My Stephen Copley Research Award funded a trip to Edinburgh to consult the National Records of Scotland and the Scottish National Gallery’s collections of letters and drawings by the painter Alexander Runciman (1736-85).
What interests me about Runciman — who is best known as the creator of the first (now sadly lost) decorative scheme based on James Macpherson’s Ossian epics — is his heroic treatment of female characters from the epic tradition. Whereas other late eighteenth-century artists (most notably Angelica Kauffman) had pioneered painters’ treatment of women as heroic subjects, they also tended to circumscribe the heroism of female epic characters, such as Andromache and Penelope, to passive acts of suffering and endurance. In several instances, Runciman went a step further, representing the suffering of female epic heroes not as something in which they have no agency, but something that they bravely elect to undergo. This is most obviously the case in Runciman’s depiction of Corgan Carglâ, a hunter from Macpherson’s Ossian, who chooses to be imprisoned in a cave for life rather than submit to her husband’s murderer.
Before my research trip, I thought I had discerned the origins of Runciman’s contemporarily unusual approach to female heroism in preparatory drawings for a rendering of the death of Dido, which appear to give Virgil’s tragic heroine more and more agency in successive sketches. The truth was, as I found out, both more interesting and more confusing. The drawings (held by the Scottish National Gallery) do gradually shift away from the passive and sentimental renderings of Dido that were popular with earlier eighteenth-century artists, in which the queen typically appears to have died as the direct result of her abandonment by Aeneas, rather than (in any obvious way) by her own hand. However, while what appears to be the final drawing shows Dido very much alive, clutching the sword with which she will end her own life and evidently weighing her options — an artistic choice which emphasises her agency and tacitly associates her with the Classical tradition of tragic but heroic suicide populated by figures including Seneca and Lucan — the painting itself rows back on these innovations and offers a conventional portrayal of Dido as a passive and inert victim.
National Records of Scotland
A year later, as I discovered in a letter held at the National Records of Scotland, Runciman was contemplating an even more drastic return to the gendered conventions of male heroism and female passivity that typify the epic. His original plan for what he would later turn into the Ossian decorative scheme at Sir John Clerk’s Penicuik House (near Edinburgh) was an uncompromisingly manly and conventionally heroic scheme based upon the life of Achilles. The only female character Runciman proposed for this series was Achilles’ mother, Thetis, whose agency, as Runciman’s detailed description makes clear, would not even have extended to untying her own sandals.
Evidently, Runciman later opted for the Ossian illustrations, which put Corban Carglâ centre stage, but even here, he agonised over whether to represent the imprisoned hunter as an awe-inspiring figure in her own right, or as a damsel in distress saved by Macpherson’s epic hero Fingal. Two preparatory drawings (also at the Scottish National Gallery) show Runciman wavering between these options, with a muscled and armed Fingal occupying the foreground in one and a (literally towering) Corban Carglâ dominating the frame (with Fingal relegated to the background and looking up awe-struck) in the other.
My findings have made me reflect upon external factors that may have caused Runciman’s apparent flip-flopping, what his prevarication may tell us more broadly about the difficulties or potential repercussions of portraying female heroes during the Romantic period, and the particular problems he may have faced as a male artist championing this model of heroism. I am very grateful to BARS for funding what has been a very productive few days of confusion!
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.
To find out how to apply for a BARS Stephen Copley Research Award, click here.
In August, thanks to a generous BARS Stephen Copley Research Award, between 12–15 August, I was able to visit to visit the Bodleian Library in Oxford to consult Robert Southey’s ‘Harold; or, The Castle of Morford’ (Bodleian MS Misc. Eng. e. 21), written in 1791 and purchased by the Bodleian Library from the famous Bristol booksellers W. George’s Sons in 1895.
The manuscript’s unassuming title obscures its significance somewhat, for this is, as far as I can ascertain, the first attempt by any author to write a novel featuring the legendary English outlaw, Robin Hood, as it predates Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe (1819) by 28 years.
