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Authors unformed: reading "beauties" in the eighteenth century.

AVAILABLE IN A RANGE OF FORMATS, from palm-sized octodecimos to octavos, compilations of exemplary "beauties" in prose or verse made ideal gift books in the eighteenth century; each volume was an edificatory vade mecum and together they formed an affordable library of compact classics. The Beauties of Shakespeare, first edited by the Reverend William Dodd in 1752, ran to thirty-nine editions by 1893, and volumes of Laurence Sterne and Samuel Johnson in different series were especial favorites throughout the Anglophone world over many decades. (1) After Dodd, the London-based bookseller George Kearsley capitalized on the demand for such collections. He began with the largely unsuccessful The Beauties of Biography (1777) and moved onto new selections of Shakespeare around 1780, various bestselling editions of Johnson and Swift, among others, and finally Pope in 1783 (with further remolding throughout the 1790s). Through a close examination of the material conditions of these collections in this essay, I hope to illuminate certain anxieties surrounding authorship and readership that lay buried within a larger history of the role of the anthology in the dissemination of vernacular literature. Recent scholarship has substantially advanced our understanding of the privileged role of the reader in the shaping of normative English canons in the eighteenth century. As a rejoinder, the present study explores the shifting figuration, and disfiguration, of the author amid what was perceived to be a fraught capital exchange between the purveyors and consumers of literary value in print. (2) In attending to literary biography and textual appropriation more particularly, this essay offers a cross-genre corollary to Barbara M. Benedict's indispensable treatment of multiple authorship and communality in anthologies and miscellanies. (3)

Beauties collections emerged from longstanding anthological genres, principally the miscellany, even though Benedict has drawn a clear line between them: "Whereas miscellanies advertise light, humorous, and flesh works, Beauties promise quality: the best pieces by the best authors. Miscellanies boast of their novelty; Beauties vend the vetted and the venerable." (4) These are logical and, for the most part, highly useful distinctions. To be sure, many eminent figures, both ancient and modern, front their own monument-like volumes. In no small way this lends credence to the scholarly truism that as print culture expanded authors became increasingly visible proprietors of their own corpora, in name at least, even if booksellers retained their copyrights? However, the Beauties format has never been limited to canonical, popular, or otherwise salable writers, or even to imaginative works. Aside from fine literature, themes range from the voyages of Captain Cook to the political speeches of Burke, and also include the Bible, music, numismatics, biography, topography, art, and even botany. Evidently such selections were geared towards the demands of an ever-expanding readership eager for a broad range of materials that fortified private pleasure with a polite education. Readers, not authors, were the chief clients of what is outwardly an author-focused format. "The author has virtually disappeared from the presentation of his texts," as Benedict notes of the late-eighteenth-century miscellany more generally; "the reader now 'takes' the text as he wills where once he took it as the author's lesson." (6) Readers will often look into, "and be tempted to go on" Dr. Johnson said of The Beauties of Watts, when they otherwise "would have been frightened at books of a larger size and of a more erudite appearance." (7) In their modernist-era critique of anthologies, Laura Riding and Robert Graves dismissed Beauties, over-earnestly, as "nothing more ambitious than introductions to the complete works of the poets they included." (8)

Broadly speaking, Beauties are not merely containers of what Riding and Graves call "star passages" for their own sake but, as I wish to stress, are rather repositories of worthy lives and works that conformed to the dominant Horation principle of utile dulci and from which readers were expected to draw a moral example? Even as she praises Shakespeare as the nation's leading poet in The Morality of Shakespeare's Drama Illustrated (1775), Elizabeth Griffith cuts up and distills the plays into sermons, scene by scene, for the readers' personal edification. In terms of textual ownership at least, authors did not matter; they were totems of exemplary aphorisms, the figureheads of one-man compendia. Often printed without contextual information, even so cursory a tag as the title of the work from which it is taken, the literary text is habitually reduced to--or, better, reformed as--a treasured maxim. Reviewers seized on this outward apathy towards authorial reputation and positioned themselves accordingly as the guard of literature and, by extension, of the most eminent figures. By 1794, the Monthly Review complained that "almost every classical writer in the English language" had been subjected to mutilation in the Beauties format and that "the man of genius" had become "like some aged oak, obscured and deformed by the ivy, the mistletoe, or other parasitical plants, which lives and preys on it." (10) At the very least the articulation of the reviewer's complaint indicates that there were manifest concerns about the sanctity of the author's constitutive role in the formation of a time-honored literary heritage. This view of canonization is, as I wish to demonstrate, at odds with the drive underlying Beauties: far from consecrating the author's status the compilers mold him for present-day consumption. Paradoxically this gives the author new life as it presupposes that he might be reformatted again in new volumes, as was indeed the case for many.

In their own right Beauties fall into two camps: mono-author selections, such as The Beauties of Homer (1775), and the miscellaneous, such as A General Key to the Writings of the Poets of the Last Age (1723), which displays not only "Beauties and Excellencies," but also "Blunders, Expos'd and Ridicul'd." In the second group we find the vestiges of a dominant strand of neoclassical aesthetics: the "beauties and faults" model of literary criticism as an act of objective judgment of taste, as practiced most notably by Joseph Addison and Lord Kames. (11) And the individuated beauties of authors had long been incorporated into larger editions of collected works, most commonly with Shakespeare, and into critical editions of single texts, such as The Beauties of Dr. Young's Night-Thoughts (1769) and The Pilgrim's Progress ... A Critique on Its Beauties (1796). Indeed, the corollary of a collection of "beauties" is one of "deformities." But aside from The Deformities of Dr. Samuel Johnson (1782), which, properly speaking, is not an anthology but rather a personal essay, and The Deformities of Fox and Burke (1784), few entries fill this category. Some Deformities masquerade as Beauties, as in the case of The Beauties of the Edinburgh Review, alias the Stinkpot of Literature (1807), but such examples are the exceptions that prove the rule: these selections imitate the mechanics of fault-finding criticism by virtue of their cannibalization of the works of others yet do not substantially engage in the process. Whereas in The Art of English Poetry (1702) Edward Bysshe, as a literary critic, felt compelled to include pieces that may offend readers with "the Looseness of some of the Thoughts," the compilers of Beauties routinely deleted so-called obscenities expressly for the comfort of readers seeking chastened sententia rather than a lesson in balanced judgment. (12) Some noteworthy collections, to be sure, were expressly engaged in the public act of criticism and hence the policing of the canon. Unlike the majority of such publications, Oliver Goldsmith's Beauties of English Poesy (1767) includes brief introductory headnotes in which he stresses the beauties and faults of the inclusions on narrowly aesthetic grounds. The Rape of the Lock is "perhaps, the most perfect in our language"; The Shepherd's Week attains the "true spirit of pastoral poetry," even if Gay is guilty of using "obsolete antiquity for the manner of expressing it"; Parnell's choice of eight-syllable lines in "A Night-Piece on Death" is, to Goldsmith's mind, "very improper for the solemnity of the subject." (13)

