News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

Recipients of the BARS/Wordsworth Trust Early Career Fellowship 2020

BARS and The Wordsworth Trust are delighted to announce that two fellowships have been awarded for 2020.

We received a number of excellent applications, and the two Early Career Researchers taking up the fellowships in 2020 are:

Dr Alexis Wolf

Dr Francesca Mackenney

Congratulations to Alexis and Francesca, and on behalf of everyone at BARS and the Wordsworth Trust, thank you to all those who applied.

The Fellowship invites ECRs to work with Jeff Cowton (Curator and Head of Learning) during one of the most exciting and transformative times in the Wordsworth Trust’s history. The major HLF-funded project ‘Reimagining Wordsworth’ is due for completion in time to celebrate Wordsworth’s 250th birthday on 7 April 2020. The Wordsworth Trust is committed to embracing the Creative Case for Diversity and believe that by welcoming a wide range of influences, practices and perspectives, we can better understand the collection in Grasmere and the stories it can tell, thereby enriching public programmes. The purpose of this Fellowship is to help the Trust to achieve just that – to examine the collection from a different perspective, and to use that perspective and knowledge to help audiences better understand and engage with Wordsworth’s life and work.

Read more about the fellowships here.

We look forward to hearing the outcomes of the fellowships undertaken by Alexis and Francesca. Reports from both successful applicants will be posted on the BARS Blog.

– Anna Mercer (Communications Officer)


New Content – Romantic Circles Reviews & Receptions

Romantic Circles Reviews & Receptions invites you to check out the exciting new content we have published recently:

  • We are pleased to announce a new section of its site dedicated to conference panel reviews. Just up are reviews of panels from the 2019 NASSR Chicago conference Romantic Elements by Ben Blackman, Sharon Choe, and Elizabeth Giardina, and a collective effort from Alexandra Milsom, Brian Rejack, and Shavera Seneviratne. We also have reviews of panels from the 2019 ICR Manchester conference Romanticism Now and Then by Hannah McAuliffe and Lucia Scigliano and a review of Anne-Lise François’s keynote lecture by Ross Wilson.
  • Recently published book reviews include Richard C. Sha’s Imagination and Science in Romanticism by Bysshe Inigo Coffey, Dahlia Porter’s Science, Form, and the Problem of Induction in British Romanticism by Jeanne Britton, Jonathan Sachs’s The Poetics of Decline in British Romanticism by Carmen Faye Mathes, and Manu Samriti Chander’s Brown Romantics: Poetry and Nationalism in the Global Nineteenth Century by Nikki Hessell, Alexander Regier’s Exorbitant Enlightenment: Blake, Hamann and Anglo-German Constellations by David Simpson, among others.
  • Jim Rovira has curated music playlists for his two recent collections Rock and Romanticism: Blake, Wordsworth, and Rock from Dylan to U2 and Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms, both of which can be streamed through iTunes or Spotify.
  • Our section on “Romanticism and Popular Culture” continues to document both old and new references to Romantic texts and figures in, for example, HBO’s mini series Watchmen, runway shows at New York fashion week, and Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles. Have you seen any Romanticism in the wilds of pop culture lately? If so, please submit your examples here.

We are also happy to welcome two new Associate Editors Alex Gatten and Lenora Hanson. If you have ideas for reviews of books, conferences, or digital scholarship resources, or for bookchats or booklists, then please get in touch with a member of the editorial collective here.

Associate Editors: Suzanne L. Barnett, Alex Gatten, Lenora Hanson, and Ross Wilson

General Editors: Orrin Wang and Paul Youngquist

Romantic Reimaginings: On William Wordsworth’s “Nutting” – A Journal Excerpt Followed By A Reflection

Romantic Reimaginings is a BARS blog series which seeks to explore the ways in which texts of the Romantic era continue to resonate. The blog is curated by Eleanor Bryan. If you would like to publish an article in the series, please email

Today on the blog, Sean Wojtczak provides an introspective analysis of William Wordsworth’s ‘Nutting’ through a journal excerpt followed by a reflective piece of writing.

