Paolo Bugliani

Regulating the Eighteenth-Century Periodical Essay: A Poetics from The Tatler, The Spectator and The Rambler

  • Abstract

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Keywords: the essay (genre), periodical literature, metaliterature, Addison, Steele, Johnson, literary magazines, Dictionary.

This paper investigates the concealed manifesto of essay writing that Addison, Steele, and Johnson inserted in some clearly non-systematic, yet crucial, meta-essayistic passages of their periodical works. This ‘camouflaged’ eighteenth-century reflection on the genre reached its climax with Samuel Johnson’s 1755 Dictionary entry, where the arbiter literarum described the essay as “a loose sally of the mindµ, quite unexpectedly sanctioning its nomadic and wandering nature in the normative context of a dictionary.

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