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

Authors and Their ‘Mischievous’ Books: The Salutary Experience of Southey v Sherwood

  • Megan Richardson (University of Melbourne)


In the 1817 case of Southey v Sherwood Lord Eldon LC denied an injunction against the pirating of Robert Southey’s potentially ‘mischievous’ Wat Tyler, setting the tone for judgments in cases to come. The judges’ approach gave little account to the concerns of the authors whose interests in controlling their pirates lay in preserving their reputations and maintaining their livelihoods. The upshot was that the pirates prospered, large numbers of possibly seditious, blasphemous, defamatory and obscene books were published in England, and authors and judges were publicly excoriated. Eventually, judges had to reconsider their failed approach while authors looked for new ways to control their status and sources of income – as well as formulating some sharper distinctions between their public and private lives.

Keywords: Literary Piracy, Southey v Sherwoord, Wat Tyler, Robert Southey

How to Cite:

Richardson, M., (2015) “Authors and Their ‘Mischievous’ Books: The Salutary Experience of Southey v Sherwood”, Authorship 4(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.21825/aj.v4i1.1105

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Published on
17 Jun 2015
Peer Reviewed