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Five Questions: Oskar Cox Jensen on Napoleon and British Song

Oskar Cox Jensen - Napoleon and British Song

Oskar Cox Jensen is currently a Research Fellow at King’s College London working on the Music in London 1800-1851 project.  His work focuses on the political, social and cultural histories of Britain and Europe in the long eighteenth century, with a particular focus on balladry, street music and mass culture.  Prior to taking up his post at King’s, he completed his doctorate at the University of Oxford, where he worked on the project that became his first monograph, Napoleon and British Song, 1797-1822, which was published in October by Palgrave Macmillan and which we discuss below.  As well as researching songs, Oskar is also a performer and recording artist; versions of many of the Napoleonic songs that his book examines can be heard on his Soundcloud.

1) How did you first become interested in the ways in which Napoleon was represented in popular song?

As an undergraduate historian, I was torn between two rather disparate interests: the Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary period (which is now so central to my thinking that I tend to forget to put ‘French’ before ‘Revolution’, just as ‘the ’90s’, to me, means the 1790s…) – and Viking-age Scandinavia.  Lacking the necessary six languages required for the latter, it became 1789 and beyond.  Song, meanwhile, has always mattered hugely to me, and I’ve been writing songs for more than a decade: drawn in by the thunder of the Marseillaise, I wondered if the two worlds might collide.

Of course, they did (for more of which, see question two!).  I needed a topic for my Master’s dissertation, ideally British, and while the 1790s seemed well covered, there was this immensely potent figure looming at the decade’s end that no one really had a handle on.  Stuart Semmel’s Napoleon and the British, the key work, focuses on London society and the press, rather than the people.  Folk musicologist Vic Gammon had published on the puzzling fact that later British songs of Napoleon seemed to idolise him.  There was clearly a story here.  I began with 15,000 words on 1814–16 and, encouraged by Mark Philp and David Hopkin, didn’t look back.

2) In your introduction, you assert that popular song was ‘the most widespread and influential form of literary expression of the day’, but remark that it has thus far received very little scholarly attention. What do you see as being the main benefits of recovering the importance of popular song?

The great attraction here, and the great danger, is the thought that we are recovering ‘lost voices’: that the silent, unlettered majority was actually making a lot of noise (or, rather, music).  In fact, many scholars from several disciplines have been drawn to the vast number of extant songs, often digitised, that we tend to label ‘broadside ballads’.  The issue is less, why has there been no work done, but rather, why has it proven so unproductive?  There remains a good deal of sober scepticism about what we can do with songs: they are ephemeral, and thus unquantifiable; they are usually anonymous; there is too little contextual material to bear their weight.  Their aesthetic worth, both musical and literary, has been seen as negligible.  The Romantic period was also a great age of propaganda, and many songs are polemical, didactic, seductive: with almost no evidence for their reception, how are we to draw any meaningful conclusions?

To claw back something more positive in answer to the question: song was the ubiquitous mass medium.  Generically, it was heterogeneous, assimilating elite poetry, theatrical hamminess, and street doggerel, just as it assimilated sacred, dance, or military music.  It simultaneously united and divided society both geographically and along class lines.  Its perceived potency was such that political and moral activists of every stripe made use of it.  Subject matter ranged from the same day’s news to medieval romance.  More people consumed canonical poetry as song than as verse; singing and listening, even in an age dominated by print, was simply what people did.  If we can get to grips with this, then we recover a living culture.  For how we might attempt this, see question three…

3) In composing your monograph, how did you seek to deal with the problems implicit in what you describe as ‘the fractured and contradictory incoherence of popular culture’?

I’m beginning to go off ‘popular’ as a useful label (maybe twenty years too late), preferring, if anything, to use ‘common’, especially for song.  But in this book, yes, I was specifically concerned with addressing plebeian experience and perception, which is a massive mess.  But there are some basic propositions that help shape things.  That quotation comes from a discussion of E.P. Thompson’s point that popular culture embodied a tradition of rebelliousness – a rather pleasing paradox.  And this is central to the book: we find a quite old fashioned top-down/bottom-up struggle, whereby various actors are trying to impose a set of values upon the people by cultural means that these actors do not quite understand.  Whilst being incoherent, especially in terms of party politics and a sense of identity, popular culture had its idioms and conventions, especially in song, and these conventions were cultural rather than political.

