became a very active publishing organization. One of its publications was A Farewell Present to a Female Scholar, on Going to Service (ca 1828). An apparently unrecorded little work, it offers counseling a young lady regarding her pending move to the world of ‘service,’ “a useful and important station in society ” and  outlines a number of ‘rules to live by’ follow, including “Fifthly- Always observe a respectful and obliging behaviour towards those with whom you live, and endeavor to go about your work with a cheerful air, as a pleasure rather than a burden to you.” It appears to have served as a sort of primer for young women entering domestic service. Details>>

Fleet Fact Book

Fleet_Fact_BookFleet Fact Book (ca 1906-1910) is separated into four sections: The “Dreadnaught” (2 text pages & 1 photographic image); Submarines (1 text page & 5 photographic images); Torpedo Boat Destroyers (1 text page & 2 photographic images); and The Fleet / Dreadnaught Types (1 text page summarizing the fleet strength, including ship types/numbers & 5 color postcard-type images of diverse dreadnaught types). In short, the volume offers a custom ‘primer’ for the Royal English Navy, ca 1910, with all indications the book created for the use of a senior Naval official, or senior political figure associated with the Royal Navy. Details>>

Puff and Dick

Puff_DickPictured are the main characters from this famous primary reader: Dick, Jane, Spot, Puff & Baby. This is a rare unused printed sheet of a tale from the highly-collected Dick & Jane reader series, published in the 1950’s. Details>>



Related Posts:
Chapbooks: Short Books with Long History
The Ins and Outs of Collecting Serial Fiction for Children
Randolph Caldecott: Legend in Children’s Literature


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Portrait of a Bluestocking: Hannah More

Hannah_MoreProlific author Hannah More made her way to the most prestigious literary circles of eighteenth-century England, establishing herself as a true Bluestocking. But she’s better known for her moralist writings.

Hannah More was born on February 2, 1745. Her father, who’d been raised Presbyterian, had turned to the Church of England. He’d aspired to a career in the church and raised all his daughters with a particularly strong religious foundation, even for the time. More and her sisters were educated at home. Her father taught mathematics and Latin. Later, her elder sisters would teach her French.

In 1758, her father established a girls’ boarding school. More eventually began teaching there. Her first literary endeavors were pastoral plays that would be appropriate for her students to perform. When she published In Search After Happiness (1762), the work proved a success. Within about twenty years, it had sold over 10,000 copies.

More gave up her position at the school in 1767 because she got engaged to William Turner. But six years later, the two still hadn’t gotten married–and Turner exhibited no sense of urgency. In 1773, the engagement ended. More suffered a nervous breakdown, and Turner agreed to pay £200 a year to More as compensation. That sum was enough that More could live modestly while she pursued a literary career.

Garrick-Poetical_WorksThat same year, More made a pilgrimage to London with two of her sisters, a trip she would repeat annually. Thanks to the lyrics she’d written about David Garrick’s version of King Lear, the legendary actor and playwright took notice of More. The acquaintance proved a fortuitous one for More: not only did Garrick help her gain entry into London’s literary circles, but he also collaborated with her on the tragedy Percy (1777), writing both the prologue and epilogue. The association ensured that when the play was performed at Convent Garden that December, it was a smashing success.

But when More followed up with The Fatal Falsehood in 1779, she was on her own. Garrick had passed away. The new play foundered, and More decided to turn away from theatre and pursue other genres. By this time, she’d become thoroughly ensconced with London’s literati. More befriended luminaries like Joshua Reynolds, Samuel Johnson, and Edmund Burke. In 1781, More met Horace Walpole, and the two occasionally corresponded thereafter.

More also frequented Lady Elizabeth Montagu’s salon and came to be closely affiliated with the Bluestockings, befriending Hester Capone, Elizabeth Carter, Frances Boscawen, and Elizabeth Vesey. In 1782, More wrote a witty poem in tribute to her friends called The Bas-Bleu, but it wouldn’t be published until two years later. That year also marked a turning point in More’s career. With Sacred Dramas (1782), she began turning toward more serious subjects. She followed up with works like An Estimate of the Religion of the Fashionable World (1788) and Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education (1809).

More also began to engage in the abolitionist movement. She had become close with Beilby Porteus, the Bishop of London, along with evangelical leaders like Zachary Macaulay and William Wilberforce. More also found herself drawn into a circle of prominent anti-slavery activists like James Ramsay and Charles Middleton.

While back in Bristol, More discovered the poetry of Ann Yearsley. She took the young poetess under her wing, even organizing a benefit to raise money when Yearsley faced dire financial straits. Yearsley, who was known as Lactilia, published Poems, on Several Occasions and earned £600. Wishing to protect Yearsley’s earnings from her greedy husband, More and Montagu put the money in trust. Yearsley demanded the capital, but her mentors refused. Finally, Yearsley publicly insinuated that More had stolen the money. They were left with no choice but to turn over the money to Yearsley. Meanwhile, her reputation destroyed, More was forced to slink away from the London social scene.

Though More left London, she didn’t stop writing. She retired to the country with her sister Martha in 1785 and devoted her time to writing religious books and tracts. More’s long friendship with Porteus would come to significantly shape this period of More’s authorial career. At Porteus’ urging, More undertook a number of lively rhymes and prose stories–all didactic, naturally. They started in 1792 with Village Politics, by Will Chip, with the intent to refute the doctrines of Thomas Paine and undermine the influence of the French Revolution.Village Politics was a publishing phenomenon.


“The Carpenter,” a broadside from the Cheap Repository series

Encouraged, More and Porteus embarked on a more ambitious endeavor. They began the Cheap Repository Series, which ran from 1795 until 1797. Already a prolific author, More managed to write three pieces for the series each month. The most famous of these, The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain, was even translated into multiple languages. The tracts promoted Christian virtues like sobriety, frugality, and industry. But they also encouraged respect for the British Constitution and a trust in the benevolence of the gentry. Two million copies circulated in one year.

