In 1818 Michael Faraday and a handful of other London artisans formed a self-help group with the aim of teaching themselves to write like gentlemen. For a year and a half Faraday’s essay-circle met regularly to read aloud and criticise one another’s writings. The ‘Mental Exercises’ they produced are a record of the life, literary tastes and social and political ideas of Dissenting artisans in Regency London. This book is the first to publish the essays and poems produced by Faraday’s circle. The complete corpus of the essay-circle’s writings is accompanied by detailed annotations, extracts from key sources and a full-length introduction explaining the biographical, historical and literary context of the group. This edition will be valuable not only for historians of Romantic and Victorian science, but for literary scholars and historians working on early nineteenth-century writing, reading and class issues, and for all readers interested in the development of the mind of a great scientist.
Jenkins has done an admirable job transcribing these materials and providing supporting scholarly work. Jenkins's book thus not only serves as a window into Faraday's efforts at self-improvement, but also sheds light on a cultural phenomenon among tradesmen in Regency London and illuminates their relation to other, more public, efforts at education. The book will have wider use than simply for those interested in Faraday. It is an excellent contribution to scholarly knowledge of Faraday and the context of science in Regency London.
British Journal for the History of Science
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