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News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

Archive for June 2017

Call for papers, ‘The Revolt of Islam: Texts, Subtexts, Contexts’

The call for papers is now open for an exciting conference in Rome this December, hosted by the Keats-Shelley House.

The Revolt of Islam: Texts, Subtexts, Contexts

December 15, 2017

A conference celebrating two hundred years of P. B. Shelley’s poem

This conference will mark the bicentenary of Shelley’s Revolt of Islam, first published in 1817 as Laon and Cythna. Papers are invited which will explore critical interpretations and reactions, or which provide close readings of the text itself. Papers focusing on historical and contextual considerations and which explore contemporary resonances will also be welcomed.

The afternoon of 15 December has been chosen, for it was on this day in 1817 that publisher Charles Ollier met up with Thomas Love Peacock, Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont, and Shelley himself to discuss the potentially controversial and contentious nature of Shelley’s poem.

The conference is being organised by Giuseppe Albano, Curator of the Keats-Shelley House, and Maria Valentini from the University of Cassino, who will take over as Chair of the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association in Rome from June 2017.

Papers may be given in English or in Italian, and abstracts accepted in either language.

Deadline for submission of abstracts (c. 200 words): 31 August 2017.

Registration fee: €25.

For further information on registration, and to send your abstract, please contact:

Dr Giuseppe Albano, Curator,
Keats-Shelley House, Rome

or

Prof.ssa Maria Valentini, Dipartmento di Lettere e Filosofia,
Università di Cassino e del Lazio Meridionale

Call for Papers: Literary, Cultural, Historical and Political Celebrations across and beyond the British Isles

« Decentering Commemorations »

Literary, Cultural, Historical and Political Celebrations across and beyond the British Isles

 

Friday 20th October 2017
Campus LSH, Nancy and Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nancy 

The year 2017-2018 marks multiple anniversaries that will be commemorated transnationally: the deaths of Mme de Staël and Jane Austen, the birth of Stanley Kubrick, the release of The Beatles album “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, the end of World War One and the subsequent creation of new nation states, the Russian Revolution and the signing of the Maastricht Treaty. Why and how will these literary figures, cultural productions and historical events be remembered/celebrated in individual countries and across Europe? In what ways and to what extent are these commemorations transferred from one cultural space to another across and beyond the British Isles?

At a time of crisis concerning Europe’s identity and ideals, commemorations are not only intended as a nation-building process, they can also be appropriated by social or political groups. There is, indeed, a variety of actors at national, regional, and local levels, such as cultural institutions, museums, political parties and social media. The increasing mobility and instability in today’s world triggers off the opposite tendency of going back to one’s past, roots and heritage. Governments and lobbies/corporations(such as Google) use landmarks to impose their readings of literary, cultural, and political history, while grassroots and communities gather together to organize their own celebrations or to celebrate differently and sometimes more informally and spontaneously (like Halloween, Woman’s Day, National Day, Labour Day, Earth Day).

Papers discussing the following topics from a theoretical or practical perspective are welcome:

-forms and modes of commemorating
-commemoration as an expression of soft power or a means of empowerment -commemoration and technology (the choice imposed by search engines, social networks, e- media etc.)
-commemoration and cultural policies (celebrations through tourism, bilateral agreements, literary festivals etc.)
-commemoration and hyphenated/conflicting identities (bi-nationals, and “European nationals”) in the British Isles due to Devolution and Brexit
-posterity and literary canon (celebration of national and foreign authors)
-literary and visual adaptations
-publishing policies (book series, collected works, news items etc.)

Invited speakers (to be confirmed)

Prof. Joachim Frenk (Université de Sarrebruck, Allemagne)

Dr. Stefano Dominioni (Directeur de l’Institut Européen, Luxembourg)

Submission information: 

Proposals should not exceed 300 words (references excluded; 3 to 5 keywords and a short biography)
and be submitted to decenteringcommemorations-contact@univ-lorraine.fr by July, 31st 2017.

