Mary Wollstonecraft and Dissent

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April 30, 2022 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM at Newington Green Meeting House

This is a hybrid event: tickets are available to attend in person or to access the talks streamed live online. Details here.

Join us for a celebration of the anniversary of the birth of the great feminist thinker, exploring the origins of her revolutionary ideas and their continuing relevance.

We will also be celebrating the re-opening of the Newington Green Meeting House, the oldest Non-Conformist place of worship in London. Following extensive renovation sponsored by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, this beautiful historic building was relaunched in 2020 as a heritage space dedicated to the legacy of the Dissenters at the birthplace of feminism. Mary Wollstonecraft established a school for girls at Newington Green in 1784, and gained inspiration and support from activists and intellectuals settled in the neighbourhood, including such Dissenting luminaries as Richard Price and Anna Letitia Barbauld.    

Talks will explore dissent, both in relation to the community of religious Dissenters in Wollstonecraft’s time and as a key aspect of feminism and progressive politics today.   

Speakers: Sandrine Berges, Emma Clery, Alan Coffee, Hannah Dawson, Mary Fairclough, Eileen M. Hunt, Laura Kirkley, Susan Manly, Charlotte May, Catherine Packham, Bee Rowlatt, Kandice Sharren, Janet Todd, Roberta Wedge, and Daisy Hay, who will be discussing her exciting new group biography of Dissenting London, Dinner with Joseph Johnson: Books and Friendship in a Revolutionary Age (Chatto & Windus).

 There will be an art display, a book stall, free historical walking tours around Newington Green and Stoke Newington, birthday cake, and more…

Activists, enthusiasts, students and scholars – all welcome.

This event is hosted by ‘Newington Green Meeting House: Revolutionary Ideas since 1708,’ with the Mary Wollstonecraft Fellowship and the support of the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

Stephen Copley Research Report: Beth Brigham on Sir Anthony Carlisle in the Southey-Bedford & Abinger Collections

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Here we have the latest report from Beth Brigham, the most recent winner of the Stephen Copley research awards, for more information about how to apply, please see here.

In January, I was able to undertake a five-day research trip to the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries after receiving a Stephen Copley Research Award – I must therefore thank BARS for their generous support and the Bodleian for granting access to their archives.

The aim of this research trip was to examine unpublished correspondence relating to the surgeon Sir Anthony Carlisle (1764-1840), a figure that has generally received little notice from literary scholars. However, Don Shelton’s claim that Carlisle wrote the Minerva Press fiction attributed to ‘Mrs Carver’ has gifted the medical practitioner with a literary legacy that most noticeably ties him to The Horrors of Oakendale Abbey (1797), a gothic novel filled with anatomical references. Carlisle has additionally been labelled ‘a real Frankenstein’ by popular media outlets after Shelton highlighted the surgeon’s scientific interests and presence in William Godwin’s home in the early years of Mary Shelley’s life. As my thesis explores the intersections between literature and the history of medical science, focusing on medical appropriations of the gothic, this figure has understandably drawn my attention. The research I conducted in Oxford thus formed part of an in-depth case study of Carlisle’s life and persona in relation to Shelton’s claims, which will substantiate both my thesis and a forthcoming journal article due to appear in a special issue of Romanticism on the Net.

The first part of my research involved reviewing correspondence from the Southey-Bedford archive. Southey and the miscellaneous writer and civil servant, Grosvenor Charles Bedford, corresponded throughout the period 1792-1838 and were closely acquainted with Carlisle. A previous examination of Southey’s side of this correspondence, which has been extensively edited and digitised through the Romantic Circles project, revealed obscure references to Carlisle’s activities during the 1790s. I therefore sought to review Bedford’s unpublished side of this correspondence, as I hoped his letters from the years 1794-1807 would contain new details of Carlisle’s life. After grappling with Bedford’s handwriting, I in fact discovered a letter from 1795 that was bursting with medical references, indicating that Bedford and Southey were privy to Carlisle’s medico-scientific pursuits. Indeed, the letter points to Bedford’s personal interest in medicine and he regrets not having been ‘brought up in Physich’ (Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Eng. lett. d. 50, fol.3v). Most notably, Bedford describes accompanying Carlisle to the dissecting room of the physician Matthew Baillie, where he views some ‘putrescent evidences of mortality’(Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Eng. lett. d. 50, fol.3v). Constructing a particularly gothic scene, Bedford writes of ‘three bodies blue, bloody, & emaciated’ and describes how the fireplace was ‘filled with bones, brains & viscera’(Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Eng. lett. d. 50, fol.3v).

