Charles Dibdin and Popular Song in the Romantic Period

In 1829 a large marble monument to Charles Dibdin (1745-1814) was erected in Greenwich Hospital, paid for by a public subscription. Still there today, it incorporates a bust of Dibdin himself, looking like a Roman senator, set on a column before which kneels a ‘Weeping Muse’. The plinth below describes him as the ‘Author of the National Naval Ballads’.

This was perhaps the high-water mark of Dibdin being recognized as a ‘classic’, a household name who had made an almost immeasurable cultural impact. By 1829 the less savoury aspects of his life had largely been forgotten, along with the less successful of his numerous works. What remained were a few operas (we would probably call them musicals if they were performed today) that had become part of the standard theatrical repertoire, dozens of songs which had the same sort of cultural currency as the Beatles’ songs do now, and a deeply pervasive legacy that meant hardly anyone could write or sing an English song without being influenced in some way by Dibdin. Most of all, Dibdin was known for those ‘National Naval Ballads’, the sea songs widely credited with having played a significant role in Britain’s victory in the Napoleonic wars. He was the people’s poet, but most of all the sailor’s poet.

Dibdin left an enormous textual and musical legacy, and his name appears constantly in extant British newspapers from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Yet, standard accounts of the Romantic period generally don’t mention him at all. Of the canonical writers of the period, only Jane Austen seems to have had a serious interest in Dibdin: he is the best represented composer in her music collection. The major male writers simply ignored him. The fullest academic study, Charles Dibdin and Late Georgian Culture (OUP, 2018), starts with the hopeful claim that Coleridge recognized Dibdin as a ‘multifarious, polymathic’ talent, but alas, Coleridge was actually referring to Thomas Frognall Dibdin (1776-1847). This willful ignoring of the country’s most popular songwriter then became a feature of later critical constructions of the period.

Dibdin gradually found that his multifarious talents were best united in the form of the one-man musical shows in which he stood at a piano, alternatively singing and speaking to his audience. He called them ‘Table Entertainments’ and toured them extensively around the country. They moved fluently between elite and popular culture in a way scarcely seen before; Dibdin prided himself on his ability to entertain anyone willing to pay his entrance fee, and to adjust his performance to suit his listeners. His account of a performance he gave at the assembly rooms in Penrith, in April 1799, is particularly quotable:

… whenever I paused, I was publicly admonished by a drunken quaker, to the no small amusement of every one in the assembly room, and to no one more than myself; for knowing exactly how every thing would turn out, I humoured this new mode of chorus to my entertainment so comfortably, that a stranger might have been induced to fancy that I hired the man for the purpose. Towards the conclusion, I had occasion to introduce my song of the Auctioneer, which, by accident, I had found out to be Broadbrim’s profession. At this he was completely hung up or cut down, which are, I believe, both genteel expressions for this kind of non plus, and presently afterwards the spirit moved him to take himself off.

Of the three Table Entertainments that have survived in the most complete form, largely complete recordings have been issued of The Wags (1790)—which ends with ‘The Auctioneer’—and Christmas Gambols (1795), and a very abbreviated version of Readings and Music (1787), all on the Retrospect Opera label. Anyone intrigued by what I’ve written is invited to start with the video version of The Wags on YouTube: . And note that Christmas Gambols seems to be the fullest picture of an old English Christmas produced by anyone in the Romantic period. Given that Charles Dickens’s father-in-law, George Hogarth, spent years editing Dibdin’s songs, there is a fascinating possibility that he knew the work.

David Chandler

PGR and ECR Spotlight – Introducing the BARS PGR Reps

Cleo O’Callaghan Yeoman and Yu-Hung Tien begin this new series on the BARS blog which aims to shine a spotlight on the work being done by postgraduates and early career researchers in Romanticism Studies.

