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Michigan State University

British Studies: the 18th Century, a Guide to Topics in the MSU Libraries' Collections: LITERATURE

This is a guide to 18th-century British studies materials, particularly in our Special Collections and Rare Books unit.



Works of literature in the British 18th-Century Studies Collection are rich and deep, especially English literature. Literary works are not described in MAGIC, our online catalog, using Library of Congress subject headings, so it was not possible to study these headings to help describe this part of the collection. To make up for this, in making the database of the British 18th-Century Studies Collection, literary authors' names were listed under the genres they wrote in using the general headings drama/plays, fiction, poetry, and non-fiction prose, making separate sections for authors of the different nationalities: English/American, French, Italian, and so forth. By this means, works by the ancient dramatists Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides, Sophocles, and Terence were identified to be in the Collection. There are plays by 65 English and American authors, six French authors, two German authors, and one Italian author. The Shakespeare collection is notable. Most of the drama is by men, but plays by Joanna Baillie, Susanna Centlivre, Sarah Fielding, Elizabeth Griffith, Mrs. Elizabeth Inchbald, Harriet Lee, Hannah More, and Frances Chamberlaine Sheridan are in the Collection, too.

There is fiction by English, French, German, ancient Greek, Italian, Spanish, and Swiss-French authors. Of the 52 English and American authors , 24 are women, nearly half! Among them are Fanny Burney, Maria Edgeworth, Sarah Fielding, Eliza Haywood, Charlotte Lennox, Mrs. Mary de la Riviere Manley, Hannah More, Ann Ward Radcliffe, Charlotte Turner Smith, and Mrs. Sarah Trimmer. Fiction by prominent and long studied authors William Godwin, Henry Fielding, Samuel Johnson, Samuel Richardson, Tobias Smollett, Laurence Sterne, Horace Walpole, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Southey are also available. There are ten French writers of fiction, three German, two Spanish, and one each of other nationalities.

The poetry in the Collection is also voluminous. Many people wrote poetry then, as now. Moreover, in the 18th- century, writers more often used verse form to convey their thoughts than we may do today. There is poetry by 155 English and American poets, three French poets, six ancient Greek and Latin writers, and four Italian poets. Of the English and American poets represented, twenty-six are women, including Phillis Wheatley, Mercy Otis Warren, Anna Seward, Katharine Philips, Hannah More, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Aphra Behn, and Anna Letitia Barbauld. As with the fiction, there are plentiful holdings by prominent male poets, such as Joseph Addison, Robert Burns, William Cowper, John Dryden, Oliver Goldsmith, Richard Steele, Christopher Smart, and Jonathan Swift, as well as a host of never-heard-of-poets, both male and female.

Efforts to capture non-fiction prose by literary authors in the database of subject headings was very incomplete. Some of these works have L.C. Subject headings in the online catalog, and some do not. Catalogers have kindly worked to improve the subject headings of some of these works as the project went along. Suffice it to say that the Collection contains many works by authors such as Robert Dodsley, Henry Fielding, Thomas Paine, Alexander Pope, Adam Smith, Oliver Goldsmith, and Samuel Johnson.

The Collection is rich also in works about English literature and language. The works on language are about dialects, grammar, etymology, lexicography, obsolete words, Old English, orthography and spelling, pronunciation, slang, style, and synonyms and antonyms. There are translations into English from French works about English literature. There are also works of history and criticism, bio-bibliography, bibliography, and wit and humor. In English poetry there are similar kinds of books, with a greater abundance of translations, a periodical or two, some Quaker authors, and some Middle English poetry published from 1660-1815.

In literature here are some of the significant works found in Murray and Hong Special Collections: Henry Fielding's Tom Jones (1749); and Amelia (1752); Laurence Sterne's Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy (1760-67); Oliver Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield (1766); Daniel DeFoe's Journal of the Plague Year (1722); Frances Burney's Cecilia, or Memoirs of an Heiress (1801); Mary De la Riviere Manley's Power of Love (1720); Charlotte Lennox's Female Quixote, or the Adventures of Arabella (1752); and Eliza Haywood's Female Spectator (1755).