On a recent visit to Somerset, I rediscovered the beautiful Quantock Hills, which are characterised by deeply wooded combes and wonderful heathland covered with heather, and are truly deserving of their designation as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Visiting Coleridge’s cottage in Nether Stowey made me think again about Coleridge as both man and poet, and about his relationship with Sarah Fricker, his wife.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that most women in the 18th and 19th centuries were defined by the men in their lives, and in many ways Sara Coleridge was no different, dropping the “H” from her first name to please her husband, giving him constant support as his addiction spiralled out of control, and putting up with his various infatuations with other women. There must have been times when Sara thought there were three people in her marriage, most infamously another ‘Sarah’ – Sarah Hutchinson, Wordsworth’s sister-in-law, an enduring object of Coleridge’s unrequited passion and the ‘Asra’ of some of his finest poems. But Sara Coleridge’s inner strength and resilience sustained her as she struggled to bring up her children virtually single-handed, and often on the edge of poverty.
Steven Matthews, poet, and Paul Whitty, composer, share some insight into their exhibition ‘Sounds of Wordsworth’, which was on display at the Wordsworth Trust throughout June 2017.
Paul Whitty and Steven Matthews
This exhibition presented work from an on-going and evolving project to ‘map’ sounds in the landscape, as they continue at the sites where we know that Wordsworth was inspired to write poems. The shapes of the hills and mountains on the skyline in the Lake District continue to be very close to those which Wordsworth saw; similarly, the environmental sounds in the places he loved bear some proximity to the sounds he heard – sounds then registered in his poetry.
Wordsworth sounds in the exhibition
The items included in the exhibition concentrated on the sounds of the rivers and streams around Grasmere with which Wordsworth was familiar. This booklet provides some reflection by the composer Paul Whitty, upon the experience of capturing these sounds at particular Wordsworthian locations. Part of our project is for both Paul and the poet Steven Matthews to create new work from their engagement with Wordsworth, sound, and the Lake District. The booklet also contains reflection upon Steven’s sequence made in response to Wordsworth, ‘The Stepping-Stones’.
Rose Roberto, PhD candidate at the University of Reading, has written with details of a new publication for scholars working on book history in Liverpool and Merseyside.
Art Researchers’ Guide to Liverpool and Merseyside, co-edited by Rose Roberto and Emily Parsons, is the sixth in a series of pocket-sized books aimed at visual artists, academics, teachers, students and local researchers, published by the Art Libraries Society, UK & Ireland (ARLIS/UK & Ireland). It describes institutions across the region with both traditional and recently established collections, from book binding and illustration history through to counter culture and modern art.
Tracing its origins back to 1207, Liverpool was one of the greatest ports in the world and one of the most prosperous towns in Britain for two hundred years. UNESCO has designated Liverpool a World Heritage Site and, compared with other British cities, it has more museums and galleries than anywhere outside of London.
Today Liverpool is home to a thriving arts community, with exciting programmes of exhibitions, talks and events all year round as well as regular festivals such as the Liverpool Biennial. In 2008 Liverpool was European Capital of Culture, and that legacy lives on.
This handbook describes the major collections of libraries, …read more
(Many thanks to John Gardner (Anglia Ruskin University) for providing a summary of the fascinating talk on the emergence of mechanics’ institutes that he gave at the ‘Institutions as Networks’ workshop, along with a copy of his PowerPoint.)
The talk focussed on how innovation and demands for education came from those literally at the cutting edge of society; the turners, millers, fitters and millwrights who created and drove scientific and educational progress through practice, improvement and invention. As L. J. Henderson famously said, workers, and not theoreticians, were the agents behind Britain’s industrial progress: ‘until 1850 the steam-engine did more for science than science did for the steam-engine’. I argued that there were three main drivers behind the rise of Mechanics’ Institutes and the beginnings of a democratization of education: free lectures being given to workers by the likes of John Anderson, George Birkbeck and Andrew Ure; agitation by workers to set up their own institutes rather than solely relying on benevolent enlightened individuals giving what they could; and finally the ‘tax on knowledge’ that came in with the Six Acts, after Peterloo, at the end of 1819. Each of these drivers created demand for …read more
(Many thanks to Roey Sweet (University of Leicester) for sending a post summarising the thought-provoking reflections that she presented in the roundtable session on the network metaphor at the ‘Institutions as Networks’ workshop.)
