- Two Blasts.
Two early modern pamphlets most of us have heard of, but few have read, are John Knox's A First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, and King James VI & I's A Counterblast to Tobacco.
The first was published in 1558 as a response to the persecution of
Protestants by Mary I in England and Mary Queen of Scots in Scotland.
Knox goes far beyond condemning the persecution, however. He declares
that it is a blasphemous flouting of God's will to allow women any
authority whatever; which they are in any case wholly incompetent to
King James condems tobacco from several different angles, culminating in a rousing peroration describing tobacco as "A custom loathsome to the eye, hateful
to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black
stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit
that is bottomless."
Knox's opinions have not worn well, but King James's, after many years
of being called silly and puritanical, are now widely accepted.
Added 18th September 2020.
- Love and Madness, a Story too True, by Herbert Croft
In 1775, Mr James Hackman, an army officer who later
became a clergyman, met and fell in love with Martha Ray (or
Reay), a singer and for many years the mistress of the Earl of
Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty (and inventor of the
- Gerard's Herbal.
This vast and exhaustive work of early modern botany, illustrated with
nearly two thousand woodcuts, had its final edition in
1633. Almost every plant known to European herbalists at the
time is included, with a picture, description, uses,
and anecdotes of the plant, its discoverers and much more.
Volumes 1-4 (of 5) are now available - the final volume will follow by
year-end 2020. Part of our Gossip in a Library project -- see here for Gosse's article.
Volume 4 added 24th April 2020.
Volume 3 added 15th July 2019.
Volume 2 added 3rd March 2019.
Volume 1 added 21st August 2018.
- Cats by Francois-Augustin Paradis de Moncrif
This charming book of anecdotes and poetry about cats was published in
1728. Moncrif, a member of the French Academy, is largely
forgotten except as its author. Nowadays such a work would be
quite ordinary, but it was the first ever of this kind. In that
Augustan age, writing on such a subject was considered a trivial
waste of time for an author with any pretensions to gentility; Moncrif
was subjected to so much mockery that he withdrew the book from
circulation. Nonetheless, we can enjoy it as it was intended; even
cat-haters might find entertainment here. Our version has both an
English translation and the original French.
Part of our Gossip in a Library project -- see here for Gosse's article.
Added 13 April 2020
- The Quakers' Spiritual Court Proclaimed by Nathaniel Smith
We first came across this little curiosity in a note to Hudibras by Samuel Butler.
It is a short pamphlet published in 1669 by a disillusioned ex-Quaker,
and consists largely of abuse, both theological and personal, of that
sect. Smith was involved in a dispute with a fellow-Quaker, and
expelled after what he regarded as a grossly unfair trial, conducted by
George Fox himself.
Added 28th February 2020.
- The Covent Garden Calendar
As a kind of companion piece to The Newgate Calendar, we have prepared an anthology of accounts of prostitutes, courtesans and mercenary spouses in 18th Century Britain. It is in three parts: Book 1:The Night-time Scene has a number of essays describing of the milieu; Book 2: Individual Courtesans gives the lives of eight ladies of the Ton, and finally Book 3: Fiction has four short novels about prostitutes. The
pieces chosen are almost all contemporary, ranging from 1696 to 1803,
and in attitude run the gamut from picaresque approval to moral
condemnation to compassion for the suffering of the women forced into
Added 13th January 2020.
- The Silver Fox, by Somerville and Ross
Edith OEnoe Somerville and "Martin Ross" (Violet Martin) are best known for their humourous Irish R.M. stories; their novels The Real Charlotte and The Big House at Inver are also still deservedly popular. The Silver Fox,
a short novel, was first published in 1898 and reprinted several times
in the next ten years. It seems to have then fallen into complete
obscurity and has not been republished since. This is a pity, for it is
a miniature masterpiece. It has been included here at the request of
Professor Declan Kiberd of University College, Dublin. Prof. Kiberd
devotes an entire chapter of his definitive Irish Classics (Granta Books, 2000) to The Silver Fox, describing it as "a novella of true genius". We agree.
