News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

Keats-Shelley Association of America Postcard Caption Contest

(Please see below for an announcement of a Romantics-focussed caption competition being run by the Keats-Shelley Association of America.)


What would Mary Shelley quip about Romanticism, scholarship, or the current state of the world?  Now is your chance to riff in the Keats-Shelley Association’s caption contest for its new series of informational postcards.  Please help us create the picture caption for our first postcard, featuring Mary Shelley, which will be distributed at various conferences and Romantics 200 events.  In addition to bragging rights, the winner will receive “captioned by” credit on the back of that K-SAA postcard.  With John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and others to be featured on cards to come, there will be several opportunities for you to participate.

Don’t be the last person to submit your caption! Entries limited to 140 characters.  Send to our Twitter (@KSAAcomm), Facebook (Keats-Shelley Association of America), or email ( by June 26th.  All are welcome to submit and encouraged to disseminate widely.

Archive Spotlight, ‘Finding a wife for the Reverend William Ettrick’

The Archive Spotlight series continues with a post by Elizabeth Spencer (PhD Candidate, History, University of York), on her findings after a research visit to Dorset History Centre in Dorchester. The papers of the Reverend William Ettrick (1757-1847), although not appropriate material for Elizabeth’s thesis, did however tell a rather intriguing tale, which she recounts here.


Would you like to contribute to this series? For more information, please contact Anna Mercer.


“The Lady was to be young and of good Family also”: Finding a wife for the Reverend William Ettrick

By Elizabeth Spencer

Recent research into the Ettrick family of High Barnes in Sunderland led me, somewhat surprisingly, all the way to the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester in order to look at the papers of the Reverend William Ettrick (1757-1847).[1] I have been researching the marriage of his parents William (1726-1808) and Catherine Ettrick (1726-1794), and so hoped that I might find some traces of them in their son’s papers. The Reverend William Ettrick had an extremely difficult relationship with his father, and so had left Sunderland ‘without a penny in [his] pocket’ as soon as he had turned 21 in order to take up a fellowship at University College Oxford; in 1787 he was offered two small livings in Dorset, where he lived until his father’s death in 1808, upon which he inherited the family estate at High Barnes. Unfortunately, his papers offered little in the way of material for my current doctoral research into women’s clothing in eighteenth-century England, but they do provide a fascinating account of one member of a family notorious for their eccentric behaviour.[2]


Dorset History Centre

Dorset History Centre


The papers held by the Dorset History Centre were apparently found sealed in a glass bottle which had been passed down in the Ettrick family; it was finally opened in 1903, and was found to contain documents relating largely to the Reverend William Ettrick’s complicated marital affairs. As well as a personal account written by him in 1810 in an attempt to justify the legitimacy of his marriage, the papers contain correspondence between William and legal professionals, colleagues, and family members, as well as affidavits sworn by various witnesses to his first marriage. They allow us to piece together the somewhat bizarre story of his search for a wife, and his eventual marriage to Elizabeth Bishop (?-1837) in 1800.

Despite their acrimonious relationship, the Reverend Ettrick’s father apparently began making overtures of peace towards his son in 1794 in an attempt to secure the family name; they were the only two surviving male heirs, and in his old age the father was becoming increasingly concerned that he would never see his then 37-year-old son married. According to a later account written by the Reverend Ettrick, his father had offered him £10,000 and the possession of the High Barnes estate – as well as £5000 more on his death – if he would marry a ‘Lady of Fortune’ worth £10,000. His terms also stipulated that the lady was also ‘to be young and of good Family.’ These conditions did not prove agreeable to the Reverend Ettrick, however, who wrote to his University College colleague Dr Wetherell that he had ‘instantly rejected them’ in his own mind as ‘Such a prospect was not only an ideal impossibility to a man of my Constitution & years, and retired life & Habits, but the very thots: of it were Death to me.’ Significantly, the Reverend Ettrick also cited his parents’ own unhappy marriage – they had separated in 1765 – as evidence of the miseries caused by a match based on money alone.

Nevertheless, the Reverend Ettrick challenged his father that if he could find a lady ‘according to his wishes, and equally willing to venture the perilous experiment,’ he would agree to ‘sacrifice all my Expectations of domestic Happiness’ and marry her. Such a lady, however, was not to be found, and five years went by without a match being made. It is here that things become more complicated, and it is more than likely that the Reverend’s own account of these events written in 1810 glosses over or changes details in order to present his actions in a more favourable (and less bizarre) light. According to the Reverend, by 1799 he had decided to set his father’s scheme aside altogether and to marry a woman ‘agreeable to me, & of such Expectations (being of humble rank) and Habits of Life, as were in unison with my own.’ The woman he set his sights upon was Elizabeth Bishop, who was likely already his servant or housekeeper at this point. Rather than simply marrying her, however, the Reverend Ettrick apparently decided to set in motion an ‘experiment’ which would ‘work upon the feelings of my Father & put his Temper fully to the proof.’ He therefore published the banns of his own marriage in his own parish church in December 1799, and let it be widely believed that a marriage ceremony had taken place between him and the said Elizabeth; no such thing had happened, but the Reverend’s intentions were to gauge his father’s reaction to his rumoured nuptials. He had apparently determined to disregard any reconciliation with his father if his reaction proved to be a negative one, and was prepared to forfeit the fortune promised to him in order to marry a woman who satisfied his own needs. His father did not disappoint, and the Reverend’s brother-in-law soon wrote to tell him that the ‘Old Gentleman is much displeased with you’ as he had been told that he had ‘married a Woman that was a Bedd maker at Oxford & that she had befor two Bastards.’

