One step forward, thirteen years’ steps back

I wonder, can I ever make a plan that doesn’t immediately hit an obstacle?

Apparently not.

Having posted the other day, I was doing some bookish busy-work – uploading covers, checking publication dates, that sort of thing – which I find helps gets my head in the right place for some actual writing, when to my horror I discovered on my to-be-reviewed lists what seemed to be an overlooked work of fiction from 1679:

(Before you ask, I disposed of The English Monsieur here – in a post where, I see, I was also complaining about obstacles! – only one of its four parts is available.)

I’ve talked before about the two Lizzie Bates-es; this, however, given the publication date, looked like a case of Lizzie-Bates-C.

After a gawping moment, it was clear what had happened: this wasn’t an oversight, this was a belated addition on the strength of its attribution: an attribution clearly incorrect but understandable, probably the work of an over-officious algorithm. The first Miss Bates, Lizzie-Bates-A, often published as “by a Lady”: this is “by a Lady”, therefore it is by Lizzie Bates. And I added it to the lists automatically without looking at the date.

The problem is…I don’t think I can just let it go.

In the first place, this appears to be a very early piece of outright English fiction – not political writing, not a roman à clef, not a hoax, not an autobiography – just a story; in fact, by date second only to Richard Head’s The English Rogue. I mourned the loss of The English Monsieur on exactly these grounds.

But there is a second critical aspect to The Penitent Hermit. Of course I don’t know for sure that it was actually written by “a Lady”, though I can’t think why, in 1679, a man would have been masquerading under a female pseudonym; I’m hoping I can get a feel from the tone of it. And if this was the work of a woman, it is the earliest piece of female-authored post-Restoration English fiction that I’ve come across, pre-dating the contentiously-authored The London Jilt by four years and our first definite example, Aphra Behn’s Love Letters Between A Nobleman And His Sister, by five.

There’s also this, as noted by Robert Ignatius Letellier’s The English Novel, 1660-1700: An Annotated Bibliography, the only tiny piece of information I’ve found about this work (nothing about its author, alas):

A “fairly realistic setting” is not something often found in the writing of this time either.

So all things considered, this is a work that needs examination.

But what I will do is leave it until after I’ve taken that one step forward in my Chronobibliography: in my case, as they say, a giant leap…




3 Comments to “One step forward, thirteen years’ steps back”

  1. I hope that it’s as interesting to read as it is to analyze, but of course I’m not optimistic.

  2. You made allusions to “The English Monsieur”, but sources online seem to indicate that Part I may have been the only part ever actually released (at least it is not known whether the others ever were), and also they claim the attribution to Howard is erroneous, based on him writing a play of the same name.

    At least that’s according to Francis Steen, “Department of English, University of California at Santa Barbara.”

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