My Schoolfellows, My Patrons, My Public: English Schoolboy Authorship 1786-1798.
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Over the course of the eighteenth century, schoolboys were prolific writers, producing poetry, speeches, plays, periodicals, and novels to entertain their schoolfellows as well as a broader public, who listened to and read their work, criticised it, copied it, circulated it, had it printed, and purchased it. My research has yielded over seventy works published in print and manuscript by boys at English schools between 1660 and 1800. Yet schoolboy authors have been largely ignored by scholars, even as recent work has been produced on the history of education, on childhood, and on the rise of children’s literature as a distinct genre in the mid-to-late eighteenth century. This thesis provides a survey of the corpus of schoolboy writing, along with three case studies of schoolboy authors who published between 1787 and 1800. The first case study concerns three schoolboy-authored periodicals: The Microcosm (1786–1787), The Trifler (1788), and The Flagellant (1792), which together form the largest corpus of identifiable schoolboy writing in print. The second study considers the work of James Boswell Jr (1778-1822), son of the biographer, whose juvenilia comprises verses, essays, plays, and letters, and is possibly the largest extant collection of extra-curricular literary manuscripts by a single eighteenth-century schoolboy. The third study examines a nearly five hundred page manuscript novel loosely based on Robinson Crusoe, written and illustrated by a boy named Jonathan Banks, at an unidentified school, probably in the mid-1790s. In surveying how schoolboy authors chose genres and formats, circulated material, and interacted with their intended and actual audiences, I hope to reveal how the experience of the schoolroom influenced their writing, how they defined authorship, both for themselves and their readers, and how their schools functioned as a space of literary production and consumption.
AuthorsGage, Jill Elizabeth
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