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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.

BARS First Book Prize, 2017-19

The British Association for Romantic Studies

is delighted to announce the current round of

The British Association for Romantic Studies

First Book Prize, 2017-19

Awarded biennially for the best first monograph in Romantic Studies, this prize is open to first books published between 31 January 2017 and 1 January 2019. In keeping with the remit of the British Association for Romantic Studies, it is designed to encourage and recognise original, ground breaking and interdisciplinary work in the literature and culture of the period c.1780-1830. The prize will be awarded to the value of £250 and will be presented at the BARS Biennial Conference, ‘Romantic Facts and Fantasies’, to be held at Nottingham University, 25-29 July 2019. Authors on the final shortlist will receive £100 each.

Eligibility and nomination procedures

The competition is open to books by authors who have not published a monograph before. Books must be nominated through the BARS membership or by publishers. Publishers should send books directly to the address below, while member nominations should include publisher contact details. In all cases, copies of nominated books must be received by the committee by the closing date, 31 January, 2019. Books received after this date are not eligible for consideration. 4 copies of each nominated book should be sent to Dr Daniel Cook, School of Humanities, University of Dundee, DD1 4HN.

Flyer Download: BARS First Book Prize Flyer 2017-19

BARS President’s Report 2018

From BARS President Ian Haywood:

I am delighted to be President of BARS at such an exciting time. We are a very busy and resourceful organisation, striving to fulfil our mission of promoting Romantic studies in the UK and beyond. Our financial situation is healthy which means we can support and expand existing initiatives and develop new methods of supporting our membership. Since I became President in 2015, we have made a big push to support Early Career scholars as we recognise that this can be a difficult stage in the career path. We have therefore introduced three new awards: the Wordsworth Trust Fellowships, the Nineteenth Century Matters Fellowship (in association with BAVS), and the Scottish Romanticism Research award. I would like to expand these schemes and introduce new ones, perhaps in new national or regional centres, and/or focused on public engagement and impact, and/or linking up with international partners. I invite all members to submit ideas for new awards with clearly defined outcomes that will benefit the holders: please send ideas to the Executive via the BARS Secretary (email address on the BARS website).

Another major new development is the launch of ERA, European Romanticisms in Association. We are proud to have been a driving force behind this network, particularly in light of Brexit. I am delighted to report that ERA has been awarded a Network grant by the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a two-year programme of events (2018-20) entitled ‘Dreaming Europe’ (http://www.euromanticism.org). ERA currently hosts a BARS European Engagement Fellow and there are plans for this to continue. Congratulations to BARS Past President Nicola Watson (Open University) and her team.

Our international biennial conference in 2017, ‘Romantic Improvement’, was held at York University’s Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies and it was a great success; my thanks to the local team, in particular Jim Watt, Jon Mee and Catriona Kennedy. The next conference, ‘Romantic Facts and Fantasies’, will be held at the University of Nottingham in 2019. I am delighted to announce that the 2021 conference will be jointly organised with the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR) and will be at Edge Hill University, Liverpool.

At the York conference, the BARS First Book Prize was awarded to Julia Carlson (Cincinnati) for her monograph, Romantic Marks and Measures (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016). I want to thank Professor Nigel Leask (Glasgow) for his sterling work as Chair of the sub-committee for 2015-17. We are delighted that the new Chair for 2017-19 is Professor Claire Connolly (University College Cork). The next round of the book prize will begin soon: if you wish to nominate a book, please contact Professor Connolly: claireconnolly@ucc.ie.

I have tried to ensure that all members of the Executive have a specific role which they have been asked to develop with allocated resources. This model seems to be working well and the total number of Executive members (elected and co-opted) is at a record high, a reflection of the amount of activity we are generating. I have increased the budget for our current schemes: the Copley bursaries, the regular subventions for conferences, and the BARS First Book award. The ECR conference continues to be a great success. This year it will be held in Glasgow, 15-16 June: the topic is ‘Romantic Exchanges’.

Thanks to Professor Anthony Mandal (Cardiff), we now have BARS postcards, to be used for publicity purposes (all members are welcome to a bunch! Please contact the Secretary).