Organising Committee: 

Antonella Braida-Laplace antonella.braida-laplace@univ-lorraine.fr
Céline Sabiron celine.sabiron@univ.lorraine.fr
Roseline Théron roseline.theron@univ-lorraine.fr
Jeremy Tranmer jeremy.tranmer@univ-lorraine.fr

Sibylline Leaves: Chaos and Compilation in the Romantic Period

The full programme and registration details for ‘Sibylline Leaves: Chaos and Compilation in the Romantic Period’ (Birkbeck, London: 20 & 21 July 2017) are now available. Details can be found here.

About the conference…

‘This conference invites participants to investigate the play of papers between fugitive snips, scraps, and scattered verse, and the promise of the great work, complete edition, or philosophical system. We ask why Coleridge – poet, ‘scrapster’, and would-be encyclopaedist – turned to Virgil’s Sibyl and her scattered leaves, ‘borne aloft in liquid air’, to frame his 1817 collection of poetry Sibylline Leaves; what is at stake in reading the fragments and detached pieces which escape beyond the bound volume; how do the metaphors and materialities of these ‘leaves in flight’ interact; what mediates the ‘phantasmal chaos of association’; how does compilation inform the practices, ideals, anxieties and temporalities of romantic authorship, and the cut-and-paste fervours of its readership? Please join us to discuss all this and more over two days, in the summery environs of Bloomsbury.’

Keats-Shelley Association of America Postcard Caption Contest

(Please see below for an announcement of a Romantics-focussed caption competition being run by the Keats-Shelley Association of America.)

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What would Mary Shelley quip about Romanticism, scholarship, or the current state of the world?  Now is your chance to riff in the Keats-Shelley Association’s caption contest for its new series of informational postcards.  Please help us create the picture caption for our first postcard, featuring Mary Shelley, which will be distributed at various conferences and Romantics 200 events.  In addition to bragging rights, the winner will receive “captioned by” credit on the back of that K-SAA postcard.  With John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and others to be featured on cards to come, there will be several opportunities for you to participate.

Don’t be the last person to submit your caption! Entries limited to 140 characters.  Send to our Twitter (@KSAAcomm), Facebook (Keats-Shelley Association of America), or email (info@K-SAA.org) by June 26th.  All are welcome to submit and encouraged to disseminate widely.

Archive Spotlight, ‘Finding a wife for the Reverend William Ettrick’

The Archive Spotlight series continues with a post by Elizabeth Spencer (PhD Candidate, History, University of York), on her findings after a research visit to Dorset History Centre in Dorchester. The papers of the Reverend William Ettrick (1757-1847), although not appropriate material for Elizabeth’s thesis, did however tell a rather intriguing tale, which she recounts here.

 

Would you like to contribute to this series? For more information, please contact Anna Mercer.

 

“The Lady was to be young and of good Family also”: Finding a wife for the Reverend William Ettrick

By Elizabeth Spencer

Recent research into the Ettrick family of High Barnes in Sunderland led me, somewhat surprisingly, all the way to the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester in order to look at the papers of the Reverend William Ettrick (1757-1847).[1] I have been researching the marriage of his parents William (1726-1808) and Catherine Ettrick (1726-1794), and so hoped that I might find some traces of them in their son’s papers. The Reverend William Ettrick had an extremely difficult relationship with his father, and so had left Sunderland ‘without a penny in [his] pocket’ as soon as he had turned 21 in order to take up a fellowship at University College Oxford; in 1787 he was offered two small livings in Dorset, where he lived until his father’s death in 1808, upon which he inherited the family estate at High Barnes. Unfortunately, his papers offered little in the way of material for my current doctoral research into women’s clothing in eighteenth-century England, but they do provide a fascinating account of one member of a family notorious for their eccentric behaviour.[2]

 

Dorset History Centre

Dorset History Centre

 

The papers held by the Dorset History Centre were apparently found sealed in a glass bottle which had been passed down in the Ettrick family; it was finally opened in 1903, and was found to contain documents relating largely to the Reverend William Ettrick’s complicated marital affairs. As well as a personal account written by him in 1810 in an attempt to justify the legitimacy of his marriage, the papers contain correspondence between William and legal professionals, colleagues, and family members, as well as affidavits sworn by various witnesses to his first marriage. They allow us to piece together the somewhat bizarre story of his search for a wife, and his eventual marriage to Elizabeth Bishop (?-1837) in 1800.

