News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

Archive for May 2017

The 2017 Scottish Romanticism Research Award: Deadline 30th June

Postgraduates and postdoctoral scholars working in any area of Scottish literature (1740-1830) are invited to apply for the jointly funded BARS-UCSL Scottish Romanticism Research Award.  The executive committees of the British Association for Romantic Studies (BARS) and the Universities Committee for Scottish Literature (UCSL) have established the award 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. For a list of partner universities please see

Successful applicants must be members of BARS before taking up the award (to join please visit  The recipient will be announced on the BARS and UCSL websites, and he or she will be asked to submit a short report to the BARS Executive Committee, and to acknowledge BARS and UCSL in their doctoral thesis and/or any publication arising from the research trip.

Please send the following information in support of your application (up to two pages of A4 in word.doc format):

1. Your full name and institutional affiliation (if any).
2. The working title and a short abstract or summary of your PhD or current project.
3. Brief description of the research to be undertaken for which you need support.
4. Libraries or institutions at which you will work.
5. Estimated costing of proposed research trip.
6. Estimated travel dates.
7. Name of one supervisor/referee (with email address) to whom application can be made for a supporting reference on your behalf. A reference is not required at the time of applying.

Applications and questions should be directed to the BARS bursaries officer, Dr Daniel Cook ( at the University of Dundee.  The deadline for applications is 30th June 2017.  The research trip must take place within a year (i.e. by 1st July 2018).

Austen at 200: A Series of Events, York, 2017

Please see below for the details of an exciting programme of events to celebrate 200 years since the death of Jane Austen. Contact: Alison O’Byrne (University of York).




A series of events to commemorate Jane Austen’s writing and her legacy marking the 200th anniversary of her death. Presented by the University of York in partnership with City Screen, the South Bank Community Cinema, York Festival of Ideas, and Fairfax House.


Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen, pencil and watercolour, circa 1810. National Portrait Gallery, London.

Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen, pencil and watercolour, circa 1810. National Portrait Gallery, London.


Wednesday 24 May

Love and Friendship film screening with discussion, City Screen 6:15

Followed by Austen: Literature, Film …or History?

Join us for a screening of Whit Stillman’s 2016 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, followed by a lively discussion with Emma Major (English, York), Erica Sheen (English, York), and Catriona Kennedy (History, York).   Tickets available through City Screen website.


Friday 26 May

Clueless film screening with introduction, South Bank Community Cinema at Clements Hall, 7.00

Amy Heckerling’s 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, introduced by adaptation specialist Suzanne Spiedel (Sheffield Hallam University), with Erica Sheen (York).   Tickets at the door or contact the cinema.


Tuesday 30 May

Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies Annual Stephen Copley Lecture, Huntingdon Room, King’s Manor 5.00

Kathryn Sutherland (Oxford):   Austen as Wartime Novelist

Austen’s popular and critical reception through much of the twentieth century was built on her seeming ignorance of public events, well described by Marilyn Butler as a ‘discreet’ approach to ideas. But just how discreet was she? Kathryn Sutherland presents an account of Austen’s commitment to recording events from the perspective of everyday reality, and argues that it is time to reclaim her as the first English novelist to explore the effect of contemporary war on the home front. This event is free; no tickets required.


Thursday 8 June, Festival of Ideas

British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Patron’s Lecture, Berrick Saul Building, University of York 6.00

John Mullan (UCL): What Matters in Jane Austen

Which important Jane Austen characters never speak? What do the characters call one another, and why? What are the right and wrong ways to propose marriage? Join John Mullan of University College London for this British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Patron’s Lecture as he asks and answers some very specific questions about what goes on in Austen’s novels, revealing the inner workings of their greatness.  Sponsored by the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.

Tickets free from York Festival of Ideas (01904 324119).


Thursday 8 June, Festival of Ideas

Roundtable discussion, Berrick Saul Building, University of York 7:15-8:45

The Enduring Appeal of Jane Austen

With Bharat Tandon (UEA), Emma Major (York) and Deborah Yaffe (author of Among the Janeites), chaired by Alison O’Byrne (York)

What is Jane Austen’s legacy and why does her work continue to enjoy such popularity? Following John Mullan’s lecture, join our panel of experts and enthusiasts as they explore all things Austen: the enduring appeal of her novels, the fascination with the life of the author, the ways in which her novels have been adapted and reworked, and the many aspects of Austen fandom.

Tickets free from York Festival of Ideas (01904 324119).


