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'Such a general itching after book-learning': Popular Readers of 'the most eminent Wits'

Adam Smyth
The Yearbook of English Studies
Vol. 33, Medieval and Early Modern Miscellanies and Anthologies (2003), pp. 262-272
DOI: 10.2307/3509030
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3509030
Page Count: 11
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'Such a general itching after book-learning': Popular Readers of 'the most eminent Wits'
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Abstract

This article considers a paradox that lies at the heart of mid-seventeenth-century printed miscellanies: that these very popular, cheap printed collections offered points of conduct advice for élite social contexts; that books like "The Academy of Complements" (1640) and "Wits Interpreter" (1655) purported to present social etiquettes and words of eloquence fit for application in the rarefied environment of court, but were directed to, and read by, a popular, decidedly non-élite audience. This article considers how we might make sense of this consumption of notionally élite texts by popular readers.

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