By: Sydney Vollmer, ARB Intern
Edmund Curll was quite the character from his birth sometime in 1675 to his death on December 11, 1747 in London. In his 72 years, this man managed to create an illustrious name within the publishing business. In 1705, Curll became a bookseller, most notably selling books of those who were hanged. By 1708, he had set up his own business.
Over the years, the most notable publications from Curll included: Court Poems (1716), Mr. Pope’s Literary Correspondence (1735), and his Curlicisms, brash biographies of recently deceased persons who were well-known. Often these Curlisisms were inaccurate and hastily put together.
Four times, Curll ran into trouble with the law. In 1716 and 1721, the House of Lords reprimanded him for writing about members of the house. In 1725, they convicted him after they made the practice of publishing writings of someone else without that person’s consent illegal. Finally, sometime between 1727 and 1728, Curll was fined for obscenity and put in the pillory for an hour.
Though these actions were horrible, and Curll could never be considered an honorable man, many of these incidents were spurred by an ongoing feud Curll had with the poet, Alexander Pope. Their relationship can be best described by comparing it to Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd with Pope being Fudd, constantly becoming frustrated with the efforts of Curll; in the end his efforts to destroy the man are fruitless. For years, the two of them went back and forth, sabotaging one another. Pope’s hatred of Curll led him to publish two works in which he mocked the man: Account of a Horrid and Barbarous Revenge by Poison on the Body of Mr. Edmund Curll, Bookseller (1716) and The Dunciad (1728).
In the end, Pope died before Curll, so it could be said that Curll had the last laugh. However, today the rest of the world mocks both men for their actions, and discusses Curll in-depth for his unique, if not immoral, bookselling tactics.