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date: 02 July 2022

Anonymity in the Eighteenth Century

Abstract and Keywords

Most eighteenth-century texts appeared without the author’s proper name on the title page. This absence could signal a writer’s modesty or scurrility, or the absence could result from various forms of suppression that modern attribution studies have done much to reverse. However, anonymity and pseudonymity were also deliberate gestures prompting readers to distance authorship from biography or to differentiate fiction as a conceptual category from truth and lies. Authors including Alexander Pope, Daniel Defoe, and Frances Burney purposefully omitted their names to complicate textual ownership and copyright, manipulate market conditions, or pursue ethical questions. Famous authors like Samuel Johnson and Laurence Sterne made open secrets of their anonymity, collapsing the apparent need to sign a name to make a name. When the authorial name becomes a counter rather than the simple solution to a puzzle, even signing a proper name—“onymity”—is revealed as a strategic authorial subject position.

Keywords: anonymity, pseudonym, proper name, onymity, attribution, copyright, open secret, authorial name, authorship

1. Definitions and Scope of Anonymity

It is perhaps a paradoxical consequence of anonymous publication that it has not until very recently drawn as much critical attention to itself as it deserves. Anonymity was ubiquitous throughout the long eighteenth century, employed not just by the rushed, scurrilous, or inept writer whom Alexander Pope derides in The Dunciad (1743) as a “nameless name,”1 nor by modest women, clergy, or gentry, but also by precisely those authors whose names now organize much scholarly and pedagogical work in the period: Pope himself, Swift, Dryden, Behn, Haywood, Defoe, Johnson, Sterne, Young, Gray, Burney, and Austen, among others. For prose fiction, Leah Orr’s data show that approximately 50 percent of works from 1660 to 1750 list no author on the title page, with another 20 percent of titles functionally anonymous because they appear with a pseudonym or a tagline.2 Going forward, James Raven calculates that more than 80 percent of all novels published between 1750 and 1790 appeared anonymously.3

These data indicate a huge amount of anonymity, yet our current understanding of anonymous tends to emphasize lack and negation. The Oxford English Dictionary, after defining anonymous as “nameless, having no name; of unknown name,” offers the unappealing options, “unavowed,” “unacknowledged,” and “illegitimate.” During the eighteenth century, anonymous publication certainly could signal an author’s attempt to fade from sight—modestly or mischievously—but not all anonymity effects deliberate self-concealment. Before copyright laws matured, authors did not necessarily own or maintain legal or moral rights to their manuscripts, so the question of anonymity might be beyond an author’s control.4 Genre also dictated anonymity: broadly speaking, it was editorial policy for reporting or reviewing; poems in miscellanies or magazines were anonymous or pseudonymous; hack writing was usually anonymous; a commissioned piece might not give space on a page to the writer who carried out the work; a memorial poem was unlikely to crowd the name of its subject with the name of its author.

Even when anonymity lay within an author’s control, the motivations for and significance of it varied broadly. Anne Ferry charts the changing resonances of the word anonymous since its early recorded appearance in English in the late sixteenth century (the noun anonymity is a nineteenth-century formation).5 Anonymity was first imported into English to address the literary issue of the signature on a piece of writing whose author was not known, often because the texts were now published rather than circulating as manuscripts among a coterie. Although one constant feature from these early appearances through the nineteenth century is that anonymous describes a piece of writing or its author rather than describing social alienation: the social propriety that prompts a well-born seventeenth-century poet to anonymity differs from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s business decision to keep the Lyrical Ballads (1798) unsigned because, as he told his publisher, “Wordsworth’s name is nothing––to a large number of persons mine stinks.6 A different Zeitgeist again is apparent in Virginia Woolf’s argument that Robinson Crusoe (1719) would ideally be anonymous because tying its creation to Daniel Defoe, his six children, and his hooked nose offended against her early twentieth-century sense that the greatest works were universal and transcendent, partaking of a “kind of anonymous glory.”7

Scholarship on anonymity thrives on case studies of individual practices that shed light on, among other topics, attribution, authorial cross-dressing, the author-function, collaboration and co-authorship, copyright, ethics, fictionality, genre, gender, ghostwriting, hoaxes, identity, the law, manuscripts, ownership and property, plagiarism, and problems of reading, not to mention naming practices, the status of the proper name, naming names, big names, name-calling, or making a name for one’s self. Robert J. Griffin’s The Faces of Anonymity (2003), the first book of its kind to address the topic of anonymous and pseudonymous publication, provides a capacious scholarly definition of a key term that is under considerable strain to contain its own multitudes: anonymity need not describe only a blank space on the title page or Anon-with-an-upper-case-A, but can also provide an umbrella term for many other cases where “the legal name of the writer is not in evidence.”8 The “an-” prefix does not indicate the absence of any name, but rather of the legal proper name specifically, so that anonymity then includes common eighteenth-century methods of marking the authorial subject position such as initials, mottoes, clues in the text, #ghostwriting, or phrases like “by the Author of” or “by a Lady.”

Pseudonymity constitutes a subset of anonymity, itself taking various forms such as a nickname, the name of a fictional character, or another proper name that might cross gender, national, political, or professional boundaries. The pious poet Elizabeth Singer Rowe wrote in the early eighteenth century as “Philomela,” suggesting both female virtue and the nightingale’s song; at the other end of the century, Mary Robinson, the actress and former mistress of the Prince of Wales, ironically published poems as “Tabitha Bramble,” a satirical, sex-starved character from Tobias Smollett’s Humphry Clinker. Other pseudonyms were plausibly proper names, such as William Marshall, Gent., the name under which Horace Walpole published his groundbreaking Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto (1764). A taxonomy of such anonyms is difficult to establish because the same marker may or may not invite further investigation of its literary resonance. Sometimes a blank space or a pseudonym is simply a way to hide the veridical proper name, but, at other times, the apparent absence is charged with significance.9

2. Avoiding the Stigma of Authorship

One biographical motivation for anonymity inherited by eighteenth-century writers might concern what J. W. Saunders refers to in the Tudor context as “the stigma of print.”10 Early print publication might not befit the aristocracy, partly because a gentlemanly skill in composition might then seem to have tawdry implications of trade and partly because printed texts moved in social circles beyond the coterie of one’s peers, although Nita Kravens concludes that at least some Renaissance poets were more invested in a rhetoric of privacy than in privacy itself: “Authors find anonymity and accusations of piracy a convenient detour around the incongruities involved in collecting and publishing the lighter, more private genres” (313).11 The class-based stigma of publication persisted, or was still recognized as a trope, in the 1820s when Sir Walter Scott, also known as “The Great Unknown,” claimed to be unsure of the decorum of publishing novels under his own name because he was a Clerk of Sessions: “Judges being monks,” opined Scott, “clerks are a sort of lay-brethren from whom some solemnity of walk & conduct may be expected.”12

