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

"The Brain-Sucker: Or, the Distress of Authorship”: A Late Eighteenth-Century Satire of Grub Street

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

Abstract

Originally printed in the first issue of The British Mercury in 1787, “The Brain-Sucker: Or, the Distress of Authorship” is a piece of satirical short fiction that has so far received only little attention in discussions of eighteenth-century print culture and practices of authorship. Probably written by the Scottish radical John Oswald (c. 1760-1793), “The Brain-Sucker” is told in the form of a letter by a farmer who tells an absent friend about his unfortunate son Dick, whose brain has become infected by poetry. This “disorder” leads Dick to London, where he falls prey to a ruthless publisher, known as “the Brain-sucker”, who keeps him like a slave in a Grub Street garret. The farmer then travels to London to save his son from the clutches of the Brain-Sucker. We present the text, for the first time, in a critical edition, collated from the three surviving copies, with textual and explanatory notes. In the accompanying essay, we discuss the text’s context of origin in late eighteenth-century Grub Street and the cultural implications of its satirical presentation of authorship.

Keywords: Grub Street, Satire, John Oswald, Authorship, Poetry

How to Cite:

Berensmeyer, I. & Guttzeit, G. & Jameson, A., (2015) “"The Brain-Sucker: Or, the Distress of Authorship”: A Late Eighteenth-Century Satire of Grub Street”, Authorship 4(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.21825/aj.v4i1.1103

1038 Views

430 Downloads

Published on
17 Jun 2015
Peer Reviewed
License