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. 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. ASTLEY, Philip.

    Astley’s System of equestrian Education, exhibiting the Beauties and Defects of the Horse, with serious and important...

    London, T. Burton for S. Creed, [c. 1801].

    Fifth edition of a work on horse-training by the ‘father of the modern circus’ (Chambers). Noted during military service in the Seven Years’ War not only for his daring in battle but also for his skills as a rider and breaker of horses, Philip Astley (1742-1814) established on his return...

    £350

  4. BARTOLI, Adolfo.

    Scenari inediti della Commedia dell’arte. Contributo alla storia del teatro popolare italiano.

    Florence, Sansoni, 1880.

    Rare first edition, one of only 350 copies, of a foundational source for the study of Commedia dell’Arte. The exceptionally well-loved and widely-performed form of drama is the subject of the author’s pioneering study: he examines tropes, characters, plots, structures and lines of ‘scenarios’...

    £500

  5. BECQUE, Henry.

    Les Corbeaux, pièce en quatre actes.

    Paris, Tresse, [1882].

    First and second editions of Becque’s innovative realist drama, inscribed by the author on the first half-title to ‘mon cher [Jules-Charles] Truffier’, with authorial marks and annotations on thirty-three pages in the second edition showing changes made for performance.

    £2000

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. [COLLEGIO DEI NOBILI DI MODENA.]

    Il buon’ uso della vittoria, ossia Publio Cornelio Scipione nella nuova Cartagine: azione accademica...

    Modena, eredi di Bartolomeo Soliani, [1776].

    First edition. A scarce play with music and ballet, prepared and performed by the Collegio dei Nobili di Modena for celebrations of the birthday of Francesco III d’Este, Duke of Modena. The work comprises a play in three acts on Scipio Africanus by Alessandro Guinigi, three short ballets drawn...

    £450

  9. 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

  10. DESFORGES, Pierre Choudard.

    Tom Jones a Londres, Comédie en cinq actes et en vers, tirée du roman de Fielding … Réprésentée,...

    Paris, Chez Prault, Imprimeur du Roi … 1789.

    Later edition, first published 1782. Desforges’s dramatic adaptation of Fielding’s novel was followed in 1788 by an apparently inferior sequel, Tom Jones et Fellamar.

    £95

  11. 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

  12. [FRANCESCHINI, Pietro (editor).]

    Relazione delle feste fatte in Firenze sopra al ghiaccio nel fiume Arno il 31 dicembre 1604.

    Florence, Libreria Popolare, Tipografia Righi, 1885.

    A limited edition nineteenth-century reprint of the rare description of the festival held on the frozen river Arno in Florence in 1604, published in only fifty copies (of which ours is numbered 10).

    £275

  13. 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

  14. [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

  15. [JONSON] ‘JOHNSON’, Ben.

    Epicoene, or, the Silent Woman. A Comedy...

    London, H. Hills, [c. 1710].

    A collection of theatrical plays printed in London by Henry Hills, including some of Ben Johnson’s most famous satirical plays, such as Volpone and The Alchemist, and Thomas Shadwell’s 1678 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens. Attractively bound together in contemporary...

    £450

  16. 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

  17. [LAFONT, Joseph de.]

    Hypermnestre, tragedie, mise au theatre de l’Academie Royale de Musique de Lyon, pour la prémière fois...

    Lyon, de l’imprimerie d’Aymé Delaroche ... aux dépens de l’Académie Royale de Musique, 1742.

    Very scarce Lyon edition of the libretto for the tragedy Hypermnestre by the French playwright Joseph de Lafont (1686-1725). First performed in 1716, with music by Charles-Hubert Gervais, the play was initially criticised for its fifth act, but after rewriting by abbé Simon-Joseph Pellegrin enjoyed...

    £275

  18. 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

  19. [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