That is to say, for example, that it’s no good advancing the cause of temperance by publishing mass editions of teetotal songs, because these songs will not be fit for purpose: their lyrics will be sermonising, unsuitable to sing, and their functionality will be minimal: when would you sing them?  It is this idea of the fitness of songs that proved to be my way through the mess.  Were the words sympathetic?  Was the choice of tune, in particular, appropriate, and could the words be sung to it in the first place?  In the end, it was only by turning to contemporary aesthetic and performative considerations that I could evaluate this mass of material, and advance theories about its reception.  Thus the book begins with a contextual analysis of song as a practice, considering its writing, publication, performance and reception by real people in specific times and spaces, as a necessary precondition of any close readings.

4) To what extent might musical responses to Napoleon be systematised in chronological or class-based manners?

For convenience, I’ll take ‘musical’ to mean ‘song’ here, as the book does not look at instrumental music.  It all depends on whose response we are looking for: do we mean what was produced, or what was consumed?  The former is achievable. 1797: the first responses, mostly admiring.  1798: Napoleon as the worthy adversary to Nelson.  1799: he becomes a heathenish, usurpatory butcher.  1801–3: ambivalence.  1803–5: the blustering Ogre.  1806–9: silence.  1810–12: domestic comedy.  1813–14: triumphalism.  1814 and after: the disappearance of anti-Napoleonic propaganda and the mass assertion of a sympathetic song tradition.  Underneath, it’s far more complicated, and that goes for class too.  Geography is also central.  If sweeping generalisations are permitted, then take England south of the M4, and Wales: staunchly loyal and anti-Napoleon.  Everything north of that, including Scotland and Ireland: far likelier to hold Bonapartist sympathies.  And there is an obvious narrative of elite disdain versus popular affinity.  But press too hard and it all falls down.  Look at Cobbett or Byron, and they change year by year.  Look at the contested performance of song in almost every major city and town.  Most importantly of all, look very hard at any individual song, the relation of words to music, and the multivalent interpretations that could be read into both: the same song in two mouths could carry two opposing messages, which might be heard as half a dozen more.  This is not a medium that encourages systematisation.  Indeed, this would be my central plea.  Just because there are thousands of songs, and just because most of them don’t appear to be any good, doesn’t mean we should turn them into big data.  In the first place, it doesn’t work, because what is extant is entirely unreliable as a sample of what circulated at the time.  And in turning songs exclusively into statistics (not that statistics can’t be great when done properly), we both belittle their value as cultural objects, and lose any sense of what they actually meant to audiences.

5) What new projects are you currently working on?

Music in London 1800–1851 is keeping me very busy.  I’d like to echo James Grande’s invitation in these pages to visit the website if you are interested in being involved.  Along with David Kennerley and Ian Newman, I am co-editor of a volume of essays, The Art of Miscellany: Charles Dibdin and Late Georgian Culture, which looks at the world of Charles Dibdin the Elder with the aim of suggesting a new model of thinking about cultural production in the period, one that spans all sorts of media and networks.  This book is currently with readers.  I am also writing my second monograph, The London Ballad-Singer, 1792–1864.  In writing the Napoleon book I moved from political to cultural history, and this is where I’ve come to: a belief that we can best understand society and its texts by looking at the lived experience of culture, in this case on the London streets.  The book focuses on the representation, politics, performances, and repertoire of street singers – and ends (tragically?) with their ultimate disappearance.  Which seems like a good place to finish.

