Morality of Fiction;

MURRAY Hugh (1805)

£450.00  [First Edition]

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or, an inquiry into the tendency of fictitious narratives, with observations on some of the most eminent.


First Edition. 12mo (155 x 98mm). vi, 171pp. Title-page lightly inked with the text slightly faint, a few ink blots and a couple of marks in places but otherwise clean. Contemporary calf-backed marbled boards, spine ruled in gilt, red leather and gilt label, sprinkled edges (small hole in the upper joint, a little rubbed at the edges).


Edinburgh: Mundell and Son, 

An assessment of the state and purpose of literature which begins with Homer and covers numerous English and European writers. as well as popular fiction, before assessing writers such as Charlotte Smith, "the only writer among this numerous class with whom I can boast any intimate acquaintance".


Hugh Murray (1779-1846) was born in North Berwick and experimented with writing fiction in his youth but he is most famous for producing the Encyclopedia of Geography (1834) which contained numerous maps and illustrations.


In this work Murray assesses the merits of fiction and its usefulness as a moral education tool. He begins with classical authors such as Homer and Virgil before moving on to writers such as Milton. Of Samuel Johnson's Rasselas he praises the "richness of imagination, together with a pomp and magnificence of language, hardly to be paralleled" (p.92)


In Richardson's Pamela he notes that it: "...affords an example of steadiness and virtue in a very trying situation, and amid dangers to which young females in her rank of life are not infrequently exposed. To such, therefore, should it fall into their hands, it may afford often a very useful lesson. I cannot approve however of the rewards which this conduct received in a marriage with her rich and profligate master...Both in Pamela and Clarissa, a number of indelicate scenes are introduced, and are described with a minuteness of detail which does not tend very much to the edification of the reader" (p.100-1)


Murray singles out Fielding as, "a writer certainly of a very extraordinary genius" (p.101) and also discusses Smollett, Burney and his friends Charlotte Smith and Anne Radcliffe. He also examines "the more ordinary novels, which are poured forth in such multitudes" (p.113)


A very nice copy of a book which is frequently referred to in studies of 18th-century literature.


Provenance: 19th-century armorial duke's bookplate on the front pastedown ("S&B").

Stock Code: 247316

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