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BARS 2019: Romantic Facts and Fantasies – Registration Open

Please see below for a notice from the organisers of BARS 2019 giving more information about the fantastic range of activities they’ve arranged and providing details about registration, accommodation and bursaries.

BARS 2019: Romantic Facts and Fantasies

The BARS 2019 Conference Organising Committee are pleased to announce that registration for BARS 2019: Romantic Facts and Fantasies is now open. For more information and online registration please visit https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/conference/fac-arts/english/romantic-studies/index.aspx

The registration fee includes the opening evening reception and informal dinner on Thursday, a BBQ on Friday, and buffet lunch daily as well as unlimited refreshments available all day at the conference centre (tea, coffee, cappuccinos, lattes, mineral water, biscuits and fresh fruit). Free parking is available on site. Delegates will have free access to the state-of-the-art gym and 25m swimming pool at the University of Nottingham’s new David Ross Sports Village. Other facilities including a climbing wall and squash and badminton courts can also be pre-booked for a small charge.

The conference dinner on Saturday is optional and may be booked at the time of registration, together with a selection of optional excursions on Saturday afternoon (see below).

We hope to release a limited number of single-day tickets in due course, as numbers permit.

Accommodation

Choose from ensuite rooms in either Rutland Hall of Residence or The DeVeres Orchards Hotel.

Membership of BARS

To participate in BARS 2019, you must be a member of the British Association for Romantic Studies. If you are not already a member, please purchase your subscription via the online shop when you register for the conference.

Optional Excursions

·         Derby City Museum and Art Gallery & Pickfords House

·         Newstead Abbey

·         Kedleston Hall

·         Walk to Wollaton Park with tour of Natural History and Industrial Museums (FREE)

·         BARS Exhibition Lakeside Arts Romantic Facts and Fantasies: Culture and Heritage of the Romantic Age (FREE)

Bursaries

The Early Bird rate for PhD/unwaged delegates has been heavily subsidised by BARS and the School of English, University of Nottingham in order to support postgraduate and early career scholars to attend and present their work. We hope to offer some additional bursaries at a later date, depending on numbers and finances, but cannot guarantee that we will be in a position to do so. More information will be made available by 1 July 2019.

We are very much looking forward to seeing you at BARS 2019!

Stephen Copley Research Awards 2019: 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!

  • 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.

Daniel Cook, Bursaries Officer, BARS. University of Dundee. d.p.cook@dundee.ac.uk

19 February 2019

Seeking a Postgraduate Representative to Join the BARS Executive – Deadline February 28th

Supporting postgraduates and early career researchers has always been an important part of the remit of the British Association for Romantic Studies.  We are currently looking for a postgraduate student willing to join the Executive in order to represent our postgraduate members and students in the field more generally.

The Postgraduate Representative serves for a term of two years (renewable according to the status of their studies – often, people go on to serve as Early Career Representative).  During their term, they will attend four Executive meetings and have the opportunity to co-organise special postgraduate events at the BARS International Conferences.  They will also work with the current postgraduate representative, Paul Stephens, to organise the next biennial Early Career and Postgraduate Conference, due to be held in 2020 and announced later this year.

The position offers valuable experience of conference organisation, together with excellent networking opportunities.  Most importantly, it offers the chance to help shape the Romantic Studies postgraduate community by feeding in to the Executive’s discussions and launching new initiatives to support postgraduates in the field.  The post is unpaid, but any travel expenses incurred are met by the Association.

Eligibility: We are especially keen to receive applications from students who expect to have postgraduate status until the summer of 2021, although this is not required.  The new representative will officially stand for election at the next International Conference, Romantic Facts and Fantasies, which takes place at the University of Nottingham between the 25th and the 28th of July 2019.

Please send expressions of interest, together with a one-page CV including a brief description of your research, to the Secretary of the Association, Jennifer Orr, copying in the President, Ian Haywood.  The deadline for expressions of interest is the 28th of February 2019; applications will be considered at the next Executive meeting in March.

If you would like to discuss the position further, please feel free to get in touch with Paul, who will be happy to talk about what the position entails.