Five Questions: Ina Ferris on Book-Men, Book Clubs, and the Romantic Literary Sphere

Ina Ferris - Book-Men, Book Clubs, and the Romantic Literary Sphere

Ina Ferris is Professor Emeritus in the Department of English at the University of Ottawa.   She has written a series of important and influential contributions to Romantic Studies, particularly in the fields of book history and the history of the novel, for which she has received numerous deserved plaudits, including, most recently, the Distinguished Scholar Award of the Keats-Shelley Association of America.  Her major works include the monographs The Achievement of Literary Authority: Gender, History, and the Waverley Novels (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991) and The Romantic National Tale and the Question of Ireland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).  In recent years, her research has focused on the book cultures of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, resulting in works including an edited volume for the Romantic Circles Praxis series on Romantic Libraries and a collection on Bookish Histories co-edited with Paul Keen.  One of the culminating achievements of this interest is her latest monograph, Book-Men, Book Clubs, and the Romantic Literary Sphere, which we discuss below and which was published in August by Palgrave Macmillan.

1) How did you first become interested in the idea of the bookman?

I’d been interested for some time in the intense bookishness of the early nineteenth century and I’d started by looking at familiar essayists such as Hunt and Lamb who made books and reading a focal point in their writing.  But in thinking more generally about how print was incorporated in the period I became more and more interested in a form of bookishness that hadn’t received much attention and was represented by bookmen who joined together to insert themselves in the circuit of book production and distribution as an alternative to the commercial market.

What sparked this turn was my running across the Bannatyne Club, the antiquarian printing club founded by Walter Scott in 1823 to print historical documents (a forerunner of the later learned printing societies).  Two things struck me as I did the research.  First, the club was formed not to read, discuss or collect books, as we might have expected, but to sponsor and produce books.  Second, the Bannatyne books came under surprisingly vehement attack from periodical reviewers and other commentators who derided or dismissed them as regressive ‘rubbish’.  The question was why they were so agitated in the first place by an inoffensive circle of bookmen and minor publications with restricted circulation.  I became interested in how bookmen, especially when they formed associations, functioned as flash points in literary culture not just because of their perverse attachment to the material book but because, in involving themselves in the making of books, they put into play an understanding of literary and disciplinary categories at variance with those sustaining the literary sphere.

2) You characterise the bookman as an outlier in the literary field, invested more fully in books themselves than in reading or in notions of literariness.  How does the liminality of the bookmen you examine serve to inform and enrich their perspectives?

The original title of my book was in fact Bookish Outliers: On the Borders of Literary Culture.  I wanted to foreground their position as figures detached from the centre of the literary sphere but not entirely removed from the sphere itself.  In relation to the question of perspective what this position means is that the bookmen’s location on the border put them in contact with contiguous spheres, letting them establish connections and introduce protocols and practices from neighbouring areas.  In this sense, their perspective was informed by a broader matrix of book production and practice, and one of my aims in the book was to draw attention to how this led to a different configuration of book, author and readers than what was being promulgated in literary circles.

One of the most striking examples in the book is Thomas Frognall Dibdin, founder of the elite bibliomaniac Roxburghe Club but also involved in the workaday world of the printing trades.  As a book designer as well as an author, Dibdin produced hybrid bibliographic volumes that embody his understanding of the book as the product of the printing arts as much as the writing arts.  What’s most interesting about them from a conceptual point of view is the way this understanding led Dibdin to make visible in his books what the modern book sought to make invisible.  He put print itself on flamboyant display, for example, and played with the format of the page.  He also credited by name printers and other craftspeople who contributed to the production, so that authorship in Dibdin is situated rather differently from authorship in the novels of Austen or even (despite their bookishness) in Scott’s historical romances.

3) In your introduction, you describe book clubs as having ‘largely disappeared from critical view’, becoming ‘not so much absent as elided’.  What do you think critics can gain by thinking through and countering this elision?

