Thanks to the Stephen Copley Research Award granted by BARS, I was able to spend a week in Weimar (Germany) to consult Friedrich Nietzsche’s Nachlass and work with manuscripts related to Nietzsche’s reading of Lord Byron, P.B. Shelley and Giacomo Leopardi. My doctoral thesis investigates notions of grief, death and posterity in the works of Byron, Shelley and Leopardi as a result of their readings of the Promethean myth from Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound. I avow that the Romantics’ fragmented poetic thoughts between hubris and nemesis anticipate the Nietzschean discourse of modernity as divided and contradictory.
My research residence began with a visit to the Nietzsche Archiv museum, dedicated to Nietzsche’s last days in Villa Silberblick before his death. From the very moment I entered the building, I remembered Nietzsche’s letter from 1884 where he bemoans: ‘Who knows how many generations must pass before people will come who can feel the whole depth of what I have done!’ In retrospect, Nietzsche’s letter seemed to me to echo Virgil’s line from the first book of Georgics, ‘scilicet et tempus veniet’, raising the question of what we can truly know of the time to come.
Nietzsche Archiv Museum
Looking at the portrait of Nietzsche in the museum as a man consumed day by day by an ill-fated disease, it seemed to me that the moribund philosopher silently lamented the paradox of the philosopher, between the deception of ambition derived from knowledge and the unfolding reality of suffering, a dilemma that finds in death an ultimate salvation. The portrait and epistle from 1884 reveal Nietzsche’s uncertainty regarding posterity and his rejoicing in the certainty of death ceasing his anguish. Having left the museum, I contemplated how Nietzsche’s mournful meditations chimed with the scepticism and gloom embedded in the works of Byron, Shelley and Leopardi. We can think, for example, of Shelley’s ‘Ode to the West Wind’ (‘O Wind, / If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?’), Byron’s Don Juan (‘What is the end of fame? ‘tis but to fill / A certain portion of uncertain paper’) and Leopardi’s Sappho’s Last Song (‘after endless/ Hoped-for honours and enjoyed illusions,/ Only Tartarus remains’).
The visit to the Nietzsche Archiv proved itself beneficial for the later consultation of Nietzsche’s Nachlass. From letters to friends (Erwin Rohde and Marie Baumgarten) and family (his mother Franziska Nietzsche and sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche) I could access, though in brief form, Nietzsche’s commentaries on the poetry of Shelley and Leopardi. In a letter to his sister from 1861, Nietzsche requests a copy of Shelley’s poetry edited by Julius Seybt (1844) and in a letter to Erwin Rohde from 1877, Nietzsche praises the English Romantic for the poetic achievement of Prometheus Unbound. Additionally, the letter to Rohde is compelling because Nietzsche comments how he found in Shelley a version of himself, philosophically and poetically. A few years after reading Shelley, Nietzsche received from Marie Baumgarten a copy of Leopardi’s poetry edited by Paul Heyse (1878). The 1878 epistle to Baumgarten about Leopardi attests to Nietzsche’s fascination regarding the Italian Romantic and his delightfully gloomy poetry. However, later in the epistle Nietzsche points out a philosophical detour from Leopardi’s pessimism. Nietzsche illuminates that Leopardi’s poetry is suffused with a profound sense of resignation regarding the gloom of human existence. By contrast, the German philosopher argues that such gloom should be contemplated in order to apprehend human suffering.
The final days of research were spent reading and working on Nietzsche’s unpublished essay Über die dramatischen Dichtungen Byrons (‘On the dramatic Works of Byron’), written at the age of 17. Though Nietzsche argues that Byron is not a dramatist because his works lack of dramatic objectivity, the essay presents a fond enthusiasm for the English poet. Nietzsche writes that Byron’s poetry resembles the rage of a volcanic explosion that falls into a sinister tranquillity, and also contends that his poetry contains the diseases of the world within the purity of his lyricism. Nietzsche offers an interesting example of Byron’s poetics by looking at Manfred. He comments that Manfred encompasses a Byronic superhuman despair and, through the protagonist of the dramatic poem, Byron is capable of performing, theatrically, the stormy hall of his poetic thoughts. Thus, Nietzsche concludes, Byron deconstructs in Manfred a discourse about knowledge, confessions about a disordered world and the notion of divine self-consciousness.