In May 2022, we (Cleo O’Callaghan Yeoman and Yu-Hung Tien) were delighted to take up the role
of Postgraduate Representatives (PGR Rep) for the British Association of Romantic Studies (BARS),
and to join the BARS Executive. Since stepping into these roles, the central value that we have held is
to congregate, and most importantly, to support postgraduate and early career researchers (ECR) from
different professional and cultural backgrounds within the BARS community. This goal is expected to
be fulfilled through the diverse events that we have been planning to run throughout our tenure.
Among them, the next BARS Postgraduate and Early Career Researcher conference, titled Romantic
Boundaries, to be held at the University of Edinburgh, 15th-16th June 2023, has forged the primary
focus for our first year.
Alongside a great pleasure to exchange the fruitful academic paths that both of us have gone through,
our first responsibility was to confirm the venue, dates, and theme of the conference. Something that
was especially nice to find out upon accepting the role of PGR Rep was that both of us had suggested
the same city for the conference in our applications (Cleo completed both her undergraduate and
Master’s degrees at the University of Edinburgh, whilst Yu-Hung is now commencing his PhD there,
making it an obvious choice). We were also keen to make the most of Edinburgh’s rich literary
history, both as an epicentre for print culture in Scotland during the Romantic period, and as the
world’s first UNESCO City of Literature today.
As for the theme, we kept this intentionally broad so as not to exclude anyone within the BARS PGR
and ECR community. It occurred to us during our discussions that the theme of boundaries, in
addition to lending itself conceptually to multiple disciplines, also lends itself especially well to our
post-lockdown landscape. It almost goes without saying at this point, but the past few years have
obviously been ones in which we have all been forced to contend with a variety of boundaries in
different ways. During the peak of the pandemic we were united in our being limited by them; since
then, some of us have had to learn how to transcend these boundaries again, whilst for others they
have necessarily remained in place for a time. Outwith the Covid context, moreover, boundaries are
something many of us encounter in daily life, a lot of which are often invisible, and yet their presence
is felt strongly. The combination of all of these factors meant that the theme of Romantic Boundaries
felt timely, but also one that we might consider self-consciously, in what we hope will prove
formative ways.
In the following sections, both of us will briefly introduce ourselves, and provide our personal
reflections on this role.

Hello! My name is Cleo O’Callaghan Yeoman and I am a second year, SGSAH AHRC-funded PhD
student at the University of Stirling, supervised by Professor Katie Halsey, Dr Gerard McKeever
(University of Edinburgh), and Professor Matthew Sangster (University of Glasgow). My research
centres on analysing the relationships between novel reading and ‘improvement’ in early nineteenth-
century Scotland, with specific focus on the novels of Scottish authors Mary Brunton, Susan Ferrier,
John Galt, Elizabeth Hamilton, James Hogg, and Walter Scott. 
For me, the best thing about the BARS PGR Rep role so far has been the opportunity that it provides
to respond proactively to the needs of PGRs and ECRs working within the field of Romanticism
today. The role is, in this sense, a great privilege but also quite a responsibility. It has also enabled us
to be involved in putting together some exciting collaborations, which we are looking forward to
sharing soon! The other valuable aspect I have taken from the role so far is the breadth of skills that it
provides and, indeed, demands. In some cases, this involves building on an already existent set of
skills – communicating with different people, working to concurrent deadlines, prioritising multiple
tasks across multiple projects, and so on – but in others the role has provided an opportunity to
cultivate new skills: building a website, managing larger-scale budgets, liaising with catering and
finance departments, to name a few. In all respects, the role has been exceptionally rewarding and I
remain very grateful to BARS for this opportunity. We would also like to thank Dr Amanda Blake

Davis (BARS ECR Representative) for all of her very generous help and support in organising
Romantic Boundaries thus far. 

Hey! I am Yu-Hung Tien. I have completed an undergraduate degree back in my home city Taipei,
Taiwan, and a Master’s degree in Durham, UK. Earlier this year, I just started a PhD at the University
of Edinburgh, working with Dr Andrew Taylor and Dr Lee Spinks. Regarding my research interests, I
have, ever since my undergraduate years, developed a strong fascination with Romanticism,
especially with the English Romantic poet John Keats. Developing from this ensuing passion, my
doctoral project primarily looks at the literary afterlives of Keats from a dynamic transatlantic
perspective, with a particular focus on his poetic legacies in Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens and F.
Scoot Fitzgerald.
For me, Romanticism is a discipline to congregate, rather than to segregate, to quote from
Wordsworth, ‘the heart that loved her’. This very spirit which Romanticism holds invites me to delve
into the appreciation of its enduring legacies, forged into an initiative for me to join the BARS, and
turning into a philosophy of mine which I aim to continue to promote throughout my academic career.
Before taking on the role of BARS PGR Rep, I was worried. However strong my enthusiasm for
Romanticism manifesting itself over the past years, due to the rather distinctive cultural and
educational backgrounds of mine, I was anxious about the contributions that I could potentially make
to the society. Yet, my collaborations with all the BARS board members, especially with my
supportive colleagues Cleo and Amanda have so far alleviated all my previous anxieties, reforming
them into a stronger passion and ambition for me to continue. Everyone who participates in this
community, which I would say can be seen as a miniature of the wider network of Romanticism,
learn, grow, and thrive together. Our “love” for Romantic writing, or even for literature more broadly
speaking, would help us to dissolve the spatial boundaries, and social constraints, to name a few,
imposed upon us by the outside world. This now becomes my belief, and I am sure, it will always be. 

