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BARS Blog

News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

Archive for June 2019

Introducing Project ERIN: Thomas Moore in Europe

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ERIN documents two of Thomas Moore’s song series – the Irish Melodies (1808-1834) and National Airs (1818-1827) – as well as music inspired by his ‘oriental romance’ Lalla Rookh (1817). ERIN enables the user to track the production and dissemination of these works in Europe, from their respective dates of creation through to 1880. Any contributors to this process (composers, arrangers, editors, illustrators, engravers, publishers, etc.) are indexed or tagged as part of the project. All of ERIN’s resources are now available at www.erin.qub.ac.uk. This website unites the previously available blog and OMEKA resources (images) with some new features, including podcasts and a catalogue that unites the collections of eight European repositories. ERIN was co-produced by Dr Tríona O’Hanlon (Dublin) and Dr Sarah McCleave (Queen’s University Belfast) and was supported by the Horizon 2020 Framework of the European Union and Queen’s University Belfast.

To complement ERIN’s launch, the exhibition, ‘Discovering Thomas Moore: Ireland in nineteenth-century Europe’ is on display at the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin from 17 June to 23 December 2019. ‘Discovering Thomas Moore’ is curated by Dr Sarah McCleave (Queen’s University Belfast). For further information about this exhibition and a series of complementary lectures on Thomas Moore, see this link.

Free Event: 200th Anniversary of Peterloo at Keats House

Afternoon Poems Special: 200th Anniversary of Peterloo

16 August 2019, 2-4pm

Keats House, Hampstead

 

‘Massacre at St. Peter’s or “Britons strike home”!!!’ by George Cruikshank (British Museum)

 

Join the Keats House Poetry Ambassadors for a reading of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem The Mask of Anarchy. This revolutionary work was written in response to the Peterloo massacre which occurred in St Peter’s Fields, Manchester, on 16 August 1819.

Professor Ian Haywood – of the University of Roehampton and President of BARS – will also be present to discuss Peterloo itself and then the poem’s historic context.

Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number –
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you –
Ye are many – they are few.

Free – book your space here.

BARS 2020 ECR & PGR Conference: Volunteer Helpers

The BARS Postgraduate Representatives, Amanda Blake Davis and Colette Davies, invite current postgraduate students with postgraduate status until Summer 2020 to assist with the running of the BARS 2020 ECR and PGR Conference. The conference will be held at Keats House, Hampstead, from 12th-13th June 2020. We are looking for four volunteers to assist with the preparations, set up and stewarding of the conference. An overview of the responsibilities is as follows:

  • Help with preparations beforehand: assembling conference bags, programmes, etc.
  • Help set up the conference: lifting and moving chairs and tables, preparing and replenishing hot and chilled beverages, etc.
  • Steward on the days of conference: assist delegates where needed, such as setting up PowerPoint presentations, etc.

We expect conference volunteers to be available to help on Thursday 11th June to set up. In return, the selected volunteers will be offered a subsidised conference registration fee. Please note that the conference fee does not include accommodation.

Please send expressions of interest, including relevant experience, in no more than 400 words to both of these email addresses: colette.davies@nottingham.ac.uk and abdavis1@sheffield.ac.uk. Please also state what year of your PhD you are in and your affiliated university.

The deadline for applications is midnight on Thursday 25th July 2020. Amanda and Colette look forward to hearing from you!

Narratives of Ageing in the Nineteenth Century: Registration Open

Narratives of Ageing in the Nineteenth Century

University of Lincoln, 23 July 2019  

Plenary Speaker: Prof. Devoney Looser, Arizona State University, ‘Ageing in Public: Women Authors in the Nineteenth Century’

Organisers: Dr Alice Crossley, Dr Amy Culley, Dr Rebecca Styler

This conference responds to the burgeoning critical interest of humanities scholars in age, ageing, and stages of life from childhood to old age in the literature and culture of the nineteenth century. Scholars from literature, history, art history, and the social sciences will address the experiences, conceptions, and representations of the ageing process in a variety of media, forms, and genres. Panel topics are as follows:

  • Writing and Im/maturity
  • Ageing as Decline?
  • Women Ageing with Authority
  • Recovering the Ageing Body
  • Counter/Stereotypes of Ageing
  • The Bildung Narrative and its Discontents

A selection of papers from the conference will form the basis of a special issue on ‘Narratives of Ageing in the Nineteenth Century’ for the journal Age, Culture, Humanities to appear in 2021.