Reading Nietzsche’s unpublished essay on Byron, and his letters on Shelley and Leopardi, allowed me to assess Nietzsche’s familiarity with the three Romantic poets, who, interestingly, seem to be depicted as poetic titans who were forerunners of the Olympian Pantheon of what Nietzsche calls his ‘Gay Science’. I am deeply grateful to BARS for granting me this opportunity and I am sure the research in Weimar will be of great value for the completion of my doctoral thesis.
This post will support the exciting Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project Unlocking the Mary Hamilton Papers. This ambitious Digital Humanities project will use a uniquely rich, but largely unexplored, archive to explore a diverse – yet related – set of research questions on reading, letter-writing and language practices in Georgian England.
This post will explore the commonalities and differences in the operation and the relevance to reading, writing and everyday language of the social networks around Mary Hamilton, and how textual traces of reader circulation, reception and response contained in the Hamilton Papers help us to think differently about eighteenth-century literature.
You should have completed a PhD (or equivalent) in English Literature, or History, or Art History or other allied field focusing on the period 1740-1830, and have a strong grasp of recent debates in at least one of the following fields; gender studies, Bluestocking culture, social networks, digital humanities, public humanities.
You should have excellent analytical and writing skills, experience of working with a variety of archival sources in archives and libraries and strong palaeographic skills.
You should also be well organised and be able to work both independently and as part of a team. A record of publication, of presenting your research to academic audiences, of promoting research via social media and of public engagement or impact are desirable, as it familiarity with Digital Humanities and using software applications for research.
We expect to hold interviews for the post between 8 and 10 October 2019
As an equal opportunities employer we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments will be made on merit.
Please note that we are unable to respond to enquiries, accept CVs or applications from Recruitment Agencies.
British Romanticism and Europe, 5-8 July 2020, Monte Verità conference center, Ascona, Switzerland
Organisers: Patrick Vincent, David Duff, and Simon Swift
Keynote Speakers: Christoph Bode, Biancamaria Fontana, and Paul Hamilton
British Romanticism is part of European Romanticism and British writers drew inspiration from personal and cultural links with mainland Europe as well as the many forms of Continental travel. This international conference will explore the manifold relations between Britain and Europe during the Romantic period, taking advantage of recent work on transnational circulations and exchanges and a growing interest in comparative methodology. The conference will question stereotypes of Great Britain as insular by highlighting the island-nation’s European identity and its participation in a pan-European Romanticism shaped by transnational cultural dialogue and the cross-fertilization of art forms and disciplines. The aim is to uncover the channels and mechanisms by which Romantic ideas and influences were conveyed across national and disciplinary boundaries and to examine the role of individuals, communities and institutions in this complex transmission process. As well as directing attention to the often-overlooked international dimension of British Romanticism, the conference aims, by bringing together scholars working in Britain and on mainland Europe, to help develop the expanding research network on European Romanticism. Held at Monte Verità, an international conference centre in Ascona in the Swiss canton of Ticino which was formerly the site of a utopian community attracting intellectuals from across Europe, the conference will be divided between plenary lectures, invited panels, and open panel sessions. There will also be a public round-table discussion on British Romanticism and the Italian Lakes, as well as an excursion to Lake Como.
There will be nine invited panel sessions on the following topics: British Romanticism and Italy, British Romanticism and Scandinavia, British Romanticism and France, European Romantic Historicism, late Romanticism, travel and material culture, Romanticism and the environment, Romantic women’s networks, and European Romanticism and / in Britain.
To fill the open panel sessions, we invite proposals for 20-minute papers on any aspect of the conference topic, including:
European Romantic networks
Romantic mediations and mediating figures
Romantic salons, communities, and constellations
Romantic disseminations and circulations
Romantic theories of ‘Europe’
European Romantic politics
European Romantic aesthetics
Romantic Europhobia and Europhilia
Romantic exile and displacement
British relations with Northern, Southern, and Eastern Romanticisms
British Romanticism and Continental philosophy
British Romanticism and Continental science
British Romanticism and European travel
Britain’s Four Nations and Europe
We encourage junior scholars from mainland Europe to apply, and in order to cut down on carbon emissions, urge attendees to travel by train.