Despite their acrimonious relationship, the Reverend Ettrick’s father apparently began making overtures of peace towards his son in 1794 in an attempt to secure the family name; they were the only two surviving male heirs, and in his old age the father was becoming increasingly concerned that he would never see his then 37-year-old son married. According to a later account written by the Reverend Ettrick, his father had offered him £10,000 and the possession of the High Barnes estate – as well as £5000 more on his death – if he would marry a ‘Lady of Fortune’ worth £10,000. His terms also stipulated that the lady was also ‘to be young and of good Family.’ These conditions did not prove agreeable to the Reverend Ettrick, however, who wrote to his University College colleague Dr Wetherell that he had ‘instantly rejected them’ in his own mind as ‘Such a prospect was not only an ideal impossibility to a man of my Constitution & years, and retired life & Habits, but the very thots: of it were Death to me.’ Significantly, the Reverend Ettrick also cited his parents’ own unhappy marriage – they had separated in 1765 – as evidence of the miseries caused by a match based on money alone.

Nevertheless, the Reverend Ettrick challenged his father that if he could find a lady ‘according to his wishes, and equally willing to venture the perilous experiment,’ he would agree to ‘sacrifice all my Expectations of domestic Happiness’ and marry her. Such a lady, however, was not to be found, and five years went by without a match being made. It is here that things become more complicated, and it is more than likely that the Reverend’s own account of these events written in 1810 glosses over or changes details in order to present his actions in a more favourable (and less bizarre) light. According to the Reverend, by 1799 he had decided to set his father’s scheme aside altogether and to marry a woman ‘agreeable to me, & of such Expectations (being of humble rank) and Habits of Life, as were in unison with my own.’ The woman he set his sights upon was Elizabeth Bishop, who was likely already his servant or housekeeper at this point. Rather than simply marrying her, however, the Reverend Ettrick apparently decided to set in motion an ‘experiment’ which would ‘work upon the feelings of my Father & put his Temper fully to the proof.’ He therefore published the banns of his own marriage in his own parish church in December 1799, and let it be widely believed that a marriage ceremony had taken place between him and the said Elizabeth; no such thing had happened, but the Reverend’s intentions were to gauge his father’s reaction to his rumoured nuptials. He had apparently determined to disregard any reconciliation with his father if his reaction proved to be a negative one, and was prepared to forfeit the fortune promised to him in order to marry a woman who satisfied his own needs. His father did not disappoint, and the Reverend’s brother-in-law soon wrote to tell him that the ‘Old Gentleman is much displeased with you’ as he had been told that he had ‘married a Woman that was a Bedd maker at Oxford & that she had befor two Bastards.’

If the Reverend Ettrick was pleased that his father had predictably proved himself to be intractable, he apparently had not foreseen that rumours of his marriage would have negative consequences for his fellowship at University College Oxford. Upon hearing of his apparent nuptials, the college bursar wrote to him to warn that an investigation loomed if he did not provide them with a reasonable explanation; his fellowship was no longer tenable if he was a married man, and he had failed to inform them of any change in his circumstances. ‘You may suppose that the College would not be disposed to give credit to a vague rumour,’ the bursar wrote, but ‘it is only since they have learnt that the report is very generally prevalent in your neighbourhood…that they have been induced to give it attention.’ The Reverend replied explaining the circumstances of the rumour and asking for a year of grace as, although he was not yet married, he intended to be in the near future.