Along with a colleague, Dr Mark Truesdale, I am transcribing and publishing Southey’s unpublished text with Routledge as part of its ‘Outlaws in Literature, History, and Culture’ series, and publication is expected in March 2020. The purpose of my visit, then, was to perform final checks of our transcription, such as making sure we had not misread words (young Southey’s handwriting was not the neatest), for the Routledge edition will reproduce, as far as possible, exactly what was written by Southey 228 years ago.
Bodleian MS Misc Eng e. 21
The manuscript is bound in a maroon binding dating from probably the mid-nineteenth century, with gold embossed title on the spine reading ‘Juvenilia Romances MSS. Southey’. Binding the manuscript in this way has the obvious advantage of keeping all of the leaves together but this has also meant that some words on the margins have been obscured due to the tightness of the binding and the fact that Southey often used the whole page, writing right up to the edges of the leaves. Another issue is that the binders also trimmed the pages at the top, bottom, and sides, meaning some words from the manuscript are forever lost.
Luckily for us, someone in the Victorian era faithfully copied out Southey’s tale in full (presumably before it was bound), which meant that deficiencies in the original manuscript (Bodleian MS Misc Eng e. 21) could be cross-checked with the copy (Bodleian MS Misc Eng e. 114), which was donated by Baroness Paravicini to the library in 1927 — not every eighteenth-century scholar has the luxury of having two manuscripts to check when undertaking similar projects!
Southey’s unpublished tale will be of benefit, not only to Robin Hood scholars, but to the eighteenth-century and Romanticism community at large. In it we find poetry written by Southey which he never published, with some of the poetry, written as it was by a 16 year old boy, preoccupied with women’s ‘charms’:
And oft beneath the glassy wave
Her dainty limbs would hide
And oft above the waves appeared
Her gently heaving breast
That charm alone exposed to view
The waves obscured the rest
Come, Launcelot the nymph exclaimed
Tis now the time for love
For silent is the midnight hour
And pleasant is the grove
With that she leaped from out the wave
Exposing all her charms
Come, Launcelot again she cried
Come riot in my arms (55v–56r)
Southey wrote his novel before his political ‘radicalisation’ in 1794, after meeting with Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Yet in ‘Harold’, we do find that even by the age of 16, Southey had developed a social conscience. For example—and the novel is barely historicised—the Robin Hood considers himself as ‘the overseer of the poor rates’, and delights in levying contributions from the richest in society and redistributing wealth to the humblest class of people (14v). And the forest society of Sherwood is an egalitarian one, where even King Richard, who has ventured back to England in disguise and joined the outlaws, thinks himself neither above nor below any of the other outlaws.
Scholars will not have to wait too long to read Southey’s novel, and I am grateful to the British Association for Romantic Studies for providing me with funding to travel to Oxford and ensure that all of mine and Mark’s transcriptions were correct so we can present scholars with an accurate version of what Southey originally wrote and, if they want to consult Southey’s juvenile tale, not have to make an expensive trip to Oxford themselves.
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.
Thanks to the generous support of BARS and the Stephen Copley Research Award, I am freshly returned from a glorious week’s worth of rummaging through the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford. My PhD examines the narrative function of the horse-drawn carriage in Jane Austen’s fictions, and investigates its cultural significance in wider Georgian society. I support my literary enquiries with a few key contemporary trade sources on the design and construction of carriages, but as I’ve discovered over the course of my research, eighteenth-century coach-makers were a fiercely secretive bunch and frustratingly little archival evidence survives today. In comes the John Johnson Collection’s boxes and boxes of carriage related trade ephemera!
