BARS Blog

BARS Blog

News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

BARS Chawton House Travel Bursary

All scholars working on Romantic-Period women’s writing are invited to apply for the 2018 BARS Chawton House Travel Bursary.  The BARS Executive Committee has established this award in order to help fund expenses incurred through travel to, and accommodation near, Chawton House Library in Hampshire, up to a maximum of £500.

The names of recipients will be announced on the BARS and Chawton House Library websites and social media.  Successful applicants will be asked to submit a short report to the BARS Executive Committee and Chawton House Library Trustees within four weeks of the completion of the research trip and to acknowledge BARS and Chawton House Library in resulting publications.  Successful applicants must be members of BARS before taking up the award: see How to Join.

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

  • Your full name and institutional affiliation (if any).
  • The working title and a short abstract or summary of your current project.
  • Brief description of the research to be undertaken at Chawton House Library.
  • Estimated costing of proposed research trip.
  • Estimated travel dates.
  • Name of one referee (with email address) to whom application can be made for a supporting reference on your behalf.
  • Name and contact details (including email address and Twitter handle) of whomever updates your departmental website or social media, if known. And your Twitter handle, if applicable.

Applications should be directed to the BARS bursaries officer, Dr Daniel Cook (d.p.cook@dundee.ac.uk) at the University of Dundee.  The deadline for applications is February 1st in any given year.  Informal enquires about the Chawton House Library collection and this scheme can be directed to Dr Gillian Dow (G.Dow@soton.ac.uk).

For more information about Chawton House Library, including access to the online catalogue, see https://chawtonhouse.org.

Five Questions: Beatrice Turner on Romantic Childhood, Romantic Heirs

Beatrice Turner is Research Facilitator in the Department of English and Creative Writing at the University of Roehampton.  She completed her undergraduate education and Master’s degree at Victoria University of Wellington before moving to the UK to pursue a doctorate at Newcastle University.  She is broadly interested in Romantic afterlives and periodicity, and has worked on nineteenth-century children’s literature, the Godwin-Shelley circle and the Coleridge family; the latter two threads come together in her first monograph, Romantic Childhood, Romantic Heirs: Reproduction and Retrospection, 1820-1850, which was recently published by Palgrave Macmillan and which we discuss below.

1) How did you first become interested in the children of canonical Romantic-period writers?

Quite a few years ago now, my Master’s supervisor at Victoria University of Wellington, Harry Ricketts, read me Hartley Coleridge’s sonnet ‘Long Time a Child’.  I can’t remember what we were talking about – probably Swallows and Amazons, and definitely not Romantic poetry – but the line ‘For I have lost the race I never ran’ seized me absolutely.  It seemed to express a complexly doubled feeling about being entered into something unconsciously, or without having a choice, and about failure being a form of both resistance and of capitulation, which I found very powerful.  I set out to read more, and found again and again in Hartley’s poetry this compelling idea of the child who is both literally and literarily produced by his father: he feels simultaneously a flesh-and-blood child and a text, something birthed in a poem.  I’d have called myself someone who was interested in children’s literature, if anything, up until then, but when I decided I wanted to do a PhD, I found I couldn’t get Hartley’s poems out of my head.  So Hartley was the starting point, but from there it made sense to turn to his sister Sara, and other children of Romantic authors.  What I found was that Hartley’s not unique but emblematic, as I say in the introduction: that doubly-born feeling recurs in the work of all four authors I wrote about, and the reproductive failure it triggers seemed to resonate across the period.

2) What do you feel are the most important things that we can learn about the period between 1820 and 1850 by studying it as an age of ‘writing back’, characterised, at least for the biological children of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Godwin, by ‘cultural, aesthetic, and intellectual disruption’?

‘Writing back’ is what I came to call the move, which I see in all four children’s work, to look back towards their fathers and to reckon with their textual selves as produced by those author-fathers.  It’s a term that for me helped articulate the sense of productive or reproductive failure all four children register in their own writing and some extent in their cultural moment at large.  It’s this failure which I think brings the period into view as a period, with its own distinctive anxieties.  I spent a long time going back and forth with Palgrave (sorry Ben!) about the title because I wanted both ‘reproduction’ and ‘retrospection’ in there (which is also how I ended up with a rather unintentionally alliterative title): to me, those two terms are particularly useful for thinking about the decades between 1820 and 1850.  It’s a period defined in many ways by looking back, assessing, memorialising (this is one reason why biography and history and reviewing culture are so prominent) – but also by the problem of reproduction, by this anxiety of inheritance.  What can you create when you yourself are a hybrid production of a set of discourses which are intensely invested in childhood?  I think this anxiety registers across the period, not just in the work of the four children, from Hazlitt’s concern in The Spirit of the Age that there’s no-one capable of climbing the monuments left by previous generations, to Shelley’s sense that the ‘age of theory and enthusiasm’ has given way to a more cautious and less optimistic one of ‘facts and practicabilities’.  Writing back, then, is the mode in which such anxieties might be articulated, and a way of registering the felt gap  – or disruption – between the two generations.

3) To what extent do you think that there were general modes through which the Romantic heirs you consider engaged with the writings of their fathers, and to what extent were their responses distinctly individual?

One of the things that unites the four children is their strong resistance to being reified into symbols by their fathers’ texts and by Romantic-era discourses of childhood and creative production, so it feels particularly unfair of me say that the reason I chose to focus on the four is because of what they represent.  All four are doubly born – both as their fathers’ children, and as their fathers’ texts.  I think we can use their predicament, and their responses, to read this wider moment.  In that sense, all four are working in a similar mode, and asking versions of the same question: whether what I’m crudely calling the Romantic inheritance was one that allowed its children the space or the material for their own creative authority.  The conclusion reached by Hartley, Sara, Shelley, and Godwin Jr was that it didn’t, that aesthetically and psychically fulfilling production (whether as an author or a parent) was not possible if you were a child of Romanticism and its various discourses.  But it’s also true to say that each reaches this conclusion through different generic and formal modes, and sometimes to different ideological ends.  All four textualise their own lives to some extent, but only Hartley explicitly and self-consciously writes autobiographically, and I think this is because Hartley is so directly taken into and produced by his father’s verse – responding in kind, as the child-text STC creates, is almost the only option.  Sara achieves her most powerful readings of her father by a kind of stealth, through her work as his editor, while her maternal poetry, in which she speaks with raw feeling and sometimes something like malice, remained largely unpublished and possibly unread in her lifetime.  Shelley and Godwin Jr are both novelists, rather than poets (I do think there’s something interesting in the way both sets of siblings followed their fathers’ preferred formal modes), but they are also working to uncover different things.  Hartley and Sara’s labour I read as being to uncover the ways in which a form of childhood which is presented as entirely natural is actually produced through artifice and subject to stringent cultural surveillance.  Shelley and Godwin, however, are concerned with showing how the Godwinian idea of family relations which are entirely and self-consciously culturally constructed runs into its own generative dead-end, producing increasingly deformed and sterile versions of family feeling.

4) Mary Shelley is well-known as a writer in her own right, but Hartley Coleridge, Sara Coleridge and (perhaps especially) William Godwin Junior are less familiar even to educated modern readers.  Which of their works would you particularly recommend to those interested in exploring them?

It’s hard to restrict myself to just a few – I think all three deserve to be much more widely read!  Hartley’s sonnets are really beautiful.  He’s the master of the overlooked, the miniature, the apparently inconsequential, and the feelings that can hide within an idle thought or a glimpsed object.  The messier and more complex the emotion he’s working with, the more formally neat and gem-like the sonnet.  ‘Long Time a Child’ is the most anthologised, but ‘Let me not deem that I was made in vain’ is probably my favourite: it works through a clever sequence of negative statements and images to construct a self-portrait defined by absence or negative space, and is quietly heartbreaking.