Eighteenth-century Beauties mimicked the canon-forming strategies employed in the major anthologies of the day, most notably in compartmentalizing texts clearly in the style of Dodsley's Collection of Poems (1748-58), and conjoining lives and works, after the seminal projects in Edinburgh (Bell's Poets of Great Britain) and in London (Johnson's prefaces for The Works of the Poets). But, equally, they take on the appearance of the books produced for the benefits of aspiring writers or impressionable young readers. For instance, some selections--most obviously The Beauties of Pope (1783)--revisit the commonplace-book tradition popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as exemplified by Belvedere, or the Garden of the Muses and England's Parnassus (both 1600) and Joshua Poole's English Parnassus (1657). Within these collections topics are alphabetized so that one might look up exemplary words by Shakespeare among others on "Abstinence," 'Affection," "Ambition," and the like. The purpose of this design is, Margreta De Grazia asserts, "to assist readers in their own speaking and writing rather than to preserve the best lines from the best authors." (14) As the entries often lack names, and even clear spaces between them, the writers and the works themselves converge together. A schism exists, then, between how Beauties are produced and how they might be used. Such books are compiled author-centrically, whether in a stand-alone edition or in a group collection, which means that they comprise abridgments of works attributed to established figures. However, readers might wish to look up a variety of topics--love, marriage, or sentiment--in the works of Shakespeare or Pope alone, and thereby build up a piecemeal knowledge of a noteworthy literary figure. Or the reader might read up on hope or death across his or her library in comparative disregard for the status of the authors involved. To rove from topic to topic in this new way, "as the bee does from the blue bottle to the daisy," one reviewer lamented, will lead to degenerative reading habits. (15) Certainly it signaled a backlash against what Neil Rhodes, in his account of the wide influence of Seneca's Epistle 84 on Renaissance aesthetics, characterizes as "the anthologist as honey-producing bee." (16) And not only would readers suffer in this purview; another article expresses indignation at the effects such publications have on eminent authors, namely a mutilation of their corpora, as in the "mangled limbs" of that "tender and affecting bard" Goldsmith. (17) Here the author and his works are conflated; together they are deformed by the vagaries of modern booksellers. Such attacks on the material conditions of print culture betray an anxiety about a perceived denigration of authorship within the increasing commodification of literature.

Intermediaries between the reading public (particularly the young) and a marketplace already brimming over with print, booksellers adapted much of the material from their own publications or heavily bowdlerized the authoritative collections of works already available. Many selections of beauties present texts in forms the compilers deem fit for everyday use rather than in slavish fidelity to the authoritative corpora. Even though Samuel Derrick places his faith in "our most celebrated writers" in A Poetical Dictionary (1761), equally his express intention is to avoid "every quotation that favors in the least of obscenity, immorality, or vice." (18) (In a sense he vets materials already vetted in the larger collections of works). The Beauties of English Prose (1772), similarly, does not embrace the fuller images of the authors--warts and all--but, rather, seeks to "cultivate the Mind, and promote the Practice of Virtue." (19) In The English Parnassus (1789), the Reverend John Adams proclaims that "nothing is admitted, which has not a tendency, either to improve the taste of the young Reader, or to inspire sentiments of wisdom, virtue, and benevolence." (20) Literature is not captured in its essential beauty in this schema so much as it is packaged for private consumption; it is a rich body of textual capital molded and fought over by critics and booksellers.

As Thomas F. Bonnell has argued, such collections unsettle our assumptions about midcentury attitudes to the pedagogical value of the "old canon" (to adopt William St Clair's phrase) in the wake of the relaxation of copyright restrictions. Before 1774, St Clair argues, "the London publishers reissued the works of Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Swift, Dryden, Pope, Prior, Thomson, Young, and some others, at intervals, but the great majority of the older poets were never reprinted." (21) Adams's English Parnassus comprises Young, Thomson, and Cowper, but also a host of other poets, including five women. (In short it has a clear bias towards the moderns.) "Thus, depending on how one interprets Adams's design," retorts Bonnell, "his anthology unsettles St Clair's argument in one of two ways: an editor who wanted to advance piety needed either to ignore the traditional canon, since so much of it was ill suited to that end, or to let in other voices that better served the desired ideology (in the name of 'the latest and most celebrated poets'), thereby altering the canon beyond recognition." (22) This is a compelling rejoinder, not least of all in its insinuation that booksellers were affected more by practical concerns than by a reverence for a nascent literary pantheon. But it still presupposes that the compilers had an ideological investment in the abstract notion of canonicity, as a critical guardian might, simply because they marshaled the ongoing formation of a modern canon in print.

And so I wish to pursue a third consideration: the interest of the editor of this collection, and compilers of Beauties as a rule, lies in culling useful texts--biographies, works, and scholarship--from established or otherwise readily available sources for the consumption of an eager reading public. Print culture attends to the demands of the living (readers) over the merits of the dead (authors); various catalogues of private libraries that flourished after the Restoration, and unpublished commonplace books, were newly laid bare. The excerpted texts in Beauties collections are typically arranged under headings, alphabetically, for convenience. They are at once catalogue and content, index and item, snippets from larger works to which the reader may not have access. Lives and literature become exchangeable rather than rigidly sanctified, transhistorical properties. Indeed, the selections are often explicitly referred to as "Treasuries of Wit and Genius," which thereby establishes a kinship with the new literary magazines in which reviewers isolated from long poems for quotation what they routinely termed "beauties." These extracts were almost immediately recycled in such publications as The Beauties of All the Magazines (1762) and The Beauties of the Magazines, and Other Periodicals (1772). The process was mutual: to take a notable example, The Beauties of Johnson was excerpted in the Morning Herald, the Westminster Magazine, and elsewhere. This storehousing of knowledge gestures towards the curatorial function of anthologies and miscellanies, but, in effect, Beauties obscure rather than venerate the author qua author precisely because they are not straightforwardly abridgements of established classics but, rather, useable maxims lifted from a range of contrasting sources, whether authoritative editions or bowdlerized biographies, perishable magazines or larger anthologies. Authors are deformed only insofar as they are formed--and reformed--in a new format.


The largest series of mono-author Beauties in the eighteenth century came from the printing presses of George Kearsley. A thorough investigation of this series, particularly the volumes of Shakespeare, Johnson, Sterne, Swift, and Pope, offers a salutary demonstration of the extent to which Beauties could reboot not only the authoritative lives and works of authors available but also other genres. In the early 1780s, Kearsley quickly seized on the bankable qualities of the format and produced scores of selections, which together formed, in his repeated boast, "the most complete library in the English language." (23) He advertised the series widely throughout the periodical press and a targeted range of his publications aimed at the young, such as The Art of Pleasing (1783), in which the late Earl of Chesterfield instructs his son in the way of manners. As a bookseller with a vested interest in the numerous genres traversed by the Beauties mode, Kearsley had ready access to much of the material needed in his editions. This knowledge also allowed him to maintain a flexible model; in studying its development we might gain some insights into the cut and thrust of print culture in the late eighteenth century, a world in which the national literary pantheon was largely shaped by a market that held far less interest in the abstract notion of canonicity than we might assume. Although well-established figures like Shakespeare and Sterne featured prominently in Kearsley's series, Dryden and Spenser were conspicuously absent, Milton had to share the page with two other poets (Thomson and Young), and the announced editions of the Triumvirate of Wit (Jonson, Beaumont, and Fletcher) never came. Clearly Kearsley is attentive to what he perceives to be the demands of the market, particularly those of "chaste" young readers, in terms of what was already available, what was selling well, and what would most readily fit his pocket volumes. He had the most success not with the "old canon" but with a living author of much repute and whose works, reducible to maxims in the cynical style of Francois VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, were the most suited to the format: Samuel Johnson. In turn, the Monthly Review praised The Beauties of Johnson for maintaining the subject's accredited image as a leading modern-day moralist. (24) Goldsmith's works were similarly presented as "moral and sentimental" treasures; Sterne's were attuned to the faddish but ever-popular "Heart of Sensibility." This narrowing of focus, needless to add, entailed the flattening out of literary personae: Goldsmith's Lien Chi and Dr. Primrose and Johnson's Rambler and Idler, among others, evaporated under the name of the authors.

