Writer by Trade: James Ralph’s Claims to Authorship

  • William Thomas Mari (University of Washington & Northwest University)


To the enterprising journalists of early eighteenth-century Great Britain, the refined status of “author” remained elusive. Journalism itself was a nascent occupation formed in the processes of cultural legitimatization, commercialization, and politicization of authorship. In London, James Ralph, an American expatriate and political writer, emerged as a spokesman for journalism. In his Case of Authors by Profession or Trade, a short treatise published in 1758, Ralph argued that “professional” authors included journalists and other non-patroned writers. They deserved respect as an occupational group, and a special role in society. Ralph equated and extended the privileged notions of authorship and the role of the author — essentially, respectability and some limited independence from political and financial pressures — to his fellow journalists. His Case is worth revisiting because it shows how literary culture was being challenged in his era, extended and subverted as it was by his fellow journalists and their more transitory creations.

Keywords: James Ralph, authorship, eighteenth-century, professional authorship, journalism

How to Cite:

Mari, W., (2015) “Writer by Trade: James Ralph’s Claims to Authorship”, Authorship 4(2). doi:

Download PDF
View PDF



Published on
01 Dec 2015
Peer Reviewed