Book clubs have been typically lined up with literary societies, subscription libraries, and reading societies in lists of organizations exemplifying the conversational culture of politeness and the historical narrative of improvement.  This is not wrong (the clubs are certainly related to these other literacy-based organizations) but it obscures the specificity of the clubs, lumping them in with associations dedicated to reading, discussion, lectures, and so forth.  Moreover, placing all these associations on the same plane implies a smooth passage from one term to the next, but the book clubs have a different genealogy and trajectory, and they don’t stand in the same relation to the model of improvement.  By restoring their specificity we open a window onto overlooked dimensions of the experience and uses of print in the period, and so bring into view a more uneven terrain of the book and a more tangled process of the absorption of print into the everyday.  This seems to me the first critical gain.  The second is that in order to counter an elision, we must first track the process of elision, and this move induces critical reflectiveness, drawing attention to the investments/assumptions that sustain central literary categories (not only in the Romantic period but in our own time).  The response to the book clubs seems to me particularly resonant, presenting from a different angle the way literary culture in the Romantic period carved out a place for itself within a dynamic book culture that pressed in on it in different ways.

4) How did you come to fix on your book’s final structure, which circles out from establishment bibliophilia and printing centres in the cities to provincial book clubs and circuits?

To spotlight the constitutive friction between book culture and literary culture that helped to entrench dominant literary categories in the period, I isolated issues of circulation, production and reception triggered by book clubs not primarily devoted to reading or discussion.  At the same time I also wanted to expand the spectrum of book practices and the geography of the book, and so decided to filter these issues through three case studies centred in different regions.  The book starts in London with the high-toned Roxburghe Club of wealthy rare book collectors, which garnered criticism for restricted circulation, then shifts to Edinburgh where the more middle-class Banntayne Club issued historical documents relating to the Scottish past, prompting debate about what should be moved out of the archive into publication.  The final section widens out to look at a type of book club rather than a specific club, concentrating on ‘circulating’ book clubs that proliferated in small towns and rural areas and did not fit readily into the notion of the reading public.  These different spaces of the book make for a kaleidoscopic structure, showing different configurations of the book club, but underlying this structure is a historical thread (or story) about a ‘bookish interim’ which opened up and then closed down over the course of the early decades of the nineteenth century.

5) Now that this project is complete, what new research are you planning to embark on?

One of the discoveries for me in researching Book-Men, Book Clubs, and the Romantic Literary Sphere was the world of printers and the degree of literary activity linked to the printing house, and I’ve now begun to work on a project building out this interest in the printing trades.  I’m looking at the notion of authorship through figures who were involved in some way in these trades and who took to publication in their own right.  I have in mind figures such as William Hutton, who ran a paper factory and wrote the first history of Birmingham, along with various other works; or Pierce Egan, who trained as a compositor and produced the enormously popular Life in London.  What I want to do is revisit Foucault’s famous question ‘What Is an Author?’ by thinking about what happens if you pose this question not from the theoretical perspective of the function of a system of discursive regulation but from the historical perspective of those entering publication via unconventional paths.  How did they encounter or understand authorship?  What might this tell us about a period increasingly invested in the ‘literary character’?

Conference Report: Community and its Limits

Many thanks to Thomas Null (University of Edinburgh) for this comprehensive report on the ‘Community and its Limits, 1745-1832’ conference held at the beginning of September at the University of Leeds.  BARS provided financial support to assist with this conference.

Community and its Limits, 1745-1832‘ was held at the School of English, University of Leeds on the 4th and 5th of September. The conference was organised by Jeremy Davies, Richard De Ritter, David Higgins, and Robert Jones as members of Leeds’ Eighteenth-Century and Romantic Research Group, and over two days proved a rich and stimulating conversation exploring the terms of cultural community in the long eighteenth century.

The schedule was arranged in single sessions, allowing for an atmosphere that was both intimate and engaging. Participants attended five panel discussions, two plenary lectures, and conference roundtable together, gathering at intervals for conversation and refreshments in the striking nineteenth-century interiors of the School of English.

