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

"The pleasure of writing is inconceivable": William Hutton (1723-1815) as an Author

  • Susan Whyman (Royal Historical Society)


William Hutton started life as a child labourer, but rose to become a bookseller, stationer, and wealthy paper merchant. Like many autodidacts, he longed to be an author and published 15 popular books. This article examines Hutton’s remarks on ‘writing’, which reveal his motives, methods, and goals of authorship. It also gauges his impact on the literary marketplace by analysing 65 periodical reviews of his works. Hutton’s books were based on personal experience, and mixed memoir and biography with historical, topographical, and travel writing. They suited the nation’s thirst for entertaining formats and established him as a new kind of writer, who produced lively, unlearned books for a commercial age. Hutton’s breach of polite norms and opinionated style horrified the literary establishment. But they also attracted readers lower down the social scale, who enjoyed irreverent views on political, religious, economic, and social issues. Hutton thus had an impact on two contrasting groups of readers and put Birmingham and northern regions on the national literary map. Together this author and his critics offer a portrait of the evolution of authorship, the spread of knowledge and taste, and the creation of cultural identity in a time of literary change.

Keywords: William Hutton, cultural identity, authorship

How to Cite:

Whyman, S., (2015) “"The pleasure of writing is inconceivable": William Hutton (1723-1815) as an Author”, Authorship 4(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.21825/aj.v4i1.1107

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Published on
17 Jun 2015
Peer Reviewed