If the Reverend Ettrick was pleased that his father had predictably proved himself to be intractable, he apparently had not foreseen that rumours of his marriage would have negative consequences for his fellowship at University College Oxford. Upon hearing of his apparent nuptials, the college bursar wrote to him to warn that an investigation loomed if he did not provide them with a reasonable explanation; his fellowship was no longer tenable if he was a married man, and he had failed to inform them of any change in his circumstances. ‘You may suppose that the College would not be disposed to give credit to a vague rumour,’ the bursar wrote, but ‘it is only since they have learnt that the report is very generally prevalent in your neighbourhood…that they have been induced to give it attention.’ The Reverend replied explaining the circumstances of the rumour and asking for a year of grace as, although he was not yet married, he intended to be in the near future.

Though he had been forced to deny his marriage to the college, according to the Reverend’s own account he was reluctant to allow these rumours to be contradicted in Dorset as he was ‘not willing to give any needless visitation to my father’; however, it is likely that he and Elizabeth were already living together as man and wife. Indeed, when the pair eventually did marry in April 1800 Elizabeth was already pregnant. Perhaps predictably given the Reverend’s previous record, the marriage ceremony was not a straightforward event; taking place very early in the morning with only two witnesses – Elizabeth’s mother and aunt – the ceremony was performed by the Reverend himself, in a bizarre move which would prove problematic for him later down the line.

Having heard doubts expressed to him over the validity of his marriage to Elizabeth on the grounds that he himself had performed the ceremony, the Reverend was eventually persuaded by his patron to be married again by another clergyman in 1806. Elizabeth had given birth to four children in this time – one of them a son and heir to the Reverend’s estate – and it was this more than anything that seems to have convinced him of the need to ensure the legitimacy of his marriage. Nevertheless, he continued to assert the validity of their first marriage, claiming that the second ceremony was only a ‘Measure of Precaution.’ Indeed, rather than simply including a clause in his will which would allow an illegitimate first son to inherit, the Reverend determined to prove that his 1800 marriage had been legally valid all along. This was complicated even further by the discovery in 1808 – the year of his father’s death – that the wrong date had been entered in the parish register for the banns of this first marriage; though the banns had been heard in December 1799 – and the Reverend and Elizabeth had been married in 1800 – he had incorrectly recorded the banns as being published in December 1800.

It is perhaps ironic that, despite wanting to avoid the unhappy fate suffered by parents who had been married for financial gain, the Reverend Ettrick himself became embroiled in an ongoing legal battle over the validity of his 1800 marriage. It also shows a streak of stubbornness as he continued to fight to assert its legitimacy, in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary. He and Elizabeth would go on to have ten children together, six of whom were born after their second marriage ceremony in 1806. Unfortunately, their first son – whose legitimacy the Reverend fought so hard to prove – died before his father, and so the uncertain status of his 1800 marriage would ultimately prove immaterial in matters of inheritance. The Reverend William Ettrick himself died aged 90 in 1847, and his second son Anthony would go on to inherit the estate at High Barnes.

[1] Dorset History Centre: ‘Correspondence and other documents of Rev. William Ettrick 1787-1810’ D.1854/1, and ‘Correspondence and account of William Ettrick’s life by Mrs Sherwood, 1980’ D.1854.

[2] Jeremiah William Summers, The History and Antiquities of Sunderland (Sunderland: Joseph Tate, 1858), pp. 186-196. ; William Brockie, Sunderland Notables: Natives, Residents, and Visitors (Sunderland: Hills and Company, 1894), pp. 46-52.


Elizabeth Spencer is a third-year doctoral candidate and postgraduate tutor in the Department of History at the University of York. Her research looks at women’s clothing in eighteenth-century England, and is funded by the White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities.

Conference Report: Romanticism Takes to the Hills

The BARS-sponsored conference ‘Romanticism Takes to the Hills’ was held at Edge Hill University on 29 April 2017. The following conference report is by Hannah Britton (University of St Andrews).




‘Romanticists Take to Edge Hill’


Location, shadowed by its uncomfortable opposite, dislocation, was at the heart of the one-day ‘Romanticism Takes to the Hills’ conference hosted by Edge Hill University, which took place at the end of April. The gentle word-play of the title (the second in a triad that includes last year’s successful ‘Edgy Romanticism/Romanticism on Edge’ and what I’m reliably informed will be next year’s ‘Romanticism Goes to University’) set the stage for a day that would see Romanticism and its embodied figures climb mountains and scramble back down them (most likely on all fours), travel along the British coastline as well as through the Wye valley, and head to distant shores. Those of us who gathered at Edge Hill’s leafy, out-of-the-way campus came from all over—from the nearby universities of the North-West of England and the Midlands, to the far-flung edges of Scotland (the six-hour journey from St Andrews on the previous day, I think, permits me this liberty), to Denmark, Sweden, Italy, and the United States. Although set in the quiet Lancashire countryside, this was an international conference with an international perspective.

The day opened brilliantly with a keynote from Professor Tim Fulford entitled ‘Beings of Energy: Poets, Geologists and the Science of Mountaineering’. The paper explored the communal culture of enquiry that emerged on the mountainside in the Romantic era between poets and scientists whose experiments and explorations would forge the new science of geology. Tim paid particular attention to the relationship between Sir Humphry Davy and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whose shared desire for a scientific practice that would lead to social levelling found voice through, and in, their mountain experiences. Tim was the first of a number of speakers to engage with Coleridge’s (in)famous descent of Broad Stand, a point of return that would remind all present that the mountain sublime of the Romantic era also contains mountain ridiculousness. Coleridge’s letters detailing this feat and other of his mountain excursions were drawn within Tim’s discussion of the idea of the Romantic mountain conversation, a dialogue both of, and on, the mountain. Tim concluded with a thought-provoking look at the poem that perhaps most clearly embodies and explores this idea: Wordsworth’s The Excursion.

