BARS Blog

BARS Blog

News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

Anna Mercer

Website

All posts by Anna Mercer

On This Day in 1818: 17 July, Percy Bysshe Shelley translates Plato’s Symposium

We continue to celebrate the 200th anniversary of literary and historical events in the Romantic period with the BARS ‘On This Day’ blog series. Following a post by Alan Weinberg in March on Shelley’s arrival in Italy in 1818, we now present this commentary by Amanda Blake Davis on the poet’s translation of the Symposium, a task that he undertook during his stay in Bagni di Lucca, Tuscany.

On This Day in 1818: 17 July, Percy Bysshe Shelley translates Plato’s Symposium

By Amanda Blake Davis (University of Sheffield)

This summer marks the bicentenary of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s translation of Plato’s Symposium into English, an exercise of remarkable speed that was conducted over ten days in the summer of 1818.  For James A. Notopoulos, ‘[t]he translation of the Symposium was one of the most important things in Shelley’s poetic life.  It is valuable not only in itself but also for its influence on Shelley’s subsequent poetry’.[1]  In light of this comment, I would like to briefly consider the history of the translation’s composition and its impact upon Shelley’s poetic thought.

‘The Symposium’, Pietro Testa (1648)

Shelley began translating the Symposium on the 7th of July and continued on a daily basis until its completion on the 17th.  Shelley then made corrections from the 19th and finished these on the 20th when Mary Shelley took up the task of transcribing that lasted until the 6th of August.

The act of translation enabled Shelley to deeply consider the moral and imaginative properties of love and allowed him to bring the poeticisms of Plato’s language to life in the English language.  Stephanie Nelson observes that both the speed of the translation and Shelley’s intentional refusal to consult a Greek lexicon ‘preserve the flow of the dialogue’, and Michael O’Neill states that Shelley’s work is ‘closer in spirit to Plato than virtually any other translation’.[2]  Shelley’s assertion in A Defence of Poetry that ‘Plato was essentially a poet’ is anticipated by his prefatory fragment to his translation, wherein he describes how the philosopher expresses ‘the Pythian enthusiasm of poetry, melted by the splendour and harmony of his periods into one irresistible stream of musical impressions’.[3]  In her preface to Essays, Letters from Abroad, Translations and Fragments, Mary Shelley describes her late husband’s translation as a ‘noble piece of writing…which for the first time introduces the Athenian to the English reader in a style worthy of him’.[4]

Prior to Shelley’s translation, the existing English translation by Floyer Sydenham was a ‘sanitized’ and bowdlerised rendition, described by Mary Shelley as being ‘so harsh and un-English in its style’, and Nelson notes that ‘[t]he only translations of Plato available to Shelley, aside from Ficino’s Latin version, were Andre Dacier’s French translation of a number of dialogues, an English translation of Dacier’s selection, a French translation of the Republic, and Thomas Taylor’s Neoplatonic completion of Floyer Sydenham’s Collected Dialogues, first published in 1804’.[5]  However, this period of translation was not the poet’s first encounter with the Symposium.  In her journal, Mary records that Shelley read the Symposium one year prior to his translation, in the summer of 1817.[6]  Even earlier, Thomas Jefferson Hogg recalls that the two studied French and Latin translations of Plato’s works, including passages from the Symposium, while at Oxford in 1810.[7]  These studies were purely recreational, as the works of Plato were not added to the curriculum at Oxford until 1847.[8]  While it was the Phaedo that captivated the young Shelley at Oxford,[9] the Symposium seems to have had the most lasting effect on the poet’s mind, as it was this text that he returned to repeatedly throughout his career.

Shelley’s explained his reasoning for translating Plato’s dialogue on love in 1818: it was to allay ‘the despair of producing any thing original’.[10]  Rather than simply serving as a distraction from creative despondency, however, the translation in both content and purpose also reveals the significance of love to Shelley’s poetic thought.  In 1821, Shelley defines love as

…a going out of our own nature, and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action or person, not our own.  A man to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own.

(A Defence of Poetry, 682)

Shelley’s definition of love is deeply indebted to his translation of Plato’s Symposium and particularly to the speech of the prophetess Diotima who, echoing Shelley’s Hymn of 1816, discusses ‘intellectual beauty’ and asserts that ‘the beauty which is in souls [is] more excellent than that which is in form’,[11] thereby emphasising love as a mental act.  Michael O’Neill notes that ‘“intellectual” is not present in the Greek, nor in the Latin gloss of Ficino at the foot of Shelley’s Bipont edition of the Symposium and often used by him when he was gravelled by the Greek’, positing that ‘[t]he adjective’s insertion suggests that Shelley found in Plato a subject-rhyme with his own intuitions in his earlier Hymn to Intellectual Beauty’.[12]  Shelley’s insertion of the phrase into his translation reveals his own ‘identification…with the beautiful which exists in thought, action or person, not our own’.  Shelley seems to feel that Plato’s emphasis on the beauty of the soul reflects his own belief in love as a meeting of minds and not simply of bodies.  This is further emphasised in the fragment of the essay that was to accompany the translation, wherein

…the gratification of the senses is no longer all that is sought in sexual connexion.  It soon becomes a very small part of that profound and complicated sentiment, which we call love, which is rather the universal thirst for a communion not merely of the senses, but of our whole nature, intellectual, imaginative, and sensitive…

(‘Essay on the Literature, the Arts and the Manners of the Athenians’, p. 57)

On the 10th of July, while engaged in the act of translation, Shelley wrote to the Gisbornes and declared that he hoped ‘to give Mary some idea of the manners & feelings of the Athenians—so different on many subjects from that of any other community that ever existed’.[13]  The translation is a gift of love and an encouragement for Mary to ‘put [herself] in the place of another and of many others’ by means of her imaginative recognition of the ‘inmost state of manners & opinions among the antient Greeks’.[14]  Mary reciprocates this act of love in writing to Maria Gisborne that: ‘It is true that in many particulars [the Symposium] shocks our present manners, but no one can be a reader of the works of antiquity unless they can transport themselves from these to other times and judge not by our but by their morality’.[15]  Here, Mary’s defence of the ancient Greeks and her recommendation for mental and moral transportation clearly anticipate Shelley’s definition of love in the Defence.

