The Literature of Labour: Collective Biography and Working-Class Authorship, 1830–1859

  • Richard Salmon
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


This chapter examines the role of collective biography, a genre comprising brief didactic and inspirational sketches, in the narrative construction of working-class authorship during the mid-nineteenth century. In the three decades separating G. L. Craik’s The Pursuit of Knowledge Under Difficulties (1830) from Samuel Smiles’s Self-Help (1859), collective biographies of writers (chiefly poets) affiliated to the ‘labouring class’ flourished. Focusing especially on the work of Edwin Paxton Hood (1820–85), whose books include The Literature of Labour and Genius and Industry, the chapter assesses the ways in which these biographical compendia challenge prevailing assumptions about the division between manual and mental work, yielding new insights into the labour of literature.


Authorship Collective biography Genius Knowledge Labouring class Poetry Self-help Work 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Salmon
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LeedsLeedsUK

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