Kurt Edward Milberger »

Kurt Edward Milberger serves as Coordinating Editor in the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University. His work has appeared in Jonathan Swift and Philosophy, edited by Janelle Pötzsch (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), and in From Enlightenment to Rebellion: Essays in Honor of Christopher Fox, edited by James G Buickerood (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018). With Margaret Doody, he has edited Susannah Gunning’s Barford Abbey, which is forthcoming from Broadview Press.

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This article is © 2020 The Author and is the result of the independent labour of the scholar credited with authorship. Unless otherwise noted, the material contained in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND) International License.
Date of acceptance: 8 January 2019.

Referring to this Article

K. E. MILBERGER. ‘ “The first impression, you, yourself, will buy”: The Gunninghiad, Virginius and Virginia and the Art of Scandal at the Minerva Press’, Romantic Textualities: Literature and Print Culture, 1780–1840, 23 (Summer 2020)

Online: Internet (date accessed): https://www.romtext.org.uk/articles/rt23_n03/
PDF DOI:10.18573/romtext.71

‘The first impression, you, yourself, will buy’

The Gunninghiad, Virginius and Virginia and the Art of Scandal at the Minerva Press

Abstract Abstract

Abstract: In the wake of a personal scandal that Horace Walpole dubbed 'The Gunninghiad', Susannah Gunning returned to literary writing after some years’ absence from the scene. The two works she published with William Lane’s Minerva Press in 1792, Anecdotes of the Delborough Family and Virginius and Virginia. A Poem, in Six Parts. From the Roman History, demonstrate both Gunning’s artistic range and Lane’s marketing genius. Together, Gunning and Lane capitalised on the Gunninghiad scandal in an attempt to rehabilitate Gunning’s reputation as a writer and fill the coffers of the press. This article re-examines Gunning’s undervalued literary career to argue that publishing with Lane afforded her opportunities to rewrite the scandal of which she’d been a part, experiment with literary genres she had yet to explore, and profit from what she lived and wrote.


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‘Still, independence is my noble plan’: The Works of Susannah Gunning

In 1792, the careers of the extraordinary printer, publisher and proprietor of circulating libraries William Lane and the famous novelist and infamous socialite Susannah Gunning, née Minifie (1739/40–1800) crossed trajectories in a blaze of scandal, fiction and poetry. The collision resulted in the printing of Gunning’s five-volume novel Anecdotes of the Delborough Family (1792) and its poetic companion volume Virginius and Virginia. A Poem, in Six Parts. From the Roman History (1792) at Lane’s Minerva Press. [1] When these two works appeared, Gunning found herself at the tail end of a scandal so omnipresent about town that Horace Walpole dubbed it ‘The Gunninghiad’ and explained that ‘a million of false readings there will be’ of its events. [2] Someone, the public discovered, had forged letters from the Duke of Marlborough rejecting the notion of a marriage between Gunning’s daughter, Elizabeth Gunning (1769–1823), and the Duke’s son, George Spencer-Churchill, the Marquess of Blandford. These letters, the story goes, were actually intended to encourage the amorous attentions of another noble son, George Campbell, the Marquess of Lorn, by demonstrating the high demand for Elizabeth’s middling hand and nonexistent dowry. Marlborough denied knowledge of any arrangement and refuted his reputed authorship of the letters. Who actually wrote them remains a subject of debate. Perhaps Elizabeth wrote them herself, hoping to attract the young man she preferred. Perhaps Susannah and her sister Margaret, both novelists with extensive epistolary experience, concocted the scheme to help Elizabeth make a match as successful as her father’s famous Gunning sisters had made. Perhaps her father, the perpetually cash-strapped Major General John Gunning, forged the letters to avoid the financial burden of Elizabeth’s dowry. Narratives of the scandal also feature associates of General Gunning’s, called the Bowens, who purportedly either aided him in composing the letters or served as intermediaries for Susannah, Margaret and Elizabeth to deliver letters they themselves had forged.

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIn any case, the scandal ended with General Gunning’s determination that Elizabeth and Susannah produced the letters, and he cast them both out of his house to fend for themselves against the public and the satirists before he fled England to avoid his own punishment for ‘criminal conversation’ with another man’s wife. The archive of the Gunninghiad reports a violent pamphlet war, including sworn affidavits from Susannah and her daughter; a hundreds-of-pages-long Letter from Mrs Gunning, Addressed to his Grace the Duke of Argyll [George Campbell’s father] (1791); A Statement of Facts, in Answer to Mrs Gunning’s Letter, by Captain Bowen (1791); and A Narrative of the Incidents which Form the Mystery, in the Family of General Gunning (1791), which attempts to make some retrospective sense of the entire affair. James Gillray (1756–1815) viciously illustrated the whole in a series of three caricatures. The most striking of these, The Siege of BLENHEIM, or the New System of GUNNING Discovered (1791), features a handsome Elizabeth astride a cannon as her mother launches scads of paper at Blenheim. Marlborough blasts the crew with faeces, liquid and solid, directly from his exposed buttocks hung out the palace’s window as General Gunning sneaks away. When the dust settled, Susannah Gunning returned to literary writing with renewed zeal, a practice she had begun as a youth but from which she largely abstained during her marriage. To herald her ambitious return to literary writing, Gunning turned to the Minerva Press, where she exploited the firm’s willingness to print and publicise a variety of works to produce two literary depictions of the scandal. In the Anecdotes and V&V, Gunning reconstructs and validates her identity as a literary writer as she wrests control of the scandal narrative back from her enemies, the satirists and the scandal press.

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentThose who remember Gunning’s writing today are likely to know her novels, such as Barford Abbey (1768), Coombe Wood (1783) or the Anecdotes, which eighteenth-century critics neglected, at best, and subjected to vitriol, at worst. Despite her popular successes as a novelist, [3] Gunning’s career garnered only such notices as would result in her dismissal from the canon of English women novelists even as critics worked to reconstitute that body of literature. As Janet Todd has it, Gunning’s novels amount to ‘Tissues of clichés and influences, artificial in language and characterisation’. [4] Orlando, the database of Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present, describes Gunning ‘as a mediocre sentimental novelist: snobbish, stylistically over-elaborate […] addressing the reader with girlish coyness’, suggesting that even her later ‘more confident’ work remains ‘marred by over-writing’. [5] Contemporary critics were far less kind to V&V, her only published poem. In the Critical Review, Gunning was advised ‘to rest her literary fame on the basis of that credit, whatever it be, which she has acquired as a novellist [sic]. Her poetical abilities, if we may judge by this production, will never entitle her to any exalted seat among the favourites of the Muses’. [6] The English Review put it more bluntly: ‘We are sorry […] to say that the muses seem not to have inspired Mrs. Gunning. The story is ill told, the language by no means poetic, and the thoughts often puerile. We enter into no particular analysis of the poem’. [7] Consequently, V&V almost never appears in later assessments of Gunning’s life or work as anything other than the briefest mention, and critics leave the impression that the poem had no special role in Gunning’s life or literary career.

