Some Remarks on the Reading Culture of
Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries
(Including a Supplementary Bibliography of
English Translations (with Swedish Equivalents) of August
Lafontaines Fiction, Compiled by M. Björkman, P. D.
Garside, and A. A. Mandal)
There are books we look upon
with great respect and others we simply consider like any
other commodity. Until now this dichotomy has been
both fundamental and characteristic of the way the booktrade
and the literary system has worked. This paper
will examine the turn of the eighteenth century, when this
dichotomy came about and will deal with three different components:
novels, circulating libraries, and readers. My
aim is to draw attention to some of the underlying factors
that conditioned that split between high and low which came
about at this time and also to pinpoint some of the actors
that were involved in this process. Novels
will be represented by the works of the German author August
Lafontaine, the libraries I shall refer to are the eighteenth-century
circulating libraries in Stockholm, and the readers are the
early Swedish Romanticists and two women readers with no particular
literary connections. The attitudes, judgments
and opinions of the Romanticists served as a ferment for the
development of a split of the earlier unrestricted literary
field into two: one high or élitist where the dominant
position was won by means of a symbolic capital and the other
low or popular where the economic capital decided who was
to dominate. I shall proceed by presenting each of these
three entities in order to clarify to what extent they were
important to the establishment of the new popular or large
alongside the canonization of a national literature and the
establishment of a restricted literary field, where authors
with a fully aesthetic approach to their work were engaged,
another literary field, more commercialized because more dependent
upon the judgment of the readers, came into being. Here
quantity was decisive, because quantity equalled economic
August Heinrich Julius Lafontaine’s literary production
largely exceeds what one would have
thought was possible for one man. Dirk Sangmeister,
Lafontaine’s bibliographer and biographer, counts sixty-three
different titles, which is all the more overwhelming considering
the number of volumes and pages: 50,815 pages in 146 volumes! Lafontaine’s
energy seems unequalled: only in 1810 five novels in ten volumes
were published. If
one also takes into account the number of pirated editions
that flooded the bookmarket it becomes obvious that the sheer
quantity of Lafontaine volumes on the market had a considerable
effect on the growth of the reading public. The
ordinary edition has been estimated at 1,500 copies.
readers and even literary scholars scarcely know of any other
Lafontaine than the French fabulist of the grand siècle. This
is by no means surprising. It is not my task to
argue for a(n aesthetic) revaluation of an author who was
extremely time-bound. However, in order to understand
the implications of that early media revolution which brought
about the split between high and low at the turn of the eighteenth
century the vicissitudes of Lafontaine’s reputation are fundamental. They
give us vital insights into the shaping of not only two literary
fields but also of a reading culture which today has vanished. Lafontaine
cannot be classified as a typical writer of his timehe
was acting on too large a scale for thatnor is he totally
exceptional. He had colleagues in the same trade,
many of them successfully living by their pen. Lafontaine
is precious to the literary historian, however, because he
gives her the opportunity to study, as through a magnificent
magnifying-glass, the effects of his writing on the booktrade,
on readers and on the literary field. Therefore,
I shall start by briefly discussing this pivotal author.
was born in 1758 in Brunswick, near Hannover. In
1789, his first fictional work was published and from 1800
onwards he lived by his pen. Lafontaine had been
to university, he had studied theology, and like so many poor
students of the time he had ended up as a private tutor. Colonel
Thadden, his employer, was happy to have found not only a
teacher for his children but also an agreeable, intelligent
conversation partner. During the military campaign
against revolutionary France, Lafontaine accompanied Thadden;
he was engaged as an army chaplain and stayed out with his
regiment from 1792 to 1796. In the field he preached
to and raised the morale of the soldiers. The war
ended and Lafontaine returned home to Halle where his sermons
drew crowds of churchgoers. But he reached still
larger crowds with his fictional writing. He wrote
a seemingly endless row of sentimental novels, historical
novels and novels in contemporary setting. Among
the early admirers of his literary work were the Prussian
king and queen, Johann Gottfried Herder, and Christoph Martin
Wieland. From the beginning of Lafontaine’s career
there was a large consensus about the value of his work.
hardly reflect the society of the time, not even when he treated
current themes. What he created was a sort of petty
bourgeois utopia: in contemporary or in historical settings
he pictured a patriarchal society free from conflicts, with
a static hierarchy. Virtues like fidelity, obedience
and contentment are praised. Love is the core of
this utopia and has the redeeming capacity to heal the breaches
that sometime come up, if only for the sake of creating an
intrigue. Lafontaine was contemporary with the
German Spät-Aufklärung and his ethos emanates
from an exclusive combination of sentimentality and rationality. Among
the novels once so much in demand across the whole of Europe,
the most popular ones are worthy of closer consideration. Klara
du Plessis und Klairant. Eine Familiengeschichte französischer
Emigrierten (Berlin, 1795) is an example of how Lafontaine
caught up with the current political development by treating
the theme of French aristocrats forced to exile. Leben
und Thaten des Freiherrn Quinctius Heymeran von Flaming
(Berlin, 1795–6) shows how Lafontaine was able to exploit
the new wave of Ritterromane, and at the same time
could refer to and profit from the already firmly established
popularity of Siegfried von Lindenberg (1779) by Johann
Gottwerth Müller, the so-called ‘Itzehoe-Müller
’, as he critically dealt with the controversial ideas
about physiognomy. Leben
eines armen Landpredigers (1800–1) is another example
of how Lafontaine managed to recycle current literary themes
and plots. The allusion to Goldsmith’s Vicar
of Wakefield is obvious already from the title. This
way of profiting from earlier success stories was one important
aspect of Lafontaine’s own success. He never aspired
to create originally conceived works and did not wait for
an inspirational impetus: he was an extraordinarily hard-working
man who made his living out of writing. Furthermore,
he made clever use of what was to be one of the fundamental
characteristics of the popular literary field: the principle
would not have had such a massive impact on so many European
reading publics had it not been for the translations. The
bibliography of Dirk Sangmeister accounts for translations
into no less than fourteen different languages. It
is evident that Lafontaine primarily appealed to the North
European countries, those where literacy, thanks to the Protestant
church, was most deeply implanted. The first translation
was Danish and was published in 1794. Next came
translations into Swedish and French in 1796, and in 1797
the first English translation was published: Clara Duplessis,
and Clairant: The History of a Family of French Emigrants
in three volumes was published by Longmans in London. That
William Lane’s Minerva Press became the principal publisher
of Lafontaine’s novels in English is hardly surprising. Of
the twenty-three translations into English published between
1797 and 1813, eight came from Minerva: the character of the
Lafontaine novels suited the Minerva Press excellently, and
one could easily have expected an even more dominant Minerva
twenty-three Lafontaine translations during a period of seventeen
years was an important German contribution, but in relation
to the total of British domestic production it was not overwhelming. The
British market never experienced the same kind of invasion
of Lafontaine novels as did, for example, the Danish and Swedish
From 1794 to 1833 there were altogether sixty-seven different
works published in Danish. It is obvious that the
percentage of the whole production that was made up by works
originating from the prolific author was far larger in such
a small country as Denmark than in England or France.