Of all of the volumes in Kearsley's series The Beauties of Goldsmith is the most ornate, perhaps appropriately enough considering the author had died as recently as 1774. In addition to an engraved head (which became a standard feature), this volume includes a slightly expanded Life subjoined with dedicatory verses from friends. In the purview of the Beauties format it was unusual insofar as it openly monumentalized the subject. This strategy backfired. "In general an unequal writer, an obscure, or an indecent one," proclaims the Monthly Review, "deserves to be sent into the world in this mutilated state, and the Editors ought to blot what the Author himself should have omitted." They continue: "but the decent and gentle Goldsmith, whose language 'angels might have heard, and virgins told" deserves a better fate." (25) Not surprisingly, Goldsmith, as with Milton (and Thomson and Young), received far fewer editions and reissues than Johnson and Sterne: the former were anomalous, even awkward, figures in the series. Other authors were considered worthy inclusions but needed to be cleansed of their faults. As the numerous advertisements make explicit, The Beauties of Sterne were printed with "every loose expression ... carefully omitted" Duly altered the works could now satisfy "the chaste lovers of literature" In place of the obscene Tristram Shandy and Sentimental Journey, we have a fully sanitized, alphabetized handbook of Sterne's sentiments on such topics as beauty, charity, and forgiveness. No brothels, adultery, nakedness, bawdy language, or even Tom Jones's many escapades, are to be found in The Beauties of Fielding. The Beauties of Swift was well received in the European Magazine for November 1782: "The Dean's writings, like Sterne's, stood very much in need of the literary pruning knife, to render them fit for the amusement and instruction of chastity"--which, to the reviewer's delight, had been fully actualized by the editor. (26)

As well as traversing other book formats, Kearsley's scheme is more directly a slight variation on the pattern established in a particularly popular collection of The Beauties of the Poets compiled by the Reverend Thomas Janes and published in Bristol by William Pine in 1773 and in London in 1777, throughout the 1780s, 1790s, and intermittently throughout the early nineteenth century. It contains, inter alia, snippets from the religious works of Milton, Daniel, Thomson, Collins, Watts, and Young, and also choice cuts from secular poems, such as Pope's "Epistle IV" from An Essay on Man, which is glibly retitled "Virtue alone affords true happiness": "What nothing earthly gives, or can destroy, / The soul's calm sun-shine, and the heart-felt joy, / Is virtue's prize!"

In the title of Janes's collection emphasis is placed on "moral and sacred poetry, from the most eminent authors," which, in Kearsley's hands, becomes "useful knowledge, and rational entertainment": the supreme, deistic authority of the poets gives ways to the Horation needs of polite readers. (27) To put it another way, in both cases the moral worth of the authors is valued above all else but the editors' rhetoric has palpably shifted from the author-centric to the reader-focused. Kearsley gathered a team of compilers who were adept at parroting the established works of others, and yet his series soon departed from the prominent models on the market: the piety of Janes, the comparatively fussy textual scholarship of Dodd, and the aesthetic handbooks of Bysshe and others. The chief compiler ('W. H.') has been identified as William Cooke, the author of a now-taboo biography of Johnson in 1785, or as William Holland, later a publisher of satirical prints. (28) Either way, due to the differing input of "W. H.," "A. E" and other compilers, it would be erroneous to identify a consistent hand in the series, even if Kearsley's direction (and his "GK" stamp) is increasingly visible throughout, certainly in the editions published under his imprint alone, up until his death in 1790. His blueprint is straightforward: most volumes comprise 200-odd pages in duodecimo and include a brief Life taken largely from authoritative sources, such as the Biographia Britannica in The Beauties of Pope--or even what were misjudged to be authoritative sources, such as Richard Glover's biography of his friend Goldsmith and a heavily tailored version of Arthur Murphy's quirky and highly digressive essay on Fielding. (29) Within the Beauties collections the brief Life makes explicit the moral character of the author, which is corroborated by snippets excerpted from the works in the shape of quotable maxims or digestible poems. Increasingly in this series authors become more prominent under their own name: citations are added to the contents, and from mid-1782 onwards engraved heads by Thomas Trotter front the volumes. But the effect on the reputation of the authors is a by-product of the bookseller's reliance on the established sources available. The title pages, heads, and other visual dressing aside, the substance of the preliminary matter--the dedications, prefatory essays, contents pages--pointedly undermine the works as properties of authorial genius, most notably in The Beauties of Swirl, as we shall see.

Kearsley's first contribution to the Beauties genre under his own imprint was The Beauties of Biography (1777). This collection was an unmitigated disaster, not least of all because it failed to meet its professed aims. "Biography is perhaps the most entertaining, and at the same improving study of all others," the compiler claims, and "is peculiarly adapted to the Young Mind." (30) By implication the compiler has selected lives that would most benefit these readers but, in short, The Beauties of Biography overreached itself: ranging across Britain, France, Italy, and other European countries, it claimed to exhibit in two small volumes the exemplary lives of not just poets but also historians, philosophers, divines, soldiers, and politicians. Reviewers were displeased: "we have little to say in favour of the present work," writes The Monthly Review, "for we cannot but be of [the] opinion that the pages which are filled up with the gallantries of Rochester, and with trifling anecdotes of theatrical characters, might have been enriched with materials much better 'adapted to the instruction of youth of both sexes.'" (31) Entries were culled for convenience rather than for their adherence to clearly defined pedagogical or literary criteria. The multivolume Biographia Britannica and Bayle's Dictionary proved to be entirely inappropriate sources for a work on this scale and with this scope.

Unperturbed, Kearsley revisited the mono-author model established by William Dodd's midcentury Beauties of Shakespear and found some moderate success with his own Shakespeare selection in the early 1780s, and even more so with the first part of his Beauties of Johnson in November 1781. In less than three months he announced that three large impressions of this part had been disposed of and that it had been introduced into the principal academies and schools in and around London. Buoyed by this success, within weeks Kearsley had driven his staff to produce Beauties of Sterne, Goldsmith, Watts, Fielding, Swift, Pope, Blair, Bolingbroke and Hume, and Milton, Thomson, and Young.

So great was the new vogue that the Ladies' Magazine, which had been issuing a series of miscellaneous collections under the title of Specimens of British Literature, altered the title to read: A Supplement to the Beauties of Johnson: or, Specimens of British Literature. Rival printing presses released their own Beauties in 1782, most notably of James Harvey and Charles Churchill, two relatively saleable figures in the period. J. Cook attempted to hijack the enterprise even more directly. In November 1782, he published in two pocket volumes The Flowers of Literature: or, treasury of wit and genius. Like Kearsley he presented it as a container of the "essence of the Beauties of Johnson, Swift, Fielding, Pope, Goldsmith, Hervey, Sterne, Watts, &c" Of this publication the London Magazine wrote: "This vile catch-penny is a most crude and ill-sorted selection from the beauties of various authors, published by Kearsley." (32) It is not clear where the insult lies for the reviewer: whether this edition is a pale imitation of a legitimate anthological genre or whether it in fact exasperates an inherently parasitical form. The reviewer continues: "We sincerely wish and trust every such invasion of literary property may be punished with that contempt and neglect which it so richly deserves" Is the reviewer mistakenly crediting Kearsley as the "inventor" of this genre, or is the reviewer referring to the original author of the contents, contents which have been wrenched from context and reprinted? In either case, in Kearsley's hands the by-then widely circulated Beauties form had gained fuller attention, albeit at the expense of the authors they outwardly celebrated, or at least at the expense of the unwieldy notion of authorial proprietorship.