Sara’s work is becoming more widely-read I think, thanks in most part to Peter Swaab’s excellent selections of her poetry and criticism, as well as recent monographs by Alan Vardy and Jeffrey Barbeau, to which my chapter’s indebted.  A lot of her poetry (unpublished in her lifetime for fairly obvious reasons!) is about profoundly ambivalent maternal feelings, and I think poems like ‘To Herbert and Edith’ and ‘To a Little Invisible Being’ offer a useful corrective to the ‘angel of the hearth’ narrative of nineteenth century motherhood: Sara is precise about the physical, emotional, and creative sacrifice attendant on mothering a Romantic child.  I’d also recommend her introductory essay to the 1847 Biographia Literaria as a fascinating, clear-eyed assessment of her father’s power as a thinker and failure as an author.

As for Godwin Jr, I think all Romanticists, and especially anyone working on the Godwin-Shelley circle, should read his short story ‘The Executioner’.  It’s a gothic psychodrama about a man who’s tricked into executing his biological father by an evil foster-father (a barely-disguised Godwin).  It’d be worth reading anyway as an astonishingly raw expression of Godwin Jr’s sense he doesn’t belong in the Godwin family and as a version of the family romance fantasy, but it’s also a skilful psychological narrative.

5) What new projects are you currently working on?

Right now I’m combining my interest in Romantic ideas about childhood with my love of pop music, writing an essay for a volume on Romanticism and David Bowie along with Matt Sangster, Jo Taylor, and Emily Bernhard Jackson.  I’ve also gone back to Godwin, and I’m thinking about how he felt about owning, gifting, and borrowing books, and the way they can function as affective objects, in the context of his frankly baffling ‘Essay on Sepulchres’.  That’s for an essay collection which I’m co-editing with Eliza O’Brien and Helen Stark, called New Approaches to William Godwin: Forms, Fears, Futures.  Thinking about Godwin and books and feelings is a sort of precursor to my next big project, which is about the relationship between literary biography and literary criticism in that same in-betweeny 1810 – 1840ish period – there’s obviously something in me which is drawn to the definitionally awkward and the marginal!

Archive Spotlight: The Royal Irish Academy and Global Connections in Martha Wilmot’s Russian Journals

Today we welcome Dr Pamela Buck to the BARS blog. Pamela is an Associate Professor of English at Sacred Heart University. Her research focuses on British women writers and material culture during the French Revolution and Napoleonic period.  She is currently working on a book project concerning the souvenir as an object of political and cultural exchange in Romantic women’s travel writing. Here she tells us about her research at the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin.

 

Global Connections in Martha Wilmot’s Russian Journals

 

In July 2016, I traveled to Dublin, Ireland to examine the works of Martha Wilmot (1775-1873) in the Wilmot-Dashkova Collection at the library of the Royal Irish Academy.[1]  Wilmot was an Anglo-Irish writer from a well-connected, wealthy family in County Cork.  In 1803, she traveled to Russia after receiving an invitation from Princess Ekaterina Dashkova, who met Wilmot’s father while on a tour of Ireland in 1779-1780.  One of the foremost women of the Russian Enlightenment, Princess Dashkova was instrumental in the coup that had brought Catherine the Great to power.  During Wilmot’s five years in Russia, an intense friendship formed between the two women, and Dashkova often referred to herself as Wilmot’s “Russian mother.”  Wilmot spent her time observing society at the royal courts in St. Petersburg and Moscow as well as at the Princess’ country estate.  She also kept detailed journals and letters of her stay that provide a fascinating look at Russian customs and political life.

 

Portrait of Martha Wilmot (The Russian Journals of Martha and Catherine Wilmot. Edited by Edith Londonderry and H. M. Hyde. London: Macmillan, 1934)

 

Today, about half of Wilmot’s letters and journals exist in print.[2]  In previous research on her published work, I note that she collects a multitude of objects on her journey, including Dashkova’s memoirs, which she published in 1840, a fan belonging to Catherine the Great, snuffboxes, diamonds, imperial portraits, and court costumes.[3]  I argue that she circulates these objects to strengthen Britain’s understanding of Russia and encourage a possible alliance against Napoleon, whose growing empire threatened to subsume Europe.  The goal of my archival project was to learn how Wilmot’s unpublished writing might further document the circulation of material objects between Britain and Russia and show her participation in the emerging global networks of her time.

With the generous help of Assistant Librarian Sophie Evans, I examined three collections of Wilmot’s papers: the six notebooks that comprise the journal of her stay (12 L 17-22), her letters to Ireland (12 L 24), and letters written with her sister Catherine, who visited from 1805-1807 (12 L 29). The manuscripts, which are often silk or clothbound, tied with ribbons, and illustrated with sketches and translations of Russian poems and songs, indicate that she considered them lasting keepsakes and that she hoped they would give her readers a more vivid sense of this relatively unknown culture.  Interestingly, manuscript 12 L 24 consists largely of copies of her work made by her mother, suggesting that it was widely circulated and popular amongst family and friends.  The parts most frequently copied, and likely considered the most engaging or important, were her discussions of the Princess’ lavish gifts, the threat posed by Napoleon’s empire, and Russia’s relations with the East.

 

Silk envelope (By permission of the Royal Irish Academy © RIA)

 

Examining Wilmot’s manuscripts indeed enabled me to understand more fully how the exchange of gifts between her and Dashkova helped facilitate an alliance. For example, in an entry dated December 2, 1803, Wilmot relates how “Today the P gave me a little medal of the statue of Peter the Great” and told her the story of his reign.[4]  An entry of April 4, 1804 recounts the gift of “a snuffbox which belonged to the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, Princess Daschkaw’s godmother.”[5]  Connected to prominent Russian leaders, the objects enhance Wilmot’s understanding of the country and its imperial power.  An entry from December 28, 1804 indicates that the Princess desires a mutual alliance when she gives Wilmot a shawl she received from Alexander I in exchange for her English one.[6]  As Katrina O’Loughlin points out, these sentimental items are emblematic of women’s sociability, allowing them to exhibit their feelings for one another.[7]  The journals thus show how the material objects that strengthen Wilmot and Dashkova’s personal friendship reinforce the political ties between their countries as well.

My research on Wilmot’s work also revealed unexpected connections between Britain, Russia, and the East. Russia attempted to bolster its national image by identifying with Western nations such as Britain, but also through its domination of the East.  This too occurred through material culture.  In a July 23, 1803 entry, Wilmot recounts viewing “specimens of the curiosities of different countrys” like India, Turkey, and China at the Princess’ Academy in St. Petersburg.[8]  Confiscated and placed in a museum, these objects indicate the political and cultural power Russia exerted over Eastern countries.  Dashkova also shares such objects with Wilmot, who notes in a January 3, 1806 entry, “The Princess has been rummaging today, and has rooted out a million things, from every quarter of the globe, but particularly from China.  She has given us pagodas, a musical instrument, purse, boxes, etc.”[9]  Giving Chinese objects to Wilmot may be another way in which Dashkova hopes to convince Britain that Russia would prove to be a powerful political ally.  However, the goods may also suggest that Russia could help Britain partake in prosperous trade with the East.  British attempts to establish a trading port in China had been unsuccessful, and they eagerly sought ways to fulfill the consumer demand at home for Eastern luxuries.  Regardless, the collection and exchange of these objects reveal both Russia and Britain’s desires to strengthen their empires and redefine themselves as global nations.