Shelley’s translation, edited and published by Mary as The Banquet nearly twenty years after his death, anticipated the English revival of interest in Plato’s life and philosophy.  Shelley’s engagement with the Symposium extends far beyond the summer of 1818, possibly beginning during his time at Eton and certainly remaining at the forefront of his thought up until his accidental death in 1822.  Poignantly, the last words Shelley wrote to Mary are: ‘I have found the translation of the Symposium’.[16]

Shelley’s last letter to Mary.  Pisa, July 1822 Shelley c. 1, fol. 505v Bodleian Library, University of Oxford (via Shelley’s Ghost).

 

[1] James A. Notopoulos, The Platonism of Shelley: A Study of Platonism and the Poetic Mind (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1949), p. 57.

[2] Stephanie Nelson, ‘Shelley and Plato’s Symposium: The Poet’s Revenge’, International Journal of the Classical Tradition, 14.1/2 (2007), p. 104; Michael O’Neill, ‘Emulating Plato: Shelley as Translator and Prose Poet’ in The Unfamiliar Shelley ed. by Timothy Webb and Alan Weinberg (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009), p. 243.

[3] Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Defence of Poetry in The Major Works, ed. by Zachary Leader and Michael O’Neill (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 679; Percy Bysshe Shelley, ‘Preface to the Banquet of Plato’ in The Platonism of Shelley, p. 402.

[4] Mary Shelley, ed., Percy Bysshe Shelley, Essays, Letters from Abroad, Translations and Fragments, vol. 1 (London: Edward Moxon, 1852), preface vii.

[5] Steven Bruhm, ‘Reforming Byron’s Narcissism’, Lessons of Romanticism: A Critical Companion, ed. by Thomas Pfau and Robert F. Gleckner (Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1998), p. 432; Mary Shelley, Essays, Letters from Abroad, Translations and Fragments, vol. 1, preface viii; Nelson, p. 102.

[6] Mary’s journal entry for 13 August 1817 reads: ‘Shelley writes—reads Plato’s Convivium’.  The Journals of Mary Shelley: 1814-1844.  2 vols., ed. by Paula R. Feldman and Diana Scott Kilvert (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), vol. 1, p. 178.

[7] Thomas Jefferson Hogg, The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley (London: George Routledge & Sons Limited, 1906), p. 72.

[8] Notopoulos, p. 31.

[9] Thomas Jefferson Hogg, The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley (London: George Routledge & Sons Limited, 1906), p. 72.

[10] Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. by Frederick L. Jones, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon, 1964), vol. 2, p. 22.

[11] Notopoulos, pp. 447 and 448.

[12] O’Neill, p. 242.

[13] PBS Letters II, p. 20.

[14] PBS Letters II, p. 22.

[15] Shelley, Mary, The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, ed. by Betty T. Bennett, 3 vols (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980-1988), vol. I, p. 77.

[16] ‘Shelley’s first introduction to Plato was through James Lind…who befriended Shelley at Eton.  Thomas Medwin, who took an interest in Shelley’s Platonism, mentions Shelley’s statement that he read the Symposium with Dr. Lind’, Notopoulos, p. 30; PBS Letters II, p. 444.

Stephen Copley Research Report: Eva-Charlotta Mebius on Robert Mudie and John Abraham Heraud

Unearthing Robert Mudie in the National Library of Scotland and Dundee University Archives

by Eva-Charlotta Mebius

My research trip to Edinburgh and Dundee, generously funded by a BARS Stephen Copley Research Award, was truly a wonderful experience. My thesis, which explores the apocalyptic imagination in literature and art in the long nineteenth century, and literary and artistic networks in London, has led me to the work of several lesser-known writers. One such writer is the prolific and self-taught reformer, historian, novelist, poet, journalist, editor and naturalist Robert Mudie (1780-1842). Born in 1780 in Forfarshire, Scotland, he moved to London at the beginning of the 1820s to continue his career as a writer and journalist.[1] Thus, the goal of this research trip was to gather more information on Robert Mudie’s life and career before he arrived in London.

Robert Mudie was a copious writer, and it has been reported that his oeuvre amounted to over 90 volumes, although it should also be noted that he was no stranger to self-plagiarizing. Tracking down his writings has proved very tricky indeed, especially as he often published his work anonymously.  For example, he used at least one pseudonym, the wonderfully Smolett-esque name of Laurence Langshank.

One new addition to the list, however, thanks to this research trip, was Mudie’s short history of Dundee, Dundee Delineated (1822). It takes its place alongside his other monumental volumes, such as The Modern Athens (1824) on Edinburgh, and his truly extraordinary achievement in the four large volumes on London, Babylon the Great (1825) and A Second Judgement of Babylon the Great (1828), that appeared in several editions throughout the 1820s and 1830s. My forthcoming article in The Dickensian on Charles Dickens and Robert Mudie explores the significance of Robert Mudie’s writing on London, and its potential connection to the Dickensian London of Oliver Twist (1837-39).

My visit to Dundee was very important for my research on the elusive and extraordinary life of Robert Mudie, as well as the works themselves. It was especially exciting to visit the city that informed and inspired much of his early work as a reformer, poet, novelist, and journalist. Mudie spent almost a decade in the city, where he worked as a schoolmaster for many years at Dundee Academy. Moreover, it was in Dundee that his writing career truly began – his poem ‘The Maid of Griban’ was published in 1810 – and it was also here that he wrote his first and only satirical novel Glenfergus (1820), about the Bonclair family and the town of Glenfergus, which at the time was mistaken by some to have been written by Sir Walter Scott. Mudie’s characters were even said by one reviewer in The Scotsman to be in competition with Scott’s creations, and I would argue that the novel, along with much of Mudie’s writing, is still well worth reading.

Due to Mudie’s radical reformist politics and attacks on fellow members of the Town Council, who he accused of corruption in the Dundee Advertiser (edited by R. S. Rintoul, founder of The Spectator), a move to London proved necessary shortly after the publication of his novel. He arrived in London around 1821 where he, like Dickens, began working for the Morning Chronicle. Yet he did return to Scotland on occasion. For example, he was asked to report on George IV’s visit to Edinburgh, published as A Historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland (1822).

Another exciting find made in the Dundee University Archives was the first portrait that I had ever seen of this prolific and gifted, but oddly elusive, writer. I have since learned that it is probably based on a famous satirical print ‘The Executive’ (1821), by the Dundee portraitist Henry Harwood (1803-1868), in which Mudie appears.

