The Pursuits of Literature: A Satirical Poem, in Four Dialogues, with Notes

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by Thomas James Mathias

The Pursuits of Literature

Title page from The Pursuits of Literature, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Thomas James Mathias
Editor {{{editor}}}
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published Dublin: Printed for J. Milliken
Date 1798
Edition Eighth
Language English
Volumes {{{set}}} volume set
Pages 2 p. ℓ., 2 p., 1 ℓ., xxxi, 381
Desc. 8vo (21 cm.)
Location Shelf N-2
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]
Bookplate of Rev. John Wm. Beauman, front pastedown.

Thomas James Mathias (1753/4-1835) was an accomplished satirist and Italian scholar[1] chiefly known for his satire The Pursuits of Literature, or, What you will. Published in four dialogues from 1794-1797, the work was in part a response to the French Revolution and prevalence of democratic radicalism.[2] Despite criticism of his lack of poetic skill, his satire of contemporary figures made it an incredibly popular work.[3]

After his mother’s death in 1799, Mathias published numerous Italian translations of English poems in a perfect mastery of the written language,[4] and he moved to Naples in 1814.

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as "Pursuits of Literature. 8vo." This was one of the titles kept by Thomas Jefferson and may have been sold to the Library of Congress in 1815. Jefferson did sell a copy of Mathias's Pursuits of Literature to the Library of Congress but the volume no longer exists to verify its edition or Wythe's prior ownership. George Wythe's Library[5] on LibraryThing indicates "Precise edition unknown. This was first published in 1794, and many London and Dublin editions followed." The Brown Bibliography[6] includes the eighth Dublin edition (1798) based on Millicent Sowerby's use of that edition in Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson.[7] The Wolf Law Library followed Brown's recommendation and purchased a copy of the eighth edition for the George Wythe Collection.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in original full-leather covers with gilt title on read leather spine label. Includes the bookplate of the Rev. John William Beauman on the front pastedown. Purchased from Shoemaker Booksellers.

Images of the library's copy of this book are available on Flickr. View the record for this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

See also


  1. Paul Baines, “Mathias, Thomas James (1753/4–1835)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004), accessed September 24, 2013. Unless otherwise noted, all biographical details are from this source.
  2. Thomas B. Gilmore and W.B. Carnochan, “The Politics of Eighteenth-Century Satire,” PMLA, 86, No. 2 (Modern Language Association, 1971), p. 277.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Anonymous, “Obituary of Thomas James Mathias,” Gentleman’s Magazine NS (Nov. 1835), pp. 550-52.
  5. LibraryThing, s. v. "Member: George Wythe", accessed on February 24, 2014.
  6. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at:
  7. E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, (Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress, 1952-1959), 4:521 [no.4513].