Literary Authority
An Eighteenth-Century Genealogy
Claude Willan



This book is the cultural history of the development of an idea so commonplace as barely to be worth stating: that through writing imaginative literature, an author can accrue significant and lasting economic, cultural, and social power. When we read, we expect to be met with claims of veracity and urgency. But imaginative writing makes demands of a different order, pressing upon the reader a new way of seeing the world. Readers of imaginative writing then have a choice. Do they reject those demands, or do they give up sovereignty over their powers of judgment, and through that deference admit the text’s higher authority? That imaginative writing has this power seems almost backward. How did it come to be like this? And when? The idea that texts bring authority to their authors was invented at a particular time, and it had particular conditions of possibility. This book tells the story of that invention.

The more authoritative I am, the easier it is for my desires to override yours. And an authoritative text acts on its reader in the same way. However I override your intentions—whether with reason or emotion—my disruption is underwritten, eventually, by the threat of force. On the other hand, the more naked the exercise of power, especially in politics, the greater the risk of its depletion. Before the power of the king submitted completely to the rule of law, literary authority served as a device to both exercise and retain the power of appeals to force, whether in the guise of appeals to reason or to emotion. Literary authority was in its origins designed for the use of potentates that wanted to exercise their authority without expending it. During the period covered in this book, and owing particularly to the advent of elective monarchy and an increasingly powerful Parliament, literary authority became obsolete. That political necessity just didn’t exist anymore. Parliaments have other, less erratic methods at their disposal. But at that moment of obsolescence, when the parliamentary rule of law was almost entirely in the ascendant, the social and metaphorical structures of literary authority were intact and vacant, unoccupied, as it were, and ready to be given a new lease. Literary authority had always offered a bit of slippage to authors, working as a social function of the textual exercise of power. That slippage became complete: literary authority now centered on the writers themselves, and allowed them to exercise social power through, and over, the written word.

Classical literary authority was meted out according to access: playwrights had access to the theater, so central to Greek civic and political life; Virgil recited to the emperor Augustus and his family, and Horace addressed his patron, Maecenas. In later courtly and imperial states, literary authority was tightly and complexly enmeshed with patronage and political power. But as the modern era began to unfold in Europe in the seventeenth century, these kinds of authority increasingly became unmoored. Ideas like public opinion, and the notion of a public itself, emerged.1 How, then, might a transformed literary authority be anchored? And what would the point of it be?

My answers to these questions cluster around three issues. First, a discourse emerged about the intellectual, cultural, and political significance of different traits of writing, which also specified whether those traits made writing good or bad. Second, literariness came to refer to capital-L “Literature”; a special domain of imaginative writing separated from political entanglement or other explicit functions, and specifically marked by the traits assigned to good writing. Third, a broad category of the aesthetic as a realm of literate thought removed from specific usefulness or purpose emerged, which gained in significance by this detachment.

In 1688, at the beginning of the period covered by this book, the vast array of literary devices for speaking as, or about, or to, monarchical authority made possible a practically infinite number of shades of subtlety of address. But that subtlety also betokened the ineluctable extent to which that authority controlled the material conditions surrounding the text’s existence. By the time at which this book ends in 1781, those tools were antiquated, dead metaphors. Political authority certainly still directly circumscribed the existence of some texts, but the government, still less the monarch, had little or nothing to do with the success or failure of any given text and its author. The discursive realms of literature and politics were still contiguous, but now distinct. Texts retained the capacity to generate a field of authority the better to secure their success. The guarantor of this authority and its ultimate referent was no longer the monarch but the author.

Between 1688 and 1715, England and then the United Kingdom of Great Britain were wracked by the cataclysms that made this transformation possible. It is impossible to overstate the importance of the changes effected in that twenty-seven-year span. And the period’s changes were wrought by forms of writing imbued with a new power of expressing consensus: in June 1688, the Dutch stadtholder, William of Orange, received a written invitation to ascend the English throne from a group of powerful English nobles, and the succession of George I after Queen Anne in 1714 had been predetermined by an act of Parliament fourteen years earlier. Eventually, the appeals to reason and emotion that had characterized imaginative writing under the rule of dynastic monarchs lost their underlying guarantee of force. Consensual, elective forms of authority were negotiated, and then codified, in genres of writing imbued with constative force.

This is one way of recasting the hoary narrative about the Enlightenment drive to disillusionment: that literary devices like allusion, allegory, and symbolism no longer had a stranglehold on discussions of the polis. They were unnecessary, they had lost their usefulness. “Useless” non-purposive writing, on the other hand, turned out to be a necessary, and therefore profitable, venture. Of course, no writer could claim to have wholly given up political objectives. But those metamorphoses in turn started an ongoing process by which imaginative writing was reinvented in its own discursive territory. When it came to deciding how that territory ought to be run, and according to what principles, writers and readers of imaginative literature found themselves thrown right back into the very sea out of which they had just crawled. The genres of imaginative writing were to be thought of as a loose federation of kingdoms, alive with courts as active and febrile with connivance and innuendo as any monarchical court. Politics became a metaphor for literature.

The writer who pioneered this transformation was Alexander Pope, the most successful poet of the eighteenth century. He did it, in part, by hybridizing the literary responses of the two opposing sides of the culture war sparked by the deposition of James II. But Pope is far from the only subject of this book, and accounting for the nature and specifics of his success is not its only ambition.

To begin, I recover and reconstitute those two literary cultures, advocating for and against the deposition of James II. These now largely forgotten cultures were each acutely attuned to the threats and promises of the revolution of 1688–89. The first was the field of Whig prose writers, each of whom found in the revolution a prompt for the reform of their respective fields appropriate to the frankly cosmological change that was the advent of William’s rule. These men brought the discussion of private, or personal, pursuits into the public realm. They devised the best way to conduct those pursuits by working backwards from the kingdom they hoped to help build: Whig prose writers used public imperatives to shape private behaviors.

The second literary culture I reassemble is that produced by the political opponents of the first. These writers opposed the reign of William, refused to recognize his legitimacy, and stayed loyal instead to the ousted James II (now plain James Stuart, if you were a Williamite). Instead of molding their private passions on some future politics, these writers, Jacobites, felt that their now-private and officially treasonous passions should instead mold the future public space.