 

Traveling case (By permission of the Royal Irish Academy © RIA)

 

Although virtually unknown in literary studies today, Martha Wilmot’s work makes a significant contribution to our understanding of women writers and their involvement abroad during the Romantic period. The Wilmot-Dashkova Collection also contains Catherine Wilmot’s own journal and letters of her stay in Russia, which provide a more critical view of Russian cultural and political practices, and letters from her 1801-1803 journey to France and Italy, which offer an inside look at Napoleon’s empire.  While Martha Wilmot chose not to publish her journals, her portable writing case, also preserved in the archive, suggests that she considered herself a legitimate travel writer. The collection would appeal to scholars interested in the intersection of gender, politics, and material culture in the Napoleonic period. With its rare insights into relations between East and West, it would also appeal to those with an interest in global Romanticism.

 

– by Pamela Buck

 

[1] I thank Sacred Heart University for supporting this project through a University Research and Creativity Grant.

[2] Martha Wilmot, The Russian Journals of Martha and Catherine Wilmot, eds. Edith Londonderry and H. M. Hyde (London: Macmillan, 1934).

[3] Pamela Buck, “From Russia with Love: Souvenirs and Political Alliance in Martha Wilmot’s The Russian Journals,” in Eighteenth-Century Thing Theory in a Global Context: From Consumerism to Celebrity Culture, eds. Ileana Baird and Christina Ionescu (Basingstoke: Ashgate Publishing, 2013), 133-48.

[4] Martha Wilmot, “Journal of stay in Russia” (12 L 17), 151.

[5] Ibid., (12 L 18), 103.

[6] Ibid., 292.

[7] Katrina O’Loughlin, “‘Your Russian Mother’: Friendship and Global Relations in the Dashkova Archive” (presentation, North American Society for the Study of Romanticism Conference, Tokyo, Japan, June 13-15, 2014).

[8] Martha Wilmot, “Journal of stay in Russia” (12 L 17), 68.

[9] Wilmot, “Journal” (12 L 20), 8.

Archive Spotlight on The Derbyshire Record Office: A Marriage of the Romantic and the Scientific

Thank you to Val Derbyshire (University of Sheffield) for this intriguing and charming account of her experience carrying out research at the Derbyshire Record Office – and the letters she spent time reading there. You can also read Val’s BARS blog report from the Thelwall Conference here.

‘Unrestrained Epistolary Intercourse’: A Marriage of the Romantic and the Scientific

by

Val Derbyshire, PhD Researcher, School of English, University of Sheffield

Mary Ann Flaxman, Detail of portrait of Eleanor Anne Porden, undated.

Mary Ann Flaxman, Detail of portrait of Eleanor Anne Porden, undated.

I first stumbled across the works of Eleanor Anne Porden (1795-1825), Romantic poet and first wife of Arctic explorer, John Franklin (1786-1847) quite by chance whilst working a night shift on an out of hours helpline at Derbyshire County Council.   I quite often used these night shifts – which were invariably quiet – to study for the MA I was completing at the time.  During one shift, I was  researching an assignment on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), and reading Jen Hill’s excellent study from 2008, White Horizon: The Arctic in the Nineteenth-Century British Imagination (New York: University of New York Press, 2008), when I came across Hill’s analysis of Porden’s The Arctic Expeditions: A Poem (1818).  Hill’s research had accessed the personal correspondence between Porden and her fiancé, Franklin, which were held just down the road from where I was sitting, at the Derbyshire Record Office.  Like all good explorers, I decided to follow in Hill’s footsteps and read this correspondence for myself.

It took me a couple of years, however, to get around to it.  Indeed, I was in the middle of my PhD and undertaking a work placement at the University of Derby before I finally viewed the letters for myself.  My brief at the University of Derby was to design a new MLit course for students concerning the long Eighteenth Century.

The focus was to design a course which would permit students to study texts with a ‘distinctly Derby’ theme.  With this in view, I visited the Record Office to transcribe the love letters between Porden and Franklin.  These letters would then feature as part of the students’ course reading.

Derbyshire Record Office, New Street, Matlock – home to a large collection of personal correspondence between Eleanor Anne Porden and John Franklin.

Derbyshire Record Office, New Street, Matlock – home to a large collection of personal correspondence between Eleanor Anne Porden and John Franklin.

The holding is situated at the top of a very steep hill in Matlock, Derbyshire (a town which was visited by both Mary Shelley and her fictional progeny, Victor Frankenstein, although one suspects Shelley probably visited the more picturesque Matlock Bath, dubbed ‘Little Switzerland’ by the locals).

Matlock Bath, dubbed ‘Little Switzerland’ by locals – the more picturesque side of Matlock town and home to a park and pleasure ground which has been in use since the 1780s.

Matlock Bath, dubbed ‘Little Switzerland’ by locals – the more picturesque side of Matlock town and home to a park and pleasure ground which has been in use since the 1780s.

The archive contains an immense number of letters from Porden to literary friends as well as the romantic correspondence between herself and Franklin.  Franklin’s letters alone in this holding number in the hundreds.  With this in view, I focused my research upon the period from 1815 to 1823, which covered Porden’s first meeting with Franklin, her publication of Coeur de Lion (1822), her somewhat surprised receipt of Franklin’s marriage proposal upon his return from his first expedition to the Arctic, the death of her much beloved father, her marriage to Franklin, concluding at the point of her demise in 1825 from tuberculosis which was accelerated by the birth of her daughter (Eleanor Isabella, born 1824).

The letters are immensely rich and rewarding to read.  They contain extracts of original poetry, tinges of regret at the creative projects she left unfinished (which she refers to as ‘a ghost’ which ‘haunt[s]’ her with ‘so many delightful phantoms of other years’[1]), and charts her relationship with her fiancé.  This in itself is a journey worthy of exploration.  Porden travels from a starting point of grief at having just lost her father, surprise at Franklin’s unexpected proposal of marriage, through a peculiar epistolary courtship, which warms as time progresses, but ultimately becomes as cold as the Arctic itself at Franklin’s suggestion that she should relinquish her literary career after their marriage.  Indeed, some of the letters seem to express extreme doubt upon Porden’s behalf that they should proceed with the marriage at all.

The ‘love letters’, if you can term them this, commence upon Franklin’s return from his first fraught voyage to the Arctic.    During this initial exploratory trip, 11 of Franklin’s 20 men died, primarily from starvation, although it is speculated that one may have been murdered, and hints of cannibalism sullied the reputation of the voyage.  Upon Franklin’s return, his first action is to write to Porden from the Hudson’s Bay Ship, Prince of Wales, Atlantic Ocean, ‘at the distance of 600 miles from the Orkney Isles’[2].  Here, in an opening romantic gesture, he informs Porden that he has named some of the Arctic archipelago after her: ‘I can only now say that I have named some islands in the Arctic Sea ‘Porden’ as a tribute of my regard for your family.’[3]

Porden’s response, however, is perhaps not the one Franklin anticipated.  On mourning stationery, with a thick black border, Porden informs that her ‘poor father was laid in his grave just one month ago’, although she thanks him for ‘fixing our names upon the globe [and] shall feel proud to see them figure in the map which will be prefixed to your work.  Proud, less perhaps for my own sake than that of those who are no more.’[4]

Once safely back on terra firma, Franklin wastes little time in proposing marriage, in a meeting in London which Porden describes as ‘exquisitely […] painful’, although she does concede ‘that there is no one else in all my acquaintance, who, if I am any judge of my own feelings, could have spoken to me on the subject you have done, without meeting an instant and positive denial’.[5]  It’s hardly the language of love, and, indeed, once Porden has accepted his proposal, the epistolary courtship proceeds in a strangely formal manner.