The older I grow, the more a sense of dread sinks into my heart during these long winter months. The barren scenes beyond my window, distorted by the darkening, deepening hues of night bring only melancholy to my mind, and I find myself longing with an increasing intensity for but one glimpse of life. It would be enough to hear the bursts of a squirrel’s chatter, or to spy the elegant step of a deer; but what I truly crave in these lonely hours is for another soul to sit next to me across from this dying fire.

The emotional hardships of Winter certainly come from the season’s longevity, but I would also argue that the true difficulty comes from the fact that the true climax of Winter’s majesty arrives within the first few hours of the first snowfall, and then it is gone until one more year can turn such sights entirely unfamiliar to our eyes.  While other seasons may gradually make themselves known to us (Spring, for example, must arrive slowly through a veil of muddy, melted snow) Winter simply appears one day. And yet, though it is true that this climax is fleeting, the beauty it holds must still be recognized.

This year, as I stepped into that wintry debut, I was at first overwhelmed by the absolute silence of the scene. Yes, the bare trees would occasionally creak in the wind, and the clumps of snow would fall from their branches, but these sounds seemed to harmonize with the silence rather than disturb it. The stillness was so suffocating that I felt at once minute against the scale of the sprawling dell and yet so boldly out of place within the uniformly frozen backdrop. And then that first icy wind greeted me. It burned my exposed throat and whipped my face, but my lungs rejoiced in the crispness of the air. Everything felt so fresh, and I was reminded of younger years when I would sprint across the hot sands before diving into the freezing waters of Lake Michigan. The shock of the cold, the jolt of energy, the grasp of the murky bottom against my toes, and then the rising, the kicking to the surface, and then finally, the surfacing and the tremendous gasp for air. It was always impossible not to scream with both joy and surprise when first diving into those waters. Now, the chilly air of this November morning felt equally refreshing, and I could not help but feel as if I was wading through thick waters as I trudged onward through the woods.

The landscape before me, blanketed in a mirror-glaze of snow, inspired in me that transcendent sense of discovery one tends to lose as they grow older and their imagination fades. Here was a well-known scene, and yet, in this newfound state, I felt as if I were the first to traverse it, for it was only my footprints which littered the ground, and only my breathing which upturned the tranquility. It was this errant spirit which caused my heart to turn inward as I witnessed the well-versed become unfamiliar, and I found myself walking slower and slower until I stopped completely in the morning light.

There, standing in that sublime atmosphere, it was impossible to not be influenced, to not let my ears play tricks on me. It was then that I first thought I heard his laughter again. Of course this was impossible, but there I stood, certain that I was hearing him laugh again. And as I remained there, listening, I grew almost certain that if I were to just turn around I would see him there, much younger than he was last, once more wearing his gray snow gear, once more trying to look up at me through his downturned hat, his eyes squinting in the sunlight once more…

Caspar David Friedrich, ‘Monk in the Snow’ or ‘Der Winter’, 1808.

It is here that I lift my pen from the page, as I have so often before, and lean away from the pile of nearly-blank pages before me. Next to this stack sits a glass of wine, a cup of coffee brewed in indecision, and an anthology of English Romantic poetry. I’m in the process of writing a piece which is supposed to serve as both a memoir and a eulogy for a dear friend. It’s an attempt at expressing the disconcerting harmony between loss and nostalgia that has been plaguing my heart these last few months, but no matter how hard I try to reframe these memories, I just can’t seem to express what came before this period of grief. Each attempt I make at materializing his essence upon the page only manifests my sorrow more, for these recollections are now enveloped in nothing but pain. I have always relied on the written word to serve as an emotional outlet and a source of solace, but lately it seems to only hurt me.

It is with these frustrations that I lift the volume of poetry from my desk and flip to one of my favorite poems from Lyrical Ballads, William Wordsworth’s “Nutting.” Like so many other of his great works, “Nutting,” can be understood in a variety of ways. To name just a few, it can be interpreted as the narrative of a loss-of-innocence, as a possible reworking of Adam and Eve, as a conservationist’s thesis, or as something entirely more abstract based on the abundance of sexual imagery. For me, however, the true power of this poem has always come from the dual-meaning which is found within the poem’s conclusion. As a memoirist in both prose and poetry, I have always been haunted by this poem and have returned to it again and again whenever I am struggling with writing. This is because it offers such a profound investigation into what we choose to write about and from where we should draw our inspirations.

