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Remaking the self in John Dunton’s The Life and Errors of John Dunton (1705)

Ord, Melanie



© 2018, © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. John Dunton (1659–1732) is a bookseller and writer best known today as a tireless self-promoter whose I-centred and experimental work contributed to the development of the novel and autobiography in the eighteenth century. This article is the first full-length study of his own autobiographical record, The Life and Errors of John Dunton (1705). Dunton the showman is in plentiful evidence in this text, but he also presents another, more sober and serious-minded version of the self by following accounts of earlier stages of his life with their reformed versions. His coupling of religious-led self-examination with a commitment to literary novelty makes The Life a most unusual form of spiritual autobiography in its early stages. Yet The Life is a composite text in an even more obvious sense than this. For around half-way through the text Dunton abandons his close focus on the self for hundreds of cursory character sketches of his contemporaries, and in doing so swaps spiritual considerations for indirect comments on his own social activities and commercial concerns. This article studies these two main, ostensibly opposed, sections of The Life–its autobiographical and biographical material–and suggests points of contact between them.


Ord, M. (2017). Remaking the self in John Dunton’s The Life and Errors of John Dunton (1705). Prose Studies, 39(2-3), 99-119.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 20, 2018
Online Publication Date Mar 16, 2018
Publication Date Sep 2, 2017
Deposit Date Feb 15, 2018
Publicly Available Date Mar 3, 2019
Journal Prose Studies
Print ISSN 0144-0357
Electronic ISSN 0144-0357
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 39
Issue 2-3
Pages 99-119
Keywords John Dunton, 'Life and Errors', spiritual autobiography, characters, literary experimentation
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Prose Studies: History, Theory, Criticism on 16th March 2018, available online:


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