The keynote set the tone for a day that would have dialogue at its heart. Not only did epistolary conversations and transcultural exchanges play a leading role in several papers, the communal culture of enquiry that Tim located in the Coleridge/Davy circle was shared by the conference attendees. The inspired choice to arrange the conference room in the style of a seminar, rather than a lecture, fostered the openness of the discussions that were had by all, and of the sense of the day itself as an on-going conversation. The well-timed refreshment breaks enabled conversations to be carried on over revivifying cups of tea and coffee, and I certainly gained as much from these moments of dialogue as from the papers themselves. It should also be noted that the conference catering was excellently done, and I’m sure I won’t be the only person disappointed if the next academic event I attend doesn’t include a specially scheduled break for petit fours…

The first panel of the day explored Romantic travels and travel-writing from the Lakes to the Scottish lochs to the seashores of Britain. Kirsty Anne McHugh’s opening paper examined the experience of the ‘home tour’ through the correspondence of Dorothy Wordsworth and Jane Marshall, and the way in which this dialogue sheds light on how the discourse of domestic tourism shaped and defined expectations and experiences on the ground. A real tour of Scotland was followed by an invented tour of the Lakes as Carol Bolton discussed Robert Southey’s 1807 pseudonymous work, Letters from England: By Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella, and the poet’s complex response to the influx of ‘Lakers’ and the business of Lake District tourism. Zoë Kinsley’s concluding paper sounded a darker note as it explored the literary representations of lighthouses in Romantic-era travel accounts and uncovered in these narratives anxieties over the liminal lives of the lighthouse-men and their troubling existence outside the boundaries of culture and society.

The second panel imaginatively transported the conference from Britain to Denmark with three papers that considered the place of Denmark in British Romanticism and the importance of place in Danish Romanticism. Cian Duffy opened the panel with a discussion of the changing place of Denmark—and Copenhagen in particular—in the cultural imagination of Romantic-era Britain. In responses to the two British attacks on Copenhagen in 1801 and 1807, Cian traced the rise and fall of a sense of cultural fraternity between Britain and Denmark that centred upon a shared ‘northern’ identity, in opposition to the Napoleonic ‘south’. Both Robert Rix and Lis Møller went deeper into the topography of Denmark itself in their corresponding explorations of the way in which specific sites—both real and imaginary—were invested (or re-invested) with a sense of national identity, with Robert focusing on domestic travel-writing and Lis on the revival of the Danish ballad tradition.

Panel Three continued the focus on Romanticism beyond the geographical borders of Britain, and the figures of the exile, the migrant, and the stranger set a new tone for the ongoing discussion about travel and place writing. Val Derbyshire’s opening paper examined the marginal space of the text in relation to the marginalised place of the author-in-exile, as she unpacked the complex gender dynamics present in Charlotte Smith’s translation of Manon L’Escaut. Gioia Angeletti extended the discussion about edges and peripheral spaces in her exploration of colonial discourse and transcultural negotiations in the poetry of John Leyden and Thomas Pringle. Gioia examined the ways in which a changed geography resulted in a refashioning of identity for Leyden in India and Pringle in South Africa, and considered the complex expression of otherness and in-betweenness in each poet’s verse. Julia Coole rounded off the panel with a paper on Washington Irving’s experience of being a quasi-outsider in England, as expressed in his phenomenally successful The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon (1819), and suggested that Irving’s liminal position enabled him to create space for American writing and writers within the British literary and cultural landscape.

In a fitting conclusion to the day, the final panel looked to new approaches and methodologies for engaging with the ideas of place and space in Romanticism. Brennan Sadler opened up the vast potential of the digital humanities for teaching and research as she walked the conference attendees through her own digital scholarly edition of ‘Tintern Abbey’, which importantly enables the reader with no personal experience of the Wye Valley to engage with the poem in its locational context. This was followed by Sean Nolan’s nuanced exploration of moments in Coleridge’s poetry of dejection in which the poet’s psychic landscape may be mapped onto a physical topography, and how such affective mapping sheds light on Coleridge’s experience of acedia. The final paper, given jointly by Joanna Taylor and Christopher Donaldson, continued the theme of mapping in its demonstration of the use of Geographical Information Systems in reading Romantic accounts of climbing Scafell. Having begun the conference thinking about mountain climbing and mountain poetics, it was appropriate that Joanna and Chris brought us full circle in their exploration of the physical geography of the mountain and the alternative geographies and cartographies of the text.

A BARS-sponsored wine reception, held in the rooftop garden of the Business School, was the perfect coda to an inspiring day of scholarship—a suggestive reminder that for us, as for the Romantics, dialogue matters and it matters where that dialogue takes place.


– Hannah Britton, University of St Andrews

Archive Spotlight, ‘A Book and a Bard: Romantic Poetry and the Commonplace Book of Thomas Gray’

This year on the BARS blog we are reviving the ‘Archive Spotlight’ series. We present new and exciting posts from BARS members and blog readers on their studies at various archives. Please get in touch if you want to contribute – the posts can be an account of the archive itself, or some things you’ve studied there that relate to the Romantic Period. Katherine Fender (University of Oxford) starts us off with a post on her time at Pembroke College Library, University of Cambridge. 


A Book and a Bard: Romantic Poetry and the Commonplace Book of Thomas Gray



John Martin, “The Bard”, (c. 1817) (c) Laing Art Gallery


The manuscript to which my doctoral research is most deeply indebted is one over which I had pored even before the first word of my thesis had been written. Similarly, the text itself predates what we generally consider to be the “Romantic period” in literature – though my thesis was firmly rooted in all things Romantic: in the poetry and aesthetic theory of the period. Why then, you may ask, is this pre-Romantic text of any significance to a Romanticism blog?

The answer is that my thesis simply could never, and would never, have come about at all without my having had the opportunity to read and to research Thomas Gray’s Commonplace Book. The Commonplace “Book” is, more accurately, to be described as several books: three volumes, composed from 1736 onward, which offer notes, essays and drafts on a number of different topics, including but not limited to Gray’s poetic interests and early poetry drafts.

I first encountered Gray’s Commonplace Book during my MPhil. at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, in 2012. At the time, I was starting to think about not only the significance of Welsh landscape and what I termed the “Welsh Sublime” in English Romantic poetry (the topic of my MPhil. dissertation), but also the significance of a particular Welsh figure: that of the ancient Welsh bard, who was thrust to the forefront of the eighteenth-century literary stage by Gray’s “The Bard: A Pindaric Ode”.