In order to fully access this space for reflection, however, one must first understand the meta-narrative that is at work within the production of the poem. To briefly summarize the narrative of this poem, it is about a young boy who ventures into the woods to gather nuts. Along his campaign, he discovers “one dear nook unvisited,” and there he takes great pleasure in the tranquility of the space and the “banquet” that is offered to the senses. However, in a moment of impulsivity, he uses his crook to yank nuts off of a tree branch, which ultimately disturbs the scene and ruins the magic he had found within it. He regrets this action almost immediately and the poem ends with the young boy, now a grown man, warning his “dearest Maiden,” to “move along these shades / in gentleness of heart; with gentle hand / touch—for there is a spirit in the woods.”

The conclusion of this poem, however, is complicated by the observation that Wordsworth, as the speaker and composer of the poem, has once more taken from this nook, this time not with a crook, but with a pen. This is where the meta-narrative comes into play, and it begs the question: has this act of literary-harvesting damaged the nook in a similar way? Why or why not? What precisely is lost in this transaction, and what is gained? It is obvious that the nook is not physically damaged by Wordsworth’s penning of the poem, and yet, I still wonder what sort of abstract, sacred essence may have been lost or altered in the act. Wordsworth certainly lost something in the production of this poem, for the moment that someone else read it, the little secluded spot was no longer Wordsworth’s alone.

This loss in the transaction became truly significant for me, however, when I started to think about how it could apply to more intangible properties like dreams, emotions, and memories. In these scenarios, we play the role of the maiden and the spirit-in-the-woods, because, as we traverse our own planes of interiority in search of writing material, we still remain like the spirit which can easily be harmed by the transgressions. Whatever we take, and whatever is lost, is taken and lost from and by us. As writers, we must constantly interrogate ourselves to evaluate what we are willing to sacrifice for a piece of writing, and what we are truly willing to not just share, but give to others.

Another difficult matter that this reflection introduces is the question of what we should decide to do when writing about painful topics. How do we know that the very act of writing about these topics won’t hurt us? What boundaries should we set for ourselves when writing about emotionally intense topics? Where do we draw the line on what we should or shouldn’t write about when it comes to how it may affect us? These questions are important because, once more, when we write about these things, we are not only playing the role of the young boy yanking at the tree branches, but we are also the tree branches being influenced (and potentially damaged) by the process. So how far are we willing to sacrifice ourselves for craft?

Ultimately, I think that it is important that we do not have a collective set of answers to these questions, or some easy formula through which we may find the answers. It is an integral step in the creation of any piece of artwork to investigate what our intentions are in creating it, and whether the production of the work will do more harm than good. As writers, we must discover our own personal boundaries when it comes to sharing our personal lives and tackling difficult topics. The majority of William Wordsworth’s work is heavily based in memory, and I think that he knew just how frequently writers can tend to wander through the forests of their interiors. I would argue, then, that “Nutting” serves as a warning that we must always be vigilant as to which branches we choose to pull from. However, I also want to note that in this cautionary poem, Wordsworth never tells the audience to entirely avoid the woods. In terms of writing, Wordsworth actively encouraged people to delve into their interiors and reflect on what they might find. In fact, this is one of the core theses of his Romantic ideology.  Therefore, similarly, we should not avoid our own searches for material through introspection. However, as Wordsworth advises, we should act with a “gentleness of heart,” when we do so.

I cannot personally say at this point whether my own creative projects which deal with my friend are harmful or not. I know that they are genuine, and that when I finally do finish them I will never share them with anyone else. This is because they have always been for me and me alone. I also know that I most likely need more time before I can properly tackle these themes of loss, just as I know that the reason grief still pervades my writing so ceaselessly is because I am still in mourning. I do have faith, however, that one day writing can heal even this.

Sean Wojtczak is a twenty-two-year-old graduate of the University of Iowa. His work has been published in multiple journals and magazines, including the Keats-Shelley Association of America Blog. He currently resides in Iowa City where he works as a paralegal.
Twitter: @seanwojtczak

Cardiff Romanticism and Eighteenth-Century Seminar – 2020 Spring Programme

All are welcome to attend the following events at Cardiff University in early 2020.

All events are free, and start at 6pm in room 2.47, John Percival Building, Cardiff University, CF10 3EG.

