If you were a time traveller in 1820 longing for a good read, what would be your options?
Check out the list of popular fiction releases, and the latest findings from science, travel, and philosophy on the non-fiction book shelf!
I have added links to online versions of each book, so you can actually read like its 1820:
10 popular fiction books in 1820
Gothic novels abounding with mysterious abbots and ruined castles have a large market share in 1820, but historical novels set in the 12th century are also highly popular. Here is a selection of novels published in 1820:
1. Sir Walter Scott (anonymously): Ivanhoe
In 1194, protagonist Wilfred of Ivanhoe is disinherited by his father for supporting the Norman King Richard Lionheart – and for falling in love with the Lady Rowena. Enjoy a good read with all your favourite heroes of the Middle Age: Locksley, alias Robin Hood, Prince John, Friar Tuck and several templars.
Read the novel online: http://learnlibrary.com/ivanhoe/ivanhoe_1.htm
2. Sir Walter Scott (anonymously): The Monastery
Escape to the time of Mary, Queen of Scots. The Scottish Reformation is just beginning, and the Monastery of Kennaquhair is in peril. Plus, there is a love story: two young men fall in love with Mary Avenel, who has been cheated out of her inheritance by her uncle. When an English knight arrives and woes Mary, trouble really begins …
Read the book online: https://archive.org/details/monasteryaroman00ballgoog/page/n7
3. Sir Walter Scott (anonymously): The Abbot
A sequel to “The Monastery”: The story follows the fortunes of characters Scott introduced in The Monastery. The hero, Roland, is appoints as a page to the imprisoned Queen Mary with instructions to act as a spy. However, Roland’s sense of honour, and his love for Catherine, one of Mary Stuart’s attendants, lead to a quite different plan: assisted by the Abbot of Kennaquhair, Rolands plots the queen’s escape…
Read the novel online: https://archive.org/details/abbot01scot/page/n6
4. Charles Maturin (anonymously): Melmoth the Wanderer
A scholar sells his soul to the devil in exchange for 150 extra years of life … a chilling nest of stories within stories within stories.
Read it here: https://archive.org/details/melmothwanderert01matu/page/n4
5. Regina Marie Roche: The Munster Cottage Boy
The 11th novel of a best-selling author in her own time, all 4 volumes.
Plot: Main character Glenmore, who escaped to America to avoid hanging after he was wrongly accused of rebellion and murder, has returned to Ireland, to find his daughter Fidelia. While he searches for her, he hides himself in the partially ruin Castle Glenbower, a property he rightfully should have inherited…
Though being wildly overwrought in language and having a complicated plot, The Munster Cottage Boy is considered to be Roche’s most politically novel, exploring the political and economic dispassion that motivated Irish emigration.
Read it online: https://archive.org/details/munstercottageb00rochgoog/page/n11
6. Francis Lathom: Italian Mysteries
Plot: The worthy doctor Urbino di Cavetti is kidnapped and led blindfolded to the bedside of a young woman. A mysterious nobleman offers him an immense fortune if he will consent to cure her of – her life…
An ebook (though not for free) is available here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B008XLX3KM/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i10
7. James Fenimore Cooper: Precaution
The novel was written in imitation of contemporary English novels like those of Jane Austen, but failed to please the public. The novel features an impecunious baron who leaves his daughters undowried at his death. Enter the baron’s cousin, a rival suitor, wicked young officers, young women, and a whole family that seems to have formed a pact to expose itself at every social gathering….
See for yourself if it can match Jane Austen’s novels and read the book here: http://www.online-literature.com/cooperj/precaution/1/
8. Louisa Stanhope: The Crusaders
A Historical Romance set in the Twelfth Century in five volumes. It’s the 10th novel by one of the most productive novelists in Britain. By the way: Louisa Stanhope seems to be a pseudonym. Could the authoress possibly be Louisa Grenville, the second wife of the 3rd Earl Stanhope?
Read the novel here: https://books.google.de/books/about/The_Crusaders.html?id=AsDCngEACAAJ&redir_esc=y
9. Robert Huish: The Brothers, or the Castle of Niolo
“Could there be hewn a monstrous gap in Nature, A ﬂaw made through the centre by some god, Through which the groans of ghosts might strike They would not wound thee as this story will.”
Read it at your own risk here: https://archive.org/details/brothers00huisgoog/page/n10
10. Rosalia St. Clair: The Highland Castle, and the Lowland Cottage
The plot it about the sufferings of an unclaimed orphan, a fair “child of chance”, who proves firm virtue in her ordeal of temptations, and triumphs over those who attempt to ruin her. A critic writes in 1821: “This novel has the advantages of being uninteresting and vulgar. The plot is dull without exception, and the conversation low and puerile, and often absurd.”
