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Matthew Symonds

Matthew Symonds

Editing Lives and Letters

“I work on newspapers and the wider world of Grub Street in the late Seventeenth and early Eighteenth Centuries: writers, printers, booksellers, and slightly shop-soiled aristocrats. I examine the lives these people lived, often all rubbing up alongside each other in a small handful of London streets, and the newspapers, magazines, and books they produced.

I'm currently publishing a lot of research on a Jacobite newspaper-man called Nathaniel Mist. Mist was absolutely loathed by the governments of the day and he was eventually forced into exile in France after his paper published a scandalous libel on the king, the king's father, the king's mistress, and the prime minister. Naturally, the paper was a commercial triumph.
“I've also just started work on a new project, examining the strained family life of Henry St John, Viscount Bolingbroke, the tory statesman and philosopher, as his step-sister launches into an affair with a minor poet and his despised father so inconsiderately refuses to die.

I was drawn to these areas of research through an interest in hack journalism: it's such a strange and yet attractive way to earn a living. Grub Street is teeming with fascinating, obscure, but amazingly well-documented lives. These lives can be used to illustrate, contextualise, and test some of the larger claims we make about the past, whether in political, cultural, or economic history.

As someone new to the College, Queen Mary has always struck me as an amazingly productive and supportive place for postgraduates.”

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