The mechanics of Pope’s achievement in his own time owes deeply to these cultures, and I show how and why this is the case. My larger ambition, however, is to suggest that the nature and mechanics of Pope’s achievements, and those of Samuel Johnson after him, typify the ongoing structural relations among genres of literature. For these reasons among others, this book aspires to be a genealogy of the way in which the historiography of literary aesthetics determines what good and what bad writing are, of what literariness is and has been, and of what literary authority is, with the purpose of offering a case study of how that authority was made, and is still made today.

One principal component of that making occurs through the social and material pathways that texts move through in their lives. I’m mostly concerned with understanding the ways in which systems of literature bear the shifting weights of readers’ expectations. They do so under the label of “genres.” But throughout this book I keep in mind that genres are themselves part of what I think of as genre systems. The value of this distinction is to attempt to bridge the formalism of genre with a capacious materialism: genres tend to have non-identical readerships, who in turn access those texts by different means and with different degrees of ease. Different genres (religious pamphlets, newspapers, play texts, letters, &c) each have systems adapted to their production, dissemination, consumption, and response.2 The genre system, as I deploy the concept, includes not just what a text does (or is called upon to do) but the conditions of existence for its passage through the world. The genre system of Jacobite poetry in manuscript is a covert, peer-to-peer exchange network of texts that mostly were never, and could never have been, printed. The system is supported by the financial resources of its upper echelons, but no money changes hands in the dissemination of the system’s texts. Elective affinities among a group are a necessary precondition for the inclusion of that group in a genre system. I press on this point because the textual cultures in this book have their own totalizing logics, which bind together local concerns (how to read this text) with claims about social organization (how the genre system of this text models a better world).

I am hardly breaking new ground in taking literary authority as my subject.3 I obviously labor in the shadow of John Guillory’s work. But the literary authority I discuss is not his “poetic authority” (roughly, prior authority either conferred on or claimed by a writer to legitimate speech) nor is it quite “cultural capital.”4 Literary authority is authority “over.” To pursue the economic metaphor, literary authority in my sense is the mint; cultural capital is the process regulating the distribution of the mint’s products, and in our contemporary sense describes the personal bank accounts where those products are deposited and held. Richard Helgerson’s Self-Crowned Laureates and Stephen Greenblatt’s Renaissance Self-Fashioning transformed literary studies in the early 1980s with their attention to the ways in which writers have assumed the locus standi to proclaim their own greatness.5 And my reader might fairly wonder, what makes this period special? How can I say that my chosen subjects differ in kind from the host of authors who had made similar attempts? Virgil, Horace, Spenser, to say nothing of Jonson, Donne and Milton, come to mind. Milton announced that in Paradise Lost he would do “Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhyme.” But this claim was taken straight from Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, and the irony of remediating someone else’s claim to originality was entirely the point. Colin Burrow has written eloquently about the long history of imitatio, its relationship with sister arts like translation, and its role in shaping conceptions and uses of literature.6 Burrow locates Paradise Lost at the center of a variety of debates about the location of the “cross-over point between ‘ancient’ or ‘Classic’ authors . . . and modern authors, who might enjoy a proprietorial right over [the] products of their labour.”7 While “trespassing on texts composed in the same language by contemporaries might attract charges of theft,” the imitation of the ancients was seen by eighteenth-century scholars as a way to achieve a particular kind of individual greatness, by contributing to the literary commons.8 Nor was Milton doing anything new with this ambivalent claim to contingent independence: Geoffrey Chaucer’s Envoi sends Troilus and Criseyde off to “kis the steppes” wherever Virgil, Ovid, Homer, Lucan, and Statius might be found. All this is to say nothing of the many ways that those poets of antiquity found to assert their literary authority. Poets have found less tributary methods, too, to suggest their own greatness: the ninth-century Anglo-Saxon poet Cynewulf inserted his name into his poems in a runic acrostic;9 the sepulchral title page to Ben Jonson’s 1616 Works remains unsurpassed as a piece of visual rhetoric linking literary artifacts to the life and body of their creator. The difference between these examples and this book is circumstantial in origin, but entire in effect. My argument is functionally deictic: though cases like mine have been made before, the contexts surrounding my argument make it qualitatively different. Pope had certain material and structural opportunities that no one had ever had before.

Consider that: (1) pace Thomas Keymer’s skillful adumbration of the mechanisms of state, legal, and extra-legal prior restraint, no state regulator or authority controlled Pope’s access to an audience large enough to be plausibly referred to as a public; (2) that audience was literate, and physically concentrated, enough, infrastructure permitting, to all be able to read the same text on any given day; (3) through the developing postal system, infrastructure existed to permit that simultaneity; (4) that audience had the freedom to buy and read whatever was for sale; and that (5) the opinions of that public could have measurable political and economic consequences.10 Moreover, these conditions were well-sedimented, discursively and structurally, having been each in effect (in different forms) for up to seventy years by the time Pope began to print his work. Pope’s audience was thus accustomed to expecting that its participation in an economy of cultural production would be a proximate cause of the future of that economy. The public was used to having its literary tastes formed by, but also form, what was considered literature, and it expected to participate in, and sustain, genre systems. Lastly, Pope’s readers expected and sought out discursive heterogeneity, and they were also accustomed to the idea of individual authors (Caxton’s Chaucer, Jonson, Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden) forming a corpus, with all the associations of that word. No generation of writers in history had ever had this confluence of ease of access, breadth of reach, freedom of speech, and expectation of authorial personhood. Nor had any come upon a readership so prepared for those affordances to be deployed in the propagation of a contrariety of discursive forms and objectives.

These factors came together at a moment of profound political and social tumult, which rendered the relationship between the public and its chosen representatives—whether in speech, broadly understood, or in politics—highly fungible. My claim to offer a generalizable, systemic analysis is thus grounded in the coincidence of particular, granular historical circumstances. Pope came upon a prepared ground. So, while the nature of the endeavor in which I find Pope and Johnson exerting themselves is familiar, even storied, the very specific and particular forms those exertions took merit our particular attention, because the conditions under which they occurred have permitted them to perdure into our critical present.

