Memoirs of Laetitia Pilkington, Volume 1
University of Georgia Press, 1997 - 845 pages
This is the first scholarly edition of the Memoirs of Laetitia Van Lewen Pilkington (1709?-1750), a poet, ghostwriter, and protégée of Jonathan Swift and the playwright/stage manager Colley Cibber. Swift's first biographer by virtue of her lively portrayals of him, Pilkington remains the best chronicler of the great satirist's private life while he was at the height of his influence and creativity. Offering as well an account of Pilkington's own tumultuous and unconventional life, the Memoirs caused a scandal when they first appeared, owing to their details about her divorce and the many would-be Lotharios (most of them married) who subsequently pestered her with their attentions.
Originally appearing in three volumes between 1748 and 1754, the Memoirs have been periodically reprinted and are often quoted by scholars in different disciplines. Until now, however, the work has not received serious editorial attention. In this edition, A. C. Elias Jr. has established for the first time a critical text based on the earliest and most definitive printings, which Pilkington and her son oversaw. For the first time there are explanatory notes that identify the many veiled or anonymous figures in the text and establish the reliability of each anecdote about them. Other new features include an index, a census of early editions, a full bibliography, and a chronology. This edition is produced in a two-volume format, the first comprising the actual Memoirs, and the second the commentary.
Readers are at last in a position to understand exactly what Pilkington is saying in her Memoirs--and what she may be suppressing in the process. They can now approach Pilkington's Swift with confidence at each step, and appreciate her rendering of the many other real-life personages who populate her disarmingly breezy narrative: bishops, scientists, and statesmen; authors, artists, and printers; and assorted rogues, wits, bawds, and eccentrics.
More than any other early-eighteenth-century woman writing in English, says Elias, Pilkington remains accessible to readers today. As a portrayal of Swift, as the recollections of a woman making her way in the male-dominated world of letters, as a source of Irish and English cultural and historical minutiae, and as a delightfully gossipy poke at social pretense, Pilkington's Memoirs are a classic of her era.
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Notes to LPs Original Volume I
Notes to LPs Original Volume II