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News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

BARS 2017 Reports: Part I

Thank you to everyone who came along to our international biennial conference:

 

BARS 2017

Romantic Improvement

The University of York

27-30 July

 

This was the 15th conference of the British Association for Romantic Studies.

Postgraduate bursary winners have been invited to write short reports on their experience as a delegate and/or speaker at the event. Here are the first three – more to follow at a later date.

Enjoy! You can also see the storify of the tweets, and pictures from the event, here.

 

Sarah Faulkner (University of Washington)

I had a wonderful time at BARS–and that wasn’t just because of the discounted ice cream, though that was a serious plus. I really enjoyed the collegiality of the conference, especially between Romanticists at all stages of their career. I felt invited to speak with senior faculty, and found new, wonderful friends among other graduate students. Having just come from the wonderful Austen/Staël conference at Chawton House Library, it was wonderful to reconnect with other Chawton delegates, and to really feel like I was a part of the Romanticist community. I have always felt a bit like an imposter in Romanticism since I study women’s novels rather than male poetry, but this conference changed that feeling for me entirely. The multitude of panels on women’s writing and novels, the generosity of feedback, and most of all the fervent interest expressed by all about each other’s work, made this an exceptional conference.

Sarah is organising JANEFEST 2017 at the University of Washington, in Seattle, WA, USA.

Twitter: @janefest17

Conference Banquet. Via @BARS_official on twitter

Conference Banquet. Via @BARS_official on twitter

Joshua Schouten de Jel (University of Plymouth)

BARS 2017 was my third conference this year (I also presented at Budapest and Brighton). Held at King’s Manor, and nearby to the idyllic Museum Gardens, it was a tremendous setting for what was an absolutely intriguing conference. Topics ranged from ecocriticism, to Leigh Hunt, to war trauma, and the Romantic book trade, but the panel (chaired by Jon Mee) on which I presented was based on William Blake, upon whom I am conducting my PhD at Plymouth University.

Lucy Cogan, from the University of York, gave a paper on prophecy and futurity, concentrating on the Continental Books, primarily America (1793) and Europe (1794). Her fascinating reading of the shadowy female of the Preludiums in conjunction with Oothoon from Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1793) opened up an interesting dialogue between Blake’s works, as well as suggesting the revisionary nature of his mythopoeia. The other presenter, Amadeus Kang-Po Chen from the University of Edinburgh, gave an exciting paper which also concentrated on Oothoon, but drew in the two other characters from Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Bromion and Theotormon. Working through Blake’s erotic resonances within the text, Amadeus’ readings highlighted the similarities between Oothoon and the plants of Erasmus Darwin’s ‘The Loves of the Plants’ (1791). Noting the pictorial representation of Theotormon, it was illuminating to note the asexual nature of his posture (which corresponds to his actions in the narrative), and how such a reading is enlivened by the botanical work of Darwin.

My paper looked at Blake’s millenarianism and traced the internalisation of apocalypse throughout the 1790s and into the latter Prophetic Books. The private and personal nature of Blake’s self-annihilation is always balanced with the outward-looking and inclusive idea of brotherhood, and thus my paper concentrated on the limitations of Orc in contradistinction to the possibilities provided by belief and faith, the driving forces behind Milton’s descent and Albion’s reawakening.

The conference provided an excellent arena in which to share a number of my doctoral findings, and I hope has stimulated further research (especially in Blake!).

Photo by Eugenia Zuroski‏ @zugenia via twitter

Photo by Eugenia Zuroski‏
@zugenia via twitter

Rayna Rossenova (Sofia University)

Let me start a while back: When last September I went on a trip to Lancaster, in one of my outings I met a nice lady, who told me I should definitely go visit York when I got the chance. Little did I know that it would be for an occasion of such a scale.

I was extremely delighted and grateful to be the recipient of one of the bursaries, generously awarded by BARS, the York Georgian Society and Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies. BARS 2017: Romantic Improvement was truly an event which I shall remember and neatly wrap up in a bundle of memories comprised of the inspiring papers I heard and the people I met, along with the sights of the magnificent city of York.

The conference was a true cosmopolitan space which gathered scholars from all over the world. The papers inspired animated conversations in the rooms of King’s Manor, located in the heart of the city. Undoubtedly, these four days were marked by a vibrant and convivial atmosphere where ideas and discussions flourished.

The organisers had thought of everything to make our experience a memorable one. Each day met us with versatile panel sessions offering engaging and thought-provoking papers, followed by comfort and coffee/tea breaks to recharge our batteries and prepare for the next round of talks. I immensely enjoyed the papers in the sessions I attended and the plenary lectures.

Also, there were tours in and out of the city specially arranged for our amusement and a lavish banquet at a medieval house. What more could one possibly want? I only wish I had a “time turner” so I could turn back time at will and be able to hear all those interesting papers being delivered in the parallel panels.

Saturday afternoon offered a delightful trip to the stately Castle Howard, which was mesmerizing in both its interiors and exteriors. The grandeur of the façade was matched by the exquisitely furnished halls and rooms inside the house. Fortunately, the weather was on our side, so we could walk in the open air and enjoy the beautiful gardens and scenery. I would definitely like to re-visit it someday.

Castle Howard

Castle Howard, photo by Rayna

After the lovely trip, the evening promised to be just as exciting. The conference dinner was held in the medieval Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, where we were entertained by Prof Jon Mee who, in his role as quiz compère, challenged us with some brain-racking questions to test our York knowledge over a delicious meal. Sitting in this authentic setting, one could not help but imagine the days of yore when medieval revellers made merry and filled the hall with jubilant glee.

