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A REPLY TO THE ESSAY ON POPULATION, BY THE REV. T.R. MALTHUS. In a Series of Letters. To which are added, Extracts from the Essay; with Notes.
London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, Paternoster-Row. 1807 - First edition. 8vo. 5.25 x 8.5 inches. iv + 3-378 pp. [a]2 B-C7, D-D4, E-Z8, Aa-Bb8. Despite irregularities in pagination (lacks pp.1-2, 41-42) and in the register (C8 cancelled as usual), the text is complete and is identical to Keynes 4. Bound in contemporary half-calf with blind stamped decoration, gilt decorated spine slightly rubbed, green morocco labels, marbled boards, endpapers and edges. Some foxing and discolouration throughout. Philip Sassoon illustrated bookplate inside front paste-down and Port Lympne library label at foot of first blank. A copybook ink inscription, W Hazlitt 1807, at end of advertisement and smaller signatures, W. Hazlitt at end of letters I-III. These latter appear identical to that (using his earlier long z) in the Mary Evans Picture Library self-portrait and therefore are almost certainly the author's actual signature. The first three of the letters appeared originally in Cobbett's Weekly Political Register, 14 March and 16 and 23 May 1807, Cobbett being a friend of Hazlitt. The other two letters and the 'Extracts from the essay on population. With a commentary, and notes.' were added specifically for the book. The author's name does not appear on the title page but he has signed it several times in the text. William Hazlitt, painter, journalist and essayist (1778-1830) was born in Maidstone, the son of a Unitarian minister. His view of the natural disinteredness of the human mind led him to assert his own optimistic view of human nature in contrast to the pessimism of Malthus, whose theory was based on self-interet, which he abhorred. Robert Malthus, the famed political economist (1766-1834) was an ordained minister of the church and professor of history and political economy at the East India College. He published the first edition of his most famous work, 'An Essay on the Principle of Population' in 1798 and the second expanded edition, to which Hazlitt is replying, in 1805. He argued that the growth of population would always outstrip the expansion of the food supply, for while population increased in a geometrical ratio, subsistence would only increase in an arithmetical ratio. Various natural checks such as war, famine and pestilence served to hold back the exponential rise in population but man also resorted to other means, such as prostitution (i.e. non-reproductive sexual activity) and contraception and the practise of 'moral restraint,' including delayed marriage, between the sexes. Hazlitt takes issue with the representation by Malthus of 'vice and misery as the necessary consequences of an abstract principle, of a fundamental law of our nature' and puts forward his own view that the current 'decay of manners' may be put down to 'Great towns, great schools, dress, and novels.' He expands on the last two at some length, quoting the example of a hypothetical country girl who goes up to town as milliner's apprentice, and sits up half the night reading lurid novels, making her fall easy prey to 'the first coxcomb of real flesh and blood, who.accosts her in the shape of a lover.' Turning to the subject of female clothing Hazlitt states: 'I would ordain that no woman should express her shape publicly, unless she were a prostitute.' He professes his indignation with the prevailing fashion for loose clinging gowns, protesting in some detail about the sights thereby revealed to the onlooker in contrast to their mothers and grandmothers 'who almost blushed at their own shadows.' (Q4-Q6v). Hazlitt's impassioned attack on Malthus proved ineffective and in 1819, he referred to these early essays, 'the style of which is, I confess, a little exuberant,' (quoted in Keynes, p.9). The work of Malthus, however, produced an immediate and lasting impact, leading to the taking of the first national census in 1801 and influencing writers and thinkers such as Darwin. The concept of a Malthusian crisis was influential in the twentieth century in popular culture, inspiring a new environmentalism, exemplified
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Last Found On: 2014-06-04           Check availability:      AbeBooks    


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