DUNTON, John. The Dublin Scuffle: Being a Challenge sent by John Dunton, Citizen of London, to Patrick Campbel, Bookseller in Dublin. IRELAND’S FIRST BOOK AUCTIONEER
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Together with the Small Skirmishes of Bills and Advertisements. To which is added, the Billet Doux, sent him by a Citizen’s Wife in Dublin, Tempting him to Lewdness. With his answers to her. Also Some Account of his Conversation in Ireland, Intermixt with particular Characters of the most Eminent Persons he Convers’d with in that Kingdom; but more especially in the city of Dublin. In several Letters to the spectators of this Scuffle; With a poem on the whole Encounter. London: (Printed for the Author) [by George Larkin] and are to be sold by A. Baldwin near the Oxford-Arms in Warwick-Lane, and by the Booksellers in Dublin, 1699. Crown octavo. pp. , 16, 160, , 201-246, , 303-443, , 503- 554. With three extra title-pages. Later full sheep, spine expertly rebacked with brown morocco letterpiece; corners repaired. Early signature of James Brady and Booksellers Catalogue entry slip on front pastedown. Long manuscript note tipped onto front endpaper, signed by Alexander Gardyne, Esq. Some browning and foxing as usual. A very good copy. Exceedingly rare.
COPAC locates 6 copies only. Sweeney 1618. Wing D2622.
Dunton, John (1659–1732), bookseller, was born on 4 May 1659 at Grafham, Huntingdonshire, the only child of the Revd John Dunton (1628-1676) and Lydia, née Carter (d. 1659). His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, also called John, had all been Anglican ministers. His mother died shortly after he was born, and her grieving husband went to Ireland to take up the position of chaplain to Sir Henry Ingoldsby, leaving his young son under the tutelage of his brother-in-law, William Readings, at Dungrove, near Chesham. The boy’s father returned in 1663 and became rector of Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire. The Revd John Dunton hoped that his eldest son would follow the family tradition and enter the church, but young Dunton had different ideas. As a child he experienced ‘a strange Kind of Aversion’ to learning, finding it ‘too difficult and unpleasant’ (Dunton, Life, 9). His father realized that the boy would never make a scholar, and sent him to London at the age of fifteen to be apprenticed to the eminent Presbyterian bookseller Thomas Parkhurst. Dunton’s early success in business led him to consider marriage. After two months’ courtship, he married on 3 August 1682 Elizabeth Annesley, the daughter of the eminent nonconformist minister Dr Samuel Annesley. She called him Philaret, he called her Iris, and for him their marriage was ‘the greatest happiness I have as yet met with in this life’. Dunton arrived in Dublin in 1698 and stayed for almost a year. To him goes the credit for introducing to this country the practice of selling books by public auction (as he had earlier done in New England). He brought with him ten tons of books, on which he placed a value of £1,500. This project was very much opposed by a Scottish bookseller, Patrick Campbell, then resident in the city, and by many other of the established booksellers besides. In 1699 he published ‘The Dublin Scuffle’, a most detailed and interesting account of his adventures in the Dublin book trade at the close of the seventeenth century. Dunton also comments widely on everyday Irish life as he observed it. His pen-pictures cover Dubliners of all walks of life, from venerable ecclesiastics to prostitutes. Dublin Castle, the Smock Alley playhouse, Trinity College, and Archbishop Ussher’s library were all part of his itinerary. Dunton claimed to have published over 600 titles during his career, although fewer than 200 titles have been traced (Parks, 43). He is chiefly remembered as one of the most prominent London and Dublin booksellers of the 1690s, an innovative if somewhat eccentric figure, who made a significant contribution to whig propaganda in the decade after the revolution of 1688. His search after novelties led him to experiment with new literary forms, and his influence may be traced in the rise of the eighteenth-century periodical. Edward MacLysaght described Dunton, as “that old hypocrite” and Andrew Carpenter states “that Dunton was aware of various contradictions in his character and hoped in some measure, to exorcise them in his writing. The eccentricities of ‘The Dublin Scuffle’ can be best explained as manifestations of Dunton’s attempt to come to terms with those parts of his own personality which he habitually repressed”.
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