The Grand Chorus of Complaint: Authors and the Business Ethics of American Publishing

ISBN : 9780199751785

Michael J. Everton
256 ページ
162 x 238 mm

When Lord Byron toasted Napoleon for executing a bookseller, and when American satirist Fitz-Greene Halleck picketed his New York publisher for trying to starve him, both writers were taking part in a time-honored tradition-calling out publishers as unregenerate capitalists. However apocryphal, both stories speak to what writer Gail Hamilton called "the conflict of the ages," the feud between and writers and publishers over the way the business of print ought to be conducted. The Grand Chorus of Complaint is a study of the terms of that feud in early America. Ranging from the Revolution to the Civil War, Michael Everton explores moral propriety in American literary culture, arguing that debates over the business of authorship and publishing in the first century of the United States were simultaneously debates over the ethics and character of capitalism. The Grand Chorus of Complaint shows that the moral discourse authors and publishers used in these debates was not intended as a distraction from the "real" issues affecting American literary culture. Instead, morality was itself at issue. Drawing on a diverse archive, Everton argues that in their business correspondence and fiction, in their diaries and essays, authors and publishers talked so much about ethics not to obfuscate their convictions but to clarify them in a commercial world preoccupied by the meanings and efficacy of moral beliefs. This study illustrates that ethics should matter as much to literary and book historians as much as it has come to matter-again-to literary critics and theorists.


Chapter 1 - The Character of the Trade
Chapter 2 - Liberty in Business: The Printing of Common Sense
Chapter 3 - Hannah Adams and the Courtesies of Authorship
Chapter 4 - The Moral Vernacular of American Copyright Reform
Chapter 5 - Melville in the Antebellum Publishing Maelstrom
Chapter 6 - The Tact of Ruthless Hall
Epilogue - What Lies Back of the Contract


Michael Everton is Assistant Professor of English and Coordinator of the Print Culture Program Simon Fraser University.