However, by the end of December 1822, Porden seems to have embraced her new future and begins to send more informal letters to her fiancé.  Sending him ‘a fine saucy message’, she begs that he will write frequently to her, in order that they may ‘arrive at a more intimate knowledge of each other’s feelings and sentiments from unrestrained epistolary intercourse’.[6]  It becomes, however, a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’, as aspects of Franklin’s character emerge, which, it becomes clear, Porden would really rather not know.  The most pressing of these is his rather patriarchal view that she should relinquish her literary career upon their marriage.

In a very formal and lengthy epistle dated 23rd March 1823, Porden remonstrates with Franklin upon his belief that she should cease writing, informing him that she was ‘asking no favour’ and ‘claiming no concession’ with the continuance of her literary career.  ‘My tastes and habits had been fully known to you from the first moment of our acquaintance’ and I could not have supposed that any man, to whom they were in the slightest degree disagreeable, would ever have thought of addressing me’.[7]  ‘[I]t was the pleasure of Heaven’, she tells him, ‘to bestow those talents on me, and it was my father’s pride to cultivate them to the utmost of his power.  I should therefore be guilty of a double dereliction of duty in abandoning their exercise.’[8]  At the close of this letter, Porden offers Franklin a way out of their engagement:

If on the contrary you find that your imagination has sketched a false portrait of me, that your feelings are changed, or, no matter what the causes, that you have taken a rash and inconsiderate step, do not hesitate to tell me.[9]

Although the tone of subsequent letters fluctuates, it almost seems as if Porden is seeking an exit herself from this moment onwards.  During the ensuing months prior to their marriage, Porden’s letters are suffused with doubt, and the resulting letters question disparities in their religious beliefs, and her sociable nature and many friendships as opposed to his more solitary leanings.

The wedding, however, duly took place in August 1823.   In a final romantic gesture, Porden wore a wedding dress, which had flowers discovered in the Arctic by Franklin and his team, and detailed in the descriptions of his voyages, embroidered upon the hem.  Unfortunately, the gesture was somewhat wasted on Franklin who ‘did not discover the compliment paid […] until it was pointed out to me’.[10]  The incorporation of the flowers, ‘Eutoca, […] Richardsonil and Hoodil’ into the wedding ceremony demonstrates perhaps more than anything how this was a marriage between the Romantic and the Scientific natures of the participants.[11] Porden’s letters are personal, charming and ever seeking a point of connection with her fiancé.  Franklin’s are much less easy to read and are slightly clinical in tone, although there can be no doubt of the ‘sincere esteem’ he entertains for her.[12]   Here, it can be seen how the participants struggle to locate neutral territory and balance the conflicting demands of romance with scientific and literary endeavour.

The archive is voluminous, with the Derbyshire Record Office holding much of Porden’s writings, both personal and professional, as well as Franklin’s huge correspondence.  If researchers have an interest in this, there can be no better place to start an exploration of both the romantic and the scientific than in a small archive at the top of a Matlock hill.

Plate delineating species of Arctic Flowers, some of which would feature upon the hem of Porden’s wedding gown. From John Franklin, Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea in the Years 1819, 20, 21 and 22 (London: John Murray, 1823).

Plate delineating species of Arctic Flowers, some of which would feature upon the hem of Porden’s wedding gown. From John Franklin, Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea in the Years 1819, 20, 21 and 22 (London: John Murray, 1823).

 

[1] Eleanor Anne Porden, Letter to Mr.Elliott dated 12th July 1822, held in the Derbyshire Record Office holding number D3311/8-13.

[2] John Franklin, Letter to Eleanor Anne Porden dated 19th October 1822, Derbyshire Record Office holding number D3311/8/3/1-40.

[3] Eleanor Anne Porden, Letter to John Franklin dated 22nd October 1822, Derbyshire Record Office holding number D3311/8/3/1-40.

[4] Eleanor Anne Porden, Letter to John Franklin dated 22nd October 1822, Derbyshire Record Office holding number D3311/8/3/1-40.

[5] Eleanor Anne Porden, Letter to John Franklin dated 5th December 1822, Derbyshire Record Office holding number D3311/8/3/1-40

[6] Eleanor Anne Porden, Letter to John Franklin dated 22nd December 1822, Derbyshire Record Office holding number D311/8/3/1-40.

[7] Eleanor Anne Porden, Letter to John Franklin dated 29th March 1823, Derbyshire Record Office holding number D3311/8/3/1-40.

[8] Eleanor Anne Porden, Letter to John Franklin dated 29th March 1823, Derbyshire Record Office holding number D3311/8/3/1-40.

[9] Eleanor Anne Porden, Letter to John Franklin dated 29th March 1823, Derbyshire Record Office holding number D3311/8/3/1-40.

[10] John Franklin, Letter to John Richardson dated 7th July 1823, Derbyshire Record Office, holding number D3311/12.

[11] John Franklin, Letter to John Richardson dated 7th July 1823, Derbyshire Record Office, holding number D3311/12.

[12] John Franklin, Letter to Eleanor Anne Porden dated 10th July 1823, Derbyshire Record Office, holding number D3311/8/3/1-40.

The BARS First Book Prize 2017: Judges’ Report

This round, we had 19 nominations from publishers and BARS members, 12 from UK presses, the remainder from USA and Canada. As judges, we were really impressed by the high quality of the work submitted, which says a lot about the flourishing state of Romantic Studies. There was a lot of animated discussion and argument before the panel made its final decisions. Although it was hard work, we got a lot of pleasure from reading these books. Congratulations to all concerned, especially to the winner and runners up!

– Nigel Leask (Chair) (Glasgow); Nicola J. Watson (Open University); Anthony Mandal (Cardiff); Helen Stark (QMUL)

 

WINNER

Julia S. Carlson, Romantic Marks and Measures: Wordsworth’s Poetry in Fields of Print (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).

julia-s-carlson-romantic-marks-and-measures

Romantic Marks and Measures is a rich and evocative work of scholarship, building on a variety of historical materials ­­– maps, travel guides, elocutionary and prosodic studies, and literary works – to argue the case for a cartopoetic reading of Wordsworth’s poetry and his adoption of blank verse as a turning point (in particular, in the Lyrical Ballads, The Excursion and The Prelude). As well offering a fresh reading of Wordsworth’s punctuation, metrics and poetic revisions, both in print and manuscript, the book is also distinguished by its learned account of transformations in Romantic period cartography. Its two main sections are cleverly bridged by an interchapter that makes the case for a new perceptual turn grounded in marks and measures, which in turn is shown to be an informing presence in Wordsworth’s poetics. A final chapter on Thelwall’s elocutionary work casts new light on his ‘therapoetics’ and his critique of the ‘measure’ of Wordsworth’s Excursion. This is an impressive debut and a strong contribution to interdisciplinary studies, displaying prosodic and interpretative rigour in reading Wordsworth’s ‘lines and points’. As well as a major intervention in Wordsworth studies, Romantic Marks and Measures really has the potential to redefine our sense of ‘natural’ representation, both in the field of topography, and in Romantic prosody and print culture.

 

RUNNERS UP

Siobhan Carroll, An Empire of Air and Water: Uncolonized Space in the British Imagination, 1750-1850 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).