more eager consumers of Lafontaines fiction than the
Danes, however, were the Swedes. In fact, more
Lafontaine titles (sixty-nine) were translated into Swedish
than into any other of thirteen languages. Swedish
was only surpassed by French, but some of the French translations
were actually published in Germany. In Sweden the
first translation came in 1796, and even though the most intensive
publishing period was right at the turn of the century (1799
nine titles, 1800 fifteen titles) there were only four years
between 1796 and 1823 that were totally ‘free’ from Lafontaine
publications (1797, 1811, 1812, 1814). The last
publication in Sweden by this favourite author came in 1827;
by then the reading public had discovered a new favourite:
Sir Walter Scott.
I shall not expand on the reasons that conditioned this
extraordinary interest in the German author, but wish to point
to the lack of contemporary Swedish domestic prose fiction. From
the readers there was a growing demand for entertaining literature,
which Lafontaineand also his German colleaguesresponded
to: they filled the void of the domestic production. Swedish
readers, eager to gain access to the world of fiction, had
the choice between novels translated into Swedish or foreign
novels in their original language. Lafontaine’s
novels, like many of the other German novels, were also read
in French translations. This state of affairs made
the presence of Lafontaine and his German colleagues on the
Swedish bookmarket even more noticeable.
high number of translations into so many different European
languages support the former widely accepted but today sometimes
contested idea of a reading revolution that started during
the last decades of the eighteenth century. The
apparently unending number of translations meant that readers
of different social backgrounds, nationalities, and mother
tongues took part of the same reading materials at the same
time. In fact, these readers, although they were
hardly aware of it themselves, formed an early European community. Other
questions that to mind when confronted with the figures of
translation are: Why did Lafontaine never fully convince the
English readers of his entertaining qualities? How
does it come that the French, though in most respects belonging
to that other Catholic part of Europe, were so quick to translate
Lafontaine fiction thus giving their readers access to a Lafontaine
the ‘phenomenon’ of Lafontaine must also be related to the
important growth of the contemporary bookmarket. Lafontaine
himself supplied this market with his works. At
the same time, however, there was a parallel growth of distributorsmore books were distributed by more booksellersand of
readers, who were from then on also recruited from new social
groups. The community of readers extended into
lower-middle social ranks. This led to a breakthrough
for light reading: it was the one of the first manifestations
of that leisure civilization, which later became so typical
of the societies of the western hemisphere.
The booksellers alone, however, did not swallow the large
production: the great quantities of books called for new and
efficient systems of distribution. A new institution
for distribution of books was established in all those countries
where reading had becomeif not a necessity of lifeat
least a highly favoured pastime. The circulating
libraries very soon turned into establishments with a suitable
capacity for delivering books to readers demanding new entertainment. Circulating
libraries meant a new concept for the distribution of books. These
were commercial enterprises which aimed at making a profit
by lending books for a fee and they were open to the public. In
fact, the study of circulating librariesthe institution
in itself and their stocksoffers unequalled opportunities
to understand the vanished reading culture of the turn of
the eighteenth century. These libraries occupy
a key position within the literary system of the time. Before
public libraries, they offered access to books to that expanding
group of readers of fiction. Being commercial,
the libraries had to supply the books their borrowers asked
for, at least in the long run.
first Swedish circulating library was founded in 1757.
