BARS Exchange

BARS Exchange

Aggregated blogs on Romantic Studies – please click through to read full posts.

Archive for October 2015

Mary Shelley’s ‘On Ghosts’ (Featuring the King of the Cats)

By Catherine Redford

I look for ghosts – but none will force
Their way to me; ’tis falsely said
That there was ever intercourse
Between the living and the dead.

William Wordsworth, ‘The Affliction of Margaret’ (1807)

As a big fan of the Gothic, I do like to read a spooky poem or two on Halloween. The Romantics wrote plenty of dark, ghostly, and eerie verses; some old favourites of mine include Wordsworth’s ‘The Vale of Esthwaite’, Coleridge’s ‘Christabel’, Blake’s ‘Fair Elenor’, Keats’s ‘The Eve of St Agnes’, and, of course, Byron’s ‘Darkness‘. For something a bit more off the beaten track, I’d really recommend M. G. Lewis’s Tales of Wonder, and P. B. Shelley’s youthful attempts at Gothic poetry featured in Original Poetry by Victor and Cazire are good fun (if rather silly at times!).

Mary Shelley
Today, though, I’m going to be re-reading Mary Shelley’s ‘On Ghosts’, an essay that was printed in the London Magazine in March 1824. In this piece, Mary laments the lack of mystery and wonder in modern times, explaining that the ‘strange tales’ believed by our forefathers are no longer seen to be part of reality in our wiser age:

Publication Announcement – 17 pen and ink drawings and 50 past issues of Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly (1990-2000, 2010)

By Andrea H. Everett

Charon, Copy from the Antique

The William Blake Archive is pleased to announce the publication of seventeen pen and ink drawings by Blake. Ranging chronologically from his apprenticeship as an engraver to the final decade of his life, this group offers a comprehensive overview of his work in the medium. Most were created when Blake was learning his craft as an artist and reveal his exploration of various themes and genres. His apprentice drawings for James Basire (The Body of Edward I and Countess Aveline) show his early engagement with medieval art. Another group (two drawings titled Figures from a Greek Vase and Charon) is clearly based on classical art or mythology, responses to which were central to British art and design in the second half of the eighteenth century. The cluster of related sketches on two leaves, each titled Four Composition Sketches, is the earliest extant example of Blake’s attempt to construct a pictorial narrative through a series of images. In these, he began to develop his own version of the sublime, an aesthetic more fully represented by the texts and designs in the illuminated books of the 1790s. Several works from the 1780s show the influence of neoclassicism and take their …read more


Blake in Photoshop, Part 2.5: Can You Read This?

By Eric Loy

Image of William Blake Letter 11 October 1819.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about a simple Photoshop technique for recovering faded text in old manuscripts. I used a couple of objects from Four Zoas as a demo because we’ve been working a lot with Four Zoas and, well, it’s pretty hard to read.

It wasn’t a true experiment, though. Because FZ has been so heavily scrutinized by scholars past and present, nearly every conceivable reading is documented and available for verification. In other words, I was working towards a recovery that I already had in mind. Not-so-boldly-going where many have gone before.

OK, so maybe that’s fine for proof-of-concept. But what about a real test? Could we try this out on something we really had trouble reading? Wouldn’t you know it—a recent letter acquisition provided exactly that opportunity.

Penmanship is a Lost Art

The letter in question is 11 October 1819, from William Blake to an unidentified addressee (most scholars guess John Linnell). Our focus in not on Blake’s script, however, but some stuff that’s been scribbled on the reverse side by an unknown hand (most likely a collector, archivist, etc.). Our standard sources of Bentley, Erdman, and Keynes are silent on the matter. Uncharted territory.

Well, hey, hasn’t Eric been …read more


Plagiarism (n): What other people do, or, The P-word part III

By ladys-magazine

image 1

We have spent a lot of blog column inches in the past few weeks attempting to work our way through the quagmire of terms and ethical considerations that frame the culture of reprinting, repurposing, or remediating that characterises eighteenth-century magazines. The intellectual hand-wringing that has accompanied our debates about how to acknowledge unacknowledged republications of previously published material that appeared in the Lady’s Magazine in our index has resulted in a more pragmatic and, we hope, much more accurate and historically nuanced view of the legal and, more importantly, moral face of periodical publishing in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