But as all good things must come to an end, so did the conference. I think I can safely say this was yet another year of firsts for me – it was my first BARS conference and my first visit to York. So, I would once again like to thank BARS, the Organisers, and all the delegates for making this conference the tremendous experience it was.

Copley Report: James Beattie by R. J. W. Mills

Please see below for Robin Mills’ report on their 2017 research funded by a BARS Stephen Copley Award.

Stephen Copley Award 2017 Recipient Report – R. J. W. Mills

I am very grateful to have been a recipient of one of the British Association for Romantic Studies’ Stephen Copley Awards for 2017. The funds given to me paid for two research trips to archives in Scotland: one to the University of Aberdeen in April 2017 and one to Edinburgh University in June 2017. During both I conducted research on the extensive manuscript collections relating to the poet and philosopher James Beattie (1735–1803) as part of my ongoing research project to write the first modern scholarly biography of Beattie. The research undertaken has enabled me to flesh out further Beattie’s literary and philosophical activities during the 1760s and early 1770s. As a result, I am hoping to soon make the case that some of the philosophical and poetical writings that emerged out of 1760s Aberdeen was of a very different quality to the ‘philosophy of the human mind’ usually associated with the Aberdeen Enlightenment.

Exploration of the Beattie correspondence in Aberdeen has allowed me to deepen my understanding of the life and work of one of Beattie’s closest friends and philosophical allies, the Aberdeen and then Edinburgh physician and moralist John Gregory (1724–1773). Known to scholars as the author of the wildly popular A Father’s Legacy (1774) and to historians of science as one of the first medical ethicists, Gregory was also the author of another best-selling work, A Comparative View of the State and Faculties of Man (1765), which combined Aberdeen’s famous common sense philosophy with the language of sensibility. My research in Aberdeen has developed the burgeoning picture I have of Gregory as an energetic and pessimistic social commentator who was worried about the effects of luxury and modern sceptical philosophy on the morals of eighteenth-century Britain. Despite Gregory’s status as one of the most important and prominent moralists of his age, there has been little archival work done on his correspondence. What has emerged from my activities in Aberdeen is a picture of Gregory, newly installed in Edinburgh, deeply angered by the ambivalence and complacency with which the Edinburgh literati indulged David Hume. Moreover, Gregory was critical of the failings of abstract rational theology to appeal to the multitude and warned that the development of Methodism was the inevitable consequence of an establishment theology that did not appeal to the heart and senses of the laity.

My work on Gregory will inform my exploration of his discussion of religion and scepticism in Comparative View in an upcoming monograph on the Scottish Enlightenment, but it also helps develop our understanding of James Beattie. The correspondence of the pair suggests that, while the Common Sense philosophy of Aberdeen is usually associated with the rigorous philosophy of Thomas Reid’s An Inquiry into the Human Mind (1764), there was developing within Aberdeen circles a strong belief that modern threats to religion and morals could only be overturned by an appeal to the heart. This has lead me on to other leads – the poetry of Thomas Blacklock, for example – suggesting that the language of heart-felt authenticity amongst many Scottish authors appeared as a direct consequence of Hume’s unnerving sceptical philosophy. This is helpful for me, in terms of my biography, to understand the philosophical and cultural networks in which Beattie was working. I also aim to publish something on this aspect of the Scottish Enlightenment, which has thus far been ignored.

My research on the Beattie papers has also result in an article, for submission to a Romanticism studies journal, about Beattie’s reading of the Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. I have found much evidence in both his papers (in Aberdeen) and correspondence (Aberdeen and Edinburgh) suggesting Beattie was an avid reader of Rousseau, and who both sympathetically identified with Rousseau and his psychological problems and utilised Rousseau’s writings when authoring his own. In particular, Beattie is closely reading Rousseau, and especially the Profession of Faith by the Savoyard Vicar in Emile, while he is composing both his Essay on Truth (1770) and his influential proto-Romantic poem The Minstrel (1771–1774).

Call for Papers: Collage, Montage, Assemblage: Collected and Composite Forms, 1700-Present

Thanks to Freya Gowrley for sending in this exciting new Call for Papers.

 

CfP: Collage, Montage, Assemblage: Collected and Composite Forms, 1700-Present (University of Edinburgh, 18-19 April 2018)

Deadline for abstracts: 1 December 2017

 

This two-day multidisciplinary conference will explore the medium of collage across an unprecedentedly broad chronological range, considering its production and consumption over a period of more than three hundred years. While research on paper collage plays a key role in histories of modern art, particularly of the 1920s and 1930s, its longer history and diverse range of manifestations are often overlooked within art historical scholarship. Though important work is being done on collage at both the level of the individual work and the medium more broadly, this has often overlooked collage’s multitudinous forms and assorted temporal variants. This conference accordingly aims to tackle this oversight by thinking about collage across history, medium, and discipline. Employing an inclusive definition of the term, the conference invites papers discussing a variety of material, literary, and musical forms of collage, including traditional papier collé alongside practices such as writing, making music and commonplacing, and the production of composite objects such as grangerized texts, decoupage, quilts, shellwork, scrapbooks, assemblage, and photomontage.

In so doing, the conference will situate histories of modernist collage in relation to a much broader range of cultural practices, allowing for productive parallels to be drawn between the cultural productions of periods that are often subject to rigid chronological divisions. Reciprocally, the conference will encourage a consideration of collage made in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries against key concepts and methodologies from the study of modernism and postmodernism, such as the objet trouvé or assemblage. From papier collé to the digital age, the conference will highlight collage’s rich history and crucial role in cultural production over the last three hundred years.

