A Day: an Epistle to John Wilkes, of Aylesbury, Esq.…

~ A Day: an Epistle to John Wilkes, of Aylesbury, Esq. London, Printed for A. Millar... MDCLXI [i.e. 1761].

4to (257 × 205 mm), pp. [4], 18; final page soiled; disbound.

First edition, scarce. It was printed by William Bowyer, his records showing that 500 copies were printed (Maslen & Lancaster, Bowyer Ledgers, 4291).

Armstrong (1709–1779) was a doctor by profession, and published serious medical works. But he was also a poet, best known for the explicit verse sex manual The Oeconomy of Love (1736), and the rather more respectable The Art of preserving Health (1744). He was a friend of fellow literary Scots Tobias Smollett and James Thomson, and also of the young rake and rising politician John Wilkes. ‘On 18 April 1760 Armstrong sailed from Harwich as physician to the English army in Germany, a post he perhaps owed to Wilkes’s patronage... His only literary work during his two and a half years’ campaigning with the army in north-west Germany was, it seems, the verse epistle A Day, written at Kassel and sent on 31 August 1760 to Wilkes with an invitation for him to revise and publish it. A mutilated version of the poem, in which passages cancelled by Wilkes were indicated by rows of asterisks, was published in January 1761, but not seen by Armstrong until his return to London early in 1763. This affair, together with Armstrong’s resentment of Wilkes’s disparagement of Scotsmen in his North Briton, led to a quarrel’ (Oxford DNB). Williams, pp. 35,35l CBEL II, 535.

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