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentCritics have largely contented themselves with classifying Gunning’s works as sentimental, or even simply ‘epistolary’. In much the same way that generic labels have been used to pigeonhole the Minerva Press, Gunning’s literary output has been reduced to clichéd dismissals. According to Pam Perkins’s entry in The Literary Encyclopedia, the early novels are ‘filled with melodrama, high emotion, and lengthy declarations of fine feeling’. [8] For Bridget G. MacCarthy, the early novels are ‘poor in construction and unduly sentimental’. [9] For Thomas O. Beebee, Gunning is simply ‘a prolific author of epistolary fictions’. [10] This manner of reducing Gunning’s output to a handy critical label obscures a complex and interconnected series of writing and publishing activities and papers over the nuances of her career. The epistolary label, especially, makes it easier to write about Gunning and her work, but it has two rather stark drawbacks. First, it offers an inaccurate and limited way to classify Gunning’s production. Second, it remains a subtle critical sneer against the lowbrow, used to replace ‘sentimental novelist’ which her first critics employed to dismiss her work but serving the same function. Critics need not take Gunning’s fiction seriously or consider it or read it at all, the label says, because it can be neatly categorised as ‘epistolary fiction’, the metadata appropriately tagged, and the nuances conveniently overlooked. In this case, the label also has the advantage of buttressing interest in the Gunninghiad while condemning Gunning’s part in it: she wrote novels made of letters and then got caught up in a scandal over forged letters! How delicious! Dismissive and salacious assumptions like these, however, remain inaccurate ways of talking about both Gunning’s literary career and her involvement in the scandal.

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentContrary to the critical history, Gunning’s literary output cannot be neatly described by any familiar generic terms. In her youth, along with her sister Margaret, Susannah Minifie produced at least three novels, The Histories of Lady Frances S——, and Lady Caroline S—— (1763), The Picture (1766) and The Hermit (1769). She followed these early works with Barford Abbey (1768), The Cottage (1775) and two more novels published in the 1780s, The Count of Poland (1780) and Coombe Wood (1783). These four novels are typically attributed to Susannah alone, but some critics speculate that Margaret Minifie might have also had a hand in them. [11] Regardless, thanks in part to Susannah Minifie’s marriage to Major General John Gunning in 1768 and the scandal that consumed her energy in the late 1780s, she did not publish another work of fiction for almost ten years. Gunning’s early publications in collaboration with her sister Margaret and later novels published ‘By a Lady’ but attributed to her make it difficult to draw an accurate picture of her bibliography, but Gunning’s early novels are not strictly epistolary in style. [12] Gunning was involved in the production of at least fourteen literary works, excluding publications to do with the scandal, such as her Letter to Argyll. Of these fourteen, three were certainly written in collaboration with Margaret. Two of those three novels, incidentally, include narrators rather than epistolary mechanisms. The Histories is the only of the three completely comported in letters. Excluding those works, however, and assuming that the remaining works (such as Barford Abbey, which was published without a clear attribution of authorship) were indeed produced by Gunning alone, as has been the critical consensus, portrays an equally complicated picture of a prolific career dedicated to exploring the uses and limits of literary writing.

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentOf the eleven remaining works, one is V&V, a poem in six books—clearly not an epistolary novel. Another, a French novel translated with ‘Alterations and Additions’ titled Love at First Sight, can also be left out of the count of Gunning’s single-authored output. That leaves nine novels. Of those, The Heir Apparent (1802), which was published posthumously with revisions by her daughter Elizabeth Gunning, can also be excluded (The Heir Apparent is not epistolary and even in the unlikely scenario that Elizabeth changed the structure prior to publication, as a co-authored novel it can be left out here). That leaves eight novels authored by Gunning, and, of those eight, exactly half are epistolary: Barford Abbey, The CottageCoombe Wood and Memoirs of Mary (1793). The remaining four works—Family Pictures (1764), the Anecdotes, Delves, a Welch Tale (1796) and Fashionable Involvements (1800)—include first-person narration, third-person reportage and, in the case of Delves, literary elements lifted directly from the theatre. Gunning’s most experimental fiction, Delves includes many playful chapters and much direct dialogue: the second chapter, for example, is titled, ‘Much to be expressed in a short soliloquy’.

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentSo, half of Gunning’s single-authored works fall neatly into the epistolary genre, and the other half, especially those produced after 1790, employ a variety of other literary techniques. Return these works into context with the collaborations with Margaret and Gunning’s other publications, and only 38 per cent of Gunning’s literary output can be neatly called ‘epistolary’. Instead emerges an author who had a particularly rich epistolary period spanning 1763–80, but who was also writing non-epistolary fiction during that time. Further, beginning with her work with the Minerva Press, Gunning’s literary output also changed dramatically, producing more non-epistolary fiction than epistolary, the poem and Delves, with its theatrical resonances. She also produced the work ‘from the French’ in this later period. This body of work might well deserve criticism, even dismissal, in its bid for status as high literature, but it cannot be easily accounted for by resorting to assumptions about genre or formal markers, be they epistolary, sentimental or poetic. To do so obscures both Gunning’s authorial impulses and the character of literary publishing in the late eighteenth century. For, Lane’s Minerva Press encouraged and facilitated the very cross-genre publication practices that allowed Gunning to push against the rigid boundaries of the epistolary genre with which she had been associated in her youth.

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentNicholas Mason claims that Gunning’s Minerva publications ‘capitalized on the high-society author’s widely reported separation from her husband’, [13] but to call the Gunninghiad scandal merely ‘widely reported’ or even simply the story of a marital squabble proves a remarkable understatement. Other scholarship on the Minerva Press tends to focus on what Mason calls Lane’s ‘shameless commingling of the worlds of publicity and literature’ to drive the sales of Minerva books. [14] The details of the Gunninghiad were certainly salacious, but commingling them with literature did more for Gunning’s writing career than drive sales. Publishing with Minerva allowed Gunning to employ a notion of authorship that she could use to wrest control of the public narrative of the Gunninghiad back from the critics and satirists. Even as the only poem in the bibliography of a fiction writer, V&V reveals the extensive degree to which Gunning worked with the Minerva Press to construct herself as a literary author, how she manipulated Lane’s system of publishing and publicity to generate a version of herself as an author in charge of her own story. The Minerva Press, in fact, provided an essential outlet for Gunning’s return to artistic literature, driving her renewed popularity as a writer of fiction and facilitating her bold foray into the poetic genre. Lane’s publication practices proved conducive to Gunning’s experiments in storytelling as both sought to capitalise on the attention generated by the Gunninghiad for their own reasons.