At the beginning of the period I cover, the matrix of writers’ and readers’ literary expertises is inextricable from the matrices of political affiliations in which those readers and writers lived. By the end of this period, the links binding expertise to political forces had been severed, and in their place links were forged between expertise and market forces. Instead of cultivating their political affiliations, readers showed connoisseurship and taste by purchasing newspapers, pamphlets, books, and prints—whether directly for themselves or as clients of coffee houses and library subscribers. Colin Burrow has charted the process by which writers adjusted a literary marketplace, not least by reconceiving their work, following the lapse in pre-publication licensing in 1695, as property to be owned.11 Some, however, cast about for sets of orienting, differentiating tools that would set them, their productions, and their readers, categorically apart. To seize and retain literary authority required the recalibration of both terms. Literariness was circumscribed so as to exclude expressly purposive writing. Authority gained a new sense; not temporal or spiritual, but aesthetic, the right to prescribe to a public lasting standards of apparently disinterested judgment. Finally, these attributes were made to depend upon, and to underwrite, one another. How was this done? Not least by finessing the category of judgment itself.

Inventing “Good” and “Bad” Writing

Pope and Johnson pioneered distinctions between good and bad writing that still obtain today. But we must remember that the difference between good and bad writing is not innate. This book historicizes that relation. It does so by laying bare the complex and interlocking processes by which it was created, consolidated, and weaponized for the purpose of developing, achieving, and retaining literary authority.

Any genealogy of literary authority must be seen in the context of contemporary political struggles. Tooth-and-nail fights for political power in Parliament, coffeehouses, and clubs, conducted through writers and printers, prefigured a corresponding fight for power over the nascent literary public sphere. Political cultures of writing were not necessarily intended to be literary in any contemporary sense, but those cultures offered the types on which literariness was later patterned.

I said above that politics turned out to be the ideal metaphor for literature. Think of the gun-for-hire politician: a hack. As we shall see, literary writing was taught to foreswore (and condemn) purposiveness in imaginative writing, especially political purpose. One animating irony of this book is the fact that literariness came to be through the ostensibly non-purposive reuse of purposive characteristics of political writing; another is that so-called literary writing explicitly opposed itself to the political writing from which those signature gestures were derived.

I claim neither that before this period no writing was perceived as “good” nor that none was mocked as “bad.” I argue instead that purposive, explicitly political writing was either effective or ineffective in furthering external, concrete political causes. Conversely, the literary goodness or badness of texts became a markedly textual consideration; the goodness of a poem would rest not on whether it was politically effective, but on its self-constitution and its relations to other poems in the context of the whole field of textual production. The beneficiaries of this switch from “effective” literature to “good” literature were the authors themselves, who made literariness almost inseparable from the authority of its responsible agents.

The new definition of literary value and the arrogation of the authority to ascribe it was not, however, quite so simple or so circular. The qualities of judgment that Pope praised in himself and in a select few others changed to fit Pope’s developing needs. Pope was quick to fashion the exercise of taste in writing as a kind of disinterested aesthetic judgment; but how that was best exercised turned out to be happily fungible. Laying claim to disinterested reading required first that Pope redefine his text itself as an aesthetic object, which is in part to say as a non-purposive object. The objective of Pope’s texts was their own contemplation. This led in turn to the selective but ruthless derogation of purposive literature. The purposes served by those texts varied, but the methods Pope used to render them absurd usually did not.

This is why we cannot merely shrug with Colin Burrow that “Pope made his own luck.”12 The structural good fortune charted above was not of Pope’s making; otherwise Pope presented as facts his decisions, and the strenuously produced as naturally occurring. To say that Pope made his own luck is, ironically, to accede to his demands to be recognized as great—which Burrow proceeds to do immediately following the line I quote. A revealing counter-case to my suggestion, that Pope found a literary arena gutted of active political referents and turned it to his advantage, might be to examine the role of Kantian disinterest (avant la lettre) in this story. For instance, a literary aesthetics built on Whiggish prescriptions would have prompted readers to disinterested judgment, but disinterested judgment in pursuit of a larger political goal. Without the events I recount, Kant’s suggestion that critique be sundered from politics and sutured onto aesthetics (to paraphrase Foucault’s summary) would have been much less palatable to British audiences, because (one line of argument might run) critique might itself not have survived as a recognizable discursive mode: art and politics would still be the same thing. The people living in that culture might have had to invert Kant’s dictum in Was ist Aufklärung? from “Argue as much as you will, and about what you will, but obey!” to “do not argue, and obey.”13

The writers I consider in this book worked largely before Kant, but the puzzles surrounding the category of the aesthetic that Kant labored through in the third critique hover, incompletely formulated, throughout this work. A parallel question sits beside it: around whose judgment do these issues revolve? Often, for the writers I discuss, the answer rests in a paradoxical hybrid in which the expertise of the professional writer is central, but the readerly skills of an educated public form a court of final resort. Pope was interested in articulating proto-Kantian standards avant la lettre insofar as this innovation was exigent for his larger purposes. Pope’s use of concepts related to Kant’s work, like sublimity or the genius loci, was not consistent, especially when overlapping with claims to his own exceptionalism. However, Pope was mostly concerned to produce art fitting Kant’s definition of fine art: art that was “purposive for itself, and which, although devoid of [definite] purpose, yet furthers the culture of the mental powers.”14 For Pope, the purposelessness Kant stipulates and to which I refer above was a tool he could use to contrast his work with that of other cultures of writing. Pope’s work was “purposive for itself” not only in the sense that Kant means, in that the work of art possesses and proceeds according to its own logics, but in that the purpose of Pope’s art was to promulgate the notion of the genius of its artist. When Adorno writes that “artworks were purposeless because they [have] stepped out of the means-ends relation of empirical reality” he forgets that artworks are the agentive productions of their artists.15 It is not that “collectively fashioned aesthetic forms are once-purposive forms that have become purposeless” but that the appearance of purposelessness was wrought upon artworks for an express end (139, emphasis mine). These aesthetic forms are less vestigial than Adorno supposes, and the internal purposive logics native to them operate, not as dead metaphors, but in a lease of new life.16

I show Pope’s career as a series of maneuvers undertaken with the intention of transforming the way booksellers, printers, readers, and other writers thought about writing, the better to underscore the adroitness with which Pope compelled his readers to attempt to achieve the right reading, the correct (“authorized”) exegesis. One method he used was to make the achievement of the right reading grounds for membership in an elevated group. This group was distinguished in several ways—stronger claims to moral authority, cannier readers of history, truer patriotism—but, most of all, members of this group shared the belief that they alone knew what good, and what bad, writing were.

