London and the Making of Provincial Literature: Aesthetics and the Transatlantic Book Trade, 1800-1850 (Material Texts)

 
9780812247343: London and the Making of Provincial Literature: Aesthetics and the Transatlantic Book Trade, 1800-1850 (Material Texts)

In the early nineteenth century, London publishers dominated the transatlantic book trade. No one felt this more keenly than authors from Ireland, Scotland, and the United States who struggled to establish their own national literary traditions while publishing in the English metropolis. Authors such as Maria Edgeworth, Sydney Owenson, Walter Scott, Washington Irving, and James Fenimore Cooper devised a range of strategies to transcend the national rivalries of the literary field. By writing prefaces and footnotes addressed to a foreign audience, revising texts specifically for London markets, and celebrating national particularity, provincial authors appealed to English readers with idealistic stories of cross-cultural communion. From within the messy and uneven marketplace for books, Joseph Rezek argues, provincial authors sought to exalt and purify literary exchange. In so doing, they helped shape the Romantic-era belief that literature inhabits an autonomous sphere in society.

London and the Making of Provincial Literature tells an ambitious story about the mutual entanglement of the history of books and the history of aesthetics in the first three decades of the nineteenth century. Situated between local literary scenes and a distant cultural capital, enterprising provincial authors and publishers worked to maximize success in London and to burnish their reputations and build their industry at home. Examining the production of books and the circulation of material texts between London and the provincial centers of Dublin, Edinburgh, and Philadelphia, Rezek claims that the publishing vortex of London inspired a dynamic array of economic and aesthetic practices that shaped an era in literary history.

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About the Author:

Joseph Rezek teaches English at Boston University.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Introduction

In 1800, a new kind of Irish literature arrived in London. Maria Edgeworth's Castle Rackrent, A Hibernian Tale was published by the storied firm of Joseph Johnson, a "formidable figure" in the late eighteenth-century book trade and publisher of famous radicals like Joseph Priestly, William Cowper, and Mary Wollstonecraft. Castle Rackrent relates the decline of the landed Irish gentry through the fictionalized edited narrative of an Irish family's loyal servant, Thady Quirk. The text provides some help for its intended audience; "for the information of the ignorant English reader," its "Preface" remarks, "a few notes have been subjoined by the editor." Late in 1798, Edgeworth sent the completed manuscript to Johnson, but he thought Thady's dialect narrative could benefit from even further explanation than the footnotes provided. At his instigation, she composed a copious "Glossary" defining "terms, and idiomatic phrases," as a new "Advertisement" explains. The text's transnational address established a template that shaped the genre of the Irish national tale, a term coined by Sydney Owenson's The Wild Irish Girl (1806), which stages the marriage of an English traveler and a dispossessed Irish princess. The genre's wide-ranging influence—it "set a tone" for a century of Irish fiction and was of "formative importance for nineteenth-century realism"—depended on its publication in London, where, ironically, all Irish "national" tales received their first editions.

In 1814, Scottish literature arrived in London like never before. That summer, Longman & Co., at the time publisher of more new books than any other firm in the city, issued a novel that told the story of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion from the perspective of an ordinary English gentleman, Edward Waverley. Walter Scott's first foray into fiction, Waverley; or, 'Tis Sixty Years Since, was jointly published by Longman and Archibald Constable, in Edinburgh, where it was printed and from where 70 percent of its first edition were sent to London for distribution. Inspired partly by the Irish national tale, Scott used his eponymous hero as a literary device to guide English readers through the unfamiliar territory of Scotland and Scottish history. Scott aimed "to emulate the admirable Irish portraits drawn by Miss Edgeworth," as he wrote, whose characters "have gone so far to make the English familiar with the character of their gay and kind-hearted neighbors of Ireland." In so doing, he encapsulated the spirit of modern historical consciousness, offering to "world literature" a new genre, according to Georg Lukács, in which "extreme, opposing social forces can be brought into a human relationship with one another." As a best-selling poet, an editor, and the business partner of his Edinburgh printer, the "great Scotch novelist," as he was known at the time, approached London as the principal arena of his success.