Gray’s ode was composed between 1754 and 1757, and was published in 1757: the same year that Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful appeared in print. I was especially keen to consider the intersection between the language and images of the bardic and those of the sublime in this period.

The more I thought about, read about, and researched the figure of Gray’s ancient Welsh bard, the more I came to realise that, though enigmatic – and presented as the last of the Welsh poets in Gray’s text – the bard was certainly not elusive in eighteenth-century and Romantic literature. Indeed, as the eighteenth century progressed, the figure of the ancient Welsh bard became evermore popular in not only the literature, but also in the art and music of the period. But why?

So it was that I set out to trace the wanderings of Gray’s Welsh bard through Romantic verse. I knew, though, that in order to do so, I would firstly need to return to my original resource: Gray’s Commonplace Book. It has been described as the “single most important repository of Gray’s autograph verse and prose”[1], and – especially where Gray’s engagement with the bardic tradition is concerned – this is with good reason.

All three volumes of Gray’s Commonplace Book make reference to bards in offering both historical and poetic accounts of them. They were, as such, invaluable resources – especially in the context of “four nations” Romanticism research. In the first volume of Gray’s Commonplace Book, he introduces the reader to bards in the context of druidism. Within the category of druidism, Gray discerns three main sub-groups – druids themselves, defined as “religious men” and a “holy Race”, as well as bards and vates:


Strabo…mentions two other Orders of Men in great reverence (beside the Druids) the Bardic, & the Vates. the first were their Poets who sung the deeds of their Heroes to the Lyre, mention’d likewise by Deodorus, Marcellinus, Festus Pompeius, Posidonius ap: Athenoeum, Lucan &c.: the others, whom Marcellinus calls Eubages, studied & taught Metaphysicks, Natural Philosophy, & the Sublime Sciences. Caesar seems to have included them all under the name of Druids.[2]


The bards, the poets, are heralded as specifically Welsh in the second volume of Gray’s Commonplace Book, which also contains a seventeen-page section called “Cambri” wherein Welsh verse forms are explored in great detail. As Mack outlines,


Gray’s interest in the origins of rhyme in English poetry…had led him deeper and deeper into the study of Welsh poetry and language. Throughout the early and mid-1750s, he became increasingly convinced that the measures of English poetry ‘not improbably might have been borrowed from the Britons, as I am apt to believe, the rise of Rhyme itself was’.[3]


Rhyme and metre emerge as key concerns in Gray’s “Cambri” pages, which is unsurprising given the intrinsic link between (cultural) memory and verse that define the bardic tradition, and that Gray so reveres. Despite Gray’s obvious fascination with Welsh prosody, though, its role in his verse has not received the attention that it deserves hitherto. Although a study by critic Edward D. Snyder afforded attention to Gray’s use of Welsh sound patterning, his research dates from the 1920s; there has been little critical work conducted on the subject since.


Not only did my studies of Gray’s Commonplace Book expose a relatively neglected area of Gray scholarship, but they also made me think more carefully about what Romantic poets considered the role of a poet to be more generally. Why might they, as poets themselves, revere Gray’s rendition of a bard’s role? How does Gray’s bardic language and imagery inflect their own verse and writings?

Many Romantic poets including Blake, Wordsworth and Hemans adopted the figure of Gray’s bard as a symbol: as a poetic precursor; as prophet; as a figure to be imitated, emulated and even ventriloquised if possible. Gray highlights the power and transcendence of the bardic voice, positioning the ancient bard as not only a solitary individual worthy of pathos – the last of his kind – but, also, as a stoic hero, as a figure to be revered: he who gives voice to communities, past, present and future. I contend that the ancient bard as depicted by Gray is, as such, an appealing prototype for politically-engaged and affectively-driven Romantic poets.

There is not enough room here to do justice to Gray’s Commonplace Book: beautifully-written, meticulously ordered, wonderfully preserved. On a personal as well as an academic level, I am hugely indebted to the Commonplace Book. Without it, my doctoral thesis would not exist.


Many thanks to Mrs Pat Aske at the Pembroke College Library, University of Cambridge, for granting me access to Gray’s Commonplace Book, and for her generosity in sharing her time, knowledge and expertise with me over the past few years.


Katherine Fender (DPhil.)
Stipendiary Lecturer in English
St Peter’s College,
University of Oxford

[1] Margaret M. Smith, Index of English Literary Manuscripts, Volume III, 1700-1800, Part 2, (London: Mansell, 1989), p. 73.

[2] Thomas Gray, Thomas Gray’s Commonplace Book, Vol. I, p. 310. Accessed at Pembroke College Library, University of Cambridge, on 14/08/15.

[3] Robert L. Mack, Thomas Gray: A Life, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000), p. 470.


BARS/Wordsworth Trust Early Career Fellowship 2017

Please see below for details of how to apply for this exciting one-month residential Fellowship with BARS and the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere.

BARS/Wordsworth Trust Early Career Fellowship 2017

We would like to invite Early Career Researchers who are not in permanent employment to apply for a one-month residential Fellowship with the Wordsworth Trust at Grasmere. The Trust is centred around Dove Cottage, the Wordsworths’ home between 1799 and 1808, where Wordsworth wrote most of his greatest poetry and Dorothy wrote her Grasmere journals. Dove Cottage opened to visitors in 1891, and the Trust celebrated the 125th anniversary of the first day of opening on 27th July 2016. The first museum opened in 1935, coinciding with the bequest of the Wordsworth family archive to the Trust from Gordon Graham Wordsworth. The Trust collection has grown to 65,000 books, manuscripts and works of art, but at its heart remains the manuscript poetry, prose and letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth. The Trust is embarking on an exciting new HLF-funded project leading up to the commemoration of Wordsworth’s 250th birthday on 7 April 2020. It is an audience driven project, seeking to raise awareness and change public perceptions of Wordsworth’s life and work. It will seek to re-imagine his life, his works and his relevance for today. The project will see onsite developments, such as the redesigning and extension of the present museum, alongside an extensive programme of engagement and activities within Cumbria and beyond. The Trust will be seeking to diversify existing audiences, and extend current work promoting the wellbeing agenda. In other words, actively making Wordsworth’s work accessible and continuing his own wish to see it help people ‘to see, to think and feel’.