BARS Chawton House Travel Bursary Report

The recipient of the inaugural BARS Chawton House Travel Bursary reports back from her time conducting research in Hampshire…

BARS Chawton House Travel Bursary Report by Francesca Kavanagh

It is always a special circumstance when a household library remains relatively intact over the centuries and more impressive still when such a collection contains its own historical catalogues. Such is the case of the Knight Collection at Chawton House. Owned by the descendants of Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Austen Knight, the Knight Collection is housed and maintained by the exceptional staff and volunteers at Chawton House. Its two 1818 catalogues allow researchers to determine which books in the collection Jane Austen likely had access to and provide fascinating insight into the texts which a family in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century such as the Knights deemed fit and enticing enough to want to own. These two aspects of household libraries – the circulation among familial networks and the counterweight of an individual’s desire for personal ownership – are made evident in the act of inscribing a text. The inscriptions of Jane Austen’s nieces found in both the Knight Collection and the general collections are what drew me to Chawton House in August this year. With the generous support of the BARS Chawton House Travel Bursary, I spent two weeks working with these collections examining the material and affective significance of ownership and gift inscriptions penned by the women of the Austen and Knight families.

Figure 1: Chawton House.

My PhD thesis investigates the production of spaces of intimacy in the practices of letter-writing, annotation and commonplacing by women in the long-eighteenth century. In my time at Chawton House, evidence of ownership and gift inscriptions enabled me to extend my research on annotation by providing significant examples of the affective materiality of this practice. The positioning of inscriptions and the details they document, work to place the owner in a relationship not only with the gifter but also, in the case of the Knight Collection, with the larger library collection. The books belonging to Jane Austen’s niece, Marianne, provided an engaging and thought-provoking example.

There are a number of books signed by Marianne in the Knight Collection but a three-volume set of illustrated works by Walter Scott powerfully demonstrates the way in which gift inscriptions can signify and unify communities of female readers. Each volume is bound in green leather faded to maroon on the spine. The first, The Lady of the Lake, was published in 1838 and the two others, The Lay of the Last Minstrel and Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field, were published the following year. Each has gilded pages and gold crests which adorn their front and back covers. They comprise a set. And yet from the inscriptions we can see that they were gifted to Marianne not only on two separate occasions – 1 January 1845 as a new year’s present and almost two years later on 15 September 1846 for Marianne’s 45th birthday – but also by two different women. The first is a gift from Marianne’s ‘very affectionate Sister Louisa Knight’ [1]  and the second gift comprising The Lay of the Last Minstrel and Marmion is from ‘Aunt Louisa’.[2] These two Louisas not only share a name but in continuing the gifting of the same set of books have expressed their shared affection for Marianne and each other. Each inscription is in Marianne’s hand and the unifying power of her neat and formal positioning of her words works to further connect this set and the two Louisas so that these three works stand as a single, unified testament to the intimate and familial connection of these three women within the larger collection of the Knight’s family library.

Figure 2: Marianne’s inscriptions in her three volumes of Walter Scott gifted to her by her sister and aunt. Image courtesy of the Knight Family Collection on deposit at Chawton House.

Marianne’s small collection of Scott’s works is just one of many instances of captivating ownership and gift inscriptions in the collections at Chawton House and I must extend my sincere thanks to Darren Bevin for his help in locating many others and for answering my endless list of questions. My thanks also to the rest of the Chawton House staff and volunteers whose friendly, helpful manner and detailed maintenance of the library catalogue helped me to feel at home in the rabbit warren of house and archive.

The bursary, by enabling me to spend time in the presence of Marianne’s books and handwriting, as well as those of her cousins, ancestors and future generations of Knights, has provided me with a familiarity with their material significance which I could not otherwise have experienced, and which has been essential to the progress of my thesis.

[1] Inscription in Scott, Walter. Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott, Baronet. Illustrated ed. London: Charles Tilt, Fleet Street, 1838.