Some stigma adhered also to female writers, for whom writing did not fall within the usual, sanctioned circle of female accomplishments at the start of the century, and in whose case the public circulation of texts could be portrayed as immodest and improper. Derisive terms such as “female quill-driver,” “half Man,” or “scribbling Dame” persisted well into the nineteenth century.13 A predictable enough metaphor of prostitution arose around the practice of women writers selling an intangible, intimate product of their selves to any or to many, themselves unknown. Catherine Gallagher’s Nobody’s Story (1994) investigates how the authorial identity of five female authors across the eighteenth century—Behn, Manley, Lennox, Burney, and Edgeworth—responds to and shapes social concepts of female sexual and ontological “nothingness” in relation to men, as well as of “the conceptual disembodiment that all commodities achieve at the moment of exchange, when their essence appears to be an abstract value.”14 The metaphor of prostitution, for example, becomes over the long century one of property rights, or of paper money, or of debt and credit. By showing the extent to which these female authors manipulated representations of nothingness, making “conscious artifices” of their “vanishing acts,”15 Gallagher’s historically located analysis complicates any easy assumption that female reticence, or even marginalization, is the reason why “Anon … was often a woman.”16

By mid-century, when females became the most likely readers—and probably writers—of prose fiction, the complete absence of a name was sometimes replaced by the apparently modest and socially elevated tag “By a Lady.” In 1785, nearly a third of all novel titles, generally designating works treating domestic and romantic subjects with a healthy dose of conservative morality, indicated their authorship in this way.17 Gendering authorship as feminine changed from an impropriety to a signal that the text in question was appropriate reading material, especially for impressionable young ladies, precisely because it was a product of a female author.

The literary marketplace for fiction complicates what “By a Lady” indicates. Raven’s statistics from the early nineteenth century demonstrate that whereas most novels were still being published anonymously or with such tags, even the novels that bore names bore overwhelmingly female names, which possibly represents a marketing ploy rather than a biological fact.18 The assumptions of such authors as they flooded the market with feminine tags and names seem to have included a broader appeal to female consumers and greater sales by dealing with romantic or domestic matters, but also gentler reviews. In a 1774 issue of The Critical Review, a reviewer (also anonymous) notes, however, that “We are not without suspicion that in anonymous publication, the words written by a lady are sometimes made use of to preclude the severity of criticism; but as Reviewers are generally churls and greybeards, this piece of finesse very seldom answers.”19 Ironically, anonymity makes it difficult to assess what proportion of novels tagged “by a Lady” was in fact by females, but Raven’s data lay the groundwork for further archival work. John Mullan’s Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature (2007) cites examples of anonymous cross-dressing in both directions,20 and a related concept that bears investigation in the eighteenth-century context is Holly A. Laird’s claim that later female coauthors signaled their collaboration by “joining their names together in the romance of married authorship.”21

3. Insults, Lies, and the Ethics of Anonymity

The class or gender of an author motivated anonymity in some cases, but in others (not mutually exclusive), controversial content was the key factor. This motivation is obvious to modern readers because modern anonymity tends to be a suspicious circumstance: such an author feared consequences ranging from shame through physical violence to legal prosecution if connected by name to the content. A narrative that contravened social norms or mores—one of seduction or illegitimacy, for example—might be anonymous, as might one with seditious or libelous intent or one involved in an antagonistic exchange. Anonymity could be a formal marker of disrepute and was attacked as proof of scurrility during the period. In 1705, Daniel Defoe complained, with a certain degree of pride, that every contentious anonymous work that appeared “must be the Devil or De Foe.”22 In his capacity as anonymous editor of The Review (1704–13), Defoe cleverly turned the tables: he challenged attempts to coerce him to admit names (his own and his suspected backers’) by suggesting that rooting out names is itself closely aligned with abusive name-calling and that the search usually reflects more poorly on the “name-callers” than it does on those who might be named: “they [his antagonists] need not ask me for a name … for they give it themselves, and I hate to be always telling people their own names.”23

“Name-calling” and the name one calls one’s self (or does not call or calls others) remind us that the words we use to signify absence or anonymity, such as “Anon,” have linguistic presence and suggest that some identity always exists, at least at the level of a word: the most famous example of the linguistic power of an absent name is Odysseus’s anonym “Outis” (“Noman”) to fool the Cyclops Polyphemus. Just prior to the long eighteenth century, John Milton used his knowledge that an anonymously published attack on the English Commonwealth stemmed from Claudius Salmasius, a renowned scholar, to play in a similarly literal way with Salmasius’s anonym. Milton subtitled his own reply, “Against The Defence of Kings by Claudius Anonymous, alias Salmasius.”24 Salmasius wrote anonymously to convey a pose of divinely sanctioned ventriloquism in his condemnation of the English regicides, but Milton co-opts “Anonymous” as a surname, implying that only a reader gullible enough to believe that “Anonymous” was a real name would also believe Salmasius’s argument.

As Milton continues his antagonistic exchange in further essays, he uses anonymity to create a no-win situation. His opponent can neither claim his name without admitting that he was initially hiding it, nor step forward to deny Milton’s accusations without suggesting his guilt through feeling spoken to, even though Milton does not name him. Milton, although himself an anonymous author on many occasions, thunders with apparent rage, “You there! Who are you? A man or a nobody? Surely not the basest of men—not even slaves—are without a name.”25 The anonymous, unspecified “You there!” recalls the policeman of Althusserian interpellation forcing people to create their own selves in relation to authority and guilt as they turn to see if they are meant.26 Judith Butler’s study of hate speech, Excitable Speech (1999), notes that interpellation is inaugurative rather than descriptive, “an act of speech whose ‘content’ is neither true nor false: it does not have description as its primary task.”27 The freedom anonymity enables to interpellate a subject generally results in the construction of an identity that the anonymous individual would not elect. If “Anonymous” is understood as a signature, then it identifies its bearer as an irrelevant “nobody,” a move Milton found useful to make against his more famous opponent, Salmasius. Where Milton unpacks the “nothingness” associated with anonymity to portray Salmasius variously as a social and intellectual “nobody,” a hired hack willing to write whatever earns a crust, an obscure elementary school teacher, and even a subhuman “boring little weevil,”28 opponents reversed the charges when Milton published anonymously, depicting him, too, as a scurrilous minor player, a stooge, a sophist, or a liar.

