The Familiar Letter in the Eighteenth Century
Howard Anderson, Philip B. Daghlian, and Irvin Ehrenpries, eds.
With the growth of efficient postal service in England and the stimulus of a growing tradition of informal prose among eighteenth-century men of leisure, the intimate letter reached unprecedented literary heights as the exemplary form of the period. Considered here are the striking and diverse qualities both of the art and the personalities of the great letter-writers: Swift, Pope, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Richardson, the Earl of Chesterfield, Johnson, Sterne, Gray, Walpole, Burke, Cowper, Gibbon, and Boswell.
“It is surprising that this book has not been written before. For years critics have recognized the importance of 18th-century familiar letters without ever trying systematically to define the sources of their literary power. This group of 15 essays, by as many authors, begins this important critical work. . . . the essays . . . consistently call our attention to important literary issues and concepts of the period. . . . With a range of tone from Cowper’s apparent intimacy to Burke’s moral authority, the letters resolve in remarkably varied ways the tension between their writers’ egos and the demands of subject matter and audience. This collection is absorbing, important, unprecedented, and surely indispensable for undergraduate or graduate collections.”