We welcome submissions from applicants whose research interests will help the Trust to re-imagine Wordsworth. This is an opportunity to become familiar with existing audience engagement work (both onsite and offsite, gaining experience of duties that are audience related) and then creating a plan for an activity that will engage new audiences. This can be for an audience of your choice and will use the collections to stimulate an interest and develop understanding of the poet’s work. You will receive advice and training from the Curatorial and Learning team, led by Jeff Cowton (Curator and Head of Learning). The activity can be based in the gallery, to be delivered within a workshop setting, or online – or whatever you think works best for the audience in question. There will also be opportunities to develop your own research.

The Fellowship provides on-site self-catering accommodation for one month; we would prefer the internship to take place between November and February but this is negotiable. The Fellowship also provides £100 towards travel expenses. All applicants must be members of BARS.

Application procedure: on one side of A4, provide your name, email contact details, institutional affiliation (if relevant), current employment status, a brief biographical note, a description of your PhD thesis, details of the proposed research and audience based activity, and preferred period of residence (from November 2017). The successful applicant will demonstrate an enthusiasm for audience engagement and learning as well as research, combined in initial ideas of their proposed project. Send the application as an attached Word file to Jeff Cowton and Daniel Cook ( and no later than 30 September 2017. The successful candidate will be informed within two weeks.


For more posts on Romanticism, you can also read The Wordsworth Trust blog here.

The 2017 Scottish Romanticism Research Award: Deadline 30th June

Postgraduates and postdoctoral scholars working in any area of Scottish literature (1740-1830) are invited to apply for the jointly funded BARS-UCSL Scottish Romanticism Research Award.  The executive committees of the British Association for Romantic Studies (BARS) and the Universities Committee for Scottish Literature (UCSL) have established the award to help fund expenses incurred through travel to Scottish libraries and archives, including universities other than the applicant’s own, up to a maximum of £300.  A postgraduate may be a current or recent Master’s student (within two years of graduation) or a PhD candidate; a postdoctoral scholar is defined as someone who holds a PhD but does not hold a permanent academic post.  If appropriate, UCSL will endeavour to assign the awardee an academic liaison at one of its partner universities. For a list of partner universities please see

Successful applicants must be members of BARS before taking up the award (to join please visit  The recipient will be announced on the BARS and UCSL websites, and he or she will be asked to submit a short report to the BARS Executive Committee, and to acknowledge BARS and UCSL in their doctoral thesis and/or any publication arising from the research trip.

Please send the following information in support of your application (up to two pages of A4 in word.doc format):

1. Your full name and institutional affiliation (if any).
2. The working title and a short abstract or summary of your PhD or current project.
3. Brief description of the research to be undertaken for which you need support.
4. Libraries or institutions at which you will work.
5. Estimated costing of proposed research trip.
6. Estimated travel dates.
7. Name of one supervisor/referee (with email address) to whom application can be made for a supporting reference on your behalf. A reference is not required at the time of applying.

Applications and questions should be directed to the BARS bursaries officer, Dr Daniel Cook ( at the University of Dundee.  The deadline for applications is 30th June 2017.  The research trip must take place within a year (i.e. by 1st July 2018).

Austen at 200: A Series of Events, York, 2017

Please see below for the details of an exciting programme of events to celebrate 200 years since the death of Jane Austen. Contact: Alison O’Byrne (University of York).




A series of events to commemorate Jane Austen’s writing and her legacy marking the 200th anniversary of her death. Presented by the University of York in partnership with City Screen, the South Bank Community Cinema, York Festival of Ideas, and Fairfax House.


Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen, pencil and watercolour, circa 1810. National Portrait Gallery, London.

Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen, pencil and watercolour, circa 1810. National Portrait Gallery, London.


Wednesday 24 May

Love and Friendship film screening with discussion, City Screen 6:15

Followed by Austen: Literature, Film …or History?

Join us for a screening of Whit Stillman’s 2016 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, followed by a lively discussion with Emma Major (English, York), Erica Sheen (English, York), and Catriona Kennedy (History, York).   Tickets available through City Screen website.


Friday 26 May

Clueless film screening with introduction, South Bank Community Cinema at Clements Hall, 7.00

Amy Heckerling’s 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, introduced by adaptation specialist Suzanne Spiedel (Sheffield Hallam University), with Erica Sheen (York).   Tickets at the door or contact the cinema.


Tuesday 30 May

Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies Annual Stephen Copley Lecture, Huntingdon Room, King’s Manor 5.00

Kathryn Sutherland (Oxford):   Austen as Wartime Novelist

Austen’s popular and critical reception through much of the twentieth century was built on her seeming ignorance of public events, well described by Marilyn Butler as a ‘discreet’ approach to ideas. But just how discreet was she? Kathryn Sutherland presents an account of Austen’s commitment to recording events from the perspective of everyday reality, and argues that it is time to reclaim her as the first English novelist to explore the effect of contemporary war on the home front. This event is free; no tickets required.


Thursday 8 June, Festival of Ideas

British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Patron’s Lecture, Berrick Saul Building, University of York 6.00

John Mullan (UCL): What Matters in Jane Austen

Which important Jane Austen characters never speak? What do the characters call one another, and why? What are the right and wrong ways to propose marriage? Join John Mullan of University College London for this British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Patron’s Lecture as he asks and answers some very specific questions about what goes on in Austen’s novels, revealing the inner workings of their greatness.  Sponsored by the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.

Tickets free from York Festival of Ideas (01904 324119).