Sunday 11 June

Illustrated talk and discussion, South Bank Community at Clements Hall, 7.00

Historians at work

Historian Hannah Greig (York) discusses and illustrates her work as historical consultant on films and tv including Death Comes to Pemberley, The Duchess and Poldark.

Tickets at the door or contact the cinema.


Wednesday 14 June

Sense and Sensibility film screening with discussion: City Screen 6:00

Austen: Film…or Literature?

Join us for a screening of Ang Lee’s 1995 film, nominated for seven Academy Awards (including Best Adapted Screenplay win for Emma Thompson), followed by a lively debate with experts from the Departments of Theatre, Film, and Television and English and Related Literature at York. Screenwriter Simon van der Borgh and JT Welsch put the case for Film; Mary Fairclough and Alison O’Byrne respond on behalf of Literature. Chaired by Michael McCluskey.

Tickets available from the City Screen website.


Friday 30 June

Fairfax House Public Lecture, Fairfax House 7:00*

Hilary Davidson: “Recreating Jane Austen’s Silk Pelisse-Coat”

What did Jane Austen wear? The only known garment associated with the beloved author is a brown silk pelisse-coat in the collection of Hampshire Council. Like a detective story, a project to recreate the pelisse allowed a rich investigation into the history, context and physical qualities of the coat, and revealed new information about the object – and the wearer.

Tickets available from Fairfax House.


Friday 14 July

Fairfax House Public Lecture, Fairfax House 7:00*

Emma Major (York): “Pictures of perfection…make me sick and wicked”: Jane Austen and Reading for Lies

As Austen wrote to her niece Fanny Knight, whose admirer had criticized the comportment of Austen’s heroines: ‘Pictures of Perfection, as you know, make me sick and wicked’. In this lecture, Emma Major (York) looks at the ways in which Austen encourages us to be suspicious of perfection, and to become better readers of character. Indeed the case could be made that Austen’s fiction offers the reader a first-rate lesson in detective skills. As P.D. James points out, detective fiction ‘does not require a murder’ but ‘does require a mystery’ – and as we’ll see, Austen provides plenty of these, continuing to inspire crime fiction writers of today. This investigation of Austen’s lifelong fascination with letters shows how Austen uses them to teach her heroines to become better readers of flawed human nature.

Tickets available from Fairfax House.


Organizers: Alison O’Byrne ( and Erica Sheen (

* Organized by Fairfax House

The BARS Review, No. 49 (Spring 2017)


The Editors are pleased to announce the publication of the 49th number of The BARS Review, the seventh available in full online through the new website.  This number includes twenty-seven reviews covering thirty-one new publications, as well as a special spotlight on Romantic Revolutions.  The list of contents below includes links to the html versions of the 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 of all the reviews 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: Susan Valladares (St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford)
General Editors: Ian Haywood (University of Roehampton), Susan Oliver (University of Essex) & Nicola J. Watson (Open University)
Technical Editor: Matthew Sangster (University of Glasgow)


The BARS Review, No 49 (Spring 2017)

Table of Contents


Meiko O’Halloran, James Hogg and British Romanticism: A Kaleidoscopic Art
Holly Faith Nelson
Gillian Williamson, British Masculinity in the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1731 to 1815
Caroline Gonda
Bernard Beatty, Byron’s Don Juan
Anna Camilleri
Clara Tuite, Lord Byron and Scandalous Celebrity
Emily A. Bernhard Jackson
Sara Guyer, Reading with John Clare: Biopoetics, Sovereignty, Romanticism
Adam White
Adam Roberts, Landor’s Cleanness. A Study of Walter Savage Landor
Gioia Angeletti
Marilyn Butler, Mapping Mythologies: Countercurrents in Eighteenth-Century British Poetry and Cultural History
Chris Bundock
Mark Canuel, ed., British Romanticism: Criticism and Debates
Octavia Cox
Adriana Craciun, Writing Arctic Disaster: Authorship and Exploration
Murray Pittock
David Porter, The Chinese Taste in the Eighteenth Century
William Christie
Jennifer Jesse, William Blake’s Religious Vision: There’s a Methodism in His Madness
Keri Davies
Andrew Bennett, ed., William Wordsworth in Context and Robert M. Ryan, Charles Darwin and the Church of Wordsworth
Christopher Donaldson
Kate Parker and Courtney Weiss Smith, eds., Eighteenth-Century Poetry and the Rise of the Novel Reconsidered and Eric Parisot, Graveyard Poetry: Religion, Aesthetics and the Mid-Eighteenth-Century Poetic Condition
Tobias Menely
Angela Wright and Dale Townshend, eds., Romantic Gothic: An Edinburgh Companion
Matt Foley
Jim Davis, Comic Acting and Portraiture in Late-Georgian and Regency England
Heather McPherson
Liam Lenihan, The Writings of James Barry and the Genre of History Painting, 1775-1809
Christopher Rovee
John Bugg, ed., The Joseph Johnson Letterbook
James M. Morris
Stewart Cooke with Elaine Bander, eds., The Additional Journals and Letters of Frances Burney, Volume I: 1784-1786
Cassandra Ulph
Amy Prendergast, Literary Salons Across Britain and Ireland in the Long Eighteenth Century
Susanne Schmid
Tim Fulford, Romantic Poetry and Literary Coteries: The Dialect of the Tribe and Tim Fulford and Michael E. Sinatra, eds., The Regency Revisited
Josefina Tuominen-Pope
Matthew Wickman, Literature After Euclid: The Geometric Imagination in the Long Scottish Enlightenment
Marcus Tomalin
Mark J. Bruhn and Donald R. Wehrs, eds., Cognition, Literature, and History
Niall Gildea
Chase Pielak, Memorializing Animals during the Romantic Period
Barbara K. Seeber

