Book-Men, Book Clubs, and the Romantic Literary Sphere - download pdf or read online

By Ina Ferris

This e-book re-reads the tangled family of ebook tradition and literary tradition within the early 19th century by way of restoring to view the determine of the bookman and the effaced historical past of his publication golf equipment. As outliers placing themselves into the matrix of literary construction instead of final inside that of reception, either provoked debate through generating, writing, and circulating books in ways in which accelerated basic issues of literary orientation in lateral instructions no longer coincident with these of the literary sphere. Deploying quite a lot of ancient, archival and literary fabrics, the examine combines the historical past and geography of books, cultural concept, and literary heritage to make seen a bookish array of alterative networks, genres, and destinations that have been obscured through the literary sphere in setting up its authority as arbiter of the trendy booklet.

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Hazlitt does not rule out fanciful or bookish styles (indeed he sins himself on this front), but he was a resolute champion of the plain and idiomatic style he called ‘truly English’, a style that took ‘the best words in common use’ and followed ‘the true idiom of the language’ (Works 8:242). Working with an economic trope of written words as a medium of circulation and exchange (‘words are like money, not the worse for being common’), Hazlitt advocates a selfeffacing style that will function as ‘an unvarnished medium to convey ideas’ (Works 8:244, 246).

This walk, however, ends in a reading. The sound of the wind in the trees recalls lines from Dryden’s ‘Theodore and Honoria’, and Hazlitt returns home resolved ‘to read the entire poem through’. The final scene of the walk thus takes place in the interior, as Hazlitt draws his chair to the fire, ‘and holding a small print close to my eyes’, launches into ‘the full tide of Dryden’s couplets’ (Complete Works 17:315). On the pleasure of pronouncing these couplets (whether aloud or not is unclear) the rest of the paragraph then dwells.

As the language of bibliomania migrated into the humbler realm of the romantic familiar essay, it retained this stylistic signature. 52 This bookish exploitation of ‘the license of the figure’ (in Thomas De Quincey’s phrase) proved oddly contagious (‘Elements of Rhetoric’ 894). Even those who scorned the ‘absurd’ tropes of book talk evidently felt licensed by the folly they were exposing to indulge in it themselves, often making it difficult to draw the line between parody and pleasure in their own critical prose.

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