We invite contributions from scholars working in the fields of art history, history, music, material culture studies, and literature. We also welcome and encourage papers from practitioners working in any medium whose practice is influenced by collage, assemblage, and/or montage. Potential topics could include, but are not limited to:

 

  • Collage as medium
  • Collage, assemblage, montage: terminologies and categories
  • Defining/redefining collage
  • Making/viewing collage
  • Collage and identity
  • Collage and intention: chance, agency, intentionality
  • Collage and the modern/pre-modern/postmodern
  • Collage in art historical writing/literary criticism
  • Object biographies
  • Collage as political tool
  • Collage in space
  • Collage in the digital age
  • Collage and collaboration
  • Processes: collecting, collating, compiling, combining
  • Collage in/as music
  • Writing/reading collage
  • Collage and geography

 

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words, and biographies of no more than 100 words, to Cole Collins and Freya Gowrley at collage.assemblage.montage@gmail.com by 1 December 2017.

The conference is supported by Edinburgh College of Art’s Dada and Surrealist Research Group with the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Advance Studies in the Humanities.

For further information, please contact the above email address; check out our website at https://collagemontageassemblage.wordpress.com; or follow us on Twitter for updates @Collage_Conf.

Conference Report: The Second International John Thelwall Society Conference

Here is a fascinating and detailed conference report by Val Derbyshire on a recent BARS-sponsored conference at the University of Derby.

‘Re-staging History: Report from the Second International John Thelwall Society Conference held at the University of Derby, 21-23 July 2017

by

Val Derbyshire, School of English, University of Sheffield

 

This month saw the Second International Conference of the John Thelwall Society, the theme of which was ‘Radical Networks and Cultures of Reform’. The question might be asked: why stage this important international event in Derby? The first panel (‘Origins’) provided the solution. It was here during recent years that world-renowned Thelwall scholar, Judith Thompson, discovered new manuscript material in the Derby Local Studies Library, resulting in a new edition of John Thelwall’s Selected Poetry and Poetics from Palgrave MacMillan.

 

thelwall01

Professor Judith Thompson from Dalhousie University, Canada, re-enacts the moment she discovered the Thelwall manuscripts at the Derby Local Studies Library.

 

During Mark Young’s[1] opening paper, Mark gave a detailed and informative account of the provenance of the Thelwall manuscript and how – somewhat fortuitously – the discovery had been made only during the last fortnight that it was likely that the manuscripts came into the possession of the library via their purchase of the Bemrose collection during the early part of the twentieth-century.   To compliment Mark’s paper, independent researcher Richard Gravil provided a detailed analysis of the marks and symbols used by Thelwall on his manuscripts and the works of other poets, including Wordsworth’s The Excursion. Thelwall included these within his poetics in order to ensure correct pronunciation. Thelwall was, of course, an elocutionist, as well as a poet, novelist, radical orator and polymath.

After a short coffee break, Friday afternoon concluded with a panel detailing Thelwall’s connections to ‘Nature and Art’, where I then presented my own paper. I am a Doctoral Researcher from the School of English, University of Sheffield, and I spoke on Thelwall’s connections to novelist, poet and writer of works for children, Charlotte Smith (1749-1806) and how the use of artwork within their works demonstrates a convergence of political ideology. Finally, Peter Collinge (University of Keele) presented a fascinating analysis of Joseph Wright of Derby’s portrait of Ellen Morewood and how Wright’s somewhat radical portrayal of this interesting and determined woman exhibits her extraordinary business acumen and resolution.

During the evening, the question of ‘Why Derby?’ was answered once again, when a team of actors re-enacted the 1792 Revolutionary Address originally staged by members of the Derby Political Society. This Society featured illustrious members such as William and Joseph Strutt, Erasmus Darwin, Samuel Fox, William Brookes Johnson, Henry ‘Redhead’ Yorke, Peter Crompton and John Hollis Pigot and demonstrates how Derby was at the centre of the Midlands Enlightenment. The Revolutionary Address was delivered in November 1792 to society members, before members William Brookes Johnson and Henry ‘Redhead’ Yorke travelled to France to deliver the speech on behalf of the society before the National Convention.

 

thelwall02

Original document of the ‘Revolutionary Address dated 20th November 1792’, delivered at the Derby Political Society in support of the French Revolutionary cause. Reproduced with the kind permission of Mark Young, Librarian, Derby Local Studies Library.

 

The actors delivered a spirited re-enactment of the original events in the authentic setting of the eighteenth-century Old Bell Pub. They also re-enacted other political events including local protests over the sale and enclosure of Nun’s Green Common Land, which also took place in 1792.

 

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The actors who recreated the Radical Pub Night Historical Re-enactment during dress rehearsal at The Old Bell Pub, Derby. Featuring (from left to right): Melanie Hopkins as ‘A Lady of the Town’, Josh Hayes as ‘William Brookes Johnson’ and ‘Tully’, James Naughton as ‘Joseph Strutt/Samuel Crompton’, Jennifer Argent as ‘A Loyal Servant’ and ‘John Thelwall’, Noa McAlistair as ‘Erasmus Darwin’ and ‘Josiah Wedgewood’, Charlie Ayers as ‘A Peasant Girl’ and Kira Barnett as ‘Henry “Redhead” Yorke’ and ‘Lord G. Cavendish’.

  

            This was open to conference delegates but was also a public engagement event which was well-attended by members of the public with an interest in recent research in this area.

 

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‘Radical Pub Night Poster’ promoting this public engagement event. This event was generously funded by WRoCAH/AHRC.

 

I constructed the script, primarily from archival sources held at the Derby Local Studies Library. I also put together the costumes. The audience were particularly struck by the powerful eloquence of the speeches given by these historical figures. The evening concluded with a performance by the poetry of contemporary poet of protest ‘Liz Ferrets’.

