STEELE, BERKELEY, JEREMY TAYLOR, AND COPYRIGHT

Mr. Steele detected: or, the poor and oppressed Orphan’s Letters to the great and arbitrary Mr. Steele; complaining of the great Injustice done, to the Publick in general, and to Himself in particular, by the Ladies Library; publish’d by Mr. Steele. Together with Mr. Steele’s Answers; and some just Reflections on them …

London: Printed for John Morphew … 1714.

8vo., pp. 21, [2] publisher’s advertisements, [1]; with an engraved frontispiece (taken from Taylor’s Holy Living and Holy Dying); a fine copy; disbound.

£950

Approximately:
US $1164€1104

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Mr. Steele detected: or, the poor and oppressed Orphan’s Letters to the great and arbitrary Mr. Steele; complaining of the great Injustice done, to the Publick in general, and to Himself in particular, by the Ladies Library; publish’d by Mr. Steele. Together with Mr. Steele’s Answers; and some just Reflections on them …

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First and only edition: a fulminating attack on The Ladies Library. Written by a Lady. Published by Mr. Steele (1714), now known to be a curious adaptation by Bishop Berkeley of Jeremy Taylor’s devotional classics, The Rule and Exercise of Holy Living and Holy Dying, in ‘large chunks’, ‘improvingly arranged’ with ‘extracts from seventeenth-century divines’ (Gathorne-Hardy & Williams). The traditional attribution to Lady Wray, Taylor’s granddaughter, is now to be dismissed. A contract between Steele and Tonson, acknowledging Berkeley as the author, survives in the Osborn Collection at Yale.

Taking the title-page of The Ladies Library at face value, the ‘highly injured’ bookseller Royston Meredith, whose grandfather Richard Royston was Taylor’s publisher, prints the angry correpondence with Steele which ensued. He rejects Tonson’s claim that he paid the necessary copy-money to reprint Taylor’s text and attacks Steele, ‘so great a stickler for the Liberty, Rights, and Properties of the Subject’, for being ‘ignorant of the Right and Property every Bookseller hath to his Copies; which you well know to be the same, with that a Gentleman has to his Estate’ (p. 5). The ‘poor oppressed orphans’ are evidently Meredith and his sister.

‘Sir, before you had collected so many and whole sections out of Bishop Taylor’s Holy Living and Dying (which be pleased to take notice, is my copy) you would have acted very prudently, seriously to have perused that of Restitution [Chapter III, Section IV, in Holy Living], where you might have read these words, Better it is to go begging to Heaven, than to go to Hell, laden with the Spoils of Rapine and Injustice’ (p. 6).

Gathorne-Hardy & Williams, Jeremy Taylor, p. 36.

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