There is no charge for the conference, but registration is required. The deadline for registration is 17 July 2019.

Click here to visit the conference website (with programme and abstracts).

If you have any queries please contact Dr Amy Culley (aculley@lincoln.ac.uk)

 

Stephen Copley Research Report: Gabriella Barnard-Edmunds at the Bodleian Libraries

This report is by Gabriella Barnard-Edmunds (University of York). You can find out about how to apply for a BARS Copley Research Award here

Image via John Cairns/University of Oxford.

Thanks to the generous support of BARS and the Stephen Copley Research Award, I am freshly returned from a glorious week’s worth of rummaging through the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford. My PhD examines the narrative function of the horse-drawn carriage in Jane Austen’s fictions, and investigates its cultural significance in wider Georgian society. I support my literary enquiries with a few key contemporary trade sources on the design and construction of carriages, but as I’ve discovered over the course of my research, eighteenth-century coach-makers were a fiercely secretive bunch and frustratingly little archival evidence survives today. In comes the John Johnson Collection’s boxes and boxes of carriage related trade ephemera!

Print and visual depictions of private carriages, stage and mail coaches, driving disasters, stately processions and everything in between abound in libraries and archives, the carriage seems to have been a favourite target for eighteenth-century cartoonists and novelists alike to publicly lampoon. Whilst I relish the fact my doctoral work means I get to study these vibrant sources, the carriage was an incredible feat of engineering in its marriage of elegant design with technologies of motion, and to fully comprehend this I need to go back to the fundamentals. I want to get to grips with the carriage’s design and production processes and understand how these aesthetically adroit commodity objects, marketed to the polite elite, were intended to be consumed by their inventors. My intentions, therefore, for my trip to the Bodleian were to consult as many trade cards and designs as I could get my hands on. The fact that only a small portion of the holdings of carriage ephemera has been digitised made this an even more enticing prospect, and I had no idea the extent of what I was going to find.

Well, let me tell you, I was not disappointed. My favourite finds included delicate line drawings for all sorts of carriage typologies, from zippy two-wheelers like the cabriolet and curricle, to large ‘pleasure carriages’ – so-called for their use on short, leisurely trips during spring and summer – like the barouche. A common characteristic of small carriages (and many of their four-wheel cousins) was a removable or retractable hood that could be drawn back at the behest of the occupants. Until this trip, I had mostly seen trade designs for two-wheel carriages with the hood omitted, instead, they’re pictured more commonly in fashion plates, and I have always been curious as to how coach makers represented hoods in their designs. It was a really nice surprise, then, to stumble across two separate designs for a gig carriage that featured its hood on a tab that could be flipped up to reveal both aspects of the vehicle. What made these blueprints all the more special were the colourful accents in yellow and ultramarine, an unusual embellishment to what appeared to just be preliminary designs rather than promotional imagery. The collection as a whole truly shows that the artistry of the carriage wasn’t isolated to the finished article, but was inherent in the print artefacts that represented and advertised them.

All in all, my first ever visit to the Bodleian was just what I needed to give me the green light on some of the claims I have been making more tentatively in the absence of strong contemporary evidence, and I am grateful both to BARS and the staff at the Bodleian for this opportunity to expand my knowledge and strengthen my research.

– Gabriella Barnard-Edmunds

Conference Report: Vampyre Symposium

Below, Bill Hughes reports on “‘Some curious disquiet’: Polidori, the Byronic vampire, and its progeny”, a BARS-supported Open Graves, Open Minds symposium celebrating the bicentenary of John Polidori’s The Vampire held on the 6th and 7th of April 2019.


This event was not only the bicentenary of the publication of ‘The Vampyre’ but also 200 years since John Keats lived at the conference venue: the beautiful Keats House, Hampstead. We began the symposium with a fascinating tour round the house by Rob Shakespeare where we saw a first edition of ‘The Vampyre’ (which may possibly have been owned by Keats).