18 Feb Dr Lizzy Spencer (University of York) ‘Women, accounting, and intertextuality in England c.1680-1830’

9 Mar Prof Tim Webb (University of Bristol) ‘Leigh Hunt and Romantic Imprisonment’

16 Mar Prof David Duff (Queen Mary, University of London) ‘Coleridge as Prospectus-Writer’

20 Apr Prof Nick Roe (St Andrews) ‘The Rise of Biography in the Eighteenth Century’

Talks are 45-50 minutes followed by questions. Refreshments are provided.

Please direct any enquiries to Anna Mercer (, and visit the CRECS Blog for updates.

CfP: NASSR 2020 Conference at the University of Toronto

A notice about NASSR 2020 from Terry F. Robinson

Dear BARS Colleagues:

Greetings! You are invited to submit a proposal for the 28th Annual Conference of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR). The NASSR conference, which will bring together 300-400 scholars to discuss literature, philosophy, art, and culture c. 1770-1840, will take place at the University of Toronto, Ontario on August 6-9, 2020.


Keynote Speakers:
Elizabeth Maddock Dillon (Northeastern University)
Martin Myrone (Tate Britain)

Topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • Re-envisioning Romanticism: looking back and looking forward
  • Visions and the visionary: perception, prognostication, projection, speculation, the speculative
  • Ways of looking: reading, conceptualizing, observing, peeping, gazing, categorizing, examining, recognizing and misrecognizing
  • Visual culture, philosophy, and aesthetics: objects of sight, spectacle, the spectacular, the sublime and the beautiful
  • Reading methods and histories: careful, close, distant, surface; plagiarism, copyright law
  • Print culture in its social, theoretical, and physical aspects (e.g. text, design, structure, layout); manuscripts, letters, journals, scrapbooks, books, journals, newspapers
  • The seen and the unseen: noumena, phenomena, the spirit world, apparitions and appearances
  • Romantic iconoclasm and anti-representationalism; ocularcentrism and “the tyranny of the eye”
  • Visual communication: text, numbers, notation (e.g. musical), images, sign language, placards, banners, flags, gestures, hieroglyphs, emblems, insignia
  • Questions of form and representation
  • Fashionable looking: costume, hair, makeup, manner, style, taste, places to see and be seen
  • Visualizing gender and sexuality: identity, performance, politics
  • Visual and scenic arts: sculpture, painting, illustration, graphic satire, print shops, pornography, broadsheets, dioramas, panoramas, architectural and landscape design
  • Theatre and performing arts: set design, lighting, visual effects, costume, body movement, dance, pantomime, attitudes, tableaux vivants
  • Art collection and assessment: museums and curation, connoisseurship, formal and evaluative concerns (e.g. light, color, pattern, shape, scale, proportion)
  • Visualizing class: social hierarchies and signifiers (e.g. clothing, heraldry, pageantry), occupational and economic segregation
  • Instruments of looking: lenses, spectacles, quizzing glasses, spy glasses, Claude glasses, prisms, mirrors, telescopes, microscopes, orreries, windows
  • Forms of illumination and darkness: lightning, electricity, candlelight, lamps, gas light, spotlights, limelight, torches, fireworks; shade, shadow, twilight, gloom, obscurity
  • Religious vision(s): prophecy, revelation, enthusiasm, sermons and hymns, public and private devotion, natural and revealed religion
  • The science of the eye: vision, optics, visual anatomy, medicine, pathology, disability, blindness
  • Data visualization (e.g. land, economy, population studies): mapping, cartography, geography, geolocation, charts, diagrams, categorization, numerical and pictorial statistics
  • Visualizing race: slavery, racism, racialization, minoritization
  • Vision and ecopoetics: seeing nature (vistas, prospects, the picturesque); noticing and reading features of land, water, and sky; watching weather and recognizing climate; the animal gaze
  • Envisioning space and place: the local and the global, home and abroad, the peripheral and transperipheral
  • Envisioning (the ends of) empire: imperialism, colonialism, sites and sights of war; decolonization, indigenization
  • Political and military forecasting, strategy, optics, campaigns, battlegrounds, political theatre
  • Imagining the future of Romanticism; strategizing its work in the humanities, in the university, and in society


**The deadline for general submissions is 24 January 2020.**

We look forward to receiving your proposals!