Thursday 8 June, Festival of Ideas

Roundtable discussion, Berrick Saul Building, University of York 7:15-8:45

The Enduring Appeal of Jane Austen

With Bharat Tandon (UEA), Emma Major (York) and Deborah Yaffe (author of Among the Janeites), chaired by Alison O’Byrne (York)

What is Jane Austen’s legacy and why does her work continue to enjoy such popularity? Following John Mullan’s lecture, join our panel of experts and enthusiasts as they explore all things Austen: the enduring appeal of her novels, the fascination with the life of the author, the ways in which her novels have been adapted and reworked, and the many aspects of Austen fandom.

Tickets free from York Festival of Ideas (01904 324119).


Sunday 11 June

Illustrated talk and discussion, South Bank Community at Clements Hall, 7.00

Historians at work

Historian Hannah Greig (York) discusses and illustrates her work as historical consultant on films and tv including Death Comes to Pemberley, The Duchess and Poldark.

Tickets at the door or contact the cinema.


Wednesday 14 June

Sense and Sensibility film screening with discussion: City Screen 6:00

Austen: Film…or Literature?

Join us for a screening of Ang Lee’s 1995 film, nominated for seven Academy Awards (including Best Adapted Screenplay win for Emma Thompson), followed by a lively debate with experts from the Departments of Theatre, Film, and Television and English and Related Literature at York. Screenwriter Simon van der Borgh and JT Welsch put the case for Film; Mary Fairclough and Alison O’Byrne respond on behalf of Literature. Chaired by Michael McCluskey.

Tickets available from the City Screen website.


Friday 30 June

Fairfax House Public Lecture, Fairfax House 7:00*

Hilary Davidson: “Recreating Jane Austen’s Silk Pelisse-Coat”

What did Jane Austen wear? The only known garment associated with the beloved author is a brown silk pelisse-coat in the collection of Hampshire Council. Like a detective story, a project to recreate the pelisse allowed a rich investigation into the history, context and physical qualities of the coat, and revealed new information about the object – and the wearer.

Tickets available from Fairfax House.


Friday 14 July

Fairfax House Public Lecture, Fairfax House 7:00*

Emma Major (York): “Pictures of perfection…make me sick and wicked”: Jane Austen and Reading for Lies

As Austen wrote to her niece Fanny Knight, whose admirer had criticized the comportment of Austen’s heroines: ‘Pictures of Perfection, as you know, make me sick and wicked’. In this lecture, Emma Major (York) looks at the ways in which Austen encourages us to be suspicious of perfection, and to become better readers of character. Indeed the case could be made that Austen’s fiction offers the reader a first-rate lesson in detective skills. As P.D. James points out, detective fiction ‘does not require a murder’ but ‘does require a mystery’ – and as we’ll see, Austen provides plenty of these, continuing to inspire crime fiction writers of today. This investigation of Austen’s lifelong fascination with letters shows how Austen uses them to teach her heroines to become better readers of flawed human nature.

Tickets available from Fairfax House.


Organizers: Alison O’Byrne ( and Erica Sheen (

* Organized by Fairfax House

The BARS Review, No. 49 (Spring 2017)


The Editors are pleased to announce the publication of the 49th number of The BARS Review, the seventh available in full online through the new website.  This number includes twenty-seven reviews covering thirty-one new publications, as well as a special spotlight on Romantic Revolutions.  The list of contents below includes links to the html versions of the articles, but all the reviews are also available as pdfs.  If you want to browse through the whole number at your leisure, a pdf compilation of all the reviews is available.

If you have any comments on the new number, or on the Review in general, we’d be very grateful for any feedback that would allow us to improve the site or the content.

Editor: Susan Valladares (St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford)
General Editors: Ian Haywood (University of Roehampton), Susan Oliver (University of Essex) & Nicola J. Watson (Open University)
Technical Editor: Matthew Sangster (University of Glasgow)


The BARS Review, No 49 (Spring 2017)

Table of Contents


Meiko O’Halloran, James Hogg and British Romanticism: A Kaleidoscopic Art
Holly Faith Nelson
Gillian Williamson, British Masculinity in the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1731 to 1815
Caroline Gonda
Bernard Beatty, Byron’s Don Juan
Anna Camilleri
Clara Tuite, Lord Byron and Scandalous Celebrity
Emily A. Bernhard Jackson
Sara Guyer, Reading with John Clare: Biopoetics, Sovereignty, Romanticism
Adam White
Adam Roberts, Landor’s Cleanness. A Study of Walter Savage Landor
Gioia Angeletti
Marilyn Butler, Mapping Mythologies: Countercurrents in Eighteenth-Century British Poetry and Cultural History
Chris Bundock
Mark Canuel, ed., British Romanticism: Criticism and Debates
Octavia Cox
Adriana Craciun, Writing Arctic Disaster: Authorship and Exploration
Murray Pittock
David Porter, The Chinese Taste in the Eighteenth Century
William Christie
Jennifer Jesse, William Blake’s Religious Vision: There’s a Methodism in His Madness
Keri Davies
Andrew Bennett, ed., William Wordsworth in Context and Robert M. Ryan, Charles Darwin and the Church of Wordsworth
Christopher Donaldson
Kate Parker and Courtney Weiss Smith, eds., Eighteenth-Century Poetry and the Rise of the Novel Reconsidered and Eric Parisot, Graveyard Poetry: Religion, Aesthetics and the Mid-Eighteenth-Century Poetic Condition
Tobias Menely
Angela Wright and Dale Townshend, eds., Romantic Gothic: An Edinburgh Companion
Matt Foley
Jim Davis, Comic Acting and Portraiture in Late-Georgian and Regency England
Heather McPherson
Liam Lenihan, The Writings of James Barry and the Genre of History Painting, 1775-1809
Christopher Rovee
John Bugg, ed., The Joseph Johnson Letterbook
James M. Morris
Stewart Cooke with Elaine Bander, eds., The Additional Journals and Letters of Frances Burney, Volume I: 1784-1786
Cassandra Ulph
Amy Prendergast, Literary Salons Across Britain and Ireland in the Long Eighteenth Century
Susanne Schmid
Tim Fulford, Romantic Poetry and Literary Coteries: The Dialect of the Tribe and Tim Fulford and Michael E. Sinatra, eds., The Regency Revisited
Josefina Tuominen-Pope
Matthew Wickman, Literature After Euclid: The Geometric Imagination in the Long Scottish Enlightenment
Marcus Tomalin
Mark J. Bruhn and Donald R. Wehrs, eds., Cognition, Literature, and History
Niall Gildea
Chase Pielak, Memorializing Animals during the Romantic Period
Barbara K. Seeber