Notes on Genealogy

Mine is incomplete, as all genealogies necessarily are, both in chronology and scope. Quentin Skinner writes that “When we trace the genealogy of a concept, we uncover the different ways in which it may have been used in earlier times. We thereby equip ourselves with a means of reflecting critically on how it is currently understood.”17 Genealogies impute a historical logic that histories can, but are not obliged to, offer. My genealogical approach to the construction of present literary-historical categories pulls together political, material, and literary histories.18 The earlier milieux used as fodder by later writers employed literary strategies homologous to their broader political objectives.19 This gambit is familiar to students and scholars of historical poetics; however, this project extends the insights of that approach to the etiology of the history of those poetic forms.

I take as signal Foucault’s rejection in “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History” of “the meta-historical deployment of ideal significations.”20 Foucault emphasizes that the “history of reason” is not a teleological journey toward transcendent methods and values, but a history of “personal conflicts”; and that the genealogist must “cultivate the details and accidents that accompany every beginning.”21 The details and accidents I detail do not just accompany this “beginning”; they make it possible. Pope and Johnson were able to transform the field of literary production and consumption because Pope in particular realized that Jacobite manuscript poetry and Whig nonfiction prose were fundamentally political fields with literary manifestations.22 These political fields were ripe for literary appropriation because, whereas they had dominant political actors, they did not have dominant literary actors. Although the structures of fields are homologous, Pope realized that a single text, or a body of texts, can exist in multiple fields at once, and exploited that multiplicity to create a kind of slippage, so that strategies that did work in one text in one field could do work in another text in a different field.

Though these writers and the cultures they plundered are my immediate objects, this book is offered in the spirit of a case study of how literary authority has been constructed in historically and geographically various literary spheres. My subject in this sense is the way that forms are translated from one genre to the next in the service of the translator’s efforts in an ongoing struggle to determine what genres are for, and therefore to determine what work texts can and cannot do in the world. In this I am following Rachael Scarborough King’s concept of genre as what a text does, rather than “an a priori definition of what it is.”23 The constitution of literary authority in different spheres of literary activity varies, of course, in its particulars. However, just as the agon through which authority is wrought produces hierarchical structures, that struggle has a particular form, which I sketch here.

Translated political literary forms can be definitive in the establishment of a new genre, in asserting the canonical centrality of the texts deploying them to that new genre, and the literary authority of the author who has supposedly innovated them. I offer two transhistorical, transgeneric examples here, though very many more could be adduced. Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto begins with an enormous helmet crashing down, ex nihilo, into a courtyard. The rest of the text unfolds the consequences of this extraordinary occurrence, a breach of our “uniform experience of the course of nature,” and suggests that one breach or miraculous event might lead to others.24 The ramifications of the appearance of the helmet at the novel’s outset import into a literary frame a device from purposive literature, in this case the use of hypotheticals to explore the possibility and consequences of radical skepticism. From The Castle of Otranto onward, the inexplicable rupture of the uniform experience of the course of nature has become an increasingly dominant signifier of the genre of gothic fiction. So strongly does the posing of Humean hypothetical questions in this line—how to evaluate the constancy of the natural world, the value of testimony about it, and how to reason about observed changes to it—connote the gothic that such instances have become overdetermined signifiers used as shorthands for the genre as a whole.

A second, rather different instance: Ursula Le Guin’s novel The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) borrows extensively from the genre of the anthropologist’s field report.25 The field report turned out to be a formidably powerful vector for conveying kinds of estrangement germane to science fiction, whether as an emergent phenomenon of the medium of the report itself (in terms of substrate and language) or because the anthropologist’s field report affects by its nature to be estranged from its content. Moreover, the tension between anthropological estrangement and ethnographic participation offers a convenient analog to science fiction’s routine formal structure of the encounter with, and subsequent transformation by, otherness. Le Guin’s form of the field report has descendants in Star Trek’s “Captain’s Logs,” in Louise Banks’s embedded narrative to her daughter in Ted Chiang’s novella “Story of Your Life” (2002) and, more literally, in Cixin Liu’s hybridization of anthropological reserve with a deep ecological temporal perspective into a “cosmic sociology” designed to answer the Fermi Paradox in The Three-Body Problem trilogy.26

New literary forms are innovated through the transgeneric import of purposive, non-literary forms into the domain of imaginative writing. Pope was far from the only writer to undertake this appropriation of forms from other fields. Whig writers I study here deployed a combination of enumerative prose (as promoted by Thomas Sprat) and systemic, holistic imbrication along the lines of a Newtonian “system of the world.” Sprat’s form of “mathematical plainness” itself was a borrowing from Petrus Ramus—and so on. Each appropriation transformed the form appropriated; while a direct line of descent could be drawn from Ramus to Walter Derham or John Dennis, via Sprat and Isaac Newton, the form of logical inference and enumerative rhetoric deployed by each was distinct and tailored to its immediate contexts. By the same token, Jacobite poetry in manuscript drew on royalist practices of ciphering in manuscript poetry developed during the Civil Wars and the Protectorate. These practices were ripe for revival in 1688 by, in some cases, the same people who had circulated royalist verse during the Interregnum. And those practices in turn had drawn heavily on the long history of Catholic anti-Protestant satire, itself a tradition with Continental origins respondent to the disruptions that precipitated the Reformation. So Pope’s maneuver was not innovative in its structural characteristics so much as was the end to which his diverse appropriations were directed.

