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

“As Fully Incomprehensible as the Northern Lights”: Literary Identities in The Adventures of an Author

Author
  • Heather Ladd (University of Lethbridge)

Abstract

This essay considers an anonymously-written and understudied novel, The Adventures of an Author (1767), as self-consciously reflecting the complexities and multiplicities of professional authorship in the mid-eighteenth century. Containing a vividly-realized fictive print society, this two-volume work revolves around the exploits of a writer-protagonist named Jack Atall who confusedly constructs his own literary autobiography. Investigating The Adventures of an Author as a comic negotiation of developing conceptions of authorship and the book trade, the novel is read as ironically underlining how discussions like Young’s Conjectures on Original Composition and Ralph’s Case of Authors fall short in defining and defending the professional author. It can be argued that Adventures represents the period’s conceptions of authorship as unstable, depicting the chaotic inclusivity of the Republic of Letters and the inability of authorial polemics to contain and control the operations of the literary marketplace.

Keywords: Professional Authorship, Republic of Letters, Print Society, Jack Atall

How to Cite:

Ladd, H., (2015) ““As Fully Incomprehensible as the Northern Lights”: Literary Identities in The Adventures of an Author”, Authorship 4(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.21825/aj.v4i1.1104

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Published on
17 Jun 2015
Peer Reviewed
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