BARS Blog

BARS Blog

News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

Expanded Wordsworth Trust Fellowship Scheme

BARS is very pleased to announce that it is expanding its Fellowship scheme in partnership with the Wordsworth Trust so that two early career scholars will have the chance to develop their skills while in residence for a month in Grasmere during the coming academic year.  Please see below for details of how to apply.

jerwood-centre
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 for their proposed project. Send the application as an attached Word file to Jeff Cowton and Daniel Cook (J.Cowton@wordsworth.org.uk and d.p.cook@dundee.ac.uk) no later than 30 September 2017. The successful candidate will be informed within two weeks.

BARS 2017 Reports: Part II

More reports from BARS 2017! Thank you to the bursary winners who sent these in.

See the storify here, and part one here.

 

Yasser Shams Khan – University of Oxford

This was the first BARS conference I had attended and it was truly a treat! The conference offered a great opportunity to witness the exciting directions the field of Romantic studies was taking. The opening plenary by Catherine Hall on colonial slavery and its impact on the development of many towns around England never thought to have been associated with the abhorrent institution was as good an opening as one could expect, especially since the theme for the conference was Romantic Improvement. It set the tone for the rest of the conference with papers ranging from improvements from laboring class poetry to interrogations into moral and sentimental improvement. Two panels of particular interest to me were those on illegitimate theatres, presented as a tribute to the late Jane Moody. As my work deals with romantic period drama and racial representation, the papers in these panels offered me great insights and I managed to learn a lot. My own paper dealt with the political valence of the trope of the Noble Savage in the various adaptations of Oroonoko across the eighteenth century. I received some really good feedback on my paper which gave me a lot to think about. The conference was very well organised thanks to the tremendous work put in by the organisers and the dedicated student volunteers. Their effort is much appreciated.

Apart from the conference, the city was a joy to walk through with the beautiful sights around the old wall. The streets and the sight of the York Minster was just fabulous on those rare occasions the sun peeked out of the clouds. It was all in all a great experience. I look forward to my next BARS conference.

 

Our conference packs

Our conference packs

 

James M. Morris – Universities of Dundee and Glasgow

Embodying the ethos of the British Association for Romantic Studies as an organisation, the University of York’s BARS 2017 conference managed to combine intellectual rigour with a friendly, relaxed and encouraging atmosphere. With a panoply of papers covering the theme of ‘improvement’ in a broad variety of forms and contexts, delegates were spoilt for choice and, short of being able to be in two places at once, I most definitely missed as many great paper as I managed to hear. Warmly hosted by the conference organisers and supported by a team of knowledgeable and helpful postgraduates, the conference not only provided me with a chance to present on Scott and develop some ideas for the future, but also opened my eyes to entirely new fields of research. As is the case with all of the best conferences, indeed, I spent the days following BARS in a flurry of reading, keen to pursue some of the ideas discussed both in papers and during the all-important coffee, lunch, and wine breaks.

With the musical stylings of Le Strange and Maxim’s, ‘Lyrical (Power) Ballads’ offering an unforgettable soundtrack to the conference, BARS 2017 will not only be, for me, a fond memory, but will also be key in the development of my future work and research. Many thanks to the organisers for providing all delegates with such a great weekend!

 

York Minster on day 1

York Minster on day 1

 

Caitlin Kitchener – University of York 

BARS 2017 was certainly a conference that improved me intellectually. Coming from archaeology rather than a literature background threw me into the proverbial deep end, with my notebook filling up names, theories, and ideas I was previously unaware of. The session I spoke in was particularly enlightening due to the fruitful and stimulating discussion that followed the papers. Alison Morgan’s paper on the songs and poetry of Peterloo was fascinating too and her forthcoming anthology should prove to be a useful and interesting book. Ideas of sound and soundscapes, the role of material culture in constructing spaces and landscapes, where the snuff boxes of Bob the horse may be, and the importance of tunes in poetry and songs of radicalism and protest were all explored. Overall, it was an engaging conference and I am grateful for the bursary that allowed me to experience it and Theresa May’s lyrical ballads.

 

The venue

The venue

 

Alexis Wolf – Birkbeck, University of London

BARS 2017: Romantic Improvement was a truly engaging conference that brought together scholars from across the world. King’s Manor provided a stunning conference venue in the heart of medieval York, and the team from the University of York put together a wonderful event. I’m surely not the only delegate who will forever cherish the memory of Christabel being sung to the tune of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’. Numerous concurrent panels made selecting one quite difficult, particularly given the wide range of topics in Romanticism included in the programme.