In fact, the ethics of anonymous authorship were often framed bluntly as a question of “truth or lies.” Samuel Johnson and James Boswell debated whether anonymous authors were telling the truth when they avoided claiming their anonymity: in other words, whether it was simply a “lie” to deny authorship of a piece if someone guessed it correctly or whether a different sort of ethics obtained. “[It] may be urged,” suggests Johnson, “that what a man has no right to ask, you may refuse to communicate.”29 Their discussions encompassed the difference between truth and truthfulness, between promises and secrets, and between lies, hypocrisy, and the impossibility of a perfectly virtuous author. One advantage of anonymity is that “Admiration begins where acquaintance ceases,” notes Johnson in Rambler 77.30 Contemplating the ethics (and perhaps irony) of denying that he had ghostwritten a text for the condemned forger William Dodd to pass off as his own, Johnson suggests again that special rules apply to anonymity: “Sir, as Dodd got it from me to pass as his own, while that could do him any good, that was an implied promise that I should not own it. To own it, therefore, would have been telling a lie, with the addition of breach of promise.”31 Johnson struggled further with anonymity because he saw how it could signal both the fledgling professional writer and the much-maligned unscrupulous hack, itself a distinction that Johnson preferred to make on a case-by-case basis.

Such hack writers of the early eighteenth century embody Pope’s “nameless names,” churning out pieces of low quality and of very localized temporal or spatial interest. These “Grub Street” writers were so-called after the London neighborhood where many resided, but the category bears also the connotations of unethical grubbing. The writers published anonymously because their ephemeral pieces were unlikely to promote their authorial reputations, but also because, as pens for hire, there was no commercial motivation to attach their names to a piece if they might write simultaneously for their employer’s opponent in an arrangement that suited those employers equally. As authorship became an increasingly respectable profession, a trend Johnson assisted and Pope himself contributed to by making his fortune translating Homer, anonymous writing for hire became a norm of the new literary marketplace. A tyro wishing for prominence in a rapidly crowded field might publish anonymously at first while he or she tested the waters of public reception, then willingly publicize a proper name on subsequent editions or new titles. The same person might publish ephemeral pieces anonymously while signing others: Johnson published the Rambler periodical essays anonymously from 1750 to 1752, but put his name and newly minted Oxford credentials on the contemporaneous, patriotic, monumental Dictionary of the English Language (1755). In one inversion of this pattern, Pope published other poems under his own name while bringing out installments of The Essay on Man (1733–34) anonymously, which allowed him to project an appropriately impersonal authorial presence on a poem that aimed to explain God’s mysteries. This anonymity resulted also in the probably foreseen consequence that antagonistic critics praised Pope’s poem before knowing that it was written by a man they preferred to scorn out of hand for his politics, religion, appearance, and/or biting wit.32

Mark Robson’s recent work on an ethics of reading anonymity argues, using terms adapted from Lévinas, that readers tend to appropriate or bridge the gap left by anonymity in order to satisfy their own desires when it would be more ethical of us to allow for a transcendent co-existence of unknown and unknowable authorship with our own acts of “countersignature.” 33 Since, however, so much anonymity was dictated by genre or editorial convention or bookseller’s choice, it is certainly not the case that all anonymous publication occurred with the author’s consent or any expectation of respect for that unsigned state.

For many texts, an eighteenth-century reader juggled multiple possible authors and held open multiple subsequent interpretive possibilities either while awaiting an author’s identification or in the absence of any ultimate identification. In a high-profile case such as The Letters of Junius, witty but caustic public letters written between 1769 and 1772 criticizing perceived abuses of governmental power, the public never discovered the author. Because “Junius” never resolved into a proper name and a veridical identity, he (or she) helps us recover a sense of eighteenth-century anonymity not as an absence, but as one possible, positive form of the authorial subject position, as an alternative rather than an opposition to the legal proper name an author could sign on a title page. Even unnamed texts “project a ‘presence,’” as Robert J. Griffin claims: “Without a name to individualize the author, an implied authorial consciousness is still inferred by the reader, and, in that process, the historical, social, and cultural codes that comprise the text come to the fore.”34 Junius’s anonymity, for example, seems less of a scurrilous shadow than an appropriate response to a government that could not condone free speech, although it also could not entirely prevent it.

4. Fictional Authors and Anonymous “Editors”

Many of the examples of anonymity sketched here involve the author presenting his or her extratextual self in some way other than by a legal proper name, but another significant subcategory involves the elaborate fiction that the author of a text is a character in it—usually the protagonist, often eponymous—while the veridical author is merely an anonymous editor. This strategy accompanies the rise of the novel: Defoe’s preface to Moll Flanders (1722) suggests that “the Pen employ’d in finishing [Moll’s] Story” has rendered it in “Language fit to be read,” but that “the Author is here suppos’d to be writing her own History.”35 The extent to which Defoe was interested in name games is suggested not just by how often these motifs of an “editor” or a pseudonymous protagonist appear in his other works, nor by his own changing name (the “de” in “Defoe” was not there in his father’s name), but also by the rest of the provocative sentence in Moll’s preface: “and in the very beginning of her Account, she gives the Reasons why she thinks fit to conceal her true Name, after which there is no Occasion to say any more about that.”

The novel that changed Defoe’s generally disreputable genre into high fashion, Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740), also appeared anonymously in the sense that Richardson’s proper name was not in evidence in the earliest editions. Instead, an “editor” specifically proclaiming his objectivity over against an author writes the preface, and the teenage protagonist, Pamela Andrews, is the implied author. An initial nationwide search to find Pamela gave way to widespread knowledge that the author was a fifty-something-year-old man, not a fifteen-year-old girl. As John Mullan observes, with regard to both Defoe and Richardson, the choice of a female disguise is unlikely to be an issue of either author’s modesty or mischievousness, but more a “creative necessity.”36 Defoe needed to seem true to female experience because women were the prime commodities in his commercial world; Richardson needed to seem true because both interiority and epistolarity were feminized.