Spotlight: Romantic Revolutions

David Andress, ed., The Oxford Handbook of the French Revolution
Liam Chambers
A. D. Cousins and Geoffrey Payne, eds., Home and Nation in British Literature from the English to the French Revolutions
Amy Milka
James Mulholland, Sounding Imperial: Poetic Voice and the Politics of Empire, 1730-1820 and Evan Gottlieb, Romantic Globalism: British Literature and Modern World Order, 1750-1830
Juan Luis Sánchez
Mary Fairclough, The Romantic Crowd: Sympathy, Controversy and Print Culture
David Fallon

Review of ‘William Wordsworth’: a new play by Nicholas Pierpan

We welcome Lyn Dawes to the BARS blog, and thank her for this engaging review of the new play by Nicholas Pierpan (Wolfson College, Oxford), entitled  ‘William Wordsworth‘, and performed at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. The play was directed by Michael Oakley.




Review: William Wordsworth by Nicholas Pierpan

Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, Cumbria 31 March – 22 April 2017


Parents will recognise the futility of attempting to write with children around. Little Tom Wordsworth pesters his father, hooting like an owl and dancing about; meanwhile Dorothy and Sara Hutchinson tackle the endless housework, while Mary has not emerged from her bedroom with the new baby. Eventually William gives in, not to reprimand his little boy, but to play with him – an unusual thing for a father, perhaps. But he is not writing poetry. William is writing letters in an attempt to restore his friendship with Coleridge, fractured when Coleridge left Grasmere for London and arrived to find that Wordsworth had warned their mutual friends of his expensive habits, his erratic behaviour, and the general mayhem generated around a garrulous, gregarious visitor with an addiction to taking opiates and brandy for his chronic digestive problems. This rift caused irretrievable hurt, with Coleridge recording that it had ‘spread a wide gloom over the world around me’.


This English Touring Theatre production depicts the poverty and confusion of the Wordsworth household in 1812. William provided for his sister Dorothy, wife Mary and her sister Sara and his five children, but his finances remained blighted by Lord Lonsdale’s swindling. And the seminal Lyrical Ballads published fourteen years earlier could not provide an adequate income. William was convinced – partly by Coleridge’s generous and constant support – that his poetry was to resound through future years, but felt that the world was not yet prepared for his work. His reluctance to publish had brought the family to a crisis which was dreadfully compounded by the death of Catherine Wordsworth aged three.


The Theatre by the Lake


The production gives credit to the tireless work of women in a patriarchal society, with Dorothy and Sara supporting Mary and enabling William’s thinking, and Sara providing Coleridge with loving warmth and care. The production also presents working people with respect, showing them to be in tune with the world. In contrast the London lords and ladies value style over substance and are wholly occupied by the process of idolising the young Lord Byron. Wordsworth’s patron George Beaumont, played by Joseph Mydell, is serious minded and principled in a reassuring way. The somewhat shadowy Mrs Coleridge (Rosalind Steele) here holds her own as remarkably cheerful and outgoing.





Dorothy (Emma Pallant) is wonderfully frantic about her brother’s home comforts, getting totally caught up in the washing and childminding, but startlingly paused by the reminder that Coleridge considered her a genius. Daniel Abelson is completely persuasive as the impossible but magnetic Coleridge. He conveys the charisma, the verbal fireworks, the baffling mix of huge intellectual power and needy loner in a world lacking in understanding. The complex relationship between Coleridge and Sara is skimmed over, for all its fascination. It is a play about Wordsworth after all. Wordsworth is commandingly brought to life by John Sackville who conveys the impression of a man both articulate and strong minded, capable of holding his own with the glitterati, playing with his child, and listening to a wandering Leech Gatherer (a redundant profession thankfully) with equal attention and imagination.


So when young Tom died of measles, we were shocked and dismayed. The impact of poverty and the smoky, unfavourable house in Grasmere had taken their awful toll. The quality of the play portrays the quality of the people and we really do mind what is happening to them. Wordsworth, despite Coleridge’s eloquent attempts to dissuade him, takes a paying job with the unpleasant Lord Lonsdale; this was his way of sorting out his living conditions and enabling his family not merely to stay together but actually to survive. And his writing continues…. his poem for Tom ‘There Was A Boy’ was movingly included in the play:


There was a Boy; ye knew him well, ye cliffs

And islands of Winander! many a time,

At evening, when the earliest stars began

To move along the edges of the hills,

Rising or setting, would he stand alone,

Beneath the trees, or by the glimmering lake;

And there, with fingers interwoven, both hands

Pressed closely palm to palm and to his mouth

Uplifted, he, as through an instrument,

Blew mimic hootings to the silent owls

That they might answer him.


Wordsworth at first sent the poem to Coleridge, who wrote back ‘[The lines] I should have recognised any where; and had I met these lines running wild in the deserts of Arabia, I should have instantly screamed out “Wordsworth!”‘





This poem and his evocation of his Cockermouth birthplace, both to be found in the Prelude, helped us as an audience to remember why we were there – this play is not a Downton Abbey story, but an explanation and celebration of the quality of Wordsworth’s writing and his resounding impact on the way ideas are conveyed in poetry. Here he is living as in impoverished circumstances but his mind is not on the staple diet of oatmeal but instead always absorbed by observing, reflecting and writing using plain language about the natural world and our relation to it. The Prelude as a description and analysis of his own life is surprisingly generalisable, and the everyday people he encountered are accorded respect and a presence in his poetry.