Romantic Boundaries will take place in June next year. You can follow us on Twitter @BARS_PGs,
or visit our conference website here. Please do also email us with any opportunities or suggestions
you would like us to consider/make possible for BARS PGRs and ECRs!

BARS 2024 International Biennial Conference: Call for Expressions of Interest

Deadline: 17 February 2023

Send your EoI to the BARS Secretary, Jennifer Orr (, and any questions to either the Secretary or to the BARS President, Anthony Mandal (

THE BRITISH ASSOCIATION FOR ROMANTIC STUDIES is pleased to invite Expressions of Interest for the 2024 International Biennial Conference. Following the postponement caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, our last conference – hosted jointly with the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism – at Edge Hill University in Summer 2022, was our largest and most varied yet. BARS/NASSR 2022 followed three successful conferences (Cardiff 2015, York 2017, Nottingham 2019), as well as an online-only ‘Romantic Disconnections/Reconnections’ international conference in summer 2021. These recent gatherings have seen our attendance grow and diversify over the past decade, and delegate feedback has been very positive. 

Building on this momentum, we are very much looking forward to working with institutions in continuing to build on and to diversify the successful BARS model. Please consult the programmes for CardiffYork and Nottingham as guides for your proposal. (As a joint BARS/NASSR conference, the Edge Hill conference took a slightly different format than one typical of BARS.)

A decision will be made by the BARS Executive at its next meeting in Spring 2023 and the successful applicants will be invited to submit a report for the following Executive meeting, which will be held electronically in Summer 2023. The event will be promoted on social media and at in-person events in the lead-up to the summer 2024 conference itself. The event will also be promoted at BARS PGR/ECR ‘Romantic Boundaries’ conference in June 2023 and, if feasible, at NASSR’s  ‘Romanticism and Justice’ conference in March/April 2023.

Please see below to download full details:

Stephen Copley Research Report: Jessica Fay on George Crabbe’s Passion for Particularity

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Here we have the latest report from Jessica Fay, the most recent winner of the Stephen Copley Research Awards, for more information about how to apply, please see here.

George Crabbe is best known for the harsh realities of his long poems The Village (1783) and The Borough (1810). Inhabitants of The Village are subject to punishing working conditions, poverty, and sickness while the characters that populate the fictional Borough, such as Peter Grimes and Ellen Orford (vividly reimagined in Benjamin Britten’s 1945 opera), commit and endure extreme cruelty. Heartbreak, loneliness, and ruin pervade the flattest and drabbest of landscapes. This relentless realism puzzled contemporary readers. Crabbe seemed to lack imaginative power; he was simply copying provincial human lives without adding any of the uplifting colour that makes poetry pleasurable.

Commenting on The Village in a letter to Samuel Rogers of 1808, Wordsworth wrote that ‘nineteen out of 20 of Crabbe’s Pictures are mere matters of fact; with which the Muses have just about as much to do as they have with a Collection of medical reports, or of Law Cases’ (29 September 1808). Hazlitt made the same point, complaining that too much ‘literal’ description gives Crabbe’s verse a ‘repining’ dreariness: not only does Crabbe ‘deal in incessant matters of fact, but in matters of fact of the most familiar, the least animating, and the most unpleasant kind’ (‘Living Authors’, London Magazine (May 1821)). But what habits of life and what patterns of observation lay behind this painstaking verse? Thanks to the support of a Stephen Copley Research Award, I have been able to examine a set of working notebooks kept by Crabbe between the 1790s and the 1820s. Their contents has helped me to understand his poetic style in a completely new way.