The extant catalogues reveal a library which offered a wide
variety of genres. There were learned books, religious
books, manuals and novels; this early library can be called
encyclopaedic. This was still the case with the
library that was set up by the academic bookseller Magnus
Swederus in 1784. Unfortunately extant loan registers
are almost non-existent, so that it is hard to tell with absolute
certainty what was actually loaned out. However,
in my doctoral thesis, Läsarnas nöje. Kommersiella
lånbibliotek i Stockholm 1783–1809 (1992; ‘The Joy
of Reading’), I have made as much as possible out of the extant
catalogues from the Stockholm libraries of the late eighteenth
century. By examining the catalogues, it has been
possible to discern the changing character of these libraries. Proprietors
of the circulating libraries soon abandoned an original ambition
to supply all sorts of books and specialized in light literature:
novels, travel literature, memoirs and biographies. In
the library owned and run by Friedrich August Cleve, also
a teacher and cantor at the German grammar school in Stockholm,
entertaining literature prevailed by 1790. One
of the earliest mentions of Lafontaine’s name in Sweden can
be traced to Cleve’s library: in a catalogue from 1793 there
is an entry for a German magazine, Zeitschrift für
Gattinnen, Mütter und Thöchter, which was edited
by the famous Dr Bahrdt (1740–92). There
it was announced, in German, that Lafontaine was to take over
the magazine. Judging from the wording, it is obvious
that the name of Lafontaine was supposed to have an even greater
appeal than that of Dr Bahrdt. Soon,
however, Lafontaine’s prose narratives were for hire in Mr
Cleve’s library, first in German editions and French translations. A
decade later the existence of Swedish translations made Lafontaine’s
name even more predominant in the catalogues of the circulating
libraries. Carl Conrad Behn’s library offered no
less than 148 volumes of Lafontaine’s publications in his
Swedish catalogue dating from the first years of the nineteenth
of the titles were available in at least duplicate copies,
some of them had been quintupleda sure indicator of popularity
among the borrowers.
August Lafontaine might thus have been the first modern
fiction author. His activity as an extremely prolific
author had repercussions on the book trade and on the reception
by readers. It would be false to claim a linear
cause-effect process with the author/producer as a starting
point: I would rather stress the closely interrelated connections,
going both back and forth, between these instances. It
is now worth turning to the readers themselves. Memoirs
from this period often give evidence of reading of novels
and if authors are named at all one can be almost certain
of coming across the name of Lafontaine. I mentioned
above that when Lafontaine’s first narratives appeared they
were received favourably by a practically unanimous reading
public. Among those who eagerly read his novels
were the Swedish Romanticists, and they devoured them while
young. As they belonged to a generation born during
the last decades of the eighteenth century these novels belonged
to their youth: the books had at one time roused their literary
appetites. Their memoirs and letters bear witness
of enthusiastic and excited reading of such authors as Lafontaine,
Kotzebue, and Spiess; but the constitution of a new Romantic
concept of an autonomous literature also meant that they dissociated
themselves from those novels. According to their
ideals literature sprang from the original creation by individuals
to whom literature was a manifestation of art.
young men met at the University of Uppsala to pursue their
studies when Swedish literature was at an interregnum. Most
of the Gustavian poets had died. Those
who still survived were particularly odious to the young because
of their conservatism in literary matters. Theirs
had been a period of strict classicism: genres, metres and
formalities set strict limits to literary creation. The
new generation reacted violently against all sorts of outer
restraint and planned for what was to become known as a Romantic
upheaval. When one of the young members of their
group bought the Academic printer’s shop, they were in possession
of the most strategic of all arms, when it comes to making
literature. They henceforward became independent
of the arbitrariness of outside publishers, and the idealistic
aim to raise literature from the sphere of daily humdrum was
pursued by every means available, which meant that all sorts
of trivial schemes had to be considered.
1818 one of the Romanticists, Lorenzo Hammarsköld (1785–1827),
wrote a history of Swedish literature, in which he gave his
view on the influence of Lafontaine on the Swedish reading
public. According to Hammarsköld the following
vital change had taken place: Kant had first inspired young
Swedish students to study German, with the Swedish translator
of Kotzebue novels, Gabriel Eurén, paving the way for
Lafontaine. In the books of the German novelists
the readers had imbibed the demagogic ideals proclaimed by
the French Jacobins, where all of high rank were vicious and
‘virtuous thinking and acting could be sought only within
those circles to which corporals and foresters belong’. The
leap from Kant to Kotzebue and Lafontaine may seem vertiginous,
but in fact the way Hammarsköld connected philosophy
and entertaining reading indicates that in that past he referred
to there had been only one field where philosophers and novelists
competed for a dominant position. However, when
Hammarsköld wrote his history, the Romanticists were
already victorious; they had their own press and they took
advantage of the situation and wrote the history of Swedish
literature. Now they were merciless when they looked
back on the reading they had cherished during their first
youth. The Swedish Romanticists followed their
German brothers in condemning the novels of their youth. The
general attack on Lafontaine, launched by August Schlegel
in the Athenäum of 1798, was published in Swedish
translation in one of the Romantic periodicals in 1811.
outcome of the victorious Romantic concept of literature was
thus the splitting of the literary field into two: one high,
élitist sphere where the national canon was singled
out, where literature and literariness were discussed by members
who never really bothered to make their arguments known beyond
their own circles. Their field became a restricted
one. What had been discarded from the élitist
field then made up another field: low, popular for large scale
production, where non-professional readers decided the hierarchy,
and their preferences were quite obviousnovels. But
as there were not yet any Swedish novelists around, they read
translations and often originals in German and French.
happened during the first decades of the nineteenth century
was not exclusively the effect of the questioning by the Romanticists. It
is a well-known fact that the status of the novel has been
the subject of many a heated debate during the whole of the
eighteenth century. But the imperative claims raised
by the Romanticists for aesthetical originality gave a new
turn to the discussion; novels and other genres of light literature
were, as mentioned above, guided by a principle of repetition. And
the majority of those who were eager readers of light literature
preferred recognition to surprise; they were mainly indifferent
to new subject-matters, new techniques, and they were also
mostly indifferent to the aesthetics of their reading.