The Printing Poulterer at the Sign of Minerva

Already the proprietor of a newspaper called The Star and Evening Advertiser, Lane began using the Minerva imprint in 1790 as he approached the pinnacle of his publishing career. [15] Until then, Lane had published widely in a variety of genres, including songs, fairy tales and instruction books alongside novels, but the end of the eighteenth century witnessed the explosion of novel publications with which the Minerva imprint became synonymous. As Deborah Anne McLeod reports, in total, ‘73% of the works published by Minerva Press were novels. The lowest percentage is found in the 1790s when novels made up 61% of the total production; this ratio increased to 82% between 1800 and 1809, then decreased to 79% between 1810 and 1820’. [16] By some estimates, Lane produced one quarter and maybe as much as one third of the new novels published in England in the thirty years between 1790 and 1820. As Hannah Doherty explains, Lane produced ‘more than five times as many [novels] as any other single publisher during that time period’. [17]

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIn the oft-repeated narrative, Minerva purveyed lurid gothic, supernatural and sentimental novels written in reductive imitation or even outright plagiarism of other readily available books. Hack writers, many of them women who published anonymously, worked to formulae to churn out lowbrow fiction that critics dismissed and scorned or enshrined as examples of what not to read and how not to write. Even Dorothy Blakey, the Minerva’s greatest twentieth-century historian, concedes that ‘the works issued by the Minerva Press are, as Peacock declared them to be, “completely expurgated of all the higher qualities of mind” ’. [18] As McLeod summarises, ‘the standard critical position has been that the bulk of the press’s productions are inferior formulaic novels pandering to the underdeveloped tastes of a predominantly female readership’. [19] Of course, Minerva Press developed this reputation in the eighteenth century when critics were rather less delicate in their assessments than contemporary scholars: the Critical Review classed a typical Minerva novel ‘one of the overflowings of dissipated brains, with which circulating libraries abound: in truth, it is some of the vilest trash, in every respect, that probably ever disgraced their shelves’. [20]

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentRecent scholarship has worked to overturn these assumptions. Elizabeth Neiman argues that dismissing Minerva novels as simply formulaic or conventional obscures the subtle ways Minerva writers used ‘derivative themes […] to respond to Romantic-era debates, most importantly […] Romantic definitions of authorship and literature’. [21] In other words, Minerva authors employed generic tropes to enter the same discussions about gender, authorship and the literary as this period’s canonical authors. Others have pointed out the truly innovative character of the Minerva imprint. E. J. Clery, for example, contends that Lane used the imprint to ‘enhance the sense of a unified corporate style’, which ‘guaranteed a dependable commodity to the regular consumer, regardless of individual authorship’. [22] According to Christopher Skelton-Foord, this unified branding, brought to fruition in the eighteenth century’s circulating libraries, even contributes to ‘the democratisation of the novel-reading habit’. [23] But perhaps the most extensive revisionary account comes from McLeod’s dissertation ‘The Minerva Press’. Employing a quantitative method to examine 1636 Minerva titles, McLeod explodes the conventional stereotypes at the heart of writing about Lane’s press. No more can scholars afford to generalise about the enormous quantity of Minerva novels and summarily dismiss them as cloying productions of unskilled feminine writers aimed at fainting female readers; instead, as McLeod argues, Minerva authors ‘maneuvered skillfully in order to engage the reader’s attention and were particularly proficient at manipulating gender stereotypes’. [24] McLeod’s work especially illuminates the true character of Minerva’s publishing programme. Instead of a predictable series of generic publications, McLeod uncovers ‘a previously unappreciated diversity both in genre and subgenre. The Minerva Press produced many works other than novels and many types of novels other than gothic and sentimental romances’. [25]

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentRather than a hack publisher churning out more of the same, Lane proves an irrepressible eighteenth-century entrepreneur, building diverse lists to maximise his works’ market and cultural appeal while pioneering the novel imprint to brand the press’s work in particular genres. From this perspective, the two works Gunning published at the Minerva Press reveal how Lane’s diverse interests and energetic promotional practices facilitated the career of one of the late eighteenth century’s underappreciated authors. This mutually beneficial relationship between a cunning publisher and an ambitious author complicates notions of authorship, publishing and literature at the dawn of the Romantic period. Critics have left the relationship between Lane’s behaviour as a publisher and the work of the writers he published largely unremarked, but Gunning’s publications show an intimate association between Lane’s publishing programme and the works he published. In the paratexts of V&V, Gunning constructs an authorial persona that directly confronts the marketplace and the hash of gossip called the Gunninghiad with the complications of allegory and fiction. She employs this authorial persona in an attempt to both reconfigure and transcend the scandal, offering last words on her role in it and laying the groundwork for her next steps as an author. In the wake of the scandal, Lane’s publishing programme and publicity practices allowed Gunning to use her newfound infamy to return to literary publishing and extend the scope of career.

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentAs a commercial venture, Minerva attempted a wide variety of projects. Even in its earliest days, confined to the corner of his father’s poultry shop, Lane’s business, like that of other eighteenth-century publishers, was always a multi media affair. According to the ‘Biographical Memoirs of William Lane, Esq.’, Lane offered not only books but also ‘pamphlets, songs, and prints, strung with pins in a row’. [26] The memoir continues, ‘In fact, feathers and physic, rabbit skins and divinity, giblets and law, poultry, poetry and history (food for the body and the mind) were so blended together, that it was difficult to distinguish the firm or stable of the house’. [27] In other words, before adopting the Minerva imprint and ‘very properly defin[ing] himself as a MANUFACTURER OF NOVELS’, Lane published in many different genres, just as he dealt in a variety of commercial products. [28] Of course, Lane was hardly alone in distributing a variety of ephemera alongside the books he published. English publishers from William Caxton to Edmund Curll and Jacob Tonson always worked in multiple forms to maximise their reach and profitability. If Minerva is unique among eighteenth-century publishers, it is rather less for the diversity of what Lane published than for the success of the Minerva brand, which led to a history of thinking of the press as primarily a publisher of novels, thus obscuring the full extent of its output.