Siobhan Carroll - An Empire of Air and Water

An Empire of Air and Water is a tour de force of interdisciplinary excavation and remapping, which stakes new ground for the Romantic imaginary by drawing together a range of eclectic literary sources and putting them into dialogue with wider cultural projects during the Romantic Century. Carroll’s book examines the presence of ‘atopias’ – spaces which resist categorisation, habitation and conceptualisation: these are polar regions, the oceans, the atmosphere and subterranean spaces. Each of the core chapters offers a nuanced and intriguing piece of a wider puzzle that collects around the British imperial project and its various technologies (as well as those of its competitors). These atopias function variously in extending the Romantic imagination upwards and outwards, while also resisting human endeavour through its evocation of a gothic past that always lurks beneath the surface. Carroll includes readings of numerous literary works, by Mary Shelley, Byron, Thomas De Quincey, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Inchbald, Sophia Lee, and a number of lesser-known writers.

 

Devin Griffiths, The Age of Analogy: Science and Literature Between the Darwins (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016).

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Via a highly theorized discussion of analogy, Devin Griffiths seeks to place a new ‘comparative historicism’ at the heart of literary and scientific studies in the century between Erasmus Darwin and his grandson Charles.  Although only about half of the book actually focuses on Romantic period writings, it makes renews our sense of the importance of Romantic narrative and methodological influences on Victorian literature and science. A theoretical introduction reviews the current state of literature and science studies, including a persuasive discussion of analogy in the work of Bruno Latour, Pierre Bourdieu and Alain Badiou. The main argument is set up via an illuminating study of the poetry of Erasmus Darwin, unduly neglected in Romantic Studies. A chapter on Walter Scott contains original research on ‘popular antiquarianism’ and ballad collecting, as well as reviewing the role of Scott’s novels in developing ideas of historical analogy in nineteenth-century literature. Two chapters are devoted to Tennyson and George Eliot, and a closing chapter on Charles Darwin (with a highly original focus on his Orchid book) identifies selective adaptation as a form of ‘harmonious’ analogy. Clearly written and full of critical flair, Griffiths’ ambitious book harvests a decade’s worth of reading and scholarship, and will have a major impact on both Romantic and Victorian studies. It also reinvigorates our sense of the relationship between the ‘two cultures’ of literature and science in the long nineteenth century.

Call for Expressions of Interest: BARS European Engagement Fellow

The British Association for Romantic Studies is pleased to announce that it is funding a new fellowship, the BARS European Engagement Fellow. The Fellow will be expected to work part-time on Project RÊVE, the core activity of the newly formed ERA (European Romanticisms in Association). ERA brings together scholarly associations, archives and heritage organizations across Europe with common interests in long Romanticism to work together on the European dimensions of Romanticism. RÊVE (Romantic Europe: The Virtual Exhibition) is designed in the first instance as a series of monthly blogposts devoted to iconic Romantic objects and places which exemplify some transnational aspect of Romanticism in Europe.  Its ambition is to feature 100 objects, eventually housing them in a searchable database set up as a virtual museum. Launched in July 2017, the first six blogposts for RÊVE can be accessed here: http://www.euromanticism.org

The Fellowship is suitable for a doctoral or post-doctoral candidate. It will be held over six months in the first instance, starting from 1 January 2018 and running until 1 July 2018. It will be paid monthly at an hourly rate of £15.00 and will entail on average 10 hours of work per month.  Any travel expenses will also be covered. Tasks will include:

  1. Correspondence with identified contributors across Europe to commission and collect RÊVE blog-posts
  2. Editing and uploading blog-posts
  3. Publicising RÊVE by increasing its profile online, through social media, and through conferences
  4. Managing and developing the ERA website, in particular adding links to other organizations and events, and information on ERA conferences
  5. Helping with and attending ERA/RÊVE events as and when they arise.

There is also the opportunity to become a contributor to RÊVE. The Fellow will be co-opted, initially for 6 months from 1 January 2018, onto the BARS Executive with a brief to help expand the current BARS initiative to develop new European links. S/he will be expected to work with the project director, Professor Nicola Watson of the Open University (nicola.watson@open.ac.uk).

We are looking for someone with energy and enthusiasm, proven research interests in any aspect of Romantic culture, the ability to manage and use social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WordPress), some familiarity with or willingness to learn about managing and developing websites, and excellent communication and organizational skills. It would be an advantage to bring at least one other European language beyond English. In return we are offering an unusual opportunity to work within a Europe-wide network of universities and museums on a new idea, the virtual, transnational museum.

Please send a letter expressing your interest and describing your research, skills and experience, supported by a one-page curriculum vitae to Professor Nicola Watson at nicola.watson@open.ac.uk by 11 December 2017.

Five Questions: 2017 BARS First Book Prize Winner Julia S. Carlson on Romantic Marks and Measures

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Julia S. Carlson, the winner of the 2017 BARS First Book Prize, is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Cincinnati.  She completed her undergraduate degree at Stanford University and her graduate degrees at the University of Michigan.  She has published numerous essays on Romantic poetry, poetics, cartographies and sensation; is a member of the Multigraph Collective, co-authors of the forthcoming Interacting with Print: Elements of Reading in an Era of Print Saturation, 1700-1900 (University of Chicago Press, 2017); and is one of the co-editors of Romanticism on the NetShe received the First Book Prize for Romantic Marks and Measures: Wordsworth’s Poetry in Fields of Print (Penn Press, 2016), which we discuss below.

1) How did you begin the research that led you to write this book?

My research on this project began after a Comparative Literature seminar in which we read Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard and the poems of Emily Dickinson followed by a facing-page edition of Wordsworth’s Prelude, a sequence which primed me to observe typographic and topographic differences between the 1805 and 1850 texts.  Why the abundance of dashes and near absence of exclamation marks in the Norton 1805 Prelude, so clearly belied by the original manuscripts, I wondered?  Why the late twentieth-century editorial resistance to the mark of passion, and what contemporary ideas and practices shaped Wordsworth’s marking?  To explore this question, I went deep into the stacks of Harlan Hatcher Library to read surprisingly animated disputes among grammarians, elocutionists, and rhetoricians on the use and significance of the “wondering point,” the “blank line,” and other “Typographical Figures of Speech.”  I was interested, too, in the poem’s self-reflexivity: its thematics of marking and attention and its vocabulary of mark, point, spot, line, and trace—terms used to signal places in the landscape and accent the growth of the poet’s mind.  Particularly evident in the episode of crossing the Simplon Pass, these terms for geometric and cartographic symbols made me wonder how the Alps were rendered in period maps and why they’d been neglected in the criticism.  This led me to the Map Library, with its then panoramic view of the streets, squares, and houses of Ann Arbor, where, with the help of librarian Karl Eric Longstreth, I stood gazing at maps of Switzerland published between 1768 and 1844, struck by the radical shifts in symbol, style, and perspective with which they construed the rivers, roads, and slopes that meet in the narrow confines of the Pass.

2) Your book positions Wordsworth’s poetry ‘within a matrix of inscriptional projects not traditionally considered to be part of the Romantic canon: the charting of terrain and the notating of language by cartographers, elocutionists, prosodists, and the writers of tours and guidebooks.’  What for you are most significant insights into Wordsworth’s poetry that this positioning reveals, and what do you think are the most important things we can learn about the galaxies of topography and typography that you examine through relating them to Wordsworthian verse?