The ideal candidate will have broad familiarity with the state of Romantic studies, strong editing and organizational skills, and some social media savvy and will bring creative and innovative energy to the project.
The position is open to scholars worldwide and in any stages of their careers, but we do ask for a three-year commitment.
Please send a cv and very brief (less than one page) letter of interest to RCReviewsandReceptions@gmail.com. Candidates may be asked to interview via Skype with Orrin Wang, one of the General Editors of Romantic Circles, and with Suzanne Barnett and Ross Wilson, current Associate Editors of Reviews & Receptions.
British Association for Romantic Studies Early Career and Postgraduate Conference
Keats House, London, 12-13 June 2020
Professor Michael Gamer (University of Pennsylvania)
Dr Emily Rohrbach (University of Manchester)
The BARS Early Career and Postgraduate Conference invites an examination into the pluralistic theme of ‘futurities’ in Romantic-period literature and thought. This examination is inclusive of, but not limited to, the historical future, the anticipatory future, posterity, and the future of the field of Romanticism. The conference will bring together early-career and postgraduate researchers whose work addresses futurity from a wide range of perspectives: from historical depictions of the future, to writers’ concerns with posterity, to the future of the field of Romanticism in regard to rethinking the canon, pedagogical approaches, and digital humanities.
We encourage a wide interpretation of ‘futurities’. Topics of interest may include:
Backward Glances (the anterior future, or the historical moment as future)
The Utopian and Dystopian
Science and Invention
Radicalism, Rights, and Revolution
Lost Futures (early and unanticipated deaths, unpublished works)
Prophecy and Apocalypse
Time and Temporality
Modernity and Posterity
Ecology and the Environment (‘dark ecology’ and the Anthropocene)
Please send 250-word abstracts for 20-minute papers to email@example.com by 31 January 2020 including a 100-word biography. We also welcome 250-word abstracts for poster presentations separate from or in addition to papers. Posters cannot be presented in absentia.
The Conference Organising Committee are looking for PGR students who would like to be Conference Helpers and assist with stewarding the event. If you are a PGR student, please send your expression of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 30th 2019. Our conference website has a specific page entitled ‘Volunteers’. A more detailed breakdown of the responsibilities of this role can be found here. If you have any other queries, please do get in touch.
Today on the BARS Blog is a report from ‘Reading Nineteenth-Century Periodicals’, a special event in Manchester earlier this year. This event was part-sponsored by BARS. The report is by Dr Emma Liggins, Senior Lecturer in English Literature. You can follow English at Manchester Met on Twitter here.
Find out how to apply for sponsorship from BARS here.
Reading Nineteenth-Century Periodicals, North West Long Nineteenth Century Seminar, 17 July 2019
The celebratory event ‘Reading Nineteenth-Century Periodicals, with thanks to Margaret Beetham’, was held at Manchester Metropolitan University in July 2019, as the summer event of the North West Long Nineteenth Century Seminar. It was co-organised by Emma Liggins (Manchester Metropolitan University), Annemarie McAllister (University of Central Lancashire) and Andrew Hobbs (University of Central Lancashire) to mark Margaret’s 80thbirthday. We celebrated Margaret’s outstanding contribution to feminist and periodical research and her ongoing influence on our ways of reading and working with periodicals, cookbooks and women’s writing in the long nineteenth century. Her pioneering book A Magazine of her Own: Domesticity and Desire in the Woman’s Magazine, 1800-1914 (1996), and her work on servants’ reading, cookbooks and class, have been hugely influential in the field. The event brought together independent researchers, students, and scholars at different stages of their careers. Many members of the audience knew Margaret’s work well and had worked with her in the past, but it was also an opportunity to bring her work to the attention of a new generation of researchers. In a tribute to Isabella Beeton, the famous cookbook author and editor of The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine brought to light in Margaret’s research, we enjoyed home-made cakes in the coffee and lunch-breaks –the Bakewell tart was a triumph!