Sincerely Yours,
Terry F. Robinson (and on behalf of John Savarese and the NASSR 2020 conference committee)


New BARS Treasurer and New BARS Membership Secretary

An announcement from the BARS Secretary, Dr Jennifer Orr, below.

Dear BARS members,

As you will know, our current Treasurer is stepping down after many years of service to the organisation. We have divided the role to create two new Executive posts of Membership Secretary and Treasurer and I am delighted to announce that Dr Tess Somervell and Dr Cassie Ulph will be taking up these posts, respectively.

As the new membership year will soon be upon us, please note Tess’s details below for any cheques and membership correspondence:

Dr Tess Somervell
Tel: +44 (0)113 343 1690
Address: School of English, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT

On behalf of the BARS Executive, I would like to extend our warmest thanks to outgoing Treasurer Dr Jane Moore for her service to BARS over the years.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas,


Welcome to the team, Dr Cassie Ulph and Dr Tess Somervell! Thank you again, Dr Jane Moore, for your wonderful work with BARS.

Call for Papers: Byron and Loss

2020 Newstead Abbey Byron Conference

24th-25th April, Newstead Abbey

2020 marks the bicentenary of a troubling year. George III had lost his life and the new king George IV was
rapidly losing what little shreds remained of his dignity, lost what little shreds remained of his dignity, pursuing
his errant wife with hypocritical vengeance during the so-called Queen Caroline Affair. The government had lost
the trust of the people, and many politicians would have lost their lives had the Cato Street Conspiracy
succeeded. Meanwhile Byron, now in the fourth year of his self-imposed exile, was rapidly losing his hair, teeth,
famous good looks, and – some might argue – his own dignity. It is against this backdrop that he became
interested in Italian politics, or rather the loss of political authority and national autonomy.

To mark the year of 1820, we welcome papers considering the theme of Byron and loss. Topics could include, but are not limited to:

  • Grief, familial loss and suicide
  • Melancholy, weltschmerz, Romantic melancholia
  • Material and aesthetic losses
  • Appetite and diet
  • Loss of status, land, and national autonomy
  • Loss of love, lovers, and spouses
  • Religious convictions and anxieties
  • Idealism and political convictions
  • Anxieties about poetic reputation and legacy
  • Writer’s block and poetic inspiration
  • Financial losses, economic instability and usury
  • Ruins and degeneration

Submissions by 1st February 2020. Send to Conference Organisers, Dr Emily Paterson-Morgan and Dr Charlotte May, email: 

Dreaming Romantic Europe, Workshop 2 “Romantic Authorship”

Conference Report by Alice Rhodes, University of York. 

On Friday 18th October 2019 members of European Romanticisms in Association (ERA) were lucky enough to gather in the beautiful Italian city of Ravenna for the second meeting of the AHRC funded Dreaming Romantic Europe network, headed up by PI Professor Nicola J Watson (Open University) and Co-I Professor Catriona Seth (University of Oxford). The workshop, which took place in the Antichi Chiostri Francescani, next door to Dante’s tomb and just a short walk from Lord Byron and Teresa Guiccioli’s home in Ravenna, addressed the theme of “Romantic Authorship.” Over two days, delegates explored how the ideology and celebrity of Romantic authorship was supported, elaborated, and transmitted by objects through a fast-paced series of diverse, original, and thought-provoking presentations. We were delighted to welcome speakers working in academia and heritage across Europe, with representation from France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland and the UK.


On Friday, attendees began the day with an introduction to the project from Professor Nicola Watson before making the short walk to Palazzo Guiccioli, home of Countess Teresa Guiccioli, where Lord Byron lived between 1819 and 1821. The building is also the location of the forthcoming Museo Byron, which is currently under construction. Once complete the museum will house material on poet, the countess and their relationship along with further galleries dedicated to the history of the Risorgimento. Delegates were treated to an exclusive tour of the building, led by Professor Diego Saglia before returning to the Chiostri Francescani for the first round of presentations. Using the model of our successful first workshop at Maison de Chateaubriand, La Vallée-aux-Loups in November 2018, the afternoon sessions took the format of ten minute talks on a single object, suitable for exhibit in Romantic Europe: the Virtual Exhibition (RÊVE). What followed was a series of incisive and insightful papers which explored both the objects of Romanticism and their role in shaping the celebrity of those who owned, created, used or encountered them. Clustered around five broad themes – “Placing and Displacing the Author,” “Authorial Affinities Across Europe,” “The Author and Posterity,” “Contact-Relics and Imaginary Conversations” and “Other Arts,” the presentations dealt with a huge variety of objects. From items of clothing and manuscripts, to ballets, buildings and lost objects, speakers explored both the materiality and immateriality of European Romanticisms. With lots to think about following a wonderful first day, delegates were able to continue conversations over the workshop dinner.


