Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men

The Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men comprised ten volumes of Dionysius Lardner’s 133-volume Cabinet Cyclopaedia. Aimed at the self-educating middle class, this encyclopedia was written during the 19th-century literary revolution in Britain. Most of them were written by the Romantic writer Mary Shelley. The series eventually contained 61 titles in 133 volumes and customers could purchase a single volume, a single cabinet, or the entire set.

About Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men in brief

Summary Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific MenThe Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men comprised ten volumes of Dionysius Lardner’s 133-volume Cabinet Cyclopaedia. Aimed at the self-educating middle class, this encyclopedia was written during the 19th-century literary revolution in Britain that encouraged more people to read. Most of them were written by the Romantic writer Mary Shelley. Shelley’s biographies reveal her as a professional woman of letters, contracted to produce several volumes of works and paid well to do so. The Lives did not attract enough critical attention to become a bestseller. A fair number were printed and sold, however, and far more copies of the Lives circulated than of Shelley’s novels. Some of the volumes were illegally copied in the United States, where they were praised by the poet and critic Edgar Allan Poe. The series eventually contained 61 titles in 133 volumes and customers could purchase a single volume, a single cabinet, or the entire set. Thirty-eight identified authors contributed ; Mary Shelley was only only the eighth most productive female contributor. The authors who contributed to the volumes spanned the political spectrum and included many luminaries of the day. Authors were usually paid about £200 for each volume, though each volume usually paid for £200. The first volume was published in December 1829 by Longman, Reese, Orme, Browne, and John Taylor, and the female contributor was the Reverend Dr. Lmee Greene, a science lecturer at University College, London, in 1827 or 1828. The volumes were published between 1829 and 1846, and each volume cost six shillings, prohibiting purchase by the poor.

Although intended for the general reader, the series was aimed specifically at the middle class rather than the masses. The advertisement claimed these covered all the usual divisions of knowledge that are not of a technical and professional kind. Unlike other encyclopedias of the time, Lardners arranged its articles topically rather than alphabetically. The series was divided into five cabinets: Arts and Manufactures, Biography, History, Natural History, and Natural Philosophy. The advertisements for the Cyclopaia describe the expected audience as “merchants, captains, families, new-married couples”. The prospectus assured its readers that “nothing will be admitted into the pages of the ‘CABINET CYCLOPAEDIA’ which can have the most remote tendency to offend public or private morals. To enforce the cultivation of religion and the practice of virtue should be a principal object with all who undertake to inform the public mind.’’ The volumes have until recently received little academic appreciation, and were not reprinted until 2002, when they were re-issued by the University of London with a new edition of each volume published from 1846. The biographies were written in a style that combined secondary sources, memoir, anecdote, and her own opinions. In the Italian Lives, she supports the Italian independence movement and promotes republicanism; in the French Lives she portrays women sympathetically.