Women’s writing was especially well represented at this year’s conference. The first of two panels on Improvement in Austen’s Novels kicked off this thread, with papers by Joe Morrissey, Emma Clery and Rita Dashwood, all of which suggested nuanced readings of women’s agency in Austen’s fiction. My own paper on forms of improvement across variant versions of Katherine Wilmot’s circulated travelogue manuscripts was situated on a panel with Nick Mason, Sarah Faulkner and Susan Civale. The panel stirred a thought-provoking debate on methodologies for researching and recovering Romantic women’s life writing and biography. An excellent panel on the Leverhulme-funded project on The Lady’s Magazine argued for a new appraisal of the periodical, with Chloe Wigston Smith, Jennie Batchelor and Jenny DiPlacidi all presenting compelling research that resituates The Lady’s Magazine as a community building and intellectually stimulating forum for women readers and writers of the Romantic Period.

Other highlights included a panel on Print Culture and Knowledge, with Anthony Mandal rediscovering gothic networks in the Romantic book trade, Marianne Brooker investigating Coleridge’s fluttering, fugitive knowledge, and Gillian Russell exploring the ephemeral ballooning trail of Sarah Sophia Banks. Nigel Leask’s plenary took us on a hilarious Scottish tour alongside two outlandish pedestrian vagabonds, raising questions about the limits of philosophy and hospitality in Romantic travel literature. The conference dinner at the Merchant Adventurers Hall provided a lovely cap to the proceedings, with Professor Jon Mee stepping in as quiz master for all things York-related.

The BARS conferences continue to offer an exciting range of research while also provide a welcoming space for collegiality among Romanticists. I’m already looking forward to the next meeting in Nottingham in 2019.

 

Christy Edwall (University of Oxford)

‘Romantic Improvements’ was my first international BARS conference and my notebook is filled with the detritus of twenty panels: of James Hogg’s fictional sojourn in South Africa, John Clare’s involvement with the politically significant Beerhouse Act of 1830, and Shelley’s ruinous poetics.  My paper on Clare’s transcriptions of Keats found echoes in Casie LeGette’s paper on the Co-operative Movement’s suggestive reprintings of poems by Southey and Wordsworth – a connection I’ll be sure to follow up. Most fruitful perhaps were the new friendships – cemented at the pub and within earshot of a brilliant combination of Lyrical Ballads, togas, eighties rock, and political satire. After failing dismally at the BARS quiz, held during the conference dinner in the rich-timbered Merchant Adventurer’s Hall, I’ll never forget that it was Frank Churchill’s aunt who lived in Yorkshire. Nor will I lose hope that some enterprising filmmaker will turn Nigel Leask’s pair of philosophical vagabonds travelling through Scotland into the subject of a Michael Winterbottom Trip-like film: green-tinted glasses, disintegrating sailor’s outfits and all! Thanks to all the organisers, to the York Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies, and for the wonderful King’s Manor for hosting the conference.

David Hume and the National Library of Scotland: Copley Report

See below for a report from Rebecca Davies (NTNU, Trondheim, Norway). Rebecca was awarded a BARS Stephen Copley Research Award, and she explains her subsequent research activity here.

Rebecca Davies – Stephen Copley Award Report

I used the award to visit to the National Library of Scotland’s special collections to begin what will eventually be an extensive examination of the letters of David Hume, as part of a broader consideration of his epistemology. This research will be incorporated into my current project on the treatment of ‘genius’ and precocity – or ingenia proecocia – in educational writing of the long eighteenth century. I am interested in how Hume – in his unguarded moments where he is not consciously the philosopher – represents human ‘powers and faculties’, and the nature of knowledge, relative to both childhood education and knowledge acquisition into adulthood. The work carried out in the NLS informs a chapter exploring the treatment of genius, learning and cognition in Enlightenment epistemology, to reassess and relocate Romantic conceptions of creative genius. As Paul Bruno has observed, Hume does not explicitly comment upon genius in the sense of originality and untutored talent in his published works. Consequently, my key focus for this research was whether he engages with the subject, even obliquely, in his private writings, through discussions of reading, education and knowledge acquisition. I was also interested in his conception of education more broadly.

Although, unsurprisingly, the archives did not reveal any letters on the topic that have not been already published by Grieg, it was nevertheless useful to view the contents in an unmediated form, to trace themes of study, intellect, and Hume’s perception of the physical effects of thought and education without an overt chronological and biographical focus. The letters provided some diverse and interesting commentaries regarding Hume’s own education and attitude to knowledge and learning. Although well known, some key examples of this focus on knowledge and learning appear in the famous ‘Letter to an Anonymous Physician’ – where he notes the necessity of forgetting the reasoning of the ancients in order to come to a better understanding of the ‘truth’ – and his discussion of Rousseau’s unlearned ‘genius’, before their infamous feud. The most useful letters for my purpose were more esoteric, such as those addressed to his friend Baron Mure, written in the 1760s, reporting on the suspect pedagogy of the teacher Graffigni at the school Mure’s young sons were attending. Hume is singularly unimpressed by Graffigni’s ‘novel’ methods of teaching Latin, which he claims will not advance the understanding of the young people. In comparison, his letters to and from his nephew’s tutor, Mr Blacklock, demonstrate a harmonious agreement regarding the ideal methods for knowledge acquisition. These letters will form the basis of an examination of the practical application of epistemological theory in pedagogy, specifically relative to notions of ability and understanding in the pupils.

