TOPHAM, Edward, editor. ~ The Poetry of the World. Vol. I. Containing the Poems of Della Crusca, Anna Matilda [Hannah Cowley], Ambitious Vengeance; a Tragic Drama, &c. &c. &c. [Vol. II. Containing the Poems of Arley, Benedict, Edwin, The Bard, Ancient Music, The Lamentation, Parliamentary; A Bath Easton Eclocque, Lady T-rc--l’s Ring &c. &c. &c.] London: Printed by John Bell, British Library, Strand, Bookseller to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, 1788.
2 vols bound as 1, 8vo (158 × 91 mm), pp. vii, , 164; , 143, ; contemporary tree calf, gilt panelled spine with sunburst motifs, red morocco label; very slightly rubbed, but an excellent copy.
First edition of these poetical selections from Topham’s popular and frequently scandalous journal, the World and Fashionable Advertiser, the first English appearance in book form of the so-called Della Cruscan poets (who included Robert Merry, Berty Greatheed, Willam Parson, Hannah Cowley and Hester Piozzi).
‘Originally it was designed to puff Mrs [’Becky’] Wells [Topham’s actress-lover], but.. she took over a large part of its conduct over several years... Other associates on the paper included Miles Peter Andrews, the Revd Charles Este, and the publisher John Bell, who had a share in the management. Hannah More, referring to its emphasis on “elopements, divorces, and suicides”, described the paper as full of “elegant periods and sublimated nonsense”... The first productions of the mainly Florentine-based band of English poets noted for their flamboyant sentimental verse, known as the Della Cruscans, made their first appearance in the World’.
The final piece, the anononymous ‘Lady T[y]rc[onel]l’s Ring’, is typical of the questionable taste which found Topham in frequent trouble with his fashionable readers.
Later editions were entitled The British Album, of which the Cambridge History of English Literature says: ‘Even the widest reading of English verse could hardly enable anyone to collect from the accumulated poetry of the last three centuries an anthology of folly and bad taste surpassing the two volumes of The British Album, the crop of a very few years and the labour of some half-a-dozen or half-a-score pens. Jackson, p. 143.