Spotlight: Romantic Revolutions

David Andress, ed., The Oxford Handbook of the French Revolution
Liam Chambers
A. D. Cousins and Geoffrey Payne, eds., Home and Nation in British Literature from the English to the French Revolutions
Amy Milka
James Mulholland, Sounding Imperial: Poetic Voice and the Politics of Empire, 1730-1820 and Evan Gottlieb, Romantic Globalism: British Literature and Modern World Order, 1750-1830
Juan Luis Sánchez
Mary Fairclough, The Romantic Crowd: Sympathy, Controversy and Print Culture
David Fallon

Review of ‘William Wordsworth’: a new play by Nicholas Pierpan

We welcome Lyn Dawes to the BARS blog, and thank her for this engaging review of the new play by Nicholas Pierpan (Wolfson College, Oxford), entitled  ‘William Wordsworth‘, and performed at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. The play was directed by Michael Oakley.




Review: William Wordsworth by Nicholas Pierpan

Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, Cumbria 31 March – 22 April 2017


Parents will recognise the futility of attempting to write with children around. Little Tom Wordsworth pesters his father, hooting like an owl and dancing about; meanwhile Dorothy and Sara Hutchinson tackle the endless housework, while Mary has not emerged from her bedroom with the new baby. Eventually William gives in, not to reprimand his little boy, but to play with him – an unusual thing for a father, perhaps. But he is not writing poetry. William is writing letters in an attempt to restore his friendship with Coleridge, fractured when Coleridge left Grasmere for London and arrived to find that Wordsworth had warned their mutual friends of his expensive habits, his erratic behaviour, and the general mayhem generated around a garrulous, gregarious visitor with an addiction to taking opiates and brandy for his chronic digestive problems. This rift caused irretrievable hurt, with Coleridge recording that it had ‘spread a wide gloom over the world around me’.


This English Touring Theatre production depicts the poverty and confusion of the Wordsworth household in 1812. William provided for his sister Dorothy, wife Mary and her sister Sara and his five children, but his finances remained blighted by Lord Lonsdale’s swindling. And the seminal Lyrical Ballads published fourteen years earlier could not provide an adequate income. William was convinced – partly by Coleridge’s generous and constant support – that his poetry was to resound through future years, but felt that the world was not yet prepared for his work. His reluctance to publish had brought the family to a crisis which was dreadfully compounded by the death of Catherine Wordsworth aged three.


The Theatre by the Lake


The production gives credit to the tireless work of women in a patriarchal society, with Dorothy and Sara supporting Mary and enabling William’s thinking, and Sara providing Coleridge with loving warmth and care. The production also presents working people with respect, showing them to be in tune with the world. In contrast the London lords and ladies value style over substance and are wholly occupied by the process of idolising the young Lord Byron. Wordsworth’s patron George Beaumont, played by Joseph Mydell, is serious minded and principled in a reassuring way. The somewhat shadowy Mrs Coleridge (Rosalind Steele) here holds her own as remarkably cheerful and outgoing.





Dorothy (Emma Pallant) is wonderfully frantic about her brother’s home comforts, getting totally caught up in the washing and childminding, but startlingly paused by the reminder that Coleridge considered her a genius. Daniel Abelson is completely persuasive as the impossible but magnetic Coleridge. He conveys the charisma, the verbal fireworks, the baffling mix of huge intellectual power and needy loner in a world lacking in understanding. The complex relationship between Coleridge and Sara is skimmed over, for all its fascination. It is a play about Wordsworth after all. Wordsworth is commandingly brought to life by John Sackville who conveys the impression of a man both articulate and strong minded, capable of holding his own with the glitterati, playing with his child, and listening to a wandering Leech Gatherer (a redundant profession thankfully) with equal attention and imagination.


