English Literature

Contact Donovan Rees or Ted Hofmann

British literature and history from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, with an emphasis on poetry, fiction, and drama.

We usually have a selection of literary works from the STC and Wing period (i.e. before 1701), and a broad range of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fiction and poetry, particularly the Romantics. We also have a selection of historical manuscripts, prints and broadsides, and works in translation.

Among important works which have passed through our hands are the editor's presentation copy of Milton's Lycidas, Swift's Modest Proposal, the autograph draft of Byron's She walks in beauty, the autograph manuscript of Jane Austen's only play Sir Charles Grandison, Dickens’s copy of Vanity Fair, Trollope's classical library, and, over the years, some fifty Shakespeare First Folios.

  1. MORTON, Thomas.

    Secrets worth knowing; a Comedy, in five Acts. As performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden …

    London: Printed for T. N. Longman … 1798.

    First edition of a comedy by the prolific dramatist Thomas Morton (first issue, with the epilogue beigging on F4 and four rather than five pages of ads). A prodigal son conceals his marriage to ensure his legacy, with unfortunate consueqences; it was ‘in some parts ludicrous and bordering on the improbable...

    £100

  2. [MOZEEN, Thomas].

    Young Scarron.

    London: Printed and sold by T. Trye ... and W. Reeve ... 1752.

    First edition of one of the earliest English theatrical novels, schematically based on Scarron’s Roman comique, and dedicated to the managers of the London theatres. Mozeen was himself a successful strolling player. The narrative follows Bob Loveplay and Will Glitter as they lead a troupe of...

    £650

  3. NORTH, Francis.

    The Kentish Barons: a Play, in three Acts. Interspersed with Songs … First performed at the Theatre-Royal, Hay-Market,...

    London: Printed for J. Ridgway … 1791.

    First edition, a political drama by the future fourth Earl of Guildford, son of the Prime Minister, partly in verse; ‘the airs were composed by Miss Monk, a dilettante and very dilettante-like music it was. The language was bold and poetical, and written in elegant blank verse; but, owing to the inferiority...

    £100

  4. OTWAY, Thomas.

    Venice preserv’d, or a Plot discover’d. A Tragedy. As it is acted at the Duke’s Theatre …

    London, Printed for Jos. Hindmarsh … 1682.

    First edition of perhaps the finest tragedy of the Restoration stage. No play has ‘been revived more often ... save those of Shakespeare’ (Pforzheimer). The play was first performed in February 1682 by the Duke of York’s company at Dorset Garden; and it was staged again in April to welcome the...

    £750

  5. RANDOLPH, Thomas.

    Poems with the Muses Looking-Glasse: and Amyntas …

    Oxford, Printed by Leonard Lichfield … for Francis Bowman: 1638.

    First edition of the major collection – pastoral, erotic, and festive verse, followed by two plays – of one of the more illustrious of the ‘sons of Ben’, published two years after his death some three months short of his thirtieth birthday. Randolph began his literary career at Trinity College,...

    £2250

  6. RICHARDSON, Joseph.

    The Fugitive: a Comedy. As it is performed at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket …

    London: Printed for J. Debrett … 1792.

    First edition of the first play by Sheridan’s friend, the writer and politican Joseph Richardson, proprietor of the Morning Post and later of the Drury Lane Theatre (by 1796 he had a £12,000 stake); this is the second issue, with sheets K-M reset to add extra dialogue to Act V, scene I.

    £100

  7. ROCHESTER, John Wilmot, Earl of.

    Valentinian: a Tragedy. As ’tis alter’d by the late Earl of Rochester, and acted at the Theatre-Royal....

    London: Printed for Timothy Goodwin … 1685.

    First edition, as altered by Rochester from John Fletcher’s revenge tragedy, based loosely on events in the reign of the weak and dissolute Roman emperor Valentinian III, and his murder (written c.1610-14, printed 1647). Rochester’s intended title was Lucina’s Rape, the central incident...