An ironically elaborate variant on the popular trope of the anonymous “editor” is Henry Mackenzie’s The Man of Feeling (1771). Mackenzie’s introduction features an unnamed editor who receives a collection of papers from his unnamed shooting partner, a curate, who was given them by a unnamed landlord who found the papers in the rooms of a man known as “The Ghost,” who perhaps had them from the Harley who is the protagonist and supposed author of the novel. The introduction concludes with the anonymous editor commenting, “I was a good deal affected with some very trifling passages in it; and had the name of a Marmontel, or a Richardson, been on the title-page—’tis odds that I should have wept: But One is ashamed to be pleased with the works of one knows not whom.”37

Mackenzie picks up on a perceived faddishness and falsity in the literary marketplace where proper names function as brand names that filiate texts and close the door to new authors.38 Certainly, an ambitious eighteenth-century author concerned with the professionalization and marketing of literature, loosed from or let down by the patronage system that had formerly bestowed both status and income on certain authors, and able to secure a place in a canon that finally included modern authors might well wish to sign his or her name to his or her texts. An awareness, however, of the many other contributors to the publication of a text makes clear the irony within Samuel Johnson’s 1753 claim that this was “The Age of Authors.”39 Even as the “Age of Johnson” was forming at the chronological heart of the eighteenth century, Johnson himself was pointing out that the prominence of any individual author relied on the efforts and will of many others in the book trade. Modern studies of anonymity have echoed this concern by considering not only how to solve anonymity in order to reveal which central, solitary figure wrote a text, but also by regarding anonymity as a state of disenfranchisement from which to recover the socially or economically disadvantaged co-producers of what Margaret J. M. Ezell calls “social authorship.” 40 We now register the previously obscured proper names of printers and editors, collaborators and copyists, or describe the roles such figures played if the names prove unrecoverable.

5. Attribution and Ownership

The unrecoverable name can seem uncanny to twenty-first-century readers because it is a somewhat alien idea that books without authorial signatures did sell. Our recent recognition of anonymity’s strangeness to us, along with the archival and bibliographical research into anonymity during the eighteenth century and the scholarship on anonymity’s forms and functions, might, broadly speaking, be considered one of two main directions that modern studies of anonymity take. Whereas the first attends to the ubiquity and multiplicity of anonymous publication in the period, the second focuses on possible methods of resolving anonymity by way of attribution.

As a monument to the long-standing attractions of attribution, the multiauthored A Dictionary of Anonymous and Pseudonymous Publications in the English Language, begun in the 1850s and reaching a ninth volume in 1962, includes tens of thousands of works published anonymously since 1475, but only if that original anonymity has since been overcome by attribution.41 Although the urge toward attribution was much stronger in some cases and in some readers than others, it was certainly an eighteenth-century reading habit, as much marginalia attests. Sometimes readers attributed correctly, as when a reader notes on the verso of the title page of the anonymous Absalom and Achitophel (1681), “On Mr. Drydens turning Roman Catholick / Traytor to God and Rebell to thy Penn; / Priest ridden Poet, perjur’d sonn of Ben, / If ever thou turn’st honest, the whole nation, / Will readily believe Transubstantiation.” Sometimes, error crept in: on a copy of The History of Nourjahad (1767) someone notes, “Wrote by Mrs. Sheridan / late Linley.” This respectable oriental tale is actually by Frances Sheridan, whom this reader confuses with Elizabeth Sheridan, née Linley, for whom Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the son of Frances, had dueled. Apparently, the reader had heard that a Mrs. Sheridan was involved and selected the one making headlines.42 Frances Burney provides evidence of this same urge toward attribution as a topic of conversation: her journal entry records her delight as two acquaintances debated in Burney’s presence whether the writer of Evelina (1778) was a man of great abilities or a woman of remarkable delicacy, ending with the hope that the author would reveal him- or herself: “Ha! Ha! Ha!—that’s my answer,” writes Burney.43 Yet when her father discovered that his daughter was the author of the highly successful novel, Burney records feeling “almost afraid–& quite ashamed to be alone with him” when they met, until his “precious approbation” led to Burney “[falling] upon his Neck with heart-beating emotion” and “[sobbing] upon his shoulder.”44

Much of what first occurs to a twenty-first-century reader about attribution is a product of our own heavy reliance on the author’s name to organize college syllabi, bookstore and library shelves, or professional specializations. We rely more frequently now than was possible then on what Roger Chartier summarizes as the early modern “invention of the author as the fundamental principle for the designation of a text” represented by a proper name. 45 The hotly contested corpus of texts attributed (or not) to Daniel Defoe makes clear how much interest and cultural capital remains bound up in connecting texts to authors.46 In Attributing Authorship (2002), Harold Love defines the subject of attribution studies as “the uniqueness of each human being and how this is enacted in writing” (4) and evaluates methods of attribution ranging from a “feel for it” honed by a lifetime in the field to statistical studies of language and machine-searchable databases.47 Although questions of attribution tend to focus on “how personal responsibility for given aspects of given texts might be distributed,” that responsibility does not always or even often fall to a single author: “[Attribution] arguments are more often disintegrationist than integrationist, maintaining, with the tradition of editorial theory inaugurated by Jerome McGann, that most literary creation is to a greater or lesser degree co-operative, if not collaborative, in nature.”48

By contrast, Jody Greene describes her project in The Trouble with Ownership (2005) as “at least in part about the strategies authors use to avoid responsibility for their works” precisely when the legal conditions for signing an authorial name to a text came into being.49 The Copyright Act of 1710 (also known as the “Act of Anne”) codified an author’s “primary—even aboriginal—relation to his or her work as a matter of ownership,” a development that created an economic advantage for an author who signed a text.50 But signing also increased authorial liability: “‘owning’ one’s book was synonymous with owning up to it,” thus effecting an authorial self-regulation that “150 years of legislation and royal prerogative” had never been able to enforce.51 One venerable method of having one’s authorial cake in this environment and eating it, too, was to continue to avoid liability just as early modern writers had: by claiming that works had been pirated or circulated unscrupulously. In other words, an eighteenth-century author could claim that a signed single name was not the regulatory guarantee it appeared, even as that author hoped to profit from such regulation.52

With its focus on the “trouble” associated with the increased regulation of authorship that often took the form of an authorial signature on a title page, Greene’s study picks up a main concern of the document most scholars of anonymity grapple with, Michel Foucault’s 1969 essay, “What Is an Author?” 53 In the more regulated literary marketplace under these emergent copyright laws, the authorial name became a commodity and a brand name, filiating, determining, and limiting the meanings of texts gathered under it. “The author’s name,” argues Foucault, “manifests the appearance of a certain discursive set and indicates the status of this discourse within a society and a culture.”54 Privileged texts within a culture are endowed with this “author-function,” which Foucault dates from the seventeenth or eighteenth century for literary texts because of an economically motivated move away from anonymity: “We now ask of each poetic or fictional text: from where does it come, who wrote it, when, under what circumstances, or beginning with what design? … Since literary anonymity is not tolerable, we can accept it only in the guise of an enigma.”55 Foucault’s wry tone here reflects a regret that the authorial name has become so regulatory. He initially depicts anonymity as a less tyrannical mode of authorship than named publication because anonymity lessens the reader’s focus on an individual, originary genius whose name has, “since the eighteenth century, … played the role of the regulator of the fictive, a role quite characteristic of our era of industrial and bourgeois society, of individualism and private property.”56