Though he had been forced to deny his marriage to the college, according to the Reverend’s own account he was reluctant to allow these rumours to be contradicted in Dorset as he was ‘not willing to give any needless visitation to my father’; however, it is likely that he and Elizabeth were already living together as man and wife. Indeed, when the pair eventually did marry in April 1800 Elizabeth was already pregnant. Perhaps predictably given the Reverend’s previous record, the marriage ceremony was not a straightforward event; taking place very early in the morning with only two witnesses – Elizabeth’s mother and aunt – the ceremony was performed by the Reverend himself, in a bizarre move which would prove problematic for him later down the line.

Having heard doubts expressed to him over the validity of his marriage to Elizabeth on the grounds that he himself had performed the ceremony, the Reverend was eventually persuaded by his patron to be married again by another clergyman in 1806. Elizabeth had given birth to four children in this time – one of them a son and heir to the Reverend’s estate – and it was this more than anything that seems to have convinced him of the need to ensure the legitimacy of his marriage. Nevertheless, he continued to assert the validity of their first marriage, claiming that the second ceremony was only a ‘Measure of Precaution.’ Indeed, rather than simply including a clause in his will which would allow an illegitimate first son to inherit, the Reverend determined to prove that his 1800 marriage had been legally valid all along. This was complicated even further by the discovery in 1808 – the year of his father’s death – that the wrong date had been entered in the parish register for the banns of this first marriage; though the banns had been heard in December 1799 – and the Reverend and Elizabeth had been married in 1800 – he had incorrectly recorded the banns as being published in December 1800.

It is perhaps ironic that, despite wanting to avoid the unhappy fate suffered by parents who had been married for financial gain, the Reverend Ettrick himself became embroiled in an ongoing legal battle over the validity of his 1800 marriage. It also shows a streak of stubbornness as he continued to fight to assert its legitimacy, in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary. He and Elizabeth would go on to have ten children together, six of whom were born after their second marriage ceremony in 1806. Unfortunately, their first son – whose legitimacy the Reverend fought so hard to prove – died before his father, and so the uncertain status of his 1800 marriage would ultimately prove immaterial in matters of inheritance. The Reverend William Ettrick himself died aged 90 in 1847, and his second son Anthony would go on to inherit the estate at High Barnes.

[1] Dorset History Centre: ‘Correspondence and other documents of Rev. William Ettrick 1787-1810’ D.1854/1, and ‘Correspondence and account of William Ettrick’s life by Mrs Sherwood, 1980’ D.1854.

[2] Jeremiah William Summers, The History and Antiquities of Sunderland (Sunderland: Joseph Tate, 1858), pp. 186-196. ; William Brockie, Sunderland Notables: Natives, Residents, and Visitors (Sunderland: Hills and Company, 1894), pp. 46-52.

 

Elizabeth Spencer is a third-year doctoral candidate and postgraduate tutor in the Department of History at the University of York. Her research looks at women’s clothing in eighteenth-century England, and is funded by the White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities.

Conference Report: Romanticism Takes to the Hills

The BARS-sponsored conference ‘Romanticism Takes to the Hills’ was held at Edge Hill University on 29 April 2017. The following conference report is by Hannah Britton (University of St Andrews).

 

screen-shot-2017-06-08-at-18-32-42

 

‘Romanticists Take to Edge Hill’

 

Location, shadowed by its uncomfortable opposite, dislocation, was at the heart of the one-day ‘Romanticism Takes to the Hills’ conference hosted by Edge Hill University, which took place at the end of April. The gentle word-play of the title (the second in a triad that includes last year’s successful ‘Edgy Romanticism/Romanticism on Edge’ and what I’m reliably informed will be next year’s ‘Romanticism Goes to University’) set the stage for a day that would see Romanticism and its embodied figures climb mountains and scramble back down them (most likely on all fours), travel along the British coastline as well as through the Wye valley, and head to distant shores. Those of us who gathered at Edge Hill’s leafy, out-of-the-way campus came from all over—from the nearby universities of the North-West of England and the Midlands, to the far-flung edges of Scotland (the six-hour journey from St Andrews on the previous day, I think, permits me this liberty), to Denmark, Sweden, Italy, and the United States. Although set in the quiet Lancashire countryside, this was an international conference with an international perspective.