My favourite find from the Southey-Bedford collection was a postscript from an 1806 letter to Southey where Bedford writes ‘Carlisle is at my elbow…& desires to be remembered by you’ (Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Eng. lett. d.50 fol.140r). The close physical intimacy described in the letter is emblematic of the close friendship that these three figures enjoyed long into the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, only a handful of Bedford’s letters from the 1790s have survived, but this research trip offered new insight into Carlisle’s life and allowed me to ascertain the limits of my work.

My time in Oxford further provided a particularly significant opportunity to review correspondence written and signed by Carlisle himself. As little of his personal ephemera has survived, this was the only time that I have had first-hand access to the surgeon’s writing outside of his published medical works.

Correspondence from the Abinger Collection certainly positions the surgeon as a significant presence in the Godwin household, as one letter Carlisle wrote to Godwin in 1804 suggests that he treated the young Mary Godwin and her half-sister Fanny for what was most likely a case of measles. This professional medical letter even offers the personal insight of the surgeon, as he writes of the ‘satisfaction’ he felt in being able to ‘afford the little extent of my professional aid to all my friends, and none more than yourself’, highlighting Godwin and Carlisle’s firm friendship (Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Abinger c.8 fol.72r).

Furthermore, in this letter, Carlisle cryptically writes ‘if at any time my manners should have exhibited peevishness or the attentions seemed irksome, this has been always produced by causes which operate deeply and almost continually upon my private life, and in which my affections, my duties, and my thoughts, are engaged beyond all other things’ (Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Abinger c.8 fol.72r-72v). While Shelton’s claims remain up for debate, my research overall demonstrated that there are certainly mysteries relating to Carlisle’s private life that are yet to be exhumed.

Beth Brigham is an AHRC-funded postgraduate researcher at Northumbria University and an associate of the British Association for Romantic Studies affiliated Gothic Women Project. Her research considers how medical practitioners of the eighteenth and nineteenth century appropriated the gothic genre in order to reshape cultural conceptions of death and the body. More widely, her research explores the role of gothic fiction within the history of medical professionalisation and reform, particularly during the bodysnatching era. Follow her on Twitter at @bethany_brigham, and the Gothic Women Project @gothic_women

Archive Spotlight: Visiting Dove Cottage, Town-End, Grasmere, in December 2021

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The COVID-19 pandemic lead to the temporary closure or restricted access to many of the archives and heritage sites we in the Romanticism community usually frequent for research or entertainment. In early 2022 things are gradually starting to open up again, but still many are understandably hesitant. With this in mind we at BARS have decided to expand the remit of our Archive Spotlight series to include more experiental reviews of heritage institutions, in addition to reports of archival research projects. If you would like to submit a piece for the Archive Spotlight series, or any of the other BARS Blog series’ please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, Jack Orchard, here

We are starting this series with a piece by Dr Lyn Dawes, on a visit to Dove Cottage in late 2019. Dr Lyn Dawes lives in Cockermouth and is an educational consultant in the field of children’s oracy. She writes books and articles for teachers with Oracy Cambridge and is currently interested in Writers’ House Museum reviews and poetry which responds to the environment, collected on her Blog.

Visiting Dove Cottage, Town-End, Grasmere, in December 2021

William Wordsworth 7th April 1770 – 23rd April 1850

When William, Mary and Dorothy Wordsworth lived in Dove Cottage, no road lay between their front door and Grasmere. No hotel and houses blocked the fields down to the fringe of the little lake; there was less of everything, food, warmth, light, possessions, distractions.

Perhaps the lack of things enabled a superfluity of human kindness, care and love in the family living there. Dove Cottage has few rooms, low ceilings, little windows, and it is restored now to the sparse furnishing of its day, everything made of natural materials, wood, iron, brass, linen, wool, hessian. Crockery. There would have been lots of books. The mechanisms of life are exposed here. The cast iron ranges are miraculously really lit, fire acting as direct source of heat for kettles and spits, and warming its adjoining ovens and the room. The kitchen range has a creel strung up in the ceiling, a contraption of iron, wood and rope that serves to hoist clothing, bedlinen and boots up to dry. Like the fells, it makes you look up. It’s hard to supress the modern feeling of seeing things and wanting them; can we get a creel on Amazon? Is this a need or greed? The cottage is truly beautiful but will never sell its special secrets, tantalisingly very apparent. You can ask questions of the attendants, and they explain everything professionally. Wordsworth was famously tranquil here. The atmosphere of the cottage is tranquil now. There is quiet and calm generated by old stone, pleasant voices, the shift of the fire in the grate, a sense that you are somewhere that thought grew – can grow.