‘Matters of Principle’, the opening panel, began with a paper from Dr Tim Milnes (Edinburgh). In ‘Hume, social empiricism, and the limits of trust’, he considered Hume’s use of the essay as a response to questions of epistemology and British empiricist thought in the eighteenth century. As radical scepticism in Hume leads to a form of social empiricism, he argued, knowledge is increasingly seen to depend on trust, and thus on the performance of communicative acts. In the hands of Hume, the familiar essay as literary performance becomes an important means of reinforcing this social trust, moderating between the spheres of learning and polite conversation. And yet, Dr Milnes argued, Hume’s own moderation manifests itself as a form of detachment (ataraxia) or philosophical indifference that encodes specific and socially-inflected norms regarding the customs and habits that underlie trusting communication.

Rachel Sulich’s (Leeds) ‘Communal deviance: Charles Moore’s “modern race of suicides”’ considered the complex motivations for Moore’s moralising rhetoric regarding depictions of suicide in popular writings. In this, she explained, he posits a general social threat based in the subversion of ‘good culture’, a consequence of modern man’s effeminacy as expressed in bodily indulgence, weakness, and imaginary evils.

Dr Matthew Ward’s (St Andrews) paper ‘Laughter, ridicule, and the limits of sympathetic feeling’ examined the writings of James Beattie and others, including Frances Hutcheson, Adam Smith, and William Hazlitt. Beginning from Scottish Enlightenment developments, he compared various associations of laughter, from the implied possibility of identification with others to the ridicule of others’ vulnerabilities, moral defects or physical deformities. He also considered laughter’s social utility: its providing distance from false claims on sympathy, or facilitating proportionate performances of sympathy, with a tendency towards convention. As in Beattie’s essay the perception of incongruity in all things laughable alerts individuals to an awareness of social patterns and expectations, and positions humour in the realm of aesthetic (rather than moral) judgement, Dr Ward considered the significance of sympathy in this discourse, and its limits as an opportunity for communities to develop together from a basis in convention.

After a break for tea and coffee the second panel, ‘National Communities’, began with Dr Helen Stark (Newcastle). In her paper, ‘A “Charnel-Vault”? Dead bodies and national identities in Walter Scott’s Paul’s Letters to His Kinsfolk (1816)’, she discussed concepts of identity and stability in an analysis of Scott’s post-Waterloo impressions of the Continent, tracing his language in this series of imaginary letters composed from notes of his visit to the battlefield.

Dr Jane Hodson (Sheffield) then presented an analysis of representations of dialect in novels of the Romantic period, in her paper ‘“I hae been sae lang accustomed to the Scots”: Language, community and identity in novels 1800-1836’. She considered the connection between these representations and shifting contemporary associations of speech and identity in several works, including Mudie’s Glenfergus (1820), The Monthly Magazine (1821), and Lathom’s Young the Bull; or, Born Abroad and Bred at Home (1828).

Honor Rieley (Oxford) concluded the panel with an examination of popular conceptions of the emigrant figure in the first decades of the nineteenth century. ‘Imagining the emigrant reader, 1802-1832’ surveyed representations of the emigrant alongside the changing circumstances of motivation and opportunity that influenced emigration of British populations to North America during these decades. Her analysis presented significant transformations in the imagined emigrant figure as the availability of opportunity extended to a broader segment of society in an age of mechanisation.

This was my first visit to Leeds, and I found the theme of the occasion complemented by the dense history of the city, its energy and diversity. Perhaps the breadth of scholarship addressed to ideas of community stimulated my perception of this unfamiliar place, and oriented my attention as observations and hesitant speculations unfolded within the circumstances of my experience. At any rate, this correspondence was enhanced by events on the conference schedule, and after the day’s final panel we crossed the city centre from the Leeds campus for an evening at Britain’s oldest surviving subscription library.

The Leeds Library was arranged as the venue of the keynote public lecture, and following a brief history of the collection and the context of its local development from Andrew Morrison, Professor Murray Pittock (University of Glasgow) shared his research with an audience gathered in the library’s central circulation space. ‘Memory, Erasure, Community and Culture: The Battle of Culloden in Scotland and the British Empire, 1746-1846’ examined the Scottish battle’s position and significance in constructed narratives of imperial Britain. In a presentation enriched by historical and visual illustrations, his reading of Culloden’s prominent role in the formation of collective narratives engaged an audience that included a number of the library’s regular subscribers.

