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and a fashionable chamber/ At this juncture, he re-
marks, printing was ' the uppermost in my thoughts,
and hackney authors began to ply me with 'Specimens'
as earnestly, and with as much passion and concern,
as the watermen do passengers with oars and scullers.
' I had some acquaintance with this generation in my
apprenticeship, and had never any warm affection for
them ; in regard I always thought their great concern
lay more in how much a sheet, than in any generous
respect they bore to the commonwealth of learning ;
and, indeed, the learning itself of these gentlemen lies



John Dunton. 287

very often in as little room as their honesty ; though
they will pretend to have studied you six or seven
years in the Bodleian Library, to have turned over the
Fathers, and to have read and digested the whole com-
pass both of Human and Ecclesiastic History : when,
alas ! they have never been able to understand a single
page of Saint Cyprian, and cannot tell you whether
the Fathers lived before or after Christ. And as for
their Honesty, it is very remarkable : they will either
persuade you to go upon another man's Copy, to steal
his thought, or to abridge his book, which should have
got him bread for his life-time. When you have en-
gaged them upon some project or other, they will write
you off three or four sheets perhaps ; take up three or
four pounds upon an urgent occasion ; and you shall
never hear of them more. I have offered thus much, as
a character of these scribblers, that may give the caution
to booksellers, and take off a most wretched scandal
from the trade in general. However, though I have
met with temptations enough of this nature, to grow
rich by knavery, and a learned kind of theft, yet this I
can say for myself (and I neither have, nor shall be
too lavish in my own praise), that I never printed
another's Copy, went upon his project, nor stole so
much as his title-page, or his thought/

And again : ' A man should be well furnished with
an honest policy, if he intends to set out in the world
now-a-days. And this is no less necessary in a book-
seller than in any other tradesman ! for in that way
there are plots and counterplots, and a whole army of
hackney authors that keep their grinders moving by
the travail of their pens. These gormandizers will eat



288 The Earlier History of English Bookselling .

you the very life out of a Copy so soon as ever it ap-
pears ; for, as the times go, original and abridgement
are almost reckoned as necessary as man and wife ;
so that I am really afraid that a bookseller and a good
conscience will shortly grow some strange thing in
the earth. I shall not carry the reflection any farther,
but only make this simple remark, that he who designs
to be the best Christian, must dip himself the least in
business.'

Dunton's first venture was ' The Sufferings of Christ,'
by the Rev. Mr. Doolittle ; it was a successful one, and
fully answered the publisher's end, for, by 'exchanging it
through the whole trade, it furnished my shop with all
sorts of books saleable at that time ;' but its publication
also brought several of Mr. Doolittle's pupils to Mr.
Dunton's shop. His second venture was ' Daniel in
the Den, or the Lord President's Imprisonment and
Miraculous Deliverance,' by Mr. Jay, Rector of Chin-
ner; it was dedicated to Lord Shaftesbury, and published
upon the occasion of his being acquitted by an 'igno-
ramus ' jury. This work, being seasonable, sold well.
These successes gave Dunton ' an ungovernable itch to
be always intriguing that way.' The next thing he
printed was a sermon by the Rev. John Shower, at the
funeral of Mad. Anne Barnardiston, and this ran
through three editions. He now determined to
publish a collection of funeral discourses preached by
his father, which were entitled ' The House of Weep-
ing.'

His next move comes under quite a different cate-
gory. His female friends not only urged upon John the
importance of getting married, but they carried their



John Dunton. 289

friendship even farther by pointing out the most de-
sirable young ladies of their acquaintance who would
take John ' for better for worse.' There does not ap-
pear to have been the slightest supposition that either
of the young ladies would refuse him, or if any was so
expressed at the time, he has dishonestly omitted to
say so. Mrs. Seaton recommended Miss Sarah Day,
of Greenwich, but without any result ; ' another person '
proposed Miss Sarah Doolittle, in addition to whose
natural endowments there would be the chance of get-
ting her father's 'Copies ' for nothing ; ' his Book on the
Sacraments, you know,has sold to the twentieth edition,
which would have been an estate for a bookseller.'
But the claims of ' Sam. Crook ' were too strong, and
John stood no chance. At last, however, he met with
Dr. Annesley's daughter, by whom he was 'almost
charmed dead ' when he saw her in her father's meet-
ing-place. But she was pre-engaged, so his friends
advised him to ' make an experiment upon her elder
sister/ Elizabeth, and the result was marriage, a con-
summation which took place on August 3, 1682, in
All-hallows' Church. By this marriage he became
brother-in-law of Samuel Wesley, the father of John
Wesley, the founder of Methodism. He had now de-
serted his old quarters, and took a shop at the Black
Raven, in Princes Street, and carried on business pros-
perously till the universal damp upon trade which fol-
lowed Monmouth's defeat ' in the West. ' Dear Iris '
soon gave an early specimen of her prudence and dili-
gence by acting in the capacity of cash-keeper, and
managed the business, which left her ' Philaret ' to his
1 Monmouth was defeated at Sedgmoor on July 6, 1685.