In 1820, American literature finally arrived in London. That July, John Murray introduced a new title to his readers: Washington Irving's The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, a two-volume collection of literary pieces containing essays by an American traveling in England, sketches about Native Americans, and two romantic tales set in the Hudson River Valley, "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." By this time, The Sketch Book had for over a year been appearing as a part publication in New York; Irving, then residing in England, was eager to find a British publisher. Murray himself initially demurred, and so Irving arranged for the first half of The Sketch Book to be issued at his own expense. As Irving continued to write sketches, the work's future remained uncertain, but luckily he had some powerful friends. Walter Scott persuaded Murray to take a second look, and by spring of 1820, plans were in place for the publication of a handsome two-volume edition, the text of which Irving heavily revised and rearranged with the new format in mind. Buoyed by the prestige of Murray's firm—publisher of Lord Byron, the Quarterly Review, the works of Thomas Moore, and some of Scott's poems and novels—The Sketch Book launched Irving as "the first ambassador whom the New World of Letters sent to the Old." The novels of James Fenimore Cooper appeared soon thereafter; in 1823, with the same publisher. This is what it meant for American literature to arrive in London; with John Murray, it arrived in style.

The most influential Irish, Scottish, and American fictions of the early nineteenth century were routed through the great metropolis of the English-speaking world. This book argues that the centripetal pull of London created a provincial literary formation that shaped the history of modern aesthetics. In seeking success in London, authors like Edgeworth, Owenson, Scott, Irving, and Cooper developed a range of literary strategies. To guide English readers through the unfamiliar territory of their fiction, they wrote authenticating prefaces, footnotes, and glossaries; to shore up their authority in the London-centered marketplace, they claimed exclusive local knowledge grounded in personal experience; to promote literary fellowship, they invested transnational marriage plots with allegories of cross-cultural communion; and to purify and exalt literary exchange, they revised texts for London republication and appealed to the special power of "literature" itself. These strategies coalesce around a paradox about artistic production: that literature both transcends nationality and indelibly expresses it. This seeming contradiction preoccupied many writers of the Romantic period who offered competing ideological claims for literature's universality and its embodiment of a particular nation's spirit. In this book, I trace a new genealogy of this paradox to the fiction of provincial authors who navigated a subordinate position within the London-centered marketplace for books. I argue, moreover, that the effects of such navigation helped define the distinctly modern idea that literature inhabits an autonomous sphere in society.

It was through success in London that Irish, Scottish, and American fiction were consecrated according to the logic of what scholars after Pierre Bourdieu have called the "literary field." The city reigned as the cultural capital of the Anglophone Atlantic. Similarly to the way Paris operates in Pascale Casanova's "world republic of letters," but with significant differences, London in the early nineteenth century nurtured a highly concentrated literary scene no English-language author could ignore. Publication in the metropolis was compulsory for provincials seeking profit and legitimacy—at home and abroad—and some of them met that condition strategically, uneasily, and with great success. If, as Eric Hobsbawm has famously claimed, "the national phenomenon cannot be adequately investigated without careful attention to the 'invention of tradition,'" than "invention" of Irish, Scottish, and American literatures must be located within the cross-cultural procedure of distinction only London could perform. These literatures were not born within the nation through an insular process of organic unfolding, nor did they develop as symptoms of nationally delimited historical contexts. They were made in the transatlantic marketplace through an uneven process of struggle and triumph. Many authors from Ireland, Scotland, and North America published in London before 1800, but Edgeworth, Owenson, Scott, Irving, and Cooper hailed from cultures newly understood as "national" and as such were the first to be understood as producing, through literary expression, specimens of national culture. Their success became synonymous with national literary emergence itself. Long understood as separate traditions with discrete histories of their own, Irish, Scottish, and American literatures in fact constituted a single, interconnected provincial literature tethered to London.

Provinciality was a relational status acquired through engaging with metropolitan culture or petitioning it for approval. Derived from provincia, Latin for a distant territory under Roman rule (provincia Britannia, for example), and entering Middle English as the term for a bishop's diocese, the modern noun province indicates a region's subordination to centralized power and authority, secular or ecclesiastical. The adjective provincial has always carried such connotations, but only by the turn of the eighteenth century did it become derogatory, a slur—and then specifically with regard to expressive behavior: manners, attire, and, above all, speech (OED). The word provincial, then, acquired negative connotations only as it came to describe modes of expression; it has always been an insult with particularly aesthetic implications. Feeling the sting of this, James Boswell tried to "improve" his Scottish accent while trolling around London. Assured by Samuel Johnson, however, that his "pronunciation was not offensive," Boswell rather unconvincingly advised his "countrymen" that "a small intermixture of provincial peculiarities, may, perhaps, have an agreeable effect." Such linguistic differences shaped the reception of provincials well into the nineteenth century. Francis Jeffrey remarked in a review of Waverley that the novel's Scottish dialect would be "unintelligible to four-fifths of the reading population of the country," and in new footnotes Cooper wrote for the revised London edition of The Last of the Mohicans (1831), he distanced himself from "provincial terms" voiced by his American characters. Irish, Scottish, and American authors carried the burden of provinciality as they hawked their wares in an imperial capital that fancied itself the new Rome.