Read the novel here: https://archive.org/details/highlandcastlea01claigoog/page/n7
Non-fiction: The latest findings from travel, science and philosophy in 1820
Immerse yourself in the intellectual discussions of 1820, from philosophy to military engineering and harmful food additives with these 10 exemplary non-fiction books published for the first time 200 years ago:
1. Frederick Accum: A Treatise on Adulterations of Food and Culinary Poisons
“There is death in the pot”, warns the cover of this useful book. At the time when the industrial preparation and packaging of foods increases rapidly, Accum instructs his readers how food sellers stretch ingredients and dangerously strengthen the potency of their products for the purpose of increasing sales and profits. The various chapters of the book alternate between harmless forgeries such as mixing dried pea grounds in coffee, and much more dangerous contamination by truly poisonous substances. “A Treatise on Adulterations of Food and Culinary Poisons” starts the public struggle against harmful food additives.
Read it here: https://opacplus.bsb-muenchen.de/Vta2/bsb10293541/bsb:BV001432701?page=7
2. Thomas Brown: Lectures on the Philosophy of the Human Mind
The Scottish philosopher and poet Thomas Brown was working at the University of Edinburgh. His students liked him for his splendid rhetoric and the novelty and ingenuity of his views. He died only 42 years old in 1820.
Read his last work here: https://archive.org/details/lecturesonphilos00browuoft/page/n3
3. Howard Douglas: A Treatise on Naval Gunnery
Howard Douglas was the authority on military and naval engineering of his time. During his regimental service he was attached to all branches of the artillery. He later served at the Royal Military College, teaching military strategy, and military and naval engineering. He became a fellow of the Royal Society on 25 January 1816.
Read his work here: https://archive.org/details/atreatiseonnava00douggoog/page/n13
4. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Elements of the Philosophy of Right
The German professor of philosophy at the University of Berlin was an important figure of German idealism. Elements of the Philosophy of Right, his 2. book, is his political philosophy.
Read an edited version of this work here: http://www.inp.uw.edu.pl/mdsie/Political_Thought/Hegel%20Phil%20of%20Right.pdf
5. John George Hoffman: Long Lost Friend
The German-American printer lived in Pennsylvania and instructed in the arts of folk magic and folk religion. The book is a collection of prayers and recipes for folk-healing from Pennsylvania.
You can read it online here: http://665472.merchantnavymemorialtrust.org.uk/1152793-XSPBGFLGIL-Pow-Wows-or-Long-Lost-Friend-John-George-Hohman/
6. Charles Lamb: Essays of Elia
The essayist was at the centre of a major literary circle in England. His collected essays, under the title “Essays of Elia”, were published as a contribution to The London Magazine in 1820. His style is quirky, even bizarre, making him more of a “cult favourite” than an author with mass popular or scholarly appeal. Have you read Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’s novel, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? Charles Lamb plays an important role in the plot. Besides, his following quote became famous: “Lawyers, I suppose, were children once“.
Read the essays online: https://ia800905.us.archive.org/25/items/charleslambelia00lamb/charleslambelia00lamb.pdf
7. Thomas Malthus: Principles of Political Economy
Malthus, Fellow of the Royal Society since 1818, wrote the book as a rebuttal to David Ricardo’s “On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation”. The main focus of the work is to explain economic depressions in Europe and the reasons why they occur. Additionally, Malthus explores price determination and the value of goods. The book started the intellectual discussion among the exponents of political economy, often called the “Malthus–Ricardo debate”.
Join in and read “Principles of Political Economy “ online: http://oll-resources.s3.amazonaws.com/titles/2188/Malthus_1462_Bk.pdf
8. Charles Mills: History of the Crusades for the Recovery and Possession of the Holy Land
The second work by the author of “An History of Muhammedanism”. Charles Mills’ “The History of the Crusades” was praised by Sir Walter Scott, who also assisted him with notes from Scottish chronicles. As historian, Mills could write independently after having inherited a moderate fortune.
Read the book online: https://archive.org/details/historyofcrusade01milluoft/page/n8
9. Robert Southey: Life of Wesley
The book is both a biography about John Wesley (clergyman and one of the founders of Methodism) and a history of Methodism. As Southey was critical of some of the aspects of Methodism, the book wasn’t received too well in Methodist circles. They questioned Southey’s theological credentials and religious orthodoxy.
Read the book online: https://ia802606.us.archive.org/16/items/lifeofwesleyris01sout/lifeofwesleyris01sout.pdf
10. Mariana Starke: Travels on the Continent: written for the use and particular information of travellers
Starke’s travel guide would quickly become an essential companion for British travellers to the Continent in the early 19th century. She was the first travel writer to recognised that the majority of her readers would be travelling on a budget and with their family. She therefore included a wealth of useful advice on luggage, obtaining passports, the precise cost of food and accommodation in each city and she even added advice on the care of invalid family members. She also devised a system of exclamation mark ratings, a forerunner of today’s stars. Read the book online: https://archive.org/details/travelsoncontin00stargoog/page/n6