Our first paper was by Nick Groom, who began with an outline of the reports on vampires from Eastern Europe that arose in the early eighteenth century and how they were transformed into literary forms. Referring to the momentous occasion in 1816 at the Villa Diodati, Nick elaborated an unexpected and illuminating notion of the vampiric elements in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Mary, we learn, had called Percy a vampire), such as blood imagery, blood transfusion, and the story itself as contagious and blood-chilling. This culminates in a reading of Frankenstein as recognising the situation of non-human nature.

Ivan Phillips then explored the centrality of the gaze in vampire fiction. Vision and eyes are dwelt on obsessively in ‘The Vampyre’. This led him to the development of special effects in vampire narratives. Polidori initiates an obsession with visualising the vampire in the transition from oral to print narrative (and subsequently stage and screen).

Bill Hughes discussed Lady Caroline Lamb’s novel Glenarvon (1818) – a Gothic-tinged narrative of romance and political rebellion in Ireland that refracted Lamb’s own fiery love affair with Byron. The novel’s gloomy tormented hero, Glenarvon (or Lord Ruthven) spreads dissidence in an ambivalent vampirism through his equally contagious glamour. Glenarvon provided material for ‘The Vampyre’ but also bequeathed a parallel legacy of the Byronic demon lover through Gothic romance, reuniting with the vampire in present-day paranormal romance.

Sam George talked about the huge impact of ‘The Vampyre’ in Britain and Europe and how it was expanded in Bodard’s French novel, then staged by Planché and others. The predatory sexuality of the libertine Lord Ruthven took the vampire out of the forests into the drawing rooms. The optical stage illusions of phantasmagoria, more ghostly than the magic lantern, were a powerful device in the theatrical vampire’s success, enabling spectres to hover in the air, whereas the ‘vampire trap’ enabled actors to appear and vanish as if by supernatural agency. Planché’s version invoked Celtic traditions with its Western Isles setting—and vampires in kilts! The staged Draculas later led to slaying kits as stage props, one of which was on display at the symposium.

The novelist Marcus Sedgwick described how tuberculosis came to be seen as glamorous in the nineteenth century, drawing on Susan Sontag and illustrated by the death of Chopin. Alongside aestheticisation, the idea of diseases became associated with personality types – under- or over-stimulation, licentiousness, effeminacy – but also angelic purity. The pale modern vampire, distinct from the peasant bloated with blood, shares these symptoms, including breathlessness. Thus the pale, alluring vampire first sketched by Polidori is closely related to the Romantic perception of tuberculosis.

Gina Wisker talked about three vampiric texts linked with the escapist setting of a holiday resort (the genesis of ‘The Vampyre’ in that vacation at the Villa Diodati being crucial here): Florence Marryat’s ‘Blood of the Vampire’, Sarah Smith’s ‘When the red storm comes’, and Neil Jordan’s film Byzantium, based on Maria Buffini’s play ‘A Vampire Story’. With Marryatt’s vampire there are themes of racial purity and the foreign woman as fascinating exotic beauty. In Sarah Smith, the offer of transcendent love from a handsome foreign nobleman is an alternative to the carnage of World War I. Byzantium draws on Polidori, with female vampires as companions in a male-dominated world, abused by aristocratic men. They act as angels of mercy in an age of crumbling social services in a run-down resort.

Catherine Spooner showed how Gothic themes were intrinsic to the countercultural aesthetic of the 1960s, prefiguring present-day Goth style. The male vampire in Jane Gaskell’s 1964 novel The Shiny Narrow Grin shows the fashionable dandyism of working-class communities. The Byronic vampire flourished – bisexuality was discussed in recent biographies of the poet and his sexual adventuring was in tune with ’60s ideas. The satirical mode of vampirism – often as a reaction to such liberal ideas – was pronounced and Hammer Films’ Dracula films often showed this. Dracula represents modernity and his antagonists a repressive Victorianism. And out of this Byronic counterculture emerged the sympathetic vampires of Anne Rice and others.