Stone, wood, tallow, the little leaded lights of the windows, rag rugs made by prodding scraps of used fabric through hessian. Visiting in December, the house is dim and reading or writing seem like difficult things to do, while at the same time, the homely fires and candles glow in a reassuring way. Maybe there is nothing to do of an evening but sit by the fire, making the hearth a place to reflect and consider. Some simple activities seem possible; knitting, plain sewing, baking, playing instruments, playing with children. There must have been long evenings in the cottage with William, his wife Mary and sister Dorothy and a growing group of children, eating their supper by the firelight, washing the dishes, and waiting for Samuel Taylor Coleridge to come bounding over Dunmail Raise and breeze in talking in his ebullient way. He didn’t need light to walk or to read. He knew his own and Wordsworth’s poems by heart and was never short of things to say.

The entrance to the cottage is via the stable, a deeply symbolic space, chill and windowless, with a charming video to set the context for your visit. Even with ordinary photography the Lake District is enchanting, and this photography is excellent. William and Dorothy go around the real but unbelievable scenery noticing and responding to the life around them, the life of the local flora and fauna and of the people they chance upon.

The house has small, square rooms, that do look big enough to have a table, sofa or a scaled down double bed, until you try to think of the people in there too, the children, the books and voices, the work involved in making and maintaining wood fires, linen sheets, woollen clothing, in cooking food from simple raw ingredients that you must grow and harvest yourself. Fortunately Wordsworth seemed to thrive on oatmeal porridge, though his visitors found it quite an affront. The cottage as it is today offers a set of rooms for the imagination; you can see yourself there as you might have been, before radio, screens, plastics, effective medicines, the A591; the houses in between. Wordsworth, finally receiving his father’s legacy from the Lowther family, was able to set out as a poet, with his lived awareness of homesickness, loss, grief and joy to draw on, and his family and friends to support both his reflections and his ability to record and shape his (and their) thinking into poetry.

Perhaps this was the idyllic time to live in the Lake District. There was the railway which made travel possible (in the 1840’s Wordsworth wrote an impassioned poem objecting to the railway being extended from Kendal to Windermere: ‘Is then no nook of English ground secure / From rash assault?’). Largely horse-drawn transport brought some visitors but few tourists. When William, Mary and Dorothy Wordsworth lived in Dove Cottage, there were abundant local plants that flourished undisturbed and the insect and wild life dependent on them thrived. They created a little rocky garden with behind the house, grew their food and sat for hours in their hut lined with moss with its matchless view. William and Mary had five children, three of whom predeceased them.

The beautiful new building now next to Dove Cottage houses the Museum which is characterised by holding open books, letters and papers in Wordsworth’s hand. Contemporary voices bring the poems to life – the multi-sensory experience of poetry read aloud, coupled with amazing images of the nearby lakes and fells, is very powerful; it’s startling to hear Wordsworth’s ideas. He wrote in a way that made complex thinking immediately accessible, so that confronted with, for example, the Langdale Pikes, the grandeur of the mountains is matched by the words.

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Wordsworth published Lyrical Ballads with Coleridge in 1798 and was made Poet Laureate in 1843. In his years at Dove Cottage, then nearby Allan Bank and Rydal Mount, he wrote the poetry which expresses his ideas and uses his life here to generalise about Life, its essence; he offers us the chance to see that we can understand one another and the world we live in as unified, and that it is necessary that we do so. As engraved around the Lucy statue in Cockermouth, keeping watch outside William and Dorothy’s birthplace:

‘Who feels contempt for any living thing
Hath faculties that he has never used.’

Our entry tickets last a generous year. Thank goodness. There is so much to come back for, trying a quill pen, dressing in the bonnets and cloaks, and if it hadn’t been closing time, borrowing a mouth wateringly attractive sketch book and pencil case to draw some of the things. Most of all, to hear the words again, and to keep on with the task of learning to decipher the handwriting in the little books and cross-written letters.

It took William’s wife Mary (like the more famous Mary Shelley) to sort and publish his work after his death. His masterpiece The Prelude (or ‘Poem to Coleridge’ as he entitled it, making up a little for his cruelty to Coleridge, whose extreme genius coupled with ill health had made him unwontedly addicted to opium, and thus very difficult) – The Prelude distilled what he began to say. A prelude is an introduction. We are all invited to consider and suggest what comes next. The Wordsworth Museum is itself a prelude as powerful as the poem. All around, dark falls on the fells, spreads over the lake, and quietens the village. The beauty of this museum is that it illuminates Wordsworth’s writing in ways that indicate the strength of the past and its value for ourselves here now. Wordsworth, drawing on Dorothy’s journal and Coleridge’s conversation, persistently wrote in the firelight, surely imagining for himself an audience who would value him – us.

Role Advertisement – BARS Postgraduate Representative

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Supporting Postgraduates and Early Career Researchers has always been an important part of the remit of the British Association for Romantic Studies.  We are currently looking for a postgraduate student willing to join the Executive in order to represent our Postgraduate members and students in the field more generally.