Although The Beauties of Shakespear (1752)--revised by Dodd for the final time in the 1770s (and published in 1780)--would seem to be the obvious blueprint for Kearsley's selection, the matter more closely resembles Charles Gildon's "Shakespeariana" affixed to The Complete Art of Poetry (1718), in its allotment into "Select Moral Reflections" ("Hope" "Virtue must be seen" &c.). Dodd culled what he considered the striking passages in the order in which they occur in the plays, whereas Gildon and Kearsley's compiler arranged passages under alphabetical heads. Kearsley also turns against Dodd's model because the latter is overly concerned with elevating the author at the expense of the reader. Veering into pedantry at times, Dodd attempts to capture Shakespeare's "boundless fire" as accurately as possible, which entails a virulent attack on the modern "tribe of emending critics" who "explain by altering." (33) Dodd goes on to say that he has "never failed to lament, that [Shakespeare's] BEAUTIES should be so obscur'd, and that he himself should be made a kind of stage for bungling critics to shew their clumsy activity upon." Reserving muffled praise for Theobald's text, he ridicules the editors who have "not so much labour'd to elucidate their author, as to expose the follies of their brethren." Dodd includes numerous explanatory notes and contrastive passages from "Antient and Modern Authors" and even contextual tags for his entries, such as "Love describ'd" and "The different sorts of Melancholy" in As You Like It. But the word of Shakespeare is left alone because, he writes, "the text of an author is a sacred thing; 'tis dangerous to meddle with it, nor should it ever be done, but in the most desperate cases." (34)

Dodd's criteria for selecting the beauties, moreover, revolved around the author's sublime quirks rather than the reader's practical needs. He writes: "some passages [are] introduced merely on account of their peculiarity, which to some, possibly, will appear neither sublime nor beautiful, and yet deserve attention ... Others are inserted on account of the quotation in the note from some other author, to shew, how fine reflections have been built on a trifling hint of our poet's." The watchword is one of curiosity rather than usefulness. Dodd and Kearsley also disagree on how collections of beauties ought to be read. Dodd expects readers to read the book cover to cover at leisure and to freely "turn over the page" until they "find something acceptable and engaging." (35) It is, then, a condensed version of Shakespeare's canon as validated by authoritative textual scholars. In the Kearsley model, by contrast, the reader would choose a topic, such as marriage or virtue, and find under such heads passages that illustrate the topic. Although both are mono-authorial in appearance, only Dodd's selection is truly author-centric. Kearsley's is driven by themes.

The authoritative editions of Shakespeare immediately absorbed Dodd's Beauties: The Works of Shakespeare, reprinted periodically from 1753 to 1795 and featuring eight volumes "In which the beauties observed by Pope, Warburton, and Dodd, are pointed out." The vestiges of a neoclassical treatment of "beauties" and "faults" remained. By contrast, Kearsley's Beauties of Shakespeare distances itself from the accreted scholarly context and explicitly from Dodd's selection, as the latter "appears to have been intended chiefly as a vehicle, to display the Compiler's reading, and critical talents" whereas Kearsley "has no higher aims than a selection, useful for reference to the learned, for instruction to the ignorant, and for information to all." Unlike the early versions of Dodd's Beauties, Kearsley's contains a prefatory biography. This gives a concise account of the Bard's particulars--his birth, education, family--and makes use of the authoritative eighteenth-century Shakespearians Farmer, Steevens, and Malone, and also the testimonies of Ben Jonson and Edward Young. But the Life is not included as a means of celebrating Shakespeare, or even of validating his position in the upper echelons of the British canon. Rather, it is a pedagogical tool designed for the "instructors of both sexes." Indeed, Kearsley's compiler chooses beauties not for their own intrinsic value but for their contribution to a useful repository: "in the whole circle of English literature, no author afforded so many, and such various observations on life and manners--so much, and such useful knowledge of the human heart." (36) Aesthetic beauty is not moralized so much as morality is aestheticized.

Shakespeare did not appear as prominently in Kearsley's series as others, judging by the advertisements, but nonetheless the selection ran to a handful of expanded editions in 1784 and throughout the 1790s. Despite appearances, the 1784 issue (the third edition) is markedly different from the 1783 one. Nominally expanded and improved, the 1784 issue in fact trims many of the examples under the alphabetized heads. 'Admiration," for instance, is afforded quotations from both The Tempest and Coriolanus in 1783 and merely the latter in 1784. In 1784, new sections are added, such as 'Allegiance" while some are removed. The overly specific sections "Advice to a son" "To a daughter" and "Advice to girls" are reduced to "Advice to girls" Whereas readers of the 1783 version have a contents list of topics to guide them, readers of the 1784 text have an index at the back which places the headings under the plays themselves. This latter innovation means users can browse the selection in one of two ways interchangeably: as a condensed introduction to the essential beauties of a play by Shakespeare or as a manual of subjects illustrated by the works of Shakespeare. The decision to make numerous improvements to this selection was perhaps borne out of contemporary reviews which, though positive, seem to have misinterpreted the chief aim of the series. Kearsley's approach, according to the Monthly Review, is not as extensive as Dodd's, but it is "more useful to those who wish to see how Shakespeare hath expressed himself on various subjects which relate to the passions and pursuits of men, and the events of human life." (37) The reviewer views the selection as an ample illustration of the Bard, who presumably would be passively venerated by the reader. Kearsley instead wanted his customers to make use of Shakespeare in their own way.

Buoyed by the success of The Beauties of Shakespeare, Kearsley announced at the back of the 1784 edition, in his characteristic manner, that "Speedily will be published" The Beauties of the English Stage as well as collections of Beaumont and Fletcher, and Ben Jonson and Massinger. No doubt those authors would have been popular choices. But the collections never appeared. (Multivolume collections of The Beauties of the English Stage were issued by a London based consortium in 1737 and 1756.) There are many possible reasons for their absence in Kearsley's series: the printer had perhaps overextended himself, found the material difficult to compile, or, as I would conjecture, decided that the volumes would be too authorcentric and without any applicable value for his juvenile readers. After all, the editions could contain only "a selection of the principal scenes from those several authors" rather than maxims.


Since its first publication in late 1781, The Beauties of Johnson, by contrast, proved to be an ongoing hit for Kearsley. A. T. Hazen has usefully outlined the complex print history of the collection, which ran to nine separate editions plus additional parts, even if many of the printings were ushered into the marketplace under the misleading suggestion that they were largely new pieces. Part II, which was later absorbed into an all-in-one volume of Beauties, seems to have been printed only once and was not re-set. However, Hazen exaggerates when he asserts that Kearsley "issued new editions of which the only new parts were the title-pages." (38) It is more accurate to say that he freely moved sheets around and altered them only in certain places. Hazen also mistakenly dismisses the second and fifth editions as mere reprints. The second edition, printed within a month of the first, is, as indicated in the title, "Enlarged and corrected, and the references added)' These added references indicate from which works the maxims are taken, and the text is reduced in size to accommodate them. It must have been substantially re-set.

The first edition comprises subjects from A to Y, from "Affectation" to "Youth" taking up anywhere from three lines to three pages. At this stage of production the segments lack references, and so uninformed readers might have been unaware that they are taken chiefly from Johnson's novella Rasselas, his Lives of the Poets, Idler, and the Rambler. The Beauties of Johnson, in this version, is not so much an introduction to the separate works in the author's oeuvre as it is a vast repository of maxims that lacks any formal distinction. The seven-page preface nevertheless offers a justification of the collection's publication that precisely centers on the reader's needs for a digestible overview of the works: "It may be objected, that as most people are in the possession of Dr. Johnson's works, that a selection from them may not be altogether so necessary. But ... very few are in the possession of the whole of his works." (39) This is curious logic: a selection equals the whole. Indeed, the second edition, published in December 1781, ends with an urgent notice: "In the Press, and speedily will be published, a Second Volume of The Beauties of Johnson, with the references: Which will form a complete Selection from the Whole of Dr. Johnson's Works." Kearsley seems to be revisiting the fatal flaw of his Beauties of Biography: rather than position The Beauties of Johnson as an introduction to the author's vast works he claims to be offering "a complete Selection." If Kearsley was truly attentive to the author's reputation he would not try to undercut the authoritative collected works which, issued in multiple volumes, was far more comprehensive and contained careful critical sanctions. By cramming in so many of Johnson's works, in diluted excerpts, clearly Kearsley is devoting his attention to the readers' interests in a broad education at the cheapest price over a prettification of the author. By the fifth edition Kearsley claims the selection is now complete, as indicated in this prefatory advertisement: "These are the last improvements the Editor can possibly make." The wording is unusual as it implies that the once-humble compiler has become a participant in the critical treatment of the author rather than an anthologist merely seeking to provide worthy maxims for schoolchildren. But, it must be noted, this editing coheres narrowly in the act of gathering materials as opposed to exegesis or even the textual criticism exhibited in Dodd's collections. And even this claim of completeness was contingent upon the demands of the market as a sixth edition--which is largely a reprint--and three further issues followed in quick succession.