            For this, didst thou,

O Derwent! winding among grassy holms

Where I was looking on, a babe in arms,

Make ceaseless music that composed my thoughts

To more than infant softness, giving me

Amid the fretful dwellings of mankind

A foretaste, a dim earnest, of the calm

That Nature breathes among the hills and groves.


To meet these people and hear the poetry, with its conversational tone and integral links to the natural world, having just walked alongside Derwent Water on an evening when the lake and fells were still, was a spirit-lifting reminder of the power of words. The play stresses the importance of language in conveying ideas between people and between generations. The Lakeland town of Keswick was often the setting for Wordsworth and Coleridge’s collaborative thinking. Coleridge lived at Greta Hall in Keswick and would set off down to Grasmere overnight – sometimes arriving as Dorothy tells us, by walking over Grizedale (which is enormous) with a large stick in his hand, ending this epic by being pursued by a cow. Dorothy and William would walk with him on the first stage of his return journey north up the slope of Dunmail Raise or ‘up the Rays’ as Dorothy says. These are the places that influence Wordsworth’s thinking, and the play depicts these settings, the work of writing, and the human lives involved, with great skill and sensitivity.





The Theatre By the Lake offers the play an ideal venue. Derwent Water remains essentially unchanged, the transient landing stages, visitors and homes having no impact on its power to impress. The stage set mutated between rooms and scenes as the cast quietly moved shutters, carried things, and managed whole furniture removals in harmony. Nicholas Pierpan is to be commended for providing the thread of this episode of Wordsworth’s story plaited with themes of the better aspects of human dignity, loyalty and integrity, in an unsentimental yet truly moving play. I hopefully await any sequel – perhaps a parallel play about Coleridge – as a way of understanding our own lives and times through witnessing these life experiences and the words we are left with. A bit like the surrounding fells, these are remote and admirable yet strangely accessible people.


Crummock Water

Crummock Water


The header is taken from the English Touring Theatre webpage, where there are more images of the cast here. The Theatre by the Lake photograph is from Google, and the other photographs are the author’s own, all taken in the North Lakes near Keswick.

Lyn Dawes is a consultant in Education, specialising in Primary Science and Spoken Language. She is author of a range of books for teachers and school students, most recently Talking Points (Routledge, 2012) Talking Points for Shakespeare Plays (Routledge, 2013) and Talk Box (Routledge 2107). Lyn provides interactive workshops for teachers and education managers wishing to promote engagement and achievement through the teaching of oracy in primary classrooms. Lyn lives in Cockermouth, Cumbria.

CFA: Making Masculinity: Craft, Gender, and Material Production in the Long Nineteenth-Century


Guest Editors:  Dr Katie Faulkner (The Courtauld Institute of Art and Arcadia University) Dr Freya Gowrley (University of Edinburgh)

This special issue of Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies will use ‘craft’ as a framework for understanding how various forms of masculinity were constructed and expressed during the long nineteenth-century (1789-1914) in Britain and internationally.

Deadline for completed manuscripts: 30 October 2017

Please send all manuscripts and/or queries to


CFA: Making Masculinity: Craft, Gender, and Material Production in the Long Nineteenth-Century

Picture1Narratives focusing on the heroic male artist and privileging the ‘fine art’ over the ‘decorative’ emerged in the nineteenth century and were perpetuated by modernist writers and formalist art historians throughout the twentieth century. Yet the continuing preoccupation with the male genius and his masterpieces has been challenged by feminist interventions in art historical scholarship, often by reintroducing the significance of craft, and its female practitioners, into histories of material production. This endeavour has found a particular ally in material culture studies. Unburdened by art historical divisions between the fine and decorative arts, high art and craft, a substantial literature on the relationship between women and material culture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries has recently emerged (see for example Maureen Daly Goggin and Beth Fowkes Tobin’s four-part edited collection on Women and Things: Gendered Material Strategies, 1750-1950 (2009), Material Women, 1750-1950: Consuming Desires and Collecting Practices(2009), Women and the Material Culture of Needlework and Textiles, 1750-1950 (2009), and Women and the Material Culture of Death (2013)). Despite this historiographical richness, the figure of the male crafter is noticeably absent from the history of nineteenth-century art and culture, aside from notable exceptions associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement, such as William Morris and Charles Robert Ashbee, and organisations like the Art Worker’s Guild.

Nevertheless, the ideas and practices of craft permeated the very fabric of everyday life in the nineteenth century. As a material category, craft encompasses a diverse range of objects, the production of which was central to a number of professional and personal masculine identities. Produced within or outside of the art academy or studio, made singly or collaboratively, and used to express both public and private selves, craft provides a compelling metaphor for thinking about how nineteenth-century masculinity was itself ‘made’. Focusing on objects and figures that have previously been overlooked within scholarship, the issue will reveal forgotten narratives and ignored identities, thereby providing an alternative material record of masculinity in the long nineteenth century.


This interdisciplinary special issue will explore the material and metaphorical role of craft in constructing nineteenth-century masculinities, enriching an already vibrant secondary literature on gender and material culture. We encourage submissions of 5,000-8,000 words on any aspect of the relationship between masculinity and craft during the period 1789-1914. Submissions that are accepted will be subject to blind peer-review. Potential topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • tensions between domestic practices and professional craftsmanship
  • collaboration and homosociability
  • craft and queer masculinities
  • craft and emotion
  • craft and recuperation
  • the arts and crafts movement
  • craft made by prisoners, soldiers, and sailors
  • craft as an elite hobby/craft as a labouring class pursuit
  • craft in the age of mechanical reproduction
  • craft and dress
  • craft as/and self-fashioning
  • craft as activism
  • the idea of masculinity as ‘crafted’

Images: Rodolphe Christen, George Sim in His Workshop, Aberdeen, 1890, oil on canvas. Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums & J.M.W. Turner, An Artists’ Colourman’s Workshop, c. 1807, oil on wood. Tate.

Original post from Freya Gowrley here.