Duties and Responsibilities of the Role:

During their term, the Postgraduate Representative will attend at least four Executive meetings and have the opportunity to co-organise special postgraduate events at the BARS International Conferences. They will also work with the current Early Careers Representative to organise the next biennial Early Career and Postgraduate Conference, due to be held in 2023 and announced later this year.

The position offers valuable experience in conference organisation, logistics and communications, and offers excellent networking opportunities. Importantly, it provides the chance to help shape the Romantic Studies Postgraduate community by feeding in to the Executive’s discussions and launching new initiatives to support postgraduates in the field. Recent Postgraduate Representatives were instrumental in the launch of the BARS Digital Events series and they have co-edited a journal edition arising from the 2020 PGR and ECR conference, Romantic Futurities.

The Postgraduate Representative will serve for a term of two years. After this, there is the opportunity to apply to renew their position according to their status of their studies or to apply to serve as Early Career Representative. Please note that BARS is offering a stipend of £750 per annum for this post. Also, any travel expenses incurred will be met by the Association.


We are especially keen to receive applications from students who expect to have postgraduate status until the summer of 2024, although this is not required.  The new representative will officially stand for election at the next International Conference, New Romanticisms, which takes place at the Edge Hill University in July 2022.

How to Apply:

Please send expressions of interest, together with a one-page CV including a brief description of your research, to the Secretary of the Association, Jennifer Orr, copying in the President, Anthony Mandal.  The deadline for expressions of interest is midnight on the 11th April 2022.

Expressions of interest should be one A4 page in length. We encourage applicants to discuss their experience, skills, and passion for the role in their expression of interest, and we would very much like to read of proposals applicants have for the location, topic, and logistics of the next BARS PGR and ECR conference (to be held in 2023).

If you would like to discuss the position further, please feel free to get in touch with:

Colette Davies (current Postgraduates Representative –

Amanda Blake Davis (current Postgraduate Representative) –

Jennifer Orr (BARS Secretary) –

Anthony Mandal (BARS President) –

BARS Digital Events Series Updates

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Radical Connections: A Digital Show and Tell

24 March 2022, 5pm GMT Rescheduled due to UCU Strike Action: now 28 April 2022, 5pm GMT 

This roundtable will attempt to bridge the two fields of revolutionary politics and transnational cultural exchange by looking at the circulation of radical texts in translation, not only across the Channel but also to and from Italian. It will feature exploratory research conducted by the team of the AHRC-funded project ‘Radical Translations: The Transfer of Revolutionary Culture between Britain, France and Italy (1789-1815)’, which has unearthed ca. 800 translations of texts seeking to extend ideas of equality and rights to new publics across linguistic, social, and geographical borders.

Our speakers include Sanja Perovic (King’s College London), Rosa Mucignat (King’s College London), Nigel Ritchie (King’s College London), Will Bowers (Queen Mary University of London).

You can also join us on 21 April for:

Romantic Theatre Studies: state-of-the-field and new ways forward

21 April 2022, 5pm BST

The seminar builds on the research and teaching experience of five speakers operating in four national contexts (Ireland, Italy, UK, USA) to draw a tentative map of the evolving domain of Theatre Studies from a transdisciplinary and multinational perspective. Each panellist will present their present and future engagement with Romantic Theatre Studies by way of their research projects and current scholarship. Among the topics discussed in this seminar: Theatre and Disability, Theatre Econom(etr)ics, Theatre and Celebrity, Theatre and Gender, Opening the Romantic Theatre Canon. Issues of pedagogy and stage revival will be addressed as well, with Romantic Theatre in the classroom, on stage and in the canon. Two speakers will be able to share their experience as major EU-funded awardees, addressing the call of/for public-facing humanities and Theatre Studies.

Our speakers include Sarah Burdett (St Mary’s University), Helen Dallas (University of Oxford), Essaka Joshua (The University of Notre Dame), David O’Shaughnessy (NUI Galway), Francesca Saggini (University of Edinburgh).

BARS Digital Events – New Directions in Romantic Literature and Law Recording

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For anybody who missed our New Directions in Romantic Literature and Law event – you can now catch up on the whole thing on the official BARS Youtube channel. This roundtable charted new directions in Romantic textual engagements with law, justice and juridical discourse. Moving beyond established approaches to theorising the disciplinary relationship between law and literature, the presenters draw on a range of disciplines, including legal and social history, legal theory, media and gender studies, to offer a rich and nuanced account of the complex relationships between literature and law in the Romantic era. Taking the interplay of legal and fictional narratives as a common thread, these papers attend to law as a creative impulse, a subject for interrogation and a regulatory paradigm. Our speakers included Alison Daniell (University of Southampton), Amy Clarke (The Open University), Melissa J. Ganz (Marquette University/Princeton University), Sarah Ailwood (University of Wollongong).
Don’t forget to subscribe to the BARS Official Youtube Channel here and enjoy the full back catalogue of digital events.