Foucault’s argument that the regulation of authorship follows from the disappearance of anonymity is interesting to think through, but not definitive. For one, his chronology is too blunt: Marcy L. North provides ample evidence that rapidly expanding print publication in the seventeenth century did not toll the death knell of anonymous authorship.57 Foucault is likewise too blunt in his claim that the “system of ownership” was preceded by “penal appropriation”: “Historically, [discourse] was a gesture fraught with risks before becoming goods caught up in a circuit of ownership.”58 Although anonymous authors certainly were punished, legally or less officially, legal attention in the early modern period focused more on printers and publishers than on authors. Various attempts to require an author’s name on a text during the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries were short-lived or largely unenforced. Griffin, whose “Anonymity and Authorship” (1999) treats these issues fully, comments that, during these centuries, “authorial anonymity in England was, essentially, an officially tolerated form of sanctuary.”59

Furthermore, the discursive roles of the author-function, such as its tendency to group texts or influence reception, operate as well under an anonym as they do under a legal proper name. The artistic and legal identities of authors are not conflated in copyright laws, even if names are common shorthand for the idea of the author. Griffin claims outright that “[t]he history of publication shows unequivocally that there is no cause-and-effect relation between the ownership of literary property, or the lack of it, and the presence or absence of the name of the author.”60

The sermon scene from Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (1759–67) illustrates the complex competing claims to the ownership of an eighteenth-century text. The proper name of the composer of the sermon is “Yorick,” a parson whose name is complicated both by its own fictionality and its borrowing from Shakespeare, suggesting a treasury of infinitely citational, shared language. Yorick’s authorship shares space with the names of previous, unmentioned sermon authors from whom this sermon borrows, Jonathan Swift among them, which raises the question of the extent to which imaginative originality is valued in this genre.61 Further claims to ownership include an emotional “investment” in a text by readers who make individual meaning of the text according to their various “hobby horses;” a “finders-keepers” logic of ownership after the sermon is dropped in a lane; the commercial question of whether buying a text outweighs composition as a claim to ownership when the sermon is then sold, and the question of whether controlling the means of circulation of a text might not also constitute ownership. When, at the sermon’s conclusion and before Yorick has been identified, Uncle Toby wonders, “who’s can this be?,” Sterne’s scene suggests that, “who claims this?” is a more relevant paraphrase than “who wrote this?” 62 Walter Shandy’s confident reply that “it was Yorick’s and no one’s else” highlights ironically the limited significance of the deliberately delayed authorial name.

6. Anonymity as an Open Secret

If current critical approaches to anonymity can be described broadly as either recognizing the extent and variety of anonymity in the eighteenth century or aiming to recover an attribution behind an anonym, a third possibility that unites these approaches explores anonymity as an open secret.63 Some of the century’s leading authors practiced anonymity against the foil of their celebrity—occasionally in confident anticipation of a celebrity that was yet to arrive. Throughout The Rambler, Johnson, for example, pointedly raises the issue of why he does not publish his proper name, even as he welcomes recognition as the author of the essays. In Rambler 208, Johnson depicts this sort of mid-century authorial anonymity as “a mask that holds even when the wearer happens to be known.” 64 The absence of a name draws attention to itself particularly when a reader knows exactly who wrote the piece: inquiry shifts necessarily from asking “who” wrote the piece—a fact the reader knows—to asking “what” anonymity invites a reader to notice about the nature or techniques of authorship. Clearly, anonymity was not the opposite of attribution for Johnson and was not an impediment to forging a reputation for himself as a writer. Even after the renown garnered by the 1755 Dictionary, Johnson still left many other texts unsigned, suggesting that credit was not his only concern or was something he could earn in ways beyond the seemingly obvious exchange of name for fame and fortune.

Johnson’s own definition of anonymous in the Dictionary reminds us that eighteenth-century authors were attuned to possibilities in anonymity that modern scholarship is now recovering. On one level, Johnson’s definition echoes the “fill in the blank” urge toward attribution: he defines anonymous as “wanting a name.” But rather than reading the “wanting” as consecutive—an initial lack of name leads to the desire for an attributed name and for the recognition that comes with “making a name” for one’s self—we might also read the wants as simultaneous and interdependent. Anonymity is then not an obstacle to be overcome, but rather a tool or a condition of fame. Johnson, like Pope and Sterne, was a celebrity in the sense that people cared (sometimes primarily) to know about these men’s personal lives rather than merely admiring their works. Distancing themselves more or less voluntarily from patronage, such authors looked increasingly to their own personal talent to make their names, but anonymity nuances such individuality because precisely those authors subjected to scrutiny as celebrities understand best that an author is not the same being as a veridical person; the name an author makes is not the name he or she goes by.65

In Frenzy of Renown (1986), Leo Braudy describes the counterpart to authors seeking to make names for themselves in the fashion, new in the period, of an audience that actively sought out the acquaintance of these authors:

Soaking in the famous man’s aura of completeness was the first step in dealing with their own sense of personal and social fragmentation. Thus the most unprecedented element in the crucial changes the eighteenth century makes in the concept of fame is the appearance of an audience that, instead of passively responding to its idols, takes an active role in defining them.66

The “idols” are fully aware that their “completeness” remains an aura, just as the signing of their complete, proper names could not account for all the permeability and variability they recognized in their authorial stances. Their fragile balance of self-expression and fragmentation, and of a fame that was both their own and belonged also to their fans, was a broader cultural expression of the double discourse that authorial anonymity also signaled. This pattern of give and take is just one of the avenues that unites the apparently exclusive fields of anonymity studies and celebrity studies.

