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Underground literature

1700s - clandestine - Edmund Curll - forbidden - libertine - literature - Robert Darnton - underground - underground press

The Literary Underground of the Old Regime (1982) - Robert Darnton [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Robert Darnton introduces us to the shadowy world of pirate publishers, garret scribblers, under-the-cloak book peddlers, smugglers, and police spies that composed the literary underground of the Enlightenment.

The Literary Underground of the Old Regime (1982) - Robert Darnton

Book Description
Robert Darnton introduces us to the shadowy world of pirate publishers, garret scribblers, under-the-cloak book peddlers, smugglers, and police spies that composed the literary underground of the Enlightenment.

Here are the ambitious writers who crowded into Paris seeking fame and fortune within the Republic of Letters, but who instead sank into the miserable world of Grub Street-victims of a closed world of protection and privilege. Venting their frustrations in an illicit literature of vitriolic pamphlets, libelles, and chroniques scandaleuses, these "Rousseaus of the gutter" desecrated everything sacred in the social order of the Old Regime. Here too are the workers who printed their writings and the clandestine booksellers who distributed them.

While censorship, a monopolistic guild, and the police contained the visible publishing industry within the limits of official orthodoxies, a prolific literary underworld disseminated a vast illegal literature that conveyed a seditious ideology to readers everywhere in France. Covering their traces in order to survive, the creators of this eighteenth-century counterculture have virtually disappeared from history. By drawing on an ingenious selection of previously hidden sources, such as police ledgers and publishers' records, Robert Darnton reveals for the first time the fascinating story of that forgotten underworld.

The activities of the underground bear on a broad range of issues in history and literature, and they directly concern the problem of uncovering the ideological origins of the French Revolution. This engaging book illuminates those issues and provides a fresh view of publishing history that will inform and delight the general reader.

Grub Street: studies in a subculture (1972) - Pat Rogers

Grub Street: studies in a subculture (1972) - Pat Rogers [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Grub Street is the former name of the present day Milton Street, London, EC2. The name Grub Street in various forms dates back to 1217 and but was changed in 1830 in order to honour a local builder called Milton. According to Samuel Johnson's Dictionary, the term was "originally the name of a street near Moorfields in London, much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems, whence any mean production is called grubstreet".

In current usage the term is used in western literary and journalistic circles to characterize any hack writing, done quickly, for a fee, generally with minimal research. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grub_Street [Sept 2005]

Hack writing
A hack writer is a writer for hire, paid to express others' thoughts or opinions in felicitous verbiage, often in the form of political pamphlets. Some such writers are very talented. Nonetheless, in one vernacular usage, a hack is a person lacking talent or ability. It has been adopted (in British English) as a self-deprecating self-description by journalists.

As a writer for hire, a hack writer is usually remunerated by the number of words: so the implication of hack writing is usually that quantity takes precendence over quality. Hack writing may take the form of ghost writing, or the production of generic novels under pseudonyms (for example romantic fiction under the Mills & Boon brand, or the old Sexton Blakes). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hack_writer [Sept 2005]

See also: writing - subculture

Eighteenth-Century British Erotica (2002) - Alexander Pettit (Editor), Patrick Spedding (Editor)

Eighteenth-Century British Erotica (2002) - Alexander Pettit (Editor), Patrick Spedding (Editor) [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Although scholars of the British eighteenth century have become increasingly attuned to questions of sexuality, corporeality, and legalism, they have not heretofore had easy access to one of the period's richest funds of data: the erotica and pornography that permeated the culture.

This set reprints many of the period's most notorious works, including eight The Fifteen Plagues of a Maiden-Head (1707) to Harris's List of Covent-Garden Ladies (1786(?)–93) that resulted in highly publicized court battles and in some instances helped shape laws on censorship that survived into modernity. As they did in the eighteenth-century bookshop, 'homosexual' and 'heterosexual' works intermingle, alongside of works that claim legal, medical, or political legitimacy, and works that pretend to nothing but prurience. Virtually all the works have been out of print since the eighteenth century.

Each volume includes an introduction, individual headnotes, facsimiles of the texts, and annotations.  The first volume includes a general introduction.