[2] Inscription in Scott, Walter. The Lay of the Last Minstrel by Sir Walter Scott Baronet. Illustrated Edition. London: Charles Tilt, 1839, and Scott, Walter. Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field by Sir Walter Scott Baronet. Illustrated ed. London: Charles Tilt, Fleet Street, 1839.

Call for Papers: BARS 2019 – Romantic Facts and Fantasies

BARS 2019: Romantic Facts and Fantasies

 

Proposals are invited for the 2019 conference of the British Association for Romantic Studies, to be hosted by the School of English, University of Nottingham, from 25-28th July. Our theme is ‘Romantic Facts and Fantasies’.

We look forward to welcoming you to the East Midlands, where the historic city of Nottingham is located among the heartlands of British Romanticism. Newstead Abbey was Byron’s ancestral home; Sherwood Forest was re-imagined as the meeting place of Richard I and Robin Hood in Scott’s Ivanhoe; and the Cromford Mills are a living monument to Richard Arkwright, whose inventive development of spinning mills and power looms was an integral strand of the Industrial Revolution. This conference will explore the potency of ‘fact’ and fantasy’ both in the Romantic period and during the afterlife of Romanticism. The aim is to develop a collective understanding of how Romantic ‘fact’ and ‘fantasy’ work together and against one another, and in so doing embody the spirit of an age whose inventions and innovations laid the foundations for modernity while simultaneously exulting the power of the imagination and its creations.

Keynote speakers for Romantic Facts and Fantasies are Laura Mandell (Texas A&M), Robert Poole (UCLAN), Sharon Ruston (Lancaster), Diego Saglia (Parma), and Jane Stabler (St Andrews).

We encourage proposals for open-call sessions and themed panels as well as individual proposals for 20-minute papers. Subjects covered might include (but are not limited to):

Bicentenaries 1819-2019: The Peterloo Massacre; the ‘Six Acts’, the Carlsbad Decrees; the birth of Queen Victoria; Stamford Raffles and the foundation of Singapore; Simon Bolivar’s victory at Boyacá; the Panic of 1819; the opening of the Burlington Arcade, London; the Cotton Mills Act; the death of James Watt;  Keats’s odes; Scott’s Ivanhoe, Bride of Lammermoor, and A Legend of Montrose; the final volume of Southey’s History of Brazil; Blake’s ‘Ghost of a Flea’ (1819/20).

Factual and fantastical encounters and dialogues: travel narratives; poetry of encounter; translations; colonial discourses; geologies, geographies and aesthetics of landscape; rivers, canals, bridges and roads in material, commercial and imaginative landscapes.

Facts and fantasies of collective and individual identity: Romantic provincialism (the Lunar Society, the Lake School); national identity and ideas of the state; religion; ethnography; Romantic life writing and autobiography; Romantic-period economics, consumerism, industry and agriculture; Romantic facts and fantasies of childhood; Romantic experiments in education; Rousseauism.

The scientific imaginary: Mary and Percy Shelley; Humphry Davy, poet and scientist; the development and legacies of Romantic science fiction; Erasmus Darwin, the Lunar Society and Joseph Wright of Derby; Malthus and Malthusianism.

Imagining the Romantic world: Keats’s ‘living year’; plagiarism and originality; the professional imagination in Keats, Davy, Blake, Caroline Herschel and William Herschel; pedagogic and didactic poetry, prose and drama; histories and history-writing, including the emergence of national histories; paintings, sculptures and music commemorating the events and ‘heroes’ of the Napoleonic wars, politics, industry and culture; architecture and Romantic fantasy (eg. Walter Scott’s Abbotsford, William Beckford’s Fonthill Abbey, and Joseph Gandy’s visualisations of the Bank of England and other buildings by John Soane); Romantic book illustration and developments in the technology of print.

Presentation formats

We welcome proposals for the following:

Individual 20 minute papers. Abstracts of no more than 250 words (excluding the title). Please include your name and institutional affiliation (if applicable).

Panels of either three 20 minute papers or four 15 minute papers. Please include an abstract of the panel theme, together with 250-word (excluding the title) proposals from each of the speakers, in a single document.