Sir Christopher Frayling, who inaugurated academic vampire studies, ended the first day with a fascinating plenary which surveyed the development of the field, interspersed with personal reminiscences. He showed how disparate elements became consolidated into a genre with Polidori. Then he led us through his own journey from the Enlightenment and Rousseau and eighteenth-century vampire reports to his pioneering book and his friendship with Angela Carter and her love of all things Gothic. He showed that there are still new ways of looking at the vampire and he offered support and hope for young researchers in the field. He also drew our attention to a big exhibition in Paris next year on the history of vampires!

We began Sunday with a tour of Highgate Cemetery, accompanied by the erudite and entertaining guides Peter Mills and Stephen Sowerby. A Gothic site in its own right, it features in Dracula and has the graves of the Rossettis and of the groundbreaking lesbian novelist Radclyffe Hall among many others (Karl Marx lies in the East Cemetery which we didn’t have time to see). It was also the scene of a notorious vampire hoax in the 1970s.

Back at Keats House, Stacey Abbott returned to Neil Jordan’s film Byzantium. Jordan consciously evokes Polidori and is also in dialogue with Buffini’s play and Jordan’s earlier vampire film, Interview With the Vampire (1994). The vampire women interrogate the idea of the Byronic vampire; the film rewrites nineteenth-century vampires from a female perspective. Both films feature vampires who show a propensity for compassion and both explore the nature of storytelling. Rather than exploiting the weak, these female vampires serve justice and mercy and curb the power of men and the patriarchal male vampires.

Sorcha Ní Fhlainn supplemented Stacey Abbot’s reading of Jordan’s Byzantium. Polidori and subsequent vampire stories explore the nature of guilt and Jordan’s films are no exception. The Irish background is significant; for example, the stone and blood imagery from Irish myth. Jordan’s rewriting of Rice, of Polidori and Buffini is important. He also extends the queer dynamics of Polidori. Forms of narrative in Polidori – whispered secrets and oral tradition – are both exploited by Jordan.

Daisy Butcher talked about the long history of female vampires in folklore and literature, with Geraldine from Coleridge’s Christabel as a prototype. Female vampires often have empathic characteristics and are often psychic vampires. Christabel introduced a range of tropes – snake imagery; vampires dressed in white, signifying modesty and purity; an ethereal, languid body that conceals monstrosity. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla feeds off Laura’s emotions as well as her blood. Luella Miller is parasitic, infantile, and narcissistic, but seems to have no control over her draining of people. These three texts show an increasing sympathy for the female vampire.

Kaja Franck began with Joss Whedon’s Angel as a modern incarnation of the pale, brooding Byronic vampire. Anne Rice’s Lestat and Edward Cullen of Twilight are also fashionably pale. Their appearance is central – vampires are made to be looked at: ‘The Vampyre’ has many moments of staring at, being looked at (as Ivan Phillips also noted). Twilight and ‘The Vampyre’ share certain features such as the pale outsiders, their capacity to stimulate adaptations, their status as popular culture, and the presence of a love triangle. But their difference is in having a female and male author respectively. Thus Polidori ushers in the vampiric way of looking but Twilight inverts that.

Jillian Wingfield presented on Octavia Butler’s Fledgling. From Dracula to Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, vampire fiction has been connected to contemporary views of science. In Fledgling, vampirism is rationalised through scientific discourse. Butler transforms themes from Polidori to challenge Western male cultural biases. Butler’s use of science absorbs traces from both ‘The Vampyre’ and Frankenstein. There is a symbiosis of genres too.

Xavier Aldana Reyes showed us the presence of Gothic in Spanish literature as a key indicator of national culture and a non-realist tradition, traceable back to the late nineteenth century. There are blood-sucking witches in Spanish folklore but vampires only appear after external models made them available. The first literary vampire in Spain – Emilia Pardo Berzán’s Vampiro (1901) – was influenced by Polidori and French and German Romantic texts. Spanish vampire narratives would address the coldness of aristocrats and the position of women. With the advent of cinema, vampires became more prominent. Parodies of Dracula featured heavily here and a psychosexual treatment of Carmilla stands out for its almost surrealist quality.

