Prospectuses, a type of printed advertisement widely used in the eighteenth-century book trade, played a vital but previously unexamined role in the French Revolution controversy, attracting subscribers to political publications and encapsulating their message. Focusing on journal and newspaper prospectuses, which proliferated in the 1790s, this article analyzes examples from across the political spectrum, including the prospectus for the Argus by the radical journalist Sampson Perry, George Canning’s hugely influential prospectus to the Anti-Jacobin, and other examples by William Playfair, the London Corresponding Society, and other individuals and organizations. This article shows how prospectus writers exploited the distinctive resources of the genre, adapting its promissory rhetoric and hyperbolic language for political effect. It also investigates how prospectuses interacted with other forms of writing and publication, mirroring the techniques of pamphlets and contributing to the polemical intertextuality that was a feature of the Revolution debate. For all its ephemerality, the genre had a powerful impact, serving all sides of the dispute and marking a convergence of literature, politics, and advertising that typifies the innovative print culture of this period.
Research Article| April 01 2020
David Duff; The Prospectus War of the 1790s: Literary Advertising in an Age of Revolution. Eighteenth-Century Life 1 April 2020; 44 (2): 43–77. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00982601-8218602
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