 

thelwall05

 

Liz sadly died eighteen months ago, and so the performance was given by Maggie, Liz’s mum. It was a touching and entirely appropriate close to the evening, demonstrating how the spirit of social protest is alive and well and is perhaps more necessary than ever in our troubled times.

Saturday morning commenced with the key note address by Professor Jon Mee of the University of York. Jon focussed on ‘Thelwall’s Unheroic’ years which he elucidated as 1801-1806, in his discussion of Thelwall’s networks. This was a fascinating presentation which situated Manchester as the beating heart of scientific and technological innovation during this period. Writers of the time, Jon explained, access a discourse of industrial sublime in delineating Manchester at ‘the heart of [a] vast system, the circulating branches of which spread around it.’ He also provided an insight into what it must have been like to attend Thelwall’s lectures by accessing archival sources such as diaries which recorded the experiences firsthand.

During the next panel, concerned with key Midlands Enlightenment figure Erasmus Darwin, the University of Derby History Department’s Paul Elliott described ‘A Brush with the Doctor’. This absorbing paper presented the experiences of artist Samuel Arnold as he took Darwin’s portrait. Arnold’s recordings of the time provide a real sense of Darwin as both a Lunar Society member, but also of his character as a man.   This was followed by former Emeritus Professor Jonathan Powers (University of Derby) whirlwind tour through the evolutionary optimism and radical politics of Darwin. This was a spellbinding paper which provided masses of information for Darwin scholars.

After a short break for lunch, Judith Thompson gave a wonderful paper presenting her findings in connection with the Derby manuscript. Judith explained how her research and her amazing discovery of the Thelwall manuscripts demonstrates the democratic values of intellectual accessibility embodied by such institutions as the Local Studies Library in Derby.

In the spirit of intellectual accessibility, the conference delegates then proceeded on an excursion to the Library itself to view the wealth of holdings there. Delegates had the opportunity to view the Thelwall manuscripts, along with a host of other rare documents and books, including the original source documents regarding the sale and enclosure of Nun’s Green Common Land, from which the script of the historical re-enactment had been constructed.

 

thelwall06

Conference delegate David Watkinson holds one of the speeches of ‘Tully’ (played by actor Josh Hayes during the historical re-enactment) protesting against the sale of Nun’s Green common land in Derby. This is one of the valuable documents held in the Derby Local Studies Library and was viewed during a conference excursion there.

 

The day closed with a panel discussing Thelwall’s ‘Legal Trials’. AHRC-funded PhD Student from the University of York, Fiona Milne, presented an absorbing paper concerning the years following Thelwall’s legal trial and how his publications during these years urgently sought to vindicate his character before the tribunal of public opinion.

The second inspirational paper in this panel was presented by David Watkinson, Barrister, who, before retirement, was the joint Head of Garden Court Chambers, which is now one of the largest sets of Barristers’ Chambers in the UK. Since 2004 this has been situated at 57-60 Lincolns Inn Fields, where John Thelwall taught and lived during the years 1813-21. David’s paper provided a detailed analysis of Thelwall’s trial and also speculated how its conduct – and potentially the result – might differ today.

The final paper of the day was presented by Edmund Downey of the University of Lincoln, who provided a wealth of information upon radical publisher of the 1790s, Daniel Isaac Eaton. Edmund’s paper demonstrated the power of the printed word and how the repressive Government at the time were anxious to prevent publishers disseminating this type of material.

To close the day, the conference held a wine reception and optional conference dinner.

 

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Conference delegates mingle at the wine reception which concluded Saturday’s proceedings.

 

Sunday’s itinerary included panels on ‘Local Networks’ and ‘Radical Urban Landscapes’. The conference closed with the Annual General Meeting of the John Thelwall Society. The Society has many events planned for the future, including the unveiling of a new blue plaque on Bedford Street in London. New members are always welcome and information can be found here: http://www.johnthelwall.org/

Conference organisers, Professor Judith Thompson, Professor Paul Elliott, Dr Paul Whickman, Kathryn Hindmarch and myself wish to express their gratitude to BARS for their generous conference subvention which supported this event.

 

[1] Librarian, Local Studies Library.

Archive Spotlight: Anna Seward and the Lichfield Record Office

Another ‘Archive Spotlight’ post for this week! Thank you to Francesca Blanch Serrat – PhD student from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona –  for this essay. Francesca’s research focuses on self-representation, maturity, and Romanticism in Anna Seward’s poetry. She tells us here about her trip to Lichfield, the location of Seward’s family home.

Do you want to write for us on studying Romanticism materials at an archive? We are now opening this series to contributors.  We’d love to hear from academics and postgraduates who would like to write a short blog on their experience of using an archive in the UK or elsewhere. You could use the space to discuss one or two things of interest you found there, perhaps things that are intriguing, but can’t fit into your thesis or other work. Suggestions welcome!

Please contact Anna Mercer for more information. 

 

Archive Spotlight: Anna Seward and the Lichfield Record Office

Although today she is not quite as well known, Anna Seward (1742-1809) was celebrated in her lifetime as one of the prominent lyrical voices of Great Britain. Strongly imbued by the cult of sensibility and classical poetic models, her style attests to the cultural and literary transition between the Enlightenment and Romanticism. Due to the success of her patriotic elegies on national heroes, Monody on Major André (1781) and Elegy on Captain Cook (1780), she was considered by her contemporaries as a “British muse, spokeswoman for national anguish, pride, and resolve” (Kairoff 2012, 71), which contrasts with, and questions, our current notion of her career as provincial writer. Seward was at the centre of a network of scientific, social, political and literary relations, as her correspondence (12 manuscript volumes, out of which only 6 were posthumously published) demonstrates. She enjoyed a privileged position as confidante and mentor to the outstanding minds of her generation, such as Erasmus Darwin, Esther Thrale Piozzi, Hannah More, Robert Southey, Helen Maria Williams or Sir Walter Scott, to name a few. My thesis pays particular attention to the representation of maturity in Romanticism and investigates in what ways does Seward, from her old age, represent herself as a woman, writer, and ultimately, author.