Following a wine reception – and some further exploration of the library’s shelves – we were easily persuaded to continue our conversations over dinner, and within a few minutes we were pleasantly assembled at a table that spanned the length of a nearby brasserie.

The second day began with the panel ‘Satire and Sympathy’. I presented the first paper, ‘Shelleyan poetics, Scottish Enlightenment sympathy, and the limits of convention’, which was followed by Anna Mercer’s (York) paper ‘Expanding perceptions of the Shelleys’ community’, read by David Higgins. Beginning from the position that ‘the Shelleys are their texts’, she considered love and irony in Epipsychidion and ‘The Bride of Modern Italy’ within the context of her research on the collaborative literary relationship of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley.

Professor Michael Bradshaw (Edge Hill) rounded off the panel with his paper ‘Loitering on the threshold: Thomas Hood’s comical communities’. In a reading of the ambivalence Hood expresses in his poem on the socialite reformer and Society of Friends minister Elizabeth Fry, he considered the poet’s commitment to a community of readers and his strong sense of their shared tastes or opinions as he actively constructed a market-based reading public.

Dr Joanna Wharton (Independent Scholar) presented the first paper of the fourth panel, ‘Places of Community, 1789-1802’. In ‘Material practice and “vital religion” in the Mendip school and clubs’ she considered Hannah More’s Mendip ‘feast’ and the utility of physical pleasure in luring children to religion. This curious event in the Mendip hills linked spiritual and physical nourishment in a ceremony of reward, the decorum of which kept children from active enjoyment of what quickly turned into a local spectacle. Dr Wharton further examined the nature of the relationships established through More’s provision of gifts to the children. Whether intended to obligate adherence to moral conventions, the exchange was additionally intriguing for More’s personal identification with the poor, in the performance of hand-knitting items of clothing for the children.

Dr Matthew Sangster’s (Birmingham) examination of ‘London existences and community boundaries’ considered how community was represented in the rapidly growing city of the turn of the century. Here, size became glorious, a mark of distinction, rather than alienating, a shift he illustrated in the enormity of a period map of London. Reminding us that neither Wordsworth’s Prelude vision of London nor Blake’s was available to the contemporary Romantic – and reading excerpts of each, in a voice that conjured an atmosphere out of time – Dr Sangster presented these as part of his work mapping poetic environments in urban space, a developing project that suggested a valuable contribution to the digital humanities.

The panel concluded with Anne Fleming’s (Leeds) ‘Wordsworth’s creative ecotone: Navigating community boundaries and tension in the Vagrant poems’, in which she engaged the etymology of the ecological term ‘ecotone’ to describe a concept of ‘fertility… dwelling at the edge of the tension between different people, beings, [and] landscapes’. In a close reading of Wordsworth’s encounter with an orphan girl in ‘Alice Fell’, she examined the demanding process of community represented in spaces of intermingling borders, and further considered the role of the postal service as a device of this unique space, here and in a scene of disrupted social hierarchy in Thomas De Quincey’s ‘The English Mail Coach’.

We gathered for the fifth and final panel after lunch. ‘Life-Writing’ began with Dr Laura Davies’s (Southampton) survey of unedited manuscript letters in a paper that considered ‘Ways of reading the spiritual “Lives” of early Methodist women’. As she closely examined the language these Methodist followers used in correspondence addressed to their reverend, the varying dynamics between individuals and ideas of belonging revealed the complicated nature of this community.

Freshly returned from an international symposium on the Burney family at Cardiff, Dr Cassie Ulph (York) presented her paper ‘Domestic community or professional network? Keeping company with the Burneys’ within its most current critical context. She discussed her research on the relationships and exchanges that influenced creative output in writings produced within the circle of this literary family.

Dr Claire Sheridan (Queen Mary) then examined Thomas Love Peacock’s nostalgia as the last surviving member of the Shelley circle and his reluctant relationship to the biographical endeavour. Particular emphasis was placed on his representation of this Romantic sociability in his Memoirs of Percy Bysshe Shelley, a series of periodical pieces published for the mid-Victorian audience of Fraser’s Magazine.

