Literature and Crime in Augustan England
Taylor & Francis Limited, 2022 M01 19 - 256 pages
Eighteenth-century England saw an explosion of writings about deviance. In literature, in the law, and in the press, writers returned again and again to the question of crime and criminals.
While the extension of the legal system formalised the power of the state to categorise and punish 'deviance', writers repeatedly confronted the problematic nature of legal authority and the unstable idea of 'the criminal'. Some of this commentary was supportive, some was subversive and resistant, uncovering the complexity of issues the law sought to ignore.
Originally published in 1991, Ian Bell's masterly investigation of the diverse representations of crime and legality in the Augustan period ranges widely across the contemporary press, involving court reports, philosophical writings, periodicals, biographies, pornography and polemics. Re-assessing the canonical texts of eighteenth-century 'Literature', Bell situates the work of Defoe, Hogarth, Gay, Swift, Pope, Richardson and Fielding in its social and political context.