Helena Reenstierna (1753–1841) kept a diary between 1793 and
1839 where she annotated her reading. She
lived with her husband, a captain twenty years older than
her, in a manor house just outside Stockholm. She
gave birth to seven children of whom only one survived to
adult age. The family belonged to the Swedish nobility,
lived on the revenues of the agriculture and led a simple
and rustic life on their estate, where they continually received
friends and relatives on visit from Stockholm. Mrs
Reenstierna was forty years old when she started to write
down her daily annotations. Her living conditions
allowed her to organize her time which meant that she was
free to read when she wanted to do so. Her sex
and her social belonging made her a typical representative
of these non-professional readers, who realized that reading
could be for pleasure. In 1798 she read her first
Lafontaine novel, the newly published Skämta icke
med kärleken (‘Don’t Play with Love’). She
noted: ‘[a]n amusing novel’ (9 Sep 1798). (Her
annotations are always very matter of fact.) She
read Famillen von Halden, which she had borrowed
from a bookseller. Her enthusiasm was great enough
to infuse her diary: she wrote that she had read ‘in the splendidly
beautiful piece Famillen von Halden, which, in the highest
possible degree was written according to my liking’ (29
Jan 1801). From then on, her reading of Lafontaine
reached its highest peak during the first years of the nineteenth
century: in 1801 she read six different novels by Lafontaine,
in 1802 four, in 1803 only one. Although she had
fairly solid knowledge of French and German, she preferred
to read these novels in their Swedish translations. The
frequency of her reading of Lafontaine’s novels accurately
reflects the publishing speed. It is obvious that
she wanted to read what was new and also that she managed
to keep pace with the publishers. It is also evident
that Mrs Reenstierna made reading a source for recreation. Reading
could thus be used as a pretext for withdrawing for a while
from the tiresome chores of the household work. It
is interesting to see that Mrs Reenstierna did not read any
of the canonized literatureneither from the early Gustavian
period nor from Romanticism. Although she had been
sent to school, learnt languages, and as a young girl of the
upper circles of society had been received as a member of
exclusive fellowships, she never seemed to aspire to be a
‘literary’ person. She made reading her favourite
pastime and chose her books from the popular range of the
lending shelves of her bookseller. There was another
genre, however, apart from the light literature, which she
kept reading all her life. That was, of course,
religious literature: she studied catechisms and devotional
manuals with increasingly intensive attention towards the
end of her life.
are interesting observations about intensive and extensive
reading that can be made from Mrs Reenstierna’s diary. When
she started Famillen von Halden she did not have all
the volumes at hand. While waiting for the last
volumes to arrive, she began rereading the first two parts
before she got hold of the continuation thus practising intensive
and extensive reading at the same time (5 Feb 1801).
Denmark a young Anna Christine Drewsen (b. 1776), married
at the age of fifteen to a man of forty-seven, wrote down
what books she read between 1796–1802. She
was then in her early twenties. Her rate of reading
exceeds that of Mrs Reenstierna but follows the same order
of progress. Mrs Drewsen also favoured the same
genres of light literature, and like Mrs Reenstierna she was
a devoted fan of Lafontaine. Of all the books she
read between 1796 and 1801, twenty-one were works by Lafontaine. There
was practically no canonized literature among her reading:
although some Schiller plays were read, and in 1801 it is
possible to trace a tentative interest in Danish Romanticism
with representatives like Oehlenschläger and Rahbek. No
religious books were noted, presumably because Mrs Drewsen
noted books she had read, not books she had read into.
are but two examples of female reading; however the results
of other studies, such as for instance Erich Schön’s
Der Verlust der Sinnlichkeit oder Die Verwandlungen des
Lesers. Mentalitätswandel um 1800 (Stuttgart, 1987),
support the view of female readers as addicted to reading
for pleasure. As such they inhabited the large
popular field and very seldom dared to venture into that other
high sphere of literature.
sketches of Lafontaine, circulating libraries and readers
around 1800 can only give hints of how three domains, essential
for the establishment of the reading culture, converged. Novels
(and related genres) were at the centre, the circulating libraries
became efficient distributors of light literature, and the
greatest consumers of these genres were the non-professional
readers: namely, young people and women.
1. ENGLISH & SWEDISH
TRANSLATIONS OF LAFONTAINES
In the case of Swedish translations,
some of the publication dates for titles span two or more
imprint years: for the purposes of this chart, they are included
in the yearly total for the earliest date of publication for
the first volumes. These spreads occur in the following
spans (no. of such titles given in parentheses): 17991800
(3) = 1799; 18001 (3), 18007 (1), 18008
(1) = 1800; 18012 (2) = 1801; 18023 (1) = 1802;
18034 (1) = 1803; 18056 (2) = 1805; 181516
(1) = 1815; 181617 (2) = 1816; 181718 (1), 181719
(1) = 1817; 181821 (1) = 1818; 18202 (1) = 1820.
For English translations, data has been collected from the
forthcoming Bibliography of Fiction Published in the British
Isles, 17701830, general editors Peter Garside,
James Raven, and Rainer Schöwerling (Oxford, forthcoming;
2 vols.). The source for Swedish translations is Dirk
Sangmeister, Bibliographie August Lafontaine (Bielefeld,
1996; Bielefelder Schriften zu Lingustik und Literaturwissenschaft
Eva D. Becker, Der deutsche Roman um 1780 (Stuttgart,
1964; Germanistische Abhandlungen 5), p. 2.
concept field of course comes from Pierre Bourdieu. I
do not, however, use it in a strictly orthodox way. It
is actually doubtful whether there was an autonomous literary
field in Sweden during the eighteenth century. Literature
was, rather, a part of a larger cultural field. Anyhow,
I find it helpful for the understanding of the split between
high and low to look upon these entities as constituents of
two new fields corresponding to what Pierre Bourdieu calls
the restricted field and the large field. (Pierre
Bourdieu, Les Règles de lart. Genèse et structure
du champ littéraire (Paris, 1992). For helpful commentaries
on Bourdieus main concepts, see Patrice Bonnewitz, Premières
leçons sur la sociologie de P. Bourdieu (Paris, 1998)).