The generosity of the award enabled me to look at MS23151-23153 over the course of five days, and establish the usefulness of investigating this resource further.

Staging Nineteenth-Century Melodrama at the Georgian Theatre Royal

Staging Nineteenth-Century Melodrama at the Georgian Theatre Royal

The Fortress on the Danube is being performed at the Georgian Theatre Royal, Yorkshire, on Friday 25 August, 7.30pm. Director: Sarah Wynne Kordas; Musical Director: Diane Tisdall; Dramaturge: Sarah Burdett. Tickets can be purchased here.

By Sarah Burdett (University of Warwick)
For the past five months, I have been working as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Warwick on the exciting practice-based research project ‘Staging Napoleonic Theatre’. The project, led by Dr Katherine Astbury, and funded by the AHRC, has involved staging two nineteenth-century French melodramas in translation. Roseliska, a melodrama of 1811, written and performed by French prisoners of war at Portchester Castle, was revived at the site of its original production in July 2017; and La Forteresse du Danube, (translated as The Fortress), by prolific French playwright Guilbert Pixerécourt, initially staged at the Théatre de la Porte Saint-Martin in 1805, is being revived at the Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond, on 25 August 2017. One down, one to go!

 

fortress-advert
As a British theatre historian who has spent the last four years hunched over manuscripts of Georgian play-texts in dark and silent libraries, the experience of bringing these scripts back to life in my role as dramaturge – of furnishing them with the spectacular and aural vibrancy that the written text alone cannot provide – has been both exhilarating and enlightening. Recent Romantic theatre scholarship has stressed the need for the play text to be read alongside its visual, aural and oral elements, in order for its theatrical impact to be adequately comprehended. Nowhere is this statement more true than in relation to the nineteenth-century melodrama, as I have discovered first hand while working on this project.

 
Popularised in both France and Britain in the aftermath of the French Revolution, the melodrama sought to provide entertainment emotionally powerful enough to stimulate the minds of a public traumatised by the recent violence in France. In order to achieve this, the genre fully exploited all that the nineteenth-century theatre, its actors and musicians, had to offer in terms of scenic and musical extravagance. As well as making full use of advancements in technology, which enabled the inclusion in melodramatic performances of explosions formed by fireworks, and naval battles performed on flooded stages, the melodrama’s elaborate spectacle was enhanced by a style of acting that consisted of large and elaborate gestures. In the melodrama, nothing is left concealed. Characters are open books whose emotions are externalised clearly and unambiguously through the use of entirely demonstrative gesticulations, movements, and facial expressions. Bodies do the talking: they tell us what characters are thinking and feeling without the need for monologues. Essentially, the body surpasses the script in terms of emotional expression.

 
The emotional intensity enabled by this expressive style of acting is strongly accentuated by the use of stirring, provocative music. Melodramatic music, provided by an orchestra, plays an integral function in shaping audiences’ responses to the scenes exhibited on stage. Like the actor’s body, music provides another form of non-verbal communication. As well as serving to enable sound effects for occurrences including dramatic storms and battles, music can also anticipate forthcoming events, hark back to previous scenes, magnify a character’s inner thoughts, accentuate externalised feelings, and encourage audiences when to cheer, when to boo, and when to remain silent. Lengthy interludes of instrumental music often accompany moments of high drama within melodramatic performances. Actors move in sync to the orchestra’s music, creating scenes that, while entirely lacking words, and therefore occupying little space in the play text, can last for a good three to four minutes when exhibited on the stage. The melodrama, therefore, becomes an entirely different beast when experienced in the theatre, than it does when confined to the page.

