The Ramble of Philo; by NIXON, Captain (fl. 1788).

NIXON, Captain (fl. 1788).

The Ramble of Philo; And His Man Sturdy. Dublin, W. Gilbert [&c.], 1789.

First Dublin Edition. 12mo (180 x 110 mm), pp. xi, [i], 273, [1], some light foxing in the text, which is printed on fairly poor quality paper in a dense text block and small type face, in contemporary plain calf, flat spine simply ruled in gilt, red morocco label lettered in gilt, some wear to extremities and a couple of small stains on the lower cover but generally good, with the contemporary ownership inscription ‘J. Congreve May 30th 1789’ on the title-page, with a shelf-mark (or price?) on the front endpaper and with the contemporary heraldic bookplate of John Congreve.

A scarce ramble novel first published by William Lane at the Minerva Press in 1788. A well-established and popular genre by this date, the present novel has all the prescribed elements including a peripatetic travel narrative featuring a male hero, in this instance an unworldly country gentleman flanked with a male servant as travelling companion, an easy comic style and frequent encounters with Low-Life figures through which the protagonist learns valuable lessons as he approaches maturity. As with many ramble novels, the clue to the present novel’s genre is plainly indicated in the title, ‘The Ramble of Philo’ and in the text which begins ‘Philo, the Hero of this Ramble, was the only son of a gentleman who lived in a sequestered part of England’. William Lane did not invent the ramble novel, which predominated much earlier in the century with such best-sellers as Smollett’s Roderick Random, 1748 and Fielding’s Tom Jones, 1749, but he clearly found a steady market for it as productions such as the present continued to pour out of the Minerva Press throughout the 1780s and into the 1790s. These novels are of particular interest in the light of contemporary gender studies as they represent a male dominated foil to the emerging female-dominated novel of manners led by Fanny Burney.

This is a rather delightful copy despite its plain and modest binding, with a contemporary heraldic bookplate and matching ownership inscription.

ESTC t168150 lists BL, Cambridge, NLI, NT, Harvard, Yale and McMaster; OCLC adds Minnesota.

Keywords: English Literature
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