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Literary Advertising and the Shaping of British Romanticism

Nicholas Mason

Publication Year: 2013

Literary Advertising and the Shaping of British Romanticism investigates the entwined histories of the advertising industry and the gradual commodification of literature over the course of the Romantic Century (1750–1850). In this well-written and detailed study, Nicholas Mason argues that the seemingly antagonistic arenas of marketing and literature share a common genealogy and, in many instances, even a symbiotic relationship. Drawing from archival materials such as publisher account books, merchant trade cards, and author letters, Mason traces the beginnings of many modern advertising methods—including product placement, limited-time offers, and journalistic puffery—to the British book trade during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Until now, Romantic scholars have not fully recognized advertising’s cultural significance or the importance of this period in the origins of modern advertising. Mason explores Lord Byron’s appropriation of branding, Letitia Elizabeth Landon’s experiments in visual marketing, and late-Romantic debates over advertising's claim to be a new branch of the literary arts. Mason uses the antics of Romantic-era advertising to illustrate the profound implications of commercial modernity, both in economic practices governing the book trade and, more broadly, in the development of the modern idea of literature.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

This book began in the late 1990s and has benefited, I hope, from the long gestation period that has followed. Much of my early thinking on the connections between literary and advertising history grew out of exchanges with Helen Cooper, Heidi Hutner, Ira Livingston, Cliff Siskin, and Michael Sprinker. ...

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Introduction: Entangled Histories

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pp. 1-10

In the summer of 1817 the up-and-coming Edinburgh publisher and bookseller William Blackwood pulled aside John Wilson and John Gibson Lockhart, two free-spirited, Oxford-trained attorneys who frequented his shop, and made them a proposal. The magazine he had launched in April of that year, the Edinburgh Monthly, was floundering, ...

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Chapter 1. Advertising in the Romantic Century

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pp. 11-22

Of the preeminent transitional years in British literary history, none is more appropriately situated than 1850. Not only did this year witness the symbolic culmination of Romanticism in the death of Wordsworth and the posthumous publication of his great Romantic epic, the fourteen-book Prelude, ...

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Chapter 2. The Progress of Puffery

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pp. 23-49

While, for all intents and purposes, the story of the twin rises of modern advertising and literature begins in eighteenth-century Britain, the prologue is actually set several centuries earlier in the workshop of William Caxton. Just one year after Caxton made history by introducing the printing press to England, ...

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Chapter 3. Building Brand Byron

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pp. 50-80

Four months to the day after Samuel Johnson’s death drew a curtain on the “Age of Johnson,” the Public Advertiser heralded the beginning of a new epoch in English cultural history. The 13 April 1785 issue of the London daily announced, “This is the Age of Advertising.” “Look at the London papers,” it insisted, “what is the sum total?— ...

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Chapter 4. L.E.L., Bandwagon Marketing, and the Rise of Visual Culture

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pp. 81-117

On 19 April 1827, a week to the day after George Canning was named Britain’s new prime minister, his old friend William Jerdan, a fellow Tory and the editor of the widely read Literary Gazette, wrote to offer his services to Canning’s government: ...

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Chapter 5. Puffery and the “Death” of Literature in Late-Romantic Britain

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pp. 118-142

In 1822 one of America’s most outspoken nationalists, James Kirke Paulding, published A Sketch of Old England, by a New England Man. Conceived as a rejoinder to British travel narratives that routinely characterized the United States as backward and lawless, Paulding’s Sketch portrays England as a fallen titan ...

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Conclusion: The Art of Advertising

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pp. 143-150

Given the evidence ushered forth in the preceding chapters, there should be little question that British advertising was thoroughly transformed between 1750 and 1850. To be sure, promotional theories and methods have continued evolving, especially with the explosion of printed media, the rise of data-driven marketing, ...


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pp. 151-166


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pp. 167-192


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pp. 193-202

E-ISBN-13: 9781421410715
E-ISBN-10: 1421410710
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421409986
Print-ISBN-10: 1421409984

Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 26 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 855534562
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Literary Advertising and the Shaping of British Romanticism

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Literature publishing -- Great Britain -- History -- 18th century
  • Literature publishing -- Great Britain -- History -- 19th century.
  • Authors and publishers -- Great Britain -- History -- 18th century.
  • Authors and publishers -- Great Britain -- History -- 19th century.
  • Advertising -- Great Britain -- History -- 18th century
  • Advertising -- Great Britain -- History -- 19th century
  • Romanticism -- Great Britain.
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