 

Fig. 1 The Executive, engraving after a painting by Henry Harwood, 1821 (Photo Credit: University of Dundee Fine Art Collections). Robert Mudie can be seen wearing a light-coloured top hat in the middle, sixth from left.

 

Furthermore, in the National Library of Scotland I was finally able to have a look at such gems as Mudie’s early work in his two unsuccessful journals The Independent (1816) and The Caledonian (1821), both of which started in Dundee. I also examined his later book The Complete Governess (1824), on the reform of the education of women, which reveals his strikingly progressive views on education in general, and the education of girls in particular.

During my trip, I was able to conduct some research on other obscure writers that are part of the literary networks that I explore in my thesis. I had the opportunity to peruse some letters written to, and by, the now mostly forgotten editor, writer of Hyper-Miltonic epopeia, distinguished theatre critic, and chastised dramatist John Abraham Heraud (1799-1887). Heraud was another prolific writer, but his two most famous poems were the hyper-Miltonic epics The Descent into Hell (1830), and the antediluvian The Judgement of the Flood (1834). Seemingly, he was one of the more colourful figures in the literary world of London, and by all accounts Heraud had an interesting social circle that included prominent figures such as Thomas Carlyle, Douglas Jerrold, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Charles Dickens. He was also a devout disciple of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he was mentored by Robert Southey, and he corresponded with William Wordsworth.[2]

Thus, I am happy to report that alongside my planned research on Mudie’s early writing, this trip was full of unexpected discoveries. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the staff of the National Library of Scotland, and the Dundee University Archives. They were all so kind, helpful, welcoming, and I cannot wait to return for more research on ‘Mudieism’ and other matters in the future. Finally, thank you again to BARS for making this research trip possible.

[1] There is some confusion as to what year Mudie was born. Most publications, such as the ODNB, use 1777. However, as I found out on this research trip, in The Mudies of Angus (1959) the authors argue that this is unlikely since he was not baptised until 1780. Arguably, more research is needed on the life of Mudie.

[2] For the curious, I highly recommend his daughter’s, the celebrated actress Edith Heraud, Memoirs of John A. Heraud (1898).

Nineteenth-Century Matters Fellow: Lancaster University 2018-19

Applications are now open for a Visiting Fellowship at Lancaster University with Nineteenth-Century Matters.

Outline

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 third 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 Lancaster University. The fellowship will run from 1 September 2018-August 31 2019. The successful fellow will particularly benefit from and contribute towards the University’s expertise in digital and environmental humanities. They will also be encouraged to actively contribute to events being planned by the Research Centre for Culture, Landscape and Environment.

This fellowship includes a Lancaster University e-mail address, and access to its library and electronic resources for the full academic year. There is no requirement to live in the Lancaster 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 a week’s accommodation at the University over the summer, where the fellow will be free to develop their research and make the most of Lancaster’s archives (particularly those held in the Ruskin Library) and digital resources. 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 Lancaster’s collections and/or research interests. It is expected that the fellow will acknowledge BARS, BAVS, and Lancaster University in any publications that arise from their position.

Application Process

Applicants should submit a CV with a two-page proposal of their research topic and event, and explain why they would benefit from the fellowship. These should be sent to Matthew Ward (m.ward.1@bham.ac.uk) and Joanna Taylor (j.e.taylor1@lancaster.ac.uk). The deadline for applications is July 31 2018.

 

 

 

Stephen Copley Research Report: Emma Probett on Austen and Gaskell

A report from a research trip funded by a BARS Stephen Copley Research Award.

Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell – Conduct novels and the Novel of Manners at Chawton House Library

by Emma Probett

The BARS Stephen Copley Research Award afforded me the opportunity to visit Chawton House Library in Hampshire, which holds a large collection of women’s literature, predominantly from 1600-1830, including books belonging to the Knight family and borrowed by Jane Austen.

I was able to spend a fortnight in May 2018 studying conduct novels ranging from 1814, the year of Mansfield Park’s publication, to 1830, when Elizabeth Gaskell became a teenager. The research I undertook will inform the foundation of my PhD thesis in which I will track the tropes and transformation of the conduct novel, from conduct manuals such as Hannah More’s Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education, to the established conduct novels of Frances Burney and Maria Edgeworth. I will consider the collective effect these novels had on women’s writing, and on public opinion regarding what it was appropriate for women to write about.

Though a number of critics have vied to align Austen with contemporaneous conservative and radical novelists alike, there is a distinct lack of research exploring her far-reaching effects on Victorian women novelists and the conduct novel canon. My thesis explores Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell as subversive novelists and analyses their codified references to morally dubious behaviour, and their process of experimenting with and undermining established conduct novel tropes. As part of this research I am surveying once-popular female novelists and ideologists of the conduct novel who, though now obscure and out of print, provide a rich insight into the building blocks of the genre. This cross section demonstrates not only the rules of the genre but the rules of conduct for women novelists.

Women novelists could be outspoken on social and political matters, prominent figureheads being Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Hays; however, when they were, their private lives were often intruded upon and harshly criticised by the general public. In order for women novelists to retain social standing, a degree of privacy, and the ability to write for an independent living, they needed the approbation of mainstream publishers, reviewers, and the general reader; any criticism regarding social and political issues required gentle satire, nuanced irony, and embedded references which required the reader to have a specialist knowledge of a saying, a limerick, or a product etc. to understand the inference.

In addition to the typical three volume novel sets which focus on conduct and manners, I was also able to review transitionary materials that strike a blend between the conduct manual (as an instruction book) and the conduct novel (as an entertaining parable). Considering how authors experimented with the novel form was not only deeply rewarding, but further emphasised the issues facing novelists in terms of communicating authentic virtue in their protagonists in a way that was not as indirect and distancing for readers as the epistolary novel, nor as direct and potentially inappropriate as passionate dialogue between a protagonist and their love interest. Borderline performative body language such as fainting fits, catatonic immobility, and unstable blushing to blanching is at the foreground of the conduct novel; the appearance of good health and ill health as an indicator of emotional health (often closely linked to moral health), is constantly publicly monitored, discussed, interpreted and policed.