So when young Tom died of measles, we were shocked and dismayed. The impact of poverty and the smoky, unfavourable house in Grasmere had taken their awful toll. The quality of the play portrays the quality of the people and we really do mind what is happening to them. Wordsworth, despite Coleridge’s eloquent attempts to dissuade him, takes a paying job with the unpleasant Lord Lonsdale; this was his way of sorting out his living conditions and enabling his family not merely to stay together but actually to survive. And his writing continues…. his poem for Tom ‘There Was A Boy’ was movingly included in the play:


There was a Boy; ye knew him well, ye cliffs

And islands of Winander! many a time,

At evening, when the earliest stars began

To move along the edges of the hills,

Rising or setting, would he stand alone,

Beneath the trees, or by the glimmering lake;

And there, with fingers interwoven, both hands

Pressed closely palm to palm and to his mouth

Uplifted, he, as through an instrument,

Blew mimic hootings to the silent owls

That they might answer him.


Wordsworth at first sent the poem to Coleridge, who wrote back ‘[The lines] I should have recognised any where; and had I met these lines running wild in the deserts of Arabia, I should have instantly screamed out “Wordsworth!”‘





This poem and his evocation of his Cockermouth birthplace, both to be found in the Prelude, helped us as an audience to remember why we were there – this play is not a Downton Abbey story, but an explanation and celebration of the quality of Wordsworth’s writing and his resounding impact on the way ideas are conveyed in poetry. Here he is living as in impoverished circumstances but his mind is not on the staple diet of oatmeal but instead always absorbed by observing, reflecting and writing using plain language about the natural world and our relation to it. The Prelude as a description and analysis of his own life is surprisingly generalisable, and the everyday people he encountered are accorded respect and a presence in his poetry.


            For this, didst thou,

O Derwent! winding among grassy holms

Where I was looking on, a babe in arms,

Make ceaseless music that composed my thoughts

To more than infant softness, giving me

Amid the fretful dwellings of mankind

A foretaste, a dim earnest, of the calm

That Nature breathes among the hills and groves.


To meet these people and hear the poetry, with its conversational tone and integral links to the natural world, having just walked alongside Derwent Water on an evening when the lake and fells were still, was a spirit-lifting reminder of the power of words. The play stresses the importance of language in conveying ideas between people and between generations. The Lakeland town of Keswick was often the setting for Wordsworth and Coleridge’s collaborative thinking. Coleridge lived at Greta Hall in Keswick and would set off down to Grasmere overnight – sometimes arriving as Dorothy tells us, by walking over Grizedale (which is enormous) with a large stick in his hand, ending this epic by being pursued by a cow. Dorothy and William would walk with him on the first stage of his return journey north up the slope of Dunmail Raise or ‘up the Rays’ as Dorothy says. These are the places that influence Wordsworth’s thinking, and the play depicts these settings, the work of writing, and the human lives involved, with great skill and sensitivity.





The Theatre By the Lake offers the play an ideal venue. Derwent Water remains essentially unchanged, the transient landing stages, visitors and homes having no impact on its power to impress. The stage set mutated between rooms and scenes as the cast quietly moved shutters, carried things, and managed whole furniture removals in harmony. Nicholas Pierpan is to be commended for providing the thread of this episode of Wordsworth’s story plaited with themes of the better aspects of human dignity, loyalty and integrity, in an unsentimental yet truly moving play. I hopefully await any sequel – perhaps a parallel play about Coleridge – as a way of understanding our own lives and times through witnessing these life experiences and the words we are left with. A bit like the surrounding fells, these are remote and admirable yet strangely accessible people.


Crummock Water

Crummock Water


The header is taken from the English Touring Theatre webpage, where there are more images of the cast here. The Theatre by the Lake photograph is from Google, and the other photographs are the author’s own, all taken in the North Lakes near Keswick.

Lyn Dawes is a consultant in Education, specialising in Primary Science and Spoken Language. She is author of a range of books for teachers and school students, most recently Talking Points (Routledge, 2012) Talking Points for Shakespeare Plays (Routledge, 2013) and Talk Box (Routledge 2107). Lyn provides interactive workshops for teachers and education managers wishing to promote engagement and achievement through the teaching of oracy in primary classrooms. Lyn lives in Cockermouth, Cumbria.