Open-call sessions. Proposals should include a 350-word (excluding the title) description of the potential session, outlining its importance and relevance to the conference theme. Accepted open-call sessions will be advertised on the BARS 2019 website from mid-November 2018.

Submissions

The deadline for proposals for open-call sessions is 1 November 2018.

The deadline for submissions of panels and individual papers is 17 December 2018.

Please email proposals to bars2019@nottingham.ac.uk.

For more information, please visit the BARS 2019 website.

The Scottish Romanticism Research Award 2018

The executive committees of the British Association for Romantic Studies (BARS) and the Universities Committee for Scottish Literature (UCSL) are delighted to announce the winner of the third annual Scottish Romanticism Research Award: Eva-Charlotta Mebius, a PhD Candidate in the English Department at University College London. During her research trip she will visit the the Dundee City Archives, in order to study Robert Mudie’s early writing in the Dundee Advertiser, the Fife Archives and the Highland Archive Centre in Inverness, to uncover more information about Mudie’s time there as a schoolmaster, and the National Records of Scotland.

BARS and UCSL have established the annual award for postgraduates and early career scholars to help fund expenses incurred through travel to Scottish libraries and archives, including universities other than the applicant’s own, up to a maximum of £300. A postgraduate may be a current or recent Master’s student (within two years of graduation) or a PhD candidate; a postdoctoral scholar is defined as someone who holds a PhD but does not hold a permanent academic post. If appropriate, UCSL will endeavour to assign the awardee an academic liaison at one of its partner universities in Scotland.

Recipients are asked to submit a short report to the BARS Executive Committee, for publication on its website, and to acknowledge BARS and UCSL in their doctoral thesis and/or any publication arising from the research trip. Please join us in congratulating Eva-Charlotta on her award. We look forward to welcoming her to Scotland.

– Dr Daniel Cook, University of Dundee

Read Eva’s Stephen Copley Research Report for BARS, ‘Unearthing Robert Mudie in the National Library of Scotland and Dundee University Archives’, here.

Stephen Copley Research Report: Lauren Christie on Gothic Literature

Lauren Christie (University of Dundee) has completed the following report on her time in Manchester this summer carrying out research on the Gothic and attending the Gothic festival and the International Gothic Association’s (IGA) biennial conference.

Research report: Gothic literature, children’s literature and the Gothic Manchester Festival/the IGA conference

The very nature and beauty of eighteenth-century Gothic is its fluidity. Originating with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764) many established Gothic tropes are still present in aspects of contemporary culture: for example, fashion, architecture, and literature. We are witnessing new developments that reflect different audiences, such as Gothic gaming and post-apocalyptic fiction. Gothic remains such a prominent fibre of the twenty-first century through its inherent ability to adapt and modify for new generations. Due to the diverse scope and nature of my research (ranging from children’s to Gothic and horror literature) there are so many texts that are vital for me, from the eighteenth century to the present day. The Stephen Copley Research Award from BARS enabled me to visit the library and special collections archive at Manchester Metropolitan University in order to examine specialised texts spanning this vast time period. I combined this research trip with an offer to present at the International Gothic Association’s biennial conference. The organising committee for the IGA arranged additional events through the ‘Gothic Manchester Festival: Gothic Hybridities’ series. Exploring the hybridity of the genre from its origins to the present led me to consider and observe the popularity and diverse nature of this topic.

With assistance from Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes (Senior Lecturer) and Rachel Fell (subject librarian for English at MMU), I gained access to MMU’s departmental collection that exclusively focuses on Romantic and Gothic literary criticism of the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries. Prominent texts included: Coats, McGillis and Jackson’s The Gothic in Children’s Literature: Haunting the Borders (2008), Crawford’s The Twilight of the Gothic? Vampire Fiction and the Rise of the Paranormal Romance (2014), Tropp’s Images of Fear: How Horror Stories Helped Shape Modern Culture (1990) and Townshend’s Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination (2014). I also encountered contemporary children’s literary criticism such as: Lenz’s Alternative Worlds in Fantasy Fiction (2001), Lewis’s Reading Contemporary Picturebooks (2001) and Coats’s Looking Glasses and Neverlands: Lacan, Desire, and Subjectivity in Children’s Literature (2004).