It is well known that Crabbe was a keen botanist and natural historian, but four notebooks held by Cambridge University Library visibly convey Crabbe’s extraordinary passion for particularity. Two of the notebooks are pocket-sized and were used while Crabbe was traversing roads, fields, beaches, and ditches; two are slightly larger and were probably for desk-use. The pocket-sized notebooks focus on entomology and botany. They contain tabulated inventories of the tiniest features of insects, soils, grasses, flowers, and shells. Crabbe records variations in size, shape, texture, and colour; he is always scanning for new species, always weighing difference against similarity. The larger notebooks seem to have been compiled for reference and they show Crabbe at work as a practising scientist. His notes on ‘Practical Chemistry’, for example, include instructions for making vinegar and gunpowder, for extracting pigments from flowers and berries, for distillation, for dying, and for drawing essential salts out of plants.

Another notebook, held by the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, shows that these interests date back to the 1760s when Crabbe worked as an apothecary in Suffolk. Before Crabbe could afford to buy expensive books of botany—and before he moved to London in pursuit of a career as a poet—he made his own ‘Manual of Natural History’ by copying out over two-hundred pages of notes from borrowed volumes. All five notebooks are incredible to behold. Each page is packed with scrupulously organized information. The script is tiny and (in the main) extremely neat; items entered on narrowly ruled lines are arranged into sections, sub-sections, and numbered lists. The level of detail makes the observations recorded by other writers known for their acute powers of observation, Dorothy Wordsworth for example, look slapdash.

The later notebooks were also used for composing poetry. It’s difficult to imagine most Romantic-period writers crafting lines of verse while crouching in a ditch under a hedgerow at the side of a muddy road, or while experimenting with saline substances. But that is where George Crabbe liked to spend his time. And those are the habits of close observation that give his poetry its character.

I am very grateful to BARS for the Stephen Copley Research Award funding. The insights gained in my research trips to Cambridge and Oxford will underpin a chapter on George Crabbe that will be included in a monograph (currently in progress) on how idiosyncratic ways of looking at landscapes are connected with innovations in literary style.  

Jessica Fay is an Assistant Professor in English Literature at the University of Birmingham.

Five Questions: Francesca Mackenney on Birdsong, Speech and Poetry

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Francesca Mackenney is currently undertaking an AHRC International Placement at the Library of Congress. Her monograph, Birdsong, Speech and Poetry: The Art of Composition in the Long Nineteenth Century, which we discuss below, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2022. Alongside her research on birdsong, her attention has increasingly focused on exploring the role that literature can play in environmental education. With funding from Creative Scotland, during lockdown she created an educational podcast about birdsong for young people ( When she returns from the US, she will begin her new role as a postdoctoral researcher on an AHRC-funded collaborative project, jointly hosted by Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and Cardiff University: ‘The Sound of Nature: Soundscapes and Environmental Awareness, 1750-1950’.

1) How did you first become interested in birdsong, and how did you come to decide you wanted to write a book on its representations and implications?

Many moons ago, when I was still at school, I read King Lear and for some reason the king’s words to his daughter have always stayed with me: ‘Come, let’s away to prison | We two alone will sing like birds i’ th’ cage’. I don’t know why exactly, but I must have been moved by those lines because I started noticing birds everywhere in literature and in life, and they became the focus of my doctoral research. I became fascinated by the different ways in which scientists, musicians and poets have listened to (and tried to understand) the everyday mystery that is birdsong. This little singing creature raises these larger profound and even now unanswered questions: why do birds sing? And what about our own arts of human music, speech and poetry? Where do they come from and what are they for? What are the origins of this love that we share with birds for creating patterns and shapes out of sounds and colours? The truth is there are so many things that we still just don’t know. But even thinking over these questions in the book felt like a wonderfully enriching thing to do. It opened up a whole new world to me. It made me hear birdsong differently. It changed the way I think about poetry too.

2) In your introduction, you write that your approach to birdsong ‘has been to draw attention to the deep and underlying affinities which have historically disturbed and unsettled our sense of being different’.  What for you are the most important things we gain from recognising such affinities? 