Friedrich Schlegel: Ganz dicht neben einander existieren
besonders jetzt zwey verschiedene Poesien neben einander,
deren jede ihr eignes Publikum hat, und unbekümmert um
die andre ihnen Gang für sich geht. Sie nehmen
nicht die geringste Notiz von einander, ausser, wenn sie zufällig
auf einander treffen, durch gegenseitige Verachtung und Spott;
oft nicht ohne heimlichen Neid über die Popularität
der einen oder die Vornehmigkeit der andern (Friedrich
Schlegel 17941802. Seine prosaischen Jugendschriften,
ed. J. Minor (Wien, 1882), vol. 1, p. 95. Quoted from
Rakefet Shefy, The Eighteenth-Century German Trivialroman
as Constructed by Literary History and Criticism, Texte/revue
de critique et de théorie littérarie (1992),
197217; p. 215). For commentary on the underlying
reasons for the development of a propensity to consume, including
books, see The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern
Consumerism (Oxford, 1987).
Dirk Sangmeister, Bibliographie August Lafontaine (Bielefeld,
1996; Bielefelder Schriften zu Linguistik und Literaturwisenschaft;
Bibliographien zur deutschen Literaturgeschichte). Sangmeister
has also published the only modern biography on Lafontaine,
in which he analyses the literary activities and works of
this once so cherished author: August Lafontaine oder Die
Vergänglichkeit des Erfolges. Leben und Werk eines Bestsellerautors
der Spätaufklärung (Tübingen, 1998; Hallesche
Beiträge zur Europäischen Aufklärung 6).
Bibliographie, p. 12.
further biographical details see Sangmeister, August Lafontaine. Early
biographers, less reliable, are Johann Gottfried Gruber, August
Lafontaine’s Leben und Wirken (Halle, 1833) and Hilde
Ishorst, August Heinrich Julius Lafontaine, 1758–1831
(Berlin, 1935; Germanische Studien 162).
Bibliographie, p. 12.
Rake and the Misanthrope (Lafontaine’s fourteenth novel)
was published by Lane, Newman and Co (1804); it should properly
be counted as a production of the Minerva Press although Sangmeister
omits this detail (Bibliographie, p. 124).
The highest number of Lafontaine translations
were Dutch. Seventy-one of Lafontaine’s works were
published between 1799 and 1815.
For further information on the position
of Lafontaine in German circulating libraries during the eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries see Alberto Martino, Die deutsche
Leihbibliothek. Geschichte einer literarischen Institution,
1756–1914 (Wiesbaden, 1990); in Swedish eighteenth-century
circulating libraries see Margareta Björkman, Läsarnas
nöje. Kommersiella lånbibliotek i Stockholm 1793–1809
(Uppsala, 1992), with a summary in English; in Swedish
nineteenth-century circulating libraries see Sven Melander,
‘Författare och böcker i Stockholms lånbibliotek
1816–1840 och E. T. A. Hoffmann i Sverige. Två studier
i svensk prosalitteratur från 1800-tales förra
del’ (unpublished master dissertation, Department of Literature;
Uppsala, 1965); and in nineteenth-century Denmark see Erland
Munch-Pedersen, Romanens århundrede. Studier i den
masselæste oversatte roman i Danmark 1800–1870,
1–2 (København, 1974).
First to declare the revolution in reading habits was Rolf
Engelsing, ‘Die Perioden der Lesegeschichte in der Neuzeit.
Das statistische Ausmass und die soziokulturelle Bedeutung
der Lektüre’ (Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens,
Bd X (Frankfurt am Main, 1970), cols. 945–1002); and Der
Bürger als Leser. Lesergeschichte in Deutschland 1500–1800
(Stuttgart, 1974). Engelsing invented the concepts
‘intensive’ and ‘extensive’ reading. Intensive
reading was the manner of reading that was used during a period
when books were still scarce, and non-professional reading
almost exclusively meant reading devotional books. The
reader came back to the same text and his/her reading became
meditative. Extensive reading presupposes access
to larger quantities of books which can be read for sheer
pleasure. As the production of such books grew
rapidly during the last decades of the eighteenth century
this made it possible to larger groups of people to change
their reading habits in order to read as much as possible. The
facts of a growing production of light literature and the
development of more efficient ways of distribution cannot
be denied. But what has been questioned is whether
the transition from intensive into extensive reading was as
decisive as has sometimes been argued. Robert Darnton
has discussed this problem in two important articles: ‘First
Steps Toward a History of Reading’ (The Kiss of Lamourette.
Reflections in Cultural History (London and New York,
1990), pp. 154–87) and ‘Rousseau and his Readers’ (The
Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History
(London, 1984), pp. 215–56). He argues that intensive
reading was sometimes practised also by those who read novels
during the last decades of the eighteenth century. There
are famous examples of intensive reading of novels: La
Nouvelle Héloïse and Die Leiden des jungen
Werthers were read over and over again.
Björkman, Läsarnas nöje.
biography in English has been written by Sten G. Flygt, The
Notorious Dr Bahrdt (Nashville, 1963). See
also Gerhard Sauder and Christoph Weiss, Hrsg, Carl Friedrich
Bahrd: 1740–1792 (St Ingbert, 1992; Saarbrücker Beiträge
zur Litteraturwissenschaft 34).
August Cleve], No 23, Verzeichniss Deutscher, Französischer
u. Englischer Lesebücher, welche von Mir für eine
geringe Abgabe ausgeliehen werden (Stockholm, 1793), nos.
Conrad Behn], Catalog på Carl Conrad Behns Lån-Bibliothek
[...] (Stockholm, 1801).
