1796 in literature
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This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1796.
- Samuel Ireland publishes a collection of Shakespearean forgeries in his Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments Under the Hand and Seal of William Shakespeare (dated this year but actually produced on 24 December 1795). Edmond Malone exposes them in his An Inquiry into the Authenticity of Certain Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments on 31 March, and the forged 'Shakespearean' play, Vortigern and Rowena, is able to sustain just a single performance at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, on 2 April. Ireland's son, William Henry, confesses to the fraud in An Authentic Account of the Shakespearean Manuscripts.
- February 29 – The Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal is established as the Royal Public Library of the Court in Lisbon.
- March 1 – Samuel Taylor Coleridge launches his periodical The Watchman; it lasts for only ten issues. In April his first verse collection, Poems on Various Subjects, is published in London.
- July 21 – Death of the Scottish national poet, Robert Burns, in Dumfries, at the age of 37. His funeral takes place on July 25 while his wife, Jean, is in labour with their ninth child together, Maxwell. Burns is at first buried in the far corner of St. Michael's Churchyard in Dumfries. The volume of The Scots Musical Museum published this year includes his versions of "Auld Lang Syne" and "Charlie Is My Darling".
- July 30 – A performance of an historical drama, Jane Shore, is given in Sydney, Australia; the playbill, printed by George Hughes, is the earliest known surviving item printed in the country.
- September 22 – Mary Lamb commits matricide.
- Robert Bage – Hermsprong: or, Man As He Is Not
- Elizabeth Bonhôte – Bungay Castle
- Fanny Burney – Camilla
- Denis Diderot (died 1784) – Jacques the Fatalist (Jacques le fataliste et son maître, first complete edition of original French text)
- Marquis Carl von Grosse (translated by Peter Will) – Horrid Mysteries (translation of Der Genius)
- Elizabeth Hamilton – Translation of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah
- Mary Hays – Memoirs of Emma Courtney
- Elizabeth Inchbald – Nature and Art
- Matthew Lewis – The Monk
- Eliza Parsons – The Mysterious Warning, a German Tale
- Regina Maria Roche – The Children of the Abbey: a Tale
- Jane West (as Prudentia Homespun) – A Gossip's Story, and a Legendary Tale
- François Guillaume Ducray-Duminil – Victor, ou l’Enfant de la forêt (Victor, or The Child of the Forest)
- Maria Edgeworth – The Parent's Assistant (stories, second volume later in the year)
- Jane West – A Gossip's Story, and a Legendary Tale (as Prudentia Homespun)
- Richard Cumberland – Don Pedro
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – Egmont
- Mary Darby Robinson – The Sicilian Lover
- The Iron Chest (adaptation of William Godwin's novel Caleb Williams)
- Ralph Broome
- Observations on Mr. Paine's Pamphlet Entitled the Decline and Fall of the English System of Finance...
- Strictures on Mr. Burke's Two Letters, Addressed to a Member of the Present Parliament
- Edmund Burke – A Letter from The Right Honourable Edmund Burke to a Noble Lord, on the Attacks made upon him and his pension
- Edward Gibbon – Memoirs of My Life and Writings
- Susannah Willard Johnson – A Narrative of the Captivity of Mrs. Johnson (edited by John Curtis Chamberlain)
- John Gabriel Stedman – The Narrative of a Five Years Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam
- Mary Wollstonecraft – Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark
- January 4 – Henry George Bohn, English bibliographer and publisher (died 1884)
- February 17 – Charlotte Anley, English didactic novelist and religious writer (died 1893)
- May 1 – Junius Brutus Booth, English-born actor (died 1852)
- May 4 – William H. Prescott, American historian (died 1859)
- August 19 – Agnes Strickland, English historical writer and poet (died 1874)
- September 19 – Hartley Coleridge, English poet, biographer and essayist (died 1849)
- July 15 – Thomas Bulfinch, American writer on mythology (died 1867)
- December 19 – Manuel Bretón de los Herreros, Spanish playwright (died 1873)
- Unknown date – Frederick Chamier, English novelist and Royal Navy captain (died 1870)
- January 13 – John Anderson, Scottish natural philosopher and scientist (born 1726)
- February 17 – James Macpherson, Scottish poet (born 1736)
- May 6 – Adolf Freiherr Knigge, German writer on etiquette (born 1752)
- July 21 – Robert Burns, Scottish poet (born 1759)
- October 7 – Thomas Reid, Scottish philosopher (born 1710)
- Elisabetta Caminèr Turra, Venetian writer and translator (born 1751)
- "Robert Burns". BBC. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
- "For the benefit of J. Butler and W. Bryant". Digital Collection – Books and Serials. Canberra: National Library of Australia. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
- Hitchcock, Susan Tyler (2005). Mad Mary Lamb. New York; London: W. W. Norton & Co. pp. 15–17. ISBN 0-393-05741-0.