The compiler of The Beauties of Johnson made use of the standard publications of Johnson's major works; but for the biographical prefaces, he used (as his page references indicate) the Miscellaneous and Fugitive Pieces published by Thomas Davies in 1773-74. The Davies edition, it is worth pointing out, is the source used in a 1785 Life of Samuel Johnson published by Kearsley. In a letter addressed to Thomas Percy that year Michael Lort identifies William Cooke as the author of this notorious Life published, so Lort claims with some exaggeration, "a day after [Johnson] expired"; it was in fact two weeks, and the biography is largely a plagiarism of the entry in the 1782 Biographia Dramatica newly augmented with a letter taken from the 1780 sentimental novel Love and Madness (also published by Kearsley). (40) Approximately two-thirds of the "Memoirs" in the 1781 Beauties (twelve paragraphs out of eighteen) were incorporated directly into Cooke's Life of Samuel Johnson. Almost all the rest was unusable: for instance, a new introduction and conclusion were needed after the death of Johnson in 1784. The Beauties of Johnson (in multiple editions) played a part in Johnson's early reception, even if only in further circulating the materials in a piratical form. Indeed, the first half of Cooke's 214-page Life is padded with pieces from the periodical press, chiefly the Gentleman's Magazine, and Johnson's own Lives of the Poets series. The remaining 100-odd pages comprises bon-mots and recorded conversations running together with no order or narrative structure; an incomplete and error-ridden "Catalogue of Dr. Johnson's Works"; and a lengthy section of materials on the popular convict (and editor of The Beauties of Shakespear) Dr. Dodd, including his Will, an autobiographical account, and his correspondence with his sister and with Johnson. And Kearsley, of course, had been the publisher of Johnsoniana (1776, 1777). Such sources were curios at best; from the point of view of serious scholarship they were virtually incomprehensible. Cobbled together from a mishmash of materials, the overriding theme of Cooke's account is the "exemplary life" of the author, and as such it befits Kearsley's series. In the seventh edition of The Beauties o f Johnson (1786-87), nonetheless, the prefatory "Memoirs" is substantially augmented with anecdotes from Piozzi, Boswell, and other "authorities" Ironically, the new "Memoirs" moves away from Kearsley's initial model, namely a brief twelve-page account of the moral worth of the author followed by large-font entries alphabetically arranged. Now the sixty-odd-page "Memoirs" emphasizes the peculiarities of the man rather than the significance of his words. And now the entries from Johnson's works are compressed into an unflatteringly small font. This is extended further in the enlarged eighth edition of 1792, which is augmented with large entries from Boswell's recent Life of Johnson; and further still in the ninth edition of 1797. In short, The Beauties of Johnson followed current trends in Johnson studies too closely and moved away from its model as a pedagogical guide for young readers. It did so because it relied on texts that were conveniently placed, especially, as in the case of Cooke's Life, texts already printed, and to be printed, by Kearsley.

As with Johnson, Laurence Sterne's works lent themselves readily to Kearsley's format. Equally they were widely available in authoritative editions and so were freely anthologized and bowdlerized. The Beauties of Sterne first appeared in 1782, issued not by Kearsley alone but a conger of booksellers; under Kearsley's imprint it had reached a seventh edition within a year and a twelfth by 1793. "Selected for the Heart of Sensibility" and purported to contain all of Sterne's "Pathetic Tales, and Most Distinguished Observations on Life" the compiler provides a narrow introduction to the author noticeably devoid of his bawdy humor. As a result, the Sentimental Journey, which comprises a great deal of "sentiments" and "pathetic passages" gained a higher billing than the boisterous Tristram Shandy. Alan B. Howes argues that "the overall effect of this anthology was to suggest that Sterne's works were valuable not as artistic wholes but only for particular highlights." (41) While the effect is true, this is unduly author-centric. Unlike the editors of the authoritative works, the compilers did not feel an obligation to the author but rather to the reader. As a case in point, The Works of Laurence Sterne (1780), printed in ten volumes by a consortium that included Kearsley, boldly asserts on Sterne's behalf that "Time, which allots to each author his due portion of fame, and admits a free discussion of his beauties and faults, without favour and partiality, hath done ample justice to the superior genius of Mr. Sterne." (42) "W. H.," the compiler of the first edition of The Beauties of Sterne, by contrast, departs from the balanced, authorcentric approach: "The chaste part of the world complained so loudly of the obscenity which taints the writings of Sterne, (and, indeed, with some reason), that those readers under their immediate inspection were not suffered to penetrate beyond the title-page of his Tristram Shandy." (43) The author needed to be dissected, not embalmed, so that readers might make use of his corpus in the short term. This is not to suggest that the collection denigrated Sterne under the dubious banner of moralistic improvement. On the contrary, Sterne is unique in the series: the new issues of the Beauties pay increasing homage to his standing as a modern classic. The third edition is largely the same as the first, and contains the same preface, but now has over forty pages of new matter and "a well engraved likeness of such an illustrious promoter of virtue, humanity, and that rapturous amusement that is ever entertaining and ever new." (44) By the fourth edition the compiler adds a prefatory biography--"The Life of Mr. Sterne ... Written by Himself" that features in the Works--and various epitaphs and extensive encomia. By the tenth edition this material had been expanded further still.

The tenth edition, compiled by "A. E" signals a marked change in the attitude towards Sterne's humorous works in response to the demands of readers: "It has been a matter of much general complaint, that the selection hitherto made were of rather too confined a cast,--and that, contrary to the original, the utile and dulce, were not sufficiently blended, or in equal quantities. That as the work was intended both from the recreation of our riper years, and the improvement of the more juvenile mind, it dragg'd on rather too serious a system of grave morality, unmix'd with those sprightlier sallies of fancy, which the great Original knew so judiciously and equally to scatter in our way." (45) The new pieces, which include "Mr. Shandy's Beds of Justice," "Dr. Slop and Susannah," "Parson Yorick's Horse," among others, cohere to form a more balanced introduction to the broader oeuvre of one of the most conspicuous literary figures of the time. The move comes, I wish to stress, from an acknowledged duty to the reader and not necessarily out of an alteration to Kearsley's disregard for authorial canons. That is to say, the production was dictated by the readers' interests rather than the editors' reverence for the subject. It proved to be a palpable success: scores of The Beauties of Sterne based heavily on Kearsley's own were issued by different publishers throughout the nineteenth century both in the British Isles and abroad. The success was of course circular: the collection cannily cannibalized the multiple sources already on the market.