Saturday got underway with an excellent cluster of talks which together presented a collection of proposed RÊVE exhibits focused on the “Author In/And a Landscape”. The rest of the morning was dedicated to reflections on collaborations, communities, collections and the opportunities for developing the virtual exhibition in these areas. Attendees heard about a number of exciting projects and organisations which could provide RÊVE with future collaborators and models, including: the Museo del Risorgimento, Bologna; The Antique and Romantic Skies in Europe project; the Swiss Guestbook project; the Keats House Museum; Deutsches Romantik Museum, Frankfurt; Maison de Chateaubriand; and the Wordsworth Trust. Lastly, the workshop drew to a close with an activity to create collections, with participants exploring a gallery of images from the virtual exhibition which were displayed around the room, before proposing themed collections into which the objects could be gathered. As the delegates prepared to depart and to make the most of their remaining time in Ravenna, the group reflected on the workshop and RÊVE, recording a virtual audio guestbook of responses to the project.

Overall the workshop was a huge success, generating a wealth of new ideas about and approaches to the objects of European Romanticism. We’d like to extend our thanks to everybody who made it possible through their hard work, organisation, and sponsorship, particularly the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Ravenna, Erika Fabbri, the Museo Byron, Professor Diego Saglia and all of our participants whose exhibits we look forward to featuring in RÊVE in the near future.

Explore the virtual exhibition here:

And follow us on Twitter @euromanticism

Conference Report by Alice Rhodes, University of York. 

Romantic Reimaginings: Auden, MacNeice, Yeats, and Shelley’s West Wind

Romantic Reimaginings is a BARS blog series which seeks to explore the ways in which texts of the Romantic era continue to resonate. The blog is curated by Eleanor Bryan. If you would like to publish an article in the series, please email

Today on the blog, Amanda Blake Davis discusses Auden, MacNeice, Yeats, and Shelley’s West Wind.

B. Shelley, fair copy of Ode to the West Wind Shelfmark: MS. Shelley adds. e. 12 (pp. 62-63) Credit: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford (via Shelley’s Ghost <>)

‘Like Yeats’s poetry’, Edna Longley writes, ‘MacNeice’s descends from the non-Wordsworthian branch of Romanticism’,[1] and one of MacNeice’s greatest Romantic influences is Shelley, who is invariably filtered through Yeats.  Following Yeats, for whom Prometheus Unbound was ‘a sacred book’,[2] MacNeice exalts Prometheus Unbound as ‘one of my sacred books’ and recounts how he ‘swilled the rhythms of Shelley, the sweet champagne of his wishful thinking and schoolboy anger, his Utopias of amethyst and starlight’.[3]  ‘What we wanted was “realism”’, MacNeice writes of the ‘Auden Group’, ‘but—so the paradox goes on—we wanted it for romantic reasons’.[4]  MacNeice publicly disavows Shelley in his study of Yeats through his tracking of the older poet’s own building and scattering of a pseudo-Shelleyan system of symbols,[5] and Harold Bloom, criticising MacNeice’s ‘prejudices’ against Yeats’s indebtedness to Romantic tradition, claims that ‘[t]o MacNeice, Romanticism is a poetic disease of which Yeats cured himself’.[6]  But Bloom overlooks the Shelleyan west wind that blows through MacNeice’s poetry, as it does in Yeats’s.  If Romanticism is indeed a ‘poetic disease’, it is one that enlivens the modern poets’ verse with fevered energy.  ‘Shelley’s restless west wind blows through Autumn Journal’, Madeleine Callaghan writes, ‘allowing MacNeice to alter and renew Romantic preoccupations, and imbue them with a distinctly modern sensibility’.[7]  Shelley’s west wind, at once ‘Destroyer and Preserver’, sings through MacNeice and Yeats’s poetry as an ‘unseen presence’ that drives and energises the modern poets’ verse (Shelley, Ode to the West Wind, 14 and 2).[8]

Yeats locates Shelley’s artistry in ‘words written upon leaves’,[9] harnessing Shelley’s west wind and its revitalisation of poetic utterance.