Print and visual depictions of private carriages, stage and mail coaches, driving disasters, stately processions and everything in between abound in libraries and archives, the carriage seems to have been a favourite target for eighteenth-century cartoonists and novelists alike to publicly lampoon. Whilst I relish the fact my doctoral work means I get to study these vibrant sources, the carriage was an incredible feat of engineering in its marriage of elegant design with technologies of motion, and to fully comprehend this I need to go back to the fundamentals. I want to get to grips with the carriage’s design and production processes and understand how these aesthetically adroit commodity objects, marketed to the polite elite, were intended to be consumed by their inventors. My intentions, therefore, for my trip to the Bodleian were to consult as many trade cards and designs as I could get my hands on. The fact that only a small portion of the holdings of carriage ephemera has been digitised made this an even more enticing prospect, and I had no idea the extent of what I was going to find.
Well, let me tell you, I was not disappointed. My favourite finds included delicate line drawings for all sorts of carriage typologies, from zippy two-wheelers like the cabriolet and curricle, to large ‘pleasure carriages’ – so-called for their use on short, leisurely trips during spring and summer – like the barouche. A common characteristic of small carriages (and many of their four-wheel cousins) was a removable or retractable hood that could be drawn back at the behest of the occupants. Until this trip, I had mostly seen trade designs for two-wheel carriages with the hood omitted, instead, they’re pictured more commonly in fashion plates, and I have always been curious as to how coach makers represented hoods in their designs. It was a really nice surprise, then, to stumble across two separate designs for a gig carriage that featured its hood on a tab that could be flipped up to reveal both aspects of the vehicle. What made these blueprints all the more special were the colourful accents in yellow and ultramarine, an unusual embellishment to what appeared to just be preliminary designs rather than promotional imagery. The collection as a whole truly shows that the artistry of the carriage wasn’t isolated to the finished article, but was inherent in the print artefacts that represented and advertised them.
All in all, my first ever visit to the Bodleian was just what I needed to give me the green light on some of the claims I have been making more tentatively in the absence of strong contemporary evidence, and I am grateful both to BARS and the staff at the Bodleian for this opportunity to expand my knowledge and strengthen my research.
– Gabriella Barnard-Edmunds
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This May, thanks to the BARS Stephen Copley Research Award, I was able to spend a week in Derby Local Studies and Family History Library. I carried out research into poet and political orator turned speech therapist, John Thelwall, and his “Derby Manuscript”. The collection, contained within three volumes of notebooks and spanning almost a thousand pages, includes poetry on subjects as diverse as Thelwall’s own career and was identified by Judith Thompson in 2004. The manuscript, begun after Thelwall’s “retirement” from political lecturing, contains not only published and unpublished poems from this period of his life, but also reworkings of earlier published work, including several poems from his 1793 “politico-sentimental journal” The Peripatetic.
Derby Local Studies and Family History Library
My PhD thesis explores speech production in British literature in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, with a particular focus on the work of Erasmus Darwin, John Thelwall and Percy Bysshe Shelley. I aim to argue that speech production becomes a focal point for these writers to explore politically and philosophically unorthodox ideas and that a specific concern with the mechanics of speech implicated their writing in politically-loaded contemporary debates about materialism, and developing conceptions of disciplinarity. The material held in Derby has been invaluable in helping me to track how Thelwall’s ideas, particularly those on materialist philosophy, continued to develop across his career(s). Excitingly, all of the amendments and crossings out that Thelwall made to his poetry have remained legible, revealing the extent of his ambivalences and anxieties about his political, philosophical, and professional allegiances, as he struggles, in places, to find the right words to express these increasingly fraught subjects. The manuscript also contains several poems which have been annotated with elocutionary markings to aid recitation and poetry on the subject of oratory and elocution, both of which have provided me with a deeper understanding of Thelwall’s elocutionary theory.
During my research trip I also had the opportunity to visit the Library of Birmingham’s Wolfson Centre for Archival Research, which houses letters written by Thelwall and correspondence between Erasmus Darwin and James Watt. Included in these collections was an 1801 letter from Thelwall to Joseph Strutt, written at the very beginning of what he describes as his “metamorphose” from republican radical to teacher of elocution, which sheds light onto what Thelwall himself saw as the continuities and discontinuities between his political and elocutionary projects.