It was a fabulous conference and OGOM would like to thank the speakers and guests who made it possible, Keats House staff (particularly Anna Mercer and Rob Shakespeare), and the caterers with their vampyre cupcakes. We are also enormously grateful for generous funding from the British Association for Romantic Studies, the International Gothic Association, and the University of Hertfordshire.

Stephen Copley Research Report: Alice Rhodes on John Thelwall’s Manuscripts in Derby

See how to apply for a Stephen Copley Research Award with BARS here.

Stephen Copley Research Award Report: John Thelwall Manuscripts at Derby Local Studies and Family History Library

by Alice Rhodes

This May, thanks to the BARS Stephen Copley Research Award, I was able to spend a week in Derby Local Studies and Family History Library. I carried out research into poet and political orator turned speech therapist, John Thelwall, and his “Derby Manuscript”. The collection, contained within three volumes of notebooks and spanning almost a thousand pages, includes poetry on subjects as diverse as Thelwall’s own career and was identified by Judith Thompson in 2004. The manuscript, begun after Thelwall’s “retirement” from political lecturing, contains not only published and unpublished poems from this period of his life, but also reworkings of earlier published work, including several poems from his 1793 “politico-sentimental journal” The Peripatetic.

 

Derby Local Studies and Family History Library

 

My PhD thesis explores speech production in British literature in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, with a particular focus on the work of Erasmus Darwin, John Thelwall and Percy Bysshe Shelley. I aim to argue that speech production becomes a focal point for these writers to explore politically and philosophically unorthodox ideas and that a specific concern with the mechanics of speech implicated their writing in politically-loaded contemporary debates about materialism, and developing conceptions of disciplinarity. The material held in Derby has been invaluable in helping me to track how Thelwall’s ideas, particularly those on materialist philosophy, continued to develop across his career(s). Excitingly, all of the amendments and crossings out that Thelwall made to his poetry have remained legible, revealing the extent of his ambivalences and anxieties about his political, philosophical, and professional allegiances, as he struggles, in places, to find the right words to express these increasingly fraught subjects. The manuscript also contains several poems which have been annotated with elocutionary markings to aid recitation and poetry on the subject of oratory and elocution, both of which have provided me with a deeper understanding of Thelwall’s elocutionary theory.

During my research trip I also had the opportunity to visit the Library of Birmingham’s Wolfson Centre for Archival Research, which houses letters written by Thelwall and correspondence between Erasmus Darwin and James Watt. Included in these collections was an 1801 letter from Thelwall to Joseph Strutt, written at the very beginning of what he describes as his “metamorphose” from republican radical to teacher of elocution, which sheds light onto what Thelwall himself saw as the continuities and discontinuities between his political and elocutionary projects.

River Derwent, Derby

I’d like to thank BARS again for this brilliant opportunity to carry out research which will form an important strand of my thesis. I’d also like to thank the staff at the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research and at Derby Local Studies Library for all their help and for allowing me access to Thelwall’s original manuscripts.

 

– Alice Rhodes (University of York)

 

Conference Report: ‘Romantic Interactions’, Krakow

The following report is by Charlotte May (University of Nottingham).

‘Romantic Interactions’ Conference

Jagiellonian University in Krakow

4thand 5th April 2019

The ‘Romantic Interactions’ conference at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow interrogated two key definitions of interaction: firstly, social, artistic and literary interactions in the Romantic period itself; and secondly, how readers, audiences and writers have interacted with the Romantic period through different mediums over the past two hundred years.

The conference opened with the first plenary lecture delivered by Mary Jacobus, exploring ‘Keats’ Apollonian Afterlives’. The afternoon included panels on German Romanticism, the Classical Tradition, Cross-cultural and Transatlantic Interactions, and Negative Capability and Poetic Imagination. Brittany Pladek (Marquette University) provided one of many fantastic insights into how we might trace the reception of classical tradition in the Romantic period in the current political climate, including how responses to the #MeToo movement could be found in constructions of guilt in the epic tradition. Keats was very much on the mind of participants in the later afternoon session, with discussions on negative capability heavily influenced by Mary Jacobus’s plenary lecture earlier that day.