Margareta Björkman, ‘August Lafontaine and his Swedish
readers’, Transactions of the Ninth International Congress
on the Enlightenment, Münster 23–9 July 1995 (Oxford,
1996; Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 346–8),
The Gustavian era has its name after
Gustavus III who reigned 1771–92, and his son Gustavus IV
Adolphus whose reign came to an end in 1809. In
1792, Gustavus III, a patron of the arts who had become an
enlightened despot, was shot. Gustavus III had
encouraged both theatre, opera and literature in Swedish. His
son, who was overthrown in a coup d’état, manifested
no interest at all in cultural issues. So, strictly
speaking, the Gustavian era has two opposite sides: the first
great period when Swedish literature had important productive
poets followed by a time of barrenness usually called the
iron years, when, nevertheless, one of the most outstanding
of the Gustavian poets, Carl Gustaf Leopold, still defended
his position as the leading personality in the literary field. Around
him there were other minor poets. They either already
had their seat in or aspired to the Swedish Academy.
Petra Söderlund, ‘Romantik och förnuft. V.
F. Palmblads förlagsverksamhet 1810–1830’, forthcoming
doctoral thesis (preliminary date May 2000), Department of
Literature, Uppsala University.
See Polyfem 9 (1811).
Sara Rönn, Årstafrun och hennes böcker,
Uppsala 1998 (Litteratur och samhälle, 33:1). A
selection of the diary has been published: Märta Helena
Reenstierna, Årstadagboken. Journaler från
åren 1793–1839, ed. Sigurd Erixon, Arvid Stålhane,
and Sigurd Wallin, selection and explanations Gunnar Broman,
1–3 (1946–53; Stockholm, 1993). The manuscripts
are at Nordiska museets arkiv och bibliotek, Stockholm.
for hundrede Aar siden. Af Anna Chr. Dor. Drewsens Dagbok’,
Vor ungdom. Tidsskrift for Opdragelse og Undervisning
(1896; 5 hefte), pp. 563–89.
For further investigation of actual reading
habits it is worth examining a publication of inventories
after death where books are mentioned: Henrik Grönroos
and Ann-Charlotte Nyman, Boken i Finland. Bokbeståndet
hos borgerskap, hantverkare och lägre sociala grupper
i Finlands städer enligt städernas bouppteckningar
1656–1809 (Helsingfors, 1996). Other sources
are publications of catalogues of important libraries in Sweden
and Finland such as Magnus Björkenheim, Äldre
fransk litteratur på herrgårdar i Finland
(Helsingfors, 1929); and E. G. Lilljebjörn (ed.),
Katalog öfver Leufsta bruks gamla fideikommissbibliotek
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS,
WITH SWEDISH EQUIVALENTS
Below is a chronological listing
of English translations of the fiction published by August
Lafontaine, to which are appended any details of Swedish translations
when possible. Entries are prefixed with ‘E:’ for information
about English translations, and with ‘S:’ for Swedish versions
(whenever located). Details include full title, year of publication,
publisher, and for English translations details in brackets
of holdings listed in the Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century
Short Title Catalogues [ESTC/NSTC]. The presence
of copies in the Corvey Microfiche Edition (CME) is also indicated
when possible. The letters BI before a list of holding libraries
denotes that they are to be found in Britain and Ireland,
and similarly the letters NA denote libraries in North America.
For the purpose of consistency the abbreviations for holding
libraries are the same as those used in the ESTC, even when
the source of the holding is the NSTC. Also note that only
principal holding libraries listed in the ESTC and NSTC are
given belowfor a comprehensive listing of other depositories,
please consult the catalogues as appropriate. Where the edition
which provides the entry does not appear in the ESTC or NSTC,
this will be denoted by a preceding ‘x’ (e.g. xESTC).
far as Swedish translations of Lafontaine’s work are concerned,
the degree of interest in particular titles by Lafontaine
was virtually identical to that in Britain. The works listed
below can be taken as the ‘bestsellers’ of the Lafontaine
canon, although the enthusiasm of the Swedish market was more
intense and more translations were made than in the British
Isles. The source for details of Swedish translations is the
SB17 (Svensk bibliografi 1700-1829), which serves
as the national bibliography of Sweden for 1700–1829.
about the source text appears at the end of each entry, preceded
by an asterisk.
Duplessis, and Clairant: The History of a Family of French
Emigrants. Translated from the German. In Three Volumes.
(London: Printed for T. N. Longman, 1797). 3 vols.
12mo. [ESTC t166559 (BI C, L; NA CLU-S/C, ViU)].
S: Clara du Plessis och Clairant.
Tvenne älskande emigranters historia. Af August Lafontaine.
Öfversättning af Pär Wahlström. (Stockholm:
C.F. Marquard, 1800–1). 3 vols. 8vo.
* Trans. of Klara du Plessis und Klairant (Berlin,
Julien; or, Memoirs of a Father. By Augustus la Fontaine.
Translated from the German. (London: Printed for J.
Bell, 1798). 1 vol. 12mo. [ESTC t101310 (BI L, O; NA CLU-S/C,
S: Saint Julien och hans famille;
roman af Aug. La Fontaine. Öfversättning.
(Strengnäs: A. J. Segerstedt, 1799–1800). 3
* Trans. of Familie Saint Julien, vol. 3 of Familiengeschichten
(Berlin, 1797–1804; 11 vols.).
Family of Halden: A Novel. By Augustus la Fontaine. Translated
from the German. (London: Printed for J. Bell, 1799).
4 vols. 12mo. [ESTC t099903 (BI C, L; NA IU, ViU)].
S: Famillen von Halden. Roman
af Aug. La Fontaine. Öfversättning. (Stockholm:
A. Zetterberg, 1799–1800). 6 vols. 8vo.
* Trans. of ‘Familie von Halden’, 1st published as vols.