Five Questions: Rosalind Powell on Perception and Analogy

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Rosalind Powell is a senior lecturer in eighteenth-century English literature at the University of Bristol. She has research interests in literature and science, religious poetry, botany and classification, psalms and biblical paraphrase, and didactic literature. Her second book, Perception and Analogy: Poetry, Science, and Religion in the Eighteenth Century, which we discuss below, was published by Manchester University Press in November 2021.

1) How did you come to realise you wanted to write a book on perception and analogy?

The project on analogy began as an offshoot from my doctoral work on Christopher Smart, during which I spent a happy term exploring religious analogies in the alphabetical lists in Smart’s Jubilate Agno and Joseph Butler’s Analogy of Religion. Smart’s spectrum of colours – running from white and silver through to ‘pale’ and posited as an alternative to Isaac Newton – signalled that colour and optics could be sites of interest for thinking more about the relationship between religion and science. Coming back to analogy and optics in 2014 for a short-term fellowship at the Clark Library, I began to think about analogy more broadly in terms of its positive, often practical applications within optics and beyond. I also began to engage the discipline of literature and science more generally through my own reading and through the British Society for Literature and Science. So, as well as looking for examples of the resistant modes of creative comparison that gesture towards the spiritual foundations of material phenomena – such as the common trope of gravity as the operation of God’s love and habitual connections between light and knowledge – I also began to track how analogies occur in literary and scientific texts as a productive tool for modelling new ideas about new and unseen phenomena. From this, I began to build up a catalogue of comparisons from a range of sources, including poems, natural philosophy textbooks, and theological works.

2) To what extent do you see poetry and natural philosophy as cohering and cooperating in framing perception?

Perception is everywhere in eighteenth-century topographical poems! These are interactive texts, where the reader is frequently asked to look at landscapes and skyscapes and to focus on particular phenomena. Narrators present scenes at daytime, at nightfall, and even in foggy conditions, all of which affect the perceptual experience. Poets like Elizabeth Carter, Anna Letitia Barbauld, and David Mallet also use imaginative flight to incorporate the solar system into the perceptual field. The same kind of active perception can be found in natural philosophy, in part because of the prevalence of John Locke’s theory of knowledge that brings sensory experience to the forefront. And in popular representations of Newtonianism, acute perception becomes a shorthand for the kind of knowledgeable perception that permitted Newton to establish laws of optics and motion and to communicate those laws to others.

Steven Shapin’s concept of ‘virtual witnessing’ to describe writing that conjures up an experimental scene so that reading itself becomes a validating act of witnessing is attractive to literary historians of science because it provides a bridge between the descriptions of experimental observations in natural philosophical texts and the techniques used to prompt active imaginative engagement in creative and didactic texts. I have adapted Shapin’s virtual witnessing to a concept of ‘seeing scientifically’, which frames topographical poems and the educational dialogues common in this period as training readers’ ability to interpret the material nature of things and to recognise the laws and forces that govern them, both through observation and through tactile engagements with models such as orreries and globes.

I’m also interested in how perception itself is understood and represented across different genres. This interest developed out of a realisation that analogies connecting knowledge to light (the subject of the book’s second chapter) are complicated by attention to individuals’ own sensory experience.  The second half of the book looks at the attempts of natural philosophers, anatomists, and ophthalmologists to model perception through attention to the functions of the sensory organs and the nervous system. Strikingly, poets are also interested in processes of perception: Richard Blackmore, Henry Brooke and others draw on up-to-date natural philosophy and philosophy to describe how the senses and nerves work and to think about the interactions of different senses. Richard Jago even interrupts his topographical descriptions in Edge-Hill (1767) with a sentimentalised story about cataract surgery and recovered sight. These developments also register a shift in the kinds of analogical thinking and tropes of light and knowledge, which are replaced in the works of Edward Young, Thomas Blacklock, and William Blake with models of the restrictive senses and body.

3) Your work recovers the important role of religious thinking in shaping the science of perception. What are the major benefits in restoring this connection to the picture?