The day ended with a wonderful conference dinner at Kawaleria restaurant in Krakow. As Keats had been the focus of many conversations, and Byron had only formed the basis of one paper (Rowland Cotterill’s investigation of Don Juan as a Horatian poem), I posed one question to the dinner attendees: Byron or Keats? Without any context provided, the question proved easier to answer over a glass of wine, and we found that Byron was indeed the winner (although Juliette Wells’ response was, of course, Jane Austen).

(c) Newstead Abbey; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

(c) National Portrait Gallery

The second and final day of the conference opened with an investigation of philosophical and religious interactions and Romanticism across Borders, in which Judith Thompson’s (Dalhousie University) discussion of John Thelwall as a ‘Citizen of the World’ reminded us of absences arising in interactions, and how much we – as historians and critics – must pursue studies of those who have been excluded from contemporary canons, as well as continue to hunt for evidence of interactions.

The day contained two plenary panels before lunch, covering how poets contemporaneously interacted with each other and how the public have been pursuing interaction with Romanticism since the end of the movement (if such an ‘end’ can indeed be agreed upon). Frederick Burwick (UCLA) spoke on ‘Coleridge’s Interaction with Wordsworth: The ‘Dejection’ Dialogue’, and Juliette Wells (Goucher College) focused on ‘William Dean Howells and the Rise of American Janeitism’.  As previous panels had done, this plenary was an important contribution to questioning the role of national identity within Romanticism and its legacy, and truly proved how the cult of personality and literary tastes could change the course of global literary history.

 

 

The conference ended with Nicola Watson (Open University) taking us on a tour of RỆVE (Romantic Europe: The Virtual Exhibition), an invaluable resource on how Romanticism has been defined and charted since its beginnings in the eighteenth century to the present day. Watson provided us with the example of ‘Shakespeare’s chair and the Polish Princess’,  Monika Coghen (our wonderful host at Jagiellonian University) spoke on ‘Kościuszko’s Mound’, and Mirosɫawa Modrzewska (University of Gdańsk) joined us on Skype to speak about ‘Chopin’s Piano’, three important contributions to the visual exhibition. The conference ended with a rendition of the selected works of Frederick Chopin told through the chronology of Chopin’s interactions with his Scottish patron Jane Stirling by Marcin Jaroszek, accompanied by the wonderful pianist Anna Dębowska. This recovery of Stirling as a supporter and driving-force of Chopin’s career showed how instrumental sociability was in the development of artistic careers and the movement of Romanticism itself. The essential role of women in founding and sculpting the movement of Romanticism had been referred to throughout the conference, particularly in the papers of Vitana Kostadinova (University of Plovdiv), Anna Messing (another of our fantastic hosts), Julie Donovan (George Washington University), and Rayna Rosenova (Sofia University).

This conference showcased up and coming work and projects which will further our understanding and definitions of what it means for an author, text, and literary period to interact. The atmosphere of the conference was friendly and supportive, with scholars from different careers and sectors engaging with a truly international body of delegates. There is surely no better legacy of interactions with(in) Romanticism than a conference such as this.

 

– Charlotte May (University of Nottingham)

 

 

RÊVE: Romantic Europe the Virtual Exhibition

The following post is by Alice Rhodes (University of York). If you haven’t heard of RÊVE before, then read on to find out more about this exciting project:

RÊVE (Romantic Europe: The Virtual Exhibition) is an interdisciplinary online project which showcases iconic European Romantic objects, places, and texts in a series of original blog posts from researchers and heritage professionals from across the continent. The virtual exhibition aims to assess and reassess Romanticism’s transnational perspectives and to provide an innovative resource for teaching, thinking and writing about Romanticism in new and productive ways. RÊVE is the core project of ERA (European Romanticisms in Association), a group which brings together scholarly associations and heritage organisations, including BARS, from around Europe.