In the long nineteenth century, scientists discovered apposite similarities between how nestling birds learn to sing and how human infants learn to speak.  In the book I trace ‘the science of birdsong’ as it developed from the ‘ingenious’ experiments of Daines Barrington to the evolutionary arguments of Charles Darwin. When I first came across this material, it was all totally new to me and I found it fascinating. I started to wonder why I had never heard about any of this before and why it had never occurred to me that, of course, birds learn to sing. It was the beginning of a long journey, which led me to confront some of the blockages or blind-spots that so often prevent us from noticing such small and seemingly ‘trivial’ things.

What do we gain from recognizing the affinities between birdsong and human speech? It depends where you’re coming from. In a volume of scientific essays with a foreword by Robert C. Berwick and Noam Chomsky and entitled Birdsong, Speech and Language; Exploring the Evolution of Mind and Brain (2013), birdsong has re-emerged as an analogy ‘particularly well placed to probe certain biolinguistic questions’ regarding the origins of human speech and language. Those questions partly inspired my book. But they are well beyond my remit and expertise. My approach is historical and literary critical. In tracing the ways in which scientists, philosophers and poets have puzzled over these questions throughout the centuries, what I try to do in my book is to pinpoint and analyse some of the longstanding cultural assumptions which have shaped (and continue to shape) how we respond to other creatures in the Anthropocene.  

3) Your first two chapters explore the science of birdsong and the science of language respectively.  In terms of your argument, what would you locate as the most significant developments in these fields during the period your book covers?

This is difficult to answer, because scientific ‘progress’ in this period is by no means linear. It had long been common knowledge that various species of songbirds could be (as they had been for centuries) trained to sing particular songs. But the fact that birds could manifestly learn to sing was not directly used to challenge, or even necessarily perceived as challenging, an established tenet of British zoology: namely, that the ‘natural’ or instinctive voices of animals bore no comparison with the ‘artificial’ or acquired language of human beings. With regard to birdsong, as with so many other areas of scientific inquiry, the long nineteenth century may be characterised by an ongoing struggle to square the known facts with the general rule, to reconcile the mounting evidence with a vestigial belief in a divinely ordained universe. In the book I explore how the many isolated facts about birdsong were collated and actively used to draw an ‘analogy’ with human speech in Darwin’s The Descent of Man (1872).

With regard to the science of language, the development is also not straightforward. In the Romantic period, figures as various as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Johann Gottfied Herder, Lord Monboddo and Hugh Blair were all hotly debating the origins of music, speech and language, and the ‘progress’ of poetry. By the 1860s, however, the Paris Société Linguistique had banned all papers on the subject. There are some very good reasons for this. The arguments of Rousseau and others are wildly speculative, conjectural and to this extent unscientific (as well as routinely racist, sexist and classist to boot). But there are other things at play here as well. Following the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859), the opponents of evolution increasingly relied upon language as the one remaining bulwark which might (in the words of Max Müller) ‘yet enable us to withstand the extreme theories of the Darwinians, and to draw a hard and fast line between man and the brute’. Increasingly philologers and evolutionary scientist met in fierce public debate, most notably in some bristling exchanges between Müller and Darwin.

In either instance, there is likely some degree of what the primatologist Frans de Waal has termed ‘anthropodenial’: ‘the a priori rejection of shared characteristics between humans and animals’ which ‘denotes willful blindness to the human-like characteristics of animals or the animal-like characteristics of ourselves’ (‘Anthropomorphism and Anthropodenial’, 2009).   Whereas de Waal has called for a more open-minded approach to the behavioural parallels between human beings and primates, I have in my book sought to sketch out a history of ‘willful blindness’ towards the special affinities between birdsong and human speech.

4) Your principal literary subjects are Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the Wordsworth siblings, John Clare and Thomas Hardy.  How did you select this quintet as the most suitable for your purposes, and are there other poets to whom you’d be interested in extending the analysis you conduct in your monograph?

