The Moralist; by POTTER, T., Surgeon.

POTTER, T., Surgeon.

The Moralist; or Portraits of the Human Mind, exhibited in a Series of Novelettes, Partly Original and Partly Compiled, by the late T. Potter, Surgeon, at North Shields, Near Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Vol. I [-II]. London, for the Author, 1785.

First Edition. Two volumes, 12mo (175 x 95 mm), pp. [iv], [v]-xv, ie xvi, list of subscribers, erratically paginated, [iv], additional list, [iv] contents, 212; [iv], 228, without the portrait, some wear along front gutter, possibly suggesting its removal, with half-titles to both volumes, dampstaining on the lower part of gatherings N-P in Vol. I and some scattered dampstaining and other markings in Vol. II, in contemporary free-style tree-calf, single gilt filet to covers, flat spines glit in compartments with red morocco labels lettered in gilt, green morocco labels with central red morocco ovals numbered in gilt, ownership inscriptions carefully erased from both titles, leaving paper rather thin in part, but not very visibly.

A scarce collection of short stories written by a surgeon from Newcastle and intended to shed light on the psychology of the human mind in both men and women. The first volume is heavily influenced by the vogue for orientalism, with stories such as ‘Asem the Man-Hater’, ‘Choang and Hansi, a Chinese Tale’, ‘The Hermit of Lebanon’ and ‘An Eastern Sage’s Advice to his Son’. The second volume contains tales of sensibility largely set in Europe, including ‘The Orphan’, ‘Female Heroism, Illustrated’ and ‘The Story of an unfortunate Young Lady’.
The preface argues for the celebration, and pecuniary recognition, of the writer for his role in educating the masses: ‘In proportion as society refines, new books must ever become more necessary... In a polite age, almost every person becomes a reader, and receives more instruction from the press than the pulpit. The preaching Bonse may instruct the illiterate peasant; but nothing less than the insinuating address of fine writing can win its way to an heart already relaxed in all the effeminacy of refinement... Instead, therefore, of thinking the number of new publications too great, I could wish it still greater, as they are the most useful instruments of reformation... Instead, therefore, of complaining that writers are overpaid, when their works procure them a bare subsistence, I should imagine it the duty of a state, not only to encourage their numbers, but their industry. A Bonse is rewarded with immense riches for instructing only a few, even of the most ignorant, of the people; and sure the poor scholar should not beg his bread, who is capable of instructing a million’ (Introduction, pp. 1-3).
This copy, in its rather attractive binding, does not have the portrait. The copy in the British Library does have a portrait, although there is no evidence of its being conjugate, and the Chicago copy does have a portrait, but it is tipped in. The digitised copy at Northwestern does not have a portrait, though interestingly the preliminary leaves of Vol. I, including the list of subscribers, and the entire text of Vol. II, have been entirely reset. It is hard to know in a book of this scarcity whether all copies were issued with a frontispiece or not and the internal evidence, while suggestive of a possible removal, is not conclusive.
The list of subscribers, together with the ‘additional list’, includes some 275 names. This is one of several editions, all published posthumously and all very scarce. Another edition was published in a single volume in 1785 under the title ‘Novellettes moral and sentimental partly original and partly compiled by the late T. Potter, Surgeon at North Shields, near Newcastle upon Tyne’ (ESTC t73606, at BL, Harvard, Illinois and Penn). A second edition, also published in two volumes, followed in 1786 (’London, printed by the editor, by J.P. Cooke’, ESTC n4109, at Newberry and Minnesota only), with two further London editions following, one printed ‘at the Mary-le-Bone printing-office, Great Titchfield-street’, in 1786-1787 (ESTC n4108, at UCLA only) and the other printed under the title ‘The moralist, or tales of instruction, and entertainment, partly original and partly compiled, by the late T. Potter’, London, ‘printed for the editor’, circa 1785 (ESTC t67320). This final edition has a list of subscribers, with the first volume containing the same tales as the previous editions, but with entirely different contents in the second volume.

See Garside, Raven & Schöwerling 1785:43 (Novellettes, no mention of this title).

ESTC t55923, listing BL, Chicago and University of Victoria only.

Keywords: English Literature
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