Monday 24 September 2012

Free eBooks for Romanticists

This might not be the most fashionable thing to say in academic circles, but I love my Kindle. Not only is it hugely convenient for travel (much smaller and lighter than a nineteenth-century tome when you're out and about) but it also means that you never unexpectedly run out of things to read. Many a time have I been stuck at Didcot Parkway station on a cold winter's night waiting for my delayed connection, only to finish my print book and so have no option but to read a coffee-stained copy of Metro cover to cover. Three times. With a Kindle, such scenarios are, thankfully, a thing of the past.

The other great thing about Kindles is that you can get some pretty obscure stuff for them. Take Mary Shelley's novel The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck. There is no affordable print copy of this book available; the cheapest you'll get it for is around £20 for a print-on-demand facsimile of the first edition. On the Kindle, however, you can buy Mary Shelley's collected works for the very affordable sum of £1.28. Even better, some books for the Kindle are completely free! There are disadvantages to using these versions, of course. With free books, it's often not clear which edition you're getting (the 1818 or 1831 Frankenstein, for example), and there are no notes, but this is comparable with any cheap print edition such as those produced by Wordsworth Classics or Penguin Popular Classics.

Although these free editions are no good for serious academic purposes, they're great if you're just after a good read for a journey. I've listed below a selection of some of the best free Romantic-period eBooks available from Amazon for Kindle. Even if you don't have a Kindle, you can download the app for Android phone/tablet, iPad, iPhone, PC, or Mac for free. All the titles I've listed are hyperlinked, so they'll take you straight to the relevant page ready for downloading.

A word of warning: I've downloaded a fair few of these free editions myself, and while I've never had any problems with novels, I've found that poetry is often poorly formatted. Sometimes lines are missing or line breaks are incorrect; at other times, line breaks aren't indicated at all, which makes the poetry virtually unreadable. For this reason, I've only listed prose below. Enjoy!

Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Emma, Persuasion, Lady Susan

Fanny Burney

William Cobbett
Rural Rides, Cottage Economy

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Biographia Literaria

Thomas De Quincey
Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, The English Mail-Coach and Joan of Arc, Miscellaneous Essays, Biographical Essays

William Godwin
Caleb Williams Or Things as They Are, Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman

William Hazlitt
Table Talk: Essays on Men and Manners, Characters of Shakespeare's Plays, The Spirit of the Age, Lectures on the English Poets, Liber Amoris

James Hogg
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

Matthew Lewis
The Monk

Thomas Love Peacock
Nightmare Abbey, Headlong Hall, Crotchet Castle, Gryll Grange

Ann Radcliffe
The Mysteries of Udolpho, A Sicilian Romance

Clara Reeve
The Old English Baron

Mary Shelley
Frankenstein, The Last Man, Mathilda, Proserpine and Midas

Mary Wollstonecraft
Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Letters on Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, Maria, Or the Wrongs of Woman, Mary: A Fiction

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