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe

Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!

And, by the incantation of this verse,


Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth

Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!

(Shelley, Ode to the West Wind, 63-67)

Yeats’s ‘poetic breathings are sustained by his lifelong engagement with Shelley’s poetry’, Michael O’Neill writes, noting how ‘Yeats tempers subjectivity with symbolism in poems such as “The Secret Rose”, which ends with an image deeply suffused with Shelleyan inflections’.[10]  In ‘The Secret Rose’, Yeats awaits

The hour of thy great wind of love and hate.

When shall the stars be blown about the sky,

Like the sparks blown out of a smithy, and die?

Surely thine hour has come, thy great wind blows,

Far-off, most secret, and inviolate Rose?

(Yeats, ‘The Secret Rose’, 28-32)[11]

Harold Bloom confirms that ‘Yeats’s wind among the reeds has both Irish mythological and occult sources, as usual, but its main source is in Shelley’s winds of destruction-creation, which blow through all of his poetry’.[12]  The searching doubt of Yeats’s questions in ‘The Secret Rose’ gestures away from a resolutely Shelleyan hope, and O’Neill notes that ‘whereas Shelley’s sparks will rekindle hope in the minds of his readers, Yeats’s sparks will be extinguished (he half-hopes, half-fears) as “thy great wind blows”’.[13]  Yeats ‘does not return to the Romantics for a system of belief’, O’Neill stresses, ‘[b]ut he draws on their practice for hints about how to dramatize conflict’, identifying in his poetry ‘a counter-current of feeling, a reluctance fully to unleash the forces of millennial destruction’.[14]  Self-reflectively, Yeats writes of Shelley, ‘I found that he and not Blake, whom I had studied more and with more approval, had shaped my life’.[15]  Months before his death, Yeats made a pilgrimage to Shelley’s birthplace, Field Place, in an apparent act of reconciliation and respect for the Romantic poet’s lasting influence, finding ‘A beautiful old house, one part Tudor, kept in perfect order and full of fine pictures (two Wilsons).  We also went to the church where the Shelley tombs are, a great old church defiled by 1870 or thereabouts, stained glass, and pavements not at all as Shelley saw it’.  ‘Before I leave’, Yeats wrote, ‘I shall visit the pond (not that near the house) where Shelley sailed paper boats’.[16]  Shelley’s influence, like the breathings of his west wind, circulates through Yeats’s works and thoughts, extending its energies to later post-Romantics like Auden and MacNeice.

The ‘dirge / Of the dying year’ sung by Shelley’s west wind appears in MacNeice’s Autumn Journal as a woodpigeon ‘calls and stops but the wind continues / Playing its dirge in the trees, playing its tricks’ (Ode to the West Wind, 23-24; Autumn Journal, p. 111).[17]  Like Yeats’s harnessing of Shelley’s ‘great wind’, MacNeice’s woodpigeon voices a poetic influence that is changed but sustained.  MacNeice’s lyrical reportage in Autumn Journal chimes with Auden’s concession that

poetry makes nothing happen: it survives

In the valley of its saying where executives

Would never want to tamper; it flows south

From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,

Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,

A way of happening, a mouth.

(Auden, ‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats’, 36-41)[18]

Auden ensures Yeats’s survival through his poetry, and in doing so he viscerally mouths Shelley’s west wind in Yeats’s dying transmutation, his words-as-ashes ‘scattered among a hundred cities’.  As Shelley scatters his ‘words among mankind’, so Auden’s verse ensures that ‘The words of a dead man / Are modified in the guts of the living’ (‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats’, 18 and 22-23).  In shifting from journalistic to poetic posture, the inward-looking MacNeice also mouths ‘The words of a dead man’ in the sound of ‘Shelley and jazz and lieder and love and hymn-tunes’ (Autumn Journal, p. 135).  Shelley’s influence plays on through the modern poets’ verse, sustained by the inextinguishable energies of his west wind.

