Literary miscellanies have long been popular. Richard Tottel's 1557 collection, Songes and Sonettes, gathered the works of various Tudor poets. In 1684, Jacob Tonson and John Dryden launched a miscellany that reached six volumes by 1709. By 1743, the time was ripe for a satirical miscellany; Sir Robert Walpole's reign as Britain's prime minister had just come to an end, and Pope revised his Dunciad to devastating effect. Out of the mix of political uncertainty and satiric excess emerged The Foundling Hospital for Wit, which ran to six volumes by 1749. It offered a potpourri of parodies set to old tunes and prose extracts haranguing the new administration and promoting amputation with Swiftian gusto. One of the problems facing twenty-first-century readers is how to get a handle on what exactly is being satirized. In order to gain a fuller understanding of how this collection and its sequel, The New Foundling Hospital for Wit (1768-73), came about, we need to probe its printers, booksellers, and editors, whose names, more often than not, are omitted or disguised. Ornaments provide one key to determining who printed what. The Foundling Hospital for Wit appears to have been the brainchild of Sir Charles Hanbury Williams. The New Foundling Hospital for Wit starts off with his poem, “Isabella,” which stands up well beside Rape of the Lock. A vehicle for John Wilkes and his radical bookseller John Almon, this later miscellany offered up the most audacious satires and politicized engravings of its time.
Donald W. Nichol; Old & New Foundling Hospitals for Wit in the Age of the Digital Miscellanies Index. Eighteenth-Century Life 1 January 2017; 41 (1): 116–141. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00982601-3695963
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