I believe that this issue of dramatised bodily health – as an author’s assertion of a character’s virtue – was addressed by Austen in the development of the novel of manners, a subgenre of the conduct novel, which focuses on behaving and speaking virtuously rather than being innately and unaffectedly virtuous, effectively circumventing an author’s struggle to categorically prove that their character is truly virtuous. The research I undertook at Chawton House Library aided me in forming definitions and differentiations between the conduct novel and the novel of manners.

I am very grateful to BARS for giving me the opportunity to organise a prolonged visit to Chawton House Library, as without this funding I would not have been able to undertake such an extensive and indispensable research trip. Chawton House Library is currently housing an excellent exhibition, The art of freezing the blood’: Northanger Abbey, Frankenstein, & the Female Gothic, open until 7th December 2018.

Conference Report: ‘Romanticism Goes to University’, Edge Hill, May 2018

A detailed report from the BARS-sponsored conference that took place last month. Visit our website to find out how to apply for BARS conference support.

Conference Report: Edge Hill Symposium ‘Romanticism Goes to University’, 19-20 May 2018

by Juliette Misset

‘Romanticism Goes to University,’ the third installment in a series of three annual symposiums held at Edge Hill University, took place over a warm and sunny weekend this past May. Following ‘Edgy Romanticism/Romanticism on the Edge’ in 2016 and ‘Romanticism Takes to the Hills‘ in 2017, ‘Romanticism Goes to University’ offered participants the chance to consider the Romantic period both as researchers and as teachers, complete with keynote presentations, panels, and workshops, and even live-tweeting.

The first day started off with a panel entitled ‘The Romantic University and Romantic Poetry,’ where Matthew Sangster’s opening paper discussed a number of Romantic poets’ diverging takes on the university experience in their verse, highlighting the conflicting views of higher education at the time. Catherine Ross gave us the institutional perspective in the paper that followed, detailing the organisation of academic curricula in Oxford and Cambridge in the period, along with how students would typically spend their time outside of class, arguing for the importance of the whole of the university experience for emerging poets.

The second panel saw us venturing beyond the borders of Great Britain and into universities on the European continent. Maximiliaan van Woudenberg first explored the intellectual exchanges at the University of Göttingen, where a number of British intellectuals found an alternative to the traditional curricula offered to them in Britain, and the ways in which the German university and particularly its library has become significant for Romantic thought. Fittingly, Michael Bradshaw then turned to a specific British student of the University of Göttingen, considering the theatrical and performative element of Thomas Lovell Beddoes’ experience there. Moving farther east on the continent, Daiva Milinkevičiūtė studied the relationships between university teachers and students who belonged to the Philomaths and Philaretes organisations at Vilnius University. In the final paper of the panel, José Manuel Correoso-Rodenas presented an ongoing research and development project taking place at Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha in Spain, which aims at digitising all the existing illustrated editions of Edgar Allan Poe’s works.

The last panel of the day gave us rich and complementary insights into education in the Godwin-Wollstonecraft circle, extended to Mary Hays and her niece Matilda. John-Erik Hansson first looked at the ways in which William Godwin reworked the fable for innovative pedagogical purposes that move away from didactic moralising in order to focus on opening the mind of the child-reader to a myriad of subjects. Colette Davies moved on to  how Mary Wollstonecraft instructed other female writers through her professional reviews in the Analytical Reviews and in her private correspondence, and persuasively argued that Wollstonecraft was far from maternally supportive of all literary efforts by women. Finally, Susan Civale reconsidered Mary Hays’ image as a revolutionary turned isolated conservative by looking at the textual and personal ways that she mentored her niece Matilda.

After an afternoon tea that allowed for conversations to continue beyond the panel, Katie Garner gave the first keynote of the weekend. Taking advantage of the records kept by the University of St Andrews library, Katie reconsidered the assumption that universities were exclusively male spaces in the Romantic period. Her research on the borrowing records of the period showed that women who were connected to academia through a male family member, such as professors’ wives, had access to the library collections, and that there was no clear boundary between reading material borrowed for academic purposes or for pleasure among library card holders.

Katie then led the workshop on teaching Romanticism, which ended the day in the beautiful rooftop garden of the Business School building. This first workshop devoted to experiences of teaching the Romantic period in university today allowed for everyone to engage in a conversation that helped to bridge the gap between teaching and research, in an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere where early-career teachers and researchers felt comfortable sharing their experiences and thoughts with their more experienced colleagues. We discussed expanding the Romantic canon and trying different ways of teaching and assessing students. A wonderful end to a rich and stimulating first day, where dialogue continued all the way through to the conference dinner.

Sunday began with the second keynote and workshop of the event, given and led by Judith Pascoe. Judith presented various examples of the use of digital methods both in research and teaching, at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, keeping in mind the challenges such methods represent. One of the examples that most stood out was probably the recording of part of an ongoing doctoral project in the form of a podcast as opposed to the traditional thesis, which was a wonderful example of combining creative and critical work. The teaching workshop was embedded in the keynote as participants were asked to think of syllabus design including assessment during the presentation before discussing our picks during the workshop.

The following panel considered alternative approaches to education, with two papers that explored Romantic poetry in terms of vitality and mourning respectively, in a fitting duality. Shiwa Mun looked specifically at Percy Shelley’s ‘The Sensitive-Plant’ and its manifestation of ‘vegetal vitality’ where the poem becomes a textual garden, while Emily J. Dolive demonstrated how Mary Robinson and Jane Alice Sargant used the printed page as a physical space to guide Romantic readers through grief in the war-torn period.

The final panel explored ways of engaging with the Romantics beyond the classroom, digitally and otherwise. Lindsey Seatter traced the evolution of a digital editing project that originated as a classroom assignment and developed into a scholarly portfolio, delineating the challenges and constraints of such undertakings, while highlighting the exciting avenues for editing and research these represent. Val Derbyshire closed the panel with the presentation of a project involving a public re-enactment of Revolutionary addresses at The Old Bell pub in Derby, that historians believe to have taken place in the same pub in 1792. Val related how the performance eventually turned into a social protest event anchored in contemporary times, movingly showing just how relevant studying the Romantic period remains to this day.

This rich and diverse symposium closed with a final keynote and workshop by Alice Jenkins, highlighting once again the relevance of the Romantic period today through a comparative overview of some of the dilemmas facing universities then and now. While universities have changed to a great extent since the Romantic institutions of Oxford and Cambridge, fundamental questions such as whether and how to teach so-called ‘useful’ subjects—subjects that are understood to constitute a direct path to employment—within the university still very much apply today.