The notational lexicon Wordsworth uses in composition and revision puts his poems in dialogue with and differentiates them from contemporary visual and verbal grammars, with implications for our understanding of poetic language and form.  For example, Wordsworth’s reflexive use of line and point in The Prelude, which registers the scientific, ideological, and aesthetic interests of the Ordnance Survey of Britain, reveals tensions and affinities between the experimental project of epic autobiography and the new cartographic portrait of the nation.  Thus we see that the ostensibly more natural language by which Wordsworth’s attempts to inscribe feeling and place is inflected by a technical semiotics, and conversely, that that the retention of hill portraiture in the first series of topographical maps of England and Wales—its expressive pictorialism —is indebted to the Wordsworthian aesthetics of Ruskin and Arnold.

Poems and maps were highly interactive and formally reinforcing.  In another context, that of picturesque tours and guidebooks, short excerpts of long blank verse poems intended to bring nature “closer to the eye” were published side-by-side with increasingly large-scale charts and outline views of mountain ranges, and also within complex itineraries.  My critical cartopoetics reveals that what we’ve come to know as Wordsworthian “nature lyric” is not a phenomenon of consciousness that transcends the function of pointing to the landscape, as Geoffrey Hartman has argued.  Short blank verse nature poems were formalized in dynamic relation to other line systems, such as surveying and hill portraiture, and within specific indexical and diagrammatic contexts that heightened attention to the marks and measures of landscape and cultivated the interpretation, and correlation, of heterogeneous scales and views.

The poems’ formalization in the context of sign systems that tried to graph speech patterns—elocutionary punctuation—is revealed in subtle effects such as the double-long dashes that Wordsworth began to use in the second edition of Lyrical Ballads.  Considered historically, the marks indicate Wordsworth’s experimentation with elocutionary punctuation and his thematic development of elocutionary concerns within the poems.  Not merely signs of suspenseful pause or the silent passage of time, however, the marks are iconographic as well—tracings in the print medium of the “finger of mortality” (“The Brothers,” 126) that has scored the landscape.  As such, they offer countermappings of place, controlling the reader’s movement through the poems and enhancing her affective response to a landscape conventionally, and less meaningfully, marked in the picturesque guidebooks the poems indict.  Wordsworth’s reflexive handling of the long dash across the blank verse of the book shows how what Richard Payne Knight called “blank and unmark’d metre” is hardly such, but depends upon a complex interplay of spatiotemporal marks that engage the acoustic and visual imaginations of readers.  What we learn, therefore, about the “galaxies of topography and typography” is that they become, in the period, more interrelated as they strive to be both more systematic and more expressive in their encoding of the national language and landscape.  They were related aspects of a diagrammatic and accentual turn in British culture that produced new forms of the spatial and temporal organization of print, new kinds of literacy, and new modes of feeling.

3) How did you come to decide on the final structure for your book, with three chapters focusing on the burgeoning of cartographic practices pivoting around a transitional interchapter into four further chapters on the marking of language within a thriving print culture?

The topographical and typographical systems through which I was reading Wordsworth are intertwined in his poetry, so it was tempting to consider them together in each chapter.  Ultimately, I thought this would make for too dense a narrative, so I explored the graphic representation of landscape in the first half of the book and the graphic representation of speech in the second; the interchapter articulates the two, foregrounding the many connections between them in the culture and in Wordsworth’s verse.

4) To what extent does your study focus on Wordsworth because he was a poet particularly alive to marks and measures, and to what extent might the approach you take in your book be extended to other poets or literary writers of the period?

Wordsworth, the poet who founded his verse on the “plainer and more emphatic language” spoken by rustics who were in daily communication with the enduring objects of nature, was more deeply invested in marking and measuring both landscape and speech than any of his contemporaries.  That said, the book also discusses other writers—Coleridge, theorist of punctuation and of “mingled measures”; Southey—poet of experimental meters; Thelwall—teacher of elocution and radical prosodist.  There are other poets too for whom the marking of speech on the page is a matter of self-reflexive reference: Byron in Don Juan for one.

5) What new projects are you currently working on?

I’m co-editing a collection for Cambridge with Sally Bushell and Damian Walford Davies called Romantic Cartographies. I’m also co-editing a special issue of Essays in Romanticism on historical poetics with David Ruderman and Ewan Jones.  And my new monograph project is Reading with the Hands: Impression and Inscription in Romantic-Era Britain, which explores, among other things, the development of tactile print systems for the blind.

Wordsworth Annual Lecture 2017: Byron and Wordsworth

Please see below for details of the Wordsworth Annual Lecture 2017, to be held in London on Halloween.

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Byron and Wordsworth: Art and Nature

Tuesday 31 October, 6.00 – 7.00pm

The 2017 London Lecture with Professor Sir Drummond Bone

Wordsworth and Byron fell out in a not very dignified way over politics, and there was heavy co-lateral damage in their opinion of each other’s poetry. But there was a fundamental intellectual difference too. Despite his flirtation with Wordsworthean pantheism at P B Shelley’s behest in 1816, Byron came to believe that moral and existential value could only be human constructs, whereas Wordsworth of course saw these very constructs as the barrier to an existential value inherent in Nature, the perception of which was the necessary ground of moral behaviour. Sir Drummond Bone will use this contrast as a way into reading their poetry, and spend some time specifically on their differing attitudes to city life and the nature of art.

Sir Drummond Bone graduated from Glasgow University, and was a Snell Exhibitioner at Balliol from 1968 to 1972. He is an acknowledged expert on the poetry of Byron and is President of the Scottish Byron Society. He became Professor of English Literature and Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Glasgow, Principal of Royal Holloway and Bedford New College in the University of London, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool, and President of Universities UK. He has been Master of Balliol since 2011. In Trinity Term 2016, he was appointed a Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University.

Following the lecture will be a drinks reception that all are welcome to attend.

Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HU

To RSVP please contact Hannah Stratton at the Wordsworth Trust on 015394 63520 or email h.stratton@wordsworth.org.uk.

Conference Report: The Shelley Conference 2017

Note from Anna Mercer, BARS Blog Editor:
The Shelley Conference 2017 was a two-day event sponsored by BARS. As the organiser I am very grateful to BARS for the support, and then also to Ana Stevenson for compiling the following detailed report. You can see the full programme including all the parallel sessions here, and I am hoping to work on a published collection of essays, or a special journal issue, of some of the wonderful papers I heard at the conference. The keynote speakers’ talks will be available online very soon. Without further comment from me, please enjoy Ana’s account of this gathering of Shelleyans:

The Shelley Conference 2017. 15-16 September. Institute for English Studies, London.

By Ana Stevenson

Delegates outside the mural dedicated to PBS (Poland Street)

Delegates outside the mural dedicated to PBS (Poland Street)

It took almost the length of Shelley’s lifetime for another event celebrating his life and work to be organised – the last one took place on the bicentennial of his birth, in 1992. For this and other reasons, Anna Mercer was determined to organise this exceptional two-days conference. After realising that most of PBS’s contemporaries enjoy various symposiums, Mercer took it upon herself to side with Harrie Neal and organised The Shelley Conference 2017, celebrating both Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Under the guidance of Kelvin Everest and Michael Rossington, Mercer and Neal welcomed Michael O’Neill, Nora Crook, and many scholars from around the world to present a variety of papers exploring the many aspects of PBS and MWS’s lives, work, and collaboration with one another.

The Senate House, London, opened its doors for The Shelley Conference 2017 for the first time on the 15th of September. With a plethora of fascinating panels, it was a hard task to decide which ones to attend. Luckily Graham Henderson has recorded a few, which will soon be available online for those who wish to watch it [see Graham’s website on PBS here]. The Conference started with a short introduction by the organisers, who briefly talked about the programme and thanked those who made the event possible. They expressed the Shelleys’ importance in Literature and Culture, as well as other aspects that inspired them to design this conference. Mercer closed the introduction speech and started the conference with a beautiful reading of ‘Mutability’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley – a poem that perfectly suited the occasion.

