A Georgian Reading List

I don't even remember what I was researching at the time, but as I went browsing through sources from the mid-18th century, I came across the play Polly Honeycombe, written in 1760 by George Coleman the Elder. It's a short farce about a girl who reads so many novels that she interprets her life through their tropes and clichés; unlike you'd expect, she ends up on top and never learns her lesson. In the preface, Coleman shares his mother's criticism of the piece, as well as a long excerpt from a letter she supposedly wrote to him, sharing her experience on a visit to the mercer's to buy fabric for clothes for the general mourning:
The goodwoman [the mercer's wife] was sitting alone (the two girls being, it seems, gone to see the scaffolding in Westminster Abbey) industriously employed in making up her own mourning; but her daughters gowns, just come from the Mantua-maker's, lay in the window; and black caps, black fans, black gloves, &c. from the milliner's, were scattered carelessly about the table, together with three or four books, half-bound, and a bulky pamphlet. These I had the curiosity to examine, and found them to be, (tho’ much thumbed, and in a greasy condition, indeed, for the perusal of such fine ladies) the first volume of the Adventures of Mr Loveil, the third volume of Betsy Thoughtless, the New Atalantis for the year 1760, and the Catalogue of the Circulating Library. The books I was too well acquainted with to be tempted to any further perusal of them; but (on Mrs Lutestring’s being called into the shop to speak to a particular customer) I made the inclosed Extract from the Catalogue, which, as it falls exactly in with your design, I now send for your consideration. Heaven bless you, My Dear Child! and send that your Farce may do some good on the Giddy Girls of this Age!
The preface then lists every book in the catalogue, going on for about five pages in two columns. At first I thought about looking a few of them up for me to read, but then it seemed like trying to track as many of them down as possible would be interesting. And so that list is below, following a little bit of context for what you might read in them.

The author Eliza Fowler Haywood, ca. 1725, in artistic dishabille
A major innovation in literature at the beginning of the eighteenth century was the use of main characters who were ordinary individuals in ordinary settings, members of the working and middle classes. They certainly weren't "realistic" in the sense that they depicted normal situations, though! While the authors of the period who are still remembered today (e.g. Henry Fielding, Samuel Richardson) tended to hew close to "improbable but possible", so much fiction had other aims - particularly that written by women. More Georgian women earned their living as writers than you probably realize!

Novels purporting to be "the history of" or "the adventures of" some individual were very common, imitating the actual biographies and memoirs that were published with similar titles at the same time. This would give the fiction the appearance of non-fiction, and suggested that it might drop information on scandals of the rich and famous. Even in the text, novels might claim to be truthful representations of a life, or to be simply edited by the writer from a real memoir or set of letters, which you'll notice if you read some of the works linked below.

(This is extremely brief - if you want more detail on eighteenth-century English lit, you should check out Novel Beginnings: Experiments in Eighteenth-Century Fiction, by Patricia Meyer Spacks, from Yale University Press, 2006. Also, if you come across a free or very cheap electronic version of any of these books that I haven't managed to link to below, please let me know!)

The "four authors" of The Female Spectator - in reality, probably just Haywood

Accomplished Rake, or the modern fine Gentleman (Mary Davys, 1727)

Adventures of Miss Polly B-ch-rd and Samuel Tyrrel Esq (1754?)

Adventures of Jerry Buck (John Slade, 1754)

Adventures of Dick Hazard (1755)

Adventures of Jack Smart (1756)

Adventures of Lindamira, a Lady of Quality (Thomas Brown, 1702)

Adventures of David Simple, vol. 2 (Sarah Fielding, 1744)

Adventures of a Turk, vol. 2 (1758)

Adventures of Daphnis and Chloe (1763)

Adventure of Prince Clermont & Madame de Ravezan

Adventures of Mr Loveill, vols. 1 and 2 (1750)

Adventures of Joseph Andrews (Henry Fielding, 1742) (Free Kindle ed., vol 1 and 2)

Adventures of H. Murray

Adventures of a Rake

Adventures of a Cat (Henry Fielding, William Guthrie?, 1760)

Adventures of a Black Coat (1750)

Adventures of Frank Hammond (1754)

Adventures of Mr George Edwards, a Creole (1751)

Adventures of a Valet (1752) (vol 1 only)

Adventures of Captain Greenland, vols. 1, 2, 3, 4 (John Oakman, 1752)

Adventures of Roderick Random, vols 1 and 2 (Tobias Smollett, 1748) (Project Gutenberg, free Kindle ed.)

Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, vols. 1 and 2 (Tobias Smollett, 1751) (Project Gutenberg, free Kindle ed.)

Adventures of Ferdinand, Count Fathom (Tobias Smollett, 1753) (Project Gutenberg, free Kindle ed.)

Agenor and Ismena, or the War of the Tender Passions

Amelia, vols. 1, 2, 3, 4 (Henry Fielding, 1751) (Project Gutenberg, free Kindle ed.)

Amelia, or the Distressed Wife (1751)

Amours of Philander and Silvia; or Love Letters between a Nobleman and his Sister (Aphra Behn, 1684) (Project Gutenberg, free Kindle ed.)

Amorous Friars, or the Intrigues of a Convent (1759)

Anti-Gallican, or the History and Adventures of Harry Cobham (Frank Cobham, 1758)

Anti-Pamela, or feigned Innocence detected (Eliza Haywood, 1741)

Apparition, or Female Cavalier; a Story founded on Facts, vol. 1 (Adolphus Bannac, 1756)

The Auction (Mrs. Woodfin, 1764)

Beauty put to its Shifts, or the Young Virgin's Rambles; being several Years Adventures Of Miss **** in England and Portugal

Bracelet, or the Fortunate Discovery; being the History of Miss Polly ****


Bubbled Knights, or successful Contrivances; plainly evincing in two familiar Instances lately transacted in this Metropolis, the Folly and Unreasonableness of Parents laying a Restraint upon their Children’s Inclinations in the Affairs of Love and Marriage


Chiron, or the mental Optician (Charles Caraccioli, 1758)

Chit chat, or a Series of interesting Adventures, vol. 3 (1755)

Chrysal, or the Adventures of a Guinea; with curious Anecdotes, vols. 1, 2, 3, 4 (Charles Johnstone, 1760)

Clarissa, or the History of a young Lady; comprehending the most important Concerns of private Life and particularly shewing the Distresses that may attend the Misconduct both of Parents and Children in relation to Marriage, vols. 1-4, 5-8 (Samuel Richardson, 1748) (Project Gutenberg, $1 Kindle ed.)

Cleora, or the Fair Inconstant; an authentic History of the Life and Adventures of a Lady lately very eminent in high Life

Clidanor and Cecilia, a Novel designed as a Specimen of a Collection, adapted to form the Mind to a just Way of Thinking and a proper Manner of Behaving in Life

Clio, or a secret History of the Amours of Mrs S-n-m (Martha Fowke Sansom)

Cry, a Dramatic Fable, vols. 1 and 2 (Sarah Fielding and Jane Collier, 1754)

Dalinda, or the Double Marriage (1749)

Devil upon Crutches in England, or Night Scenes in London, vols. 1 and 2 (1756)

Emily, or the History of a Natural Daughter, vols. 1 and 2 (1756)

The Fair Adulteress (1744)

The Fair Moralist (Charlotte McCarthy, 1745)

The Fair Citizen, or the Adventures of Charl Bellmour

Fanny, or the Amours of a West Country Lady

The Female Foundling; shewing the happy Success of constant Love in the Life of Mademoiselle D- R-

The Female Rambler, or Adventures of Mademoiselle Janeton de ****

Female Banishment, or the Woman Hater

Female Falsehood

The Fortunate Villager, or Memoirs of Sir A. Thomson

The Fortune-teller, or the Footman ennobled

The Friends, a sentimental history (William Guthrie, 1754)

A Gentleman and Lady of Pleasure's Amusement in 88 questions with their Answers on Love and Gallantry to which are added the Adventures of Sophia with the History of Frederic and Caroline

Henrietta (Charlotte Lennox, 1758)

The History of Charlotte Villars

The History of Miss Kitty N; containing her Amours and Adventures in Scotland, Ireland, Jamaica, and England

The History of Barbarossa and Pollyana

A History of Two Persons of Quality (William St. Pierre, esq., 1757)

The History of Lavinia Rawlins, vol. 1 of 2

A History of Two Orphans (William Toldervy)

The History of Henry Dumont, esq. and Miss Charlotte Evelyn; with some critical Remarks on comic Actors by Mrs Charke

The History of Benjamin St Martin, a fortunate Foundling

The History of the Life and Adventures of Mr Anderson (Edward Kimber, 1754)

The History of Honoria, or the Adventures of a young Lady; interspersed with the History of Emilia, Julia, and others

The History of Betty Barnes

The History of Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy, vol. 1 (Eliza Haywood, 1753)

The History of Dicky Gotham and Doll Clod

The History of Fanny Seymour (William Bathoe, 1769)

The History of Sophia Shakespeare

The History of Sir Charles Grandison, vol. 1-4, 5, 6, 7 (Samuel Richardson, 1753) ($1 Kindle ed.)