Added 2nd January 2020
"No odder book than John Buncle was published in England throughout the long life of Amory. Romances there were, like Gulliver's Travels and Peter Wilkins,
in which the incidents were much more incredible, but there was no
supposition that these would be treated as real history. The curious
feature of John Buncle is that the story is told with the
strictest attention to realism and detail, and yet is embroidered all
over with the impossible. There can be no doubt that Amory, who
belonged to an older school, was affected by the form of the new novels
which were the fashion in 1756. He wished to be as particular as Mr.
Richardson, as manly as Captain Fielding, as breezy and vigorous as Dr.
Smollett, the three new writers who were all the talk of the town.
. . . . . . To lovers of odd books, John Buncle
will always have a genuine attraction. Its learning would have dazzled
Dr. Primrose, and is put on in glittering spars and shells, like the
ornaments of the many grottoes that it describes. It is diversified by
descriptions of natural scenery, which are often exceedingly felicitous
and original, and it is quickened by the human warmth and flush of the
love passages, which, with all their quaintness, are extremely human"
Added 27th October 2019
- The Black Book by Thomas Middleton
Robert Greene, auhor of The Complete Cony-Catcher and A Groatsworth of Wit, promised a work called The Black Book (in his "Black Book's Messenger"), to be a fuller account of Elizabethan low life and low-lifes, but did not live to write it. Middleton
is best known as a dramatist, but could turn his pen to anything that
would bring in some money. Middleton cashed in on Greene's popularity by appropriating his title for this pamphlet. In it, the Devil makes a tour of his minions in London,
visiting brothel-keepers, swindlers, gamblers, corrupt officials and
others of his followers.
Added 9th September 2019
- More Crimes from the Newgate Calendar
Another batch of 18th Century pirates and highwaymem to add to our existing collection from the ex-classic compendium of crime. These are all taken from Johnson's History of Pirates and Highwayman etc.
Added 15th Feb. 2019.
- The History of the Human Heart.
The History of the Human Heart, or The Adventures of a Young Gentleman was published anonymously in 1759, the same year as John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (Fanny Hill), and is another high point in 18th Century erotica. It is set in the same milieu of seduction and brothels, however it is
written from a male point of view. The protagonist Camillo, like many
young men, is led by his penis, and being from a wealthy family, has
the means to go where it leads him. He is not a wicked person, but he
is headstrong, impulsive and thoughtless, and he undergoes sexual
adventures and misadventures which are variously hilarious and
Added 6th November 2018.
- The Diary of a Lover of Literature by Thomas Green
Greenwas a bibliophile who flourished at the end
of the 18th and start of the 19th Century. This is his diary of
his everyday doings, and of the books he read, with his comments on
them. A great insight into the mind of a pre-romantic self-taught
intellectual. Part of our Gossip in a Library project -- see here for Gosse's article.
Added 13th February 2018.
- Gossip in A Library, by Edmund Gosse
The noted bibliophile's reviews of some of his favourite books. Many
are ex-classics, and some are already on our site. We plan to publish
all of them we can find.
Added 11th November 2017.
- The Memoirs of Colonel Monro
Originally entitled Monro his expedition with the Worthy Scots Regiment called Mac-Keys Regiment.
It describes his seven years' service as a mercenary in the Thirty
Years' War from 1626 to 1634, where he served under Gustavus Adolphus,
King of Sweden, and took part in many battles. Colonel Monro himself is not wholly unknown to those who have read A Legend of Montrose by
Walter Scott; for it was he who provided a good deal of the material
for the character of Dugald Dalgetty, the valorous soldier
of fortune and military theorist, who returned to Scotland just in
timeto take part in Montrose's campaigns, and to edify his
brothers-in-arms with endless reminiscences of the time when he
followed "the invincible Gustavus Adolphus, the Lion of the North, and
the Bulwark of the Protestant Faith".