But, as we have said before, we can’t ignore the dreaded p-word entirely, in no small part because the magazine itself did not. As promised, therefore, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I want here to turn briefly to the question of what these terms meant (and to whom they meant most) in a publication that not only made no bones about the fact that it would situate its original contributions alongside extracts from ‘the whole circle of Polite Literature’, but that also insisted that such a move undergirded its claims to public utility …read more


‘On this Day in 1816’: Forthcoming Event

By annamercer90

Poster KS event JPG

Please see my other website for details of my forthcoming event at the Keats-Shelley House, Rome, in July 2016: an evening to celebrate the bicentenary of the composition of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

This public event (sponsored by BSECS, BARS, CECS at York and the KSMA) is set to be a fantastic evening, and tickets go on sale soon! The event is open to all and will include readings of poetry by Percy Shelley and extracts from Mary Shelley’s novel, as well as two academic talks on the Shelleys and the summer of 1816. A corresponding event will also take place earlier in July at the University of York (for those who cannot travel to Italy).

The poster is available for download here. Please share it on social media and among your colleagues at your institution, or with anyone you think will be interested! Thank you.

…read more


London in Romantic-Period Literature

By Matthew Sangster

Illustration from Pierce Egan’s Life in London (1821).

Last month, I had opportunities to give talks exploring ideas arising from the Romantic London project at two really interesting events (one at the Writing Lives Together conference at the University of Leicester; one at the British Library as part of the Following the Chartists around London event, organised as part of Katrina Navickas’ fascinating Political Meetings Mapper project). Both these events provided useful opportunities for me to begin to think a little more about how what’s on the site so far relates to the ways in which London was represented in literature in the period.

One of the interesting things about literary representations of London from the twenty years on either side of the publication of the final sheets of Horwood’s Plan in 1799 is their relative scarcity and negativity. Marilyn Butler has claimed that after a ‘long absence of London from good novels as well as good poetry’ between the late eighteenth century and around 1820, in the 1820s and 1830s ‘topographical London, fashionable London, literary London, slum London […] becomes a topic of interest and admiration’.<a target="_blank" href="" title="Marilyn Butler, ‘Hidden Metropolis: London in …read more


Teaching Romanticism XIII: James Macpherson’s Ossian

By danielcook by Daniel Cook As part of this ongoing series on Teaching Romanticism we will consider the ways in which we lecture on and discuss individual authors, whether during author-specific modules or broader period surveys. I thought it would be particularly useful to hear about which texts educators use and in what context, whether they place […] …read more


DHSI and the Four Zoas: Part 2

By Laura Whitebell

The British Library- Add 39764 7

As I explained in my post last week, I’ve been working on a transcription of Object 13 of The Four Zoas. After my revelation at DHSI, I decided to try encoding two basic transcriptions of the object in order to see how viewing it as an object or as a text changed my results – just as an experiment.

As you can see, Object 13 contains a few lines of text in the right-hand margin of the page. In addition to being written vertically, there is a line connecting this verse to the text that appears in the central part of the page. According to Blake Archive conventions, we would ignore any instructional content that this line might suggest and both encode and display the text on the right separately from the main body. I started out by taking this approach. Using to differentiate between the two, I transcribed first the body text and then the lines written in the right-hand margin. This is the final stanza of the body text, the catchword, and the marginal writing:

N.B. Since the course I took at DHSI was an introduction to TEI, this is not our usual Blake Archive schema. It …read more


Illumination: How the Visual Captures the Imagination (Senate House Library, London 28 Sept – 19 Dec 2015)

By marylshannon

Illumination: How the Visual Captures the Imagination
Senate House Library, London

28 Sept – 19 Dec 2015

How do ideas move from the mental to the physical? From centuries old vases and painted canvasses to books and the virtual, creative ideas manifest themselves visually and allow us to understand such diverse worlds as cartography and astronomy to music and philosophy. Artists have drawn inspiration from themes which have transcended time such as the study of the human body and the natural world, to give them physical presence. The earliest printed books contained illuminations and later illustrations in which image and word converged to generate new visual forms for the reader. Technology also impacted on the ability to interpret objects moving from the naked eye to the scientific instruments designed to enhance optics. This exhibition will explore connections between these developments and how the gestation of the creative idea contributes to our understanding of visual culture. The exhibition draws together for the first time materials from Senate House Library with those of all of the Institute Libraries of the School of Advanced Study.

Over the three months, the Illumination Series will host over twenty events: lectures, symposia, workshop and performances which explore aspects …read more