Special Topic: Between Geniuses and Brain-Suckers. Problematic Professionalism in Eighteenth-Century Authorship

“The Brain-Sucker: Or, the Distress of Authorship”: A Critical Edition

  • Ingo Berensmeyer (Justus Liebig University Giessen)
  • Gero Guttzeit (Ghent University)
  • Alise Jameson (Independent Researcher)


Note on the text: “The Brain-Sucker: Or, the Distress of Authorship” was first published in The British Mercury in 1787, in two parts: the first part in “No. I. – May 12 1787”, pp. 14–27, and the continuation in “No. II. – May 26 1787”, pp. 43–48. The British Mercury was reissued in 1788, advertised as A New Edition. This edition survives in three copies. Our copy-text for the present edition is the Bodleian Library copy (shelfmark G Pamph 1192), which is identified with the siglum B in the notes below. This has been collated with Bodleian Library shelfmark Douce M 591 (siglum: D) and British Library shelfmark P.P.3557.mc (siglum: BL).

Our choice of B as copy-text is motivated by the fact that occasional changes in spelling and wording indicate that this represents a corrected state, improving some verbal infelicities and also making the text more credible, stylistically, as a farmer’s letter, e.g. by replacing the formal “unpensioned” with the more concrete agricultural “unsown” (15), and also by giving the poor writer ‘frowzy hair’ instead of a ‘prominent beard’ (26). In editing, we have aimed for a moderately modernized text, changing long ‘s’ to round ‘s’, marking quotations with inverted commas at the beginning and end, deleting quotation marks in indirect speech, and adapting punctuation to modern usage in places where this seemed necessary or desirable. Some spellings, such as “stopt” for “stopped” or “grin’d” for “grinned” have also been modernized in order to enhance readability. Footnotes belong to the original text. All emendations and textual variants are recorded in the endnotes. Page breaks in the original text are indicated in square brackets. The explanatory endnotes refer to the original page numbers.

Keywords: The Brain Sucker, Ingo Berensmeyer, Alise Jameson, Gero Guttzeit, Eighteenth-century, Authorship studies

How to Cite:

Berensmeyer, I., Guttzeit, G. & Jameson, A., (2015) ““The Brain-Sucker: Or, the Distress of Authorship”: A Critical Edition”, Authorship 4(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.21825/aj.v4i1.1111

Download PDF
View PDF



Published on
23 Jun 2015
Peer Reviewed