This study joins recent scholarship in the period by seeing print and manuscript cultures as distinct but interpenetrating and concurrent. Among the recent crop of studies playing close attention to eighteenth-century manuscript culture, Joseph Hone’s Alexander Pope in the Making is especially pertinent here.27 Hone unfurls in compelling detail how “Pope continued to circulate manuscripts in cases where scribal publication appeared more sensible than print”.28 This study builds on Hone’s analysis while connecting it to the wider community of Jacobite manuscript culture. That scribal culture both does and does not map onto the three types of scribal circulation described by Harold Love in The Culture and Commerce of Texts.29 Love’s study is indispensable but his definitions of scribal circulation don’t quite fit with the life that manuscripts lived following the revolution of 1688–89. I describe a culture of manuscript poetry, continuing deep into the eighteenth century, that shares traits with the culture Love describes, but which exists in different social, material, and political enframings. These phenomena of manuscript culture must be seen against a background of print culture such as that so ably documented in William St. Clair’s The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period (2004) and since. St. Clair’s ambitions extend to the most pressing questions of intellectual genealogy: “How did it come about that we of the present generation think the way that we do?”30

After Genealogy

I emphasize the genealogical approach of this work in the hope of drawing attention to the ways in which literary studies has not been a discourse wholly of our own making. The utopian critical mode I hope to enable is a heuristic through which readers, alert to the genealogical import of the text they are reading, can regard with skepticism both their received impressions of a literary phenomenon, and canonical speculation about the agenda of the parties responsible for that phenomenon. In this case, since my subject is a mode of writing that is itself designed to dominate, I have a double unpicking to perform: one of Pope’s intentions seems to be that we not realize that he has an extensive and specific agenda about his coming literary historiographical afterlife. This book is emphatically not a biographical hypothesis. However, unpicking what Pope’s intentions might have been might itself run contrary to Pope’s intentions, which in turn requires a degree of speculation.

For instance, terms still in contemporary use like “hack,” “scribbler,” and “dunce” are bound to a specific historical context. They were devised in the course of the contest to seize control of the terms of literary judgment that this book documents.31 In what follows I seek to explain why and how terms such as these are the products of a particular internecine conflict.

Pope so entirely achieved the goal of refashioning the terms of literary judgment, or literariness, into a supposed disinterest (that was, in fact, ripe with interested claims masquerading as literary forms with only aesthetic import) that his work is still taught in this way, the very way that Pope gulled readers into being compelled to read it. For instance, when new readers encounter it, the supposedly precipitating incident behind The Rape of Lock is universally assumed by teachers or editors to be a piece of knowledge key to the new reader’s understanding of the poem. By the same token, albeit rather more complexly, knowing where and what Grub Street was, who lived there, and why those people were deserving of both penury and scorn, is taken to be key information for understanding The Dunciads. Then as now, it has been the job of editors, teachers, and readers, to justify the ways of Pope to men.

My most utopian hope is that this book will free our conception of poems like The Rape of the Lock or The Dunciads—to say nothing of other referential works from or near my chosen period, like John Dryden’s Absalom and Achitophel—from the interpretive bind in which their authors have put them and their readers. Were these works allowed to be truly imaginative literature, of what kinds of meanings might they be possible? It is not that I object to a reader’s knowing about Arabella Fermor’s hair, or the duke of Monmouth, or the progress of Lord Mayors’ Shows through London. It is that I object to the epistemological privilege granted to those famous correlatives and to others like them. The charges Pope laid against Eliza Haywood, Richard Blackmore and Elkanah Settle have thrown shadows hundreds of years long, to say nothing of those laid against Edmund Curll, Aaron Hill, John Dennis, Lewis Theobald, Richard Bentley, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Lord John Hervey, Stephen Duck, and others. Those charges, of intellectual, moral, aesthetic, and financial bankruptcy, of stupidity, and of divinely inspired incompetence, have tarred whole spheres of our history with a brush of at best wavering accuracy. The taint lingers even now: very recently, a prominent scholar referred to an author whom they considered aesthetically bankrupt as “a self-intoxicated dunce.” This is the extent to which the aesthetic categories through which we exercise our disinterested judgments are the residua of partisan conflicts of the period.

To many, this book’s most striking omission will probably be Pope’s Dunciads. Those poems and their paratexts surely stake precisely the sorts of claims to authority whose genealogies I am so concerned to trace. And they use many of the same mechanisms to do so, most notably legible ciphering in the manner of Jacobite manuscript poets, along with a totalizing, all-consuming logic. The reason, however, why I do not treat the Dunciads here is simple. The naked partisanship of those poems, and the plainness with which they wage cultural warfare, serves only a few ends through subterfuge; namely, that the open biases of those poems have made much of the rest of Pope’s work seem only incidentally partisan. It is trivial to state that the Dunciads take aim at forms of writing that Pope either feels threatened by or feels are beneath him, and it is barely worth observing that since their publication readers have judged some of his targets to have been unfairly maligned. That malignancy, however, is of a piece with a more insidious bias threaded through the rest of Pope’s work. Poems we might think of as supposedly disengaged from these struggles in fact participate strenuously.

Methods and Synopsis

Each chapter of this book differs methodologically from its fellows, but each is also intended to model the kind of enquiry I hope to foster. The first chapter details the efforts of Whig nonfiction prose writers to create a coherent argumentative field. Whereas later Whig poets like James Thomson were able to draw on causally rich, historically informed, typologically flexible and religiously and politically charged frameworks for knowledge and experience, it was their articulation that occupied Whig writers between the revolution of 1688–89 and George I’s succession. I show how Joseph Addison, Anthony Ashley Cooper, third earl of Shaftesbury, John Dennis, and William Derham, four of the participants in this culture, each participated in this activity of discursive world-marking. This field of literary production ultimately articulated a way of thinking, applied that method to cultural activity and claimed the necessity of the entire procedure for continued political stability and public well-being.32 “Science is a literary trope,” Tita Chico observes, for instance, and that trope was developed in part by writers seeking to shape a discursive space configured to their political desires, understood in the broadest sense.33

In chapter 2, I turn to Jacobite poetry in manuscript, which found an opposite justification for marrying individual and national liberty. Whereas public motives dictated Whigs’ individual private actions, Jacobites’ private actions were undertaken with the goal of transforming the shape of the public. I address here an almost entirely unstudied manuscript culture because it leverages a different set of literary methods than the little Jacobite poetry that made it into print. Whereas printed Jacobite poetry hewed to certain norms so as to minimize the possibility of prosecution for seditious libel, manuscript poetry gestured to those imperatives while deploying an altogether different set of typological, formal, and material modes of subterfuge.34 These devices alluded to the necessity of secrecy more than they actually sought to create it. The topic of concealment is a dominant feature of this verse, as is the camaraderie of sedition and treason, the best ways to find and cultivate fellow Loyalists, and how best to preserve loyalty in usually dispiriting political contexts. I show the extent of this culture as I have found it, describe its chief characteristics, and close with a glance at Pope’s involvement.

