English Literature

Contact Donovan Rees, Ted Hofmann or Alexander Laar

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. ALFIERI, Vittorio. LLOYD, Charles, translator.

    The Tragedies of Vittorio Alfieri; translated from the Italian … In three Volumes …

    London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown … 1815.

    First edition of this translation, which Lloyd undertook ‘on the suggestion of a friend whose judgement I highly respect’. This friend was likely Southey, who he addresses as his ‘sponsor’ in the ‘Dedicatory Sonnet’. He held Southey in high esteem, and benefited from his friendship through...

    £450

  2. ARISTOPHANES.

    The Birds … Translated by the Rev. Henry Francis Cary … With Notes.

    London: Printed for Taylor and Hessey … 1824.

    First edition. ‘Given how much there is in Aristophanes to outrage and violate nineteenth-century manners and sensibilities, it may seem surprising how popular he was. The popularity came at the price of bowdlerizing much of the “grossness”, but there was admiration and even a certain yearning...

    £350

  3. BARON, Robert.

    Mirza. A Tragedie, really acted in Persia, in the last Age. Illustrated with historicall Annotations.

    London: Printed for Humphrey Moseley … [1655?].

    First edition of Baron’s last literary endeavour, a violent revenge tragedy influenced by Jonson’s Catiline, mostly in verse, packed with political intrigue, murders ‘and Seraglio’s too’, all fitting subjects for its exotic setting. Not intended for performance, which been impossible...

    £850

  4. CAREY, Henry.

    The Dramatick Works …

    London: Printed by S. Gilbert, 1743.

    First collected edition, published in the year of Carey’s death, with his final revisions, ‘not only free from the errors of false and spurious editions, published without my knowledge and consent, but (upon this occasion) revised and improv’d, even from my own original copies’.

    £650

  5. CARTWRIGHT, William.

    Comedies, Tragi-comedies, with other Poems … the Ayres and Songs set by Mr Henry Lawes, Servant to his late...

    London, Printed for Humphrey Moseley … 1651.

    First edition of the witty and elegant drama and verse of a celebrated ‘son of Ben’, who said ‘My son Cartwright writes like a man’. According to Evelyn, Charles I reckoned The Royall Slave ‘the best that was ever acted’ after he saw it as the main entertainment on the royal progress...

    £1750

  6. DENHAM, Sir John.

    Poems and Translations, with The Sophy ... .

    London, Printed for H. Herringman ... 1668

    First edition, the definitive collection, published the year before the author’s death, containing 25 pieces, fourteen of them new. It begins with Denham’s famous topographical poem, Cooper’s Hill. The bawdy ‘Dialogue between Sir John Pooley and Mr. Thomas Killigrew’, about Killigrew’s...

    £1100

  7. ETHEREGE, George.

    The comical Revenge, or Love in a Tub. Acted at his Highness the Duke of York’s Theatre in Lincolns-Inn-Fields ...

    London, Printed for Henry Herringman ... 1669.

    Fourth edition of Etherege’s first play, preceded by two editions of 1664 and one of 1667; this is the scarcer of two printings for Herringman in 1669, with ‘fields’ rather than ‘Fields’ in the title, and the catchword ‘hope’ not ‘the’ on A2r.

    £500

  8. GAY, John.

    The Distress’d Wife. A Comedy. By the late Mr. Gay, Author of the Beggar’s Opera.

    London: Printed for Thomas Astley … 1743.

    First edition, the issue with no press figures on pp. 8, 39, press figure p. 56: 3 (no priority). Gay’s comedy of the sexes revolves around Sir Thomas Willit’s attempts to inveigle his wife to leave London for the country, in order to reign-in her expenditure. Lady Willit abhors the idea, ‘Sure...

    £350

  9. [JOHNSON, Charles].

    Caelia: or, the perjur’d Lover. A Play. As it is acted at the Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane, by His Majesty’s...

    London: Printed for J. Watts … 1733.

    First edition. Caelia, Johnson’s last theatrical production, is an attack on the fashionable libertinism of the day. As the Preface explains, however, he refused to take Barton Booth’s advice and expunge the vivid brothel scenes, and a fastidious audience answered with their pockets. The play,...

    £200

  10. KINNAIRD, Douglas.

    The Merchant of Bruges; or, Beggar’s Bush. With considerable Alterations and Additions. Now performing, with...

    London: Printed for Whittingham and Arliss ... 1815

    First edition of the only literary work by the intimate friend and banker of Lord Byron, who dedicated Hebrew Melodies to him in 1815. The play was produced at Drury Lane where both served on the Committee, dedicated to Lady Caroline Lamb’s brother-in-law (who contributed three songs), and has...

    £250

  11. LAMB, Charles.

    John Woodvil a Tragedy ... to which are added, Fragments of Burton, the Author of the Anatomy of Melancholy.

    London: Printed by T. Plummer ... for G. and J. Robinson ... 1802.

    First edition. John Woodvil was Charles Lamb’s first play (or dramatic poem), regarded by him at one time as his ‘finest effort’, a ‘medley (as I intend it to be a medley) of laughter and tears, prose and verse, and in some places rhyme, songs, wit, pathos, humour, and, if possible, sublimity’...

    £1250

  12. LAMB, Charles.

    The Works … in two Volumes …

    London: Printed for C. and J. Ollier … 1818.

    First edition, dedicated to ‘my dear Coleridge’: a selection of poems, essays and letters, as well as John Woodvil and Rosamund Gray. There are also five poems by Charles’s sister Mary.

    £475

  13. [LANDOR, Walter Savage].

    Count Julian: a Tragedy.

    London: Printed for John Murray … by James Moyes … 1812.

    First edition of Landor’s first play, unacted, but a succès d’éstime, published in ‘a small edition’ (Oxford DNB). The episode in Spanish history which it treats – the vengeance taken by Don Julián, 8th-century ruler of Ceuta, against Roderigo, King of the Goths, who has dishonoured...

    £450

  14. 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

  15. 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

  16. 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

  17. 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

  18. 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

  19. [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