Overall, the weekend proved an extremely stimulating as well as welcoming event, where the single-track format allowed everyone to appreciate the careful constitution and progression of the panels, workshops, and keynotes. As a first-time attendee of an academic conference of this kind, I very much look forward to many more.

Stephen Copley Research Report: Val Derbyshire on James Northcote

Val Derbyshire has completed this research report following a recent trip to archives in London. She was funded by a BARS Stephen Copley Award.

 

James Northcote: The Man Who Exists Only in Fragments

by Val Derbyshire (University of Sheffield)

 

This year, I was fortunate enough to win the Stephen Copley Research Award from BARS.  This generous award provided the funding to visit the Royal Academy of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, both of whom hold personal letters and papers belonging to the portrait painter James Northcote (1746-1831).  I’ve written about Northcote’s work before, and am particularly interested in how this often overlooked portrait painter sits at the centre of a number of celebrated figures from Romanticism.

 

The Victoria & Albert Museum, London, on the very sunny day on which I visited to look at Northcote’s personal papers and letters held here.

 

My PhD thesis explores Charlotte Smith’s connection with Northcote.  My research has shown that both Northcote and Smith utilise similar techniques in portraying their male heroes.  Northcote was a painter who portrayed far more men than women and both Smith and Northcote adapt the tropes traditionally associated with the aesthetic of the beautiful in the portrayal of their male ‘heroes’.  This undermines the conventional view that the sublime is a male trait, whilst the beautiful belongs to the feminine sphere.  By considering the male portraits of Northcote and Smith in tandem, it becomes possible to see how both artists engage with an abstract concept in order to reveal that it is a conceit which is utterly flawed.  This, in turn, leads to questions and uncertainties concerning masculine identity which Smith emphasises within her novels, just as Northcote similarly raises these concerns within his artworks. Over the past few months I have been visiting archival holdings to look at the personal correspondence of James Northcote.   These visits have thrown up some interesting findings, including the fact that he had a close relationship with William Godwin (close enough to leave him £100 in his will) and he also corresponded regularly with other literary figures like Elizabeth Inchbald.  Northcote’s notebook held by the Bodleian Library includes fifteen letters from Inchbald to Northcote and their mutual friends.  These letters include charming details such as how Northcote called for Inchbald one evening in order to take her to ‘Mrs Wedells rout.’  Unfortunately, as Northcote was not expected, Inchbald had already put on her nightgown and was ready for bed, but was then crippled by guilt at refusing to see Northcote, if only to ‘load [him] with reproaches.’[1]

It is known that Smith and Northcote were friends.  He was included within an invitation to take tea at Smith’s home which was addressed to William Godwin dated 27 February 1800: ‘Will you dine with me some day next week if I can assemble Mr & Mrs Fenwick, Mr Northcote, Mr Coleridge, & one or two friends – who would not spoil the party.’[2]  The party took place on 4th March 1800, when Godwin noted in his diary ‘tea C Smith’s w. Coleridge, Northcote, Fenwicks & Duncans.’[3]  By visiting these archival holdings of Northcote’s personal letters and papers, I hoped to find further evidence of his friendship with Smith (more letters perhaps?)  Unfortunately, however, there were no letters either from Smith to Northcote or vice versa.  What I did gain, nevertheless, was a fascinating insight into the man Mark Ledbury describes as ‘mostly a curiosity […] enmeshed with many others’ and hampered by the ‘widespread and persistent belief that Northcote was simply not an interesting enough painter to merit close critical scrutiny.’[4]  ‘It is unfair,’ as Ledbury argues, ‘to liken Northcote to the subject of his satirical fable ‘The Painter Who Pleased Nobody’ (see figure 2), but rather he was ‘the painter who pleased nobody enough.’[5]

 

James Northcote, ‘Illustration to accompany “The Painter Who Pleased Nobody”’ in James Northcote, Fables Original and Selected (London: John Murray, 1838), pp. 216-7.

 

My visits to the Royal Academy of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum helped me to construct a more rounded picture of Northcote.  The letters held by the Royal Academy are for the most part addressed to his beloved brother Samuel, and detail the period in time when Northcote left home, much against the advice of his parents.  Northcote headed to London to learn his craft, to seek his fortune as an artist, and ‘follow an amusement which is to me beyond every other upon Earth.’[6] Shortly after his arrival in London, Northcote would take up residence with the founder and first president of the Royal Academy of Art, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and spend his time perfecting his artistry in copying Reynolds’s own art collection and painting the drapery and hands in Reynolds’s masterpieces.  The letters progress through Northcote’s apprenticeship with Reynolds to the point when he leaves him in order to complete his training abroad by taking an Italian tour, providing details of this tour and the friendships he forms during this.  By the time Northcote left Reynolds, he writes ‘I know him thoroughly and all his faults, I am sure, and yet I allmost Worship him.’[7]  This ‘worship’ was to persist throughout Northcote’s long life.  In his will, held at the British Library in London, he desires that ‘my mortal remains […] shall be deposited […] as near as possibly may be to the remains of my late lamented Friend and Master Sir Joshua Reynolds.’[8]

 

Detail from James Northcote, Letter to Samuel Northcote dated 3rd January 1776, NOR/15, Royal Academy of Art.

 

The notebook of letters and personal papers held by the Victoria and Albert Museum were much more diverse in nature.  They included letters relating to Northcote’s business as a successful portrait painter, as well as personal epistles from William Godwin and William Cowper, and details of his friendship with fellow artist (and also friend to Charlotte Smith), John Raphael Smith (1751-1812).

All in all, despite not finding any letters between Smith and Northcote, the research trip was very successful.  It provided me with a clearer picture of the man who ‘exists in fragments,’ as Ledbury terms it, and whilst only a few items will contribute to my doctoral research, the trip has given me food for thought for future research projects.[9]   I would like to thank BARS for their generous award of the Stephen Copley Research prize which has made all this possible.

 

[1] James Northcote, The Letter book of James Northcote (Oxford: Bodleian Libraries, MS Eng Misc e143).