 

francesca1

Anna Seward by George Romney. 1782. Detail.

 

After the death of her father, Anna Seward lived independently in her family home, the Bishop’s Palace, in Lichfield. She inherited her father’s shares in several business exploits which allowed her not to worry about her keeping. Thanks to that, she never envisioned writing as a way to earn money, but rather as an artistic and intellectual pursuit, and elevated form of art. Lucky her. As a young girl, Seward moved with her parents and younger sister from Eyam to Lichfield when their father was appointed canon-residentiary at the cathedral. There, the Sewards became immediately involved in the city’s intellectual and cultural life, and encouraged their daughters to actively participate in it. They would host meetings with personalities such as Erasmus Darwin -who praised her poetry and encouraged her to continue writing-, James Boswell or Samuel Johnson, as well as the Lunar Society of Birmingham.

On my first year of PhD research I went on a trip to Seward’s beloved Lichfield. After reading about it in her letters and poems, I had to know what all the fuss was about. Lichfield is indeed a beautiful town, ripe with history, and evidently very proud of its past.

 

View of the cathedral from The Swan.

View of the cathedral from The Swan.

 

My first appointment was with Clare Townsend, the manager of the Cathedral Library, who showed me the chapter house -the only one with two storeys in the UK!-, where the library has been housed since 1758. Its treasures include a hand-copied manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales from the 15th century and a map of Tudor England by Christopher Saxton (one of the three surviving original copies). I was very lucky to be able to visit it before its closure for restoration work. Ms Townsend had prepared a working space for me on the left side of the building, which incidentally faced Seward’s home, now a school. The feeling of touching the first edition of her collected letters a mere street away from where she would sit and write is indescribable.

 

The Bishop’s Palace, behind the cathedral. Seward’s home.

The Bishop’s Palace, behind the cathedral. Seward’s home.

 

After the cathedral, I visited the Lichfield Record Office, where Henrietta Martinez, Kevin Briggs and Anita Caithness, the archive assistants, were incredibly kind and helpful. The Lichfield Record Office is part of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent’s Archive Service, which amounts to 6500 collections. It connects the databases of Staffordshire Record Office, the Lichfield Record Office, the Stoke on Trent City Archives, the William Salt Library and the Staffordshire County Museum under one single online catalogue, Gateway to the Past. Gateway to the Past contains an 80% of the Archive and Heritage Service’s holdings. [See here, and here]

In the Lichfield Record Office, I mostly came across letters and poems, but also legal documents and an unpublished portrait. In total I saw 33 documents. The first document I was given was LD127/7/15, which turned out to be a drawing, in pencil and ink, of Seward as a young woman. Although I knew of several versions of her most well known portraits and engravings, by Tilly Kettle and George Romney, I had never read about this one. The portrait is medium sized, smaller than an A5, and features Seward indoors, sitting down on an armchair, not looking directly at the person drawing her. The portrait presents signs of having been kept in a frame. It is not dated, but judging from Seward’s facial features, I would suggest it is from the late 1750s. Regrettably, its author is unknown.

The next bundle of material contained two legal documents dating from 1763 (D15/12/60) and 1781 (LD88/7/7). Both documents, which when spread open occupied half the table, were sealed with royal wax stamps and handwritten in an elaborate, formal manner. They had evidently suffered from humidity. The first one was listed as “Settlement on wife and daughters by Canon Thomas Seward of The Close, Lichfield.” Signed by Thomas and Elizabeth, Anna Seward’s parents, it establishes the amount of money the Seward women would be left with in case of Thomas’s death. It also contains information on some of Thomas Seward’s shares, which his oldest daughter Anna would be in charge of during his illness, and eventually inherit. The other document, listed as “Lea Grange or Stychbrook Grange” contains the details of a lease and the parties involved. It is significant because it is signed by both Thomas and Anna, who is described as a “spinster” and “only child”. By 1781, Elizabeth and Sarah Seward had died. Both documents serve as a testament of Thomas Seward’s preoccupation with providing for his family, as well as the involvement the women of the family had in the financial movements carried out in the house.

If the settlement and the lease shed light on Seward as actively involved in her family’s finances, the following provides an insight into her relationship with the intellectual circle of Lichfield, which might had an influence in her development as a poet. D127/7/14 is a manuscript verse of a poem by Dr Erasmus Darwin “On a target at Drakelaw”, transcribed by Seward. The handwriting differs slightly from her own letters; it looks like she might have been to Darwin’s dictation. Scholarship has paid attention to the relationship between the two writers. We know Darwin encouraged Seward to continue writing, although there is also evidence that he did not behave as well as one might wish towards her, publishing under his name verses authored by Seward. Although some scholars have argued that in the Lichfield circle poetry was a collaboration and it is hard to discern authorship in a publication, Seward expressed, vehemently and repeatedly, her anger at Darwin’s plagiarism, both in her letters and in her biography of the scientist, Memoirs of the Life of Dr Darwin. Be as it may, what is clear is that Seward was actively involved in the intellectual and creative life of the city from an early age, both as an assistant to her mentors and as a poet in her own right; she was admired and celebrated by her contemporaries.