My own research is on antiquaries and the Society of Antiquaries during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Like many other scholars, I suspect, I’ve been accustomed to think loosely about antiquaries as forming part of a network of individuals and, to a lesser degree, a network of corresponding societies around a metropolitan hub in the nineteenth century. The papers given during the workshop prompted me to think rather harder about the network metaphor and how we apply it to institutions of literature.
The original Society of Antiquaries evolved from a ‘network’ of like-minded men, drawn from the middle classes as well as the aristocracy who used to meet in local taverns and coffee houses: the network was one of personal contact and epistolary communication – like so many others of the period – but at what point did it become an institution? Was it in 1707 when Humfrey Wanley (above) first started to keep minutes of their meetings, or in 1717 when continuous …read more
We’ve now held the second workshop in the ‘Institutions of Literature, 1700-1900′ series, ‘Institutions as Networks’; this took place at the Society of Antiquaries in London last week (on Thursday 13th and Friday 14th of July). As with the previous ‘Institutions as Curators’ workshop, there were a wide range of fascinating contributions from our participants; the papers were of a universally high standard and opened up a whole series of issues that we hope to address collaboratively in the remaining time that this network will run and through further successor projects. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing a series of blog posts from our contributors, which will display the range and scope of the material covered. To kick off this blog post series, I thought I’d write up four observations that I put together as part of my contribution to the final roundtable, which responded to the workshop as a whole.
While the title ‘Institutions of Literature, 1700-1900′ was already put under pressure in the previous workshop in Glasgow, the London workshop further problematised every element of that title, including ‘of’. We spent a considerable amount of time discussing what an institution might be …read more
In 1973, Harold Bloom’s Anxiety of Influence described the struggle of the Romantic poets to find a voice in a world dominated by Paradise Lost, but he did little to discuss the legacy of John Milton’s lesser poems. Just as the sun overwhelms the twinkle of distant stars, so too did the mighty epic dominate its kindred. That masterpiece, rivalled by few others in the whole of literature, has instilled in our collective memory images well-known even to those who have never attempted to read it. Yet Milton’s influence goes far beyond our dramatic Fall.
Romanticism, especially British Romanticism, emphasizes the role of contemplating nature, and it is with no surprise that the Romantic Poets would seize upon Milton’s ‘Il Penseroso’. Written sometime after Milton left Cambridge, yet not published until the middle of his career, the poem is a melancholic reflection on poetry, art, and inspiration.
Il Penseroso, by Thomas Cole
Central to Milton’s poem is the image of Philomela, one of Ovid’s many tragic females who was brutally raped by her sister’s husband, Tereus, and whose tongue was cut out to keep her silent.
However, Philomela was able notify her sister, which led to the sisters seeking …read more
In our latest Romantic Climates blog post, Dr Thomas H. Ford (Melbourne) reflects on the statement ‘it is raining’.
In the second edition of the Works of Percy Shelley published in 1839, Mary Shelley included a number of previously unpublished poetic fragments that she had transcribed from a notebook of drafts, notes and drawings originally compiled by Shelley between the spring of 1819 and the spring of 1820. Amongst the fragments she included can be found the following enigmatic short verse:
The fitful alternations of the rain
Which the chill wind, languid as if with pain
Of its own heavy moisture, here & there
Drives through the grey & beamless atmosphere
Mary Shelley’s motives for publishing these fragments may be surmised from an editorial note to the first edition of the Works, in which she stated:
In addition to such poems as have an intelligible aim and shape, many a stray idea and transitory emotion found imperfect and abrupt expression, and then again lost themselves in silence… I find many such in his manuscript books, that scarcely bear record; while some of them, broken and vague as they are, will appear valuable to those who love Shelley’s mind, and desire to trace its workings.
Yes! On Thursday 6 July I passed my viva with minor corrections.
It was a very rewarding experience – with great examiners and lots of stimulating discussion about how I can develop my work in the future.
More blog content is on its way – including some travel posts about these Shelleyan locations..
& perhaps a couple in London, too…
Thanks for reading! I am still the Editor of the BARS (British Association for Romantic Studies) Blog so you can get more regular Romanticism-related blog updates over on that website: click here to go.