[2] Cited in Pamela Clemit and Charlotte Smith, ‘Charlotte Smith to William and Mary Jane Godwin: Five Holograph Letters’, Keats-Shelley Journal, 55 (2006), 29-40 (39).  ‘Mr & Mrs. Fenwick, refers to Eliza Fenwick (1766-1840), author of Secresy, or the Ruin of the Rock (1795), and her husband.’

[3] Cited in Pamela Clemit and Charlotte Smith, ‘Charlotte Smith to William and Mary Jane Godwin: Five Holograph Letters’, Keats-Shelley Journal, 55 (2006), 29-40 (39).  (Clemit notes that ‘the Duncans have not been further identified.’ (p. 39).

[4]Mark Ledbury, James Northcote, History Painting and the Fables (New Haven & London: Yale Center for British Art, 2014), pp. 1-2.

[5] Ledbury, James Northcote, History Painting and the Fables, pp. 1-2, emphasis in original.

[6] James Northcote, Letter to Samuel Northcote dated 25th June 1771, NOR/1, Royal Academy of Art.

[7] James Northcote, Letter to Samuel Northcote dated 3rd January 1776, NOR/15, Royal Academy of Art [Sic].

[8] James Northcote, ‘Last Will and Testament of James Northcote’ in The Papers of James Northcote, holding number 42524, British Library, London.

[9] Ledbury, James Northcote, History Painting and the Fables, p. 1.

Call for Applications: Communications Fellows for the K-SAA

Please see the following notice below from the Keats-Shelley Association of America (K-SAA)

The K-SAA is inviting applications for two part-time Communications Fellows for a period of one year, beginning June 2018. Fellows will assist the Director of Communications and the K-SAA Secretary in engaging with, and creating content for, academic and non-academic communities interested in the Romantic period – especially those interested in the second generation of Romantic authors.

Applicants should have an interest in Romantic literature and should have previously used social media for academic/professional purposes. They will be able to demonstrate their ability to write and edit academic blog content similar to what is currently presented on the K-SAA site. Experience using WordPress and editing websites is desirable.

To apply: please send an academic CV and personal statement of no more than two pages explaining why you are best placed to undertake the duties below to info@k-saa.org by June 5 2018.

Duties:

  • To create engaging and informative online content designed to promote the understanding and celebration of the lives and works of the Keats-Shelley circles, most broadly understood. Fellows will be knowledgeable and passionate about the Romantic period, especially the second generation of Romantic writers
  • To set up regular appropriate content for the Twitter and Facebook feeds, applying relevant experience of using social media for professional purposes
  • To respond to enquiries on social media
  • To use WordPress to publish and edit blog posts for the K-SAA Blog
  • To design and curate these blog posts, including soliciting authors from the academic and non-academic communities and other interested parties
  • To develop the success of the above initiatives and to research further potential developments, and be willing to work independently and to maintain professional communications at all times
  • To attend regular Skype meetings with the Director of Communications Anna Mercer and occasionally the K-SAA Secretary, Kate Singer, and be able to work collaboratively with colleagues to share ideas and modify technique(s) accordingly
  • To learn and develop individual knowledge of the K-SAA and to create content that supports the association’s aims

Communication Fellows will be expected to work 5 hours per week for an annual stipend of $750 USD.

Informal enquiries can be directed to Dr. Anna Mercer (mercerannam@gmail.com).

Archive Spotlight: correspondence between James Northcote and Peter Pindar in Durham’s Special Collections

A new Archive Spotlight post on the blog today by Val Derbyshire (University of Sheffield). Val has kindly contributed details of her research to this series before, in another Spotlight post entitled ‘Archive Spotlight on the Derbyshire Record Office: A Marriage of the Romantic and the Scientific’. Val has also been awarded a 2018 BARS Stephen Copley Award, and we look forward to hearing more about her work at the Royal Art Academy and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London later this year.

If you’d like to contribute to this series, please find more information about how to get in touch with your ideas here.

Enjoy Val’s exploration into a heated exchange of letters that may have inspired Northcote’s Diligence and Dissipation.

 

‘[A] simple act of fornication’[1]: Diligence and Dissipation, James Northcote and Peter Pindar by Val Derbyshire, School of English, University of Sheffield

 

Just recently, I was fortunate enough to have been awarded a Stephen Copley Research Award from BARS in order to research the letters and other personal writings of portraitist James Northcote (1746-1831).  My interest in Northcote was sparked by the discovery of his personal friendship with the subject of my doctoral thesis, Charlotte Smith (1749-1806).  Over the past few months I have been visiting archival holdings to look at the personal correspondence of Northcote.

 

James Northcote, Self-portrait, c.1784, oil on canvas

 

Northcote has traditionally been viewed as a marginal figure within the art world of British Romanticism, but research has revealed that he was in fact central to the circles of a number of key Romantic figures.  Exploration in the archives has shown that not only did he have an intimate friendship with William Godwin, even leaving Godwin £100 in his will, but that he also corresponded with Elizabeth Inchbald, in addition to taking tea with Smith, along with Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Godwin.[2]  He was one of the last people to see artist John Opie  alive, and Opie’s wife, novelist Amelia Opie, took comfort from Northcote’s visit to her dying husband’s bedside, detailing Northcote’s kindness and sensitivity.[3]  Further, the connection between his own visual artistry and the literary world was clearly very important to Northcote.  Within his Letter Book held by the Bodleian Libraries he keeps a detailed list of every work of fiction which makes reference to or details his work.  These include,

 

Northcote’s pictures perused in the following: Rosalind de Tracy, a novel by Elizabeth Sophia Tomlins. The Triumphs of Constancy, A Novel in a series of letters Mammon in London, or the Spy of the day.  John Thelwall also wrote about him in The Champion May 27 1821.[4]

 

Within The Papers of James Northcote, R.A. presented to Sir William Knighton upon his death, there was also the inclusion of many extracts from the publications of the day which praised his work.[5]  Northcote was an artist to whom the range of his influence concerned him greatly.

One archive which holds a fascinating series of letters to Northcote can be found within the Special Collections of Durham University Library.  Here, there is held a series of letters from John Wolcot (1738-1819 – aka the satirical poet, Peter Pindar), which covers the period 1774-75.