MMU houses a unique archival collection of children’s literature. This dates back to 1764, and consists of children’s annuals, fiction, picturebooks and pop-up books, to name but a few examples. Immersed in this collection, I came across an extraordinary Gothic children’s pop-up book entitled Thomson and Hartas’s Ghoul School (2001), and a bibliotherapeutic picturebook for young children: Michael Rosen’s Sad Book (2004). I also looked at several children’s Gothic texts that promote imagination such as Thompson’s How to Live Forever (1995) and Turner’s The Tree Witches (1983). There were also Gothic transitional books for education such as Waddell and Wright’s Little Dracula Goes to School (1987). One particular text that I found incredibly dark and poignant was a contemporary one: Neil Gaiman’s The Wolves in the Walls (2003). This novel emphasises the power of the imagination and questions the figure of the monster (and whether we mean wolves or humans).

Alongside my research, I was honoured to be able to attend the Manchester Gothic Festival and present at the IGA conference. This year saw the society’s biggest ever conference, hosting over 300 experts from all over the world. I attended several vibrant panels such as: Gothic Houses and Gothic selves, Gothic Monsters in children’s and Young Adult (YA) fiction, Gothic Fairy Tales, Outsiders in YA Gothic, Haunted Scotland, and Reading the Gothic in Popular Children’s Fiction. I also attended wider festival events, including Scoring Fear: An Evening of Classical Music and Gothic Horror Film Scores (BBC Philharmonic and BBC Radio 3), and a reception at the Manchester Art Gallery. In addition, the IGA Postgraduate community had organised a round table event on Gothic-studies careers in academia. This was incredibly supportive as we were able to seek advice from several experts in the field.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the British Association for Romantic Studies for awarding me the Stephen Copley Research Award, without which this trip would not have been possible. I would also like to thank Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes and Rachel Fell for their help in organising my individual research trip to the library and archives, Dr Linnie Blake and the staff at the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies, and the IGA organising committee for creating such a diverse and exciting conference and festival. The combination of all of the above events during my week in Manchester has helped further my research, thereby developing ideas for my thesis and publications.

The BARS Review, No. 51 (Spring 2018)

William Blake, from A Small Book of Designs: The First Book of Urizen (1794). ©Trustees of the British Museum. Used under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

The Editors, led by Mark Sandy, are pleased to announce the publication of the 51st number of The BARS Review, the ninth available in full online through our open-access system.  The list of contents below includes links to the html versions of the twenty-one 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 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.  Mark Sandy would also be very happy to hear from people who would like to review for BARS.

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)

Table of Contents

Reviews

Dafydd Moore, ed., The International Companion to James Macpherson and The Poems of Ossian
Gerard Lee McKeever
Timothy Michael, British Romanticism and the Critique of Political Reason
Elias Greig
Robert Mayer, Walter Scott and Fame: Authors and Readers in the Romantic Age
Caroline McCracken-Flesher
Saree Makdisi, Reading William Blake
Katherine Fender
Claire Trévien, Satire, Prints and Theatricality in the French Revolution
Ian Haywood
Richard Lansdown, ed., Byron’s Letters and Journals. A New Selection
Gioia Angeletti
Brycchan Carey, ed., The Interesting Narrative by Olaudah Equiano
John Bugg
Alan Rawes and Diego Saglia, eds., Byron and Italy
Maria Schoina
Lily Gurton-Wachter, Watchwords: Romanticism and the Poetics of Attention
Andrew Franta
E. J. Clery, Eighteen Hundred and Eleven: Poetry, Protest and Economic Crisis
Lisa Vargo
Beth Lau, ed., Jane Austen and Sciences of the Mind
Inger S. B. Brodey
E. J. Clery, Jane Austen, The Banker’s Sister
Claire Harman
Mark J. Bruhn, Wordsworth Before Coleridge: The Growth of the Poet’s Philosophical Mind, 1785-1797
Adam Potkay
Ewan James Jones, Coleridge and the Philosophy of Poetic Form and Michael Tomko, Beyond the Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Poetic Faith from Coleridge to Tolkien
Philip Aherne
Michael D. Hurley and Marcus Waithe (eds.), Thinking through Style: Non-Fiction Prose of the Long Nineteenth Century
Andrew Hodgson