Added 30th October 2017.
- TheHistory of Pompey the Little by Francis Coventry
Added 20th July 2017
Pompey the Little was an Italian lapdog. At an early age he was carried
away from the boudoir of his Italian mistress by Hillario, an English
gentleman illustrious for his gallantries, who brought him to
London. The rest of the history is really a chain of social episodes,
each closed by the incident that Pompey becomes the property of some
fresh person. In this way we find ourselves in a dozen successive
scenes, each strongly contrasted with the others. It is the art of the
author that he knows exactly how much to tell us without wearying our
attention, and is able to make the transition to the next scene a
plausible one. Part of our Gossip in a Library project -- see here for Gosse's article
- The Complete Cony-catcher by Robert Greene
The cozeners of Elizabethan England, and their artful ways of robbing and swindling. By the author of A Groat's-worth of Wit.
Added 14th May 2017.
- Studies in the Art of Rat-Catching, by H. C. Barkley
The classical education provided by English schools in the 19th century
was hated by the pupils and did nothing to qualify them to make a
living. Barkley proposes to solve both these problems by teaching them
rat-catching, which boys love and which is an honourable and useful
profession. This is the definitive text-book of the art.
Added 26th January 2017.
- The True Story of John Carteret Pilkington
The early adventures and misfortunes of the youngest son and amanuensis of Laetitia Pilkington, whose Memoirs
are also on this site. Also contains the correspondence of Laetitia
Pilkington and Lord Kingsborough, and some poems and a play scene by
Added 11th January 2017.
- The Memoirs of Mrs.Margaret Leeson
The leading courtesan and madam of late 18th Century Dublin, she
published these memoirs in old age. Funny and frankly written, they
show a wide panorama of life from debtors' prison to the Ascendancy at
the height of their power and irresponsibility.
Added 8th October 2016.
- More Crimes from the Newgate Calendar
Another batch of 172 18th Century pirates, highwayman, forgers and
sundry malefactors to add to our existing collection from the ex-classic compendium of crime
Added 26th July 2016.
- Radical Pamphlets from the English Civil War
During the English Civil War and in the republic which followed, a wide
range of radical ideas and movements flourished. There were Seekers and
Ranters, Diggers and Levellers, Quakers, Fifth Monarchists and
Muggletonians; and a flood of remarkable pamphlets promoting their
ideas poured from the printing presses. Our selection includes
such classics as A Fiery Flying Roll, The Lamb's Officer is Gone Forth with the Lamb's Message, and the wonderfully-titled Tyranipocrit Discovered.
Added 14th February 2016.
- The Emperor's New Clothes -- Original Version
Hans Christian Anderson rewrote this mediaeval Spanish tale for the
more fastidious audiences of the 19th Century. The original is
well worth reading.
Added 3rd February 2016.
- Lives and Anecdotes of Misers, by F. Somner Merryweather
As read by Silas Wegg to Mr. Boffin in Dickens' Our Mutual Friend.
Added 18th January 2016.
- The Metamorphosis of Ajax by Sir John Harington
The first flush toilet, described together with a wealth of cloacal
learning and philosophy by Queen Elizabeth I's scapegrace godson.
Added 4th September 2015.
- The Poems of John Skelton
JohnSkelton (1460?-1529) is a
poet whose works have hovered on the edge of the canon, never being
forgotten or lacking advocates, but never making it into the schools.
Robert Graves thought him better than Milton. Howard Fish, now the
Grand Old Man of American Literary Criticism (andproud to be the model
for David Lodge's Morris Zapp) published a book-length study of Skelton
in 1965, and more recently, Helen Cooper, Professor of English at
Cambridge, called him "one of the great figuresof English poetry."
Added 13th July 2015.
All the books as one Zip file
Ex-classics at Other Web Sites