 

thomas-fortress-2

 

How then do you go about reviving a nineteenth-century melodrama to be staged before a twenty-first century audience? This is the question that myself and the Staging Napoleonic Theatre team continue to grapple with as we approach our performance of The Fortress at the Georgian Theatre Royal. One of the biggest challenges we experienced when staging the first of our two melodramas, Roseliska, was encouraging modern day performers to act in a manner that they considered at first to be grossly over the top. With twenty-first century acting styles being dominated by the influences of Stanislavski and naturalism, it is entirely unsurprising that melodramatic techniques tend not to sit too comfortably with twenty-first century actors. To accommodate this, we have been working with our performers on exercises revolving around mime and tableaux. These were largely inspired by the wonderful collection of essays published in the special edition of Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film (Winter, 2002), edited by Gilli Bush-Bailey and Jackie Bratton, documenting the process of reviving melodramas by nineteenth-century British playwright Jane Scott, as part of the ‘Jane Scott Project’. I drew heavily on Dick McCaw’s essay in this collection, on training actors for melodrama, at the workshop/audition we held at the Georgian Theatre Royal back in June, from which we acquired our Fortress cast.

 

painful-recollection-2
To kick off the workshop, we had each of our participants describe how there morning had been thus far, in the form of mime. The exercise got participants thinking immediately about how to express themselves physically, using entirely non-verbal signs. Scheduling this as the first activity of the day, and using it as much to introduce participants to one another, as to get them thinking about melodramatic techniques, the exercise also quickly banished any inhibitions that the actors might have held about externalising their feelings in this peculiar manner, in front of a group of strangers. We then moved on to look at how narratives might be formed using freeze frames. Entirely pilfering McCaw’s ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’ exercise, I gave our actors the task of acting out popular nursery rhymes in small groups, using a series of tableaux. These tableaux were then put into motion, creating a fluid sequence of movements. This exercise built on the opening ice-breaker, by encouraging actors to think about how they might go from conveying one very specific emotion/action to another, without allowing the narrative they are creating to become staccato. Fluidity of movement and of emotional expression are crucial skills for melodramatic actors. As I hinted previously, actors are often required to convey an entire series of emotions within the space of a single piece of music. Therefore, the ability to shift swiftly, coherently, and melodiously from one clearly defined pose to another, is a technique that must be mastered.

 

richmond-workshop-2

 

Accordingly, a lot of our workshop was devoted to musicality. Our musical director, Dr Diane Tisdall, played tunes on her violin from the original Forteresse score, and our actors were tasked with the challenge of responding to these tunes in character. Music was shown to play an incredibly authoritative role in determining the manner in which the actors interpreted the character they were playing. At one point in The Fortress, the lieutenant Olivier is faced with a moral dilemma: should he obey love or duty? While he silently contemplates this choice on stage, orchestral music helps to externalise his feelings. At the workshop, we experimented with changing the pace and tempo of this music. We found that doing so had a profound impact on the way that the role of Olivier was played. When the music was at its slowest, actors tended to play Olivier as a mournful, indecisive, and somewhat self-pitying character, distraught at the prospect of having to make such an unfair decision. When the music was at its fastest however, Olivier was shown to deal quickly with the emotional turmoil caused by the conflict, and to reach a frantic but firm resolution by the time that the music had ceased. This exercise indicated to our actors the collaborative role played by composers, musicians, and performers, in dictating the narrative’s meaning.

 

joy-2

 

 

We went on to introduce our actors to popular nineteenth-century acting manuals including Henry Siddons’s Practical Illustrations of Rhetorical Gesture, and the anonymously written Thespian Preceptor. These manuals offer visual and verbal descriptions of the ways in which certain emotions were externalised by performers on the nineteenth-century stage. While by no means offering prescriptive guides, the manuals provide valuable insight into the expressiveness of the poses, gestures, and facial expressions conveyed by performers of the time. Reviews of nineteenth-century melodramas printed in contemporary British newspapers, periodicals, diaries and letters have also been shared with performers. One brilliantly fun review of a melodrama staged in London in 1832 pokes fun at an actor’s incessant use of his arms, by comparing them to the sails of a windmill! This review was particularly helpful in assuring our modern day actors that, despite how ostentatious their gestures might feel, they are entirely in keeping with melodramatic extravagance.

 

thomas-fortress

 

This week the Staging Napoleonic Theatre team is up in Richmond, Yorkshire, ahead of our performance of the Fortress at the Georgian Theatre Royal on Friday 25 August. For this performance, we are working with a community cast, many of whom had never heard of Pixerécourt prior to their involvement in the play, but have quickly become experts in the dramatic genre that he pioneered. Following the fantastic reception that Roseliska received when performed at Portchester castle last month, we have discovered that there is definitely still a place for nineteenth-century melodrama on the twenty-first century stage. And what better stage to perform this on, than that of the country’s oldest working Georgian theatre, upon whose boards the likes of Sarah Siddons, Edmund Kean, and William McCready have previously stood? So, if you’re still wondering how one might go about reviving a nineteenth-century melodrama for a twenty-first century audience, come along and see for yourselves! We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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.

 

thelwall03

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.

 

thelwall04

‘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.

 

thelwall08

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.