The day opened brilliantly with a keynote from Professor Tim Fulford entitled ‘Beings of Energy: Poets, Geologists and the Science of Mountaineering’. The paper explored the communal culture of enquiry that emerged on the mountainside in the Romantic era between poets and scientists whose experiments and explorations would forge the new science of geology. Tim paid particular attention to the relationship between Sir Humphry Davy and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whose shared desire for a scientific practice that would lead to social levelling found voice through, and in, their mountain experiences. Tim was the first of a number of speakers to engage with Coleridge’s (in)famous descent of Broad Stand, a point of return that would remind all present that the mountain sublime of the Romantic era also contains mountain ridiculousness. Coleridge’s letters detailing this feat and other of his mountain excursions were drawn within Tim’s discussion of the idea of the Romantic mountain conversation, a dialogue both of, and on, the mountain. Tim concluded with a thought-provoking look at the poem that perhaps most clearly embodies and explores this idea: Wordsworth’s The Excursion.

The keynote set the tone for a day that would have dialogue at its heart. Not only did epistolary conversations and transcultural exchanges play a leading role in several papers, the communal culture of enquiry that Tim located in the Coleridge/Davy circle was shared by the conference attendees. The inspired choice to arrange the conference room in the style of a seminar, rather than a lecture, fostered the openness of the discussions that were had by all, and of the sense of the day itself as an on-going conversation. The well-timed refreshment breaks enabled conversations to be carried on over revivifying cups of tea and coffee, and I certainly gained as much from these moments of dialogue as from the papers themselves. It should also be noted that the conference catering was excellently done, and I’m sure I won’t be the only person disappointed if the next academic event I attend doesn’t include a specially scheduled break for petit fours…

The first panel of the day explored Romantic travels and travel-writing from the Lakes to the Scottish lochs to the seashores of Britain. Kirsty Anne McHugh’s opening paper examined the experience of the ‘home tour’ through the correspondence of Dorothy Wordsworth and Jane Marshall, and the way in which this dialogue sheds light on how the discourse of domestic tourism shaped and defined expectations and experiences on the ground. A real tour of Scotland was followed by an invented tour of the Lakes as Carol Bolton discussed Robert Southey’s 1807 pseudonymous work, Letters from England: By Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella, and the poet’s complex response to the influx of ‘Lakers’ and the business of Lake District tourism. Zoë Kinsley’s concluding paper sounded a darker note as it explored the literary representations of lighthouses in Romantic-era travel accounts and uncovered in these narratives anxieties over the liminal lives of the lighthouse-men and their troubling existence outside the boundaries of culture and society.

The second panel imaginatively transported the conference from Britain to Denmark with three papers that considered the place of Denmark in British Romanticism and the importance of place in Danish Romanticism. Cian Duffy opened the panel with a discussion of the changing place of Denmark—and Copenhagen in particular—in the cultural imagination of Romantic-era Britain. In responses to the two British attacks on Copenhagen in 1801 and 1807, Cian traced the rise and fall of a sense of cultural fraternity between Britain and Denmark that centred upon a shared ‘northern’ identity, in opposition to the Napoleonic ‘south’. Both Robert Rix and Lis Møller went deeper into the topography of Denmark itself in their corresponding explorations of the way in which specific sites—both real and imaginary—were invested (or re-invested) with a sense of national identity, with Robert focusing on domestic travel-writing and Lis on the revival of the Danish ballad tradition.

