In my Bibliography of Eliza Haywood, under Ca.32 I said that "This novel is attributed to Haywood on the authority of a note in a Pickering & Chatto catalogue of 1934" which, in turn, credited the attribution to the writer and book collector James Crossley (1800–83).
The Pickering & Chatto catalogue of 1934 reads:
James Crossley, author and antiquarian, and a celebrated authority on old books, said that this was one of the scarcest and least known of the works of Mrs. Eliza Haywood. It has never been reprinted. It is not included amongst the list of her works given by Mr. G. F. Whicher in "The Life and Romances of Mrs. Haywood."
Since I was unable to find an earlier record of the attribution I suggested that this 1934 entry could have been "the first time the claim had been made in print"; certainly it was the authority for Andrew Block’s attribution of 1939, which has since been widely repeated. It turns out I was wrong, though I was on the right track. I said:
Crossley may have been indebted for the attribution to the misinterpretation of a note in the John Thomas Hope copy of Ab.60.7 The Female Spectator, which attributes authorship to Haywood and cites advertisements for it in ‘Modern Characters, 1753., vol. ii’.
Thanks to Google Books I can now see that the attribution has been in print since 1865, but I was right about the source being John Thomas Hope (d. 1854) of Netley Hall, Shrewsbury.
What I have found (here) is an entry in a Catalogue of a Collection of Early Newspapers and Essayists, Formed by the Late John Thomas Hope, Esq., and Presented to the Bodleian Library by the late Frederick William Hope (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1865), 80 (no. 290):
290. Modern Characters; Illustrated by Histories in Real Life, and address’d to the Polite World. 1753; 12mo.
Apparently by the contributors to the Female Spectator.
And "the contributors to the Female Spectator" are identified elsewhere (p. 72, no. 255) as being "By Mrs. Eliza Haywood."
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Another happy discovery on Google Books and the Internet Archive concerns the fate of James Crossley's library. This is one of the avenues that I pursued in order to discover more about this attribution. In 2004, I stated in a footnote:
P. N. Furbank and W. R. Owens, who dedicate a chapter to Crossley, mention the sale of his library in July 1884 and June 1885. The writer has not been able to determine whether this title was in Crossley’s library and whether his attribution of it to Haywood is recorded in the catalogue of his library or in his own copy of the books. Furbank and Owens (1988), pp.75–82.
I was not "able to determine whether this title was in Crossley’s library" because nobody in Australia had a copy of either of the sale catalogues of his library (Manchester, 12-19 May 1884; London, 11-20 June 1885) and it was a big ask—on top of all the other requests I was pestering librarians with—to go through an auction catalogue looking for this sort of information for me. After all, many auction catalogues are not arranged in a way that makes it easy to find a particular title. And so, even if I had asked, I could never be really sure that whoever I asked didn't miss the information I was after.
So, I put this search on my list of "things to do" next time I was overseas and wrote the footnote I have just quoted.
You might have guessed by now that Crossley’s library catalogue is now on Google Books, which means I have been able to search it myself, and word-search it with a higher-confidence than I would have ever had if I had quickly visually scanning the whole catalogue.
If this is what you've guessed you are both right and wrong. Yes, the catalogue(s) are on Google Books, there are six or seven copies of each of them in fact, but due to the utterly idiotic and irrational restrictions that Google place on the texts they has scanned—out of fear of infringing copyright—not one of these 1884 or 1885 catalogues are available to be viewed in Australia!
(Insert rant about Google being incapable of—or uninterested in—discovering the period that copyright covers in Australia, or Europe or anywhere else—other than the US—for that matter.)
As I might have mentioned before, I have become fairly adept at the use of free proxy servers to confuse Google into thinking that I am in the States (rather than in that mystery-world, Australia) and so in October 2009 I was able to view these catalogues and search for Eliza Haywood and Modern Characters.
What I discovered was exactly what I was looking for, hidden in a lot of twenty-three volumes of the second London sale of Crossley's library. Sotheby Wilkinson and Hodge … Catalogue of the Second Portion of the Library of Rare Books and Important Manuscripts of the Late James Crossley Esq. F.S.A. … (London: 11-20 June 1885), 154 (lot no. 1583):
1583 … —Haywood (Mrs.) Modern Characters: Illustrated by Histories in Real Life, 2 vol. 1583—
What I also discovered, however, was that Crossley also had (p. 126, lots 1290, 1291), a mixed set of Secret Histories, Novels and Poems (1725–42), The Secret History of the Present Intrigues of the Court of Caramania (1727), and A Spy on the Conjurer (1724).
Here is the evidence I was seeking, that Crossley had, in fact, attributed Modern Characters to Haywood, and that this attribution was published in the catalogue of his library in 1885. This 1885 catalogue pre-dates the 1934 Pickering & Chatto catalogue that I claimed was "the first time the [attribution] had been made in print." But, as we now know, it actually post-dates the John Thomas Hope Catalogue of 1865. Oh well. At least we know now.
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When I went looking for the London and Manchester catalogues this morning I discovered that it is now no longer possible to view almost all of the Crossley catalogues on Google Books, even using a proxy server—even though this was possible as recently as last October. It seems that Google Books have actually increased their levels of paranoia and fear about copyright litigation.
As a consequence, it took me a very long time to discover—that is, after a very long and frustrating search I discovered—that the Manchester catalogue is now available via the Internet Archive (here; where it can be downloaded in pdf) and that there is only one London catalogue that can now be viewed on Google Books (here; thanks to bypasstheweb.com I was able to view and download this catalogue).
One final word on free proxy servers, which every antipodean scholar should be familiar with. A proxy server "acts as an intermediary for requests from clients seeking resources from other servers." Servers (i.e. Google) are pretty quick to get wise to the fact that another server (bypasstheweb.com) is acting as a proxy, and so proxy servers like bypasstheweb.com tend to get blocked pretty quickly.
This is why I cannot recommend a single proxy server. Instead, try here, which keeps an updated list of proxy servers in different countries. You might have to try a few before you find one that works (i.e., that allows you to view the page).