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndeed, Lane found success in diversity, and Minerva’s authors were free to play with publishing in a variety of genres and to break with the conventions of the genres they chose. Insofar as adhering to generic conventions or expectations helped authors produce grist for Minerva’s mill, it did so in a permissive context, within a publishing atmosphere as amenable to the gizzards of law as to the plumes of poetry. As a printer, a publisher, a bookseller and—perhaps first and foremost—a proprietor of circulating libraries, Lane’s interest in literature was intimately tied to the marketplace. He published what he hoped the market would reward. In his day, as in our own, fickle market interests demanded constant adjustments from those seeking profit. So, like any content provider of the twenty-first century offering e-books alongside tweets and streamed videos, Lane approached the market with a variety of schemes. Making reliable investments in the form of generic novels, compilations and books of instruction that fit into clear niches and addressed easily recognisable needs, Lane also ventured beyond the immediately familiar in an attempt to appeal to new tastes and predict new desires. The novel, after all, demands a vibrant blend of familiarity and novelty to keep consumers excited enough to keep buying, borrowing and reading.

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentLane’s publishing practices produced a wide variety of Minerva products, both original to the press and reproduced from other sources. The novels themselves occupy a notable mix of genres, ranging from social novels like Juvenile Indiscretions (1786) and Susanna, or Traits of a Modern Miss (1795) to gothics like Count Roderick’s Castle (1794) and The Animated Skeleton (1798). But, in addition to novels, Lane published compendiums, such as The Ladies Museum (1773) and The British Songster […] A Choice Collection of Comic and Entertaining Songs (1800) and several collections of fairy tales including the Persian Tales, or the Thousand and One Days (1800), which says nothing of the miscellanies, such as Historical and Entertaining Anecdotes (1776) or Wits Museum (1780?); the travel, military and shipwreck writing, such as Travels through the Interior Parts of America (1789), A Circumstantial Narrative of the Loss of the Halsewell (East-Indiaman) (1786) and The Soldier’s Companion (1803?); the collections of poetry like The Parnassium (1775); or the many sets of sermons and hymnals in Lane’s list. Lane even stamped the Minerva imprint upon A Succinct Account of All the Religions (1791). Minerva, in short, did not hesitate to seek new ways to appeal to its audiences, even as Lane characterised himself as a manufacturer of novels. He also encouraged authors to bring a wide variety of works to his press—what he calls in An Address to the Public, on Circulating Libraries, the various productions of their ‘eminent Talents’. [29]

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentLane issued this pamphlet specifically to describe and defend his practice of establishing circulating libraries featuring a broad range of titles appealing to a variety of needs and interests. Circulating libraries, he explained, should be ‘Nurseries of Entertainment, of Arts, and of Science’, and in order for the publishing projects that support them to have the widest possible reach and influence, they must contain multitudes (p. 3). The Address functions as both an advertisement for Lane’s circulating libraries and an acquisitions organ for the Minerva Press. In it, Lane encourages potential authors to bring him work from a variety of fields:

To render my own Engagements the most complete, Authors are respectfully urged to offer their Productions, where eminent Talents will be liberally, though proportionably, encouraged, from their earliest Dawn to their meridian Splendor. (p. 2)

That final, beautiful phrase, ‘from their earliest Dawn to their meridian Splendor’, implies a whole career approach to working with authors, who Lane urged to exercise their personal talents. [30] Encouraging them in whatever work they might choose, Lane presents himself as willing to entertain any potential publications that would help realise the universal spread of the

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndent‘Literary Museums’ he called circulating libraries (p. 1). Lane’s Address to the Public describes his press’s mission not by singling out any one particular genre of work but rather by emphasising the press’s plasticity, its willingness and ability to acquire, encourage and produce quality work. And, barring his own imprint on the books, Lane offered Minerva as a sort of service printer to anyone with a book they would like to bring to market:

Such as chuse to print on their own account, will find, at the Minerva, Attention superior to common Presses; where Paper, Types, and Accuracy will combine in Displaying their Abilities to uncommon Advantage:—And the Public at large, in every Species of Printing, will experience Dispatch and Elegance united. (p. 3)

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentGunning’s work at the Minerva Press, then, proves typical of the institution, but not for its rigid adherence to conventionality. Instead, Gunning’s late career work fit into Lane’s scheme to publish projects ‘in every Species of Printing’ that would bring audiences a wide variety of entertainments, arts and sciences. Further, Lane’s offer of Minerva as a service printer allowed Gunning to use the press to publish V&V, the back pages of which Lane coopted to promote the second edition of the Anecdotes. Several other examples of the press facilitating authorship in this way appear among Lane’s lists. Whereas many of Lane’s authors, such as Mary Charlton (fl. 1794–1824) or Helen Craik (1751–1825), produced works which were relatively generically consistent, [31] others, such as Elizabeth Meeke (1761–1826?) and Pigault-Lebrun (1753–1835), worked in a variety of genres. [32] Lane’s later Prospectus of 1798 re-emphasises this open attitude in its account of ‘CONDUCT RESPECTING LITERARY SUBJECTS’:

Authors may be assured, that Manuscripts committed to the care of this Office, shall be paid all due attention to; and it is presumed, the Works which have been printed and published from the Minerva Press, will announce the Spirit with which the Undertaking is conducted; and as such, Genius and Taste will find no less Fidelity in ushering their Productions to the World, than Encouragement and Advantage in their LITERARY PURSUITS. [33]

It has been easy to dip into the catalogue of Minerva novels and to recognise their generic markers, formulaic quality and even their fitness for Lane’s circulating-library model, but, as Neiman has pointed out, assuming a regularity imposed by generic formulae leads to overlooking how writers innovate within formal constraints. Genre writers push the boundaries of given forms, often subverting expectations, sometimes adapting recognisable tropes to new advantage, and sometimes producing new works in different genres. Thinking of ‘genre fiction’ as a kind of formulaic pap obscures the real extent of the Minerva’s reach and influence, focuses the conversation about literature broadly on certain types of novels specifically and erects a formal prison around many Minerva authors, including Gunning, who worked in and around formal constraints in their literary pursuits. In Gunning’s case, Minerva’s programme helped her to construct a powerful version of authorship with a public and commercial bent, a notion of literary authorship that might challenge satiric caricatures with literary acumen.