My purpose in addressing physico-theological texts, such as William Whiston’s rewriting of the Genesis creation narrative according to Newtonian principles and William Derham’s exploration of design in natural and astronomical landscapes, is to understand how they combine scientific perception with belief, or, to put it another way, how the doctrine of revelation expands to accommodate scientific knowledge. Historians such as Rob Iliffe and Scott Mandelbrote have already done a great deal to re-establish Newton as a natural philosopher embedded in the religious and theological cultures of his day. In addition, Courtney Weiss Smith’s account in Empiricist Devotions (2016) of tropes that traverse the spiritual and the material has influenced my account of scientific seeing through analogy. My book emphasises the role of Christianity in the wider communication and cultural reception of natural philosophy in Britain as well as the productive dialogue that exists between theology and natural philosophy in the period. I also hope to show how literary scholarship can bring this important context into view by paying attention to tropes such as analogies and models. 

Analogies that figure gravity as God’s attractive love or the spectrum as evidence of divine artistry enable writers to explain concepts in familiar ways, to maintain a sense of scale, to incorporate unseen or obscure phenomena into the new scientific schema, and to provide an acceptable theological framework for advancing new scientific theories. I think that attention to this religious dimension helps us to understand the polite reception of natural philosophy more clearly, especially as it helps to counter a straightforward narrative of “Enlightenment” progress vs. Romantic rejection.

Cautions about the limits of human knowledge are seen everywhere – exemplified in Alexander Pope’s famous statement that ‘the proper study of mankind is Man’ (Essay on Man, 2.2). In Chapter 1, this restriction is figured through the contrast between an infinite universe and the limits of the senses and the imagination; by Chapter 5, this restriction is newly understood as vested in the body’s physical design. Finally, I also show how some natural philosophical developments prompt writers throughout the century to produce new and alternative accounts of revealed knowledge, such as John Hutchinson’s Moses Principia, Smart’s Jubilate Agno (which had to be included somewhere!), and the resurrection narratives of Blake, Young, and Jago.

4) The book explores a very wide range of different forms and genres of text. What for you were the greatest revelations as you gathered material for this project? Are there particular texts that you would be keen to commend to a wider audience?

It’s easy to see why very long poems such as Henry Brooke’s Universal Beauty and Richard Blackmore’s Creation are no longer popular – the poems are too bulky to teach and tricky to excerpt and reading them can be an experience that veers from laughter to frustration. But they are fascinating, too, not least for their inclusion of anatomical descriptions and philosophical questions amidst more standard landscape descriptions. It’s this juxtaposition that I have found most absorbing.

My thinking has been influenced by Abigail Williams’s recent work on communal reading, particularly when addressing educational dialogues aimed at bringing natural philosophy to a wider audience. These include John Harris’s The Young Gentleman and Lady’s Philosophy (1759-63) and Francesco Algarotti’s Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophy Explain’d for the Use of the Ladies (translated by Elizabeth Carter in 1739). As well as being more teachable (in excerpts), these dialogues entertainingly demonstrate the two-way exchange of ideas between literature and science in the period: as well as explaining concepts through familiar domestic analogies, models (my favourite is a cut-out-and-build planetarium), and experimental demonstrations that the reader can replicate at home, they also integrate quotations from Akenside, Blackmore and others.

In the course of my research, as the objective model of perception I had encountered in early reading started to be dismantled, I also began to think more about the embodied nature of perception. The critical work of Chris Mounsey (especially his 2019 monograph Sight Correction), David Turner, and others in the field of disability studies has been vital in alerting me to ways of reading variability and sense perception in the period’s literature. The work of the blind poet Thomas Blacklock is certainly worth a read and ‘The Author’s Picture’ is a favourite of mine.

5) What new projects are you currently working on?

Following on from some of the work on science and subjectivity in Perception and Analogy, I’ve been working on a new project that looks at natural philosophers and physicians who experimented upon their own bodies and explores how they describe these experiments (examples include George Cheyne, William Stark, John Floyer and, of course, Humphry Davy). I’m also writing an article on Elizabeth Tollet’s physico-theological rewritings of biblical texts and, separately, reading a lot about hemlock.

The BARS Review, No. 56 (Spring 2021)

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J.M.W. Turner, Florence, from San Miniato; the city viewed from the roof of a house, in the foreground a group of figures, fruit trees at l, and cypresses beyond them, two bridges in the mid-distance. c.1828 watercolour, touched with bodycolour. © 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. 56, Spring 2021). The issue contains a total of ten reviews of recent scholarly work within the field of Romanticism, broadly conceived, covering thirteen works. Five of the reviews compromise a ‘spotlight’ section on ‘Romantic Travels and Trajectories’.

The individual reviews are detailed below; as always, 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. Mark Sandy would also be very happy to hear from people who would like to review for BARS.

The pandemic has slowed review processes and publication recently, but the next two issues should follow this one fairly swiftly to bring us back up to date.

