Robert Dodsley - book seller, author and playwright

Personal data
Robert Dodsley
Born February 13, 1704
Died September 23, 1764
in Durham

Born near Mansfield, Nottinghamshire as the son of a schoolmaster. With his brother James Dodsley a London publisher and bookseller. Shop at Tully's Head in Pall Mall. Published works by Frances Sheridan, Oliver Goldsmith, Samuel Johnson and of Boswell himself. Also publishers of Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759).

Robert Dodsley was also a very active author and playwright. His play The Toyshop: A Dramatic Satire ran at Covent Garden in 1735. In 1758 we wrote the tragedy Cleone.

An active magazine publisher he co-founded, with Edmund Burke, The Annual Register (1758), a yearly chronicle of British and world history which is still being published. He also published the literary magazine The Museum (with poet and physician Mark Akenside (1721-1770) at its first editor), and others.

Dodsley is buried at Durham, where he died on a visit to a friend.

Life with Boswell

Boswell met a Mr Dodsley (a good, jolly, decent, conversable man ) at Thomas Davies' home (or bookshop) on Christmas day, 1762. The Dodsleys had published Boswell's poem The Cub at Newmarket earlier that same year. From the journal one gets the impression that Boswell hadn't met this Mr Dodsley before, which suggests that he is referring to Robert Dodsley who retired from the publishing business in 1759, and so wouldn't have met Boswell in the shop.


It is possible to find copies of Harry M. Solomon's 1996 biography of Dodsley, The Rise of Robert Dodsley: Creating the New Age of Print. Some of Dodsley's own writings and short early biographies about him are also often available from used bookstores.