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentJust as Lane printed and published a variety of different kinds of works to squeeze the most value out of commercial and circulating-library markets, so too did he innovate in advertising those works, a practice he employed to a remarkable degree upon the 1792 works of Susannah Gunning. A famous example of Lane’s marketing genius appears in the somewhat later Publishers Advertisement of 1794. [34] As Michael Sadleir argues, this pamphlet ‘shows an enterprise and an elaboration of publicity-method which are astonishing for their period’. [35] Two parts comprise the pamphlet A Tale Addressed to the Novel Readers of the Present Times and a list of texts ‘JUST PUBLISHED’ beneath the device of the Minerva Press. [36] The pamphlet crafts a narrative out of the titles and incidents from Minerva Press books on offer in the accompanying list of texts. For example, the list of just published texts includes ‘Weird Sisters, 3 vols. 12mo. Price 9s. sewed (by the author of A Butler’s Diary. 1794)’. [37] Some incidents akin to those in that novel appear in the narrative advertisement as a vision of Lady ‘ELLEN, COUNTESS OF CASTLE HOWELL’. Ellen is herself the subject of ‘Ellen, Countess of Castle Howell, 4 vols. 12 mo. 12s. sewed (by Mrs. Bennet. 1794)’, which also appears on the list of just published works. [38] In the description of the Countess’s vision we learn

One evening [on a walk] she perceived, coming from the side of a rivulet, three figures in female attire: As they advanced towards her, she found they were the three WEIRD SISTERS, who then cautioned her with these solemn words, ‘Lady, beware——’ ‘Of what?’ exclaimed Ellen. ‘Of your visit to the Castle to-morrow.’ With these mysterious words they disappeared. [39]

Sadleir describes the ‘handling of punctuation and capital letters’ as ‘highly unorthodox and the results from the point of view of literary quality ludicrous in the extreme’, [40] but the unorthodox use of capital letters and punctuation actually constitutes a rather ingenious device whereby the reader of the advertisement can track the interesting portions of the text to the relevant books offered by the just published list. The advertisement attempts to provide readers with an approximation of the experiences they can expect from the novels offered. Sadleir points out how astonishing this variety of print devices is ‘for their period’, but he misses something of the nuance and excitement conveyed by the pamphlet and its place in Lane’s publishing practice. Not only was this advertisement designed to raise awareness of Minerva books, it also served as an entertainment in its own right. Lane used the same technique to turn the entertaining V&V into an advertisement for Gunning’s Delborough, and he used other advertising techniques as well, as discussed in more detail below.

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentRecent work by Megan Peiser reveals another of Lane’s publication habits that played to Gunning’s advantage in the literary marketplace: extensive advertising campaigns to position the work in front of potential readers. Peiser’s quantitative analysis of 1639 book reviews collected in her Novels Reviewed Database, 1790–1820 (a collection of reviews of novels published in the Critical Review and the Monthly Review) demonstrates the extent of Lane’s publicity practices. Unlike other publishers who might have sought to produce fewer works of greater quality, Lane assaulted the marketplace with an enormous number of books, making his publishing activities impossible for reviews to neglect. Peiser states: ‘Novels in our modern canon, like those of Frances Burney or Jane Austen, received more pages of review, and reviews in the prominent front section of the Review periodical (rather than relegated to the Monthly Catalogue), but Lane was most visible in terms of volume’. [41] Lane, in other words, managed to turn review periodicals into catalogues for the work of his press, inundating them with a huge number of new works, which they dutifully announced and sometimes reviewed. Peiser argues that, especially outside of the metropolis, many readers depended upon reviews to determine which volumes to take out of their local circulating library: ‘And where novel reviews were concerned, Lane was easy to see in their pages […] A reader of Review periodicals would reliably run into a review of one of Lane’s works every month’. [42] In this way, Lane exploited the review periodicals in the same way that he used advertisements in The Star: filling their pages with announcements of Minerva publications simply by generating so much new work, and, in so doing, keeping Minerva on the minds of readers.

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentLane pulled out all the stops when it came to advertising Gunning’s twin publications. Blakey contends:

No other novel of 1792 published at the Minerva was brought so prominently to public notice as Anecdotes of the Delborough Family. Mrs. Gunning’s private affairs were undoubtedly responsible for much of the interest in it, and no doubt too, many who hastened to order their first impression read Gunning for Delborough in the title. [43]

The first two volumes, at least, must have proven a bit of a disappointment, with their tardiness in addressing anything remotely resembling the events of the Gunninghiad. In the ‘Advertisement to the Public’, which prefaces the Anecdotes, Gunning asserts that she began the work well before the scandal erupted, but the third volume includes a remarkably familiar narrative involving a forged letter scheme, a marriageable young lady and a duke called Angrave (Argyle?). Two years before the Tale Addressed to the Novel Readers of the Present Times, Lane and Gunning exploited similar marketing techniques to promote and supplement the publication of the Anecdotes. Aided by Lane’s publicity, Gunning began challenging readers to reconsider the scandal from different perspectives, as becomes clear from the novel’s retelling of the scandal narrative from a coy, sympathetic point of view in the Anecdotes and in the allegorical reframing of V&V.

Fig. 1. Advertisement for 2nd edn of Anecdotes of the Delborough Family (1792) at back of Virginius and Virginia (1792)

Fig. 1. Advertisement for 2nd edn of Anecdotes of the Delborough Family (1792) at back of Virginius and Virginia (1792).

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentRather than a key to the Anecdotes, Gunning provides another literary response to the Gunninghiad in V&V, which Lane printed for her, leaving his name off the title page, rather than imprinting for himself. This slim volume, evidence of Gunning’s poetic ambitions, followed on the models of several canonical authors in reviving a popular story from Livy. It also served as an advertisement for the second edition of the Anecdotes, stoking the public lust for yet more material to do with the scandal and seriously exploring allegorical depictions of the Gunning family in literature. According to an advertisement printed at the back of V&V: ‘So rapid has been the Demand for this much-approved Novel [Anecdotes] that the First Edition was sold in a few Days’ (see Figure 1). [44] The poem/pamphlet, then, served as only one part of a publishing event. Using the techniques of advertising to capitalise on the public’s interest in the scandal and Gunning’s writing about it, Lane and Gunning did not produce additional scandal-writing, such as her Letter, but multiple attempts to make literature out of her life experiences, to construct and deploy a specifically commercial notion of literary authorship on her behalf. Playing with what Michael Gamer identifies as ‘the relation between self-commodification and self-canonization’, Gunning’s work with Lane traded on the notorious affairs of her life in an attempt to capitalise on the trauma and simultaneously install herself in the English literary tradition. [45]

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIn addition to this back-page advertisement in V&V, Lane promoted the Anecdotes no less than a dozen times in The Star and Evening Advertiser. This series of advertisements, which Blakey suggests probably comprised more ads than have been preserved or archived, includes several reports on the demand for the novel during its printing but prior to its publication. [46] In March, 1792, Lane described the demand for the book as ‘so great, that the first impression is nearly subscribed for amongst the Trade—such Ladies and Gentlemen, therefore, as request this Novel, will be early in their directions to the Booksellers, that they may not be disappointed.’ [47] The advertisements, frequently repeated throughout the month of March, indicate an ever-increasing demand for the forthcoming novel and supply instructions for how to obtain the work in the event of its selling out from a list of ‘over thirty booksellers […] together with eight circulating libraries, which would also stock the novel’. [48] But the series took a dramatic turn at the end of the month when Lane printed an advertisement responding to ‘a most invidious, false report’ that Gunning was not, in fact, the author of the Anecdotes:

In confutation to such base reports, any person who doubts the authenticity, may, on application at the Printing-Office, Leadenhall-street, see the original copy, in the hand-writing of Mrs. Gunning, or be further satisfied by the public avowal of that Lady. [49]

Accompanying Lane’s guarantee of her authorship, the advertisement also includes a series of twenty-four signatures from employees at the press and others willing to attest that the Anecdotes were, in fact, ‘the Production and Writing of MRS. GUNNING’. [50] This bid to establish Gunning’s authorship of the Anecdotes was certainly an attempt to verify the work as an official part of the Gunninghiad’s growing bibliography, but it also solidified Gunning’s return to writing as an author of literary works, a role she consciously embraced and defended in the paratext of V&V.

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentThe considerable public notice Lane generated by advertising in The Star and the simultaneous printing of V&V traded on Gunning’s famous name. Edward Jacobs suggests that circulating libraries, generally, and the Minerva Press, in particular, ‘powerfully constructed femininity as an “author function” for fiction’ in this period. [51] For Jacobs, a major factor in how circulating libraries such as Lane’s contributed to constructing the feminine author function derives from the practice of anonymously publishing writing supposedly done by women. Jacobs, however, points out that many of the anonymous fictions written by ‘a lady’ could well have been written by anyone, even a man. [52] For Gunning, attaching her name to her literary works with impunity helped capitalise on her infamy in the marketplace and exert authorial control over the public narrative of her life. The feminine author function Jacobs describes must be complicated by powerful attempts like Gunning’s to write against the increasingly mainstream literary culture of feminine anonymity.

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentGunning’s literary works refashion the many millions of interpretations of the Gunninghiad scandal Walpole had predicted in 1791. Refracting some ideas in the Anecdotes and complicating the character of the major players in V&V, Gunning produced a literary interpretation of the Gunninghiad that she signed with her own name, thus working to erase the epithet of famous socialite and replace it with that of accomplished author. Publishing Gunning’s literary works, Lane certainly contributed to another aspect of the high visibility of feminine authorship. The scandal gave Lane every reason to expose (and then verify by way of signatories) this particular author. The Anecdotes and V&V, though, were the genuine works of a female author; one who had contributed to a major fracas about the veracity of women’s writing generally speaking and one whose literary ambition compelled her to attempt to enter the ranks of earlier English writers, as well as a whole host of late eighteenth-century Romantics, including Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who adapted the ancient story of Lucius Verginius and his daughter Virginia.

‘I’ve felt your arrows! You shall feel my dart!’: Gunning’s Literature at Minerva

No one in the eighteenth century or since has revered Gunning as a poet, but in V&V she calls on literary artistry to complicate the received narrative of the Gunninghiad and exert her authority as a participant in the scandal’s events. Gunning’s entire oeuvre—ranging from the works produced in partnership with her sister through the rhetorical works of the scandal years, the realistic novels and V&V—reveals a writer setting her pen to a variety of forms in search of those that fit her evolving needs. As with other writers in this period, Gunning’s novels, particularly the Anecdotes, intersperse narration with poems supposedly authored by the characters, songs, excerpts of other texts and, indeed, the occasional letter, all of which offered her opportunities to hone her skill in a variety of forms. The Anecdotes includes tropes associated with sentimental fiction, but, chapter by chapter, it uses those techniques to heighten the reader’s emotional experience ‘to represent the complicated feelings of amazement, grief, anger, horror, love and compassion that divide the soul, and [agonise] the countenance’. [53] When it came to depicting elements reminiscent of the Gunninghiad, Gunning used the Anecdotes to consider how a woman in her position might employ writing to structure her character, affect perceptions of herself and steer the course of events in the world.

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentThe Anecdotes locates these considerations in the character of Selina Dangle, an infamous socialite. Like Gunning, herself, Lady Selina Dangle even has a sister named Margaret. Throughout the course of the novel, Lady Selina engages in a variety of epistolary matchmaking schemes, placing, at one point, an anonymous tip about the novel’s main character Colonel Fairfax’s affections in the gossip papers and obtaining pirated seals of the house of Angrave at another. In the novel’s third volume, together with a Madame Villeroy, who imitates a man’s handwriting, Lady Selina composes a forged letter from the Duke of Angrave designed to prevent an ill-fated match. ‘Audacious wretch!’ the feigned Duke thunders in the letter, ‘would nothing satisfy thy diabolical ambition, but to connect thy obscurity with the honors of my princely house[?]’ (III, 75) As Lady Selina and Madame Villeroy scheme to prevent the marriage, Madame Villeroy explains how she had earlier employed anonymous letters to help Lady Selina’s sister secure her marriage. ‘Anonymous letters’, she explains, ‘might be made very useful on particular occasions’ (III, 56):

[W]hen any of her friends were going to be married, and she thought the husband was either too good or too bad for her friend, she and I together, for the joke [sic] sake, would cook up a letter, to assure the lady, it was a match of conveniency on the gentleman’s part, and that the writer had himself heard Lord such a one, or Mr. such a one (according to the distinction of the person concerned) turn into riducle the ceremony of marriage, and not only that, but even her Ladyship, or Miss such a one, to whom he had the honor of communicating this friendly intelligence, had been ridiculed by the same party on more occasions than one. (III, 58–59)

‘Delightful!’ Lady Selina responds, and, indeed, the whole scene transpires in an air of delicious gossip and fashionable fun; but, lurking behind the screen, Margaret’s ‘plebian marriage’ serves as a constant reminder of the dangers of a bad match (III, 54). Writing anonymous letters in the Anecdotes provides the circle of otherwise disempowered women with a means to shift the balance of power and to exert some control over their relationships, to do to relationships at the private level what novels might to do them at the public. Employing the tools of the sentimental novel, Gunning reanimates the scandal that wracked her own family life to explore the events from yet another angle, one that complicates her participation in the affair by considering the kinds of events that might drive women like Selina Dangle or Elizabeth Gunning to write for their futures.