The making of provincial literature is best understood through attending to the production of books and the circulation of material texts between London and the provincial literary centers of Dublin, Edinburgh, and Philadelphia. These circuits of dissemination were improvised, frustrating, and unreliable, but they formed the condition of possibility for provincial literature to emerge. London's dominance was felt as much by provincial readers and book trades professionals as it was by the authors whose metropolitan successes established them as national heroes. Booksellers reacted to and harnessed London's economic power by making inroads into its marketplace, devising ways to circumvent that marketplace, and developing innovative techniques to reach provincial readers. Readers were beholden to a London book trade that supplied the vast majority of texts, imported or reprinted; some embraced metropolitan culture as a badge of sophistication, while others resented that culture's influence and authority. Situated in the fraught position between local literary scenes and a distant cultural capital, provincial authors, publishers, and readers responded with anger, excitement, resignation, ingenuity, and a fascinating array of economic and aesthetic practices that defined an era in literary history.

Such practices have remained unnoticed despite the surge of scholarly interest in transatlantic literary studies over the last quarter century. Dozens of important books have appeared since Robert Weisbuch's Atlantic Double-Cross (1989) and Paul Gilory's The Black Atlantic (1993), two foundational texts. Most transatlantic scholarship of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries has either opened up one side of the Atlantic to a myriad of crossings or influences—in Americanist scholarship, usually with England as a single point of reference—or traced parallel stories in Britain and the United States while conceiving of the two nations in a binary relationship. This binary model of competition, however, does not recognize London as the force that put Irish, Scottish, and American literature on common ground. Comparative scholarship on Scotland and America (a venerable subfield its own), moreover, has not reckoned with the book trade's concrete effects in forming what John Clive and Bernard Bailyn called "England's cultural provinces," nor has it found an appropriate place for Ireland as a provincial analog. The field of transatlantic studies has proliferated to such an extent that it has become difficult to generalize about its methodological commitments, encompassing as it does traditional studies of literary influence, theoretical meditations on Atlantic modernity, and historicized accounts of discrete locales embedded in transatlantic contexts and circuits of exchange. This book takes "literature" as a category of Atlantic modernity to be investigated through the local sites, transatlantic circuits, and cultural pressures of its emergence. It provides further evidence that the burden of proof now lies with those scholars who still wish to treat literary history in strictly national terms. "The nation," as Thomas Bender explains, "cannot be its own context."

The term transatlantic was used often in the period to characterize objects, ideas, and persons that crossed the Atlantic Ocean or phenomena defined by such crossing; it is in this general sense that I adopt it here. Scott, for example, upon reading a parody of his Lay of the Last Minstrel published in Philadelphia, called it a "a tolerable piece of dull Trans-Atlantic wit"; Irving, discussing the importance of "english reviewers," declared that "if these transatlantic censors praise [a book], I have no fear of its success in this country"; and the Quarterly Review, reviewing The Sketch Book, referred to "the publications of our transatlantic brethren." Edgeworth also conceived of the ocean as a conduit for traveling texts. She sustained a number of correspondences with friends "across the Atlantic," as she put it in a letter to the wife of Boston bookseller George Ticknor. These included one Mrs. Griffith, who sent her the latest American novels. "I am very much afraid that I shall never be able to satisfy you about the Last of the Mohicans," Edgeworth wrote on April 20, 1826, "but it is early times with us yet—as we began it only last night." The next day, she wrote an extra line between paragraphs before sending the letter: "April 21—Last night we got into the cavern that is a sublime scene—we begun to be much interested." Edgeworth later made sure the novelist learned of her approval. "If Mr. Cooper, the author, is in London and is known to you," she wrote to Albert Gallatin, "I beg you to make known to him my admiration of his Novels—The Last of the Mohicans especially is a most interesting and original work. I wish he would come to Ireland." Provincial authors were deeply connected to each other through the transatlantic circulation of books, reading, literary influence, claims of artistic affinity, professional relationships, and friendship.

Scholars of American literature have often dismissed the first three decades of the nineteenth century as either as a fall from the republicanism of the Revolutionary era into an insular and liberal nationalism or as a prelude to the more interesting productions of the antebellum period, when the rise of abolitionism, Jacksonian democracy, and the "American Renaissance" finally produced a literary culture worth our careful attentio...