Panel Three continued the focus on Romanticism beyond the geographical borders of Britain, and the figures of the exile, the migrant, and the stranger set a new tone for the ongoing discussion about travel and place writing. Val Derbyshire’s opening paper examined the marginal space of the text in relation to the marginalised place of the author-in-exile, as she unpacked the complex gender dynamics present in Charlotte Smith’s translation of Manon L’Escaut. Gioia Angeletti extended the discussion about edges and peripheral spaces in her exploration of colonial discourse and transcultural negotiations in the poetry of John Leyden and Thomas Pringle. Gioia examined the ways in which a changed geography resulted in a refashioning of identity for Leyden in India and Pringle in South Africa, and considered the complex expression of otherness and in-betweenness in each poet’s verse. Julia Coole rounded off the panel with a paper on Washington Irving’s experience of being a quasi-outsider in England, as expressed in his phenomenally successful The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon (1819), and suggested that Irving’s liminal position enabled him to create space for American writing and writers within the British literary and cultural landscape.

In a fitting conclusion to the day, the final panel looked to new approaches and methodologies for engaging with the ideas of place and space in Romanticism. Brennan Sadler opened up the vast potential of the digital humanities for teaching and research as she walked the conference attendees through her own digital scholarly edition of ‘Tintern Abbey’, which importantly enables the reader with no personal experience of the Wye Valley to engage with the poem in its locational context. This was followed by Sean Nolan’s nuanced exploration of moments in Coleridge’s poetry of dejection in which the poet’s psychic landscape may be mapped onto a physical topography, and how such affective mapping sheds light on Coleridge’s experience of acedia. The final paper, given jointly by Joanna Taylor and Christopher Donaldson, continued the theme of mapping in its demonstration of the use of Geographical Information Systems in reading Romantic accounts of climbing Scafell. Having begun the conference thinking about mountain climbing and mountain poetics, it was appropriate that Joanna and Chris brought us full circle in their exploration of the physical geography of the mountain and the alternative geographies and cartographies of the text.

A BARS-sponsored wine reception, held in the rooftop garden of the Business School, was the perfect coda to an inspiring day of scholarship—a suggestive reminder that for us, as for the Romantics, dialogue matters and it matters where that dialogue takes place.

 

– Hannah Britton, University of St Andrews

Archive Spotlight, ‘A Book and a Bard: Romantic Poetry and the Commonplace Book of Thomas Gray’

This year on the BARS blog we are reviving the ‘Archive Spotlight’ series. We present new and exciting posts from BARS members and blog readers on their studies at various archives. Please get in touch if you want to contribute – the posts can be an account of the archive itself, or some things you’ve studied there that relate to the Romantic Period. Katherine Fender (University of Oxford) starts us off with a post on her time at Pembroke College Library, University of Cambridge. 

 

A Book and a Bard: Romantic Poetry and the Commonplace Book of Thomas Gray

 

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John Martin, “The Bard”, (c. 1817) (c) Laing Art Gallery

 

The manuscript to which my doctoral research is most deeply indebted is one over which I had pored even before the first word of my thesis had been written. Similarly, the text itself predates what we generally consider to be the “Romantic period” in literature – though my thesis was firmly rooted in all things Romantic: in the poetry and aesthetic theory of the period. Why then, you may ask, is this pre-Romantic text of any significance to a Romanticism blog?

The answer is that my thesis simply could never, and would never, have come about at all without my having had the opportunity to read and to research Thomas Gray’s Commonplace Book. The Commonplace “Book” is, more accurately, to be described as several books: three volumes, composed from 1736 onward, which offer notes, essays and drafts on a number of different topics, including but not limited to Gray’s poetic interests and early poetry drafts.

I first encountered Gray’s Commonplace Book during my MPhil. at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, in 2012. At the time, I was starting to think about not only the significance of Welsh landscape and what I termed the “Welsh Sublime” in English Romantic poetry (the topic of my MPhil. dissertation), but also the significance of a particular Welsh figure: that of the ancient Welsh bard, who was thrust to the forefront of the eighteenth-century literary stage by Gray’s “The Bard: A Pindaric Ode”.