U



290 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

' rambling and scribbling humours.' These were golden
days for John and his wife, for they frequently visited
their relations in the country together. But as a bright
summer's day soon fades, so their happiness was short-
lived. Having 5oo/. owing him in New England, he
determined to make a voyage thither, and, in 1685, he
found the fleet bound for that country lying at Graves-
end. He procured stowage for his ' venture in two
ships, that Neptune might have two throws at me, to
make rny ruin complete/ The name of the ship in
which he himself took passage was the Susannah and
Thomas, Captain Thomas Jenner, a ' rough covetous
tarpaulin/ in command. Very sick, very miserable, and
very cowardly is the bookseller on his tempestuous
voyage. On one occasion he seems to have indulged
in bragging, which he very soon repented, when, in a
time of danger, the men called out, c Where is Mr. Dun-
ton, that was so valiant over-night ? ' ' This, I confess/
says John, 'put me into a cold sweat, and I cried,
" Coming ! coming ! I am only seeking my ruffles/'-
a bad excuse, you know, is better than none. I made
my appearance at last, but looked nine ways at once ;
for I was afraid death might come in amongst the
boards, or nobody knew where. This is the only in-
stance I can give, when my courage failed me/ Al-
though regretting the loss, value 5oo/., of one of the
two ventures in a storm, he ' cannot enough admire
the good providence that saved ' himself. They were
over four months at sea, and were reduced to great
straits more than once.

He arrived safe at Boston in March, 1685-6, and
opened a bookseller's shop, which he stocked with



John Dunton. 291

the books contained in the second venture. He was,
he admits, as welcome to the booksellers of Boston
as ' sour ale in summer,' they looking upon his gain
as their loss. No sooner had he arrived than he sent
home a ' whole packet ' of letters to dear Iris, and he
duly transcribes one in his ' Life and Errors ' for the
benefit of his readers. Whilst in America he visited
a number of places, such as Harvard College, the
town of Salem, where he opened another warehouse
for his books ; Wenham, and also Ipswich, where he
had an opportunity of seeing much of the customs of
the Indians. He enters into a very particular account
concerning those he met, especially the ' maids, wives,
and widows,' nearly all of whom he describes in the
most glowing and flattering terms ; but there are
some exceptions, to one only of which we shall refer.

Mrs. D he mentions as ' having a bad face and

a worse tongue ; and has the report of being a Witch.
Whether she be one or no, I know not, but she has
ignorance and malice enough to make her one,' &c.
But, notwithstanding all his charms, and we may be
sure he had many, the American ladies all found him
a ' true platonick.'

After a sojourn of several months, he once more
turned his face towards home, and minutely describes
his leave-taking. ' So soon as ever my friends were gone
off to shore, our Captain ordered all his guns to fire,
which were accompanied with huzzas, and shouts, and
shaking of hats, till we had lost all sight of our
friends.' And hereupon he drops down into verse :

' Kind Boston, adieu ; part we must, though 'tis pity,
But I'm made for mankind, and all the world is my city.
U 2



292 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

Look how on the shore they hoop and they hollow,
Not for joy I am gone, but for grief they can't follow.'