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


1) Ben P. Robertson on Andrew O. Winckles, Eighteenth-Century Women’s Writing and the Methodist Media Revolution: ‘Consider the Lord as Ever Present Reader’. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2019 and Joseph Morrissey, Women’s Domestic Activity in the Romantic-Period Novel, 1770-1820: Dangerous Occupations. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
2) Jonathan Cutmore on Michael E. Robinson, The Queer Bookishness of Romanticism. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2021 and Shayne Husbands, The Early Roxburghe Club 1812-1835: Book Club Pioneers and the Advancement of English Literature. London and New York: Anthem Press, 2017.
3) Nowell Marshall on Dale Townshend and Angela Wright, eds., The Cambridge History of the Gothic: Volume II. Gothic in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2020.
4) Claire Sheridan on Gordon Bannerman, Kenneth Baxter, Daniel Cook and Matthew Jarron, Creatures of Fancy – Mary Shelley in Dundee. Dundee: Abertay Historical Society, 2019.
5) Pauline Hortolland on Michael Demson and Regina Hewitt, eds., Commemorating Peterloo: Violence, Resilience and Claim-making during the Romantic Era. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019.

Romantic Travels and Trajectories

6) Diego Saglia on Agustín Coletes Blanco y Alicia Laspra Rodríguez, Romántico país: poesía inglesa del trienio liberal. Estudio crítico y corpus bilingüe anotado. Salamanca: Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Salamanca, 2019 and Robert Southey, Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal, ed. by Jonathan Gonzalez and Cristina Flores. London and New York: Routledge, 2021.
7) Lucy Cogan on Tilottama Rajan and Joel Faflak, eds., William Blake: Modernity and Disaster. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2020.
8) José Ruiz Mas on Keith Crook, The Imprisoned Traveler: Joseph Forsyth and Napoleon’s Italy. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2019.
9) Jerónimo Ledesma on Monika Coghen and Anna Paluchowska-Messing, eds., Romantic Dialogues and Afterlives. Kraków: Jagiellonian University Press, 2021.
10) Chloe Wilcox on Essaka Joshua, Physical Disability in British Romantic Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020.

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (PhD Studentship)

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Celestial Machines: 

Caroline Herschel, Astronomical Notebooks and the Material Culture of Predigital Communication Systems

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership; PhD Studentship, three years, fees + living expenses

Durham University, Department of Philosophy, UK

Deadline: 1 April 2022

This PhD studentship is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and is a collaboration between Durham University Department of Philosophy and the Library of the Royal Society of London.  The successful candidate will write a PhD thesis that focuses on the scientific manuscripts of Caroline Herschel (1750-1848), one of the first women to publish articles in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society and to be a professional astronomer.  It will investigate how she used astronomical notebooks as paper machines; that is, as interactive information management devices that helped her interface with scientific instruments and various forms of predigital communications media. 

Rather than solely attributing the origins of Herschel’s data management devices to elite, and manifestly male, universities and scholarly societies, the project seeks to highlight how her methods originated from her own ingenuity, her early years as a musician, and her role as manager of the Herschel household.  It also examines the important role played by women in early scientific notekeeping as well as the influence of domestic science upon the rise of realtime technologies. In following this path, the project will extend our understanding of how Herschel played an essential role in developing the data management techniques that were used in the manuscript world of astronomy and celestial mechanics during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The successful candidate will be based Durham University Department of Philosophy and spend time researching in the Library of the Royal Society of London.  Further information about the funds provided by the AHRC CPD PhD award click here.

Applications will start to be reviewed on 1 April 2022.

If you have questions, please contact Prof Matthew Daniel Eddy (

2022 Conference ‘Windows on the Burneys’

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This conference corresponds with the twentieth anniversary of the unveiling of the stained-glass window to commemorate Frances Burney in Westminster Abbey. A President’s Prize of £200 will be awarded by Prof Peter Sabor for a postgraduate/early career paper. You are welcome to join us for one, two or three days, as set out below, or solely for the member events, including Sunday lunch at Alton House Hotel on Sunday 12 June. 

Venues: 11 June at Foundling Museum London  – 12 June at Alton House Hotel, Alton  – 13 June at St Bride Foundation London 

Registration including  lunch:  £130 for all 3 days; £100 for 2 days; £70 for 1 day with a 50% reduction for Students/Precariously employed

Please note: Given these uncertain times registration fees will be refundable until 1 May 2022, upon request, less any administration fees. 

The Call for Papers is now open. Application is by the ‘Paper Proposal’ form attached below and downloadable from our website. Closing date 1 April 2022, Feedback by 14 April 2022.  We accept proposals from Burney Society members and non-members but all speakers and delegates should be members. UK membership subscriptions taken out from now  will be valid until 12 June 2023 to facilitate joining in good time for the conference.