The Whig and Jacobite cultures I taxonomize espoused mutually exclusive cognitive structures and literary forms. For Whigs, the open dissemination of texts was an integral part of sustaining the moral probity of the burgeoning Whig Commonwealth; for Jacobites, secrecy was the best guarantor of the fidelity of your fellow Loyalists. For Whigs, plain expression followed naturally from the more participatory model of political economy they espoused; for Jacobites, typologies, functional ambiguities, and formal legerdemain were the necessary literary methods of building and sustaining an illegal community with an eye to transforming that covert activity into a revolutionary return to Stuart rule.

I divide my discussion of Alexander Pope into two chapters. In the first, chapter 3, I examine his career up to 1717; in the second, I work in the second phase of his career in the 1730s, particularly the composite ethical “Opus Magnum,” which bracketed together the epistles and An Essay on Man. By 1717, Pope had laid the groundwork for how he was to be and is still perceived by students and scholars of early eighteenth-century literature. Pope took only eight years to transform himself from an apprentice poet with a highly restricted manuscript circulation to presenting himself as the preeminent living poet. He achieved this by adopting the two apparently opposed literary-political ideologies and turning them on their heads, making them work for him. The total result is that readers are compelled through enlightened self-interest to agree with Pope and to endorse his deeply partisan literary cause as an objective account of events and values.

I next turn to the second phase of Pope’s career insofar as original compositions are concerned. The first part of chapter 4 shows how in The Seasons James Thomson gave poetic form to physico-theology, establishes the Whig heritage of that framework, and explores how Pope responded to those forms, customizing them to suit his purposes in An Essay on Man. The second section, on “Pope’s Moderate Ascendency” demonstrates the apogee of Pope’s combination of Whig and Jacobite techniques in Epistle to Cobham, Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, and his First Satire of the Second Book of Horace, Imitated.

I close by following Johnson’s conflict with Pope, begun in London and continued in The Vanity of Human Wishes, in which he respectively cast Pope as a departing forerunner poet, and revisited and rewrote a series of Pope’s major poetic landmarks in turn. These engagements with Pope’s legacy are significant but not fundamentally transformative of the modes their referents had bequeathed.

Like Pope, Johnson seems forever to be answering our questions more quickly than we can pose them. This is because the couplet structure engineers oppositions and resolves them in the selfsame gesture. It was here that Johnson won perhaps his most important struggle with Pope, modulating into prose aims that had hitherto been the preserve of verse, the prestige mode. Jacob Sider Jost has written persuasively of the transition of postmortem remembrance from verse to prose—elegies to Lives—and I offer a complementary account of the transformation of poetic couplets into a more durable—or fungible—vessel.35

Johnson consolidated his literary authority with a sequence of monuments: the Dictionary, his edition of Shakespeare, and the Lives. This apparatus allowed him to occupy a position of extraordinary influence over the nation’s linguistic and literary history but was less explicitly directed toward attaining that authoritative position than Pope’s undertakings had been. Ironically, Pope’s innovation of purposelessness, finally, is turned against him, and confers the greater distinction on his successor.

Lastly, Johnson is distinct in his enduring appeal to literary critics, and as an exemplum of how critics cathect onto those whom they might, rather, read. Johnson is perhaps the only author whom scholars of eighteenth-century literature can yet respectably profess to “love” under conditions of peer review. The extent of Johnson’s success at arrogating to himself unimpeachable, interdependent literariness and authority might be gauged by the continued social gatherings of scholars in nonscholarly groups bearing his name on both sides of the Atlantic.

Lest it should seem so to the reader, nothing in this book should be taken to imply that I think that Johnson and Pope are not skilled writers, or that they are not worth reading, or even that they do not deserve canonical prominence. Most of my argument is agnostic about formal artifice qua writerly achievement, but I credit maneuvers that could scarcely be other than deliberate accordingly. One of the purposes of my argument is to enable a reinvigorated return to these authors on grounds of our own choosing. Need the ingenuity, creativity, insight, craft—the accomplishment, in short—of these writers be peerless, or even expressed in relative terms? If I did not believe in the merit of celebrating those values in these writers, albeit at my own rate, this book would not exist.

There are some academic books—highly valuable, much cited, important books—that pursue a single heuristic through a group of texts, or a period of time. Those books have no trouble seeming unified, because even when their methods change their argumentative goals are constant, are the same, or on the same continuum on the local horizon and the global. Then there are biographies—again, immensely valuable ones—which have their bounds delimited by the life of the subject or their immediate family. Those books, too, have no difficulty hanging together as a coherent whole, however meaningless the allotted span of a life can be. This book is not like those. My quarry, literary authority, is a thing people agree exists, but on the nature, history, and use of which there is not much consensus. Moreover, literary authority turns out to be acutely granular and situational, so that what builds it in one text does not in another; how it looks in one place is not how it looks in another. So as we move across a span of decades, or between entire literary subcultures, our pursuit of the same single quarry will ask us to be adaptable and open-minded in our approaches.

Therefore, despite my argument’s consistent focus, since I cover decades and multiple literary subcultures, the reader will have noticed some methodological ecumenicism in the overviews I offered. Over the period I cover in this book, different genres from different fields of cultural activity were transformed into new genres and fields. Therefore different modes of analysis—various book histories, intellectual and political histories, close reading, network analysis, manuscript studies, political, material and philosophical histories—have different affordances suited to different types of texts. I have used whichever tools best suited the task at hand.

