The Rewards of Authorship

in The Enlightenment & the Book

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780226752525
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226752549 | DOI:
The Rewards of Authorship

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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In an age when patronage often defined power, James Boswell's attribution to Samuel Johnson of the view that booksellers were “the patrons of literature” was significant. It was an assertion that publishers constituted the driving force behind serious writing—an assertion borne out in this particular case by the evidence of Johnson's own career as a writer who regularly responded to commissions from booksellers. This passage occurs at the end of a long section on the making of the Dictionary, and must be understood within that context. Early in the section Boswell reproduces Johnson's caustic letter to Lord Chesterfield, in which Johnson spurns the earl's pretense of patronage on the eve of publication by pointing out that it was when he was struggling to complete his work that he was badly in need of support.

Keywords: patronage; James Boswell; Samuel Johnson; booksellers; Dictionary; Lord Chesterfield; publishers

Chapter.  28933 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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