 

John Opie, John Wolcot, c. 1780, oil on canvas

 

During this time, Wolcot appealed for his friend Northcote’s help because ‘[a] Damn’d Bitch as common as the air liv’d with me and got herself with Bastard’.[6]   ‘[I]n order to remove the Scandal, [Wolcot] sent her to London with money sufficient ’til [he] was inclin’d to send her more.’[7]  Within this series of letters, Wolcot is utterly heartless in his description of his seduction of the girl, who has clearly been his servant, and occupies the precise position of both the ‘Modest’ and the ‘Wanton’ serving girl in Northcote’s series of plates, Diligence and Dissipation: Or, The Progress of a Modest Girl and a Wanton, Exemplified in Ten Different Stages of Their Lives, Being an Attempt to Exhibit the Natural Consequences which attend on Good and on Bad Conduct, published in 1796, just a couple of years after Northcote received Wolcot’s correspondence.

 


After James Northcote, The Modest Girl Rejects the Illicit Advances of her Master, Plate VI from James Northcote, Diligence and Dissipation: Or, The Progress of a Modest Girl and a Wanton, Exemplified in Ten Different Stages of Their Lives, Being an Attempt to Exhibit the Natural Consequences which attend on Good and on Bad Conduct (London: H. L. Galahin, 1796), engraved by Thomas Gaugin and Thomas Hellyer, 1796, etching on paper

 

Wolcot is equally callous in his subsequent abandonment of the woman when she becomes pregnant with his child, and denial that the baby boy belongs to him.  The nine letters outline Wolcot’s various pleas to Northcote to give the woman money on his behalf, and persuade her to give the child up ‘to be taken care of as a Common Brat’  in any place which can be found for him.[8]  ‘Could I have expected,’ Wolcot protests, ‘so much Disagreeableness would have followed a simple act of fornication.’[9]

Northcote’s replies are not available in the archive, but from the tone of Wolcot’s letters, it becomes clear that Northcote expostulates with him upon his conduct, to which Wolcot replies ‘she is with all that seeming simplicity a Hypocrite […] Indeed, Northcote, your honesty deludes you.  I know her to be a B—-.’[10]  It is unclear whether this incident affected their friendship, although one of the letters reprimands Northcote for his failure to send Wolcot a head portrait of himself.  Indeed this portrait does not seem to exist, the head portrait of Wolcot being completed by Northcote’s friend and fellow Royal Academician, John Opie.  Despite Wolcot’s protestations that Northcote should feel free to use Wolcot’s services for similar purposes because ‘[b]elieve me I’ll take as much care of your Bastards if you shall think proper to send them into Cornwall,’ it seems unlikely Northcote would ever do so, and that Wolcot’s licentiousness placed their relationship under strain.[11]  It could be that the resulting plates from Diligence and Dissipation were inspired by this unfortunate episode.  Northcote’s artworks caution the beautiful girls in his text against the men they might encounter and their flawed nature.

During May this year, I will be using the funds from the Stephen Copley Research Award to dig further into the archives and reading letters from Northcote held at the Royal Art Academy and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

 

References:

[1] John Wolcot, ‘Letter to James Northcote dated 24th March 1775 in ‘Nine Letters to James Northcote’, Durham Special Collections, holding number ABL 596.  (All of the digitised versions of these letters can be accessed via this link).

[2]James Northcote, The Papers of James Northcote, R.A., Collected and Presented by G. G. Williamson, (London: British Museum Additional MS 42524).  Letters from Elizabeth Inchbald are included in The Letter Book of James Northcote (Oxford: Bodleian Libraries, MS Eng Misc e 143), and include charming details such as Northcote arriving uninvited at Inchbald’s home in order to take Inchbald to ‘Mrs Wedells rout’ (Letter dated 28th May 1801).  Unfortunately, as Northcote was not expected, Inchbald had already put her nightgown on for the night, but was then crippled by guilt at refusing to see Northcote, if only to ‘load [him] with reproaches.’

[3] Amelia Opie, Lecture on Painting Delivered at the Royal Academy of Arts: with a Letter on the Proposal for a Public Memorial of The Naval Glory of Great Britain by the Late John Opie Esq., to which are Prefixed a Memoir by Mrs. Opie and Other Accounts of  Mr. Opie’s Talents and Character (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme, 1809), p. 49.

[4] Northcote, The Letter Book of James Northcote.

[5] James Northcote, The Papers of James Northcote, R.A., The Sir William Knighton Collection (London: British Museum Additional MS 47790-47792).

[6] John Wolcot, ‘Letter to James Northcote dated 1774’ in John Wolcot, ‘Nine Letters to James Northcote’, Durham Special Collections, holding number ABL 590-598 (1774-1775), holding number ABL 590.

[7] John Wolcot, ‘Letter to James Northcote dated 1774’ in ‘Nine Letters to James Northcote’, Durham Special Collections, holding number ABL 590.

[8] John Wolcot, ‘Letter to James Northcote dated 10th January 1775’ in ‘Nine Letters to James Northcote’, Durham Special Collections, holding number ABL 592.

[9] John Wolcot, ‘Letter to James Northcote dated 24th March 1775 in ‘Nine Letters to James Northcote’, Durham Special Collections, holding number ABL 596.

[10] John Wolcot, ‘Letter to James Northcote dated 6th April 1775’ in ‘Nine Letters to James Northcote’, Durham Special Collections, holding number ABL 597.

[11]John Wolcot, ‘Letter to James Northcote dated 23rd March 1774’ in ‘Nine Letters to James Northcote’, Durham Special Collections, holding number ABL 591.

Report from ‘Romantic Novels 1818’: Owenson’s Florence Maccarthy

Here’s an insightful report by Ruby Tuke for those that missed the most recent Romantic Novels 1818 seminar, held at the University of Greenwich.  This seminar series is sponsored by BARS.

Postgraduate/ECR bursaries are available for future seminar meetings. Details here.

 

(Click to zoom and see future meetings)

 

A Discussion of Sydney Owenson’s Florence Macarthy (1818) with Dr Sonja Lawrenson

Romantic Novels 1818 Seminar March 2018

Dr Sonja Lawrenson delivered an illuminating talk on Sydney Owenson’s mighty four-volume novel Florence Macarthy: An Irish Tale (1818), which generated much lively discussion afterwards. Lawrenson argued that Florence Macarthy, less known and less studied than Owenson’s earlier novel The Wild Irish Girl (1806), deserves greater critical attention. Her paper teased out unusual links between the politically ambiguous later novel and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein­ (1818). She drew a convincing parallel between Frankenstein’s monster, and the multifarious identities of Florence Macarthy. The rejected monster is first constructed out of various different materials and narratives, and Macarthy is forced to spin yarns literally, as well as figuratively, for money. Thus Lawrenson intriguingly suggested that the challenges of female authorship in 1818 are necessarily woven into the form as well as the content of both novels.