The first session focussed on late nineteenth and early twentieth-century periodicals and their readers. Solveig Robinson opened the day with an examination of the mediation of notions of motherhood and domestic management in the scientific mother’s magazine Baby. Gemma Outen responded to Margaret’s claim that there was a ‘dearth of specific information’ about readers to think about the imagined readership of the temperance journal Wings, drawing on census returns to plot the characteristics of the ‘average reader’. Margaret’s own paper ‘Situated Knowledges’: or the Back Door’ drew on Donna Harraway’s work to offer a history of developments in cultural theory she had witnessed in her sixty-year career and the ‘back-door knowledge’ scholars need to draw on in order to ‘open some windows in the house of Victorian studies’. She also reflected on coming through the ‘back door’ to literary studies where she would question the canonical texts being taught and draw on her involvement with the Women’s Movement in her teaching and research. This led to an ongoing discussion throughout the day about the implications of the ‘demise’ of Women’s Studies, the changing face of feminist scholarship and reinventing the curriculum.
Tributes by a range of scholars who had worked with, and/or been taught by, Margaret, emphasised her generosity with early career researchers and research students, her encouragement of collaboration and the ways in which conversations always lead to a greater understanding of the complexities of texts. Brian Maidment spoke about the importance of her early work on class and (as co-conspirator) her challenging of the establishment. Kay Boardman highlighted the excitement of collaborating with Margaret on the Victorian women’s magazines anthology, remembering the assemblage of a new taxonomy from the piles of paper and magazines on an office floor in the days before digitization. Angelica Michelis celebrated Margaret’s support for her female colleagues at Manchester Metropolitan University and her important contribution to food studies, particularly the complexities of cook-books and consumption. Finally, Ginette Carpenter spoke of the way in which Margaret had given her the confidence as a research student to develop her own independent thinking and to grapple with the complexities of reading and the woman reader.
The final postgraduate panel on ‘The Challenges of Archival Research’, which was funded by BARS, was also a chance to think about new directions in periodical studies. Transnational and transatlantic exchanges, as well as the need for more work on readers of colour, were mentioned several times. Margaret’s most recent work on missionary journals in the twentieth century, set alongside exciting recent work by Caroline Bressey and Deborah Logan, is indicative of the need to keep thinking about the legacies of empire and globalisation. Victoria Clarke (University of Leeds) talked about the readership community of the Chartist newspaper, The Northern Star and the challenges of using corpus linguistics methods to analyse the uses of the words ‘manly’ and ‘womanly’ in its articles. Her approach demonstrated the uses of digitisation to advance ways of thinking about Chartism, gender and protest. The different uses of the language of interrogation in the proceedings presented in the Old Bailey online and press coverage of events from the 1760s were the subject of a fascinating presentation by Tamara Kaminsky (University of Exeter). Finally, Catherine Elkin (Manchester Metropolitan University) gave an entertaining account of her unsuccessful search for advertisements for baby-farmers in the late-nineteenth-century Manchester press. This was revealing of the difficulties of finding the right search terms; adverts about nurses rather than coded adverts for baby-farmers seemed to be more plentiful. Paying attention to the ways in which contentious constructions of motherhood are mediated in periodical culture linked back to Solveig Robinson’s discussion of baby science.
In the Q and A participants talked about European and American readers of British periodicals, the regional appeal of branch reports organised by location in newspapers of political organisations, the placing of journalism about Northern cities and choices about case studies in the attempt to avoid the limitations of being ‘London-centric’. Issues of locality and regionality were also identified as an ongoing concern. This final discussion showed how a new generation of scholars were making effective use of data from digital archives to develop knowledge of readerships, periodical communities and linguistic variation in newspapers. It also foregrounded both the frustrations and the possibilities of trying to predict results and coming up with either something vastly different or nothing at all. This acknowledgement of the complexities of periodical research and the diversity and heterogeneity of nineteenth-century periodicals is a crucial aspect of Margaret Beetham’s legacy.