John's modesty does not even stop here, for he likens
himself to Ulysses for the troubles he had undergone,
but it will be a little difficult to find any great re-
semblance in the two wanderers' travels. He was
sore afraid that his unexpected presence would prove
fatal to his Penelope, so he commissioned his sister
Mary to inform his wife that ' there was a gentleman
waiting for her ' at the Queen's Head Tavern, in Spital-
fields, who would give ' some account of Philaret.'
About an hour afterwards she came, and ' at the first
interview we stood speechless, and gazing upon each
other, whilst Iris shed a flood of tears,' presumably of
joy. His father-in-law received him with every mark
of kindness and respect, and poor John expected
nothing but ' a golden life of it for the future ;' but
his hopes were soon withered, for he was ' so deeply
entangled for my sister-in-law ; I was not suffered to
step over the threshold in ten months, unless it was
once under disguise.' He then relates a most amusing
story, quite characteristic of the man. ' My confine-
ment growing very uneasy to me, especially on Lord's-
days, I was extremely desirous to hear Dr. Annesley
preach ; and immediately this contrivance was started
in my head, that dear Iris should dress me in woman's
cloaths, and I would venture myself abroad under
those circumstances. To make short of it, I got
myself shaved, and put on as effeminate a look as my
countenance would let me ; and being well-fitted out
with a large scarf, I set forward ; but every step I
took, the fear was upon me that it was made out of



John Dunton. 293

form,' &c. He got to the meeting, heard the sermon,
and was returning home 'through Bishopsgate-street,
with all the circumspection and the care imaginable
(and I then thought I had done it pretty well),
when an unlucky rogue cried out, " I'll be hanged if
that ben't a man in a woman's cloaths." This put me
into my preternaturals indeed, and I began to scour
off as fast as my legs would carry me : there were at
least twenty or thirty of them that made after me ;
but, being acquainted with all the alleys, I dropped
them, and came off with honour.'

Finding his enforced retirement becoming more
and more wearisome, he determines to make a trip to
the Continent, and spends, accordingly, several months
in Holland, Flanders, Germany, &c., and stayed four
months at Amsterdam, whence he travelled to Cleves,
Rhineberg, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Mentz, &c., and
returned to London via Rotterdam on November
15, 1688. On the day the Prince of Orange came
to London, Dunton opened shop at the Black Raven
in the Poultry.

According to his own account, he here published
no less than 600 books in a very short space of time.
Dunton's experience must have been quite unique in
the annals of bookselling, for of this great number
he only repented of seven. The most noteworthy of
these unfortunate ' specs. 1 was ' A Voyage around the
World ; or, a Pocket Library divided into several
Volumes ; the first of which contains the rare Ad-
ventures of Don Kainophilus, from his cradle to his
1 5th year, 1691.' This book is remarkable on account
of its rarity, for two pieces of excellent poetry which



294 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

it contains, and also in being probably the first of the
long catalogue of his lucubrations. It has called
forth some very interesting remarks from D'Israeli :
' It is a low rhapsody ; but it bears a peculiar feature,
a certain whimsical style, which he affects to call his
own, set off with frequent dashes, and occasionally a
banter on false erudition. These cannot be shewn
without extracts. I would not add an idle accusation
to the already injured genius of Sterne ; but I am
inclined to think he might have caught up his pro-
ject of writing Tristram's life in " twenty-four cock-
rambling " volumes ; have seized on the whim of
Dunton's style ; have condescended even to copy out
his breaks and dashes. But Sterne could not have
borrowed wit or genius from so low a scribbler. The
elegant pieces of poetry were certainly never com-
posed by Dunton, whose mind had no elegance, and
whose rhymes are doggrel.'

The six other books which Dunton repented having
published are ' The Second Spira,' ' The Post-boy
robbed of his Mail/ ' The New Quevedo/ ' The
Pastor's Legacy,' ' The Heavenly Pastime,' and ' The
Hue and Cry after Conscience.' These he heartily
wished he had never seen, and advised all those who
had them to burn them. We may as well here quote
the titles of a dozen of his more successful publica-
tions, as indicating the general character of his works :
' The Morning Exercises,' Malebranche's ' Search after
Truth ' translated by Sault, Coke's ' Detection of the
Court and State of England,' Lord Delamere's
' Works,' Dr. Burthogg's ' Essay on Reason,' Bishop
Barlow's ' Remains,' ' The Life and Death of the



John Dunton. 295

Reverend Mr. John Elliot/ ' The Bloody Assizes,'
Joseph Stephens' ' Sermons,' ' Tradgedies of Sin ' by
Jay, Showers' ' Mourner's Companion,' and Madame
Singer's ' Poems.' ' The History of the Edict of
Nantes,' translated by several hands, attracted the
attention of King William's Consort, and pleased
her very much ; it 'was the only book to which she
ever granted her Royal License.' The License is
dated June 30, 1693.