Gray’s ode was composed between 1754 and 1757, and was published in 1757: the same year that Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful appeared in print. I was especially keen to consider the intersection between the language and images of the bardic and those of the sublime in this period.

The more I thought about, read about, and researched the figure of Gray’s ancient Welsh bard, the more I came to realise that, though enigmatic – and presented as the last of the Welsh poets in Gray’s text – the bard was certainly not elusive in eighteenth-century and Romantic literature. Indeed, as the eighteenth century progressed, the figure of the ancient Welsh bard became evermore popular in not only the literature, but also in the art and music of the period. But why?

So it was that I set out to trace the wanderings of Gray’s Welsh bard through Romantic verse. I knew, though, that in order to do so, I would firstly need to return to my original resource: Gray’s Commonplace Book. It has been described as the “single most important repository of Gray’s autograph verse and prose”[1], and – especially where Gray’s engagement with the bardic tradition is concerned – this is with good reason.

All three volumes of Gray’s Commonplace Book make reference to bards in offering both historical and poetic accounts of them. They were, as such, invaluable resources – especially in the context of “four nations” Romanticism research. In the first volume of Gray’s Commonplace Book, he introduces the reader to bards in the context of druidism. Within the category of druidism, Gray discerns three main sub-groups – druids themselves, defined as “religious men” and a “holy Race”, as well as bards and vates:

 

Strabo…mentions two other Orders of Men in great reverence (beside the Druids) the Bardic, & the Vates. the first were their Poets who sung the deeds of their Heroes to the Lyre, mention’d likewise by Deodorus, Marcellinus, Festus Pompeius, Posidonius ap: Athenoeum, Lucan &c.: the others, whom Marcellinus calls Eubages, studied & taught Metaphysicks, Natural Philosophy, & the Sublime Sciences. Caesar seems to have included them all under the name of Druids.[2]

 

The bards, the poets, are heralded as specifically Welsh in the second volume of Gray’s Commonplace Book, which also contains a seventeen-page section called “Cambri” wherein Welsh verse forms are explored in great detail. As Mack outlines,

 

Gray’s interest in the origins of rhyme in English poetry…had led him deeper and deeper into the study of Welsh poetry and language. Throughout the early and mid-1750s, he became increasingly convinced that the measures of English poetry ‘not improbably might have been borrowed from the Britons, as I am apt to believe, the rise of Rhyme itself was’.[3]

 

Rhyme and metre emerge as key concerns in Gray’s “Cambri” pages, which is unsurprising given the intrinsic link between (cultural) memory and verse that define the bardic tradition, and that Gray so reveres. Despite Gray’s obvious fascination with Welsh prosody, though, its role in his verse has not received the attention that it deserves hitherto. Although a study by critic Edward D. Snyder afforded attention to Gray’s use of Welsh sound patterning, his research dates from the 1920s; there has been little critical work conducted on the subject since.

***

Not only did my studies of Gray’s Commonplace Book expose a relatively neglected area of Gray scholarship, but they also made me think more carefully about what Romantic poets considered the role of a poet to be more generally. Why might they, as poets themselves, revere Gray’s rendition of a bard’s role? How does Gray’s bardic language and imagery inflect their own verse and writings?

Many Romantic poets including Blake, Wordsworth and Hemans adopted the figure of Gray’s bard as a symbol: as a poetic precursor; as prophet; as a figure to be imitated, emulated and even ventriloquised if possible. Gray highlights the power and transcendence of the bardic voice, positioning the ancient bard as not only a solitary individual worthy of pathos – the last of his kind – but, also, as a stoic hero, as a figure to be revered: he who gives voice to communities, past, present and future. I contend that the ancient bard as depicted by Gray is, as such, an appealing prototype for politically-engaged and affectively-driven Romantic poets.