A selection of the papers given at the seminar, as well as a roundtable on Margaret’s work, will appear in a future edition of Victorian Periodicals Review, edited by Andrew Hobbs and Gemma Outen.
– Emma Liggins (Manchester Metropolitan University), August 2019
Posted in Conference Reports by Anna Mercer Comments Off on Conference Report: Reading Nineteenth-Century Periodicals, Manchester Metropolitan University
Keynote speaker Professor Jerome McGann (University of Virginia).
Professor McGann, one of the world’s leading Byron scholars for over thirty years, is not only editor of Byron’s Complete Poetical Works, but has also written a huge range of critical essays and books on Byron and his poems.
Published anonymously in the summer of 1819, the first two cantos of Byron’s ‘satirical epic’ Don Juan provided the reading public with a work which self-consciously raised and challenged received ideas about fame, originality, and literary merit and was admired and reviled in almost equal measure. The first two cantos became an overnight sensation, inspiring countless attacks against their sexual and religious infidelities, the bitingly acerbic social and political commentaries, the horrifying burlesquing of scenes of death and destruction, and the generalised irreverence. While some were shuddering with outrage, others saw the significant commercial opportunities offered by Byron’s ‘Donny Jonny’, with parodies, musical adaptations, and ‘new’ Cantos flooding the market alongside the numerous pirated copies.
Submissions relating to any aspect of Don Juan are welcome, however papers connected with the first two cantos are of particular interest. Suggested topics include but are not limited to:
Byron’s sources, influences and inspirations for Don Juan
Techniques, conventions and tropes used in Don Juan
The contemporary reception of Don Juan (critical reception popular and
working-class reception, male vs female reception, metropolitan vs rural
reception, reception in Britain and other countries) and Byron’s responses
Later critical and creative responses to Don Juan
Imitations and adaptations of the poem
Questions of ownership, piracy and anonymous publication
The poem’s place in Byron’s oeuvre with an especial emphasis on its continuing
Nineteenth-Century Matters is an initiative jointly run by the British Association for Romantic Studies and the British Association for Victorian Studies. Now in its fourth year, it is aimed at postdoctoral researchers who have completed their PhD, but are not currently employed in a full-time academic post. Nineteenth-Century Matters offers unaffiliated early career researchers a platform from which to organise professionalization workshops and research seminars on a theme related to nineteenth-century studies, and relevant to the host institution’s specialisms. The focus should be on the nineteenth century, rather than on Romanticism or Victorianism.
For the coming academic year Nineteenth-Century Matters will provide the successful applicant with affiliation in the form of a Visiting Fellowship at the University of Surrey. The fellowship will run from 23 September 2019- 1 September 2020.
The successful fellow will particularly benefit from and contribute towards the University’s expertise in nineteenth-century literature, Neo-Victorian literature, theatre, mobility studies, and the visual arts. They will also be encouraged to become involved in the activities of the Victoriographies research group, a collection of researchers in the School of Literature and Languages and curators at Watts Gallery whose research focuses on the nineteenth century. Fellows will also benefit from the University’s close connections with Watts Gallery, that houses an impressive collection of nineteenth-century paintings and sculptures produced by the artist G.F. Watts and his wife, the designer and artist, Mary Watts.
This fellowship includes a University of Surrey e-mail address, and access to its library and electronic resources for the full academic year. There is no requirement to live in the Surrey area during this time. The primary purpose of the fellowship is to enable the successful applicant to continue with an affiliation and remain part of the academic community. It is a non-stipendiary post, and the fellow will need to support themselves financially during the academic year. The fellowship will, however, include up to three week’s accommodation at the University over the summer, where the fellow will be free to develop their research and make the most of Surrey’s archives and special collections. The fellow will also be financially supported by BAVS and BARS with the organising of a research and professionalization event on a theme relevant to Surrey’s collections and/or research interests. It is expected that the fellow will acknowledge BARS, BAVS, and the University of Surrey in any publications that arise from their position.