1 and 2 of Familiengeschichten (Berlin, 1797–1804;
Man of Nature or Nature and Love from the German of Miltenberg
by William Wennington. (After the Edition Bauer 1797)
with Notes Illustrative Comparative by the Translator.
(London: Printed for the Translator, for Joseph Gerold,
in Vienna, 1799). 1 vol. 8vo. [ESTC t100448 (BI C, L;
S: Naturmänniskan. Af August
Lafontaine. Öfversättning. (Linköping:
D. G. Björn, 1799–1800). 4 vols. 8vo.
* Trans. of Naturmensch (Halle, 1792).
a Tale of Ancient Times, Translated from the German of
Augustus Lafontaine, by the Rev. P. Will, Minister of
the German Congregation in the Savoy. ([London]: Printed
for R. Phillips, by T. Adlard, and T. Gillet, ).
3 vols. 12mo. [ESTC t200762 (BI L; NA CLU-S/C)].
S: Romulus. Af August Lafontaine.
Öfwersättning af S.M. (Stockholm: C. Deleen
and J. G. Forsgren, 1800–1). 2 vols. 8vo
* Trans. of vol. 2 of Sagen aus dem Alterthume
(Berlin, 1799). Eng. trans. by Peter Will.
Enough, to Be Sure! Or, Emilius in the World. A Novel.
In Two Volumes. From the German of Augustus la Fontaine.
(London: Printed at the Minerva-Press, for Lane and Newman,
1802). 2 vols. 12mo. [Corvey; CME 3-628-47470-1; NSTC
L161 (BI L)].
S: Den besynnerlige. Af Aug.
Lafontaine. Öfversättning. (Strengnäs:
A. J. Segerstedt, 1802). 7 vols. 8vo.
* Trans. of Der Sonderling; ein Gemälde des menschlichen
Herzens (Vienna and Prague, 1799). Eng. trans. by
Reprobate. A Novel. In Two Volumes. Translated by the
Author of the Wife and the Mistress, &c. The Original
by Augustus la Fontaine. (London: Printed at the Minerva-Press,
for Lane and Newman, 1802). 2 vols. 12mo. [NSTC L159 (BI
S: Carl Engelmans dagbok, utgifven
af August Lafontaine. Öfversättning. (Stockholm:
C. F. Marquard, 1801). 2 vols. 8vo.
* Trans. of Carl Engelmanns Tagebuch (Berlin, 1800).
Eng. trans., by Mary Charlton, from French trans. entitled
Tableaux de famille, ou journal de Charles Engelmann
Village Pastor and His Children. A Novel. In Four Volumes.
From the German of Augustus la Fontaine. (London:
Printed at the Minerva-Press, for Lane and, 1803). 4 vols.
12mo. [NSTC L152 (BI L).]
S: Den fattige landtprästen.
Famille-målning af Aug. La Fontaine. Öfversättning.
(Stockholm: A. Zetterberg, 1801–2). 8 vols. 8vo.
* Trans. of Leben eines armen Landpredigers (Berlin,
de Fleming; or, the Rage of Nobility. (London: Lane,
Newman, and Co., 1804). 3 vols. 12mo. 12s. [xNSTC (no
S: Quinctius Heymeran von Flaming;
af August Lafontaine. Öfversättning af A. Wistrand.
(Stockholm, 1800–8). 8 vols. 8vo.
* Trans. of Leben und Thaten des Freiherrn Quinctius
Heymeran von Flaming (Berlin, 1795–6).
de Fleming, the Son; or the Rage of Systems. A Novel.
In Three Volumes. From the German of Augustus la Fontaine.
(London: Printed at the Minerva-Press, for Lane, Newman,
and Co., 1804). 3 vols. 12mo. [NSTC L154 (BI L)].
* Trans. of Leben und Thaten des Freiherrn Quinctius
Heymeran von Flaming
(Berlin, 1795–6). The English
Catalogue of Books
and Edinburgh Review
1804), 498 both describe this title as ‘a continuation’
of Baron de Fleming
(see entry 9, above).
Bellmann: or, the New Family Picture. A Novel. By Augustus
la Fontaine. In Two Volumes. (London: Printed for
Vernor and Hood in the Poultry, 1804. By T. Gillet). 2
vols. 12mo. [NSTC L151 (BI L)].
S: Henriette Bellmann. En målning
af ädla hjertan. Af Aug. Lafontaine. Öfversättning
af N. Nordqvist. (Stockholm: C. F. Marquard, 1802–3).
6 vols. 8vo.
* Trans. of Henriette Bellmann (Berlin,
Village. A Novel. In Four Volumes. Translated by Mrs.
Meeke, from the French of Augustus la Fontaine. (London:
Printed at the Minerva-Press, for Lane, Newman, and Co.,
1804). 4 vols. 12 mo. [NSTC L162 (BI L)].
S: Theodor. Roman af August Lafontaine.
Öfversättning. (Stockholm: A. J. Nordström,
1801–2). 4 vols. 8vo.
* Trans. of Theodor, oder Kultur und Humanität
(Berlin, 1802). Eng. trans., by Mary Meeke, from French
trans. entitled Le Village de Lobenstein, ou le nouvel
enfant (Geneva and Paris, 1802).
and Gratitude; or, Traits of the Human Heart. Six Novels,
Translated from Augustus la Fontaine. In Three Volumes.
Prepared for the Press by Mrs. Parsons, Author of Mysterious
Warning, Girl of the Mountain, Murray House, The Miser
and His Family, The Peasant of Ardenne Forest, The Valley
of St. Gothard, Mysterious Visit, &c. &c. (Brentford:
Printed by and for P. Norbury; and Sold by Longman, Hurst,
Rees, and Orme; Carpenter and Co.; Earle; Hatchard; and
Didier and Tibett, London; also by W. Ansell, Richmond,
Surrey, 1804). 3 vols. 12mo. [Corvey; CME 3-628-48396-4;
NSTC L145 (BI L, O)].