The exhibition currently contains 26 exhibits, and existing and upcoming posts feature a wealth of Romantic objects of all kinds, from furniture, clothing and jewellery, to publications and artworks, and even clouds, caves, trees and mountains. Some of the most recent highlights include:

  • Fragment of a cancelled copper plate from William Blake’s America: Dr Robert Rix (University of Copenhagen) presents a one-of-a-kind fragment from one of the copper plates that Blake used to print his Illuminated Books. The plate is the only surviving fragment to demonstrate Blake’s etching process and provides a unique insight into Blake’s techniques.
  • Shakespeare’s Chair and the Polish Princess: Professor Nicola Watson (Open University) traces the European journey of this unlikely piece of literary memorabilia from a kitchen in Stratford-upon-Avon to the garden of Polish princess, Izabela Dorota Czartoryska and its place in the first Polish museum.
  • Petȍfi’s Wallet: Zsuzsanna Zeke (Petőfi Literary Museum, Budapest) introduces a wallet given to the poet Sándor Petőfiby his wife Júlia Szendrey and explores the keepsake’s place in Petőfi’s transformation into the Hungarian national poet.
  • Every House of the Ant-Hill on the Plain: Richard Horwood’s London:Dr Matthew Sangster (University of Glasgow) explores Romantic London via Richard Horwood’s “NEVER BEFORE ATTEMPTED” plan of the city, engraved in painstaking detail over a period of nine years.

The above blog posts, along with a whole host of other exhibits exploring the material (and sometimes immaterial) objects which define Romantic Europe can be viewed here.

The associated AHRC-funded project Dreaming Romantic Europe (DREAM) led by Professor Nicola J. Watson (Open University) and Professor Catriona Seth (All Souls, Oxford) launched in autumn 2018 and is due to run until June 2020. Its core endeavour is to continue to build RÊVE to 100+ exhibits through running three major workshops and associated satellite events. More generally, it is designed to build an extensive pan-European network of scholars, scholarly associations, and museums. Workshop 1 ‘Consuming Romanticism’ was held November 9-10, 2018, Maison de Chateaubriand, La Vallée-aux-Loups, Paris. The Maison de Chateaubriand was marking the 250th anniversary of Chateaubriand’s birth, staging events and exhibitions including one devoted to Napoleon, ‘L’Empire en Boîte’, so ERA members were delighted to be the guests of the museum as part of these celebrations. 16 participants were asked to address a core question – ‘How did contemporaries construct themselves through objects (broadly conceived) as consumers of Romanticism?’ – through producing an exhibit for RÊVE, consisting of an image plus a micro-essay of no more than 1000 words drawn from original research. They were also asked to reflect upon the experience of rethinking Romanticisms in terms of the microhistories of Romantic objects, addressing questions such as: What has RÊVE so far revealed about previous and potential ways of thinking about Romanticism as a pan-European phenomenon? What has working with the RÊVE format taught us so far? How might we best develop RÊVEas a virtual museum? Workshop 2 is planned for October 2019 in Ravenna at the Museo Byron under the rubric ‘Romantic Authorship’, and Workshop 3 ‘Romantic Media’ is scheduled for June 2020 in association with the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere.

Maison de Chateaubriand

We are also delighted to be bringing DREAM and RÊVE to this year’s BARS conference, where we’ll be presenting two panels: Dreaming Romantic Europe: facts and their fantasies, which will bring together 9 senior scholars of Romanticism to present their own innovative research in the form of RÊVE exhibits and a partnered ECR workshop which will use RÊVE’s approach of object microhistories to investigate a further 5 Romantic objects.

If you’d like to know more, find us at the BARS 16th International Conference, ‘Romantic Facts and Fantasies’, in Nottingham, follow ERA on twitter @euromanticism and view the exhibition here.

On this Day in 1819: Mary Shelley writes of her son’s illness

In the summer of 1814, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin embarked upon a whirlwind romance that would shape her life forever. Her relationship with Percy Shelley spanned approximately 9 years until his untimely death in the Gulf of Spezia, where he tragically drowned. During this time, Mary was almost always either pregnant or breastfeeding. Motherhood preoccupied her and her journals reveal both the overwhelming love she felt towards her children and the crushing despair she felt when they passed away.