Provisional Schedule

Saturday 11th June at The Foundling Museum, 40 Brunswick Square, London, WC1N 1 AZ

10:00 for 10:15 start: 2022 AGM – which is free to all, including light refreshments. Please pre-book for the AGM on the attached registration form. 

Break with light refreshments and opportunity to visit the museum at no additional charge. 

12:00 – 13:00 (approximate timings) ‘Windows on the Burneys’ Conference opens with Keynote by Burney Society UK President, Prof Peter Sabor.

13:00 – 14:00 Light lunch and further opportunity to explore the museum and Brunswick Square Gardens. 

14:00 – 17:00 Conference panels, including refreshment break.  

Sunday 12th June, Jane Austen Suite, Alton House Hotel, 57 Normandy St., Alton, Hampshire GU34 1DW 

Location: This hotel is within 1 minute walk of Alton mainline station, with a direct train service from London, Waterloo. It also has a large car park which is free to delegates and guests. Dedicated entrance to Jane Austen Suite is to the rear but you will need to log your car Reg number in at reception. Times are approximate as they will be adjusted to fit train times.

10:00 – 10:15 Light refreshments 

10:15 – 13:15 Conference panels.

13:15 – 14:15  Conference lunch – included for delegates. Members who are not attending the conference are very welcome to join us for lunch at a cost of £25, pre-paid via registration.   

14:15 – 15:00 Optional walk along the Alton section of Jane Austen Trail towards Chawton House. We plan to organise lifts to Chawton House, either from the hotel, or from the Chawton side of the A31 pedestrian underpass for those unwilling/unable to walk. 

15:00 Unveiling of Frances Burney bench and reception at Chawton House, to which all members are welcome.

15:30  Pre-booked group ‘self-guided’ house tour. The curator has agreed that in addition to their current exhibition, she will also mount a small display of Burney related materials for us. 

The bench unveiling and reception are free to members but if you wish to tour the house, Chawton House will charge £10 for a day pass or £15 for an annual pass. There are concessionary prices for students, those under 26, Art Pass members and the disabled and their carers. 

Places for both the unveiling and house tour need to be booked via the registration form even if these are the only events you plan to attend, as Chawton House requires numbers in advance. 

Monday 13 June 2022 at St Bride Foundation, Bride Lane, Fleet Street, London EC4Y 8EQ 

St Bride Foundation houses the important catalogue listing with Simon Macdonald used to confirm Elizabeth Meeke as a Burney. 

10:00 – 13:00 Conference Panels and presentation of President’s Award.

13:00 – 14:00 Lunch and depart St Bride Foundation

14:00 – 17:00 Optional visits eg. to St Bride Church

17:00 Evensong in Westminster Abbey followed by laying of wreath at window dedicated to Frances Burney in Poet’s corner. Doors open at 16:30 and we hope to be able to view the plaque dedicated to Dr Charles Burney and the bust of Charles Burney Jr., although this may not be possible.

Places to attend the wreath laying are free to members but may be very limited, depending on the current Covid-19 measures, so please book your place as soon as possible via the registration form. Places will be allocated in order of registration.  We will advise you whether or not you have a place for the wreath laying ceremony when we are notified by Westminster Abbey of the numbers we will be allowed. 

Please note: Westminster Abbey is closed to tours from 15.30 on Monday 13th June, to prepare for Evensong,  but you may wish to book your own tour on another day.  

Post -conference visits 

Wednesday 15th June or Saturday 18th June (tbc) : 14:00 Tour of Hammerwood Park, West Sussex, a Georgian House and Gardens with connections to the Burney family to include their historic music collection, Coade plaques and restored  eighteenth-century gardens. 

16:00 Sonata written by Dr Charles Burney and played by renowned country house music academic Dr Penelope Cave LRAM GRSM ARAM PhD, FISM PhD on a historical instrument in Hammerwood Park music room.

Hammerwood Park in West Sussex, is an eighteenth-century stately home, designed by the architect Benjamin Latrobe, a member of the Burney circle, who later emigrated to North America and designed parts of the White House. Hammerwood Park is the home of a historic instrument collection and the tour of the house and gardens will be followed by a concert, 

Thursday 16 June (tbc) : Weymouth and Dorchester. In 1789 Frances Burney accompanied Queen Charlotte to Weymouth. This visit is celebrated in a stunning extra-illustrated book by Alexander Meyrick Broadley, currently stored in Dorchester, which we hope to include in our visit.   Details will be made available closer to the date. 

We have not included any provision for accommodation in these plans but would be happy to make suggestions upon request. 

Any questions? Please email

We appreciate that it is difficult to fully commit in these uncertain times so we have decided that registration fees paid will be refundable on request, less any  administrative fees, until the 1st May.