Meanwhile, More and her sister Martha had been busy setting up a dozen schools where children could learn to read and get lessons on the Bible and the catechism. Their noble cause had met with considerable resistance from local farmers, who feared that education would prove the downfall of agriculture. More also had some unlikely detractors: local church leaders, who considered More’s approach and doctrine too Methodist.

More remained quite active and productive until the last years of her life. She’s remembered today for her tireless work for education, and for her religious writing. Because her doctrine has fallen out of fashion, More’s works aren’t often taught, and she’s fallen from our collective conscience. But her works encapsulate the zeitgeist of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Britain.


Randolph Caldecott, Legend of Children’s Literature

Randolph_CaldecottYesterday the winners of this year’s Newbery and Caldecott Awards were announced. The latter was named for Randolph Caldecott, an accomplished painter and sculptor whose various attainments are often eclipsed by his brilliant carer as an illustrator. Along with figures like Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott was truly one of the most gifted illustrators of the Victorian era.

Caldecott was born in Chester on March 22, 1846. He was third child by his father’s second wife and would eventually be one of thirteen children. From the time he was young, Caldecott frequently spent his free time sketching and modeling his surroundings. But when Caldecott left school at fifteen years old, it wasn’t to pursue a career in art. He took a position at the Whitchurch branch of the Whitchurch & Ellesmere Bank. Caldecott settled in a nearby village, and he often took time to capture the country scenes that stretched out before him as he traveled to visit clients.

A lover of riding, Caldecott naturally took up hunting. His collected works include, therefore, a huge number of hunting scenes, along with myriad sketches of animals. Caldecott’s first published drawing was of neither; it was of a disastrous fire at the Queen Railway Hotel. Caldecott wrote an account of the blaze for the Illustrated London News. When Caldecott moved to Manchester six years later to work at the Manchester & Salford Bank, he took the opportunity to take night classes at the Manchester School of Art. Soon after, his drawings began appearing in local and London periodicals.

Randolph_Caldecott_MilkmaidThen in 1870, Caldecott’s friend Thomas Armstrong, a painter in London, introduced Caldecott to Henry Blackburn of London Society. Blackburn and Caldecott got along famously, eventually traveling together. For a time, Caldecott even lived in a cottage at Blackburn’s estate. Blackburn published a number of Caldecott’s illustrations in the magazine, and in 1872 Caldecott decided to move to London and pursue illustration full time. He was 26 years old.

Within two years, Caldecott found himself a prominent magazine illustrator working on commission. His opus is varied, ranging from children’s books to travel illustrations and caricatures. His illustrations for Washington Irving’s Old Christmas and Bracebridge Hall (1875) had made his name in the illustration world. Caldecott also illustrated works by Oliver Goldsmith, notably Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog. Caldecott’s illustration of the poem would be used in a World War I parody, in which the head in his original illustration was replaced by the head of the Kaiser of Germany.

Caldecott_Farmer_BoyCaldecott settled in the heart of Bloomsbury. He was surrounded by artists and literati, regularly encountering figures like Dante Rosetti, George du Maurier, and Frederic Leighton. Lord Leighton would go on to hire Caldecott to design four peacock capitals for the Asia room of Leighton House in Kensington; Walter Crane would design a peacock frieze for the same room.

In 1877, accomplished engraver Edmund Evans ended his relationship with illustrator Walter Crane. Evans found Caldecott’s illustrations “racy and spontaneous,” so he invited Caldecott to replace Crane. The first project: two Christmas books. Caldecott took on the work, illustrating The House that Jack Built and the William Cowper poem The Diverting History of John Gilpin. These books were so successful that Caldecott produced two more each Christmas for the rest of his life. Caldecott chose all the stories and rhymes, sometimes even composing them himself.

Caldecott_Song_SixpenceCombined sales of the Christmas books hit 867,000 during Caldecott’s lifetime. The artist was internationally famous. Caldecott’s publisher, George Routledge & Sons, took Caldecott’s works quite seriously. They took great pains to reproduce the colors exactly as Caldecott had intended. When the books were reissued by Frederick Warner & Co after Caldcott died, they brightened the colors but lost much of the subtlety imbued by Caldecott.

Not all Caldecott’s works, however, were commercially successful. In 1883, he undertook an edition of Aesop’s fables. He invited his brother Alfred to translate the tales from the original Greek, but later overruled Alfred’s accuracy. Caldecott’s goal was to make Aesop’s fables, which were often used for instruction, more accessible to children. He illustrated each of the tales he selected with Victorian human behavior. Usually comical, the illustrations illuminated the veracity of Aesop’s teachings. But the book was still too complicated for children, and it did not sell well.

Caldecott’s 1885 edition of The Great Panjandrum Himself fared much better. The nonsense poem by Samuel Foote had become quite the rage among university students, who would try to memorize the lines and recite them to one another. (Generations later, students would take up Winnie-the-Pooh, by AA Milne, with the same fervor; the story was even translated into Latin by one undergraduate.)

Meanwhile, Caldecott’s health was ever precarious. He frequently traveled to warmer climates. It was on one of these trips, in 1886, that he passed away. Caldecott and his wife had arrived in St. Augustine, Florida during a particularly cold February. Caldecott succumbed to the cold, and his memorial still stands in St. Augustine.

Related Posts:
AA Milne: Legendary Children’s Author and Ambivalent Pacifist
Kate Greenaway: Legendary Illustrator of Children’s Books
Maurice Moutet de Monvel and His Ingenious ‘Jeanne d’Arc’

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