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentGunning explicitly announces her desire to use writing in this way in the paratext of V&V. Her only poem has generic ancestors in the heroic poems of Pope and Dryden and few poetic compatriots in Minerva’s lists. V&V revives a familiar tale from the Roman historian Livy. Joining the ranks of works by the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer and the playwrights John Webster and Thomas Heywood by adapting the tale, Gunning crafts an allegory of the Gunninghiad. In Livy, the Roman centurion Lucius Virginius stabs his daughter Virginia to death before the Shrine of Venus Cloacina to protect her honour after she had been granted to the consul Appius Claudius Crassus. Gunning celebrates Virginius, explaining, ‘You’ll call him murd’rer, cry your blood runs cold: | Quite, in another light his deeds I see’. [54] In Gunning’s version of the story, a series of legal deceptions places Virginia in Appius’s power, and she blesses ‘the parental stroke’ that rescues her from his ravaging. Gunning’s verse is serviceable, if lacklustre, but she tells the story with skill and tact, weaving complicated elements into a powerful denouement. The poem abounds in meditations on the relationship between private and public, as well as who has the authority to act from which motivations. But, throughout, Gunning emphasises literature’s power to make the private public and hints at its ability to correct the public record:

Thou, canst not say my muse, or nature tell,
Why, in those hearts, where love, and peace should dwell,
The seeds of hate, and envy, should be sown?
How quickly thriven, and how rapid grown!
Nature, her little errors, may conceal,
But, come my muse, and greater, crimes reveal,
Enormous, crimes! assist me to display,
Whilst, lesser vices, shun the glare of day. (V&V, 12)

It is tempting to read Virginius as an allegorical depiction of John Gunning, who dashed his own daughter’s hopes for a fortuitous marriage, but it is more likely that he stands for Susannah Gunning herself: the author of Virginia’s fate who, perversely, protects her from Appius’s assault. Whereas Gunning had used her Letter to the Duke of Argyle to attempt to vindicate herself and her daughter, accusing her husband and the Bowens of committing the forgery scheme, V&V recasts the actors in the Gunningiad in historical garb and provides an allegorical drama that complements the narrative of the scandal. In V&V, a caring father risks his life and sacrifices his daughter to vindicate her according to the rules of a brutal society. During the Gunninghiad, rather than defending his daughter, Gunning’s husband crept off, after an affair with another woman. Left in his place, Susannah substitutes her pen for Virginius’s blade. She sacrifices Elizabeth’s social standing—associated with her husband’s name—to protect her daughter from charges of deceit.

IndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentIndentThat Susannah Gunning saw the poem as a means of establishing her literary authority and exercising her right to proffer a lens for interpreting the Gunning hiad’s events appears clearly in the paratext. As she writes in the ‘Dedication, to Supreme Fashion’:

I’m independent of your words and looks;
You independent! don’t you sell your books?
I answer yes, I sell them if I can,
Still, independence, is my noble plan.
A landlord I, at will, a tenant you,
The estate’s my own, it’s produce all my due;ß
Take it, or leave it, I am not afraid,
That tho’ you murmur, rents will still be paid;
Nay, I expect, however you may shy,
The first impression, you, yourself, will buy,
For your own sake, I mean, I want no prop,
But look straight forward, to a second crop,
A third, a fourth, a fifth, I see you start,
I’ve felt your arrows! you shall feel my dart!
And should I, ever reassume my pen,
Which, that I shall, is more than nine, to ten,
’Tis not impossible, that I might make,
Some other strictures, just for fashion’s sake.
Madam, you may, or you may not believe,
That, calm and fearless, I dare, take my leave;
Falshood, has ever been allied to shame,
I write but truth, and sign it with my name. (V&V, xiii–ix)

Fig. 2. Susannah Gunning’s ‘signature’ affixed to the conclusion of the dedication to Virginius and Virginia (1782).

Fig. 2. Susannah Gunning’s ‘signature’ affixed to the conclusion of the dedication to Virginius and Virginia (1782).

Everything about this passage reveals a skillful and competent writer engaging the literary marketplace from a position of authority. Gunning declares herself independent of fashion, of critics, of strictures that would dictate the manner of her publications, even of the need to sell her works. Instead, she appears as an independent author, ‘calm and fearless’ in her pursuit of the truth through literature and confident of her ability to stake her own claim to literary fortune. In some editions of the text, these lines were followed by a signature, authenticating their authorship and recalling Lane’s assurances that Gunning had, in fact, written the Anecdotes (Figure 2). With her signature, Gunning cements the relationship between her attempt at poetic writing and the innovative publicity practices of William Lane’s Minerva Press. In her bid for literary authority to recast the events of the Gunninghiad, Gunning took advantage of Lane’s willingness to print and publish a wide variety of literary works as well as his revolutionary publicity techniques. In exchange, Minerva’s influential imprint afforded Gunning a unique opportunity to extend her literary ambitions and to fight back against a public that had condemned her and her daughter to a fame worse than death.


I owe many thanks to Margaret Anne Doody who sparked my interest in Susannah Gunning and the scandal surrounding her life and writing career. The research that resulted in this article would not have happened without her encouragement, direction and conversation, and anything enlightening about this article merely reflects her brilliance. Errors, omissions and misinterpretations remain my own. I would also like to express my gratitude to Elizabeth Neiman and Christina Morin for including this essay in their special issue and for their patient guidance and excellent feedback in developing this piece. Finally, my thanks to the anonymous peer reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions.

1. Hereafter, Anecdotes and V&V.

2. Horace Walpole, The Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford, 6 vols (London: Bentley, 1840), VI, 394.

3. Betty A. Schellenberg provides this account of the relative success of Susannah Minifie’s early publications in collaboration with her sister:

the Minifies are run-of-the-mill imitators of the latest in generic trends, neither innovators nor even the best imitators, but also not unskilled or unscrupulous copyists. At no point are they seen as setting a trend or as improving upon a precursor, but they are relatively effective practitioners of an increasingly recognizable set of genre conventions. Althoughtheir fictions] are regularly commented on in the reviews, and to a lesser extent, by contemporary lay readers…] no commentator speaks of the fictions of…] the Minifies as making a contribution to the republic of letters.—The Professionalization of Women Writers in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge: CUP, 2005), pp. 136–40 (p. 139).

4. Janet Todd, The Sign of Angellica: Women, Writing, and Fiction, 1660–1800 (London: Virago, 1989), p. 177.

5. ‘Susannah Gunning’, in Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present <http://orlando.cambridge.org/public/svPeople?person_id=gunnsu> [accessed 3 May 2018].

6. Critical Review, 2nd ser. 5 (Aug 1792), 570–72 (p. 570).

7. English Review, 21 (1793), 148.

8. Pam Perkins, ‘Susannah Gunning’, in The Literary Encyclopedia https://www.litencyc.com/php/speople.php?rec=true&UID=1915accessed 3 May 2018].

9. Bridget G. MacCarthy, The Female Pen: Women Writers and Novelists, 1621–1818 (New York: New York University Press, 1994), p. 305.