These achievements would not have been possible without the commitment and enthusiasm of the BARS Executive Committee (see the website for full list). I want to pay particular tribute to members who have recently left or will soon be leaving the committee. Dr Susan Valladares (Oxford), formerly the editor of the BARS Review, stepped down in 2017 after several years of dedicated and meticulous work. We are very pleased that Professor Mark Sandy (Durham) has taken her place. Dr Helen Stark (University College London) is stepping down as Secretary after doing this job outstandingly well since 2013; Helen’s place will be taken by Dr Jennifer Orr (Newcastle); again, we are delighted to welcome this new colleague.

Finally, I would like to report another BARS success: one of our nominees for the 2021 REF (Research Excellence Framework), Professor Simon Kövesi (Oxford Brookes), has been appointed as an assessor for the English Language and Literature panel. We wish Simon all the best in this important role and we are delighted that Romanticism has a voice on the panel.

I look forward to another year of exciting and productive work.

Ian Haywood, University of Roehampton

March 2018

The full text of this report can be downloaded here: BARS President’s Report 2018.

 

Stephen Copley Award Report: Eleanor Bryan, The British Library

A report from Eleanor Bryan (PhD candidate, University of Lincoln) who was awarded a BARS Stephen Copley Award.

See the full list of 2018 winners here.

 

Eleanor Bryan – Stephen Copley Award Report

The Stephen Copley Award funded my visit to the British Library Doctoral Open day on Monday 19th March. The purpose of the open day was to acquaint new PhD students with the variety of resources that the British Library offers, and to explain the best ways of using its services and navigating its collections, both physically and online. This particular open day took an interdisciplinary approach to the British Library’s nineteenth-century collections and, as such, provided a holistic overview of a plethora of potential resources. Presentations were given by a host of librarians, all with different areas of expertise, who provided information on the nineteenth-century printed collections, modern archives, and manuscript collections.

My research focuses on dramatic adaptations of Gothic novels, namely Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I was therefore particularly interested in the British Ephemera collections, which include playbills, prints, and drawings. The other doctoral students and I were able to peruse some of the historical manuscripts. We were shown a variety of eclectic ephemera and librarians demonstrated how to find specific items and then subsequently source other more obscure items that may be connected but not the result of an initial search.

My day at the British Library far exceeded my expectations, and I would recommend their Doctoral Open Days to anyone and everyone, regardless of discipline, who is in the first few months of their PhD. I now feel much more confident in my own skills as a researcher and feel more equipped to seek out relevant material that will be of use to me. I am therefore extremely grateful to the BARS Stephen Copley Award for funding my visit as it will prove to be of great value to my thesis.

Inaugural BARS Chawton House Travel Bursary Awarded

The executive committee of the British Association for Romantic Studies (BARS) and the trustees of Chawton House are delighted to announce the winner of the inaugural BARS Chawton House Travel Bursary: Francesca Kavanagh, who is a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne. Her research project examines the production of spaces of intimacy in practices of letter-writing, annotation, and commonplacing.

All scholars working on Romantic-Period women’s writing are eligible to apply for this scheme.  The BARS Executive Committee has established this award in order to help fund expenses incurred through travel to, and accommodation near, Chawton House Library in Hampshire, up to a maximum of £500.

Recipients are asked to submit a short report to the BARS Executive Committee, for publication on its website, and to acknowledge BARS and Chawton House in their doctoral thesis and/or any publication arising from the research trip. Please join us in congratulating Francesca on her award.

– Daniel Cook, University of Dundee

Stephen Copley Research Awards 2018 – the winners

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!

  • Eleanor Bryan (University of Lincoln)
  • Mary Chadwick (University of Huddersfield)
  • Lauren Christie (University of Dundee)
  • Octavia Cox (University of Oxford)
  • Valerie Derbyshire (University of Sheffield)
  • Eva-Charlotta Mebius (University College London)
  • Hannah Moss (University of Sheffield)
  • Harrie Neal (University of York)
  • Emma Probett (University of Leicester)
  • Lieke van Deinsen (Radboud University Nijmegen)

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.

– Daniel Cook
Bursaries Officer, BARS
University of Dundee

Applications welcome for new BARS Secretary

The ​Executive Committee of the British Association for Romantic Studies is recruiting a new Secretary.