The History of a young Lady of Distinction, vol. 1 of 2 (1754)

The History and Adventures of Frank Hammond (see above in list)

The History of Jasper Banks

The History of J. Trueman, Esq. and Miss Peggy Willis

The History of Sir Harry Herald and Sir Edward Haunch (Henry Fielding, 1755)

The History of Will Ramble, a Libertine

The History of Miss Polly Willis

The History of my own Life

The History of Lucy Wellers, vol. 1 of 2 (Miss Smythies, 1754)

The History of a Fair Greek who was taken out of a Seraglio at Constantinople (Abbé Prevost, 1755)

The History of Hai Ebn Yokdhan, an Indian Prince (Ibn Tufail, ca. 1100, trans. Dr. Pocock, 1686) (free Kindle ed.)

The History of the Human Heart, or Adventures of a young Gentleman (1749)

The History of Charlotte Summers, the Fortunate Parish Girl, vols. 1 and 2 (1750)

The History of Cornelia (Sarah Scott, 1750)

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, vols. 1, 2, 3, 4 (Henry Fielding, 1749) (Project Gutenberg, free Kindle ed.)

The History of Tom Jones in his married State (1749)

The History of two modern Adventurers (1757)

The History of Sir Roger and his Son Joe (John Oakman, 1758)

The History of Miss Sally Sable (Mrs. Woodfin, 1758)

The History of Mira, Daughter of Marcio (1757)

The History of Amanda, by a young Lady (1758)

The History of a Woman of Quality, or the Adventures of Lady Frail (John Hill, 1751)

The History of Pompey the Little or the Adventures of a Lap Dog (Francis Coventry, 1751)

The History of Willielmina Susannah Dormer (1759)

The History of Portia (1759)

The History of the Countess of Dellwyn, vol. 1 of 2 (Sarah Fielding, 1759)

The History of Ophelia, vols. 1 and 2 (Sarah Fielding, 1760)

The History of the Marchioness de Pompadour, Mistress to the French King and first Lady of Honour to the Queen, vols. 1 and 2 (Marianne-Agnès Pillement Falques, 1758)

The History of Tom Fool, vols. 1 and 2 (George Alexander Stevens, 1760)

The History of the Intrigues and Gallantries of Christiana, Queen of Sweden

The History of Jack Connor (William Chaigneau, 1752)

The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless, vols. 1, 2, 3, 4 (Eliza Haywood, 1768) ($4 Kindle ed.)

The Histories of some of the Penitents in the Magdalen House (1759)

The Jilts, or Female Fortune hunters (1756)

The Impetuous Lover, or the Guiltless Parricide; shewing to what Lengths Love may run and the extreme Folly of forming schemes for Futurity (A. G. esq, 1757)

The Intriguing Coxcomb, or the Secret Memoirs of Sir Edmund Godfrey (John Cleland, 1751)

Journey thro’ every Stage of Life (Sarah Scott, 1754)

The Juvenile Adventures of David Ranger, Esq. (Edward Kimber, 1757)

The Juvenile Adventures of Miss Kitty Fisher (1759)

The Lady's Advocate; or Wit and Beauty a Match for Treachery and Inconstancy; containing a Series of Gallantries, Intrigues, and Amours, fortunate and sinister; Quarrels and Reconciliations between Lovers; conjugal Plagues and Comforts, Vexations and Endearments; with many remarkable lncidents & Adventures, the Effects of Love and Jealousy, Fidelity and Inconstancy (1749)

The Ladies Tales, Exemplified in the Virtues and Vices of the Quality (1714)

The Life and Adventures of Miranda

Life's Progress through the Passions, or the Adventures of Natura (Eliza Haywood, 1748)

The Life and Adventures of Joe Thompson (Edward Kimber, 1750)

The Life of Harriot Stuart (Charlotte Lennox, 1751) ($1 Kindle ed.)