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Descrizione libro University of Pennsylvania Press, United States, 2015. Hardback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In the early nineteenth century, London publishers dominated the transatlantic book trade. No one felt this more keenly than authors from Ireland, Scotland, and the United States who struggled to establish their own national literary traditions while publishing in the English metropolis. Authors such as Maria Edgeworth, Sydney Owenson, Walter Scott, Washington Irving, and James Fenimore Cooper devised a range of strategies to transcend the national rivalries of the literary field. By writing prefaces and footnotes addressed to a foreign audience, revising texts specifically for London markets, and celebrating national particularity, provincial authors appealed to English readers with idealistic stories of cross-cultural communion. From within the messy and uneven marketplace for books, Joseph Rezek argues, provincial authors sought to exalt and purify literary exchange. In so doing, they helped shape the Romantic-era belief that literature inhabits an autonomous sphere in society.London and the Making of Provincial Literature tells an ambitious story about the mutual entanglement of the history of books and the history of aesthetics in the first three decades of the nineteenth century. Situated between local literary scenes and a distant cultural capital, enterprising provincial authors and publishers worked to maximize success in London and to burnish their reputations and build their industry at home. Examining the production of books and the circulation of material texts between London and the provincial centers of Dublin, Edinburgh, and Philadelphia, Rezek claims that the publishing vortex of London inspired a dynamic array of economic and aesthetic practices that shaped an era in literary history. Codice libro della libreria AAJ9780812247343

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Descrizione libro University of Pennsylvania Press. Hardback. Condizione libro: new. BRAND NEW, London and the Making of Provincial Literature: Aesthetics and the Transatlantic Book Trade, 1800-1850, Joseph Rezek, In the early nineteenth century, London publishers dominated the transatlantic book trade. No one felt this more keenly than authors from Ireland, Scotland, and the United States who struggled to establish their own national literary traditions while publishing in the English metropolis. Authors such as Maria Edgeworth, Sydney Owenson, Walter Scott, Washington Irving, and James Fenimore Cooper devised a range of strategies to transcend the national rivalries of the literary field. By writing prefaces and footnotes addressed to a foreign audience, revising texts specifically for London markets, and celebrating national particularity, provincial authors appealed to English readers with idealistic stories of cross-cultural communion. From within the messy and uneven marketplace for books, Joseph Rezek argues, provincial authors sought to exalt and purify literary exchange. In so doing, they helped shape the Romantic-era belief that literature inhabits an autonomous sphere in society. London and the Making of Provincial Literature tells an ambitious story about the mutual entanglement of the history of books and the history of aesthetics in the first three decades of the nineteenth century. Situated between local literary scenes and a distant cultural capital, enterprising provincial authors and publishers worked to maximize success in London and to burnish their reputations and build their industry at home. Examining the production of books and the circulation of material texts between London and the provincial centers of Dublin, Edinburgh, and Philadelphia, Rezek claims that the publishing vortex of London inspired a dynamic array of economic and aesthetic practices that shaped an era in literary history. Codice libro della libreria B9780812247343

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Descrizione libro University of Pennsylvania Press, United States, 2015. Hardback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. In the early nineteenth century, London publishers dominated the transatlantic book trade. No one felt this more keenly than authors from Ireland, Scotland, and the United States who struggled to establish their own national literary traditions while publishing in the English metropolis. Authors such as Maria Edgeworth, Sydney Owenson, Walter Scott, Washington Irving, and James Fenimore Cooper devised a range of strategies to transcend the national rivalries of the literary field. By writing prefaces and footnotes addressed to a foreign audience, revising texts specifically for London markets, and celebrating national particularity, provincial authors appealed to English readers with idealistic stories of cross-cultural communion. From within the messy and uneven marketplace for books, Joseph Rezek argues, provincial authors sought to exalt and purify literary exchange. In so doing, they helped shape the Romantic-era belief that literature inhabits an autonomous sphere in society. London and the Making of Provincial Literature tells an ambitious story about the mutual entanglement of the history of books and the history of aesthetics in the first three decades of the nineteenth century. Situated between local literary scenes and a distant cultural capital, enterprising provincial authors and publishers worked to maximize success in London and to burnish their reputations and build their industry at home. Examining the production of books and the circulation of material texts between London and the provincial centers of Dublin, Edinburgh, and Philadelphia, Rezek claims that the publishing vortex of London inspired a dynamic array of economic and aesthetic practices that shaped an era in literary history. Codice libro della libreria BTE9780812247343

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