Special Issue on Ecologies of the Atlantic Archipelago
Seán Hewitt & Anna Pilz
Ellen Hutchins, Fucus ovalis, collected on Whiddy Island, 1805, Trinity College Dublin
Studies of the intertwined histories of Great Britain, Ireland, and their associated islands have given rise to the notion of ‘archipelagic studies’. As in John Kerrigan’s seminal work Archipelagic English, the cover of which shows the familiar image of Great Britain and Ireland on a map tilted, reaching out from mainland Europe and into the Atlantic, this involves a new perspective on geography, identity, and the relations between nations. Central to this field of criticism are concerns regarding land and the natural world.
Nineteenth-century developments resulted in dramatic shifts within the archipelago, with attending drastically-altered human-environment relationships. There were numerous instances of famine, subsistence crises, demographic change, and altered pressures on land and systems of tenure. Connective technologies of the modern world spread to sparsely populated regions, complicating notions of centre and periphery as well as tradition and modernity. Unprecedented infrastructural developments via roads and railway networks connected rural and urban geographies, resulting in increased tourist traffic; the expansion of ports further enhanced trading networks with Europe and beyond; and the spread of the colonial project led to various productions of knowledge of the natural world.
Alongside the British project, various nationalisms looked to the natural world as a way of arguing for racial, cultural and geographical distinction. Islands and coastlines, the ‘untouched’ places, were loaded with radical potential. The folk revivals, and the attention paid to local cultures, had political as well as ecological consequences. A pan-Celtic cultural movement sought to offer new visions of the natural world which might alter, supplement or correct Anglo-Saxon narratives. Thus, nature became a temporal category within the imperial project.
Within the archipelago, the ‘Celtic’ nations contributed both to the larger British scientific project and to individual, national attempts to consolidate a vision of cultural and geographical identity through nature. While civic science and natural history bloomed alongside folklore collection, the boundary between scientific and literary writing remained productively porous. Networks of knowledge exchange proliferated.
In ecocritical studies which respond to the notion of the Anthropocene, an emphasis has been placed on the transnational capacity of environmental crisis to break down, and spill over, national borders. Likewise, ways of seeing the world which were posited as outmoded, belated, or ‘primitive’ by the rationalising project of nineteenth-century Europe are being re-examined and explored as beneficial to reconsidering human/non-human relations in the twenty-first century. Thus, animism, pantheism and vitalism have all recently been posited as radical correctives to Western thought.
This issue aims to bring into focus interconnection, idiosyncrasy, and the ways in which national boundaries were simultaneously made porous and more distinct by writers and artists who sought to engage with the new visions of nature which the nineteenth-century offered. How does ecological disaster prompt shifts in artistic production? How were ecological relationships linked with colonialism and its legacies withinthe archipelago? How does contested religious thought and identity affect relationships with the natural world? How are natural histories and national histories bound and interlinked? Literary considerations of the archipelagic environment, and archipelagic ecological relationships, are varied and multitudinous.
To focus on nineteenth-century contexts of archipelagic ecologies enables the tracing of connections and the identification of shifts in perception that might not easily align with literary periodisation of Romantic, Victorian and early Modernist writing. New developments in ecocriticism, from new materialisms to notions of the Anthropocene, shed light on the innovations of nineteenth-century cultural responses to environmental shifts and scientific work.
ARTICLES MIGHT FOCUS ON (BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO):
urban environments and their cultural productions
folk revival and ‘local’ literature
discoveries of archipelagic environments
environments in children’s literature
natural history and education
writing natural history
nature and regional languages / dialects
writing environmental catastrophe
nature, environment, and genre
poetics of place
nature writing and regional environments
literary geographies and environment
travel writing and environment
nature as a museum of the past
nature and its regenerative potentials
colonial networks within and outside the archipelago
periodical culture, agricultural reform, and environmentalism
We invite 600-800-word abstracts for a 31 January 2020 deadline. The commissioned articles (of no longer than 9,000 words, inclusive of footnotes) will be due on 31 August 2020. All article submissions will undergo peer review and may include illustrations with copyright to be secured by the author (colour for online publication and black and white for print).