Her first child, Clara, was born prematurely and lived only a few days. Mary recounts a recurring dream in which she was able to resuscitate her baby: “Dreamt that my little baby came to life again – that it had only been cold & that we rubbed it by the fire & it lived – I awake & find no baby – I think about the little thing all day”. Mary’s second child, William, affectionately known as ‘Willmouse’, was born in January 1816 and was a few months old when Mary, Percy, and her half-sister Claire Clairmont travelled to Geneva, where she began writing Frankenstein. According to the novel’s 1831 preface, Frankenstein also came to Mary Shelley in a dream, and the story’s interest in resurrection can arguably be attributed to not only contemporary Georgian concerns such as galvanism, but also Mary’s personal desire to revive her deceased daughter.

In the following year, after the group’s return to England, Clara Everina was born. Despite securing a 21 year lease, the family stayed in Albion House in Buckinghamshire for only a year before departing for Europe once again, this time to Italy. Sadly, the journey proved to be too much for Clara Everina, who tragically died in Venice.

Nine months after Clara’s death, on this day 200 years ago, Mary sat down to write in her journal: “William is very ill”, she wrote, immediately seeming to dismiss her concern by commenting that he got “better towards the evening”. Claire Clairmont elaborated upon this in a letter, identifying his illness as a “complaint of the Stomach”. Two days later, Mary added a postscript to this letter saying that William had a high fever and there was now little hope of him surviving.

Oil portrait of William Shelley by Amelia Curran

William died on 7th June aged three and a half years old, four days after Mary’s journal entry. Consumed as she was with the loss of another child, Mary didn’t write another journal entry for two months, although her letters reveal her despair over her loss. Percy, watching as she slipped further into depression, felt isolated from her. In his notebook, he penned a poem imploring her to return to him:

My dearest Mary, wherefore hast thou gone,
And left me in this dreary world alone?
Thy form is here indeed—a lovely one—
But thou art fled, gone down a dreary road
That leads to Sorrow’s most obscure abode.
For thine own sake I cannot follow thee
Do thou return for mine.

For Mary Shelley, motherhood was a gamble that defined and ravaged this period of her life. Five months after William’s death, when she was 21 years old, and part way through writing Matilda, Mary gave birth to her 4th child – Percy Florence Shelley. Her elation and love for her new baby boy was always shadowed by her fear that he too could someday be taken from her. She wrote to Marianne Hunt that “it is a bitter thought that all should be risked on one yet how much sweeter than to be childless as I was for 5 hateful months – Do not let us talk of those 5 months; when I think of all I suffered … I shudder with horror yet even now a sickening feeling steps in the way of every enjoyment when I think – of what I will not write about”.

In spite of her reluctance to write about her loss, Mary’s writings were influenced as much by motherhood and the deaths of her children as they were by her relationship with Shelley and the legacies of her parents. As a motherless child and, repeatedly, a childless mother, parental relationships remained a key theme throughout much of her work and continued to cloud her mind with worry as Percy Florence grew up. In Matilda, she stressed the dangers posed to her protagonist if she were to grow up without a mother; in Frankenstein the monster is rejected by his creator and embarks upon a rampage of destruction as a result. It is therefore unsurprising that, following her husband’s death, when the Shelley family offered to take care of Percy Florence, Mary chose to keep her child. Percy Florence remained close to his mother and lived and travelled with her for much of her life. He inherited the Shelley baronetcy upon the death of his grandfather and he married Jane Gibson. They had no children. While Mary’s maternal legacy ended with her 4th child, her narrative legacy, which she called her “hideous progeny”, has multiplied prolifically and continues to evoke a response in readers and audiences 200 years later.

Works Consulted

  • Betty T. Bennett (ed.), Selected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994).
  • Amelia Curran, Oil portrait of William Shelley, 1819, oil on canvas, 50 x 43 cm, Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle, New York Public Library, <http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/74bc296b-3cab-103b-e040-e00a18062a65>.
  • Paula R. Feldman and Diana Scott Kilvert (eds), The Journals of Mary Shelley 1814-1844: Volume 1: 1814-1822 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).
  • Neil Fraistat, Elizabeth Denlinger and Raffaele Viglianti (gen. eds), The Shelley Godwin Archive, <http://shelleygodwinarchive.org>.
  • Charlotte Gordon, Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley (London: Hutchinson, 2015).