Literary Imposture and Eighteenth-Century Knowledge: The Tradition of the Literary Faker in England from Marana to Goldsmith



What do English literary frauds tell us about eighteenth-century knowledge and the advancement of learning? To what extent did the literary works published in Britain in the crucial decades between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries create a fertile ground for the event of the novel? This book considers literary forgery as a type of literature which came out as a reaction against the establishment and the institution of canonical literature. The purpose of this book is threefold. First, it is meant to trace the history and the evolution of literary forgery. Second, it aims to examine the conditions that enabled literary forgers to be credited by prominent intellectual figures and academic institutions as trustworthy men of letters. The third goal is to link these issues to the formation of the novel and the English literary canon in order to investigate how these forgeries influenced eighteenth-century thinking and writing.

Elena BUTOESCU is a Senior Lecturer in British Literature (Eighteenth Century) at the Department of British, American, and German Studies, University of Craiova, Romania. She earned her Master’s Degree in British Cultural Studies at the University of Bucharest and her Master’s Degree in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies at the University of Leeds. In 2006 she was awarded a PhD research grant by the Raţiu Family Foundation in London to pursue scholarly research at Cambridge University Library. She defended her PhD thesis in the field of eighteenth-century British literary imposture at the University of Bucharest in 2011. In 2019 she obtained an ESSE bursary to conduct research at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, which assisted her in the completion of this book. Her research interests include print culture and modernity, travel literature, literary imposture, and British travellers to the Romanian Principalities. She is the co-author of An Imagological Dictionary of the Cities in Romania represented in British Travel Literature (1800-1940), which came out in 2012.

ISBN 978-606-697-092-1 (paperback)
ISBN 978-606-697-093-8 (ebook)



Chapter 1: Against the Establishment: Literary Imposture and Eighteenth-Century Knowledge

  • Modernity and the Need to Devise a Universal Language
  • Travel, the Production of Knowledge, and the Royal Society
  • Johnson’s ‘Age of Authors’
  • The Nomenclature
  • Ownership and Censorship
  • Readers and the Pursuit of Knowledge

Chapter 2: A Historical Look at Modern Literary Imposture 

  • Eighteenth-Century Criticism of Literary Imposture
  • Nineteenth-Century Criticism of Literary Imposture
  • Twentieth and Early Twenty-First Century Criticism of Literary Imposture

 Chapter 3: The Rhetoric of Imposture and the Paratext

  • From the Universal Language to the Epistolary Style
  • Giovanni Paolo Marana and the Tradition of the Surveillance Chronicle
  • The Preface, or How to Manufacture Literary Identity
  • The Frontispiece Portrait and the Reader’s Expectations
  • A Contribution to the History of the Enlightenment
  • Daniel Defoe and his Literary Debts
  • George Psalmanazar: Continuator or Creator of a Literary Tradition?
  • The History of a Subversive Narrative
  • Psalmanazar’s Cultural Roles: Trickster, Impostor, and a Christian Formosan
  • The Length of the Preface and the Question of Legitimacy

Chapter 4: From Imitation and Translation to Adaptation

  • Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy at Paris in Translation
  • The Arabian Nights: From Grub Street to Burton
  • Eighteenth-Century Editions of the Nights
  • George Lyttelton’s Letters From a Persian: An Imitation
  • Oliver Goldsmith’s Literary Ill Habits
  • The Citizen of the World: A Context
  • Knowledge and the Universal Standard

Chapter 5: Literary Imposture: A Cultural Critique of the Enlightenment?

  • An Internal Critique of the Enlightenment
  • Christian Enlightenment and the Sincerity Crisis
  • William Dampier, a Necessary Link between Two Centuries
  • A Critique of Christian Religious Practices
  • A Critique of Printing
  • An External Critique of the Enlightenment

List of Illustrations


BOOK REVIEW: Dragoş Ivana, in: American, British and Canadian Studies 36 (2021) 217 – 220


Weight 0.450 kg
Dimensions 20 × 13 × 2 cm
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