The Secretary is responsible for the organisation and minuting of face to face and on-line Executive meetings, and serving as the first contact point for the Association. They circulate funding applications to the Executive Committee and liaise with applicants. Members of the Executive Committee are expected to attend three meetings (one at the biennial conference) and contribute to one ‘virtual’ meeting in a two-year cycle.

The post does not carry remuneration but it is an excellent opportunity for an early-career Romanticist to gain valuable experience and skills. 

Informal enquiries about the role should be directed to the outgoing Secretary, Helen Stark (h.stark@ucl.ac.uk). Applications should be made to the President, Ian Haywood (I.Haywood@roehampton.ac.uk) and comprise a CV and a statement (up to 300 words) detailing the applicant’s qualification for the role. The start date is negotiable but no later than June 2018. Deadline for applications: 19 Feb 2018.

Call for Papers: Romantic Exchanges, 1760-1840 – 2018 BARS Early Career and Postgraduate Conference

Call for Papers

Romantic Exchanges, 1760-1840

British Association for Romantic Studies Early Career and Postgraduate Conference

University of Glasgow, 15–16 June 2018

 

Keynote Speakers: Professor Gerard Carruthers (University of Glasgow) and Dr Susan Manly (University of St Andrews)

 

The BARS Early Career and Postgraduate Conference will explore the concept of exchange in Romantic-period literature and thought. It will bring together postgraduate and early-career researchers whose work addresses this idea from a wide range of perspectives: from the economic exchange of objects and commodities, to the transnational circulation of books and ideas, to neglected connections between writers, texts and contexts.

We invite proposals for themed panels, as well as proposals for the traditional individual twenty-minute paper. Applicants might choose to address some of the following, though we also encourage you to interpret the theme more widely:

  • Commercial exchange: trade, commodities, the literary marketplace, economic value.
  • Epistolary exchange: letters, correspondence, bills of exchange, legal documents.
  • Financial exchange: money, gifts, credit, indebtedness, political economy.
  • Historical exchange: transmission and reception of writers and works across generations.
  • Intellectual exchange: literary networks and coteries, periodicals and print culture, public opinion.
  • International exchange: travel, intercultural encounters, translation, transnational circulation.
  • Interpersonal exchange: influence, collaboration and conversation between writers.

Please send abstracts of up to 250 words for individual papers or 750 words for themed three-person panels (including name and institutional affiliation of all proposed speakers) to bars.postgrads@gmail.com by 9 March 2018.

Follow us on Twitter @BARS_PGs

Organisers: Honor Rieley (Glasgow) and Paul Stephens (Oxford)

Download this CfP here.

Stephen Copley Research Report: The Lewis Walpole Library

The following report details research by Lauren Nixon, who visited the University of Yale supported by a BARS Stephen Copley Bursary.

Stephen Copley Research Award Report

Lauren Nixon: Researching Henry Seymour Conway at the Lewis Walpole Library

 

The Stephen Copley Research Award funded my visit to the Lewis Walpole Library, part of the University of Yale, which houses a large collection of materials relating to Horace Walpole (1717-1797) as well as an extensive array of rare books, prints and paintings. Thanks to the award I was able to spend a week in November 2017 studying the correspondence of Henry Seymour Conway (1721-1795), a cousin and friend of Horace Walpole and a British Army Officer who served during the Seven Years War (1756-1763). This research will form a part of my PhD thesis, ‘Conflicting Masculinities: The figure of the soldier in Gothic literature, 1764-1826’, and I hope to have the opportunity to present a snapshot of my findings at a conference this year.

Though significant critical work on exploring gender constructs within the early Gothic novel has been undertaken, very little has focused upon the military and the figure of the soldier. Yet the soldier, be it in the guise of an ancient knight, clansman or chevalier, appears frequently throughout the Gothic fiction of the period. My thesis analyses the ways in which Gothic writers employed the soldier and the military to redefine and reconsider masculinity, and charts shifting perceptions and presentations of the military in the eighteenth century.  As part of this research I am interested in the state of the military and social perception of the soldier during and in the aftermath of the Seven Years War, a conflict which Britain emerged victorious but which would have drastic lasting financial strains. Despite being heralded as heroes during the Seven Years War, the years after saw the private soldier turned loose without pay. Left to poverty and vagrancy, the British soldier of the 1770’s and 1780’s was far from a champion of national vigour and virtue – that is, until the renewed threat of conflict with France after the French Revolution.