Lawrenson’s paper also considered the role of private theatricals and public performances in Florence Macarthy in relation to the political status of Ireland in 1818. She argued that in this later work Owenson reveals her dismay that private theatricals have replaced the public performative arena of actual political representation. Lawrenson argued that Owenson has replaced the ‘national marriage plot’ of a happy union, which was earlier present in The Wild Irish Girl and is an extension of the supposedly happy union between England and Ireland, with less certain political allegiances. This does not just have implications for an interpretation of the novel, Lawrenson argued, but complicates our understanding of the “national tale”, as well.

Lawrenson’s reading of Florence Macarthy presented the text as an intricate response to ideas surrounding nationalism, nationhood and female authorship, which do not neatly align into a clear vision of the future of Ireland. Lawrenson explained that the author had an increasingly globalised outlook in her later novels, but that understanding the social status of the characters in their domestic settings remains something of a challenge.

Especially interesting to me was Lawrenson’s assertion that Owenson presents a distinctly un-Romantic vision of poverty at the same time as she also supports a version of ‘benevolent paternalism’. Lawrenson noted in the discussion after her talk that this uncertainty raises further questions surrounding the representation of class politics in the novel. She ended the discussion by suggesting that Owenson’s text might even be viewed as part of the same literary genealogy that later promotes the gothicisation of Irish famine victims – an intriguing, if disturbing, line of further inquiry.

– Ruby Tuke

Report from the North West Long Nineteenth Century Seminar

The North West Long Nineteenth Century Seminar, sponsored by BARS, takes place 3 times a year at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). It brings together the work of postgraduates, early career researchers and established academics, and is organised by Emma Liggins and Sonja Lawrenson.

A report by Holly Hirst, 2nd year PhD student at MMU

Today’s seminar took place to a back drop of suitably Gothic weather for this unusually Gothicky seminar set. The dull depression of what was supposedly a spring sky was not reflected in the talks given. A running connection to the Gothic appeared throughout the papers presented, and there was a particular emphasis on the latter half of the eighteenth century. Peter Lindfield (MMU) opened with a paper on the Gothically ‘genuine fake ancestral castle’ of Horace Walpole. Deborah Russell (York) followed with a talk on theatrical adaptations of Radcliffe’s Romance of the Forest and Godwin’s Caleb Williams. Emilee Morrallis (Liverpool Hope) made a nod to the Gothic in her discussion of Charlotte Smith’s Old Manor House. The day ended with a discussion by Caroline Ikin (MMU) on John Ruskin’s decidedly (and refreshingly after a day of gloom!) unGothic Proserpina.

Lindfield’s paper ‘Building a genuine fake ancestral castle: Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill’ demonstrated the way in which Walpole’s Gothic architectural project was part of a desire to create for his family an ancestral seat, one of the key markers of family status in the Georgian period. Lindfield paid particular attention to the planned (but never executed) columbarium which was to be stocked with the (supposed) funerary urns of the Walpole family. Lindfield noted here the irony of Walpole’s mixing of the Gothic and the classical, which he had constantly execrated in his writings and correspondence, if not in appearance then in ethos. Russell’s paper followed and likewise covered a relatively undernourished area of Gothic scholarship – in this case the Gothic drama. Her paper was entitled ‘Staging Silence: Gothic Theatrical Adaptations.’ Her paper investigated the use of silence as a form of ‘obscurity’ and thus, in the Burkean sense, sublimity and the way it points to the unspeakable as well as the unknowable. Her paper moved from a brief analysis of the possibilities of silence in the novel to its translation on the stage. She noted the changed emphasis of silence and suspense on the stage, pointing to the key issue of focalisation. Within the Radcliffian Gothic novel, she argues, the reader’s perceptions are focalised through the heroine’s point of view, and the reader participates in the experience of the mystery attached to the ultimately explained supernatural. In contrast, stage versions allow the ‘supernatural’ or the trick to be seen – that which remained obscure in the novel is either made absent or explicit upon the stage.

After a short break for tea, coffee, biscuits and clarification of mind, Emilee Morrallis opened with her paper ‘Domesticity, liminality and social transition.’ Using Celestina and The Old Manor House as her key texts she discussed the ways in which the novels focus on the liminal period of adolescence and specifically female adolescence. Morrallis argued that there was no specific social space for adolescence and that this liminal period becomes occupied with liminal spaces. Her comparison of Celestina and The Old Manor House and their differently aged protagonists focused on the differences between these two differently adolescent figures’ experiences of the domestic space and liminal spaces within/around it. The world outside stands as both a threat and a space that is necessary to navigate and confront in order to attain access to the differently domestic life of the wife and mother. Concentrating on garden spaces, windows, and doors, Morrallis mapped these heroines’ negotiations of these liminal spaces in terms of physical space, adolescence, and femininity. Ikin’s paper on ‘John Ruskin’s Proserpina: Botany or Biography’ traced the ways in which Ruskin’s text engages with a very different form of botany to the materialist science which he rejected. Composed of meticulous observations of his own garden, creative responses, poetry and even exercises, the text, Ikin asserted, was aimed in part to rectify some of the deficiencies Ruskin perceived in the education of the young. He sought to restore wonder to the study of the natural world rather than the narrow focus of materialist science. Ikin also investigated the way in which this book of botany could and should be read biographically with reference to Ruskin’s own life and particularly his doomed relationship with Rose la Touche – to whom references were made throughout the text. Most fascinatingly, she investigated the title page of the volumes with particular attention to the flower symbolism of the blue rose – the sign of doomed love. All the papers were met with lively questions and discussion continued over dinner for those speakers and attendees who didn’t have a train to catch!

The whole day was an opportunity to expand knowledge and engage with new approaches in relation to Gothic writers, female Romantic authors and the intersection of elements of aesthetic theory with landscape design, architecture and their fictional and factual representations in the long nineteenth century.

– Holly Hirst