A close examination of The Beauties of Swift: or, the favourite offspring of Wit & Genius (1782) brings to light the similarly curious relationship between the collection and the broader critical context of the subject's established life and works. The prefatory biography is taken not from the two well-known accounts by John Boyle, the fifth earl of Orrery, and Patrick Delany, nor from the standard biography prefixed to the Works edited by John Hawkesworth, but from the brief account in the eighth volume of Johnson's recent Lives of the Poets and anecdotes woven from John Nichols's Swiftiana and elsewhere. Johnson himself openly concedes that his biography largely derives from the edition by his friend Hawkesworth, though equally he claims that he devised its outline. Despite its brevity, Johnson's "Life" has generated a long-standing debate as to whether, as Boswell, Hester Thrale, Percival Stockdale, and others argued, the Great Cham of literature held an "extraordinary prejudice" (in Thomas Percy's words) against the Dean. (46) Motivated or otherwise, his pronouncements on Swift are certainly marked by severe personal criticism, especially in his notorious attack on what he perceived to be depravities in Gulliver's Travels. In scholarly circles Johnson's Swift long proved controversial, and so its inclusion--over the chastened and outwardly polite accounts by Orrery and Delany--in the Beauties, an introductory collection aimed at impressionable young minds, might have seemed misjudged. (47)

Pedagogical or monumentalizing intentions aside, perhaps Johnson's text proved convenient for the compiler, "W. H.," who may or may not have been William Cooke, a marginal member of Johnson's circle. Crucially the collection itself is dedicated to Johnson, to whom "the republic of letters has more obligations [...] than any character now living." (48) Indeed, the inordinate attention afforded to Johnson amounts to a hijacking of the selection nominally invested in Swift though, as I have suggested, geared towards the moral education of young readers. Every "polished member of society," the compiler continues, "is anxious at this hour to pay that homage to your genius the Parisians paid to Voltaire's, in the last stage of his immortal career, when the myrtle honors of gratitude and affection were placed upon his brows in a crowded and exulting theatre!" W. H., like many other aspiring hacks, sought to honor Johnson as a man and a critic in his twilight years. "Your Life of Swift," W. H. continues, "challenges the applause of all his admirers," Here Johnson has been appropriated as an authoritative aide in the quest to sanitize the Swift corpus, to rid the odd "offensive flower here and there intermixed" as the compiler puts it. In addition to various omissions throughout, the compiler silently excises the opening three paragraphs of Johnson's Swift, including the self-deprecating nod to Hawkesworth that disavows his own authority. After this, the altered opening forty-odd nonconsecutive paragraphs are silently removed, plus the so-called literary-critical section (in thirty-seven paragraphs) in the final part of the "Life" that follows the phrase "When Swift is considered as an author." The nonconsecutive paragraphs largely comprise incidental or repetitive information, including the details of Sir William Temple's move to Moor Park.

By excising such paragraphs W. H. has, it must be said, improved the flow of the narrative of Johnson's text as a biography. At the same time he has downplayed Johnson's compelling treatment of Swift's literary life. It seemed to have no purpose in an introductory guide to Swift; and yet, if this is so, the use of this critical biography is all the more unusual. Further on, four consecutive paragraphs, in which Johnson discusses the merits of A Tale of a Tub, are elided. Gone also is Johnson's discussion of important works, such as the Letter to a Lady on Her Marriage, works of considerable interest to Swift's other biographers in the period. In addition, the reader has lost Johnson's comments on the reasonableness and the ineffectiveness of the various political pamphlets. W. H. omits Johnson's paragraph on Swifts Reflections on the Barrier Treaty, for instance, presumably on the grounds that it followed the design of the Conduct of the Allies, which is briefly accounted for in the revised text. But W. H. also elides Johnson's detailed account of Swift's status as a favorite of the Tory Ministry, and, in Johnson's words, the "strain of heroism" in his disinterestedness. Indeed, the editor picks up this paragraph halfway through at the line "Swift accepted (1713) the deanery of St. Patrick, the best preferment that his friends could venture to give him" The effect of this is to occlude Johnson's evenhanded attempt to highlight Swifts political sincerity, and instead concretize an image of the preferment-seeking cynic. Equally, though, Swifts scottophobic piece The Publick Spirit of the Whigs and Johnson's attendant critique of "that irritable nation" Scotland are also removed, along with some intervening paragraphs that continue on the theme of Swifts party politics. Not only have the more troublesome works, morally speaking, been cut from The Beauties of Swift, even the biographical notice from Johnson has been reduced from bold criticism to a sanitized overview; and together the life and works have migrated from the "beauties and fault" school of balanced literary criticism to a reader-focused polite education.

The alphabetized contents list runs from "Great Abilities" to "Youth of England" and also encompasses snippets on such themes as "National Debt," "False Happiness,' "Lies" and various entries on learning and knowledge. However, the edition does not follow the order of this list. The first entry is from the lengthy prose piece A Letter to a Very Young Lady, on Her Marriage and is flanked by an endorsement from Orrery that bespeaks to the assumption that Beauties are targeted at impressionable youths in need of guidance: "This letter ought to be read by all new married women" Later on in the book the compiler includes a witty snippet on "Marriage,' taken from the third volume of the Works, which can be quoted in its entirety: "The reason why so few marriages are happy, is because young ladies spend their time in making nets, not in making cages." (49) Later, the compiler includes a well-known piece of verse in toto that provides a far from flattering depiction of the wedding ceremony: "The Progress of Marriage" Sometimes, as in the section on "Hints on Good Manners" towards the end of the book, the reader learns how to behave, how to avoid unnecessary flattery, among other things. In such instances the ironic voices are unraveled and the pieces taken at face value. Others are thought provoking to the point of preaching; some are politically charged. Little outward emphasis is laid on the author's defining literary characteristics, and the works are instead re-imagined as parts of a new whole: a compendium of wit and learning intermixed with verse.

The texts included are largely taken from Swift's poems, selected, the Advertisement states, from the last complete edition of works in twenty-seven volumes. For the prose extracts the compiler made extensive use of the sermons and Swift's "Thoughts on Various Subjects" which, as with The Beauties of Johnson, conveniently followed the imitable style of Rochefoucauld. Of the thirty-eight poems used in The Beauties of Swift most are included in their entirety. And, unlike the first volumes of Beauties in Kearsley's series, the compiler gives full references to his sources. Here "Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift" even retains the footnotes that Pope had cut from the London printing in 1739. A representative sample of the Horation epistles, as well as the imitations of Ovid and Virgil, are included and preserved as discrete units of text. Many major works like "The Lady's Dressing Room" and "Corinna" (presumably "A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed") are expressly omitted on the grounds of indecency. In short, as with any prominent author--indeed, any author of a substantial corpus--as an anthology of (to use the nineteenth-century term) "elegant extracts" The Beauties of Swift is doomed to failure: due to a shortage of space it can only offer a narrow range of Swift's best works in a misrepresentative manner. It was further destabilized by its cannibalization of incompatible formats: it was all at once a condensed library of multivolume editions and a printed commonplace book, or rather a composite of anthological works, as well as pamphlets and sermons, collected not merely thematically but under the head of a recognizable if flattened authorial insignia.

Perhaps this failure accounts for the protracted delays in Kearsley's plans to pair Swift with the other leading Augustan figurehead: Alexander Pope. The Advertisement at the end of The Beauties of Fielding (July 1782) announces that the "Beauties of Pope and Swift will be published next month" But when the Swift collection appeared it contained a new advertisement that claimed that The Beauties of Pope is "in the press" and will be "published next month" In fact it did not appear until late 1782 (dated 1783). Like the collection of Sterne and unlike that of Swift, The Beauties of Pope presents the subject more clearly as a modern classic deserving of a textual monument. The prefatory Life is a much altered account based on the Biographia Britannica, where the development of his writing career is outlined in largely positive terms. Both versions revolve around Pope's personal qualities and explicitly endorse Orrery's assertion that "if we may judge him by his works, his chief aim was to be esteemed a Man of Virtue" (50) Much more so than Swift, Pope readily conformed to Kearsley's investment in the interstice between a worthy life and worthy works, as established throughout the compendious Biographia, manuals on education and manners, and elsewhere.