In addition to the Gothic novels of authors such as Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, Regina Maria Roche and Mary Shelley, my research also incorporates a number of primary materials such as songs, pamphlets and speeches. During my week in the Lewis Walpole Library, I was able to further this study by analysing Henry Seymour Conway’s correspondence with his brother Francis Seymour Conway, 1st Marquess of Hertford (1718-1794) and three books of his military correspondence charting his service in Europe during the Seven Years War. This not only provided enlightening and intriguing insights into the military profession and the notion of the soldier’s duty during the eighteenth century from unpublished, understudied texts, but also indicated a crucial connection to the Gothic. Walpole and Conway were not just cousins, but close friends and frequent correspondents. In 1764, when Conway was abruptly dismissed from both parliament and his military command after speaking out against the Government on the John Wilkes controversy, Walpole supported Conway both financially and publically. As the Castle of Otranto was published later that same year, I believe there is an argument to be made for Conway’s identity as a soldier and his belief in the soldier’s chivalric masculinity influenced the novel. This is an avenue I had not previously considered, but now aim to pursue in the future.

I am extremely grateful to BARS for granting me the Stephen Copley Research Award, as without it I would not have been able to make the trip. The research I undertook at the Lewis Walpole Library was of great value to my thesis, but also to my development as a researcher. The library itself, located in the town of Farmington, Connecticut (about forty minutes drive from Yale University), has a varied and fascinating collection, including their current exhibition Global Encounters and the Archives: Great Britain’s Empire in the Age of Horace Walpole. 

– Lauren Nixon

The BARS Review, No. 50 (Autumn 2017)

George Cruikshank, ‘Death or Liberty!’ (1819). ©Trustees of the British Museum. Used under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

The Editors, led from this number forward by Mark Sandy, are pleased to announce the publication of the 50th number of The BARS Review, the eighth available in full online through the new website.  The list of contents below includes links to the html versions of the fifteen articles, but all the reviews are also available as pdfs.  If you want to browse through the whole number at your leisure, a pdf compilation is available.

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

Editor: Mark Sandy (Durham University)
General Editors: Ian Haywood (University of Roehampton), Susan Oliver (University of Essex) & Nicola J. Watson (Open University)
Technical Editor: Matthew Sangster (University of Glasgow)


Reviews

Neil Ramsey and Gillian Russell, eds., Tracing War in British Enlightenment and Romantic Culture
E. J. Clery
Timothy Campbell, Historical Style: Fashion and the New Mode of History, 1740–1830
Jane Taylor
J. A. Downie, ed., The Oxford Handbook of the Eighteenth-Century Novel
Natasha Simonova
Joseph Rezek, London and the Making of Provincial Literature: Aesthetics and the Transatlantic Book Trade
Jon Mee
[Robert Southey], Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella, ed. Carol Bolton
Diego Saglia
Kristina Mendicino, Prophecies of Language: The Confusion of Tongues in German Romanticism
James Vigus
Lisa Ottum and Seth T. Reno, eds, Wordsworth and the Green Romantics: Affect and Ecology in the Nineteenth Century
Viona Au Yeung
Tabish Khair and Johan Höglund, eds., Transnational and Postcolonial Vampires: Dark Blood
Carly Stevenson
Ruth Livesey, Writing the Stage Coach Nation: Locality on the Move in Nineteenth-Century British Literature
Christopher Donaldson
Peter Garside and Karen O’Brien, eds., The Oxford History of the Novel in English: Volume 2: English and British Fiction 1750-1820
Yi-cheng Weng
Daniel Cook and Nicholas Seager, eds., The Afterlives of Eighteenth-Century Fiction
Rachel Sulich

Spotlight: Rethinking Liberty in the Romantic Era

Jon Mee, Print, Publicity, and Popular Radicalism in the 1790s: The Laurel of Liberty
John Bugg
Fiona Price, Reinventing Liberty: Nation, Commerce and the Historical Novel from Walpole to Scott
Simon Edwards
Daniel M. Stout, Corporate Romanticism: Liberalism, Justice, and the Novel
Alexander Dick
Jennifer Orr, Literary Networks and Dissenting Print Culture in Romantic-Period Ireland
Bridget Keegan