The Life of Patty Saunders (1752) (summary in the Westminster Magazine)

The Life and History of a Pilgrim (George Wollaston, 1753)

The Life and Adventures of Sobrina (1755)

The Life of Corporal Bates, a broken hearted Soldier (1759)

The Life and Adventures of Col. Jacque (Daniel Defoe, 1723)

The Life and Adventures of James Ramble, Esq. (Edward Kimber, 1754)

The Life of Charles Osborn, Esq. (1752)

The Life of Mr John Van, vol. 2 (George Smith Green)

The Life and Opinions of Miss Sukey Shandy, of Bow Street, Gentlewoman (1760)

Love and Friendship, or the Fair Fugitive (1757)

Lydia, or Filial Piety, vols. 1-2 of 4 (John Shebbeare, 1755)

The Marriage Act, vol. 2 of 4 (John Shebbeare, 1754)

Memoirs of the Countess of Berci, vol. 1 of 2 (trans. Charlotte Lennox)

Memoirs of Fanny Hill (John Cleland, 1748) (Project Gutenberg, free Kindle ed.)

Memoirs of a Man of Quality (Abbé Prevost, 1748 — I think; I may be confusing two different books, but I think it was published under both titles)

Memoirs of the Life of John Medley, Esq. (John Kelly, 1748)

Memoirs of a Coxcomb (John Cleland, 1751) ($1 Kindle ed.)

Memoirs of the Shakespeare's Head Tavern (1755)

Memoirs of the celebrated Miss Fanny M[urray] (1759)

Memoirs of B- Tracey, or the Notorious Libertine (1760)

Memoirs of Fidelio and Harriot (1752)

Memoirs of Sir Thomas Hughson and Mr Joseph Williams (1757)

Memoirs of an Oxford Scholar (John Cleland, 1756)

Memoirs of a young Lady of Quality (1756)

Memoirs of the noted Buck-horse (Crowder, 1756) (Buckhorse was a prizefighter, John Smith.)

Memoirs of a certain Island, vol. 2 (Eliza Haywood, 1726)

Memoirs of a Man of Pleasure

Memoirs of a young Lady of Family (1758)

Memoirs of Sir Charles Goodville, vol. 1 of 2 (1753)

Modern Characters illustrated by Histories (Eliza Haywood, 1753)

Modern Lovers (1756)

Modern Story-Teller


Mother-in-Law, or the Innocent Sufferer (1757)

New Atalantis for the Year One thousand seven hundred and fifty eight (1758)

New Atalantis for the Year One thousand seven hundred and fifty nine (1759)

New Atalantis for the Year One thousand seven hundred and sixty (1760)

The Nominal Husband, or Distress’d Innocence (1750?)

Pamela, vols. 1, 2, 3, 4 (Samuel Richardson, 1740) (Project Gutenberg, free Kindle ed.)

Polydore and Julia, or the Libertine Reclaim’d (1756)

The Prostitutes of Quality, or Adultery à la Mode, being authentic and genuine Memoirs of several Persons of the highest Quality (1757)

The Reformed Coquet (Mary Davys, 1724)

The Revolutions of Modesty (1757)

The Rival Mother (either 1692 or 1755)

Rosalinda (1733)

Roxana, or the Fortunate Mistress (Daniel Defoe, 1724) (Project Gutenberg, free Kindle ed.)

The School of Woman, or Memoirs of Constantia (1753)

The Sedan, in which many new and entertaining Characters are introduced (1757)

The Sisters, or the History of Lucy and Caroline Sanson, vols. 1 and 2 (William Dodd, 1754)

The Skimmer

The Sopha

The Spy on Mother Midnight, or F’s Adventure

The Stage-Coach (Miss Smythies, 1762)

The Temple Beau, or the Town Rakes (1754)

The Theatre of Love, a Collection of Novels (1760)

The True Anti-Pamela (James Parry, 1742)

The Widow of the Wood (Benjamin Victor, 1769) (Some background to this one: the events it refers to are supposed to have something to do with the Wolseley family of Staffordshire, and they destroyed many copies of the pamphlet)

Zadig, or the Book of Fate (Voltaire, 1747) (Project Gutenberg, $1 Kindle ed.)

Queen Zara and the Zarazians (Mrs. Manley, 1705)

Zulima, or Pure Love (Eustache le Noble, 1715)