There is not enough room here to do justice to Gray’s Commonplace Book: beautifully-written, meticulously ordered, wonderfully preserved. On a personal as well as an academic level, I am hugely indebted to the Commonplace Book. Without it, my doctoral thesis would not exist.

 

Many thanks to Mrs Pat Aske at the Pembroke College Library, University of Cambridge, for granting me access to Gray’s Commonplace Book, and for her generosity in sharing her time, knowledge and expertise with me over the past few years.

 

Katherine Fender (DPhil.)
Stipendiary Lecturer in English
St Peter’s College,
University of Oxford

[1] Margaret M. Smith, Index of English Literary Manuscripts, Volume III, 1700-1800, Part 2, (London: Mansell, 1989), p. 73.

[2] Thomas Gray, Thomas Gray’s Commonplace Book, Vol. I, p. 310. Accessed at Pembroke College Library, University of Cambridge, on 14/08/15.

[3] Robert L. Mack, Thomas Gray: A Life, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000), p. 470.

 

BARS/Wordsworth Trust Early Career Fellowship 2017

Please see below for details of how to apply for this exciting one-month residential Fellowship with BARS and the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere.

 
BARS/Wordsworth Trust Early Career Fellowship 2017

We would like to invite Early Career Researchers who are not in permanent employment to apply for a one-month residential Fellowship with the Wordsworth Trust at Grasmere. The Trust is centred around Dove Cottage, the Wordsworths’ home between 1799 and 1808, where Wordsworth wrote most of his greatest poetry and Dorothy wrote her Grasmere journals. Dove Cottage opened to visitors in 1891, and the Trust celebrated the 125th anniversary of the first day of opening on 27th July 2016. The first museum opened in 1935, coinciding with the bequest of the Wordsworth family archive to the Trust from Gordon Graham Wordsworth. The Trust collection has grown to 65,000 books, manuscripts and works of art, but at its heart remains the manuscript poetry, prose and letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth. The Trust is embarking on an exciting new HLF-funded project leading up to the commemoration of Wordsworth’s 250th birthday on 7 April 2020. It is an audience driven project, seeking to raise awareness and change public perceptions of Wordsworth’s life and work. It will seek to re-imagine his life, his works and his relevance for today. The project will see onsite developments, such as the redesigning and extension of the present museum, alongside an extensive programme of engagement and activities within Cumbria and beyond. The Trust will be seeking to diversify existing audiences, and extend current work promoting the wellbeing agenda. In other words, actively making Wordsworth’s work accessible and continuing his own wish to see it help people ‘to see, to think and feel’.

We welcome submissions from applicants whose research interests will help the Trust to re-imagine Wordsworth. This is an opportunity to become familiar with existing audience engagement work (both onsite and offsite, gaining experience of duties that are audience related) and then creating a plan for an activity that will engage new audiences. This can be for an audience of your choice and will use the collections to stimulate an interest and develop understanding of the poet’s work. You will receive advice and training from the Curatorial and Learning team, led by Jeff Cowton (Curator and Head of Learning). The activity can be based in the gallery, to be delivered within a workshop setting, or online – or whatever you think works best for the audience in question. There will also be opportunities to develop your own research.

The Fellowship provides on-site self-catering accommodation for one month; we would prefer the internship to take place between November and February but this is negotiable. The Fellowship also provides £100 towards travel expenses. All applicants must be members of BARS.

Application procedure: on one side of A4, provide your name, email contact details, institutional affiliation (if relevant), current employment status, a brief biographical note, a description of your PhD thesis, details of the proposed research and audience based activity, and preferred period of residence (from November 2017). The successful applicant will demonstrate an enthusiasm for audience engagement and learning as well as research, combined in initial ideas of their proposed project. Send the application as an attached Word file to Jeff Cowton and Daniel Cook (J.Cowton@wordsworth.org.uk and d.p.cook@dundee.ac.uk) no later than 30 September 2017. The successful candidate will be informed within two weeks.

 

For more posts on Romanticism, you can also read The Wordsworth Trust blog here.