S: [Probably] Smärre romaner
af August Lafontaine. Öfversättning. (Stockholm:
A. J. Nordström, 1801). 8vo.
* Trans. of Liebe und Dankbarkeit (Berlin and Leipzig,
1799); the other five novels mentioned in the title-page
of the English edn. are translated from Die Geralt
der Liebe (Berlin, 17914). Eng. trans. by Eliza
Rake and the Misanthrope. A Novel. In Two Volumes. From
the German of Augustus la Fontaine. (London: Printed
at the Minerva-Press, for Lane, Newman, and Co., 1804).
2 vols. 12mo. [xNSTC].
* German original not discovered. Eng. trans. by Mary
and Menzikof. A Russian Tale. In Two Volumes. From the
German of Augustus la Fontaine. (London: Printed at
the Minerva-Press, for Lane, Newman, and Co., 1805). 2
vols. 12mo. [NSTC L148 (BI L)].
S: Feodor och Maria, eller Troheten
i döden, af A. Lafontaine. Öfversättning
af A. Wiborg (Stockholm: C. F. Marquard, 1803). 2
* Trans. of Fedor und Marie, oder Treue bis zum Tode
and Emilia. From the German of Augustus la Fontaine.
(London: Lane, Newman, and Co., 1805). 4 vols. [xNSTC
(no copy located)].
S: Herrman von Lange. Roman af
August Lafontaine. Öfversättning. (Stockholm,
1800–7). 7 vols. 8vo.
* Trans. of Herrmann Lange (Berlin, 1799). Eng.
trans. from French trans. entitled Herrmann et Emilie,
traduit de l’allemande (Paris, 1802).
of Werdenberg. Translated from the German of La Fontaine.
In Two Volumes. (London: Printed by D. N. Shury; for
J. F. Hughes, 1805). 2 vols. 12 mo. [NSTC L160 (BI L)].
S: Rudolf von Werdenberg, en
riddare-historia från Helvetiens revolutionstid.
Af August Lafontaine. Öfversatt efter sista och förbättrade
upplagan. (Stockholm: H. A. Nordström, 1800–1).
2 vols. 8vo.
* Trans. of Rudolph von Werdenberg (Berlin, 1793).
For an alternative, professedly far more complete Eng.
version of the German source title, see The Monk of
Dissentis (entry 20, below).
Village of Friedewalde: Or, the Enthusiast. A Novel. Translated
from the Original German of Augustus Lafontaine, by J.
Powell. In Three Volumes. (London: Printed for J.
F. Hughes, by R. Wilks, 1806). 3 vols. 12 mo. [NSTC L155
S: Nålsögat, eller:
Adolph och Louise. Af August Lafontaine. Öfwersättning
af A Wistrand. (Stockholm: C. Deleen and J. G. Forsgren,
1800). 2 vols. 8vo.
* Trans. by James Powell. The British Library Catalogue
lists as a trans. of Das Nadelöhr, oder die Schwärmerei;
but no further information concerning an original source
title has been discovered. Eng. trans. by James Powell.
and Annette. A Moral Tale, from the German, of A. Lafontaine.
With a Frontispiece. (London: Printed for J. F. Weise,
1807). 1 vol (illustrated). 12 mo. [NSTC L147 (BI L)].
* German original not discovered.
Monk of Dissentis: A Romance. Founded on the Revolutions
of Switzerland, in the 13th and 14th Centuries. Translated
from the Original German of Augustus Lafontaine. By J.
Powell. In Three Volumes. (London: Printed by J. G.
Barnard, for B. Crosby and Co., 1807). 3 vols. 12 mo.
S: See entry 17, above.
* Eng. trans., by James Powell, of Rudolph von Werdenberg
Quarrels. A Novel. In Three Volumes. By Augustus Lafontaine,
Author of Lobenstein Village,The
Rake and the Misanthrope.Baron de Fleming,Hermann and Emilia,Rodolphus of
Werdenburgh, Saint Julien, &c. &c.
(London: Printed and Published by John Dean: Sold by All
Booksellers, 1811). 3 vols. 12 mo. [NSTC L150 (BI L)].
S: Huset Bärburg, eller
Famille-tvisten. Af Aug. Lafontaine. Öfversättning
af J. Wetterbergh. (Stockholm: P. Sohm, 1807). 3 vols.
* Trans. of Das Haus Barburg, oder der Familienzwist
(Berlin, 1805). The present title of the Eng. trans. more
closely matches Les querelles de familles (Paris,
1809), itself from the German.
or Peaceful Life. In Two Volumes. Translated from the
German of Augustus Lafontaine. By Mrs. Green. Author of
The Royal Exile; Romance Readers and Romance Writers;
Reformist; Private History of the Court of England &c.
&c. (London: Printed by T. Wallis, for James Taylor,
and Co.; and Sold by All Booksellers, 1812). 2 vols. 12
mo. [NSTC L157 (BI L)].
* Eng trans., by Mrs Sarah Green, of Raphael, oder
das stille Leben (Halle and Leipzig, 1809).
and Youth; or, the Families of Abenstedt. A Novel. In
Four Volumes. From the German of La Fontaine, Author of
The Family of Halden; The Reprobate; Hermann and Emilia;
Dolgorucki and Menzikoff, &c. (London: Printed
at the Minerva-Press, for A. K. Newman and Co., 1813).
4 vols. 12mo. [NSTC L146 (BI L)].
* German original not discovered.