    £650

  8. SHAW, Eyre Massey, Capt.

    Report … to the Right Hon. the Secretary of State of the Home Department concerning the Fire which occurred...

    London: Printed for Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, by Eyre and Spottiswoode … 1888.

    First edition of Shaw’s account of the disastrous fire at the Theatre Royal, Exeter, in 1887.

    £150

  9. [SHERIDAN, Richard Brinsley].

    The School for Scandal. A Comedy …

    ‘Dublin: Printed for J. Ewling.’ [1790s?]

    The undated Ewling edition of The School for Scandal, for a long time believed to be the first edition, but now thought later. With the London cast-list.

    £600

  10. SHERIDAN, Richard Brinsley.

    The Rivals, a Comedy. As it is acted at the Theatre-Royal in Covent-Garden.

    London: Printed for John Wilkie … 1775.

    First edition of the play that introduced Mrs. Malaprop to the English stage.

    £500

  11. [SHERIDAN, Richard Brinsley].

    The School for Scandal. A Comedy. As it is acted at the Theatre, Smoke-Alley, Dublin. [Dublin], Printed...

    [Dublin], Printed for the Booksellers. 1793

    First separate illustrated edition. The plates, newly engraved, are based on plates in A Volume of Plays [by Sheridan and others] performed at the Theatre, Smoke-Alley, Dublin, 1785 and following. They illustrate Act IV, Scene 1 (the Surface family portraits) and Act IV, Scene 2 (the screen scene). The...

    £750

  12. [TALFOURD, Thomas Noon].

    Ion; a Tragedy, in five Acts. To which are added a few Sonnets. Second Edition.

    London: Printed by A. J. Valpy ... for private Circulation. Not published. [1835]

    Second private edition of Talfourd’s blank verse tragedy, adding a small group of eight sonnets not in the first edition (also privately printed, 1835), and with a new preface: ‘Having exhausted the small impression which was originally printed of Ion, and finding that there are yet friends in whose...

    £250

  13. TENNYSON, Alfred, Lord.

    The Cup and the Falcon.

    London: Macmillan and Co. 1884.

    First published edition, preceded by a ‘trial’ edition of 1882 recorded by Wise as surviving in one known copy – in his own collection. The Cup was first performed in 1881 with Sir Henry Irving and Ellen Terry. Wise, Tennyson 146; Tinker 2096.

    £75

  14. TENNYSON, Alfred, Lord.

    Locksley Hall Sixty Years after etc.

    London: Macmillan and Co. … 1886.

    First edition. Wise, Tennyson 156; Tinker 2098.

    £60

  15. [THEATRE].

    La locanda commedia da rappresentarsi in Firenze nel Teatro di Via del Cocomero nell’autunno dell’anno 1756.

    Florence, Pietro Gaetano Viviani, 1756.

    Sole edition, extremely rare (no other copy listed in library catalogues), of this three-act comedy, a notable example of the new Italian comedy inspired by Goldoni. This work appears to echo Goldoni’s La vedova scaltra (1748), while developing the plot and the theme along original trajectories....

    £700

  16. THOMAS, Dylan, and Sir Peter Blake, illustrator.

    Under Milk Wood: A Play for Voices.

    London: Apple Litho (Bristol) Ltd. for Enitharmon Editions and Queen Anne Press, 2013.

    De Luxe edition, number 61 of 100 copies with a signed print by Blake. This finely-produced edition was published to mark the centenary of Dylan Thomas’s birth and celebrates the culmination of over twenty-five years of work by Peter Blake, one of the founding fathers of British Pop Art. The...

    £975

  17. [ZOUCHE, Richard].

    The Sophister. A Comedy …

    London: Printed by J. O. for Humphrey Mosley, and are to be sold at his Shop … 1639.

    First edition, attributed to Richard Zouche, Regius professor of civil law at Oxford from 1620 until his death. Only two literary works are credited to Zouche (1590-1651), a poem The Dove: or Passages of Cosmography (1613), and the present play, with its resoundingly legal vocabulary.

    £2500