Tea, coffee, and cake was followed by the conference roundtable, ‘Community, Society, and Scholarship in Leeds, 1768-2015’. Bringing representatives of the city’s cultural organisations together, Professor Jon Mee (York) chaired a discussion of the roles and contributions of these institutions in local history. Eveleigh Bradford of the Thoresby Society, Janet Douglas of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, Lynda Kitching of the Leeds Civic Trust, and Andrew Morrison of The Leeds Library each provided insight into issues of institutional stability and change in a dynamic urban context.

Dr Felicity James (University of Leicester) presented the closing lecture, ‘Voices of Dissent: Community, History and Difficulty in Rational Dissent’. Within the context of the history of Unitarianism she focused on the first Essex Street Chapel minister Theophilus Lindsey, and presented an autobiographical chapter as a new kind of rational conversion narrative. This, she demonstrated, attempts reconciliation with establishment positions while also invoking – to ambiguous effect – a darker, unsettling history in early Nonconformist accounts of overcoming persecution. Dr James compared this development, positioned ambivalently between affiliation and dissent at a time of improving religious tolerance in Britain, to the crisis of Mr Hale in Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. Here the author probably has Lindsey in mind, she suggested, as Gaskell represents shifts in ways of dealing with dissent, perhaps using frustrations with the Unitarian doctrine of unity and tolerance in order to address issues of individual uncertainty within a larger social picture.

With this plenary – yet another fascinating glimpse of new research – our programme concluded, and following some final remarks and reflections we dispersed for hotels, evening trains, and home. Thank you again to all organisers and participants of this convivial exchange of ideas on Romantic community!

Thomas Null, University of Edinburgh

CfP Reminder: Burney and Popular Entertainments

A reminder that the deadline for submitting abstracts for next year’s Burney Society conference is now three months away (January 31st).  The Call for Papers is below for reference.

Conference of the Burney Society

St Chad’s College, Durham University, 4-6 July 2016

Burney and Popular Entertainments: the business of pleasure in Late Georgian Britain

Proposals are invited for 20 minute papers on the subject of ‘Burney and Popular Entertainments: the business of pleasure in Late Georgian Britain’

Frances Burney grew up at the centre of a vibrant metropolitan cultural scene, and was part of a network of musicians, writers, actors and artists whose careers depended on a culture of consumption, both imaginative and material. This was the world she evoked in her novels, plays and journals and this conference builds on the movement in Burney scholarship toward greater contextualisation of her work. The conference centres around entertainment, with the conference programme itself featuring a range of entertainments, including an excursion to a site of local interest, and the world premiere of Burney’s play Love and Fashion, which will be performed by Durham Student Theatre. The conference’s keynote address will be given by Harriet Guest, Professor Emerita of Eighteenth-Century Literature at the University of York.

Papers should address the work of Burney and/or members of her circle, with potential topics including (but not limited to):

  • Burney and the Theatre
  • Public Spaces (such as parks, gardens, assembly rooms, the seaside)
  • Private Entertainments
  • Commercial Entertainments
  • Shopping/Consumer Culture/Fashion
  • Tourism
  • The Promenade
  • Curiosity/Spectacle

Abstracts of no more than 250 words should be sent as an email attachment in MS Word document format to Francesca Saggini ( and You should also include a 250-word biographical statement. Please use your surname as the document title. The abstract should be sent in the following format: (1) Title (2) Presenter(s) (3) Institutional affiliation (4) Email (5) Abstract (6) Biographical Statement.

The deadline for receipt of all proposals is January 31, 2016. We will attempt to notify all correspondents before February 28 regarding the status of their submission.

A small number of travel bursaries will be available for postgraduate students presenting at the conference. Applications are invited from research students registered on a programme of postgraduate study on the date of the conference. Please indicate at time of submission if you wish to be considered for one of these, stating your affiliation and level of study, and include a brief statement of how attendance at the conference would be of benefit to your research project.