Moreover, the works--though fragmented--are dignified with references and the formal integrity is maintained for the most part. That said, many of the poems that are excerpted, especially An Essay on Man, are given misrepresentative titles like "Felicity, Human" ("Know then this truth [enough for Man to know])" and even needlessly vague ones such as "Woman" ("Nothing so true as what you once let fall"), and "Taste" ("Tis strange the Miser should his Cares employ"). Many are explicitly tied to the aesthetic rather than the apothegmatic. Amid Pope's vast body of works such pieces as "A Receipt to Make an Epic Poem" for example, assume a more prominent role here. Such snippets are intermixed with Pope's critical writings on pastoral poetry as well as his criticism in verse and letters. The collection includes a reasonable range of the satires and imitations and even The Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus. But there is no room for Pope's Homer. The collection as a whole reads more like a generic mixture of a rhetoricians handbook and a miscellany of Pope's "gems" and unlike a dictionary of sentiments as others in the series do, even though, in keeping with Kearsley's model, the contents list runs from "Addison" to "Woman" As a slight departure--one that lays more emphasis on the integrity of the author's ownership--the extracts are divided up into sections of the works from which they are taken, rather than by topic.

Kearsley died in 1790, but his widow, Catherine, and son, George, added new volumes and reset old ones well into the new century. Under his imprint appeared in 1796, in two volumes, a new version of the selection with an expanded title: The Beauties of Pope, or, useful and entertaining passages selected from the Works of that admired author; as well as from his translation of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, &c. The reviewers had little to say about the 1783 version and, according to the compiler of the 1796 Beauties, Kearsley had lost interest in it, despite demand from readers: "above thirteen Years ago, a single Volume, containing Selections from his original Compositions only, was offered to the Public. For some Time past, many Enquiries have been in vain made for the Book, the Edition having been long since disposed of." The new compiler's view of the Beauties form also departs markedly from the older model: he treats it as a condensed anthology of the author's works that ought to be demonstrated in their full range and not merely as a repository for moral or aesthetic lessons. "It was also found that in the Novelty of a first Attempt, many very beautiful and interesting Passages had escaped Notice, when it was too late to give them Honour due"-in particular, Pope's translations of The Iliad and The Odyssey. (51) Indeed, as with Bysshe's Art of English Poetry, the compiler's attention is turned to the "best" pieces rather than the most moralistic; and so some bawdiness creeps in, including the whole of the pissing contest from the Dunciad and a great deal of brutal combat from Homer.

Nevertheless, despite the palpable shift in focus, in both selections of The Beauties of Pope some poems are published in full, even relatively long pieces such as "Eloisa to Abelard" while others are partitioned into themes such as "Envy," "Education," "Fame," and "Free Will." As an introduction to the poet many of the excerpts are well chosen and give a strong sense of Pope's power and range in various styles, particularly the epigrammatic mode and criticism in verse. Some notable works are altered in a very peculiar way and, as such, this reveals irresolution in the movement from a consociated attempt to moralize Pope in the early selection towards a more ambitious attempt at producing an abridged collection in the third edition that prioritizes aesthetic excellence. In the 1783 Beauties, The Rape of the Lock appears in reasonable length, but in 1796 the poem is broken into two short sections of thirty-six and thirty-eight lines each entitled "Lock (rape of the)" and "Lock (its apotheosis)," as well as unmarked sections such as 'Ariel" ("Amid the circle on the gilded mast"). The Dunciad is similarly broken up into discrete sections such as "Games (the Dunciad)" as well as unmarked sections like "The Convocation" ("Next, bidding all draw near on bended knees"). By moving the selection toward a condensed version of the complete works, the compiler has made odd, even unavoidable, choices. The Beauties format under Kearsley's imprint--selective, devoid of critical context, chastened--must remain at odds with collected editions. And so, far from prioritizing the author's range over the reader's needs, the compiler is doomed to reiterate a fragmentary Pope. Just as the early Beauties of Sterne created a "sentimental" collection devoid of lewd humor, so the first Beauties of Pope molded a virtuous poet. In seeking to expand the scope of the works--by including humorous pieces and translations (and even bawdiness) respectively--the compilers actually impute a version of Pope who, along with Sterne, Swift, and Johnson, here stalks a library of complete fragments and fragmented authors.


The most popular volumes in Kearsley's series benefited from reprints in London, Dublin, and throughout the United States in the 1780s and 1790s; and his model, which favored the apothegmatic over the belletristic, itself eked out an existence long into the twentieth century. In Kearsley's hands Beauties helped to smooth the transition from early anthologies and dictionaries like Joshua Poole's English Parnassus, in which authors were largely anonymous, and such anthologies as Roach's Beauties (1793-94) through to The Golden Treasury (1861), in which authors were consecrated as members of an elite canon of poetry. Kearsley's library nonetheless could not match the success of Dodd's Beauties of Shakespear. Circulated in the form of both reprints and loosely pirated versions, this collection reappeared throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as a stand-alone volume and as a centerpiece in popular series like "Jones's Diamond Poets." Some rival series maintained the moral sanitization endorsed by Kearsley, most notably in Alfred Howard's early nineteenth-century series for Thomas Tegg. Like Kearsley, Howard used a basic blueprint, albeit one that differed markedly from his forebear. Produced in a smaller size, the volumes lack prefatory biographies in most cases, save for an autobiographical note at the back of The Beauties of Gifford (ca. 1834) and elsewhere. Many of Howard's volumes, such as The Beauties of Swift (ca. 1834), lack the contents pages used by Kearsley to guide the reader to specific topics, which suggests that the new series ought to be viewed not as a library of handbooks but as condensed selections of authorial works. Like Kearsley, Howard excerpts heavily from prose but prints a greater number of poems, both major and minor pieces, in their entirety. In spite of the reduced format, then, many of the volumes offer a larger range of the subject's individual corpus. Indeed, the new series presented a vastly expanded list of authors that incorporated prominent members of Kearsley's stable (Johnson, Sterne, Swift) and those outside, such as Hervey (reprinted in the United States throughout the 1790s), and added a host of new ones, ranging from Bacon to Burns. It now included foreign authors (Plutarch, Fenelon), politicians (Pitt, Fox), and other leading figures. In Howard's hands Beauties moved away from crude anthologies of a select band of English authors, from the often awkward conflation of sources, towards the creation of an enlarged, though equally portable, library of fine writing. Old issues remained, however: How does the compiler promote moral profit without subordinating aesthetic delight? How might one provide a rich mine of worthy life lessons without deforming the author? One solution would be to present the materials anonymously in an indiscriminate compendium of maxims; but the value of the maxims in part relied on the notional eminence of the writer, even if Beauties were principally geared toward the comfort of the reader. Indeed, the compilers largely justified their roles not as critics or biographers but as cultural mediators, attendants not to the time-honored if abstract literary canon but to the reformation of manners. Persisting with a narrow view of canonization, to put it another way, would overlook the robustness of the author figure and underestimate the material conditions of the market. Anthologies in no small way shaped the public face of the canon, especially in schools, but, as I have argued, this does not always equate with author-centrism. The vast dissemination of Dodd's Shakespeare and Kearsley's Johnson, in particular, made versions of their works accessible to a wider audience. Stripped of attributions, reduced to maxims, literary texts were remolded for present-day consumption and, as such, could be forever reformatted anew.

University of Bristol


I wish to thank Professor David Hopkins and Mr. James Smith for their invaluable suggestions.

(1) For clarity, "Beauties" refers to the format, "Beauties" to a named collection, and "beauties" to the contents. See Barbara M. Benedict, "The 'Beauties' of Literature, 1750-1820: Tasteful Prose and Fine Rhyme for Private Consumption," 1650-1850 1 (1994): 317-46, and Heather Elizabeth Larmour, "Anthologizing the Author in the Eighteenth-Century Beauties Tradition" (PhD diss., University of Liverpool, 2002).