River Derwent, Derby
I’d like to thank BARS again for this brilliant opportunity to carry out research which will form an important strand of my thesis. I’d also like to thank the staff at the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research and at Derby Local Studies Library for all their help and for allowing me access to Thelwall’s original manuscripts.
– Alice Rhodes (University of York)
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This May, I visited the Parliamentary Archives in Westminster, London. Thanks to the generous support of BARS, I was able to undertake some key research for my PhD thesis, which explores representations of the breast in eighteenth-century visual satire. As a massive satirical print enthusiast, I’ve had my eye on the House of Lords Gillray collection for a while. Bequeathed to the library in 1899, this beautiful compilation of caricatures belonged to Sir William Augustus Fraser (1826-1898). Excitingly, some of the prints within the eleven volumes do not appear in the British Museum’s catalogue of prints and drawings – the go-to source for scholars of visual satire. The House of Lords Gillray collection is precious, and I’m grateful to the library for granting me access.
The intention of my PhD project is to progress understanding of the way in which ideological narratives of femininity, and especially motherhood, were (and still are), forged around the breast. Previous scholarship has overlooked the significance of the breast within visual satire, and my research seeks to rectify that. As expected, a lot of the prints within the eleven volumes feature bared breasts, and I collected numerous new sources. Viewing the satires in person also allowed me to notice previously missed details within familiar digitised prints. For example, a mother with an infant to her breast appears in the top left hand corner of Gillray’s famed Shakespeare Sacrificed;-or-The Offering to Avarice(1789) – an important feature that’s passed me by until now.
James Gillray, Shakespeare Sacrificed; – or – The Offering to Avarice, published by Hannah Humphrey, 1789
Detail of Shakespeare Sacrificed
The image depicts a woman seated upon a cloud, cradling an infant. Her right breast is exposed, and the baby grasps her left nipple as she glances down. Two other figures huddle close, and the baby either urinates or passes wind into the disgusted face of the figure in blue. Every detail included in a satirical prints is significant, and I’m looking forward to digging deeper into the social, political and cultural inferences behind this representation.
Fraser was a meticulous collector, and his (huge and very heavy) volumes are almost perfectly preserved. Pasted upon blue paper with gold gilding, the prints are vivid in colour. The hobbyist habits of Fraser are interesting; he arranged his prints chronologically, inserted markers to indicate the prints that he was unable to secure, and most often devoted a double page to each print, presumably to prevent the colours rubbing off on each other. There are also occasions where Fraser has pasted in a black and white copy of a print and later added its colour equivalent, as below. This implies a preference for coloured satires, and/or for the latest version/all versions of a single print.
James Gillray, National Discourse. Published by Hannah Humphrey, 1780.
One of the highlights of the visit was the stunning print below. The Installation Supper (1788) unfolded like a concertina and stretched across the room, eliciting low whistles of appreciation from fellow reading room comrades. Depicting a dinner party given by the Knights of Bath on the 19 May 1788, The Installation-Suppercaricatures key social and political players including the Prince of Wales, Edmund Burke, and Maria Fitzherbert.
James Gillray, The Installation-Supper, as given at the Pantheon, by the Knights of the Bath on the 26th of May, 1788. Published by S. W. Fores, 1788
Detail from print. The British Museum, BM Satires 7330.
Additionally, I was able to spend some of my time in London at the British Library. Here, I found sources for an upcoming chapter about the breast and discourses of social corruption, damage and disorder.
I would like to extend my gratitude to BARS for the generous Stephen Copley bursary, which supported an inspiring and productive visit to London. Further thanks are owed to the archival staff at the Parliamentary archives and the House of Lords librarians, who were most helpful, knowledgeable and kind.