In another possibility, the strategically provocative anonymity of the open secret shifts attention away from attribution and toward the “attributes” of a particular authorial style. Some particularly confident writers—Alexander Pope, for example—thought anonymity was a practical impossibility or, more modestly, was at least unlikely to be a sustained condition because the style of some texts is so distinctive that the author’s name cannot remain unknown. Pope’s mock annotations to The Dunciad provide the apparently disapproving illustration for anonymous in Johnson’s Dictionary: “They would forthwith publish slanders unpunished, the authors being anonymous, the immediate publishers thereof sculking.” The disapproval is, however, complicated considerably by the irony that Pope published The Dunciad anonymously, with no doubt that it would be known as his by the distinctive style (in the space of two days, as further ironic notes to a further ironic appendix claim).67

When biographical inquiry is unnecessary because the anonymous authorship is an open secret, anonymity might also prompt a reader to reflect on the aptness of the eighteenth-century critical focus on decorum, whereby biographical information about an author was used to judge the value of a text. The first installments of Sterne’s Tristram Shandy were widely praised by literary reviewers in 1760 while his name was unknown, but those same reviewers generally disapproved of the following installments after Sterne had advertised his position as a clergyman later that same year. The reviewers’ shackling of a literary judgment to biography was apparent to and scorned by many readers; Sterne’s own response was to pile ever more names and pseudonyms together. Further fictional works, but also sermons, letters, and Sterne’s social appearances occurred under the names of “Yorick” or “Tristram,” characters within Tristram Shandy. The name “Laurence Sterne” became one among many, sometimes printed on an opposing title page to emphasize the open secrecy, pressing the critical response into absurdity: “For who,” splutters one frustrated reviewer, “is this Yorick?”—a question that reflects badly on these arbiters of literary taste because it admits (feigned) ignorance both of Sterne’s celebrity and of the literary name every reader knows from Hamlet.68 Sterne’s 1768 formulation of anonymity as a “veil” echoes Johnson’s “mask,” but it is a veil so transparent that, in Sterne’s hands, it in one instance hides Laurence Sterne and a real woman by the name of Eliza Draper under the ostensibly and explicitly “fictitious names” of “Mr. S*****” and “Eliza Draper.”69

When anonymity is practiced as a permeable disguise (an eighteenth-century “wardrobe malfunction”), it both distances the veridical figure from the figure of the author, but also retains a connection between them because of the awareness of the name that is not being said. Such anonymity suggests that authorship be read as something other than a conduit of biographical outpourings, but not as totally irrelevant to biography. Anonymity illuminates authorship as a fictive or counterfactual state, a condition that has not been or cannot be fulfilled entirely with regard to the facts of a life but which bears some relation to those facts. The categories of persona, author, and veridical person are not intended to exclude each other: their permeable boundaries are attested not only in current theories of authorial identity, but also in the eighteenth century, as Howard D. Weinbrot has shown.70 For all the difficulty of identity’s amorphous, unstable terms, “one point is obvious,” Weinbrot claims: “persona criticism is not anachronistic when applied to eighteenth-century texts. Commentators assumed that authorial role playing was common to many literary forms, and frequently used terms like masks, person, personate, character, part, and figurative speaker.71 They also frequently connected those masks to what they knew of the veridical person, in particular when a text made some claim to the moral high ground. This tendency persists today in the types of texts, often anonymous, that become reclassified as “hoaxes” when their authors do not assert explicitly that the traumatic experiences they portray—holocausts, racial persecution, crimes—are not first-person experiences.

Determining the extent of the connections between the figure of an author and a veridical person requires thinking about real-world referents and thinking, too, about the ways those referents might be constructed. Sifting referentiality was part of the work of readers during the eighteenth century; one of their main training grounds was the increasingly popular novel. Critics then and now have used the novel to think about the nature of fiction and its emergence as a recognizable category: the former is the most culturally influential medium of the latter.72

My sense that authors expected or wanted readers to recognize the “not true but not designed to deceive” nature of their anonymous authorship accords with the rewriting of Ian Watt’s idea of formal realism by Catherine Gallagher in Nobody’s Story.73 In Watt’s account, early novels approximated reality and disguised their fictiveness to seem more appealing, effective, and respectable. Fiction succeeded because it camouflaged itself as truth. Gallagher argues that contemporary readers understood realism in novels not as an apology for fiction, but as fiction’s formal sign (xvii); the appearance of truth that cannot be traced back to the biographical world is the signal that fiction is at work. In Gallagher’s argument, the point at which the reading public began to recognize and articulate fiction was when a “fictional Nobody” became a character. Gallagher locates Nobody’s first appearance as a marker of fiction in the works of Delarivier Manley. Still largely gossipy and referring to real court scandal (inviting, rather than preventing, a reading back from the text to reality), the Nobody who appears in Manley’s works in the 1710s develops by mid-century into a figure of fiction. This fictive Nobody took the form of “a proper name explicitly without a physical referent in the real world.”74 The openly secretive anonymity of famous authors, which is the lack of a proper name implicitly with a physical referent in the real world, also signals fictiveness by both referring to a veridical person, but preventing a simple equation of that person and the rhetorical construct of an authorial persona. This anonymity suggests that some eighteenth-century authors were thinking through the fictive not only in the characters and situations of novels, but also in the authorship of novels and indeed in the authorship of nonfictional genres like letters, political pamphlets, essays, and sermons. In the early decades of the long eighteenth century, when fiction was a new conceptual category that was defined against the dominant vocabulary of truth and lies, an authorial subject position that was always in an unstable relation to biography offered an alternate site in addition to novelistic fiction for considering referentiality.

7. Onymity: The Proper Name

From an early twenty-first-century perspective, it is easy enough for us to recognize these stances complicating the role of the author. It was not as easy in a world where the double discourse of anonymity and celebrity was new, where copyright was nascent and fiction was uncharted territory, and where authorship was still being theorized through decorum and biography. Retaining some sense of that unfamiliarity reminds us that a legal proper name is itself a point on a continuum of authorial naming practices, itself counterfactual as a designator of a seamlessly coherent self. Gérard Genette suggests the term “onymity” to designate signing with a legal proper name, observing that “to sign a work with one’s real name is a choice like any other, and nothing authorizes us to regard this choice as insignificant.”75 The proper name is perhaps more misleading as a label of authorial identity because anonymity can be a more transparent way of acknowledging a shared reservoir of textual sources and authoritative literary language—of citationality—than an “individual” proper name claiming originary power. That proper name is plagued yet further by the fact that no individual name is (or is necessarily) unique—not even, as Sterne highlights, a name like “Yorick.”76

David Brewer suggests that the quest for a modern individual behind the name of the author might have seemed an equally alien enterprise to eighteenth-century readers. Brewer historicizes the dynamic by which an author’s proper name circulates independently of the veridical individual who made it famous; for example, a 1740 tale is described as A Chinese Tale. Written Originally by that Prior of China The facetious Sou ma Quang, where “that Prior of China” indicates that Sou ma Quang writes in a “facetious” style that entitles her to be known by the name of a deceased writer of a different nationality and sex, Matthew Prior (1664–1721). Brewer argues that eighteenth-century authors were not so much individuals as they were examples of a recurring type or occupants of a preexisting position. In Pope’s Dunciad, for example, the hero of the poem changes from Lewis Theobald in the 1728 and 1729 versions to Colley Cibber in the 1743 version. “By our usual standards,” observes Brewer, “these are different individuals, with different careers and different talents and different affronts to Pope and his friends. Yet they work equally well in the position of epic hero.”77 In the Preface to the 1728 Dunciad, Pope notes, “there may arise some obscurity … by the inevitable removal of some authors, and insertion of others, in their niches.” However, “the poem was not made for these authors, but these authors for the Poem.”78 Such interchangeability represents an eighteenth-century habit of thinking about authors as beings defined by their names—which is to say by their reputations—rather than by their veridical selves. Bad reputations loom large in The Dunciad, but excellent ones such as those of Locke, Bacon, or Virgil function equally interchangeably in the authorial subject position.