Although at this stage of my research I do not yet know how any of this information will fit within my thesis, these findings have allowed me to gain insight into Seward’s private life, which in turn sheds light on my understanding of Seward as a person and as an author. The work of the Lichfield record office in cataloguing and preserving these documents is invaluable, and I am certain it will prove equally helpful for the academics that decide to study Seward’s life and work after me.

– Francesca Blanch Serrat (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)

 

Further Reading

Claudia T. Kairoff. Anna Seward and the End of the Eighteenth Century. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP, 2012.

Archive Spotlight: Mapping the Life of Johanna Dalrymple at the British Library

The Archive Spotlight series continues today with a post from Marissa Bolin, PhD candidate at the University of York. She tells us about her research visit to the British Library and what she uncovered there.

 

“Sacreed Promises and Engagements:” Mapping the Life of Johanna Dalrymple

 

My fascination with the 1811 Dalrymple v. Dalrymple trial arose from the examination of the legal context of Wilkie Collins’ 1870 novel Man and Wife. Collins recognizes the importance of the Dalrymple trial as background for the case between Anne Silvester and Geoffrey Delamayn when Sir Patrick claims that it is the “one case” where a Scottish marriage was “confirmed and settled by the English Courts.”[i] He links Anne Silvester and Geoffrey Delamayn’s marriage to the Dalrymple verdict when he clarifies that “[a]n English Court of Justice (sitting in judgment on the case I have just mentioned to Mr Moy) has pronounced that law to be good—and the decision has since been confirmed by the supreme authority of the House of Lords.”[ii] Reports by John Dodson and John Haggard as well as later references to the case in the 1868 The Report of the Royal Commission on the Laws of Marriage mark Dalrymple v. Dalrymple as the commencement for the debate for reformed ceremonial laws. The publicity that followed the case similarly served to educate the English population of the lack of formality of Scottish irregular marriages and sparked the debate to end the ways in which women fall victim to these inconsistencies.

 

marissa1BL 1131.g.1.

 

Scotland’s marriage laws had few restrictions and caused a great deal of legal confusion. According to the 1868 Commission’s account of the requirements of marriage legality in Scotland, “[n]o form or ceremony, civil or religious, no notice before or publication after, no consummation or cohabitation, no writing, no witnesses even are essential to the constitution”[iii] of irregular marriages. Commissioners were astounded that so few requirements were needed to define “the most important contract which two private parties can enter into.”[iv] The obscurity of Scottish marriage laws led the Commission and recent historians such as Leah Leneman and Lawrence Stone to ask “what defined a marriage in Scotland?”[v] Scottish marriages could be separated into two categories—regular marriages and irregular marriages. It was Scotland’s protection of irregular marriages that caused great confusion.

The Report defines irregular marriages as then separated into two sections, per verba de praesenti and per verba de futuro, subsequente copula. Promises per verba de praesenti were a type of mock ceremony in which a couple would pronounce themselves married from that point forwards “without any ecclesiastical ceremony, parental consent, or physical consummation, provided the consent was notified in words of the present tense.”[vi] Such marriages could be proven through letters signed “wife” or “husband” or the testimony of a credible witness who had witnessed these terms verbally declared. On the other hand, per verba de futuro marriages are characterized by the presence of “a promise of future marriage without any present interchange of consent to be husband and wife, followed at a subsequent time by carnal intercourse.”[vii] Both variations of informal marriage led to a great deal of legal confusion.

It was this legal ambiguity, and the many women who were negatively affected by such obscure requirements for marriage, that led the Commission to focus on Scottish laws. The Dalrymple case provides one of the most well-known cases of Scottish irregular marriages at that time, and is referenced by the Report to support the Commission’s position that “writings, secretly exchanged between a gentleman and lady in Scotland, without the knowledge of any other person, were held by the English Court Matrimonial to have constituted a valid marriage.”[viii] Twenty letters written by Johanna Dalrymple were used as evidence. John refused to provide any letters that he received from Johanna, claiming that they were missing or have been destroyed. Johanna had luckily kept all the correspondences during their relationship, clearly aware of the uncertainties of Scottish marriages. Dodson asserts the significance of the letters presented by Johanna’s lawyers on the verdict, by stating that “[i]t is much more natural that they should be left in the possession of the lady, she being the party whose safety is the more special object of protection.”[ix] Married women were unable to represent themselves within marriage trials and yet it was their respectability and virtue that was on the line. Therefore, women’s possession of written evidence was of the utmost importance.

The Dalrymple case provides an extensive examination of the influence that women’s writings play in marriage laws of the period. The letters presented during the trial dated back to 1804, when John Dalrymple became acquainted with Johanna Gordon during his time as a Dragoon Guard in Edinburgh. John frequently visited her at her family home and in May began writing passionate letters declaring his love and hopes for their future together.[x] They had been acquainted for approximately one to two months prior to the start of their correspondences but few letters were of importance to the case due to the fact that verbal passionate discussions were most likely taking place. Thus, the letters presented during the trial were written after an irregular marriage had occurred, as revealed in letter No. 1, and secured proof of their marriage. The first letter recorded in the Dalrymple v Dalrymple case, entitled “A sacreed promise,”[xi] consists of both John and Johanna’s written agreements to marriage.

 

marissa2

BL 1131.g.1.

