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Interest and Connection in the Eighteenth Century

Hervey, Johnson, Smith, Equiano
Jacob Sider Jost

BUY Cloth · 204 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813945040 · $55.00 · Dec 2020
BUY Paper · 204 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813945057 · $27.50 · Dec 2020
BUY Ebook · 204 pp. · ISBN 9780813945064 · $27.50 · Dec 2020

Can a single word explain the world? In the British eighteenth century, interest comes close: it lies at the foundation of the period’s thinking about finance, economics, politics, psychology, and aesthetics. Interest and Connection in the Eighteenth Century provides the first comprehensive account of interest in an era when a growing national debt created a new class of rentiers who lived off of interest, the emerging discipline of economics made self-interest an axiom of human behavior, and booksellers began for the first time to market books by calling them "interesting." Sider Jost reveals how the multiple meanings of interest allowed writers to make connections—from witty puns to deep structural analogies—among different spheres of eighteenth-century life.

Challenging a long and influential tradition that reads the eighteenth century in terms of individualism, atomization, abstraction, and the hegemony of market-based thinking, this innovative study emphasizes the importance of interest as an idiom for thinking about concrete social ties, at court and in families, universities, theaters, boroughs, churches, and beyond. To "be in the interest of" or "have an interest with" another was a crucial relationship, one that supplied metaphors and habits of thought across the culture. Interest and Connection in the Eighteenth Century recovers the small, densely networked world of Hanoverian Britain and its self-consciously inventive language for talking about human connection.


This unusually interesting book is a sharp, engaging, and sparklingly fresh account of an essential topic.

Jenny Davidson, Columbia University, author of Breeding: A Partial History of the Eighteenth Century

Graceful, persuasive, entertaining, and smart, this study traces the moves and evolution of the concept of ‘interest’ across multiple domains of culture in the eighteenth century.

John O’Brien, University of Virginia, author of Literature Incorporated: The Cultural Unconscious of the Business Corporation, 1650-1850

About the Author(s): 

Jacob Sider Jost is Associate Professor of English at Dickinson College and author of Prose Immortality, 1711-1819 (Virginia).

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