Thomas Keymer writes:
By operating so flamboyantly on or beyond the margins of respectability, Curll became a convenient point of reference for anyone with a vested interest in tarring the book trade as corrupt and corrupting in whatever sense: aesthetic, cultural, financial, moral, or all these things at once. His disreputable energies placed him personally, and bookselling generally, at the heart of the Scriblerian vision of cultural decay, even as the Leakes and Richardsons all around him were steadily pursuing, and collectively achieving, the massive 18th-century expansion of print and reading that was so necessary a component of Enlightenment progress. Yet Curll’s single-minded search for reliable profits and market openings also illustrates the entrepreneurial motivations and commercial techniques that, in a more muted form, galvanised the whole bookselling operation as practised by his innumerable enemies and rivals. For sheer brio and bravado in pursuit of his trade, he eclipses them all.