William III and Mary II (1689-1702)

As a sometime academic, I once had a (sub-professional) interest in trying to understand how capitalism and the novel grew up together, as it were, during what some historians like to call the “long eighteenth century” of 1688-1815—from the beginning of reign of William III in England (the so-called “Glorious Revolution”) to the end of the Napoleonic wars with France, at the Battle of Waterloo.

By this time both capitalism’s the novel’s “forms”, as it were were somewhat firmly settled, after an initial 100 years+ of experimentation. (N.b. there are other options for this periodization, as well as the case that at least one important version of the “Long 19th Century” overlaps somewhat with this one. So it goes!

And somewhere along the way I got the cockamamie idea of reading that long century more or less chronologically, to try to get a sense of how it came to understand itself. To keep the project “doable,” though, I needed to set some boundaries, else even ten years’ time would never prove enough, so I came up with the notion of limiting my readings to those works considered “canonical” enough to remain in print in either Penguin or Oxford Worlds Classics paperback form—in print recently enough so as to be widely available as well as affordable in the used market (on Abebooks, etc.), at least.

As I begin documenting this journey, I will add new posts just below this one, so that, scrolling down, you should get a decent sense of the chronology of the novel—in England, at least, as Penguin and OUP will be heavily biased toward their home country, no doubt.

Poetry, philosophy, & etc. shall also be represented here, again in what I have termed “OxPen” form, with occasional exceptions being made for the following:

William Hogarth, The Distressed Poet (detail)
  • Other important philosophical works, to be found mostly in the Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy/Political Thought series (not cheap!)
  • Introductions to the life and works of seminal figures—here I shall limit myself, again, to Oxford University Press and their Past Masters and Very Short Introductions (VSI) series.
  • Novels and plays from our contemporary world but set in the years under consideration here (e.g. John Barth’s celebrated The Sot-Weed Factor (1960), set in 1694-96.
  • The slim Penguin Monarchs series. Just because. (And because they do qualify as Penguins). These I will place at the beginning of the monarch’s reign.
  • A very few other important guides to or surveys of the period (e.g. Paul Hazard’s essential The Crisis of the European Mind, (1680-1715). These I will place, as well as briefly discuss, at the very end of the section of the century that they cover—or at the very end of the blogroll if they cover more or less the whole thing (e.g. Robert Gottleib’s Dream of Enlightenment

There will be one blog post per book, and the naming of each title shall be preceded by its year of publication (or composition if published much later, or posthumously). Collections and Omnibus Editions will be placed in the timeline according to publication date of the first item from the collection.

The Laughing Audience William Hogarth 1733 [Detail])

Also, each book will be accompanied by a review of some sort, often a very brief one! Plot summaries will generally not be given: instead, a link to the book’s Wikipedia page, if available will be provided.

Finally, when I read biographies of individual authors or historical figures, I will include these in a seaparate post following their first listed work, as well as link to them from other works

I shall endeavour in the years to come that it will take to complete this project, to be as much of a completeist as possible. If I have missed something (provided of course that it is reasonably available in “OxPen” form), I would certainly appreciate being made aware of that! Alas, neither publisher could furnish me with a definitive chronological list of extant works. So I am flying by the seat of my pants here!

Finally, the very next post will detail all of the useful secondary critical texts that I have found and which deal with the entire period. Critical texts that deal with a single author or work will be discussed within the specific post on the work in question, as I find them.

If attempting something as crazy as this appeals to you, too (or, again in case of what will no doubt be many errors or omissions on my part) do get in touch—and happy reading!