Amanda Blake Davis is a PhD candidate at the University of Sheffield and a Postgraduate Representative for BARS.  Her thesis analyses P. B. Shelley’s uses of androgyny alongside his readings and translations of Plato.  Amanda’s wider research interests include influence and imitation in Romantic and post-Romantic poetry.

Twitter: @ABDavis1816

Works Cited:
[1] Edna Longley, Louis MacNeice: A Critical Study (London: Faber and Faber, 1988), p. xii.
[2] W. B. Yeats, ‘The Philosophy of Shelley’s Poetry’ in Essays and Introductions (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1961), p. 65.
[3] Louis MacNeice, The Strings are False: An Unfinished Autobiography, ed. by E. R. Dodds (London: Faber and Faber, 1996), p. 98.
[4] Louis MacNeice, Selected Literary Criticism, ed. by Alan Heuser (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), p. 149.
[5] Louis MacNeice, The Poetry of W. B. Yeats (London: Faber and Faber, 1967), p. 44.
[6] Harold Bloom, Yeats (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1970), p. 108.
[7] Madeleine Callaghan, ‘Louis MacNeice and the Struggle for Romantic Identity’ in Legacies of Romanticism: Literature, Culture, Aesthetics, ed. by Carmen Casaliggi and Paul March-Russell (New York, NY: Routledge, 2012), p. 161.
[8] Ode to the West Wind is quoted from Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Major Works, ed. by Zachary Leader and Michael O’Neill (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 412-414.
[9] Yeats, ‘The Philosophy of Shelley’s Poetry’, p. 75.
[10] Michael O’Neill, The All-Sustaining Air: Romantic Legacies and Renewals in British, American, and Irish Poetry since 1900 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 20 and 54.
[11] ‘The Secret Rose’ is quoted from W. B. Yeats, The Major Works, ed. by Edward Larrissy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 33-34.
[12] Bloom, Yeats, p. 124.
[13] O’Neill, The All-Sustaining Air, p. 54
[14] O’Neill, The All-Sustaining Air, pp. 58 and 54.
[15] W. B. Yeats, ‘Prometheus Unbound’ in Essays and Introductions (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1961), p. 424.
[16] W. B. Yeats, Letters on Poetry from W. B. Yeats to Dorothy Wellesley (London, New York, NY, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1940), p. 200.
[17] Autumn Journal is quoted from Louis MacNeice, Collected Poems, ed. by Peter McDonald (London: Faber and Faber, 2016), pp. 99-164.
[18] ‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats’ is quoted from W. H. Auden, Selected Poems, ed. by Edward Mendelson (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1979), pp. 80-83.


Postgraduates and early career scholars working in the area of Romanticism are invited to apply for a Stephen Copley Research Award.  The BARS Executive Committee has established the bursaries in order to help fund expenses incurred through travel to libraries and archives, up to a maximum of £500. A postgraduate must be enrolled on a doctoral programme in the UK; an early career scholar is defined as someone who holds a PhD (from the UK) but has not held a permanent academic post for more than three years by the application deadline. Application for the awards is competitive, and cannot be made retrospectively.

Successful applicants must be members of BARS before taking up the award. The names of recipients will be announced on the BARS website and social media, and successful applicants will be asked to submit a short report to the BARS Executive Committee within four weeks of the completion of the research trip and to acknowledge BARS in their doctoral thesis and/or any publication. Reports may also be published on the BARS Blog where this is appropriate. Previous winners or applicants are encouraged to apply again.

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 PhD or current project.
* A brief description of the research to be undertaken for which you need support.
* An estimated costing for the proposed research trip.
* Estimated travel dates.
* Details of current or recent funding (AHRC award, &c.), if applicable.
* The name of one supervisor/referee (with email address) to whom application can be made for a supporting reference on your behalf.
* The name and contact details (including email address and Twitter handle) of whomever updates your departmental website or social media, if known. And your own Twitter handle, if applicable.

Applications and queries should be directed to the bursaries officer, Dr Daniel Cook ( at the University of Dundee. The deadline for applications is 1 February in any given year.