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…




2 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.

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