The Stephen Copley Research Award allowed me to spend four days in London attending a conference and conducting archival research at the British Library. The Open Graves Open Minds (OGOM) conference was held at Keats House in Hampstead and was entitled ‘“Some Curious Disquiet”: Polidori, the Byronic vampire, and its Progeny’. The event was prompted by the bicentenary of The Vampyre and featured papers on topics ranging from contemporary adaptations to the vampire’s folkloric and Byronic roots.
My PhD thesis concerns dramatic adaptations of Gothic novels, namely Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein(1818) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula(1897): two iconic texts which are frequently paired together in adaptations. The repeated coupling of two narratives with such vastly disparate publication dates is intriguing, as the texts deal with very different cultural contexts and social concerns. My thesis attributes this in part to Lord Byron’s ghost story competition at the Villa Diodati in 1816, the ‘year without a summer’, from which both Frankenstein’s monster and the first literary vampire originate. Attending the OGOM Polidori conference allowed me to learn more about the literary history of the vampire pre-Dracula, while simultaneously updating myself on emerging scholarship within this area. The event itself was holistic in its approach and covered a wide range of themes which will serve to inform my future readings of vampiric texts and, subsequently, the next chapter of my thesis. Particular highlights included Sir Christopher Frayling’s keynote, Marcus Sedgwick’s discussion of the links between vampirism and tuberculosis, and a paper on the stage effects used in vampiric drama by Ivan Phillips.
Image via OGOM
The latter half of my trip was spent in the British Library reading rooms, in which I passed the first day reading Bram Stoker’s manuscript for Dracula: Or, The Un-dead – a 47-scene-long dramatic reading that was performed prior to the publication of Draculain order to secure dramatic copyright. This script consists of a mixture of Stoker’s own handwritten notes interspersed with cut and pasted extracts of the publisher’s proof copy. Having the opportunity to read this document not only gave me a fascinating insight into late-Victorian theatre, but also allowed me to explore how Stoker originally envisaged his eponymous Count for the stage.
I used my second day to examine early nineteenth-century playbills of dramatic adaptations of Frankenstein and The Vampyre. I was particularly interested in specific actors’ portrayals, as some individuals represented both monsters. This trend is seen in cinematic adaptations, with actors such as Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., and later Christopher Lee playing both Frankenstein’s monster and Count Dracula throughout their careers, but is yet to be identified in early dramatizations. I had established that nineteenth-century adaptations had featured the same actor playing both monsters. However, through my scrutiny of early playbills, I have been able to determine that the two roles were not only played by the same actor, but also, for a short period of time, played by the same actor at the same time on alternate days of the week. This piece of information will serve to reinforce my application of theatrical theory to the two texts, and further establish links between Frankenstein’s monster and the vampire.
I’m extremely grateful to BARS for this award. Without their assistance, my visit – which has proved invaluable to the progression of my thesis – would not have been possible. I would also like to thank the OGOM team for organising such a fantastic conference, and the Reference Desk team at the British Library (especially John) for all of their helpful suggestions on how to use the library’s resources to their full potential.
– Eleanor Bryan (University of Lincoln)
Read more about the latest OGOM conference via their Twitter feed, here.
The BARS Executive Committee has established these bursaries in order to support postgraduate and early-career research within the UK. They are intended to help fund expenses incurred through travel to libraries and archives necessary to the student’s research. As anticipated, this year we received a large number of applications, many of which were of a very high quality indeed. Please do join us in congratulating the very worthy winners. Romanticism is alive and kicking, we’re pleased to say!
Valentina P. Aparicio (University of Edinburgh)
Gabriella Barnard-Edmunds (University of York)
Stephen Basdeo (RIASA Leeds)
Eleanor Bryan (University of Lincoln)
Hiroki Iwamoto (University of Bristol)
Francesco Marchionni (Durham University)
Alice Rhodes (University of York)
Katie Snow (University of Exeter)
Jonathan Taylor (University of Surrey)
Once they have completed their research trips each winner will write a brief report on their projects. These will be published on the website and circulated through our social media. For more information about the bursaries, including reports from past winners, please visit our website.