Spotlight: Romantic Heirs and Inheritors

Juliet Shields, Nation and Migration: The Making of British Atlantic Literature, 1765-1835
Clare Elliott
Anahid Nersessian, Utopia, Limited: Romanticism and Adjustment
Christopher Geary
Andrew Burkett, Romantic Mediations: Media Theory and British Romanticism
Ralf Haekel
Beatrice Turner, Romantic Childhood, Romantic Heirs: Reproduction and Retrospection, 1820-1850
Malini Roy
Tom Mole, What the Victorians Made of Romanticism: Material Artifacts, Cultural Practices, and Reception History
Richard Cronin
Andrew Radford, Mary Butts and British Neo-Romanticism: The Enchantment of Place
Sam Wiseman

Whole Number

The BARS Review, No. 51 (Autumn 2018) – review compilation
The BARS Review Editors

Stephen Copley Research Report: Hannah Moss at Chawton House Library

Hannah Moss (PhD Candidate, University of Sheffield) reports on her research at Chawton House Library. Her trip was funded by a BARS Stephen Copley Research Award.

Stephen Copley Research Report: Hannah Moss

Chawton House in Hampshire hardly needs an introduction as it is so frequently spoken of with such great fondness by everyone who has been lucky enough to spend some time working in the Library Reading Room. Just a few minutes’ walk down the leafy lane from the cottage where Jane Austen lived and worked between 1809-17 stands the ‘Great House’ inherited by her brother Edward after being adopted by the Knight family. Chawton House Library now makes an idyllic and inspiring setting for a collection of early women’s writing, and thanks to a Stephen Copley Award, I have been able to spend a productive week conducting research towards my thesis here.

My PhD thesis seeks to reappraise the representation of female artists in women’s writing of the period 1760-1820. With a wide-ranging artistic education considered a prerequisite for being accepted as an accomplished female, novels of the period tend to be populated by women who are adept at everything from painting portraits to playing the pianoforte. However, the ideal of the accomplished female can complicate the value of artistic attainment by eliding the aesthetic appeal of the artist with that of her art. When the arts are cultivated for show – primarily as a means of attracting male attention – the appearance of producing art becomes more important than what is actually produced. My aim is to look beyond the allure of accomplishment to explore how the arts can provide an avenue for independent self-expression whilst functioning within accepted boundaries of behaviour.

Chawton House Library

I began my week at Chawton House Library extending my research into what art forms are encouraged as a mark of virtue by looking into the conduct advice written for women. The collection held at Chawton House Library includes numerous conduct manuals, from Hannah Woolley’s compendious Gentlewoman’s Companion (1673), through to an ‘improved edition’ of Mrs Hemans’ Young Woman’s Companion (1840). Whilst some works, including Mrs Hemans’ Young Woman’s Companion, provide practical advice on perspective, shading, and the dangers of putting your paint brush in your mouth (‘King’s yellow’ is basically arsenic coloured with sulphur), other texts are more concerned with which arts constitute the proper use of a young lady’s time. There is distinct anxiety around spending too much time cultivating the arts and neglecting family or household duties, and Hannah Woolley warns that the hours of recreation should be kept in moderation. However, she does recommend painting, or limning, as a suitable pastime, noting: ‘Limning is an excellent qualification for a Gentlewoman to exercise and please her fancy therein’. Woolley then goes on to acknowledge that ‘There are many foreign Ladies that are excellent Artists herein; neither are there wanting Examples enough in his Majesty’s three Kingdoms of such Gentlewomen whose indefatigable industry in this laudable and ingenious Art may run parallel with such as make it their profession’.[1] So much has been written about the supposed lack of female artistic talent and the limitations imposed upon women artists in terms of training – therefore this quotation is significant as it recognises the skill possessed by women artists at home and abroad. However, one point to note is her use of the word ‘gentlewomen’. Status is of importance when it comes to what skills women are taught, and this message is reinforced in the novels and short tales delineating virtue and vice that I consulted whilst visiting the library.