In 1692, having been 'put in possession of a
considerable estate upon the decease of my cousin
Carter, the Master and Assistants of the Company of
Stationers began to think me sufficient to wear a
Livery, and honoured me with the cloathing.' The
first year he wore livery, Sir William Ashhurst was
Lord Mayor, and ' I was invited by our Master and
Wardens to dine with his Lordship.' The entertain-
ment was a generous one. ' The world now smiled
upon me. I sailed with wind and tide, and had
humble servants enough among the booksellers,
stationers, printers, and binders ; but especially my
own relations, on every side, were all upon the very
height of love and tenderness, and I was caressed
almost out of my five senses.'

' I have, it is true, been very plentifully loaded
with the imputation of " Maggots," &c. And what is
the reason ? Why, because I have usually started
something that was new ; whilst others, like footpads,
ply only about the high-roads, and either abridge
another man's book, or one way or other contrived
the very life and soul out of the Copy, which perhaps
was the only subsistence of the first proprietor. I



296 The Earlier History of English Bookselling,

once printed a book, I remember, under the title
of " Maggots," 2 but it was written by a dignitary of

the Church of England My first project was

^o. Athenian Gazette. As the Athenian Society had
their first meeting in my brain, so it has been kept
ever since religiously secret ; ' and he then enters into
a lengthy account of what he terms this ' true dis-
covery,' which may be summarized as follows : The
real origin of the 'venture' arose out of some
thoughts which were caused by a 'very flaming
injury loaded with aggravations,' and whilst labouring
under a consequent perplexity, he was one day walking
with Mr. Larkin and Mr. Harris over St. George's
Fields, when on a sudden he made a stop and said,
'Well, Sirs, I have a thought I'll not exchange for
fifty guineas ! ' Naturally his companions desired
to be enlightened, but in vain. ' The first rude hint
of it was no more than a confused idea of concealing
the Querist, and answering his question.' When he
arrived home he brought the idea into form, and
hammered out a title for it, 'which happened to be
extremely lucky.' He consulted his friend Mr. Rd.
Sault (ante, p. 294) upon the matter ' over a glass of
wine,' and that gentleman offered very freely ' to
become concerned.' The design was well advertised,
and the two at once ' settled to it ' with great diligence,
and produced by their own unaided efforts the first and
second numbers of the Athenian Gazette. The first
was published March 17, 1689-90. It appeared on
Tuesdays and Saturdays, and was a ' newspaper ' only

* ' Maggots, or Poems on Several Subjects never before
handled,' 1685. This was by Samuel Wesley.



John Dunton. 297

in the sense of advertisements. Each number con-
sisted of a folio leaf printed on both sides. The
matter consisted solely of questions on almost every
conceivable subject, with answers according to the
then state of knowledge on each particular phase.
The project created a great sensation, so much so
that its jubilant originator was overloaded with letters,
sometimes finding several hundreds for him at Mr.
Smith's coffee-house in Stocksmarket, ' where we
usually met to consult about matters.' An additional
helpmate was found by Sault in the person of Dr.
Norris, ' the greatest prodigy of learning he [Sault] had
ever met with.' To ' oblige authority ' the title was
altered to Atlienian Mercury, and finding its popularity
increasing every week, and with this the impatience
of the querists, the Rev. Samuel Wesley, already
mentioned as author of ' Maggots/ joined the staff.

Dunton's grand success soon created imitators, and
' Mr. Brown and Mr. Pate began to ape our design '
by publishing the Lacedemonian Mercury \ which John
determined upon blowing up, ' one way or other.' The
first step taken was to advertise that all the questions
answered in the Lacedemonian Mercury should be
answered over again in the Athenian Mercury, with
amendments, and with the life of Tom Brown, the
chief antagonist. ' This news startled them pretty
much. At that time I was altogether unacquainted
with Mr. Brown. However, one evening he comes to
me with all the civility imaginable, and desires to
take a glass with me.' Dunton, with his Athenian
confreres, adjourned to the Three Cranes, and a good-
tempered chat probably ensued, although Mr. Sault



