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 Bookplate of Bob and Epsie Morse, by Luis Agassiz Fuertes, c. 1910

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The Reader, by Alexander Ver Huell c. 1880

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  • Love and Madness, a Story too True, by Herbert Croft
    In 1775,  Mr James Hackman, an army officerwho later became a clergyman, met and fell in love withMartha Ray (or Reay), a singer and for many years the mistress of theEarl of Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty (and inventor of theeponymous snack,) who treated her generously and had given her severalchildren. After some initial encouragement she rejected Hackman, no doubt thinkingthat mistress of a nobleman was a better condition than wife of animpoverished rural parson.  Hackman, in a frenzy of jealousy andfrustration, shot her and then himself  in front of the CoventGarden Opera House on 7th April 1779.  She was killed outright,but he survived to be hanged.  (See The Newgate Calendar for an account of the murder and trial.) This book purports tobe a collection oftheir correspondence, showing the progress of the affair to its tragicend.  However, it is actually a work of fiction published thefollowing year. It includes a long account of Thomas Chatterton, whose Rowley Poems are also on this site. 
    Added 27th June 2020.


  • Gerard's Herbal.
    This vast and exhaustive work of early modern botany, illustrated withnearly two thousand woodcuts,  had its final edition in 1633. Almost every plant known to European  herbalists at the timeis included, with a picture, description, uses, and  anecdotes ofthe plant, its discoverers and much more. Volumes 1, 2, 3 and 4 (of 5) arenow 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 in1728. Moncrif, a member of the French Academy,  is largelyforgotten except as its author.  Nowadays such a work would bequite ordinary, but it was the first ever of this kind. In thatAugustan age, writing on such a subject was considered a trivialwaste of time for an author with any pretensions to gentility; Augustinwas subjected to so much mockery that he withdrew the book fromcirculation. Nonetheless, we can enjoy it as it was intended; evencat-haters might find entertainment here. Our version has both anEnglish 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
    We first came across this little curiosityin a note to Hudibras by SamuelButler. 
    It is a short pamphlet published in 1669by a disillusioned ex-Quaker, and consists largely of abuse, both theologicaland personal, of that sect. Smith was involved in a dispute with a fellow-quaker, andexpelled after what he regarded as a grossly unfair trial, conducted by GeorgeFox 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 18thCentury 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 thelives of eight ladies of the Ton, andfinally Book 3: Fiction has fourshort novels about prostitutes.  Thepieces chosen are almost all contemporary, ranging from 1696 to 1803, and inattitude run the gamut from picaresque approval to moral condemnation tocompassion for the suffering of the women forced into prostitution.
    Added 13th January 2020.
  • The Silver Fox, by Somerville and Ross
    Edith OEnanthe 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")but did not live to write it.  Middleton is best known as adramatist, but could turn his pen to anything that would bring in some money.He cashed in on Greene's popularity by Middleton appropriated his title for this short account ofElizabethan low life and low-lifes, bringing forth a pamphlet called The Black Book in 1604. In it, the Devilmakes a tour of his minions in London, visiting brothel-keepers, swindlers,gamblers, corrupt officials and other of his followers.
    Added 9th September 2019
  • More Crimes from the Newgate Calendar
    Another batch of  18th Century pirates and  highwayme 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, orThe Adventures of a Young Gentleman was publishedanonymously in 1759, the same year as John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (Fanny Hill), and is another high pointin 18th Century erotica. It is set in the same milieu of seductionand brothels, it is however written from a male point of view. The protagonistCamillo, like many young men, is led by his penis, and being from a wealthyfamily, has the means to go where it leads him. He is not a wicked person, buthe is headstrong, impulsive and thoughtless, and he undergoes sexual adventuresand misadventures which are variously hilarious and horrifying.
    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 ofthe 19th Century. This is his diary of his everyday doings, and of thebooks he read, with his comments on them. A great insight into the mindof 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. Manyare ex-classics, and some are already on our site. We plan to publishall 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 ThirtyYears' War from 1626 to 1634, where he served under Gustavus Adolphus,King of Sweden, and took part in many battles.  Colonel Monro himselfis not wholly unknown to those who have read A Legend of Montrose by Walter Scott; for it was he whoprovided a good deal of the material for character of  DugaldDalgetty?the valoroussoldier 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 withendless reminiscences of the time when he followed "the invincibleGustavus Adolphus, the Lion of the North, and the Bulwark of the ProtestantFaith". 
    Added 30th October 2017.
  • TheHistory of Pompey the Little by Francis Coventry
    Pompey the Little was an Italian lapdog. At an early age he was carriedaway from the boudoir of his Italian mistress by Hillario, an Englishgentleman  illustrious for his gallantries, who brought him toLondon. The rest of the history is really a chain of social episodes,each closed by the incident that Pompey becomes the property of somefresh person. In this way we find ourselves in a dozen successivescenes, each strongly contrasted with the others. It is the art of theauthor that he knows exactly how much to tell us without wearying ourattention, and is able to make the transition to the next scene aplausible one.
  • Added 20th July 2017

  • 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.

  • Studiesin the Art of Rat-Catching, by H. C. Barkley
    The classical education provided by English schools in the 19th centurywashated by the pupils and did nothing to qualify them to make a living.Barkley proposes to solve both these problems by teaching themrat-catching, which boys love and which is an honourable and usefulprofession. 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 amanuensisof Laetitia Pilkington, whose memoirs are also on this site. Alsocontains the correspondence of Laetitia Pilkington and Lord Kingsborough, and some poems and a play scene by J.C. Pilkington.
    Added 11th January 2017.
  • TheMemoirs of Mrs.Margaret Leeson
    The leading courtesan and madam of late 18th Century Dublin, shepublished these memoirs in old age. Funny and frankly written, theyshow a wide panorama of life from debtors' prison to the Ascendancyat 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 andsundry 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 
    Duringthe English Civil War and in the republic which followed, a wide rangeof radical ideas and movements flourished. There were Seekers andRanters, Diggers and Levellers,  Quakers, Fifth Monarchists andMuggletonians; and a flood of remarkable pamphlets promoting theirideas poured from the printing presses.  Our selection includessuch 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
    HansChristian Anderson rewrote this mediaeval Spanish tale for the morefastidious audiences of the 19th Century. The original is wellworth 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
    Thefirst flush toilet, described together with a wealth of cloacallearning 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 ofthe canon, never being forgotten or lacking advocates, but never makingit 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 abook-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.

 

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Bookplate of Urling Sibley, by Frances W. (Fanny) Delehanty, 1910

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