In the novel The Reward of Virtue; or, the History of Miss Polly Graham (1769), Bounty Hall is a utopian vision of female education promoted by female philanthropy akin to that presented by Sarah Scott in Millenium Hall (1762). The ‘second rank education’ is designed for those in the middling rank with ‘no prospect of considerable fortunes’. Therefore, the focus is on teaching useful rather than ornamental accomplishments: ‘Even drawing was not taught, except where so extraordinary a genius appeared as might give room to believe it might prove a useful and profitable art’.[2] ‘The Story of Melinda’ in the didactic collection The Portrait of Life (1770) promotes a similar message, warning of the dangers of educating a woman beyond her station in life. Melinda’s accomplishments make the heroine a desirable companion for her rich friends even if she lacks their wealth, but she neglects her own family and is subsequently left with no money to her name. Her so-called friends then describe millinery as the only option she has left to support herself.

The second thread to the research I conducted whilst at Chawton House Library related to the British reception of Germaine de Staël’s Corinne, or Italy (1807). The talent of de Staël’s famed improvisatrice is stifled by English manners, but in Italy her genius is celebrated. Published just two years later, The Corinna of England, and a Heroine in the Shade: a Modern Romance (1809) constitutes one of the earliest responses to de Staël’s novel and provides valuable insight into how it was received. Attributed to E.M. Foster, this parody presents its artist heroine as no more than a deluded imitator of de Staël’s woman of genius.

Clarissa Moreton is the orphaned daughter of a wealthy industrialist, whose independent fortune and equally independent manners attract a circle of sycophantic musicians and artists to her salon. Refusing to be bound by convention, Clarissa’s unorthodox conduct risks the safety and reputation of her innocent young cousin, Mary Cuthbert. Upon reading de Staël’s work, Clarissa identifies with Corinne to the extent that she calls herself Corinna and decides to go out and address the people of Coventry in the manner of Corinne at the Capitol. There is bathos in the shift from Rome to a provincial English town, and rather than being heralded as a great speaker, Clarissa unwittingly incites a riot. Clarissa’s singularity does not mark her out as a woman of genius. In fact, her talents as a musician, poet and public speaker are decidedly lacking in comparison with de Staël’s heroine.

Foster does not present a model for the female artist to thrive in England. Display is presented as particularly unfeminine, leading the exemplary Clara Davenport to hide her talent. Even though she was ‘always engaged in some piece of useful or entertaining work of invention or fancy’ she ‘carefully concealed that she had pursuits of a higher nature from the eye of common enquiry, lest she should be thought to have strayed from the path prescribed to her sex’.[3] The challenge to female modesty posed by the display of talent will definitely be an idea that I will consider further as I continue to research the influence of de Staël’s Corinne on the representation of female artists in Romantic-era novels.

Hannah at Chawton

I would like to thank BARS for the generous bursary which enabled me to undertake research which is invaluable to the progress of my PhD. The staff at Chawton House are so helpful and supportive, and I would highly recommend a research visit here to anyone with an interest in early women’s writing. The Library Reading Room is a quiet haven where you have the time, space and materials at your disposal to make research breakthroughs, and I have left feeling inspired to push on with my project and pursue the various leads that I have identified.

[1] Hannah Woolley, Gentlewoman’s Companion, or, a Guide to the Female Sex, (London: A. Maxwell for Dorman Newman, 1673), p. 84.

[2] Anon, The Reward of Virtue; or, the History of Miss Polly Graham, (London: J. Roson and William Cooke, 1769), p.209-11.

[3] [E.M. Foster], The Corinna of England, and a Heroine in the Shade: a Modern Romance, (London: B.Crosby, 1809), p. 15.