The first plenary, Mary Shelley’s Editing of Percy Bysshe Shelley, was delivered by Professor Nora Crook from Anglia Ruskin University. Crook discussed the misconceptions that the public has of Mary Shelley’s intentions when she edited her husband’s work. From his contemporaries to modern day scholars, many believe that MWS did not do justice to her late husband when editing his posthumous pieces. Some are certain that she aimed to change Shelley’s reputation by omitting ‘shocking’ content against his wishes, when in fact, Shelley himself had discussed this matter with his publisher, hoping that his accessible pieces would help him to regain a degree of attention with readers that would then also appreciate his political work. Mrs Shelley was not the only person responsible for the selection of poems to be published; the publisher decided not to include specific pieces in order to avoid being prosecuted. Although MWS meant well by holding Shelley’s radical pieces back, it is uncertain if this was the right attitude. Delaying PBS’s political material also delayed the readers’ understanding and the progress that its content could trigger. Professor Crook discussed the evidence that MWS was heavily involved in her husband’s work until the day of his death. It is not uncommon to find annotations by her as well as blank spaces left by PBS so that his wife could add her input. It must be taken into consideration that MWS was under pressure while editing the volumes of her late husband’s work, which lead to a few mistakes. However, Crook says that their collaboration did not end with Shelley’s death – in life the Shelleys helped to inspire and edit each other’s poems, after Percy’s death, Mary seeks his memory in order to make decisions.

Amongst the first parallel panels was a section concerning Revisions and Editing. It began with Madeline Callaghan from the University of Sheffield presenting her paper ‘“Sweet visions in solitude”: P. B. Shelley’s Rejected Opening of Laon and Cythna’ which discussed Percy Bysshe Shelley’s preoccupation with eternity through the rejected opening of Laon and Cythna. It explores the limits and possibilities of experiencing, and imaging humanity’s relationship with eternity. Callaghan presented the poem as the ultimate way to express Nature and its powers, and Imagination as a complement to beauty, with Shelley thinking carefully about the responsibilities of the poet, amidst words that can encapsulate dreams, the splendour of the mighty dead, and death without glory. Bysshe Inigo Coffey from the University of Exeter followed Callaghan with a paper focused on PBS’s writing style. ‘Verse Under Erasure: Shelley and the Energies of Cancellation’ was a splendid complement to Crook’s lecture as it explored the difficulty of editing the poet’s manuscripts, which were often filled with doodles, scribbles, cancellations, and other abstract imagery, causing the editing of his work to be a hard task. While some say that rhymes kill the meaning of poetry, Coffey argues that its efforts enhance the English language and doesn’t take the poet away from the poem; it takes him beyond. Shelley can cancel our understanding of the Spencerian stanza and doesn’t allow form to limit his creations. Amanda Blake Davis from the University of Sheffield presented the final paper on this panel. Davis discussed MWS’s editing and framing of Prometheus Unbound, adding to Crook’s plenary as she defended that MWS’s editing did not deprive the reader of the poet’s ideas. She argues that Mary prolongs Shelley’s life as a source of happiness to the reader as her framing of P B Shelley’s works assure that his words will be available to readers and Shelley lovers for years to come.

Before the second parallel panels, attendees were invited to a discussion between Michael Rossington and Nora Crook on Current Editions of PBS’s poetry. Prof Rossington is editing poems for, and coordinating, the fifth and final volume of the Longman Annotated English Poets edition of The Poems of Shelley (Routledge). Shelley is the only English poet who did not have a complete academic edition of his work. Rossington explained that the fifth volume, which contains poems and plays from 1821, is scheduled to appear in 2019. Prof Crook gave a brief presentation about the John Hopkins University Press edition of The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Rossington discussed the Longman Annotated English Poets edition (The Poems of Shelley). When asked about having two different collections of the poet’s work being released simultaneously, they affirmed that the many editions of Shelley’s work guarantee him a world of fame.

L-R Anna Mercer, Elizabeth Denlinger, Joanna Harker Shaw

L-R Anna Mercer, Elizabeth Denlinger, Joanna Harker Shaw

Percy and Mary Together was one of the options for the second parallel panels section where the speakers concentrated on breaking the myth that PBS and MWS were no longer collaborating towards the end of his life. Anna Mercer from the University of York and organiser of the event started the panel by presenting evidence of the collaboration between the Shelleys in Italy from 1818 until P B Shelley’s death. While some scholars suggest that Mary was no more than Shelley’s copyist, Mercer explores manuscripts and letters that prove otherwise. Annotations show that Mary contributed with suggestions while editing her husband’s work, and pieces written simultaneously by each author show the inspiration that one drew from the other. Joanna Harker Shaw, who is working on a novel about the Shelleys, used her research to defend the position of the Shelleys as advisors. Shaw claims that the lack of evidence that we have of the couple’s collaboration is due to their physical proximity: when most information was recorded through letters, it is not surprising that sources are limited when it comes to people who lived together. However, that is not to say that such evidence does not exist, as it is clear through Shelley’s letters to MWS’s father, William Godwin, that their collaboration and influence on one another was heavily discussed. Elizabeth Denlinger from New York Public Library closed this panel by defending the importance of manuscripts. The modern public is attracted to the visual aspect of an exhibition, which is why Denlinger finds it essential to make manuscripts available. A piece of history creates a stronger connection to the material shown, resulting in a more significant interest from the spectator, who is more likely to have their attention drawn through an artefact than through a piece of text. A potential reader is more likely to become interested in Shelley’s work by seeing the original document than from being presented with a printed version of that piece in question. These manuscripts are more than the text itself; they reflect the person who has written it, their personality, relationships, and life.

Kelvin Everest delivered the second plenary. In his superb ‘The Heart’s Echoes’, Everest explores the reverberation of Queen Mab through Shelley’s career, the formal complexity and various movements of ‘The Cloud’, and how Shelley’s life echoes itself on his final years. Everest’s plenary granted the perfect conclusion for the first day of this excellent event. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that ‘The Heat’s Echoes’ conveyed Shelley’s true essence, and remained with those who had the privilege of enjoying this outstanding talk.