The initial volume focuses on the Grub-Street debate prompted by The Pleasures of a Single Life, or, The Miseries of Matrimony (1701). The new genre proved attractive: Pleasures quickly prompted an Answer which ‘confirmd and vindicated’ the comforts of marriage and ‘provd and asserted’ the ‘misery of lying alone’. Other contributions followed, enumerating the comforts of whoring, cuckoldom, and marriage to a ‘wanton wife’, ‘the pleasures of a virgin’; and, most famously, the ‘plagues of a maiden-head’. Answers by ‘bachelors and maids’ and ‘whores and bawds’ appeared throughout the decade.

The second volume contains translations of some of the most famous and influential erotic works of the period. Nicolas Choriers Satyrica sotadica (1660) and Jean Barrins Vénus dans le cloître (1683) were quickly translated into English but immediately suppressed. Prosecutions resulted in the destruction of early editions; the copies reproduced are the earliest extant copies, dating from the early eighteenth century. Venus in the Cloister is doubly important for the role it played in the 1725 prosecution of Edmund Curll, whose case became the basis of English obscene libel law for the next two centuries.

Extended sexual metaphors form the basis of the writings collected in Volume 3. The geographical metaphor is represented by among others Thomas Stretzers New Description of Merryland (1740). Such works discuss the harbours, bays, creeks, roads, clothing and, when the metaphor is exhausted, the ‘history of the gallantries’ of ‘Bettyland’ and ‘Merryland’. The botanical metaphor is represented by The Arbor Vitæ, or, Tree of Life (1732), The Frutex Vulvaria or Flowering Shrub (1732); and The Teague-Root Botanically Considered (1745).

Examples of the most notable development in late eighteenth-century erotica are found in Volume 4: libertine periodicals and guides to prostitutes. The most famous of these are Harris’s List of Covent-Garden Ladies, represented here in the 1773 edition, and The Bon-ton Magazine (1792), represented by the first issue. Also included is the ephemeral Calendar of All the Ladies of Pleasure (1775?).

The final volume focuses on the erotic exploitation of medical and legal discourse, and includes tongue-in-cheek advice from medical quacks about venereal disease and sexual health; satires on the bawdy practices of man-midwives; and accounts of trials for rape, sodomy, criminal conversation (i.e., adultery), and erotic strangulation. Also reprinted are criminal biographies of a highwayman who infiltrated the homosexual underworld of the mollies, a lesbian who disguised herself as a man and married numerous women, and an archetypal rake known as The Rape-Master General of Britain. --http://www.pickeringchatto.com/erotica.htm [Sept 2005]

Table of Contents:

--http://bookweb.kinokuniya.co.jp/guest/cgi-bin/booksea.cgi?ISBN=1851967427 [Sept 2005]

See also: 1700s - English erotica

Radical Underworld: Prophets, Revolutionaries and Pornographers in London, 1795-1840 (1993) - Iain McCalman

Radical Underworld: Prophets, Revolutionaries and Pornographers in London, 1795-1840 (1993) - Iain McCalman [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Book Description
This is a paperback edition of a highly acclaimed study of English popular radicalism during the period between the anti-Jacobin government `Terror' of the 1790s and the beginnings of Chartism. Challenging conventional distinctions between `high' and `low' culture, Iain McCalman brilliantly reveals the links between the political underworld and literary culture, poverty, crime, and prophetic religion.

Drawing on information from spy reports and contemporary literature, the book traces for the first time the history of the underground revolutionary-republican grouping founded by the agrarian reformer, Thomas Spence. Challenging conventional distinctions between 'high' and 'low' culture, McCalman illuminates the darker, more populist sides of Romanticism. His underworld of ideas links the Shelleys to pornographer-revolutionaries and political blackmailers, millenarian prophecy to discourses of blasphemy, black revolution and saturnalian theatricality, and radical journalism to the Grub Street undergrowth of bawdy and pornography which sprang up in the opening years of Queen Victoria's reign.

Radical Underworld broadens the conventional boundaries of popular politics and culture by illuminating a political underworld connected with poverty, crime, prophetic religion and literary culture. It is a model of cultural history and a major re-evaluation of its topic. --via Amazon

See also: radical - 1700s - English erotica

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