 

It is clear that at this point John and Johanna had consented to a marital union by the terms of Scottish irregular marriage per verba de praesenti. Because of John’s family and the fear of “being disinherited,”[xii] the marriage had to be an irregular one and kept in secrecy, not even known to Johanna’s family. John assured Johanna that she was his wife and, thus, obtained all the rights as his wife. These rights included his responsibility to pay for any purchases she wished to make, for he frequently assured her that, “I insist on your ordering every thing you want, and drawing on me for whatever money you stand in need of as it is but your right, and in accepting of it you will prove your acknowledgment of it.”[xiii] He also saw it to be her responsibility to perform all duties as his wife, such as sexual intercourse. The plaintiff stressed the importance of the consummation of marriage, as it remained a legal stipulation of marriage at the time. Although John would later deny that sexual intercourse occurred, the court agreed that his letters proved otherwise. The prosecution argues that his letters were “expressive of the most ardent and eager affection on his part, which can leave no room for the slightest doubt that he was at that time most devotedly attached to her person, and desirous of the pleasures connected with the enjoyment of it.”[xiv] At the end of July 1804, John was forced to leave Edinburgh and return to London because of his father’s suspicions of her relationship with Johanna.

 

marissa3

BL 1131.g.1.

 

Both John and his “Dearest Wife”[xv] continued to write to one another during this absence and after he was stationed in Malta in 1805. With less frequent letters, the death of John’s father in 1807, and his final return to England in 1808, the relationship between the couple became ultimately altered. Using John’s lawyer, Samuel Hawkins, as a transmitter of letters during this three year period, Johanna warns Hawkins that:

were he to think of forming any of the connexions that have been talked of [in gossip], or any connexion whatever, I will immediately come forward with my claims, which must put himself and the unfortunate woman in a most disagreeable situation […] I am convinced he will force me to strong measure ere long.[xvi]

On the 2nd of June 1808, she was forced to call her bluff after John marries a woman by the name of Laura Manners and, within a few days of the marriage, Johanna’s legal battle begins.

Johanna was able to convince the jury that a marriage had occurred and that John was legally responsible as her husband. As a result, John’s second marriage was annulled. Although Johanna and John Dalrymple were from thenceforth married, they agreed to live separately. Due to the fact that the Matrimonial and Divorce Act would not come into action for another 46 years, a legal divorce or separation was not possible.

Unfortunately, little is known of Johanna Dalrymple’s fate after the 1811 trial. My archival research at the British Library enabled me view the widespread distribution of trial reports on the Dalrymple court proceedings. It wasn’t until further research led me to the National Archives in Kew that I discovered an 1827 Inquisition of Lunacy of Johanna and the declaration of her insanity. It is unclear if Johanna self-admitted herself after years of legal and marital sufferings or if this inquisition was called for by John as a reasoning for divorce.

While I’ve had to pause further research into what happened to Johanna Dalrymple after her triumph in the 1811 trial and this 1827 Inquisition due to other research focuses, I fully plan to dedicate future research into uncovering the misfortunes of this legally symbolic woman of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

 

Marissa Bolin is a doctoral candidate and tutor in the Department of English & Related Literature at the University of York. Her dissertation entitled “Women, the Law, and the Novel, 1838-1885: Representations of Bigamy, Property Law, Ceremonial Law, Divorce and Separation in the Victorian Novel” examines the use of women’s physical writing, such as letters, marriage certificates, and diaries within Victorian novels as a way of providing women’s testimonial and circumstantial evidence in the debate for marriage law reform.

 

[i] Wilkie Collins, Man and Wife ed. Norman Page (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995), 523.

[ii] Collins, Man and Wife, 523.

[iii] The Report of the Royal Commission on the Laws of Marriage (London: HMSO, 1868), 16.

[iv] Ibid.,16.

[v] Leah Leneman, Promises, Promises: Marriage Litigation in Scotland 1698-1830 (Edinburgh: Nation Museums of Scotland Enterprises Ltd., 2003), xi.

[vi] John H. Baker, An Introduction to English Legal History, 4th ed. (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007), 179.

[vii] The Report of the Royal Commission on the Laws of Marriage, 17.

[viii] Ibid.,18.

[ix] John Dodson, A Report of the Judgment, Delivered in the Consistorial Court of London, on the 16th of July 1811, By the Right Honorable Sir William Scott, Chancellor of the Diocese, in the Cause of Dalrymple the Wife, Against Dalrymple the Husband (London: J. Butterworth, 1811), 66.

[x] Ibid., 1.

[xi] Ibid., 243.

[xii] Ibid., 253.

[xiii] Ibid., 245.

[xiv] Ibid., 69.

[xv] Ibid., 245.

[xvi] Ibid., 264-265.

Two-day symposium: ‘Byron Among the Poets’

Please see below for an announcement from Matthew Ward (University of Birmingham).

 

‘Byron Among the Poets’

A symposium at All Souls College, University of Oxford

Saturday 13th – Sunday 14th January 2018

 

Registrations are invited for a two-day symposium on Lord Byron’s literary relationships to poets from Virgil to Auden. In a series of papers by leading scholars, we will be mapping out the range and richness of Byron’s connectivity: what other poets meant to him, and what he meant to those who came after. Join us to explore the ways Byron might be thought to be – perhaps more than most – ‘among’ the poets: alluding and alluded to; collaborative; competitive; parodied; worked and reworked in canons, anthologies and editions. Papers will focus on the contours of individual literary relationships (what did Byron get from Pope? how did Eliot read Byron?), as well as exploring larger questions about the nature of poetic exchange, technical influence and generic formation.

Speakers: Dr Clare Bucknell (Oxford), Dr Madeleine Callaghan (Sheffield), Dr Anna Camilleri (Oxford), Professor Richard Cronin (Glasgow), Professor Nicholas Halmi (Oxford), Professor Simon Kövesi (Oxford Brookes), Dr Tom Lockwood (Birmingham), Professor Michael O’Neill (Durham), Dr Fred Parker (Cambridge), Professor Seamus Perry (Oxford), Professor Christopher Ricks (Boston), Professor Jane Stabler (St Andrews), Dr Matthew Ward (Birmingham), Dr Ross Wilson (Cambridge), Mr Andrew Wynn Owen (Oxford).