Kelvin Everest delivers his plenary

Kelvin Everest delivers his plenary

The second day of the Shelley Conference 2017 started with its third section of panels. Rethinking Shelley for Later Generations commenced with Mark Summers’s ‘Reclaiming the Radical Republicanism of P. B. Shelley’ which portrayed the humanist and socialist perception of PBS, who perceived individual freedom as a non-dominant aspect which is not limited to economic conditions and is inclusive of all citizens. Shelley, as a radical and Republican, was against violence and, although inspired by the French Revolution, reproved the lack of control from the reign of terror. Summers was followed by Tom Mole from the University of Edinburgh who has recently published his book What the Victorians Made of Romanticism. In his paper ‘Shelley’s Long Poems in Victorian Anthologies’, Mole explained that anthologies became popular with the working classes (for leisure as well as culture) and made Romantic poems conform to Victorian morals. Editors and publishers had to be careful when publishing Queen Mab due to its radical content; only eleven books show it, and Canto IV is the most printed section of that work. These anthologies were not interested in the entirety of the poems and their structure; they published excerpts of lyrics and natural descriptions extracted from dramatical context. Mole claims that by removing parts of the poem, it diminishes its value. However, shattering a text also inspires those who read it to seek its source, and those who are already familiar with it, to frame the extracted part of the poem. The final speaker, Graham Henderson, explored the meaning of Shelley’s visit to the Alps. When Shelley visited Mont Blanc, he was seeing the mountain for the first time – unlike today, their visual descriptions were limited to word accounts, sketches, and paintings. Due to the Napoleonic wars, that area became almost inaccessible to foreign visitors; therefore Shelley was unlikely to have a personal relation accounting this experience. When S T Coleridge visited Mont Blanc, he expressed that no one could see its sublimity and question the existence of a god, but Shelley’s registration in the hotel proves otherwise. He wrote ‘eimi philanthropos, demokratikos, atheos te’ (I am a lover of mankind, democrat and atheist) – Greek was perceived as an intellectual language, therefore by writing in Greek, Shelley was declaring that his view did not come from ignorance. ‘Philantropos tropos’ was used be Aeschylus to describe Prometheus as a ‘Lover of Humanity’, which Shelley was undoubtedly aware of. In 1816 he became more famous for his declarations on this registration book than for his poetry, but this is not the only entry Shelley left in a registration book. In that year, at the Hotel de Londres Shelley has written ‘lover of humanity, democrat, atheist’, at the Hotel d’Anglaterre the entry says ‘Democrat, great lover of mankind, Atheist’, at Montenvers Shelley writes ‘one and all atheists’, and at Sallanches the poet simply wrote ‘atheist’. Henderson expresses that when Shelley says that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, he means the delegators of humanity.

Texts Composed in 1816 was one of the last parallel panels. Deborah Stiles from the Dalhousie University brought a variety of booklets from places visited by the Shelleys in order to support her paper ‘Geneva Summer, Dundee Winter: MWS, Seasonality, and Settings in Frankenstein’. During her early teenage years, Mary Shelley was sent to Scotland to live in Dundee with the Baxters. They often visited the port where whaling ships were found, which is later portrayed in Frankenstein. While in Geneva, the cold weather experienced in the year without a summer reminded Mary of the winter she spent in Dundee, which may have awakened her early ideas of the themes found in her first novel. Stiles explains that Mary’s book is very weather-based, having its story set through various seasons which may be perceived as a reflection of various moments when Mary had thoughts that lead to Frankenstein. Carl McKeating from the University of Leeds followed with ‘A City of Death: The Shelleys and “Mont Blanc”’, showing Mont Blanc is a pace of confrontation; it represents glory, but it also has the fame of being a ‘cursed mountain’. Percy Bysshe Shelley describes it as snowy and serene, but also as a city of death, and for Mary, the mountain symbolises hope, but it is also the conveyor of death. The Shelleys’ excursion to Mont Blanc was a safe one led by guides. However, they were aware of the dangers of such place – perhaps they saw an avalanche or received accounts of it. The dangers of Mont Blanc are seen in a metaphysical way in Frankenstein, with humanity as the ultimate prey of the snow. Miriam Sette from the University ‘G. d’Annuzio’ Pescara expresses Mont Blanc’s echoes of text influences from Plato to Blake in her ‘Poetry as Vision: “Mont Blanc” by Shelley’. Percy Bysshe Shelley was a natural organism of Romanticism; ‘a passionate advocate of the platonic world and mutability’. Mont Blanc was not only appreciated for the sublimity of its beauty, but also for what it represented. It is powerful, remote, and unaffected; the top of the mountain remains unaffected no matter what happens in the world below. The speakers debated the humane aspects of the Shelleys’ works, which have been inspired by their personal experience of Mont Blanc, which is often underestimated.

The Conference Dinner

The Conference Dinner, held at Vasco & Piero’s, the building where PBS lived in 1811

The Shelley Conference 2017 concluded with a third plenary by Michael O’Neill from Durham University. In ‘“Pictures” and “Signs”: Creative Thinking in P. B. Shelley’s Prose’, O’Neill expressed Shelley’s commitment to writing poetry as a poet. While ancient as well as contemporary poets inspired him, Shelley’s language is common, not individual. Shelley does not deny his inspiration; ‘Our words are dead, our thoughts are cold and borrowed’. Yet he is not limited to the form – ‘On Life’ is a prose poem with great Philosophical weight, and ‘A Defence of Poetry’ shows a decline from image to sign. It is how Shelley perceives poetry that sets him apart, and his prose is a great proof that soul and imagination are very much relevant in politics. Michael O’Neill presented examples such as ‘An Address to the People on the Death of Princess Charlotte’ where Shelley manipulates the audience through language, and instead of grieving the dead princess, he laments the death of Liberty. ‘Shelley tells us that language is both a veil and a pointer to what lies beyond the veil’. [n.b.: O’Neill’s talk was based on an essay to be published in a forthcoming book by Oxford University Press: Thinking through Style ed. Michael D. Hurley and Marcus Waithe].

So with this extraordinary plenary, The Shelley Conference 2017 came to an end. Two days worth of excellent panels and speakers passed by hastily, however, the success of the conference shows the relevancy of the Shelleys and the demand for such events. This will hopefully mark the start of a new era of conferences and seminars dedicated to explore and discuss the Shelleys and their work. Until another event is confirmed, the public can expect great material from many of the speakers, such as the Longman Annotated English Poets edition of The Poems of Shelley, the John Hopkins University Press edition of The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Tom Mole’s What the Victorians Made of Romanticism, and Joanna Harker Shaw’s novel.
– Ana Stevenson

 

Images are the organisers’ own.

Conference website here.

Conference twitter here.

“Frankenreads” – An international celebration of the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s novel

Please see below for an announcement from Prof. Neil Fraistat (University of Maryland). The Frankenstein celebrations next year are likely to be numerous, and this sounds like a particularly exciting international initiative devoted to promoting the iconic and ever-fascinating novel by Mary Shelley.

Image taken from Frankenreads.org

Image taken from Frankenreads.org

Frankenreads

“Dear all,

As you know, the year 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a seminal literary work that, since its appearance, has influenced millions of people across the globe. Frankenstein is a rare work of fiction in that it appeals to both novice and expert readers alike, readers who represent both the breadth of human diversity and a range of disciplinary interests and backgrounds. It is a work that remains relevant to contemporary cultural debates concerning issues ranging from biomedical technologies and the ethical questions they raise to misperceptions and misrepresentations of the Other and their impact on our shared humanity. Frankenstein sparks imagination and critical thinking about the human experience, and thus it is perhaps no surprise that it is the most widely taught literary text in the USA and the fifth most widely taught book from any discipline.

To commemorate the bicentennial of the novel and also to harness its power to generate and inspire communities of readers, the Keats-Shelley Association of America (K-SAA) in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities is launching “Frankenreads”: a “Bloomsday”-style, national/international public reading of Frankenstein on October 31, 2018. We hope to:

  • engage an international community, including but not limited to North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia Pacific in related activities centering on the novel;
  • to make this community visible globally as a community through shared branding and social media;
  • to livestream a public reading of Frankenstein to be held in Washington, D.C. for those around the world who are unable to attend one in person;
  • to facilitate bringing regional experts of the novel to such events as lectures, discussions, and film showings held at local libraries and community centers;
  • to hold in the days leading up to Frankenreads an international “Week of Frankenstein,” during which students, teachers, and the public could hold Frankenstein related events and contribute their thoughts, images, and short videos about Frankenstein to a collective blog.

We now invite you now to join our core group of over 40 universities and libraries from 10 countries by involving your university, local library, or community center in participating.

To read more about strategies for hosting an event, see a select list of related resources, and to register your own event, go to our dedicated website: frankenreads.org.

We hope you will be joining us as host or participant!”