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A Secret History of English Literature
John Mullan

Hardcover | 2008 | $31.95 | ISBN: 9780691139418
384 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
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Some of the greatest works in English literature were first published without their authors' names. Why did so many authors want to be anonymous--and what was it like to read their books without knowing for certain who had written them? In Anonymity, John Mullan gives a fascinating and original history of hidden identity in English literature. From the sixteenth century to today, he explores how the disguises of writers were first used and eventually penetrated, how anonymity teased readers and bamboozled critics--and how, when book reviews were also anonymous, reviewers played tricks of their own in return.

Today we have forgotten that the first readers of Gulliver's Travels and Sense and Sensibility had to guess who their authors might be, and that writers like Sir Walter Scott and Charlotte Brontë went to elaborate lengths to keep secret their authorship of the best-selling books of their times. But, in fact, anonymity is everywhere in English literature. Spenser, Donne, Marvell, Defoe, Swift, Fanny Burney, Austen, Byron, Thackeray, Lewis Carroll, Tennyson, George Eliot, Sylvia Plath, and Doris Lessing--all hid their names. With great lucidity and wit, Anonymity tells the stories of these and many other writers, providing a fast-paced, entertaining, and informative tour through the history of English literature.


"[Mullan] has written an excellent book--in essence, a series of case histories of anonymous or pseudonymous publication. . . . Some of the cases involve major works, others curious minor ones. All of them are recounted with crisp good sense and a lively eye for anecdotal detail."--John Gross, Wall Street Journal

"Mullan is a shrewd observer of the stratagems devised by women writing as men, men writing as women, political pamphleteers, reviewers and confessional writers."--Duncan Wu, Times Higher Education Supplement

"[An] excellent new volume. . . . [A] compelling exploration of an important and neglected literary phenomenon."--James Robertson, Financial Times

"[An] engrossing study."--Robert Colvile, Daily Telegraph

"[Mullan] performs some shrewd literary criticism on the writings (some obscure, others less so) that fall within the intelligently concocted parameters of his study, and addresses the common reader with none of the rhodomontade associated with learning."--Pat Leslie, Sunday Telegraph

"[A] thought-provoking volume, full of good examples and research."--Robert McCrum, Observer (lead review)

"[Mullan] has . . . filled a major gap in literary history with this comprehensive survey of the phenomenon. . . . . [A] thoroughly useful survey of the form."--David Sexton, Evening Standard

"Fresh and continuously engaging."--Denis Donoghue, New York Sun

"Organized into suggestively titled chapters--'Mischief,' 'Modesty,' 'Women Being Men,' 'Men Being Women,' 'Danger,' 'Reviewing,' 'Mockery and Devilry,' 'Confession'--this book offers a readable, well-documented study of anonymous and pseudonymous publication. . . . [T]he book is engaging, even absorbing."--C.S. Vilmar, Choice

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Table of Contents:

Acknowledgements ix
Introduction 3
Chapter 1: Mischief 9
Chapter 2: Modesty 41
Chapter 3: Women being men 76
Chapter 4: Men being women 114
Chapter 5: Danger 138
Chapter 6: Reviewing 181
Chapter 7: Mockery and devilry 217
Chapter 8: Confession 254
Chapter 9: Epilogue 286
Notes 298
Bibliography 337
Index 353

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 Hardcover : $31.95 ISBN: 9780691139418

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File created: 7/11/2017

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