298 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

was inclined to be a bit pugnacious at first. Another
imitator was the London Mercury, which commenced
a short-lived career on February I, 1691-2, to the
authors of which Dunton's sign of a raven suggested
the humorous idea of presenting their readers with
a head-piece composed of Dunton's 'bird of dire
presage bearing on its back Minerva's favourite
attendant, the sapient, grave, and solemn owl.' The
Athenian Mercury did not escape adverse criticism ;
but in spite of the difficulties it prospered, and Gildon
wrote 'A History of the Athenian Society,' to which
were prefixed several poems by such as Motteaux, Foe,
Richardson, and Tate. ' Mr. Swift, a country gentle-
man, sent an Ode to the Athenian Society, which, being
an ingenious poem, was prefixed to the fifth supple-
ment of the A thenian Mercury' This was a peculiarly
ill-starred move of the morose Dean of St. Patrick's,
for it called forth from Dryden the famous but true
prognostication, ' Cousin Swift, you will never be a
poet/ Dunton occasionally received communications
for his paper from Sir William Temple, and several
other men of eminence. The Athenian Mercury con-
tinued until it had swollen to twenty volumes folio,
the last number being issued on February 8, 1695-6.
' A choice collection 01" the most valuable questions
and answers' that appeared in the Athenian Mercury
were reprinted in three volumes, and ran through
several editions in the course of Dunton's lifetime.
Dunton's Mercury was a sort of seventeenth-century
Notes and Queries.

His second project was the Athenian Spy, the
curious aim of which was to advocate the superior



John D union. 299

claims of platonic courtship and platonic matrimony.
The third project for the promotion of learning was
'A Supplement to the Athenian Mercury afterwards
rechristened the Complete Library, which existed
for ten months, when it was driven out of the field
by M. Lecrose's ' The Works of the Learned.' The
Post A ngel forms project number four. It commenced
in January, 1701, and had upon its cover the follow-
ing motto from Cowley :

' Only that Angel was straight gone ; even so
(But not so swift) the morning glories flow,
(Quick post) that with a speedy expedition
Flies to accomplish his divine commission,
God's winged herald, Heaven's swift messenger,
'Twixt Heaven and Earth the true interpreter.'

' I don't know,' observes Mr. Dunton, ' what welcome
this "Angel " will have, or how I came to write upon
the subject, for I knew nothing of it till I dreamt of
it, and I fell to write it as soon as I wak't.' ' Post
Angels' Dunton defines as invisible inhabitants of the
middle regions, who are continually employed about
us either as friends or foes. This unlucky ' brat/ 3 as
he calls it, was continued by him until June 1702,
when, changing hands, and, to some extent, character,
it expired ' in the clutches of the sheriffs officers/

We. shall do no more than name what he terms his
fifth, sixth, and seventh projects respectively : ' The
New Practice of Piety,' in imitation of Browne's

3 The reader will find a full account of this most curious
periodical, with numerous amusing extracts, in the Gentleman's
Magazine for June, 1857, pp. 670$.



3OO The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

' Religio Medici,' ' The Female War/ and ' The
Post-boy robbed of his Mail.'

His eighth 'project' was of quite a different
class to any others. It was entitled ' The Night
Walker ; or, Evening Rambles in Search after Lewd
Women, with the various Conferences held with
them.' Perhaps a more insane idea, to be carried
out in such a novel fashion, never filtered itself
through the human imagination. His chief object
was to extirpate lewdness from London, a scheme,
observes Nichols, highly creditable to the schemer,
had it been practicable. ' Armed with a constable's
staff, and accompanied by a clerical companion, he
sallied forth in the evening, and followed the wretched
prostitutes home, or to a tavern, where every effort
was used to win the erring fair to the paths of virtue ;
but these, he observes, were ' perilous adventures/ as
the Cyprians exerted every art to lead him astray in
the height of his spiritual exhortations.

' The Merciful Assizes ; or, a Panegyrick on the
late Lord Jeffreys' Hanging so many in the West,'
he describes as his last project, among many others
left unmentioned. In ' The Bloody Assizes ' (ante,
p. 295), of which Dunton sold over six thousand
copies, Jeffreys is 'made a very cruel man ;' but, by
an inherent spirit of contrariness, he ventures 'to praise
that nonsitchman, George Lord Jeffreys,' and cites
two justifications, one in which a ' witty author '
' defended the bloody Nero,' and the other ' An
Apology for the Failures of Dr. Walker.' ' The
Merciful Assizes ' had a good sale, and the author's
friend, George Larkin, 'was pleased to explain the
project by an ingenious poem.'



John Dunton. 301

At or about the death of ' dear Iris,' which occurred
on May 28, 1697, John got into difficulties, which in-
creased as time went on. Probably the loss of her was
to some extent the cause of his decline ; for, apart
from of her husband's constant endearments, she was
presumably a good wife. His grief, however, was not
very protracted ; for, although he wrote ' A Compre-
hensive View of the Life and Death of Iris,' and put
about twenty of their relations into mourning, he


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