University of Sussex
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David Williams' lessons to a young prince: publisher influence and reader response

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posted on 2023-06-08, 15:02 authored by Peter Robinson
This thesis presents an interpretation of David Williams' (1738-1816) Lessons to a young prince (1790) ostensibly from a publisher-centric viewpoint. Through close analysis of its English-language editions it argues that Lessons has been consistently misattributed, misread, and otherwise taken out of context. The agglomeration of both contextual and particular factors contributed to this general negligence, but the most important factors were anonymity and the transformation of the text by the addition of a tenth lesson on Edmund Burke's Reflections, which altered the way Lessons was read by contemporaries in light of the revolution controversy. The thesis suggests that the explicit ad-hominen attack on Burke in the tenth lesson overshadowed what amounted to an implicit attack on Burke-in-transition towards Reflections contained in the original nine lessons. Using a significant body of previously unknown material to identify Williams' intended audience and the effects of anonymity, genre, and advertising on reader-response to Lessons, the thesis adds to existing knowledge about Williams' intentions and to the way his texts were read and understood by contemporaries. More particularly it underscores the importance of his publishers and charts their impact upon his text. The influence that Lessons' publishers had on the impact of the text, both intentional and unintentional had received no scholarly attention, and they are themselves, as publishers, understudied. However, as this thesis shows, their direct textual interpolations increased the satirical vigour of Lessons, whilst a sophisticated marketing campaign attempted to influence reader reception as well as sales. Indirectly, anonymity caused readers to superimpose the political sympathies of the publishers onto Lessons, which further pre-ordained the terms on which they were read.


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