The relationships among methods are not always straightforward. For instance, the formal qualities of these works are often acutely responsive to contextual minutiae; when translated to a new context by a later writer, those qualities bear the traces of their origins. Moreover, my analysis of literary and conceptual forms is often dialectical. The use of desacralized typologies, for example, is a device deployed to considerable effect by Jacobite poets and appropriated—and often inverted—by Pope. For Jacobite poets, the ambiguity a cipher permits is “functional,” in Annabel Patterson’s terms.36 Jacobite readers can decipher the type, but only because they possess the information needed to do so. In this way, Jacobite poets use contextual information to validate their interpretive communities while mostly managing to avoid prosecution. Pope, however, turns this device on its head. He often gives the crucial contextual information in advance of the cipher, or he otherwise sets the cipher in such a way that the reader cannot possibly not know the meaning Pope intends. Jacobite poets relied on pre-existing elective affinities to authenticate and activate the latent content of a poem. Pope, however, constructed affinities and used his poetry to leverage readers into them: instead of communities validating a poem, Pope’s poems were the authoritative sources for interpretive communities. This inversion is one example of a phenomenon that occurs repeatedly over the course of the narrative I unfold here: routine co-option of forms born of political exigence, which exerted political structural pressures on their readers within the course and context of imaginative literature. These forms were moved into contexts marked by an apparent apoliticality—in these contexts they serve literary ends and thereby exert pressures on their readers through structures connected to literariness.

The methodological variety of this book is also longitudinal. In each chapter, I interrelate and bind together granular textual and historical detail with comparative or transhistorical arcs. I begin as a historicist the better to adumbrate the full range of forms (broadly understood) in which texts trafficked as a part of their participation in genre systems. On that basis I can then work as a formalist to try to understand texts in and of themselves. Then, when I have occasion to be more synoptic, I aggregate those forms in order to hypothesize sociologies of texts. These sociologies, in turn, frame historically subsequent genre systems.

Anyone who aspires to genealogize makes a contention about their peers; in my case, that teachers and researchers of eighteenth-century literature are unknowingly beholden to the politics of its authors. Though genealogy has at first blush a Gallic cast, it proceeds by insisting on a meticulous historicism. Yes, genealogies ought to undermine the ontological singularity of the supposed “disciplinary” object. But when I assert that a causal chain of historical (rather than philosophical) logic joins the scholar’s heuristic to the text’s own, I mean to emphasize the contingency of the contemporary scholar and the historical poet alike. As Hone notes, hilariously, on “modern literary critics” taken in by Pope, that though “scholars in the tradition of Maynard Mack persist in thinking of young Pope as a meditative pastoral poet, warbling his native wood-notes wild, contemporaries associated his poems with sedition and recusancy.”37

One goal of the project is for scholars to be able to opt out of this contingency. To what might they opt in? There are many possibilities. One is that, instead of studying texts in an uncanny mimicry of Boyle’s laboratory (experiments performed; results disseminated for others to attest to their veracity) scholars of literature could opt to think with—or against—texts. Observer and object are mutually constitutive in a way that the analogy of Boylean empiricism is designed to obscure. Literary studies ought not to stake its longevity on an implicit claim of ontological difference between subject and object. To do so would be to insist on keeping a category error at the heart of our work.


Political, material, and social configurations—genre systems—degenerated during the time it took to write this book. Mutually constructive political and discursive norms have been knowingly, and violently, abrogated and destroyed. Neither has a passion for abrogation been limited to just one political group in any context. Under these conditions, why do we persist in doing what we do? Why do we squander our now monetized attention on the literary arts, let alone on literary historiography? What price l’art pour l’art? In my lifetime, the arc of history has bent unmistakably toward greater global environmental toxicity, suffering, unfreedom, and tiered personhood. Agnotology has seized, and seized up, the minds of tens of millions of people in the United States alone, having been transformed from a discursive mode into matériel. Knowledge derived from epistemic procedures dating back to at least the Royal Society’s early experiments is discredited; extinct diseases are returning; environmental regulation, let alone sustainability, is further away than ever. It would be naïve to remark that the political institutions of the Anglo-American world are rife with corruption, or that venality, bad faith, and cynicism have devoured the discursive norms that once protected, or promised to protect, citizens from the predations of bad actors.

Most of the time spent writing this book was spent outside an academic position; the extirpation of such positions has never been more rapidly under way, nor has their stock in what passes for public discourse ever been lower. We must ask ourselves in this context, surely art that strives not to have a political agenda, which vaunts its supposed freedom from political exigency—is that not art that shirks what its obligations must, in some configuration, be? If this were not so, then why, for instance, should the CIA not have trumpeted its sponsorship of Encounter from the rooftops? There is no good faith calculus by which to argue that valuing art for professed apoliticality is not a contingent, political valuation. By definition we cannot choose against ideology. But by fetishizing the crux and the undecidable, we opt to fetishize our own mystification. When we celebrate richly polyvalent, suggestive, generative literary works, we celebrate nothing more than the capacity to create and contemplate those works. Are they not, at their best, also agnotological?

It didn’t have to be this way. While I suggest that our reading practices are more tightly circumscribed than we might imagine, I also gesture to the expansive interpretative freedoms that lie beyond those bounds. I close with a coda that sketches out one version of the kinds of aesthetic value those freedoms might enable, of what prospects they might offer to the arts we prize. My final hope is not so much reparative as focused on what lies beyond the reparative impulse; the prospect that, in our reading, we might finally move past the merely literary. From that position we might usefully ourselves, what if? What if it were as absurd to put “great authors” at the heart of our thinking about literature as it would be to cast “great brick-makers” in the heart of the history of architecture, or “great violin-makers” at the heart of the history of music? What then might be the relationship between usefulness and beauty?


1. For a valuable orienting overview of these questions, see Peter Lake and Steve Pincus, “Rethinking the Public Sphere in Early Modern England,” Journal of British Studies 45 (2006): 270–92.

2. On those systems, see Roger Chartier, Forms and Meanings: Texts, Performances, and Audiences from Codex to Computer (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995).

3. The history of literary authority up to this point has been extensively documented. Landmark works like A. J. Minnis’s Mediaeval Theory of Authorship (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984) have rooted western European literary authority first in scriptural commentaries.

4. John Guillory, Poetic Authority: Spenser, Milton, and Literary History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), and Cultural Capital: The Problem of Literary Canon Formation (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1993).

5. Richard Helgerson, Self-Crowned Laureates: Spenser, Jonson, Milton, and the Literary System (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983); Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980).

6. Colin Burrow, Imitating Authors: Plato to Futurity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019).

7. Burrow, Imitating Authors, 345.

8. Burrow, Imitating Authors, 345.

9. See Graham Holderness’s searching exploration of these acrostics and other forms of poetic autopoesis, “‘A word-web woven’: Autobiography in Old English Poetry,” E-rea, 5.1 (2007), doi: (accessed May 25, 2022).