10. Thomas O. Beebee, ‘Publicity, Privacy, and the Power of Fiction in the Gunning Letters’, Eighteenth-Century Fiction, 20 (2007), 61–88 (p. 62) https://doi.org/ 10.3138/ecf.2007.20.1.61.

11. Thomas O. Beebee, ‘Minifie, Margaret and Susannah’, in The Encyclopedia of British Literature, ed. by Gary Day and Jack Lynch, 3 vols (New York: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), II, 797–98 (p. 798).

12. Beebee, ‘Publicity’, p. 62.

13. Mason, Literary Advertising, p. 120.

14. Ibid., p. 122.

15. By 1808 Lane had certainly retired from the printing business, passing on responsibility for the publishing activities at the Minerva Press to his partner, A. K. Newman. See Dorothy Blakey, The Minerva Press, 1790–1820 (London: Bibliographical Society, 1939), p. 22.

16. Deborah Anne McLeod, ‘The Minerva Press’ (unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Alberta, 1997), p. 51.

17. Hannah J. Doherty, ‘The Myth of Minerva: Publishing, Popular Fiction, and the Rise of the Novel’ (unpublished doctoral thesis, Stanford University, 2013), p. 5. Other estimates appear in James Raven, ‘Historical Introduction: The Novel Comes of Age’, in Peter Garside, James Raven and Rainer Schöwerling, The English Novel 1770–1829: A Bibliographical Survey of Prose Fiction Published in the British Isles, 2 vols (Oxford: OUP, 2000), I, 15–121 (p. 73); Megan Peiser, ‘Review Periodicals and the Visibility of William Lane’s Minerva Press’, Research Society for Victorian Periodicals, 4 Mar 2016 <rs4vp.org/review-periodicals-visibility-william-lanes-minerva-press-megan-peiser-university-missouri> [accessed 2 May 2018] (para. 6 of 14).

18. Blakey, Minerva Press, p. 2; and William St Clair, The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period (Cambridge: CUP, 2004), p. 244.

19. McLeod, ‘Minerva Press’, n.p.

20. Critical Review, 62 (1786), 149. The review considers Albina: A Novel, in a Series of Letters (1786) by Mary Graisberry.

21. Elizabeth A. Neiman, ‘A New Perspective on the Minerva Press’s “Derivative” Novels: Authorizing Borrowed Material’, ERR, 26.5 (2015), 633–59 (pp. 633–34) <https://doi.org/10.1080/10509585.2015.1070344>.

22. E. J. Clery, The Rise of Supernatural Fiction, 1762–1800 (Cambridge: CUP, 1995), p. 137.

23. Christopher Skelton-Foord, ‘To Buy or to Borrow? Circulating Libraries and Novel Reading in Britain, 1778–1828’, Library Review, 47 (1998), 348–54 (p. 353) <https://doi.org/10.1108/00242539810233477>.

24. McLeod, ‘Minerva Press’, p. 13.

25. Ibid., p. 13.

26. ‘Biographical Memoirs of William Lane, Esq. Proprietor of the Minerva Library and Printing-House, in Leadenhall-Street, in the City of London’, in The New, Original and Complete Wonderful Museum and Magazine Extraordinary, vol. VI, ed. by William Granger (London: Allen, 1868), pp. 2748–56 (p. 2749).

27. Ibid., p. 2749.

28. Ibid., p. 2751.

29. William Lane, An Address to the Public, on Circulating Libraries (London:Lane], 1795), p. 2.

30. Both Neiman and McLeod discuss the generous fictional depictions of Lane, which emphasised the ease of working with him and his enthusiasm for authors. See Neiman, ‘New Perspective’, pp. 636 and 640–43; and McLeod, ‘Minerva Press’, pp. 7–9.

31. Charlton’s eleven works for Minerva include The Pirate of Naples (1801), The Philosophic Kidnapper (1803) and The Rake and the Misanthrope (1804). Kraik’s five novels for Minerva include Julia de St Pierre (1796), Henry of Northumberland (1800), Adelaide de Narbonne (1800) and Stella of the North (1802).

32. Meeke’s twenty-eight novels with Minerva range from The Abbey of Clugny (1795) through Which Is the Man? (1801) to The Spanish Campaign (1815). Pigault-Lebrun, the pseudonym of Guillaume-Charles-Antoine Pigault de l’Espinoy (1753–1835), produced nine novels for Minerva, among them My Uncle Thomas (1801) and The History of a Dog (1804).

33. Reproduced in Blakey, Minerva Press, pp. 311–12 (p. 312).

34. Quotations from this pamphlet refer to the reprint in Michael Sadleir, ‘ “Minerva Press” Publicity: A Publisher’s Advertisement of 1794’, The Library, 2nd ser., 21 (1940), 207–15 <https://doi.org/10.1093/library/s4-XXI.2.207>.

35. Ibid., p. 207.

36. Ibid., pp. 208–13.

37. Ibid., p. 212.

38. Ibid., pp. 208 and 212.

39. Ibid., p. 210.

40. Ibid., p. 208.

41. Peiser, ‘Review Periodicals’, para. 5 of 14.

42. Ibid., paras 6 and 8 of 14.

43. Blakey, Minerva Press, p. 101.

44. Blakey demonstrates that using ‘the blank leaves at the end of his books to bring new novels to the attention of his readers’ was Lane’s common practice; she continues, ‘he seems to have taken considerable trouble in the setting of these advertisements, a number of which are carefully laid out, with ingenious spacing and rules, after the fashion of a title-page’ (ibid., p. 101). Indeed, the end leaf advertisement for the Anecdotes in V&V approximates the former’s title page quite nicely.

45. Michael Gamer, Romanticism, Self-Canonization, and the Business of Poetry (Cambridge: CUP, 2017), p. 4.

46. Blakey’s remains the definitive account of this series of advertisements (Minerva Press, pp. 98–100); see also Nicholas Mason, Literary Advertising and the Shaping of British Romanticism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), pp. 120–22.

47. Reprinted in Blakey, Minerva Press, p. 98.

48. Ibid., p. 99.

49. The Star, 21 Mar 1792, reprinted in Blakey, Minerva Press, p. 99.

50. Ibid.

51. Edward Jacobs, ‘Eighteenth-Century British Circulating Libraries and Cultural Book History’, Book History, 6 (2003), 1–22 (p. 3) <https://doi.org/10.1353/bh.2004.0010>.

52. Ibid., p. 9.

53. Susannah Gunning, Anecdotes of the Delborough Family, 3 vols (London: Minerva Press, 1792), III, 102.

54. Susannah Gunning, Virginius and Virginia (London: Minerva Press, 1792), p. vii.