(2) See, inter alia, Barbara M. Benedict, Making the Modern Reader: Cultural Mediation in Early Modern Literary Anthologies (Princeton U. Press, 1996), and "Literary Miscellanies: The Cultural Mediation of Fragmented Feeling," ELH 57 (1990): 407-30; Jonathan Brody Kramnick, Making the English Canon: Print-Capitalism and the Cultural Past, 1700-1770 (Cambridge U. Press, 1998); William St Clair, The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period (Cambridge U. Press, 2004). See also Clifford Siskin, The Work of Writing: Literature and Social Change in Britain, 1700-1830 (Johns Hopkins U. Press, 1998), esp. 155-71.

(3) Barbara M. Benedict, "The Paradox of the Anthology: Collecting and Difference in Eighteenth-Century Britain," New Literary History (2003): 231-56.

(4) Benedict, "Beauties;" 321.

(5) See Mark Rose, Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright (Harvard U. Press, 1993).

(6) Benedict, "Literary Miscellanies," 409.

(7) George Birkbeck Hill, ed., Johnsonian Miscellanies, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1897), 2:2.

(8) Laura Riding and Robert Graves, A Survey of Modernist Poetry and A Pamphlet Against Anthologies, ed. Charles Mundye and Patrick McGuiness (Manchester: Carcanet, 2002), 174. First published separately in 1927 and 1928.

(9) Riding and Graves, Survey of Modernist Poetry, 174.

(10) Monthly Review, 2nd series, 13 (1794): 157.

(11) See Michelle Syba, "After Design: Joseph Addison Discovers Beauties" SEL 49 (2009): 615-35.

(12) The Art of English Poetry (London: Printed for R. Knaplock, E. Castle, and B. Tooke, 1702), [ix]. See also A. Dwight Culler, "Edward Bysshe and the Poet's Handbook" PMLA 63 (1948): 858-85.

(13) The Beauties of English Poesy, 2 vols. (London: William Griffin, 1767), 1:1, 133; 2:1.

(14) Margreta De Grazia, "Shakespeare in Quotation Marks," The Appropriation of Shakespeare: Post-Renaissance Reconstructions of the Works and the Myth, ed. Jean I. Marsden (Hertfordshire: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991), 61. See also Ann Moss, Printed Commonplace-Books and the Structuring of Renaissance Thought (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), and David Allan, Commonplace Books and Reading in Georgian England (Cambridge U. Press, 2010).

(15) Critical Review 53 (1782): 158.

(16) Nell Rhodes, Shakespeare and the Origins of English (Oxford U. Press, 2004), 171.

(17) Critical Review 55 (1783): 157.

(18) A Poetical Dictionary; or, the Beauties of the English Poets, alphabetically displayed, 4 vols. (London: J. Newberry, J. Richardson, S. Crowder, et al., 1761), l:xi.

(19) The Beauties of English Prose, 4 vols. (London: Hawes Clarke and Collins, S. Crowder, B. Law, et al., 1772), title page.

(20) The English Parnassus: Being a New Selection (London: G. Kearsley, 1789), "Advertisement."

(21) St Clair, The Reading Nation, 123.

(22) Thomas F. Bonnell, "When Book History Neglects Bibliography: Trouble with the 'Old Canon' in The Reading Nation" Studies in Bibliography 57 (2005-6): 260.

(23) See, e.g., the Advertisement at the back of The Beauties of Fielding (1782).

(24) Monthly Review 66 (1782): 237-38.

(25) Monthly Review 67 (1782): 152-53.

(26) European Magazine, and London Review 2 (1782): 365.

(27) Kearsley's phrase recurs throughout the advertisements in the press and in his editions; see the back matter of The Beauties of Fielding (1782).

(28) For Cooke, see A. T. Hazen, "The Beauties of Johnson" MP 35 (1938): 295; for Holland see Thomas Keymer, "A Sentimental Journey and the Failure of Feeling" The Cambridge Companion to Laurence Sterne, ed. Thomas Keymer (Cambridge U. Press, 2009), 79-80.

(29) "An Essay on the Life and Genius of Henry Fielding" appeared in the four-volume Works of Fielding (1762). A new edition of the Works in eight volumes was printed in 1771 by a consortium which included Kearsley [Kearsly]. In this edition we find a lightly edited version of Murphy's essay.

(30) The Beauties of Biography, 2 vols. (London: G. Kearsley, 1777), l:[i].

(31) Monthly Review 56 (1777): 69.

(32) Quoted in Hazen, "Beauties of Johnson," 290.

(33) The Beauties of Shakespear, 2 vols. (London, T. Waller, 1752), l:v, viii. See Kramnick, Making the English Canon, 108-115.

(34) Beauties of Shakespear, l:xv, xiii, vii.

(35) Beauties of Shakespear, l:xviii.

(36) The Beauties of Shakespeare: Selected from His Plays and Poems (London: G. Kearsley, 1783), ii. Many databases, such as the English Short Title Catalogue, list the publication date of this edition variously as 1780? and 1783. The Cambridge University Library item 7700.d.1 ought to be dated as 1783.

(37) Monthly Review 69 (1783): 263. See also Critical Review 56 (1783): 320.

(38) Hazen, "Beauties of Johnson," 291.

(39) The Beauties of Johnson: Consisting of Maxims and Observations, Moral, Critical and Miscellaneous (London: [G. Kearsley], 1781), v.

(40) See Hazen, "Beauties of Johnson," 294.

(41) Alan B. Howes, ed., Laurence Sterne: The Critical Heritage (London: Routledge, 1971), 12.

(42) The Works of Laurence Sterne, 10 vols. (London: W. Strahan, J. Rivington and Sons, J. Dodsley, et al., 1780), 1: iii.

(43) The Beauties of Sterne: Including All his Pathetic Tales, and Most Distinguished Observations on Life. Selected for the Heart of Sensibility (London: T. Davies, J. Ridley, W. Flexney, J. Sewel, and G. Kearsley, 1782), [vii].

(44) The Beauties of Sterne, 3rd ed. (London: G. Kearsley, 1782), ix.

(45) The Beauties of Sterne: Including Several of His Letters, All His Pathetic Tales, Humorous Descriptions, and Most Distinguished Observations on Life. Selected for the Heart of Sensibility, 10th ed. (London: G. Kearsley, 1787), v-vi.

(46) Percy quoted in Johnsonian Miscellanies, 2:211. See also S. P. T. Keilen, "Johnsonian Biography and the Swiftian Self," Cambridge Quarterly 23 (1994): 324-47; Isobel Grundy, "Swift and Johnson," The Age of Johnson 2 (1989): 154-80; Harry Norman Levinson, "Another Look at Johnson's Appraisal of Swift," Etudes Anglaises 39 (1986): 438-43; Jordan Richman, "Subjectivity in the Art of Eighteenth-Century Biography," Enlightenment Essays 2 (1971): 91-102; Paul J. Korshin, "Johnson and Swift: A Study in the Genesis of Literary Opinion" PQ 48 (1969): 464-78; Wayne Warncke, "Samuel Johnson on Swift: The Life of Swift and Johnson's Predecessors in Swiftian Biography," Journal of British Studies 7 (1968): 56-64.

(47) See Daniel Cook, ed., The Lives of Jonathan Swift, 3 vols. (London: Routledge, 2011).

(48) The Beauties of Swift (London: G. Kearsley, 1782), [i].

(49) Beauties of Swift, 90.

(50) The Beauties of Pope (London: G. Kearsley, 1783), x.

(51) The Beauties of Pope, 2 vols. (London: G. Kearsley, 1796), l:vii.
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Author:Cook, Daniel
Publication:Philological Quarterly
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Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 22, 2010
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