Brewer argues that conceiving of authors as placeholders reflects the intensely hierarchical world of eighteenth-century England. The interchangeability of authors recorded and enabled by their names invites us to reconsider what we seek when we look to recover not only eighteenth-century authors who did not sign their names, but also those who did. Brewer contends that authors represent “a kind of personhood which shouldn’t be conflated with any sort of felt humanity. Indeed, it was precisely because of this lack of felt humanity that authorial names and images were able to function as they did: which is to say, to work more like counters to be pushed around, than straightforward indices pointing toward specific biographical individuals to whose personhood, in the ordinary sense, everyone was willing to accede.”

Brewer’s work on how unstraightforward the proper name can be reminds us, like the best recent work on anonymity, that our modern sense of a signed text as a default setting is neither timeless nor self-evident. Current directions in scholarship on anonymity reveal that our sense of anonymity and attribution as polar opposites did not necessarily apply in the eighteenth century. The spectrum of possibilities for signing a text included instead many different anonyms employed for reasons that frequently extended beyond a desire to conceal a veridical identity. When we recover the significance that anonymity enjoyed in the eighteenth century as a marker of the authorial subject position, a touchstone for literary ethics and literary economics, and a formal sign of fiction, we find new meaning in texts both obscure and famous: anonymity urges us to neither erase nor plaster over an apparent absence with a proper name writ too large.


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Foucault, Michel. “What Is an Author?” (1969). In The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends, edited by David H. Richter. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1998: 890–900.Find this resource:

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Griffin, Robert J. ed. Faces of Anonymity: Anonymous and Pseudonymous Publication from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Century. New York: Palgrave, 2003.Find this resource:

Griffin, Robert J. “Fact, Fiction, and Anonymity: Reading Love and Madness: A Story Too True (1780).” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 16.4 (2004): 619–638.Find this resource:

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Mullan, John. Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature. London: Faber and Faber, 2007.Find this resource:

North, Marcy L. The Anonymous Renaissance: Cultures of Discretion in Tudor-Stuart England. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Rose, Mark. Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993.Find this resource:

Starner, Janet Wright, and Barbara Howard Traister, eds. Anonymity in Early Modern England: “What’s in a Name?” Farnham: Ashgate, 2011.Find this resource:


(1) Dunciad 3:157. Valerie Rumbold, edited by Alexander Pope: The Dunciad in Four Books (London: Longman, 1999), 238.

(2) Leah Orr, “Genre Labels on the Title Pages of English Fiction, 1660–1800,” Philological Quarterly 90.1 (2011), 80–81.

(3) James Raven, “The Anonymous Novel in Britain and Ireland, 1750–1830,” in. Faces of Anonymity: Anonymous and Pseudonymous Publication from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Century, edited by Robert J. Griffin (New York: Palgrave, 2003), 145.

(4) See Mark Rose, Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), 199.

(5) Anne Ferry, “Anonymity: The Literary History of a Word,” New Literary History 33.2 (2002), 193–214.

(6) Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Joseph Cottle, May 28, 1798, Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, edited by Earl Leslie Griggs (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1956–1971), 1: 412.

(7) Virginia Woolf, “Robinson Crusoe,” in The Second Common Reader (New York: Harcourt, 1932), 51, and “Defoe,” in The Common Reader (New York: Harcourt, 1932), 126.

(8) Robert J. Griffin (ed.), The Faces of Anonymity: Anonymous and Pseudonymous Publication from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Century (New York: Palgrave, 2003), 1–2.

(9) “Veridical” is Chris Rojek’s term in Celebrity (London: Reaktion, 2001).

(10) J. W. Saunders, “The Stigma of Print: A Note on the Social Bases of Tudor Poetry,” Essays in Criticism 1 (1951), 139–164.

(11) Nita Krevans, “Print and the Tudor Poets.” Reconsidering the Renaissance, edited by Mario di Cesare (Binghamton, NY: Medieval and Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1992), 313.

(12) H. J. C. Grierson, ed. The Letters of Sir Walter Scott. 12 vols. (London: 1932–1937), 3: 479.

(13) Alice Kahler Marshall, Pen Names of Women Writers: From 1600 to the Present (Camp Hill, PA: 1985), vii. For an exploration of the early modern situation for women writers, see also Elaine Hobby, The Virtue of Necessity: English Women’s Writing 1649–88 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1989). Works that were considered improving and that stemmed from women of respectable standing, such as Anne Finch, Countess of Winchelsea, had provided earlier exceptions to the general rule recommending female self-effacement prior to the rapid increase in novel publication, although such authors still published with a tag or pseudonymously: Finch wrote much of her work as “Ardelia,” a typically romantic or pastoral choice of name, and brought out a collection in 1713 entitled Miscellany Poems on Several Occasions. Written by a Lady.

For the conditions of female authorship later in the century, see Betty A. Schellenberg, The Professionalization of Women Writers in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

(14) Catherine Gallagher, Nobody’s Story: The Vanishing Acts of Women Writers in the Marketplace, 1670–1820 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), xv.

(16) The phrase is formulated most famously by Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own (London: Harcourt Brace, 1957), 51.

(19) Critical Review 37 (1774), 317.

(20) John Mullan, Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature (London: Faber and Faber, 2007).

(21) Holly Laird, “The Coauthored Pseudonym: Two Women Named Michael Field,” in Faces of Anonymity, edited by Griffin, 194. See also Paula R. Feldman, “Women Poets and Anonymity in the Romantic Era,” NLH 33.2 (2002), 279–289. Feldman concludes from the data on published poetry 1770–1835 that the anonymous female poet, “toiling away in obscurity, fearful of putting her name before the public” (279), is a myth.

(22) Daniel Defoe, London Post, 9 April 1705.

(23) Defoe’s Review Reproduced from the Original Editions (New York: Columbia University Press, 1938), 8:210.

(24) Joannis Miltoni Angli Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio. Contra Claudii Anonymi, aliàs Salmasii Defensionem Regiam in Complete Prose Works of John Milton, edited by Wolfe, Don M., et al., 8 vols. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1953–1982), 4.1: 298–537.