All of them are excellent field observers (as well as listeners), belonging to a literary line that Jonathan Bate first began to sketch out in Romantic Ecology (1991). They were all out there on the ground watching, listening and taking notes. They were also all avid readers, with multifarious interests in natural history, ornithology, philology and, of course, poetry. What comes across in their writings is that these are incredibly multi-faceted and independent thinkers, who were continually out there looking, listening and recording, and checking all they saw and heard against what they had read in books. They’re all quite different and some (especially Coleridge) were quite conflicted about what they were finding out about birdsong, but the intellectual curiosity and endeavour – to look, to listen, to understand – is there with all of them.

All of these writers demonstrate an awareness of the poet’s propensity to make the sounds of nature, in Coleridge’s phrase, ‘tell back the tale | Of his own sorrow’ (‘The Nightingale’, 1798). But they were writing at a time when it was not only poetical fancies that were being brought under scrutiny; they belonged to a generation of men and women who collected, compared and vigorously disputed the facts about how and why birds sing. While the followers of Descartes continued to describe animals as mere machines wholly devoid of reason or even consciousness, an alternative school of thought began to recognise in birds the kind of artistic, skillful and self-aware animal minds from which they believed human music and speech had originally evolved. In sum, I would say that these writers get the balance between a respect for difference and an acknowledgement of an active, albeit mysterious animal agency narrowly glimpsed in the ‘bright bright eyes’ of nightingales (‘their eyes both bright and full’) (Coleridge, ‘The Nightingale’). Their writings reflect a complex shift in how human beings came to perceive the art of birdsong, and how they came to perceive, measure and value their own art by the contrast.

But the truth is there are so many other writers I might have looked at, Charlotte Smith perhaps most especially. Her sonnets to the nightingale are utterly ground-breaking, I think. She does feature in the book (as do Keats, Shelley and various others), but I think, if I were to start it all over again, she would be right at the heart and centre of it. I have found myself coming back to her poems time and time again.

5) What new projects are you currently working on?

Birdsong continues to fascinate me, but my attention has increasingly turned to the strange sounds and antics of wetland birds in the mating season: the booming of the bittern, the drumming of the snipe or the ‘peewit’ of the lapwing. Like so many other things about wetlands, these peculiar mating rituals may be able to tell us something about the evolutionary origins of aesthetics or ‘sense of the beautiful’ (as well as how important our aesthetic tastes have proved in deciding what is valuable or worth conserving in the natural world). I am currently revising an article about John Clare’s fen poems, which developed out of my work with Jeremy Davies at the University of Leeds on his AHRC-funded project, ‘Experiments in Land and Society, 1793-1833’. I have also just begun a six-month AHRC International Placement at the Library of Congress, which has further enabled me to compare Clare’s writings about wetlands with those of the American essayist Henry David Thoreau, who discovered in even the most ‘dismal’ of American swamps ‘a sacred place, a sanctum sanctorum’ (‘Walking’, 1862). When I return to the UK in the spring, I will be drawing together my interests in sound, aesthetics and environmental history as I begin my new role as postdoctoral researcher on an international, interdisciplinary project, jointly hosted by Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and Cardiff University: ‘The Sound of Nature: Soundscapes and Environmental Awareness, 1750-1950’.

CFP: Feeling in the Long 19th Century

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Cambridge, UK, 13 – 14 January 2023 @RRRJournal

Since increased critical attention paid to ‘affect’ in the 1990s, studies of the experience of feeling have grown exponentially across a range of disciplines. As various emotions historians have shown, passions, feelings, emotions, sentiments and affections were equally at the forefront of the minds of nineteenth-century thinkers from Wordsworth to Darwin. This international, interdisciplinary conference will explore how these contemporary and modern affective debates have impacted, and continue to impact, the ways in which we think about feeling.

Papers of 10-15 mins are invited on feeling in the broadest sense (“to perceive or be affected by”, OED v.1a), in or about the long nineteenth century (1789-1914). We welcome papers from disciplines across the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and from scholars at any stage in their academic careers.

Topics can include but are not restricted to:
Terminology and language of feeling
Radical and transgressive feelings
Mind vs Body; modes of perception
Sensation and the senses
Medical feelings and pathology
Affect theories; phenomenology
The aesthetics and poetics of feeling
Communities of feeling; affective networks
Nonhuman affects; ecological feelings
Ugly feelings and unfeeling
Writerly and readerly feelings
Intuition; supernatural feelings
New frameworks for feeling
The limits of affect

Abstracts (250 words) and bios (75 words) should be submitted to by 6th November 2022. Submissions should be formatted in Word and attached to the email; please include your full name, discipline, and any institutional affiliations in your submission.