10. Thomas Keymer, Poetics of the Pillory: English Literature and Seditious Libel, 1660–1820 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019).

11. Burrow, Imitating Authors, 338–58.

12. Burrow, “Puppeteer Poet,” London Review of Books 44, 8 (April 21, 2022).

13. Immanuel Kant, “What Is Enlightenment?”,’ in Immanuel Kant, On History, edited, with an introduction by Lewis White Beck, translated by Lewis White Beck, Robert E. Anchor, and Emil L. Fackenheim. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1963.

14. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement § 44, “Of Beautiful Art,” trans. with introduction and notes by J. H. Bernard (London: Macmillan, 1914).

15. Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 139.

16. By the same token, when Adorno writes that “Art’s purposiveness, free of any practical purpose, is its similarity to language; its being ‘without a purpose’ is its non-conceptuality, that which distinguishes art from significative language” (140), one is hard pressed to imagine an artist of whom this might be true, if only because, pragmatically speaking and especially in the contexts of the kinds of art interesting to Adorno, artists do actually intend to create art.

17. Quentin Skinner, “A Genealogy of the Modern State,” PBA 162 (2009): 325–70, at 325.

18. As Pierre Bourdieu notes, “it is necessary to write a structural history which finds in each state of the structure both the product of previous struggles to transform or conserve the structure, and through the contradictions, tensions and power relations that constitute that structure, the source of its subsequent transformations” (Bourdieu, “Landmarks,” in In Other Words: Essays toward a Reflexive Sociology, trans. M. Adamson [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990], 42).

19. J. Paul Hunter, in “Sleeping Beauties,” offers an overview of the history of critical views of the couplet in order to argue that the couplet has been put to different kinds of political and literary-historical work. This work, Hunter argues, does not by and large respect a text’s local historical and aesthetic circumstances. He writes that “The governing practice of couplet study is . . . to watch the couplet “developmentally”—that is, to chart its progress historically from its beginnings . . . up to its supreme achievement in Pope—after whom, the cliché goes, it declined because he had brought it to perfection and there was nothing else to be done. Exactly how teleology exists so comfortably with Platonism, I cannot say, except that both views seem to share some common perception that they know perfection when they see it” (Hunter, “Sleeping Beauties: Are Historical Aesthetics Worth Recovering?” Eighteenth-Century Studies 43, 1 [2000]: 7).

20. Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, Selected Essays and Interviews, ed. D. F. Bouchard (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977), 141.

21. Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” 142, 144. Foucault writes that “Genealogy does not pretend to go back in time to restore an unbroken continuity. . . . To follow the complex course of descent is to maintain passing events in their proper dispersion; it is to identify the accidents, the minute deviations . . . that gave birth to those things that continue to exist and have value for us” (146). Foucault models a kind of entailed literary history, in which the results of a literary-historical enquiry are, as much as anything else, fodder for a literary-historical enquiry of the immediately succeeding moment. This kind of analysis, which treats results and analysis as mutually endogenous, is what William St. Clair means by a “systems approach” to literary and reading history: “We may be able to develop a conceptual framework from which provisional conclusions can be drawn, the data interrogated and re-interrogated, and the models themselves tested and refined” (The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004], 6).

22. Bourdieu writes that “fields are spaces of oppositions, and they are related through the homology of their structures” (“Introduction,” in Bourdieu’s Theory of Social Fields: Concepts and Applications, ed. Mathieu Hilgers and Eric Mangez [New York: Routledge 2014], 13). See also Craig Calhoun, who writes that Bourdieu assumes “a high level of homology among fields, an absence of systemic contradictions, and therefore a tendency toward social integration and stable reproduction of the encompassing field of power” (“Habitus, Field, Capital” in Bourdieu: Critical Perspectives [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993], 82).

23. Rachael Scarborough King, Writing to the World: Letters and the Origins of Modern Print Genres (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018), 12.

24. David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, ed. Tom L. Beauchamp (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), X: “Of Miracles,” n. 21.

25. See e.g., Marleen S. Barr, “Ursula K. Le Guin: An Anthropologist of Other Worlds,” Nature 555, 29 (2018), doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-02439-7,, and Philip W. Scher, “How Ursula Le Guin’s Writing Was Shaped by Anthropology,” Sapiens, February 5, 2018, (both accessed May 26, 2022).

26. Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others (New York: Tor Books, 2002); Cixin Liu, The Three-Body Problem, trans. Ken Liu (New York: Tor Books, 2014).

27. Joseph Hone, The Making of Alexander Pope (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021). Other crucial recent interventions constellated around this point, including Betty Schellenberg, Literary Coteries and the Making of Modern Print in England, 1740–1790 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016) and After Print: Eighteenth-Century Manuscript Cultures, ed. Rachael Scarborough King (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2020).

28. Hone, Alexander Pope in the Making, 68 and 189.

29. Harold Love, The Culture and Commerce of Texts: Scribal Publication in Seventeenth-Century England, (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998).

30. St. Clair, Reading Nation, 451.

31. “[T]he value judgements around which we have built our modern literary canon are inextricable from the cultural politics of the period,” as Abigail Williams observes in Poetry and the Creation of a Whig Literary Culture, 1685–1714 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 18.

32. When Whig nonfiction prose was appropriated in turn, it offered an entire scaffolding for arguing that any action taken by a private individual ought to be predicated on the preservation of national liberty, which would in turn guarantee individual well-being. That scaffolding was portable enough to structure various phases of Pope’s arguments, undergirding his claims that endorsing his literary tastes was a matter of national, and therefore individual, liberty.

33. Tita Chico, The Experimental Imagination: Literary Knowledge and Science in the British Enlightenment (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2018).

34. Andrew Bricker offers a compelling overview of these questions in Libel and Lampoon: Satire in the Courts, 1670–1792 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2022).

35. Jacob Sider Jost, Prose Immortality, 1711–1819 (Charlottesville.: University of Virginia Press, 2015).

36. For a revisionist account of these mechanisms, see Thomas Keymer, Poetics of the Pillory: English Literature and Seditious Libel, 1660–1820 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019).

37. Hone, Alexander Pope in the Making, 192.