ADULTERY AND SCANDAL IN EIGHTEENTH CENTURY SOCIETY
[EROTICA] [HILL, John.] By An Impartial Hand. The History of a Woman of Quality: or the Adventures of Lady Frail. By an Impartial Hand. London; Printed for M. Cooper, at the Globe in Pater-noster Row, and G. Woodfall, at the King's Arms, the Corner of Craig's-Court, Charing-Cross. 1751.
12mo. Early sprinkled tan calf, unlettered spine with 5 raised bands ruled in gilt, double-line gilt fillets to boards, red sprinkled edges; pp. xii + 227 + [i]; a very handsome copy with minimal rubbing to edges and corners; internally equally fine and clean throughout with the early, and probably contemporary, fine engraved armorial bookplate of Bartholomew Richard Barneby, Esq. to inner upper board; scarce.
First edition. A thinly-veiled account of the adulterous undertakings of the notorious Anne, Viscountess Vane, who scandalised eighteenth century society with her behaviour. Published with reference to, and in anticipation of, the indecent supposed autobiography The Memoirs of a Lady of Quality in volume 3 of Tobias Smollett's The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, also issued in 1751, which was reportedly by Frances Anne, Viscountess Vane. The title would seem to hail from Shakespeare's Hamlet, "Frailty, thy name is woman", which has become an adverbial phrase.
John Hill, M.D. (1716?-1775) was somewhat of a self-promoter, entrepreneur, and polymath who conducted a varied and chequered career over the course of his life, over several disciplines. He was apprenticed to an apothecary in his youth and moved to the study of botany to advance himself, being employed by both the Duke of Richmond and Lord Petre to manage their gardens and hunt out rare plants. He then, surprisingly, turned to the stage, and worked at the Haymarket and at Covent Garden. Having submitted a libretto of "Orpheus, an English Opera", and had it rejected, the launch of a production of Theobald's "Orpheus and Eurydice" the following year led to prolonged controversy with the theatre director Rich. This was the first of many public disputes Hill engaged in throughout his life. Back in his role as apothecary he was introduced to various men of letters by Martin Folkes and Henry Baker, both members of the Royal Society, and began work as a translator, and then editor, of the British Magazine to which he contributed, over two years, a scandalous daily letter called "The Inspector". He subsequently picked up a diploma of medicine from the University of St. Andrews and this work then took him to various places of fashionable amusement and brought him into contact with all sorts of scandalous goings-on which he exploited for his column. When he was turned down for membership by the Royal Society he became vituperative, in pamphlet form, and his scurrilous writings drew him into public squabbles including paper warfare with Henry Fielding who had attacked him in the Covent Garden Journal.
The impressive armorial bookplate appears to be that of Bartholomew Lutley (aka Barnaby) (1713-1783) who was born to Philip Lutley and Penelope, née Barneby, of Brockhampton, Hertfordshire. In 1735 he changed his name by deed poll, pursuant to the will of John Barneby, presumably to inherit the estate of Brockhampton, which is now a National Trust Property. In 1756, aged 43, he married Elizabeth (née Freeman) and together they went on to have ten children. Among the National Trust collections hangs an oil portrait purporting to depict Bartholomew Richard Barneby, however it is now considered more likely that the subject is his father Philip..
ESTC lists only 5 copies (2 in the BL; Glasgow; National Library of Scotland, and Oxford).