By Jan Fergus
Many students have written approximately eighteenth-century English novels, yet nobody rather is aware who learn them. This research presents historic facts at the provincial interpreting publics for varied types of fiction--novels, performs, chapbooks, kid's books, and magazines. Archival files of Midland booksellers dependent in 5 marketplace cities and promoting revealed subject to over thirty-three hundred consumers among 1744 and 1807 shape the foundation for brand spanking new information regarding who truly obtained and borrowed other forms of fiction in eighteenth-century provincial England.
This e-book hence bargains the 1st stable demographic information regarding genuine readership in eighteenth-century provincial England, not just concerning the category, occupation, age, and intercourse of readers but additionally in regards to the marketplace of accessible fiction from which they made their choices--and a few hypothesis approximately why they made the alternatives they did. opposite to acquired principles, within the provinces have been the imperative shoppers for eighteenth-century novels, together with these written via ladies. Provincial clients most well-liked to shop for instead of borrow fiction, and ladies most well-liked performs and novels written by means of women--women's works might have performed higher had ladies been the critical shoppers. that's, call for for fiction (written by means of either women and men) used to be approximately equivalent for the 1st 5 years, yet in a while the call for for women's works declined. either women and men most popular novels with identifiable authors to nameless ones, even if, and either boys and males have been in a position to go gender traces of their examining. Goody Two-Shoes used to be one of many extra well known kid's books between Rugby schoolboys, and males learn the Lady's Magazine. those and different findings will adjust the way in which students examine the fiction of the interval, the questions requested, and the histories instructed of it.
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The word ‘consumed’ throughout this study is meant in a purely economic sense, not in the pejorative sense of ¹⁰⁹ See Richard D. Brown, Knowledge is Power: The Diffusion of Information in Early America, 1700–1865 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), ch. 7, for an analysis of letters and diaries of married women in America, whose roles and responsibilities reduced their discretionary time, so that they read less than single women and had different concerns. Introduction 37 mindless ‘consuming’ or devouring of ﬁction.
Despite such archival shortcomings, however, the libraries show some commonality. The ninety-seven novels that we know were borrowed from the Clays—listed in App. 1—tend to have been published primarily in the 1760s and 1770s (more than half, or ﬁfty-four). Similarly, about half the seventy novels borrowed from Stevens in the last sixteen years covered by his ledgers were published then, in the 1790s and 1800s (thirty-three or 47 per cent; these titles can be generated from App. 2). That is, both libraries circulated recent works in similar proportions.
Finally, I offer some evidence of how books were read that can be inferred from the records: multiple and repeated readings and particularly desultory reading. The third chapter, ‘Schoolboy Readers: John Newbery’s Goody Two-Shoes and Licensed War’, focuses on the boys at Rugby School. A 38 Introduction sense of who they were is gained by looking at the nine who paid to read Frances Burney’s Cecilia as soon as Samuel Clay’s circulating library made it available in 1784, two years after publication.
Provincial Readers in Eighteenth-Century England by Jan Fergus