CFP: Libraries, Lives and Legacies 

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Organised by the AHRC-funded ‘Books and Borrowing, 1750-1830′ and ‘Libraries, Reading Communities and Cultural Formation in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic’ projects.

Split-Venue Research Festival 

13-14 April 2023 – University of Liverpool and online 

17-18 April 2023 – University of Stirling 

We are glad to announce a series of events on Libraries, Lives and Legacies in April 2023, and to invite papers for our conference.  Registration for all events will be available in the new year. 

At the University of Liverpool and Online (hybrid events) 

13 April: Subscription Libraries in North America and the British Isles, 1731-1801: Books, Concepts, People, Communities  

A one-day symposium featuring pre-circulated work-in-progress papers emerging from the ‘Libraries, Reading Communities and Cultural Formation in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic’ project. Please contact for further information. 

14 April: Old Books, New Media: Digital Humanities Showcase  

A one-day workshop showcasing digital humanities projects exploring the history of the book, and featuring the launch and demonstration of two major new AHRC-funded open-access databases on libraries in the long eighteenth century. Please contact for further information. 

At the University of Stirling (in-person conference) 

17 to 18 April: Reading and Book Circulation, 1650-1850 

Keynote Speakers: 

Deidre Lynch, Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature, Harvard University 

Andrew Pettegree, Bishop Wardlaw Professor of History, University of St Andrews 

Featuring a roundtable discussion with librarians and practitioners: 

Elizabeth Quarmby Lawrence, Rare Books Librarian, Edinburgh University Library 

Lara Haggerty, Keeper of Books, The Library of Innerpeffray, Crieff 

Rachel Hart, Senior Archivist & Keeper of Manuscripts and Muniments, University of St Andrews 

Robert MacLean, Special Collections Librarian, University of Glasgow 

Robert Betteridge, Eighteenth-Century Printed Collections Curator, National Library of Scotland 

Call For Papers 

The organisers invite 20-minute papers that approach the topics of reading and book circulation in the (very) long eighteenth century from any methodological perspective. Since Robert Darnton first challenged researchers in the field of book history to consider how to retrieve the history of reading, many new approaches have been pioneered, and much new evidence has come to light. At this conference, we hope to survey the state of the field, facilitating conversations between librarians, archivists, and researchers from a variety of different disciplines, and considering the myriad ways in which understanding book circulation and reading habits can shed new light on our period. 

Papers might address (but are not limited to) any of the following topics: 

  • Communities of reading 
  • Individual readers 
  • Relationships between actors in the communications circuit 
  • Institutional practices and the history of reading 
  • Library history and collection histories 
  • Education and pedagogy 
  • Theoretical approaches to reading 
  • Methodological challenges and solutions 
  • Archival materials and other new evidence 

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words for 20-minute papers, or 800 words for pre-formed panels of 3 or 4 speakers, as a Word document attachment to Professor Katie Halsey at,with the subject line ‘Reading and Book Circulation Conference’ by 6 January 2023. Please include a 100-word biography for each speaker. 

Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837 Bursary

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The Women’s Studies Group 1558–1837 is offering a bursary of £750 to an early career researcher, independent scholar or PhD student to support research in any aspect of women’s studies in the period 1558­–1837. The deadline for applications is 30 November 2022.

Full details and an application form can be found here.

The BARS Review, No. 58 (Spring 2022)

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Castle of Lerici: the ruined castle at a cliff, with a small temple on top right of the wall, birds flying around; trees in the foreground; four boats sailing in Gulf of Spezia on the left; mountains in the background; after Hakewill; scratched letter state. c.1817-1820. © The Trustees of the British Museum. Reproduction used under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

We are glad to announce the publication of the most recent issue of The BARS Review (No. 58, Spring 2022). The issue contains twelve reviews of recent scholarly work within the field of Romanticism, broadly conceived. Five of the reviews comprise a ‘spotlight’ section on ‘Romantic Variations’.

The individual reviews are detailed below; all reviews are openly available in html and .pdf through The BARS Review website, and a compilation of all the reviews in the number can be downloaded as a .pdf.