Registration is free and includes lunch on both days. To express your interest, or for further details, please email the convenors Clare Bucknell and Matthew Ward at byronsymposium2018@gmail.com. The closing date for registrations is December 1st.

Call for papers, ‘The Revolt of Islam: Texts, Subtexts, Contexts’

The call for papers is now open for an exciting conference in Rome this December, hosted by the Keats-Shelley House.

The Revolt of Islam: Texts, Subtexts, Contexts

December 15, 2017

A conference celebrating two hundred years of P. B. Shelley’s poem

This conference will mark the bicentenary of Shelley’s Revolt of Islam, first published in 1817 as Laon and Cythna. Papers are invited which will explore critical interpretations and reactions, or which provide close readings of the text itself. Papers focusing on historical and contextual considerations and which explore contemporary resonances will also be welcomed.

The afternoon of 15 December has been chosen, for it was on this day in 1817 that publisher Charles Ollier met up with Thomas Love Peacock, Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont, and Shelley himself to discuss the potentially controversial and contentious nature of Shelley’s poem.

The conference is being organised by Giuseppe Albano, Curator of the Keats-Shelley House, and Maria Valentini from the University of Cassino, who will take over as Chair of the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association in Rome from June 2017.

Papers may be given in English or in Italian, and abstracts accepted in either language.

Deadline for submission of abstracts (c. 200 words): 31 August 2017.

Registration fee: €25.

For further information on registration, and to send your abstract, please contact:

Dr Giuseppe Albano, Curator,
Keats-Shelley House, Rome

or

Prof.ssa Maria Valentini, Dipartmento di Lettere e Filosofia,
Università di Cassino e del Lazio Meridionale

Call for Papers: Literary, Cultural, Historical and Political Celebrations across and beyond the British Isles

« Decentering Commemorations »

Literary, Cultural, Historical and Political Celebrations across and beyond the British Isles

 

Friday 20th October 2017
Campus LSH, Nancy and Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nancy 

The year 2017-2018 marks multiple anniversaries that will be commemorated transnationally: the deaths of Mme de Staël and Jane Austen, the birth of Stanley Kubrick, the release of The Beatles album “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, the end of World War One and the subsequent creation of new nation states, the Russian Revolution and the signing of the Maastricht Treaty. Why and how will these literary figures, cultural productions and historical events be remembered/celebrated in individual countries and across Europe? In what ways and to what extent are these commemorations transferred from one cultural space to another across and beyond the British Isles?

At a time of crisis concerning Europe’s identity and ideals, commemorations are not only intended as a nation-building process, they can also be appropriated by social or political groups. There is, indeed, a variety of actors at national, regional, and local levels, such as cultural institutions, museums, political parties and social media. The increasing mobility and instability in today’s world triggers off the opposite tendency of going back to one’s past, roots and heritage. Governments and lobbies/corporations(such as Google) use landmarks to impose their readings of literary, cultural, and political history, while grassroots and communities gather together to organize their own celebrations or to celebrate differently and sometimes more informally and spontaneously (like Halloween, Woman’s Day, National Day, Labour Day, Earth Day).

Papers discussing the following topics from a theoretical or practical perspective are welcome:

-forms and modes of commemorating
-commemoration as an expression of soft power or a means of empowerment -commemoration and technology (the choice imposed by search engines, social networks, e- media etc.)
-commemoration and cultural policies (celebrations through tourism, bilateral agreements, literary festivals etc.)
-commemoration and hyphenated/conflicting identities (bi-nationals, and “European nationals”) in the British Isles due to Devolution and Brexit
-posterity and literary canon (celebration of national and foreign authors)
-literary and visual adaptations
-publishing policies (book series, collected works, news items etc.)

Invited speakers (to be confirmed)

Prof. Joachim Frenk (Université de Sarrebruck, Allemagne)

Dr. Stefano Dominioni (Directeur de l’Institut Européen, Luxembourg)

Submission information: 

Proposals should not exceed 300 words (references excluded; 3 to 5 keywords and a short biography)
and be submitted to decenteringcommemorations-contact@univ-lorraine.fr by July, 31st 2017.

Organising Committee: 

Antonella Braida-Laplace antonella.braida-laplace@univ-lorraine.fr
Céline Sabiron celine.sabiron@univ.lorraine.fr
Roseline Théron roseline.theron@univ-lorraine.fr
Jeremy Tranmer jeremy.tranmer@univ-lorraine.fr

Sibylline Leaves: Chaos and Compilation in the Romantic Period

The full programme and registration details for ‘Sibylline Leaves: Chaos and Compilation in the Romantic Period’ (Birkbeck, London: 20 & 21 July 2017) are now available. Details can be found here.

About the conference…

‘This conference invites participants to investigate the play of papers between fugitive snips, scraps, and scattered verse, and the promise of the great work, complete edition, or philosophical system. We ask why Coleridge – poet, ‘scrapster’, and would-be encyclopaedist – turned to Virgil’s Sibyl and her scattered leaves, ‘borne aloft in liquid air’, to frame his 1817 collection of poetry Sibylline Leaves; what is at stake in reading the fragments and detached pieces which escape beyond the bound volume; how do the metaphors and materialities of these ‘leaves in flight’ interact; what mediates the ‘phantasmal chaos of association’; how does compilation inform the practices, ideals, anxieties and temporalities of romantic authorship, and the cut-and-paste fervours of its readership? Please join us to discuss all this and more over two days, in the summery environs of Bloomsbury.’