Reformation of Manners, A Satyr
London: [N.P.], 1702.
London: [N.P.], 1702. First edition. Second issue, with "Eys" corrected to "Eyes" on page 55 and signature D properly imposed. Bound in full blue straight-grain morocco by Riviere and Son, new end papers (from the time of the binding). Entirely untrimmed with pages measuring, 225 x 170 mm. Complete in 64 pages, later reduced to 32. Slight worming to upper margin of last few leaves, final leaf with marginal paper repair, otherwise and exceptional copy. With the bookplate of Doris Benz on the front paste-down. An exceedingly scarce work, rarely seen with uncut edges, as here. The last copy to appear at auction was sold by Swann Galleries in 1990.
Composed in heroic couplets, this satirical long poem reflects on the hypocrisy of certain members of the Society for the Reformation of Manners, established in 1691 to promote the polite and prosecute the rude. Defoe was passionately opposed to such presumptuousness, especially when enacted by those as filled with vice as those they publicly condemned. Defoe later joined the Edinburgh branch of the Society in 1707, but it was not long until his criticisms of the movement resurfaced. “While you punish the poor, and the rich go free, while you put the laws into the hands of men of vice to execute upon the vitious [sic], while magistrates commit the crimes they punish, you must expect to finish no reformation in Scotland, any more than they have in England” (Burch). The anonymous nature of the publication did not save Defoe from making “enemies among those who thought themselves, or friends, reflected upon; and he was compelled afterward to feel bitterly the offence he had given” (Lee).
The title page motto in this copy is spelled “Væ Vobis Hypocritè”; Foxon notes the existence of other copies with the spelling “Hipocritè” and observes that these are “apparently a new setting of type”. In addition, copies with “Hypocritè” print “Eyes” as the final word of page 55, while the “Hipocritè” copies give “Eys.” Both versions print 64 pages, and a subsequent edition consisting of 32 pages was printed later that year. The poem was included in Defoe’s three poetry collections of the following year.
ESTC T68176. Foxon D145. Furbank & Owens 34. Moore 43. NBEL II, 885. Rothschild 733. Fine (Item #4853)