(26) Louis Althusser, Lenin and Philosophy, translated by Ben Brewster (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971), 170–186.

(27) Judith Butler, Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (New York: Routledge, 1999), 33–34.

(29) James Boswell, Life of Johnson, edited by R. W. Chapman, corrected by J. D. Fleeman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976), 1301.

(30) Allen T. Hazen, gen. ed. The Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson, 23 vols. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963–), 4: 42.

(31) Boswell, Life, 849.

(32) See Pat Rogers, “Nameless Names: Pope, Curll, and the Uses of Anonymity,” NLH 33.2 (2002), 233–245.

(33) Mark Robson, “The Ethics of Anonymity” in Anonymity in Early Modern England: “What’s in a Name?,” edited by Janet Wright Starner and Barbara Howard Traister (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011), 170.

(35) David Blewett, ed. Moll Flanders (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1989), 37.

(37) Brian Vickers, ed. The Man of Feeling (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 5.

(38) A related form of anonymity that filiates texts is the tag, “By the Author of … ”. In 1811, Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility appeared as “by a Lady,” but the publishers’ business acumen meant that Pride and Prejudice appeared two years later not as “by a Lady” but “by the Author of Sense and Sensibility.”

(39) Johnson, Works, 2: 457.

(40) Margaret J. M. Ezell, Social Authorship and the Advent of Print (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999). See also Adrian Johns, The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998) and Jack Stillinger, Multiple Authorship and the Myth of Solitary Genius (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991).

(41) Samuel Halkett, John Laing, and John Horden, ed. A Dictionary of Anonymous and Pseudonymous Publications in the English Language (Harlow: Longman, 1980).

(42) My thanks to David Brewer for providing these examples from the Rare Books collection at the Ohio State University.

(43) Lars E. Troide and Stewart J. Cooke, eds., The Early Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney 1768–1791, 3 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988–1994), 3: 28.

(44) Burney, Early Journals, 3: 32.

(45) Roger Chartier, The Order of Books: Readers, Authors, and Libraries in Europe between the Fourteenth and Eighteenth Centuries, translated by Lydia G. Cochrane (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), vii.

(46) See P. N. Furbank and W. R. Owens’s many publications on Defoe (de)attributions, but for a particular interest in Defoe’s strategies of anonymity, see also Robert J. Griffin, “Did Defoe Write Roxana? Does It Matter?” Philological Quarterly 89.2–3 (2010), 255–262 and Mark Vareschi, “Attribution and Repetition: The Case of Defoe and the Circulating Library,” Eighteenth-Century Life 36.2 (2012), 36–59.

(47) Harold Love, Attributing Authorship: An Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 4.

(49) Jody Greene, The Trouble with Ownership: Literary Property and Authorial Liability in England, 1660–1730 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), 271.

(52) Greene’s primary example of such a strategist is once again Alexander Pope, along with John Gay, both of whom “sheltered the rights of the male author behind a bulwark of female mediation” (17). Greene also directs attention to Jacques Derrida’s suggestions in “Limited Inc a b c” (1977), reprinted in Limited Inc, translated by Samuel Weber (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1988) that “textual and intellectual debts can never ‘truly’ be acknowledged, let alone tallied and paid off” (Greene 14). Derrida’s preferred (if tongue-in-cheek) name for the “more or less anonymous tradition of a code, a heritage, a reservoir of arguments” to which all authors are indebted is “three + n authors” (“Limited Inc a b c,” 36).

(53) Michel Foucault, “What Is an Author?” in The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends, edited by David H. Richter (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1998), 890–900.

(57) Marcy L. North, The Anonymous Renaissance: Cultures of Discretion in Tudor-Stuart England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003).

(59) Robert J. Griffin, “Anonymity and Authorship.” New Literary History 30.4 (1999), 888. The punishments for printers and booksellers could be severe, including capital punishment for publishing seditious libel: see Mullan’s chapter, “Danger” in Anonymity, 138–180. And authors did not always walk free: Defoe was pilloried for his authorship of a text whose initial anonymity resulted in its High Church targets failing to notice that the text was satirizing their intolerance of Dissenters. Defoe’s misadventure is particularly poignant since, as both Jody Greene and Mark Rose demonstrate, Defoe’s essays in favor of regulating the press played a direct role in formulating the concept of authorial copyright.

(61) Richard Terry links naming and not-naming to plagiarism during the eighteenth century in The Plagiarism Allegation in English from Butler to Sterne (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2010).

(62) Melvyn, Newgen. ed. The Florida Edition of the Works of Laurence Sterne. 9 vols. (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1978–2014), 1: 165.

(63) The open secrecy of anonymity is a central observation of Mullan’s Anonymity and Gillian Paku’s “The Age of Anon: Johnson Rewrites the Name of the Author,” Eighteenth-Century Life 32.2 (2008), 98–109.

(64) Johnson, Works 5: 317.

(65) Gérard Genette’s comment that pseudonymous authors who “dream of glory” must expect their patronymic to be at some point revealed—that “biographical renown eventually catches up with literary renown or surrounds it like a halo” (50)—has an ironic tone that Pope, Defoe, Johnson, and Sterne would have appreciated. Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, translated by Jane E. Lewin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

(66) Leo Braudy, Frenzy of Renown: Fame and Its History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 381.

(67) Pope, Dunciad, 365, fn f., and see Greene, “Revenge of the Straw Women: Disowning The Dunciad,” in Trouble with Ownership, 150–194.

(68) The reviewer is Owen Ruffhead, Monthly Review 22 (May 1760), 422–425.

(69) Sterne, Works, 6: 169.

(70) Howard D. Weinbrot, “Masked Men and Satire and Pope: Toward a Historical Basis for the Eighteenth-Century Persona,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 16.3 (1983), 265–289.

(72) For the powerful link between fiction and the emerging novel, see Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957); Michael McKeon, The Origins of the English Novel, 1600–1740 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002); Lennard J. Davis, Factual Fictions: The Origins of the English Novel (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997); J. Paul Hunter, Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth-Century English Fiction (New York: Norton, 1990); Nancy Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987).

(73) Catherine Gallagher, Nobody’s Story: The Vanishing Acts of Women Writers in the Marketplace, 1670–1820 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).

(75) Genette, Paratexts, 39–40. Genette’s chapter on “The Name of the Author” (37–54) describes practices of anonymity in eighteenth-century French literature.

(76) For a history and for modes of naming, see Alastair Fowler, Literary Names: Personal Names in English Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

(77) My thanks to David Brewer for access to the unpublished manuscripts that form the basis of his forthcoming monograph.

(78) Pope, Dunciad, 367.