Benjamin Robert Haydon Manuscripts at Houghton Library and Christ’s Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem at the Athenaeum of Ohio / Mount St. Mary’s Seminary
This June, thanks to a BARS Stephen Copley Research Award, I was able to visit the United States to access the collection of Houghton Library at Harvard University. My PhD thesis concerns the historical painter Benjamin Robert Haydon’s influence on the poetry and poetics of John Keats, and I devoted my time at Harvard mostly to consulting the painter’s (unpublished) materials that are specifically related to the poet’s life and writings.
Houghton Library, Harvard University (author’s photograph)
Among the rare materials that I accessed at Harvard, I was particularly pleased to be able to consult Haydon’s unpublished original draft for his Autobiography. Haydon started this draft, which he called ‘Vita’, sometime around 1815 and is assumed to have abandoned it after 1825. Resumed as late as 1839, his Autobiography was published posthumously in Tom Taylor’s Life of Benjamin Robert Haydon (1853). That is, Haydon worked on the ‘Vita’ while many of the Romantic writers were still alive. Somewhat disordered and even incomplete as it is, this voluminous manuscript (which counts more than 250 pages) not only bespeaks the vigour with which Haydon composed it, but also provides us with a version of his literary self-portrait, drawn from a perspective quite significantly different from that in the published Autobiography. Keats scholarship has previously paid very little attention to the ‘Vita’, but I believe that a close examination of this manuscript will shed new light on our understanding of the literary and artistic milieu of the Romantic period, especially in the Keats circle.
At Harvard, I was also pleased to be able to consult Haydon’s transcriptions of Keats’s letters. Most of them are addressed to Haydon himself, the rest to Keats’s brother Tom. Since all of these letters have been already published, Haydon’s transcriptions themselves are not that remarkable. Yet what makes this material singular is that Haydon ‘annotated’ some of the letters. Judging from its content, it is most plausible that Haydon sent them to Richard Monckton Milnes (later Lord Houghton) to assist him in preparing for his first biography of Keats. In fact, Milnes’s 1848 biography of the poet does seem to rely on some of Haydon’s annotations. Yet Milnes’s book does not reproduce all of Haydon’s commentary, including that on Wordsworth’s (in)famous comment on Keats’s recitation of Endymion as a ‘pretty piece of Paganism’. It now turns out that, along with the ‘Vita’, Haydon’s annotated transcriptions of Keats’s letters will indeed be indispensable for exploring their relationship in my thesis.
The Athenaeum of Ohio / Mount St. Mary’s Seminary (author’s photograph)
Leaving Boston (Harvard), my research trip in the US ended by seeing Haydon’s large painting Christ’s Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem at the Athenaeum of Ohio / Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Cincinnati. This Catholic seminary is located a long way from the airport, and it took more than an hour by bus even from the city centre to get there. But it was a rewarding experience for me to come Cincinnati to see this painting. Visitors to this seminary can now see Haydon’s painting hung awe-inspiringly in its darksome atrium. Christ’s Entry is grand both in its scale (size) and in its conception (subject). An often vainglorious artist, Haydon modelled the face of Christ on his own, and surrounded the figure with his own contemporaries including Keats, Wordsworth, and Lamb; and the painted scene served him, virtually, as a symposium of the geniuses that gathered to commemorate his own imminent ‘entry’ into the history of English art. After all, he was then about to—but failed to—gain far-flung fame as a great historical painter. However neglected Haydon is nowadays, Christ’s Entry is still, I believe, his masterpiece. And those nearly life-sized figures in the canvas also seemed to induce me to feel as if I were a part of the picture, and to envisage further in my mind the animated scene when those luminaries—Keats, Wordsworth, Lamb, and others—enjoyed ‘the immortal dinner’ in front of this picture in late December 1817.
Benjamin Robert Haydon, Christ’s Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem (1820; photo provided by: The Athenaeum of Ohio / Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West in Cincinnati, Ohio U.S.A.)
I am greatly indebted to BARS for awarding me the research grant, without which this archival trip would not have been possible. And I am also very grateful to the librarians and staff at Houghton Library and the Athenaeum of Ohio / Mount St. Mary’s Seminary for their permission to allow me to take a close look at the rare materials in their collections. Thanks to all those concerned, my research trip went very well, and will undoubtedly contribute significantly to the development of my thesis.