Paul Keen explores how a consumer revolution which reached its peak in the second half of the eighteenth century shaped debates about the role of literature in a polite modern nation, and tells the story of the resourcefulness with which many writers responded to these pressures. From dream reveries which mocked their own entrepreneurial commitments, such as Oliver Goldsmith's account of selling his work at a 'Fashion Fair' on the frozen Thames, to the Microcosm's mock plan to establish 'a licensed warehouse for wit,' writers insistently tied their literary achievements to a sophisticated understanding of the uncertain complexities of a modern transactional society. This book combines a new understanding of late eighteenth-century literature with the materialist and sociological imperatives of book history and theoretically inflected approaches to cultural history.

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