If you have comments on the new number, or on the Review in general, we’d be very grateful for any feedback that would allow us to improve the site or its content. As always, Mark Sandy would be very happy to hear from people who would like to review for BARS.

Editor: Mark Sandy (Durham University)
General Editor: Anthony Mandal (Cardiff University)
Technical Editor: Matthew Sangster (University of Glasgow)


1) Lucy Cogan on Naomi Billingsley, The Visionary Art of William Blake: Christianity, Romanticism and the Pictorial Imagination. London: I.B. Tauris, 2018.
2) Roisin McCloskey on Harriet Kramer Linkin, The Collected Letters of Mary Blachford Tighe. Bethlehem: Lehigh University Press, 2020.
3) Richard Cronin on Samantha Matthews, Album Verses and Romantic Literary Culture: Poetry, Manuscript, Print, 1780-1850. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.
4) Stacey Kikendall on James Watt, British Orientalisms, 1759-1835. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.
5) Eroulla Demetriou on Percy Bysshe Shelley, Hellas: Introducción, traducción y notas de José Ruiz Mas [Hellas: Introduction, translation and notes by José Ruiz Mas]. Granada: Centro de Estudios Bizantinos, Neohelénicos y Chipriotas, 2021.
6) Diego Saglia on Mirella Agorni, Translating Italy for the Nineteenth Century: Translators and an Imagined Nation in the Early Romantic Period 1816-1830s. Bern: Peter Lang, 2021.
7) Peter Kitson on David Duff, ed., The Oxford Handbook of British Romanticism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

Spotlight: Romantic Variations

8) JoEllen DeLucia on Gerard Lee McKeever, Dialectics of Improvement: Scottish Romanticism, 1786-1831. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2020.
9) Philip Shaw on Ian Haywood, Susan Matthews, and Mary L. Shannon, eds., Romanticism and Illustration. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.
10) Indu Ohri on Jonas Cope, The Dissolution of Character in Late Romanticism, 1820-1839. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018.
11) Keerthi Sudhakar Vasishta on Jeffrey N. Cox, William Wordsworth, Second-Generation Romantic: Contesting Poetry after Waterloo. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021.
12) Lindsey Eckert on Mike Goode, Romantic Capabilities: Blake, Scott, Austen, and the New Messages of Old Media. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.

CFP – Science and/or Poetry: Interdisciplinarity in Notebooks 

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Lancaster University – 26-27 July 2023 

What role do notebooks play in the shaping of literary and scientific history? How and why should difficult-to-decipher manuscripts be interpreted, particularly when their contents cross genres, disciplines, and time periods? What is the relationship between poetry and science in notebooks? This two-day conference hosted by Lancaster University’s Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded Davy Notebooks Project ( will question the nature of notebooks, considering how this complicated yet rich form constitutes both literary and scientific identities.  

The Davy Notebooks Project is an ongoing effort to create an online, free-to-access digital edition of chemist and poet Sir Humphry Davy’s (1778-1829) surviving notebooks, which number around seventy-five in all. These manuscripts are especially interesting thanks to the wide range of genres they encompass, containing records of scientific experiments, poetry, geological observations, travel accounts, personal philosophy, and more. While Davy’s notebooks provide a starting point for our shared investigations, we hope this conference will include a broad range of speakers on the use and meaning of notebooks.  

Paper topics may address but are not limited to: 

•     Notebooks as a form or tool for thinking through experiments or works 

•     Cross genres in notebooks, including poetry and science  

•     Notebooks as a space for multiple and collaborative authorship 

•     Altered notebooks, taking in editing practices and posthumous intervention 

•     Difficult notebooks: grappling with sexism, racism, and colonialism  

The event is being funded by the AHRC and is limited to twenty places. Some bursaries will be available for Early Career Researchers and unfunded scholars; anyone not in full-time, permanent academic employment is welcome to apply for these. Please note your interest in a bursary in your proposal. 

Proposals for twenty-minute papers are invited. Please submit a 300-word abstract by 9 December 2022. Notifications of acceptance will be sent by 13 January 2023. Proposals, as well as any questions or enquiries, may be sent to: 

For more information on the Davy Notebooks Project, please visit: