This chapter has four sections: 1. General and Prose; 2. The Novel; 3. Poetry; 4. Drama. Section 1 is by Maxine Branagh-Miscampbell; section 2 is by Eliza O’Brien; section 3 is by Matthew Ward and Paul Whickman; section 4 is by Chrisy Dennis.
1. General and Prose
Two of the major themes to come out of the works published in 2014 in the field of Romantic general and prose writing are those of local, national, and global identities, and questions of selfhood. Sarah Houghton-Walker’s Representations of the Gypsy in the Romantic Period looks at the representation of the gypsy figure in the Romantic period in relation to English identities, among other themes. David Higgins’s Romantic Englishness: Local, National and Global Selves, 1780–1850 examines local English identities in relation to broader conceptions of the self in an increasingly connected national or global context. Two texts also make use of the growing field of Atlantic studies to take a fresh look at travel writing, in the case of Elizabeth A. Bohls’s Slavery and the Politics of Place: Representing the Colonial Caribbean 1770–1833 , and the theme of hospitality in Romantic-period texts in the case of Cynthia Schoolar Williams’s Hospitality and the Transatlantic Imagination, 1815–1835 , which was published as part of Palgrave’s The New Urban Atlantic series. I will begin by discussing these texts before moving on to other key publications, which include interesting new insights in the field of women’s reading and writing, the study of emotions and feeling, and historical and political writing.
Sarah Houghton-Walker’s Representations of the Gypsy in the Romantic Period sets out to analyse the ‘phenomenon of the gypsy as it was understood by the Romantic Period’ (p. 2). She argues that the Romantic fascination with the gypsy-figure grows in partnership with other broader cultural and societal changes such as ideas surrounding property, propriety, art, and sympathy. Houghton-Walker situates her subject in relation to the themes of the sublime and English identity. The Romantic-period gypsy, Houghton-Walker argues, is situated between the ‘amusing rogues’ (p. 12) of the eighteenth century and the ‘nostalgic, romanticized gypsy form’ (p. 12) of early Victorian literature. She thus sheds new light on the various cultural anxieties represented by the ways in which the gypsy figure was depicted during the Romantic period. She offers a useful overview of the background of the gypsy in eighteenth-century England, and its literary contexts, before going on to analyse the figure in the work of William Cowper and John Clare, Romantic poetry, and Jane Austen’s Emma , among others, including artists such as Thomas Gainsborough and George Morland. Houghton-Walker situates these close readings in a broader context of literary culture, theories of aestheticism, and questions of class and industry. In so doing, she highlights the importance of the gypsy in the rural Romantic landscape as a significant symbol of Romantic-period anxieties and concerns.
David Higgins’s Romantic Englishness: Local, National and Global Selves, 1780–1850 also deals with identity in English Romantic writing, specifically questioning how localized selfhood is produced in relation to global or national identities and how individuals connect with the national community. Higgins’s analysis focuses on autobiographies (including autobiographical poems, personal essays, and letters) written within or about England during the Romantic period, with chapters devoted to focused case studies on William Cowper, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Samuel Bamford, Thomas Bewick and William Cobbett, John Clare, William Hazlitt, Charles Lamb, and Thomas De Quincey. In his work, Higgins re-examines the connection between the local, the national, and the global, and argues that Romantic localism was outward-looking to the national and the global, and was particularly informed by imperialism and colonialism. Higgins aims to bring together two main strands in Romantic Englishness , ‘an ecocritical account of the relationship between Romantic autobiography and place’ and ‘an argument for the significance of Englishness in Romantic-period writing’ in light of recent critical work on ‘Four Nations Romanticism’ (p. 12). In his introduction, Higgins admits that, despite its broad scope, Romantic Englishness is not definitive in its inclusion of autobiographical writers and focuses on ‘analysing Englishness in relation to masculinity’ (p. 13). Despite this, the inclusion of labouring-class narratives by Samuel Bamford, Thomas Bewick, and William Cobbett in conjunction with the other writers offers a wide-ranging and fascinating insight into the construction of ‘Englishness’, and its relationship to place, in Romantic-period autobiography.
Another key publication in 2014 which deals with theories of place and space in relation to Romantic-period writing, focusing specifically on colonial travel and slave narratives, is Elizabeth A. Bohls’s Slavery and the Politics of Place: Representing the Colonial Caribbean 1770–1833 . Bohls argues that the popularity of travel writing during the Romantic period cannot be understood outside the context of colonial expansion. Bohls deals with a variety of writing by planters, scientists, soldiers, politicians, and journalists, and a particular strength of the project is her inclusion of women’s narratives in relation to theories of feminist geographies and concepts of home and domestic space. Bohls’s analysis does not just focus on the colonial spaces of the Caribbean but also draws on recent scholarship in Atlantic studies to examine the place of Romantic-period writing which covers the spaces between sites of slavery and the imperial centre.
Cynthia Schoolar Williams’s Hospitality and the Transatlantic Imagination, 1815–1835 also draws on recent scholarship in Atlantic studies to examine the discourse of hospitality in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars. Schoolar Williams argues that ‘hospitality is an experience and a discourse of paradox. Scenes of welcome evoke, suspend, and defy many of our most powerful binaries’ (p. 2). This was particularly important in the ‘post-Waterloo’ period when questions surrounding national identity were pertinent (p. 177). Each writer Schoolar Williams deals with employs the discourse of hospitality to ‘ask a series of questions about displacement and the nation’ (p. 3) in a transatlantic, or Anglo-American, context. The book is structured into chapters each dealing with a specific writer: Mary Shelley, James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, and Felicia Hemans. The grouping of this particular set of writers enables Schoolar Williams to draw conclusions surrounding ‘the competing imperatives of universal rights, local affiliation, and the global reach of empire’ (p. 177).
Brief mention should also be made of Jeffrey N. Cox’s Romanticism in the Shadow of War: Literary Culture in the Napoleonic War Years , reviewed more fully in Section 3 below. Cox argues for viewing the writing of key Romantic writers not only in the context of the Napoleonic Wars but also in the context of the smaller battles, or ‘struggles at the periphery’ such as the Russo-Ottoman War, the War of 1812 in North America, and the Latin American Wars of Independence (p. 2). Although his main focus is Romantic poetry and therefore beyond the scope of this section, this text is useful in considering general and prose writing of the Romantic period in light of the various ‘moments of expectation turned to disappointment’ (p. 23).
Three key publications in the field of women readers and writers were published in 2014. Richard De Ritter’s Imagining Women Readers, 1789–1820: Well-Regulated Minds is a fascinating addition to the field of the history of reading. De Ritter explores the place of female readers in British culture between 1789 and 1820. Focusing on fictional and idealized representations of readers and evidence of ‘actual’ reading practices in letters and diaries, this book offers an interesting new insight into the cultural significance of women’s reading in the Romantic period, and De Ritter argues that the texts examined ‘imagine an alternative identity for novel reading women’ (p. 12). Drawing upon recent criticism in the history of reading, and examining work by Hannah More, Mary Hays, Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane West, Maria Edgeworth, and Jane Austen, De Ritter argues that reading was depicted as a form of ‘symbolic labour’ (p. 11), rather than a dangerous, ‘pernicious’ (p. 3), or unproductive activity. De Ritter concludes that ‘constructions of women readers are . . . shaped by the debates impinging upon British public life’ (p. 199) while simultaneously resisting ‘stabilising categorisations’ (p. 200).
Amy Culley’s British Women’s Life Writing, 1760–1840: Friendship, Community and Collaboration focuses on three main groups of female autobiographers: early Methodist women, late eighteenth-century and Regency courtesans, and British women in Paris during the French Revolution. This structure allows Culley to examine the social networks, exchanges, and friendships between various women during the Romantic period and challenges the traditional view of life-writing as a solitary, private practice. The combination of well-known writers such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Helen Maria Williams, and Mary Robinson, and the introduction of less well-known female contributors to late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century life-writing is a particular strength of this book and allows the analysis to move beyond the canon of published autobiographies. Culley also examines a wide range of ‘women’s self-narration’, including ‘spiritual autobiographies, family memoirs, scandalous memoirs, diaries, journals, biographies, correspondence, travelogues, romans à clef , and eye-witness accounts in both print and manuscript sources’ (p. 2). This book therefore highlights that life-writing, in all its various forms, played an important role in the female literary culture of the Romantic period and, as Culley argues, ‘provides a fuller history of women’s literary experiences in the period’ (p. 204).
Jeffrey W. Barbeau’s Sara Coleridge: Her Life and Thought sheds light on the biographical and intellectual history of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s only daughter. The majority of her writing remained unpublished, with the exception of a small collection of children’s poetry, a fairy tale, and translations of travel literature. Barbeau’s book examines the corpus of Sara Coleridge’s unpublished letters and manuscript material, dividing these thematically into writings on beauty, education, dreams, criticism, authority, reason, regeneration, community, and death. Barbeau argues that it was Sara’s editing of her father’s work which helped her develop ‘a thoroughly Coleridgean frame of mind’ (p. x). Her writing, he goes on to argue, ‘reveals one of the most fascinating and neglected women in nineteenth-century literature, theology, and history’ (p. xiv). It is very interesting to see how Sara Coleridge framed and preserved her father’s ideas for the Victorian period, while gaining an insight into her as a writer in her own right, and the thematic structure of the book is particularly useful for this.
Three articles printed in Romanticism also pay attention to women’s writing in the shape of pamphlets by Charlotte Smith and Hannah More. Two articles which deal with Smith’s writings were published in 2014: Claire Knowles’s ‘Hazarding the Press: Charlotte Smith, The Morning Post and the Perils of Literary Celebrity’ ( Romanticism 20:i 30–42) was printed in Romanticism ’s special issue on celebrity culture, while Carmel Murphy’s ‘Jacobin History: Charlotte Smith’s Old Manor House and the French Revolution Debate’ ( Romanticism 20:iii 271–81) was printed later in the year in ‘Unusual Suspects’. Carmel Murphy argues that Old Manor House makes use of the tradition of historical writing from the 1770s, which uses history to comment on contemporary political debates. However, she goes on to say that Smith’s intentions go beyond this. Murphy argues that Smith’s Old Manor House is an ‘important contribution to the developing French Revolution dialogue’ (p. 281). Claire Knowles examines the celebrity culture which grew around female writers as the popular press grew. She examines six poems published by and about Charlotte Smith in The Morning Post in order to analyse the way in which the authorial identity which Smith constructs for herself is challenged by the celebrity image created by the popular press. Also appearing in the special issue on celebrity culture was Cato Marks’s ‘ “Let Poor Volk Pass”: Dialect and Writing the South-West Poor out of Metropolitan Political Life in Hannah More’s Village Poetics ’ ( Romanticism 20:i 43–59). This article focuses on More’s use of language in Village Poetics in order to challenge her ‘positive contribution to female and labouring-class education’ (p. 56). Marks argues that ‘through this depiction of the South-West poor, Hannah More attempts to exclude them, and other marginalized peoples she identifies with them, from polite and political debate’ (p. 57).
Halina Adams also addresses a woman writer, Helen Maria Williams, and her approach to the French Revolution in Letters Written in France . In ‘Imagining the Nation: Transforming the Bastille in Williams’s Letters Written in France (1790)’ ( ERR 25:vi 723–41), Adams argues that Williams makes use of ‘architectural imagination’ to transform the Bastille into ‘the ideal site for Williams to interrogate the idea of the nation and nationalism’ (p. 723). Her close reading of various passages from the letters reveals ‘the enthusiasm and fervor of those heady days’ of the Fête de la Fédération (pp. 738–9) . Williams instructs her readers on how to read her books, stating that ‘if the reader will participate in the creation of the narrative, then her text will be successful’ (quoted p. 738), and so Adams argues that ‘the real subversive danger of the architectural imagination in Letters is that the audience may construct a building, or a nation, one entirely new and completely derived from their own plans’ (p. 738).
Randall Sessler’s ‘Recasting the Revolution: The Media Debate between Edmund Burke, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Paine’ ( ERR 25:v 611–26) argues that the debate which emerged from Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France  can be read as an early form of media debate. Sessler argues that approaching the responses of Burke, Wollstonecraft, and Paine to the French Revolution using a media theory, rather than by only addressing their genre or textuality, enables us to come to different conclusions about the debate (p. 611). Sessler therefore attempts to challenge the idea that the exchange between Burke, Wollstonecraft, and Paine was ‘a “struggle to control” the revolution’s “textual representation” ’ by ‘maintaining the distinction between genre and media’ in order to reveal ‘new approaches [to] and readings [of]’ the debate (pp. 624–5).
Catherine Packham also addresses Wollstonecraft’s response to the French Revolution but focuses on her Historical and Moral View of the French Revolution . In ‘ “The Common Grievance of the Revolution”: Bread, the Grain Trade, and Political Economy in Wollstonecraft’s View of the French Revolution ’ ( ERR 25:vi 705–22), Packham argues that Wollstonecraft’s conclusion in View ‘indicates the difficulties of integrating economic improvement, as envisaged by Smithian political economy, into philosophical history’s narrative of human progress’ (p. 718). She states that Wollstonecraft foregrounds the bread shortages and the liberation of the grain trade in her portrayal of the march on Versailles in October 1789 while making sure not to ‘write a history of revolution founded on the purely economic cause of bead shortages’ in order to provide a ‘dual representation of the mob as both object of improvement and agents of it’ (p. 719).
Remaining in the field of women writers, two articles were also published on Dorothy Wordsworth’s writing in 2014, in European Romantic Review and Studies in Romanticism. Mary Ellen Bellanca’s ‘After-Life-Writing: Dorothy Wordsworth’s Journals in the Memoirs of William Wordsworth ’ ( ERR 25:ii 201–18) examines the printing and reception of Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal in Memoirs of William Wordsworth . Bellanca aims to ‘dispel any lingering impression that her [Dorothy Wordsworth’s] prose remained unpublished in her lifetime (she lived until 1855)’ (p. 201) with her examination of the ten printed pages of Dorothy’s Grasmere journal and forty-five pages from Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland, 1803 , both of which were included in the Memoirs. Through this it is possible to ‘examine what her early readers glimpsed of Dorothy Wordsworth’s life writing’ and therefore ‘recalibrate our narratives of her presence in literary history’ (p. 215). Bellanca argues that ‘the Memoirs interposes her [Dorothy’s] voice into its telling of William’s life, so that she becomes a distinct autobiographical subject, an agent and a partner as well as witness and source’ (p. 202) and furthermore brings a ‘more palpable sense of Dorothy Wordsworth as a person, one with an astute, engaged consciousness and a voice’ (p. 203). It is the late nineteenth-century editors’ dismissal of the importance of the extracts contained in the Memoirs which, Bellanca argues, ‘obscured the Memoirs ’ exposition of Dorothy Wordsworth’s prose and its readership in her life’ (p. 202).
Rachel Feder’s ‘The Experimental Dorothy Wordsworth’ ( SiR 53:iv 541–59) examines ‘Dorothy Wordsworth’s commonplace chapbook, a circumscribed collection of poetic “consolations” that occurs within Wordsworth’s commonplace book’ (p. 542). Feder argues that ‘Dorothy Wordsworth’s archive survives as a special case of radicalized mixed genres, entextualized or captured in overlapping forms and modes’ (p. 543). Her aim in examining this writing is ‘to facilitate a reading of Dorothy Wordsworth as an experimental author writing in the literal and figurative margins of a literary history that she is working to construct, and to open up a conversation about how reading the experimental Dorothy Wordsworth might enrich our understanding of the Romantic inheritance’ (p. 542).
Two texts which serve to expand our understanding of historical writing in the Romantic period significantly are Ben Dew and Fiona Price’s Historical Writing in Britain, 1688–1830: Visions of History and Porscha Fermanis and John Regan’s Rethinking British Romantic History, 1770–1845. Dew and Price’s volume covers the long eighteenth century but contains a number of chapters which are relevant to Romantic studies. It deals with the establishment of ‘history’ as a genre throughout the long eighteenth century, with historians of the period being ‘a rather motley collection of philosophers, journalists, historical pamphleteers, churchmen and academics who, with the possible exception of Edward Gibbon, tended to produce works of history while performing other literary and non-literary functions’ (p. 2). In their introduction, Dew and Price argue that the end of the eighteenth century saw a shift towards a ‘broader conception of history’ and ‘the emergence of a range of innovative forms of more specialist writing, as sizeable literatures developed around the history of commerce, literature, art, music, natural history, and various scientific disciplines’ (p. 6). Historical writing, they argue, is also an important player in the development of other genres. This volume brings together various essays which provide case studies to show how different types of historical writing changed and adapted across the period in line with societal changes. Of particular interest to Romanticists is Dafydd Moore’s chapter, ‘Caledonian Plagiary: The Role and Meaning of Ireland in the Poems of Ossian ’, in which he argues that his reading of Ossian can ‘provide a compelling example of recent thinking about the relationship between Enlightenment and Romanticism in Scotland’ (p. 104). Sanja Perovic’s ‘Lyricist in Britain; Empiricist in France: Volney’s Divided Legacy’ provides an interesting insight into the different receptions of Constantin-François Volney’s work in Britain and France in the wake of the French Revolution. Fiona Price’s chapter, ‘Making History: Social Unrest, Work and the Post-French Revolution Historical Novel’, argues that the historical novels of the French Revolution, pre- Waverley , ‘have a much more immediate sense of the threat of “convulsive metamorphosis” ’ (p. 158).
Fermanis and Regan’s Rethinking British Romantic History, 1770–1845 also offers a selection of essays dealing with various types of historical writing in the Romantic period. Divided into sections dealing with ‘History, Rhetoric, Genre’, ‘Historical Space and Time’, and ‘Aesthetics of History’, this volume aims to ‘rethink three longstanding “narratives” about the nature of British historical writing in its wider European and imperial context from 1770 to 1845’, namely, ‘the widely held belief that the relationship between history and literature was open and porous’, ‘the exclusion of literary texts from various accounts of the rise of historicism and the birth of the modern historical method’, and ‘the widespread characterization of Romantic history as a subjective and emotionally charged reaction to philosophic history and other Enlightenment modes of representing the past’ (p. 7). Its selection of essays is successful in complicating these received narratives about historical writing and its crossover into the fiction and poetry of the period.
Also of interest is Sean Franzel’s essay, ‘Romantic Encyclopedics and the Lecture Form: Schelling, A.W. Schlegel, A. von Humboldt’ ( ERR 25:iii 347–56). Franzel examines the proliferation of Romantic-era lectures which aimed to be encyclopedic in their scope and subject matter. Franzel’s article analyses Friedrich Schelling’s 1799 lectures, Method of Academic Study , August Wilhelm Schlegel’s Berlin lectures, The Encyclopedia of the Sciences , and Alexander von Humboldt’s 1827/28 Kosmos lectures. In so doing, he sheds light on the ‘concrete institutional, medial, and formal features of lecturing, including the sequential unfolding of lecture series; the differentiation between disjointed, “historical” information and embodied “living” knowledge; the scene of pedagogical address and the tendency to address a general or so-called “popular” audience; and, in the German case, the underpinnings of scholarly lecturing in the conceptual apparatus of transcendental idealism’ (p. 348). Franzel argues that, read ‘against the backdrop of earlier projects of Romantic encyclopedics, the lecture comes into view as form that opens a space for experimentation with a de-differential discourse, a discourse that can link different sciences and fields of inquiry to each other’ (p. 354).
Two texts which deal with the theme of emotions or feeling in the Romantic period in an innovative way are Joel Faflak and Richard C. Sha’s edited volume, Romanticism and the Emotions , and Jeremy Davies’s Bodily Pain in Romantic Literature . Romanticism and the Emotions brings together several essays which offer a fascinating insight into the nature of emotion in Romantic literary culture. Dealing not only with the emotions typically associated with the Romantic period, such as trauma and melancholy, but also with ‘happiness, humiliation, and various states of peaceful apatheia or affectlessness’, the essays in this collection offer scope for new directions in the study of Romantic emotion (p. 4). The chapters provide wide-ranging new insights into how various writers engaged with the emotions, including Adam Smith, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley, Jane Austen, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Immanuel Kant, and Thomas De Quincey.
Davies’s Bodily Pain in Romantic Literature also offers an interesting new argument related to the nature of feeling in Romantic literature. His book discusses four Romantic writers; Jeremy Bentham, the Marquis de Sade, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Each chapter of Davies’s book is devoted to one of these writers, who are dealt with in a roughly chronological order, with the study ending with the development of surgical anaesthesia in 1846, the absence of which, Davies argues, is significant in Romantic literary depictions of pain ‘as a feeling of being compelled to notice the body’s very capacity for feeling’ (p. xi). Davies argues that pain should be thought of ‘as a reflexive or ironic phenomenon’ and that it is ‘a demand to attend to the vital sense of sensing that is otherwise diffusely present in the background of experience’ (p. 168). The four readings in this volume therefore serve to highlight the significance of literary representations of bodily pain in a pre-anaesthetic era, in relation to broader Romantic concern with ‘the full extent of one’s powers of feeling’ (p. 169).
The remaining texts reviewed in this section are all related to the works of specific political writers: William Cobbett, William Godwin, and William Hazlitt. The second volume of Godwin’s letters was released in 2014, and is to be followed by two further volumes. Following on from the first volume, published in 2011 by Oxford University Press, the collection publishes, for the first time, all of Godwin’s letters. Edited by Pamela Clemit, it focuses on the years 1798 to 1805 and ‘represent[s] a distinct phase in Godwin’s life and career’ (p. 1). Clemit argues that the letters in this volume show Godwin ‘adapting to changes in public mood, seeking compromise in his philosophical commitments, rebuilding his social circles, and remaking himself as the author of novels, plays, biographies, and children’s books’ (p. 1). The letters in this volume include an eyewitness account of the condition of Ireland on the eve of the 1800 Act of Union and Godwin’s search for a new companion in the wake of the death of Mary Wollstonecraft. The letters also provide further insight into Godwin’s publishing and social networks at the time.
Stephen Burley’s Hazlitt the Dissenter: Religion, Philosophy, and Politics, 1766–1816 is the first book-length account of Hazlitt’s early literary career, and life as a dissenter. Burley aims to provide a fresh reading of Hazlitt’s early writings and situates these within the context of eighteenth-century, rather than nineteenth-century, literature. By focusing on Hazlitt’s early literary career, Burley hopes to suggest alternative readings of Hazlitt’s ‘more famous body of work as an essayist and critic in the post-Napoleonic era’ (p. 8). The book is structured chronologically and draws on previously unattributed materials. Burley’s focus on religion in Hazlitt’s writings is a particular strength of the book, and his interdisciplinary approach makes this volume an important contribution, not only to literary studies, but also to the understanding of the ‘religious and cultural milieu that frames Hazlitt’s writing’ (p. 166). Also on Hazlitt, Amanda Louise Johnson’s ‘William Hazlitt, Liber Amoris , and the Imagination’ ( ERR 25:vi 743–56) examines Hazlitt’s Liber Amoris , and his erotic memoir and polemic against royalism entitled ‘On the Spirit of Monarchy’. Johnson argues that these two texts demonstrate Hazlitt’s ‘theory of the imagination’ (p. 743): ‘that the press offers the ideas that mediate the relationship between a subject’s private interest and a “common sympathy”, both of which exist in the imagination’ (p. 753).
James Grande’s William Cobbett, the Press and Rural England: Radicalism and the Fourth Estate, 1792–1835 offers a re-examination of the work of William Cobbett. Grande aims to ‘read Cobbett’s career as a serious and sustained attempt to think through a set of ideas that had been crystallized in the pamphlet wars of the 1790s’ (p. 17). He argues that Cobbett, ‘having been the champion of a bellicose, anti-French Britishness’, discovers ‘an oppositional identity rooted in rural England’ (p. 17). The book covers Cobbett’s published and unpublished writings to provide a thorough overview of his work and why he came to represent, to Hazlitt, ‘a kind of fourth estate in the politics of the country’ (p. 4).
The key themes and approaches to come out of 2014 criticism in the field of Romantic general and prose writings are largely concerned with different notions of identity: the local, the national, and the global. There is also an increased focus on the political writings of female writers during the pamphlet wars of the 1790s, and a number of publications have made use of new material from canonical writers, and material from less well-known writers, to provide new perspectives on and new directions in political, historical, travel, and life writing, as well as in the broad field of women’s writing.
2. The Novel
In Search of Jane Austen: The Language of the Letters , by Ingrid Tieken-Boon Van Ostade, offers a sociolinguistic study of Austen’s grammar, vocabulary, and spelling, examining Austen’s letters in careful detail. The result is a thorough study not only of Austen’s language as letter-writer as opposed to novelist, though there is also a section on Austen’s ‘Authorial Identity’ (pp. 208–24), but of the formulae of letter-writing in Austen’s time, the postal system, Austen’s correspondents, and the corpus of letters. As Tieken-Boon Van Ostade’s study progresses, the importance of her central claim becomes more apparent as an absence in Austen studies to date emerges: why, when Austen is the subject of so much criticism, parody, and inspiration, has her epistolary language gone almost undiscussed? The author reaches some interesting conclusions about the essentially conservative nature of Austen’s language, her brief uses of dialect, and contemporary grammatical correctness. She also argues for the revision of dates for certain undated letters, as well as the dating of The Watsons manuscript, based on linguistic evidence rather than anecdote. Though this is a study in sociolinguistics, it contains plenty of information to attract the literary critic.
All varieties of the wonderful online life of Jane Austen are presented in Kylie Mirmohamadi’s concise Palgrave Pivot guide to The Digital Afterlives of Jane Austen: Janeites at the Keyboard , in which the author sets out not only to trace the proliferation of Austen fans online, but to examine what it is they write, reading it as literary endeavour in its own right while also regarding it as belonging to the wider tradition of publishing Austen’s works, reading, and responding to them critically. One of the subjects Mirmohamadi covers is a Canadian online literary community, Wattpad, and its array of Austen-themed fan fiction. Her study of this site shows that such is the familiarity of Austen’s work as its own self-referential system in the world of fan fiction that new Austen stories can be produced by readers who have scarcely encountered the original Austen, yet whose works perfectly navigate their online world, revealing the boundless creative potential represented by the idea of Austen online, however far from the novels that idea may have travelled.
In The Hidden Jane Austen , John Wiltshire offers a counterpoint to the current scholarship on celebrity, cults, and fan fiction in his starting point of rereading. He quotes Richard Cronin and Dorothy McMillan’s perceptive argument  about the deliberate crafting of Emma as a novel aiming to ‘ “sacrifice readability” to re-readability’ (p. 3), in order to further Austen’s claims to be considered a serious writer, rather than the generator of disposable trash. Wiltshire’s fascination with the rereadability of Austen’s novels is the motivation for his study of the ‘hidden’ Austen, that is, the ‘facets of her writing that might elude the attention of the first-time reader’ (p. 4). While Wiltshire is interested in themes of secrecy, silence, and evasion within the novels, he is also an astute reader of Austen’s plotting in which the significance of the hidden (a smile, a fear, a lie) comes to be revealed on the first or repeated reading of the novel. His seven chapters address each of Austen’s completed novels in turn ( Mansfield Park gets two chapters) and analyse memory, religion, intimate history, eavesdropping, and how to create a secret where there is none, in Northanger Abbey. This study is elegantly written and presents nuanced and persuasive readings of the novels. It exhibits its own readability and rereadability as well as those of Austen.
An excellent new resource is offered in Approaches to Teaching Austen’s Mansfield Park , edited by Marcia McClintock Folsom and John Wiltshire. Part of the MLA’s Approaches to Teaching World Literature series, this is an easy-to-use and thorough teaching aid whose contributors are engagingly subjective and self-reflective in places, are always student-focused, and offer an accessible but scrupulous account of the different aspects of the novel. The study is divided into two parts, ‘Materials’ and ‘Approaches’. Part I contains useful information about the different editions of Mansfield Park from its publication date to the present, its critical reception, an account of the three film versions of the novel, and a list of current digital resources, including specialist Austen websites, free sites, and subscription databases. Part II, ‘Approaches’, begins with an introduction by the editors (pp. 21–49), and its subheadings give a clear indication of its utility: the historical and naval context, religion, the slave trade, introspection, Fanny Price, first-cousin marriage, and the final chapter. The rest of the book consists of four sections. ‘Classroom Strategies and Approaches’ (pp. 50–104) covers gift theory, the textual scholarship, unexpected locations for the expression of desire, the plausibility of the ending as a happy one, and a discussion (including the rules) of the card game Speculation, which features in the novel when Sir Thomas recommends it as a suitable choice for the family’s evening entertainment. Family forms the focus of the second section, ‘Thinking about Fanny Price and Families’ (pp. 105–42), where sibling relations, a close reading of Fanny’s character, Austen’s development of interiority from Pride and Prejudice to Mansfield Park , and the opacity of the Crawfords are discussed. The third section, ‘Teaching about Mansfield Park in Literary History and Context’ (pp. 143–207), covers tragedy, morality, landscape, and a group of essays on readers, reading, and drama. In ‘Understanding Mansfield Park through the Rehearsals for Lovers’ Vows ’ (pp. 155–63), by Penny Gay, we encounter not only Inchbald’s play but the descriptions and responses of students who performed it while studying the novel; their awareness of character parallels between Mansfield Park and the play, between movement and sociability, and language and desire in Austen’s novel is heightened by an understanding of the crucial theatricals. The final section, ‘Teaching Mansfield Park in the Broader Postcolonial Context’ (pp. 208–32), concludes with geography, nationalism and imperialism, and rights. These three essays, by Lynn Voskuil, Lisa Masker, and Paula Loscocco respectively, provide invaluable explanations and practical examples of interpreting the novel in the light of Said’s argument about it in Culture and Imperialism , which allows the novel to keep its central focus in the classroom discussion by moving beyond the conversation about Antigua between Fanny and Sir Thomas in order to apply Said’s views more perceptively and rewardingly.
Marie N. Sørbø’s new study Irony and Idyll: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park on Screen provides a very detailed account of each novel and its adaptations. The two sections, each on one novel, each begin with an analysis of the novel in question. Pride and Prejudice receives two chapters, and ‘Austen’s Ironic Voice’ (pp. 15–46) sets up an important aspect of Sørbø’s later argument relating to the adaptations, in relation to the difficulty of translating Austen’s irony on screen. The second chapter is similarly attentive to irony, this time in relation to courtship (pp. 47–78), with four chapters following covering the 1940 Hollywood film, the 1980 BBC TV version, the 1995 BBC TV version, and the 2005 British film, in which the effect of the revision or replacement of Austen’s dialogue is considered, from increasing the sentiment, to decreasing the satire, to suggesting an approval of patriarchal culture. The section on Mansfield Park is similarly structured, with two chapters on the novel and four on screen versions. The novel chapters address class and patriarchy, and marriage as speculation (again returning to Sørbø’s central interest in irony, here opposed to romance). The four adaptations in question are the 1983 BBC TV series, the 1999 film directed by Patricia Rozema, to which two chapters are given (the most interesting adaptation here in terms of characterization, framing, and narration, and in many ways the version most attuned to the irony in its source-text, as Sørbø argues), and the 2007 ITV film. In a crowded field on Austen adaptation, Sørbø’s book provides a clear and coherent path with some persuasive arguments.
Deirdre Le Faye’s handsome book, Jane Austen’s Country Life: Uncovering the Rural Backdrop to Her Life, Her Letters and Her Novels , is packed with colourful nineteenth-century illustrations of rural activities, landscape, and livestock and takes the reader on a pleasant tour through Austen’s Hampshire countryside, situating the routine of life in Steventon rectory, as well as at Godmersham and Chawton, within details of a typical rural existence not only for the Austen family but for labourers and landowners too.
Joel Faflak argues that Austen picks up on the early stirrings of a now-dominant cultural trope of happiness as a timeless, affective right, in his analysis of feeling in Persuasion and other novels, in ‘Jane Austen and the Persuasion of Happiness’ (in Faflak and Sha, eds., pp. 98–123; reviewed fully above). In ‘ Emma ’s Depression’ ( SiR 51 3–29), Marshall Brown presents a wide-ranging exploration of the conditions of, and possibilities for, happiness in Highbury. Margaret Russett offers a subtle exploration of the media of communication (sentiments, speech, noise, bodies, poetry) in ‘ Persuasion , Mediation’ ( SiR 51 414–77).
The Austen novel explored by Persuasions this year is Mansfield Park , following on from the Jane Austen Society of North America’s AGM title of ‘Contexts, Conventions, and Controversies’ ( Persuasions 36). The volume contains the usual variety of excellent responses to, and interrogations and re-evaluations of, Austen’s work, with notable papers on adoption, marriage, noise, morality, editing, habit, and family; its sister journal, Persuasions On-Line contains a valuable series of articles on teaching practices for Austen, Gothic parody, and Jane West’s novels as a contrast to Austen’s ( Persuasions On-Line 35). The contexts for engagement with Austen relate to street culture, digitization, and the Austen craze, and the volume also contains a most helpful appendix consisting of the syllabi of the contributors ensuring their good practices can be incorporated and extended.
Elsewhere, Matthew P.M. Kerr explores how new beginnings are figured as repetitions or returns in ‘A “First Return to the Sea” in Persuasion ’ ( EIC 64 180–201). Shawn Normandin asserts the narratological importance of letters in Austen’s completed novels on their own terms, rather than viewing them as having an importance solely in the early epistolary drafts of Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park , in ‘Jane Austen’s Epistolarity’ ( ANQ 27 158–65). Kathleen E. Urda provides a thoughtful exploration of the effects which the lack of representation of the much-discussed theatricals have upon interiorization and identity in ‘Why the Show Must Not Go On: “Real Character” and the Absence of Theatrical Performances in Mansfield Park ’ ( ECF 26 281–302). J.A. Downie turns to time in ‘The Chronology of Mansfield Park ’ ( MP 112 327–34). Eric C. Walker analyses Persuasion and Emma in screen adaptations, in line with the philosophy of Stanley Cavell in relation to marriage and adoption, in a substantial essay, ‘Austen and Cavell’ ( RCPS  36 paras.) Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade examines the familial community surrounding Austen as evinced in her will, in ‘ “To My Dearest Sister Cassandra”: An Analysis of Jane Austen’s Will’ ( ES 95 322–41). Amy Baker attends to character representation in grammatical forms in ‘Caught in the Act of Greatness: Jane Austen’s Characterization of Elizabeth and Darcy by Sentence Structure in Pride and Prejudice ’ ( Expl 72 169–78). Valerie Wainwright explores the tests Austen sets for a range of heroines, including Emma Woodhouse, Elinor Dashwood, Elizabeth Bennet, and Fanny Price, illuminated by recent personality theory, in ‘Jane Austen’s Challenges, or the Powers of Character and the Understanding’ ( P&L 38 58–73). In ‘What Never Happened: Social Amnesia in Sense and Sensibility ’ ( SEL 54 773–91) James O’ Rourke offers a detailed rethinking of the narrative structure and focalization techniques employed in the novel which both affirm and destabilize Elinor’s perspective. Rebecca Richardson examines the confessional scenes in Austen’s novel and locates them in an important formal developmental stage in Austen’s writing in ‘Dramatizing Intimacy: Confessions and Free Indirect Discourse in Sense and Sensibility ’ ( ELH 81 225–44). In ‘Feeling Too Much: The Swoon and the (In)Sensible Woman’ ( WW 21 575–91) Naomi Booth tracks the development of the feminine, erotic spectacle of the swooning subject in Sense and Sensibility  from Mackenzie’s The Man of Feeling .
Susan Spencer provides a good account of the new online resource co-devised by Austen scholar Janine Barchas at http:www.whatjanesaw.org , which seeks to re-create an 1813 exhibition of the paintings of Sir Joshua Reynolds visited by Austen, and also provides other online resources, in ‘What Jane Saw’ ( ECL 38 93–101). In ‘Jane Austen and “Banal Shakespeare” ’ ( ECF 27 105–25) Megan Taylor argues that Austen’s few direct quotations from Shakespeare (as opposed to her frequent allusions to and assimilations of his work) in the context of her own works manage to re-energize the recognizable and even the banal. Alessa Johns examines Austen’s moral and philosophical debt to a previous woman of letters in ‘Jane Austen the Stoic: Channeling Elizabeth Carter and the Bluestocking Ethos’ ( WW 21 444–63). Nick Bujak considers the shared history of narrative development in fiction and poetry in ‘Form and Generic Interrelation in the Romantic Period: Walter Scott’s Poetic Influence on Jane Austen’ ( Narrative 22 45–67).
Olga Volkova rethinks the influence of Scott’s novels upon Russian fiction in relation to history, geography, and nation, and traces Gogol’s response to Scott, in ‘Historicity in The Bride of Lammermoor and Dead Souls ’ ( SiR 51 149–70). In a welcome analysis of Scott’s relatively under-discussed novel of 1828, Katherine Inglis explores the contemporary fascination with blood transfusion in a variety of the novel’s reanimation scenes in ‘Blood and the Revenant in Walter Scott’s The Fair Maid of Perth ’ (in Coyer and Shuttleton, eds., Scottish Medicine and Literary Culture, 1726–1832 , pp. 196–215). In an exploration of sentiment, sociability, and the threat posed by commercial self-interest to the bonds of community, Natasha Tessone examines Scott’s critique of community models past and present in ‘Tending to the (National) Household: Walter Scott’s The Antiquary and “That Happy Commerce” of the Enlightenment’ ( ECF 26 261–80). Timothy Campbell offers a thoughtful consideration of the ways in which Scott refuses to allow the past to return (in this instance, the old Scottish guillotine) in relation to The Antiquary , in ‘Pennant’s Guillotines and Scott’s Antiquary: The Romantic End of the Present’ ( RCPS  27 paras). Valerie Wallace uncovers the part played by the Reverend Thomas M’Crie, a reviewer for the Edinburgh Christian Instructor , and his ally in Nova Scotia, the Reverend Thomas McCulloch, in a dispute over the representation of the Covenanters in Scott’s 1816 novel, in ‘Fictions of History, Evangelical Whiggism and the Debate over Old Mortality in Scotland and Nova Scotia’ (in Dew and Price, eds., pp. 182–99; this work is reviewed fully above). L. Levy offers ‘A Note on Walter Scott and Irish Literature’ ( ScotLR 6 91–4). Different forms of transportation, location, and circulation are discussed by Chris Ewers in an analysis of spatial fluidity in ‘Roads as Regions, Networks and Flows: Waverley and the “Periphery” of Romance’ ( JECS 37 97–112).
In A Life with Mary Shelley , by Barbara Johnson, the late scholar’s final study on Mary Shelley is published within a collection of Johnson’s earlier essays and some critical and personal tributes to Johnson. The slim volume begins with an introduction by Mary Wilson Carpenter to Johnson’s career and publications, her involvement with Shelley criticism from an early stage, and her development as an influential feminist and deconstructionist critic. Johnson’s early essays ‘The Last Man’ , ‘My Monster/My Self’ , and ‘Gender Theory and the Yale School’  are followed by an afterword by Judith Butler, ‘Animating Autobiography: Barbara Johnson and Mary Shelley’s Monster’. Part II of the volume contains Mary Shelley and Her Circle (pp. 51–122), and is in turn followed by an afterword by Shoshana Felman, ‘Barbara Johnson’s Last Book’. Mary Shelley and Her Circle  consists of five chapters on Godwin, Wollstonecraft, Percy Shelley, Byron, and Polidori. As Felman argues in her afterword, the absence of Shelley from this study of her circle is deliberate on Johnson’s part, using the structure of absence to explore ideas of marginality and the marginality of Shelley herself, in her writings and her life. The study itself is concise, economical, and has a density of thought that lends it an epigrammatic air at times.
A trio of articles focuses in great depth on one of Mary Shelley’s novels in a special volume of European Romantic Review. Siobhan Carroll explores Shelley’s use of air in The Last Man to consider ideas of contagion, global unity, and futurity in ‘Mary Shelley’s Global Atmosphere’ ( ERR 25 3–17). In ‘A Clandestine Catastrophe: Disciplinary Dissolution in Mary Shelley’s The Last Man ’ ( ERR 25 19–34) Elizabeth Effinger examines a different type of possibility in the novel, that which is produced when the arts are reduced and almost reduced, and allows for the renewal of music and literature once something of them survives. Ranita Chatterjee turns to Shelley’s Valperga  as a way of drawing out the relation of the contagion metaphor to biopolitics and the state of the individual’s existence within the political, in ‘Our Bodies, Our Catastrophes: Biopolitics in Mary Shelley’s The Last Man ’ ( ERR 25 35–49). Elsewhere, James P. Carney expands the current scholarly understanding of the effects of classical rhetorical and historical writers on Romanticism in his identification of ‘Some Previously Unrecognized References to Classical Historians in Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s The Last Man ’ ( N&Q 61 527–30). Jonas S. Cope argues that an analysis of the character of Winzy in Shelley’s short story ‘The Mortal Immortal’ enables a better understanding of his fellow over-achievers in Frankenstein and Valperga , in ‘The Mortal Immortal: Mary Shelley’s “Overreachers” Reconsidered’ ( Expl 72 122–6). Miranda Burgess reads Frankenstein in connection to the overlapping discourses of tropical medicine, epidemiology, and transportation in ‘Transporting Frankenstein : Mary Shelley’s Mobile Figures’ ( ERR 25 247–65). Anna E. Clark examines the levels of characterization in Shelley’s novel to argue that the creature ‘is truly unique’ because of ‘his ability to understand and narrate the perspectives of other characters’ (p. 245), in ‘Frankenstein; or, The Modern Protagonist’ ( ELH 81 245–68). Jackson Petsche offers a reading of the vegetarian creature in which he, composed of carcasses, presents a critique of the human consumption of meat, in ‘An Already Alienated Animality: Frankenstein as a Gothic Narrative of Carnivorism’ ( GS 16 98–110). Tilottama Rajan’s densely argued ‘A Peculiar Community: Mary Shelley, Godwin, and the Abyss of Emotion’ (in Faflak and Sha, eds., pp. 147–70) reads Shelley’s novels as explorations of negativity imbued with the philosophies and attitudes of Byron and Godwin, and existing as an attempt to revisit and revive ideas of community.
Carmel Murphy offers a nuanced consideration of Godwin’s intervention in the debate about the uses of history in his 1817 novel Mandeville and relates it to his attempt, in the later History of the Commonwealth in England [1824–8], to revive republican politics in ‘Possibilities of Past and Future: Republican History in William Godwin’s Mandeville ( KSR 28 104–16). In ‘Don Quixote and the Sentimental Reader of History in the Works of William Godwin’ (in Dew and Price, eds., pp. 162–81) Noelle Gallagher considers the persistence of Godwin’s interest in quixotic readers and his approval of sentimental reading practices when reading history as well as fiction, in a chapter that ranges across Caleb Williams , ‘Of History and Romance’, Thoughts on Man , History of the Commonwealth [1824–8], and Life of Chaucer . Cathy Collett works through Godwin’s developing ideas of futurity and the propagation of the human race from Political Justice  to St Leon  in ‘Every Child Left Behind: St Leon and William Godwin’s Immortal Future’ ( ERR 25 327–36). Yasmin Solomonescu turns to Caleb Williams to test Godwin’s attitudes to rhetoric and truth-telling, and whether the two are incompatible or not, in ‘ “A Plausible Tale”: William Godwin’s Things As They Are ’ ( ERR 25 591–610). Rodney Stenning Edgecombe corrects the provenance of an allusion previously credited to King John, in a discussion of language, parody, and myth-making, in ‘Paraphrastic Allusions in Caleb Williams ’ ( N&Q 61 502–4). Peter Melville reads Godwin’s St Leon in the light of Kant’s essay ‘On a Supposed Right to Lie from Altruistic Motives’  and finds much to say about the complexity of truth-telling in both writers’ philosophies, in ‘Lying with Godwin and Kant: Truth and Duty in St Leon ’ ( ECent 55 19–37).
There was an interesting collection of essays on Mary Wollstonecraft in Hypatia this year. Alan M.S.J. Coffee considers the philosophy of independence in a range of Wollstonecraft’s writings, including The Wrongs of Woman , in ‘Freedom as Independence: Mary Wollstonecraft and the Grand Blessing of Life’ ( Hypatia 29 908–24). Martina Reuter tracks Wollstonecraft’s critique of Rousseau’s views of nature, sensibility, and women in ‘ “Like a Fanciful Kind of Half Being”: Mary Wollstonecraft’s Criticism of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’ ( Hypatia 29 925–41), and Lena Hallendius concludes with a searching evaluation of the commodification of rights in The Wrongs of Woman in ‘Mary Wollstonecraft’s Feminist Critique of Property: On Becoming a Thief from Principle’ ( Hypatia 29 942–57). Diana Edelman-Young examines Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in the context of natural and reproductive sciences to suggest that Wollstonecraft uses the language of such sciences to argue explicitly and implicitly for gender equality, in ‘Chubby Cheeks and the Bloated Monster: The Politics of Reproduction in Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication ’ ( ERR 25 683–704). Catherine Packham examines another of Wollstonecraft’s works in a different context, that of political economy, in her analysis of the representation of bread shortages in ‘ “The Common Grievance of the Revolution”: Bread, the Grain Trade, and Political Economy in Wollstonecraft’s View of the French Revolution ’ ( ERR 25 705–22). Ingrid Horrocks explores the rhythms created in Wollstonecraft’s arguments by her idiosyncratic use of dashes (categorizable in three separate ways) in different print editions in ‘ “– –Pugh!”: Rereading Punctuation through Wollstonecraft’s Letters Written During a Short Residence ’ ( WW 21 488–508). In an exploration of rhetoric Inna Volkova argues that examples are used as the starting point for Wollstonecraft’s argument, rather than the usual critical view of them as simply a supplement to argument, in ‘ “I Have Looked Steadily around Me”: The Power of Examples of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman ’ ( WS 43 892–910). A fascinating and almost entirely unknown work of Romantic fiction is presented and examined in ‘ Selene : Lady Mount Cashell’s Lunar Utopia’ ( WW 21[2014 559–74) by Anne Markey. The three-volume novel dates from 1823 and was never published. Analysing the novel’s radical political perspectives and the targets of its utopian satires, Markey makes a compelling case for much greater critical attention to be paid to Mount Cashell’s writing, and that she deserves to be known for more than her position on the fringes of the Godwin–Shelley circle and as Mary Wollstonecraft’s most famous pupil.
The work of Ann Radcliffe receives several significant re-evaluations in an authoritative and compelling new collection of essays. In Ann Radcliffe, Romanticism and the Gothic , Dale Townshend and Angela Wright have gathered some of the most recognizable and influential Gothic critics whose work has done so much to shape the current critical field of Gothic fiction and Romantic Gothic studies more widely; here Radcliffe’s central position in the field of Romantic Gothic studies is variously recovered, reappraised, and problematized in the wide-ranging collection of chapters. The collection is divided into three sections. Part I, ‘Cultural Contexts’, begins with the editors’ contribution, ‘Gothic and Romantic Engagements: The Critical Reception of Ann Radcliffe, 1789–1850’. It offers a point of orientation for the newcomer to Radcliffe, presenting a useful range of critical responses to her novels, from early dismissals to the blazing celebration of her works by the time of her death in 1823, and provides a helpful overview of the ways in which Radcliffe established a type of novel-writing which produced both astute imitations and critical praise, and doggerel and critical condemnations, which ‘Augmented rather than tarnished’ the years of silence before Radcliffe’s death (p. 14). In the final section the editors examine the views of Radcliffe’s skill held by later Romantics such as Hazlitt, Scott, Percy Shelley, and Leigh Hunt, and trace Radcliffe’s progression towards the high place she attained in her contemporaries’ literary canon. The second chapter, Joe Bray’s ‘Ann Radcliffe, Precursors and Portraits’ takes up the question of Radcliffe’s literary qualities and her ability to be at once realistic and fanciful, in Bray’s analysis of portrait painting in Radcliffe’s fiction and the significance of the discontinuities between the image, or likeness, and the person depicted therein, tracing its potential for emotional affect and the rupturing of reality. The next chapter, ‘Ann Radcliffe and Romantic Print Culture’ by Edward Jacobs, examines Radcliffe’s effects on the form and the status of the novel. Jacobs argues that Radcliffe’s fusion of fiction and poetry in her novels ‘staged and constructed, to an unprecedented extent’ the division between the intensive reading of poetry and the casual reading of popular fiction, leading a new form of mass-market fiction which affected print culture more widely (p. 49). In chapter 4, ‘Ann Radcliffe and Politics’, James Watt assesses recent critical views of Radcliffe’s political position, noting the irony inherent in attempts to construct Radcliffe’s views by largely depending on the political opinions held by her husband and other male relatives. Watt carefully negotiates the competing critical claims for conservatism, loyalism, and reformism, and concludes persuasively that it is difficult to trace any engagement with contemporary politics in her work, and that any such claims become more tenuous the more closely we attend to Radcliffe’s rhetorical sophistication. Part II, entitled ‘Ann Radcliffe’s Creative Output’, begins with Alison Milbank’s ‘Ways of Seeing in Ann Radcliffe’s Early Fiction: The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne (1789) and A Sicilian Romance (1790)’. Here Milbank examines the ways in which Radcliffe adopts the perspective of a ‘medieval ballad writer’ (p. 85) which, Milbank argues, enables Radcliffe to gain a detached perspective. While this perspective anticipates Romantic poetic vision in certain ways, ultimately it becomes Gothic rather than Romantic, and Milbank offers detailed analysis of the two novels and the double perspective achieved by their melancholic characters and condition. In chapter 6 Diane Long Hoeveler discusses the enormous popularity among readers and influences upon writers, publishers, and the print market of one of Radcliffe’s novels throughout the nineteenth century in ‘The Heroine, the Abbey, and Popular Romantic Textuality: The Romance of the Forest (1791)’. In the next chapter Robert Miles takes as his starting point the old critical opposition of Romanticism to the Gothic (high and low, poetry and prose, irony and sensation) and casts a critical eye over Radcliffe’s eligibility to be considered as a Romantic writer by interrogating the concept of Romanticism itself in the light of a new understanding of the popular (low, prosaic, sensational) and its claims on Romanticism, in ‘Popular Romanticism and the Problem of Belief: The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)’. In chapter 8, JoEllen DeLucia’s ‘Transnational Aesthetics in Ann Radcliffe’s A Journey Made in the Summer of 1794 [...] (1795)’, the relationships between Radcliffe’s travel writing and contemporary discourses of aesthetics are explored, with DeLucia arguing that in Radcliffe’s writing about the wartime Continent and the Lake District in 1794 she uses techniques that often jar or startle the reader, which enable ‘spectators to rethink the occlusions and displacements of the picturesque’, and that Radcliffe may be considered, with Burke and Paine, as a writer about citizenship, statelessness, and national belonging (p. 145). The next chapter presents Jerrold E. Hogle’s contribution, ‘Recovering the Walpolean Gothic: The Italian; or, The Confessional of the Black Penitents (1796–1797)’, in which he reads Radcliffe’s The Italian as her Dissenting and rational response to Lewis’s The Monk , which is also informed by, and can be read further as a response to, Walpole’s two prefaces to The Castle of Otranto , resulting in a novel which exemplifies Radcliffe’s contradictory visions of progressive and regressive social history, and which ‘re-establishes the roots of new “romance” in Walpole’s Gothic and thus the grounding of Romanticism in the Gothic’s ungrounded mixture of openly incompatible beliefs and styles’ (p. 167). Part II concludes with Samuel Baker’s chapter, ‘Ann Radcliffe Beyond the Grave: Gaston de Blondeville (1826) and Its Accompanying Texts’, which discusses (via a brief cinematic fantasy) the reasons for the posthumous publication of Radcliffe’s novel amid selections from her journals and poetry and the polite critical neglect it has received since. Part III, ‘Ann Radcliffe and Romantic Literary Culture’, contains the final three chapters. Jane Stabler, in ‘Ann Radcliffe’s Poetry: The Poetics of Refrain and Inventory’, produces a perceptive and rewarding reading of Radcliffe’s poetry as poetry in its own right, not simply as poems which interrupt the novels. Stabler’s formal attention to the poems published in an unauthorized collection of 1816 demonstrates Radcliffe’s technical skill and deliberation in using repetition to explore ideas of creativity, escape, and agency. Sue Chaplin’s chapter, ‘Ann Radcliffe and Romantic-Era Fiction’, discusses Radcliffe’s immediate literary effect on contemporary women writers such as Eliza Parsons, Eliza Fenwick, and Maria Regina Roche, her contribution to ideas about literary taste in the period, consumption, and a final comparison drawn between Scott and Radcliffe and the ways in which each writer examines Gothic ‘hauntings’ (p. 217). The final chapter, chapter 13, comes from Diego Saglia, ‘ “A Portion of the Name”: Stage Adaptation of Radcliffe’s Fiction, 1794–1806’, which is an account of the rapidity with which Radcliffe’s novels reached the Romantic stage, how they were reshaped in order to suit it, and the ways in which the stage dealt with Radcliffe’s concerns with history and ideology.
Two chapters of Gothic interest appear in Heteronormativity in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture , edited by Ana De Freitas Boe and Abby Coykendall. Abby Coykendall briefly discusses the reputation of Horace Walpole as a feminine man in ‘Queer Counterhistory and the Specter of Effeminacy’ (pp. 111–29), and elsewhere in the same volume George E. Haggerty considers the ‘quasi-perfunctory endings’ of Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho , Dacre’s Zofloya; or, The Moor  and Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer , arguing that attempts to re-establish heteronormativity at the conclusion of each are unsuccessful, and that they exemplify the ambivalence at the heart of the Gothic genre, in ‘The Failure of Heteronormativity in the Gothic Novel’ (pp. 131–49). Scott J. Juengel debates Kantian hospitality with a brief swerve towards Radcliffe’s The Italian  in ‘Late Hospitality: Kant, Radcliffe, and the Assassin at the Gate’ ( ERR 25 289–98). Peter Otto examines the connections between identity and location in ‘ “Where Am I, and What?”: Architecture, Environment, and the Transformation of Experience in Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho ’ ( ERR 25 299–308).
Irish Gothic continues to gain critical ground, and this year Christina Morin and Niall Gillespie’s edited collection Irish Gothics: Genres, Forms, Modes, and Traditions, 1760–1890 contains some provoking arguments about and reflections upon what that branch of Gothic studies might address. Of relevance here are the following chapters. Diane Long Hoeveler expands the focus of her recent work on anti-Catholicism in Gothic literature to include the popular chapbooks imported and circulated in Ireland in the early nineteenth century, in ‘The Irish Protestant Imaginary: The Cultural Contexts for the Gothic Chapbooks Published by Bennett Dugdale, 1800–52’ (pp. 34–57), and Niall Gillespie discusses the Gothicization of the Irish political and geographical landscape, as well as popular literature and poetry, in ‘Irish Jacobin Gothic, c.1796–1825’ (pp. 58–73). Jim Shanahan, in ‘Suffering Rebellion: Irish Gothic Fiction, 1799–1830’ (pp. 74–93), analyses John Banim’s novel The Boyne Water and The Nowlans , Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer , and The Milesian Chief  amidst a consideration of the seeming inseparability of political rebellion and atrocity, and the fraught engagement of Irish Gothic with both silence and screams in the face of suffering in the historical and literary aftermath of the 1798 rebellion. Finally, Richard Haslam examines how Melmoth’s ‘demonic pact device’ (p. 113) is taken up by the writers Banim, Griffin, James Clarence Mangan, and William Carleton and used to incorporate Catholic perspectives into an anti-Catholic mode of writing in their Gothic tales, in ‘Maturin’s Catholic Heirs: Expanding the Limits of Irish Gothic’ (pp. 113–29).
Amy Culley’s engaging and detailed study, British Women’s Life Writing, 1760–1840 (reviewed above), contains chapters of particular interest here also. These are the chapters on Mary Robinson and Mary Wollstonecraft. In ‘The Literary Family and the “Aristocracy of Genius” in the Memoirs of Mary Robinson’ (pp. 103–15), Robinson’s Memoirs of the Late Mrs Robinson  provides Culley with the grounds for a thoughtful examination of the connections between Robinson’s complex memoir and her other many and varied literary productions, the still vexed question of Robinson’s manipulation of her scandalous reputation, and her support for other women writers. In ‘ “The Little Hero of Each Tale”: Mary Wollstonecraft’s Travelogue and Revolutionary Autobiography’ (pp. 173–88) Culley turns to A Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark  and views it within the framework of An Historical and Moral View of the French Revolution  to demonstrate how ‘Wollstonecraft developed personal narrative as a historical mode in the course of her career’ (p. 174), suggesting further that in A Short Residence Wollstonecraft ‘avoids personal confession in favour of a life writing work that is at once secret, intimate, and yet outwardly focused, an effect created in part by correspondence’ (p. 179). The chapter continues with a discussion of Godwin’s understanding of ‘the relational self’ in his memoir of Wollstonecraft (p. 185), and concludes with a consideration of how Mary Hays’s ‘Memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft’  may be viewed, like Godwin’s text, as a means by which Wollstonecraft’s revolutionary ideas can be circulated in biographical writing as well as in her own, concluding that ‘like Helen Maria Williams, Wollstonecraft moved Romantic autobiography away from solitude, isolation, and introspection in favour of socially engaged and dialogic modes that in turn inspired auto/biographical writing and self-examination in others’ (p. 173). Robinson’s Memoirs are also discussed by Whitney Arnold in ‘Mary Robinson’s Memoirs and the Terrors of Literary Obscurity’ ( WS 43 733–49) in a reading which takes in Robinson’s attack on her contemporary print world and explores the Gothic structure of the Memoirs text itself.
A different type of community is uncovered in British Women Writers and the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1785–1835: Re-Orienting Anglo-India. Kathryn S. Freeman delves into a world of scholarly activity in her study of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, whose members studied and translated Sanskrit, wrote poetry, and worked for the British East India Company, making their orientalist studies look more Said’s orientalism in practice. Freeman’s introduction takes the reader through recent critical history and postcolonial perspectives, and separates women’s writing from men’s in this period, arguing that they need to be extricated ‘from assumptions behind scholarship that represents them as participating in the cultural imperialism that postcolonialism attributes to both the Orientalists and canonical male writers; this inclusiveness has subjected these women authors to a discourse that limits critical engagement with them alongside male writers and the east. My contention is that women’s writing connects Orientalism’s literalized gendering of east and west in its ambivalence towards nondualism’ (pp. 15–16). Arguing that this period of literary history in Anglo-Indian culture is pre-colonial, not colonial or postcolonial, Freeman analyses a range of novels, plays, and poetry by women in the period to uncover their critique of Western dualism, and the binaries relating to reason and emotion, masculinity and femininity, authority and submission, within their encounters with Indian philosophy, culture, and language. Elizabeth Hamilton’s Translation of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah  and Sydney Owenson’s The Missionary  receive fresh and rewarding interpretations here in Freeman’s analysis of authorial control and metatextuality, and the ambivalence throughout the sentimental novel of Phebe Gibbes’s Hartly House, Calcutta  is usefully recovered. Elsewhere, a fascinating account of the development of a discourse surrounding vegetarianism in the midst of British imperial discourse in India is offered by Marguerite M. Regan, who discusses Hartly House, Calcutta and Translations of the Letter of a Hindoo Rajah in ‘Feminism, Vegetarianism, and Colonial Resistance in Eighteenth-Century British Novels ( SNNTS 46 275–92). Elsewhere, ‘Empire, Race, and the Debate over the Indian Marriage Market in Elizabeth Hamilton’s Memoirs of Modern Philosophers (1800)’, by John C. Leffel, traces Hamilton’s absorption of reproduction of contemporary prejudices regarding the Indian marriage market and female British emigrants in her Translation of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah  as well as her re-evaluation of these prejudices in her next novel ( ECF 26 427–54).
A community of maternal authority is explored in Rebecca Davies’s well-written and engaging study, also discussed in Chapter XII. Written Maternal Authority and Eighteenth-Century Education in Britain: Educating by the Book takes as its starting point the author’s claim that women writers’ acceptance of the socially approved role of woman as the educator of children allowed them to create a new textual authority as educational writers. From this seemingly simple claim Davies constructs a detailed analysis of the shift from oral or transitory maternal advice to the written authority of educational writers in a variety of genres. Six chapters take us through the writings and authorial development of influential writers: Sarah Fielding, Mary Wollstonecraft, Maria Edgeworth, Jane Austen, and the now obscure Ann Martin Taylor, with a selection of her works from 1814 to 1819. The study opens with a chapter on Samuel Richardson, and from this unexpected beginning Davies argues persuasively that the models for exemplary maternal authority in place at the end of the eighteenth century were absent at the mid-century point, evinced in Richardson’s fraught attempts in Pamela II  to negotiate existing models of femininity in order to construct a new version of his character as a mother, suggesting that Richardson’s solution is to present Pamela as a mother who writes her authority rather than performing it. Through the following five chapters Davies traces the development of this written form of maternal authority and educational discipline in relation to Dissenting culture, empiricism and epistemology, radical politics, and the developing form of the eighteenth-century novel. Despite the writers’ successful establishment of a discourse of maternal authority in their texts, such a discourse, as Davies shows, remained stubbornly limited to the written word, and never quite made the leap into the public sphere as a discourse of feminine authority.
Published in 2013 but not reviewed last year is Morgan Rooney’s substantial study on The French Revolution Debate and the British Novel, 1790–1814: The Struggle for History’s Authority . In this Rooney traces the development of the historical novel, ending with the publication of Scott’s Waverley in 1814 and taking in radical and conservative fiction in the 1790s, the emergence of the national tale, and the many debates on the proper use of historical discourse in writing at the end of the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth. Many of the novels Rooney examines will be familiar to readers of Romantic fiction now, from those by Godwin ( St Leon ) Edgeworth ( Castle Rackrent ), and Charlotte Smith ( The Old Manor House ), to George Walker ( The Vagabond ), Robert Bisset ( Douglas ), and Jane West ( A Tale of the Times ), but rather than arrange these authors on grounds of political opposition (radical versus conservative, Jacobin versus anti-Jacobin) Rooney attends to the ways in which novelists more generally turned to and used history in these decades, writing that ‘the literary landscape of the 1790s is populated largely by figures who are operating under an interventionist agenda, and this study examines the (unintended) generic consequences of their interventions’ (p. 10). That said, after setting out the debate for history and authority in 1790s political and philosophical writings in his first two chapters (Richard Price, Edmund Burke, James Mackintosh, Mary Wollstonecraft, Thomas Paine) Rooney goes on to devote a chapter to reformist and Jacobin novels, and another chapter to anti-Jacobin and conservative novels. These binaries are hard to shake off, but Rooney’s discussion of the novels fills in an important backdrop in the history of generic development, on which Scott so ably capitalized. Mooney claims the work of Sydney Owenson ( The Wild Irish Girl ) and Jane Porter ( Thaddeus of Warsaw  and The Scottish Chiefs ) as Scott’s most active precursors, before concluding with an analysis of Waverley itself.
In ‘Making History: Social Unrest, Work and the Post-French Revolution Historical Novel’ (in Dew and Price, eds., pp. 145–66) Fiona Price brings to light a fascinating range of novels like the anonymous Charles Dacres: or, the Voluntary Exile, An Historical Novel, Founded on Facts  and Lioncel; or, Adventures of an Emigrant , and E. Cornelia Knight’s Marcus Flaminius  in a detailed argument about the immediate post-revolutionary origins of the awareness of history as a mass experience which has previously been argued to have occurred much later. In ‘ “By force, or openly, what could be done?”: Godwin, Smith, Wollstonecraft, and the Gagging Acts Novel’ (pp. 109–36), John Bugg turns to fiction’s engagement with politics in his new study of silence and repression in the 1790s, Five Long Winters: The Trials of British Romanticism . Bugg’s selection of novels consists of Godwin’s Caleb Williams , Charlotte Smith’s Marchmont , and Wollstonecraft’s The Wrongs of Woman, or Maria , arguing that they respond to political attack in their very form as well as in their content. Throughout his study Bugg examines a variety of 1790s literature illuminated by his central argument of the texts’ negotiation of political repression during the revolutionary debates, the Gagging Acts of 1795, and this chapter is an important contribution to our understanding of political fiction and its response in form as well as content to contemporary debates. Bugg writes: ‘To trace the arc described by Caleb Williams , Marchmont , and The Wrongs of Woman is to see obfuscation and reticence entering into the conceptual, structural, and even grammatical shape of the novel, as writers discover more sensitive and complex modes for formally registering the trials of the Pitt era’ (p. 111).
Anne Frey provides an account of Agnes C. Hall, author of twelve novels written between 1819 and 1834 using the pseudonym Rosalia St Clair, her engagement with the national tale, historical novels, and the literary models provided by Sydney Owenson in ‘The National Tale and the Pseudonymous Author: Mobile Identity in the “Rosalia St. Clair” Novels’ ( ERR 25 181–99). Hall’s ‘generic incoherence’ (p. 182), Frey argues, is what provides a cosmopolitanism lacking in more conventional national tales. Carmel Murphy presents a well-informed reading of Charlotte Smith’s engagement with the historical novel to critique government, authority, and Edmund Burke in ‘Jacobin History: Charlotte Smith’s Old Manor House and the French Revolution Debate’ ( Romanticism 20 271–81). Smith’s early depictions of suburban space, rather than her usual rural scenes, provide the focus for Kate Scarth’s interesting exploration of how women occupied and engaged with such locations in ‘Elite Metropolitan Culture, Women, and Greater London in Charlotte Smith’s Emmeline and Celestina ’ ( ERR 25 627–48). Roxane Eberle offers a thoughtful account of the ways in which Amelia Opie and her husband John wrote, lived, painted, and debated Romantic creativity in the 1790s, in ‘Amelia and John Opie: Conjugal Sociability and Romanticism’s Professional Arts’ ( SiR 51 319–41). John B. Pierce and Shelley King recount the recent discovery of a lost poetry notebook, contrasting its contents to the recent Collected Poems and the Oxford edition of Opie’s poems, in ‘The Rediscovery of Amelia Opie’s Cromer Notebook’ ( N&Q 61 498–501). Matthew J. Rigilano applies Lacanian theory and produces a lucid and engaging analysis of literalization in ‘Absorption, Literality, and Feminine Subjectivity in Sophia Lee’s The Recess ’ ( ECF 26 209–32). Halina Adams looks at the ways in which Helen Maria Williams uses the site of the Bastille in her travel writing as a way to think about past, present, and future in ‘Imagining the Nation: Transforming the Bastille in Williams’s Letters Written in France (1790)’ ( ERR 25 723–41). An interesting account of Elizabeth Inchbald’s farce from 1788 and its connection to French scientific theories about, and against, animal magnetism is offered in Nathaniel Leach’s exploration of theatrical and satirical attacks on the discourses of power in ‘Gendering Pseudo-Science: Inchbald’s Animal Magnetism ’ ( LitComp 11 715–23). Another of Inchbald’s plays is discussed, this time A Mogul’s Tale , in an exploration of spectacle by Paula R. Backscheider in ‘From The Emperor of the Moon to the Sultans’ Prison’ ( SECC 43 219–37).
Some interesting aspects of Romantic fiction in translation are presented by Laura Kirkley’s new edition of Caroline of Lichtfield , the popular sentimental novel by Isabelle de Montolieu from 1786 which was translated by Thomas Holcroft into English in the same year that it first appeared in French. The introduction sets up the literary and political world of Isabelle de Montolieu, the prolific Swiss writer and translator (including of Austen’s novels). Kirkley addresses the surprising popularity that a sentimental romance had among writers like Mary Wollstonecraft, Anna Barbauld, and Holcroft himself, uncovering Montolieu’s philosophical inheritance (Rousseau plays a central role here) and her place in Swiss literary circles. The edition is completed by an appendix containing Montolieu’s charming songs, substantial editorial notes, and a list of textual variants between the original English text and the editions from 1786 (second edition), 1797, and 1798. Another new edition to note is Ann Yearsley’s The Royal Captives of 1795 (in The Collected Works of Ann Yearsley , reviewed in Section 3 below).
Regina Hewitt argues for a new and rewarding reading of ‘Maria Edgeworth’s Harrington as a Utopian Novel’ ( SNNTS 46 293–314), suggesting that the novel operates in a more beneficial and socially progressive way when viewed as ‘methodologically utopian’ (p. 295) in its aims to overcome anti-Semitism, rather than as a novel which concludes with a disappointing and prejudiced dismissal of Judaism. Alex Howard analyses the ways in which the theory and practice of reading from Maria Edgeworth and Richard Lovell Edgeworth’s Practical Education  are embodied and disrupted in Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent , and argues for its connection to contemporary political discourse, in ‘The Pains of Attention: Paratextual Reading in Practical Education and Castle Rackrent ’ ( NCL 69 293–318). In an article about Edgeworth’s short stories, Ashley L. Cohen argues persuasively for their shared political concerns relating to 1790s discourses, rather than to the more usual interpretations based on historical practice as represented in the stories, in ‘Wage Slavery, Oriental Despotism, and Global Labor Management in Maria Edgeworth’s Popular Tales ’ ( ECent 55 193–215). Slaney Chadwick Ross examines the metaphorical discussion of English, Scottish, and Irish concerns as interdependent in Edgeworth’s little-discussed closet drama from 1817, in ‘Maria Edgeworth’s The Rose, Thistle, and Shamrock : Symbolic Unification, Women’s Education, and the Marriage Plot’ ( ECent 55 377–90). Mary Mullen explores the transhistorical disruptions and discordances in Castle Rackrent and their opposition to Edgeworth’s ideas of history elsewhere in her work in ‘Anachronistic Aesthetics: Maria Edgeworth and the “Uses” of History’ ( ECF 26 233–59). David Francis Taylor, in ‘Edgeworth’s Belinda and the Gendering of Caricature’ ( ECF 26 593–624), casts new light on the use of caricature in the novel, and argues for its important relation to the other discourses surrounding women’s bodies in the novel. Deborah Weiss turns to another of Edgeworth’s relatively neglected writings, The Parent’s Assistant [1796; 1800], for a discussion of the contribution to capitalist theory made by Edgeworth, in ‘Maria Edgeworth’s Infant Economics: Capitalist Culture, Good-Will Networks and “Lazy Lawrence” ’ ( JECS 37 395–408). Catherine Craft-Fairchild returns to the fraught portrayal of Anglo-Jewish culture and identity in ‘The “Jewish Question” on Both Sides of the Atlantic: Harrington and the Correspondence between Maria Edgeworth and Rachel Mordecai Lazarus’ ( ECL 38 30–63), examining how Edgeworth’s inaccurate representation is bound up in her inability to move effectively between lived experience and the solely textual, and her reliance upon previous, prejudiced written accounts.
Peter deGabriele considers the connections between letters and the law in ‘The Legal Fiction and Epistolary Form: Frances Burney’s Evelina ’ ( JEMS 14:ii 22–40). Eleanor C.L. Crouch surveys a wide range of Burney’s writings to support an argument about her subtle use of nerve theory in her novels in relation to gender and social behaviour, in ‘Nerve Theory and Sensibility: ‘ “Delicacy” in the Work of Fanny Burney’ ( LitComp 11 206–17). Jason S. Farr explores the difficult position women (unlike men) occupied in the eighteenth century when intellectual brilliance was not matched by physical perfection, in ‘Sharp Minds/Twisted Bodies: Intellect, Disability, and Female Education in Frances Burney’s Camilla ’ ( ECent 55 1–17; also discussed in Chapter XII).
Jacqueline George considers the paradox of individual literary confessions merging with mass-market commodities in ‘Confessions of a Mass Public: Reflexive Formations of Subjectivity in Early Nineteenth-Century British Fiction’ ( SNNTS 46 387–405). George discusses a subgenre of Romantic fiction here, the fictional confession, drawing upon a range of obscure and often outrageous novels from 1814 to 1839 by authors such as Edmund Carrington, John Ainslie, and Thomas Little. Lauren McCoy interrogates histories of the novel which place the roman-à-clef as one of the casualties of the novel’s progress towards realism, and argues that its continuation invigorated Regency reading practices, in ‘Literary Gossip: Caroline Lamb’s Glenarvon and the Roman-à-clef ’ ( ECF 27 127–50). Nicholas M. Williams, in ‘ “The Liberty Wherewith We Are Made Free”: Belief and Liberal Individualism in James Hogg’s Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner ’ ( SHW 24 32–41) considers the ways in which the structure of belief and the divided structure of the novel work with and against each other, informed by Charles Taylor’s arguments in A Secular Age .
In this section, Matthew Ward covers general work on Romantic poetry and work on poets from A to K; Paul Whickman covers poets from L to Z.
The majority of works published on Romantic poetry in 2014 focused on individual authors. But there were several general studies in the field of Romanticism that included discussion of poetry. A number of these works are considered in more detail in the Section 1 of this chapter, and so are only briefly highlighted here. Bodily Pain in Romantic Literature by Jeremy Davies includes discussion of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Percy Shelley amongst its brilliant analysis of feeling in the period. Percy Shelley is also the subject of a chapter in Joel Faflak and Richard C. Sha’s edited collection, Romanticism and the Emotions , as are Byron and Wordsworth, alongside a number of prose writers. Amidst its socio-cultural interests, Sarah Houghton-Walker’s Representations of the Gypsy in the Romantic Period finds plenty of room for the role and figuration of the gypsy in John Clare’s and William Wordsworth’s verse. Though it is more concerned with the prose writing of the period in its valuable charting of a distinct English identity, David Higgins’s Romantic Englishness: Local, National and Global Selves, 1780–1850 also fruitfully explores Clare and Wordsworth, as well as Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Cynthia Schoolar Williams’s Hospitality and the Transatlantic Imagination, 1815–1835 reflects on the shadow cast by the Napoleonic Wars, and offers a chapter on Felicia Hemans in the light of this context. These studies are all discussed in detail above.
Two further important studies were published by Cambridge University Press in 2014. The pervasiveness of conflict in the Romantic period is of central concern to Jeffrey N. Cox in Romanticism in the Shadow of War: Literary Culture in the Napoleonic War Years . As he reminds us at the start of his study, ‘war is never far from the central works of the Romantic imagination’ (p. 1)—whether that be the discharged soldiers or the ruined cottages populating Wordsworth’s poetic landscapes, or the romances of the Cockney School that critique and counter the drums of war. Cox congenially redraws the critical field of Romanticism, challenging the monumentalizing turn towards the ‘Big Six’ as well as the big military and cultural battles of the period. Instead, he argues for the Romantic period as ‘an era of small feints, limited campaigns, border raids’ (p. 4), both militarily and in the production of its artworks. Cox’s nuanced readings of Barbauld, Byron, the Shelleys, and the Cockney School reveal how a range of poets produce ‘new forms of art’, as they respond to ‘moments of crisis’ (p. 7). Romanticism in the Shadow of War is a superb example of the historicist approach in which Cox has long excelled, and as such it achieves its author’s ambition to illustrate that sound historicist readings arise less from a ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’ (p. 5) than from a celebration of aesthetics amidst awareness of ideological contexts.
The relation between the first- and second-generation Romantic poets is the subject of Andrew Warren’s The Orient and the Young Romantics . Warren’s thought-provoking monograph explores why Byron, Percy Shelley, and Keats so frequently set their works in orientalized settings or Eastern locations. Looking beyond the simple answer, namely that everyone else was doing it at the time too, this fascinating account of canonical poets argues that each writer criticizes the growing imperialism of Europe and the aesthetics as well as the politics of Western expansionism. Warren reads the second-generation Romantic poets as self-conscious and ironic in their handling of the Orient, as they seek creatively to critique the ‘Orientalism practised by the eighteenth century and the First Generation Romantics’ (p. 3). Indeed, alongside his perceptive close readings that afford fresh insight into well-known poems like Lamia and The Revolt of Islam , Warren’s chief contribution is in noticing the way his young Romantics anticipate key debates within postcolonial studies, not least, as Warren lays out, the fact that the construction of the Orient through the orientalized phantasmagoria of the previous generation is consistently confronted by the second generation through Romantic irony.
This year saw the publication of two large critical editions of two relatively non-canonical abolitionist poets. The first of these, Paul Baines’s The Collected Writings of Edward Rushton , is a triumph. As well as an abolitionist, Rushton was an accomplished seaman, poet, and bookseller. This is a well-presented scholarly hardback, typical of Liverpool University Press publications, and this first critical edition of Rushton’s work is serious without appearing overly formal or dry. Space is given to Rushton’s poetry and prose in a manner that allows them to speak for themselves. Baines does not clutter the text with lengthy notes concerning textual variants, history, or glosses, instead confining these to a detailed but concise ‘commentary’ at the end of the volume. The effect of this is to emphasize the Liverpool-based Rushton as a writer of merit who exceeds his marginal reputation in British Romanticism, and not simply as a figure of regional, historical, or academic interest. Indeed, this edition, containing all his known works, shows Rushton to be a far more prolific writer of poetry than of prose. Not all of Rushton’s poems can be labelled ‘abolitionist’, even if slavery and colonialism are his most common themes and the subjects of his strongest poetry. In this light it is tempting to view Rushton as a transatlantic poet, not only for biographical reasons—his seamanship—but because of the transatlantic themes of much of his writing. His prose, for instance, includes a letter to George Washington admonishing him for ‘continuing to be a Proprietor of Slaves’  while his poem ‘The Dismember’d Empire’  opens with the Liverpool-based poet reflecting on the seven years of the American War of Independence and the feared ‘dismemberment’ of the transatlantic empire: ‘SEVEN times the globe has made its annual round, / Sublimely rolling thro’ the vast profound, / Since Britons first aspir’d to govern slaves, / And hurl’d destruction ’cross th’Atlantic waves’ (p. 33, ll. 1–4).
Rushton’s relative critical neglect in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is detailed in Baines’s introduction. Although this may partly be due to the nineteenth-century distaste for his radical politics, and the peculiar nature of his posthumous publication, the Popean echoes of this opening passage suggest another reason. Baines sees Rushton’s ‘splicing of the high diction of Pope and Gray with the populist lyric forms sung by actual sailors in pubs’ as ‘proto-Romantic’ (p. 17). Yet although Rushton engages with themes and forms popular among his Romantic contemporaries, such as poems on the deaths of Chatterton and Burns as well as Wordsworthian echoes in poems such as ‘To the Redbreast’, much of his work is in the form and style of earlier, eighteenth-century poetry. Could Rushton, therefore, simply have been seen as unfashionable? Nevertheless, he is most certainly a poet worthy of critical attention, and Baines’s excellent edition will serve an important role in adding Rushton to the wider Romantic canon.
The other substantial critical edition appearing in 2014 was the three-volume Collected Works of Ann Yearsley , edited by Kerri Andrews. Yearsley was a formerly impoverished Bristol poet, playwright, and novelist known far more for her fascinating biographical details, many of which are detailed in Robert Southey’s 1831 account, than the actual works that she produced. Although this biographical focus is typical of Romantic-period writers outside the ‘Big Six’—though such attention has of course historically overshadowed much of their work too—it is nevertheless more commonly the case for women writers, and Yearsley most particularly. This monumental edition of Yearsley’s works from the Pickering Masters series serves to buck the trend.
Of the three volumes of Andrews’s edition, only the first contains Yearsley’s poetry (as well as letters); the two further volumes contain her play, Earl Goodwin (first performed in 1789), and the novel The Royal Captives . Yearsley only produced three volumes of poetry, but Andrews includes her ‘Occasional Poems’ and, most interestingly, the poems published in various newspapers of the period. This aligns Yearsley’s publishing practices with those of contemporary poets such as Coleridge, and such a discovery is evidence of Andrews’s impressive scholarship. Elsewhere, Andrews does not allow her research to crowd the poetry and letters by keeping paratextual elements to a minimum. Apart from a few sparse headnotes, Andrews confines details of textual variants, glosses, and contextual information largely to the back of the volume. This is in marked contrast to earlier Pickering Masters editions, such as the editions of Southey’s works [2004, 2012] for instance, which include textual variants as footnotes. Southey’s frequent revisions and reissues of his works throughout his life, however, necessitate such an approach and this lack of standardization in the series is therefore to be welcomed.
Andrews’s concise introduction challenges the narrative that Yearsley’s popularity declined from the success of her first volume , which had 1,000 subscribers, to the third , which had far fewer, arguing that this could in fact indicate confidence on the part of her booksellers that Yearsley’s work would sell without pre-publication subscription (p. xxvii). Andrews goes on to trace Yearsley’s developing poetic style across her three volumes of poetry, highlighting her changed relationship to patronage. Whereas Poems, on Several Occasions contained seventeen poems dedicated to one of her two patrons, Hannah More and Elizabeth Montagu, her final volume contained only two such poems to her then patron Frederick Hervey, fourth earl of Bristol. Andrews argues that this book, The Rural Lyre , ‘is the most adventurous of Yearsley’s three volumes’ as a result, stating that ‘as her career progressed she became less and less reliant on patrons, and therefore had more space in her work—both literally and intellectually—in which to explore other modes’ (p. xxx).
It is hoped that Yearsley’s relative critical and literary neglect—Duncan Wu’s most recent edition of Romanticism: An Anthology , published by Wiley Blackwell in 2012, includes only two poems by Yearsley for instance—can begin to be challenged by Andrews’s work. A poet of the late eighteenth-century so heavily influenced by the much earlier poetics of Milton, Young, Pope, and Gray, however, is always likely to appear stylistically at odds with her more Romantic contemporaries and, at worst, decidedly unfashionable. Nevertheless, Andrews’s thorough scholarship and clear confidence in Yearsley’s literary value are very much in evidence in this edition, and at least allow for the debate concerning her merit to take place.
A book published in 2013 but not received in time for review in last year’s YWES was Kerri Andrews’s monograph Ann Yearsley and Hannah More: Patronage and Poetry . This is in fact fortunate for our purposes, since the monograph very much works alongside Andrews’s edition of Yearsley’s poetry, particularly in considering the role of literary patronage as discussed. More and Yearsley are frequently considered as (eventual) antagonists. Indeed, the rivalry was such that in 1788 the publication of Yearsley’s Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave Trade was purposefully timed to rival More’s Slavery: A Poem . Although More was once Yearsley’s patron, the two had fallen out following disagreement over the control of the profits the latter had earned from her first volume Poems, on Several Occasions . Although this is relatively well-trodden ground, discussed in Donna Landry’s The Muses of Resistance  and Mary Waldron’s Lactilla, Milkwoman of Clifton  for instance, Andrews’s approach is one that explores the relationship between the two poets throughout their careers. As Andrews puts it, the short-lived literary collaboration of the two has been rather ‘well mined’ (p. 8). The once collaborative relationship that gave way to rivalry, Andrews argues, was in fact fruitful for both poets. For instance, Andrews not only compares the two abolitionist poems above, but notes how each woman turned to fiction later, and at a similar point in her career (More’s Cœlebs in Search of a Wife of 1808 and the less successful The Royal Captives by Yearsley).
The rivalry between the two poets has often been put down to class antagonisms, politics—More’s ultra-conservatism versus Yearsley’s relative radicalism—as well as mundane financial matters. Andrews does not necessarily dismiss these; rather, she considers the significance of the complex role played by patronage in the eighteenth century in relation to all the above. In particular, Andrews notes how it was expected that a patronized poet should show gratitude, not only in private, but in print. This is evident in Yearsley’s poetry, but not sufficiently so to satisfy More, who herself had been patronized by David Garrick (p. 58). Andrews also considers how the More/Yearsley system of patronage was complicated further by gender, in that the traditional paternal male/female dynamic was of course disrupted. An interesting, and much-needed work, Andrews’s monograph is as revealing of the creative processes of writing in the changed, and changing, publishing environment that had become increasingly professionalized as it is of the work of these two female poets. Thoroughly researched and elegantly written, it offers an insight into a creatively beneficial literary relationship, often vexed, between two female Romantic poets beyond the oft-covered male figures of the ‘Big Six’.
Hannah More was also the subject of a short article in 2014. Edmund Downey’s ‘An Unpublished Letter from Hannah More to Ralph Beilby: Radical Connections and Popular Political Literature’ ( N&Q 61 504–7) is a thorough piece of scholarship that reaffirms, with nuance, the work of Kevin Gilmartin and Olivia Smith. In particular, it reminds us of how the Christian conservative More engaged in similar publishing practices, including even using the same publishers, as radical writers. One example is the Newcastle-based publisher Ralph Beilby, who had previously published the work of the ‘ultra-radical’ Thomas Spence. Downey includes a full transcription of an unpublished letter between More and Beilby, arguing that this direct correspondence confirms More’s conscious and direct interest in securing the services of this particular publisher. A very convincing piece, Downey’s argument is that both conservatives and radicals alike were keen to co-opt a plebeian and vernacular mode.
Turning to individual authors, the most important work on Blake from 2014 concerned his religious background. In his seminal 1954 critical work, Blake: Prophet Against Empire (reviewed in YWES 35), David Erdman wondered whether Blake’s background was Methodist. Blake and the Methodists , by Michael Farrell, considers this a very real possibility. Farrell investigates the work of the poet and painter within the context of this important contemporary branch of Christianity, contributing to the continuing and contentious debate surrounding Blake’s theology by suggesting his sympathy towards Wesleyan Methodism. As Farrell outlines in his excellent first chapter, Methodism emerges out of the eighteenth-century evangelical revival to become the biggest ‘dissenting’ religious movement in Blake’s lifetime. But there was a large range of dissenting religious groups at this time, and whilst some adhered closely to one single sect, many others saw and appreciated a commonality witnessed between faiths, and held eclectic views. These believers or ‘seekers’ adopted a ‘compound of doctrinal sympathies’, Farrell explains, attending various religious meetings but rarely ‘subscribing to membership of any particular denomination’ (p. 15). Farrell reads Blake as such a seeker, with heterogeneous religious views and practices. Far from being the extreme radical that criticism has tended to paint him as, then, Farrell finds Blake to be much more typical of the syncretic theology of his time. Still, a number of other scholars have comprehensively contextualized Blake’s religious views, as Farrell explains. Closest to Farrell’s own reading is Robert Ryan’s suggestion, in The Romantic Reformation (reviewed in YWES 77), that whilst Blake’s theology was relatively orthodox for the time, this does not have to be incompatible with religious radicalism. Where Farrell’s book is so useful, however, is in developing these issues still further. One of the great strengths of Farrell’s argument is its openness to the Blake’s ambivalence towards religion. It is a mark of this generous study that Farrell puts forward Blake’s wide-ranging theological perspectives even as he convinces us of Methodism’s important place in the poet’s distinctive vision.
Hazard Adams’s Thinking through Blake (McFarland) was not received in time for review, and will be covered with material from 2015.
Paul Miner published three essays broadly built around influence and allusion in Blake in Notes and Queries . ‘Blake and Burke: The Druid Majesty of the Foetus’ ( N&Q 61 22–7) argues for the poet’s adaptation of Burke’s conception of the sublime and beautiful. Via a number of perceptive close readings, Miner contends that Blake adopts Burke’s dichotomies for ‘his own allegorical purposes’ (p. 27), particularly in the visionary works. Picking up some of the strands of that essay, ‘Blake: The Metaphors of Generation’ ( N&Q 61 33–8) is a fascinating assessment of Blake’s wordplay on ‘generation’. Reading Blake’s raids on the Bible and Christianity, Miner finds Blakean ambivalence, especially in Milton and Jerusalem. We know that as well as producing 537 watercolours of Edward Young’s Night Thoughts , Blake also drew on it for his own enigmatic poetic art. In ‘Blake: Thoughts on Night Thoughts ’ ( N&Q 61 27–33) Miner explores a number of ‘submerged borrowings’ in the verse, arguing that these allusions help Blake to ‘create a new mythology’ (p. 27). I enjoyed the close attention to detail Miner offers throughout these three short essays. Collectively, they illustrate how Blakean allusion contributes to his powerfully compelling mythology.
Since the invaluable publication in 2009 of Robert Bloomfield’s letters by Romantic Circles , edited by Tim Fulford and Lynda Pratt, a number of scholars have detailed his significance to our understanding of Romantic culture. In 2012, for instance, a special issue of Romantic Circles , edited by John Goodridge and Bridget Keegan, offered a range of fruitful impressions of the poet’s self-fashioning through his letter-writing, especially his attempts to engage with publishers in London, and Bloomfield also played a part in Class and the Canon , edited by Kirstie Blair and Mina Gorji (also 2012). In 2014, Angus Whitehead offered three short pieces in Notes and Queries on the labouring-class poet that bring further details of his life and work to the surface. ‘ “I anticipate rather a smile at my adventures”: An Unrecorded Letter from Robert Bloomfield to Sir Charles Bunbury’ ( N&Q 61 73–6) presents a recently discovered letter from Bloomfield in March 1806 to the horse-racing administrator and Whig MP for Suffolk. Whitehead reveals to us the political context in which Bloomfield operated (or perhaps it would be fairer to say in which he tried to operate). As Whitehead explains, the letter to Bunbury shows rather comically the limited progress Bloomfield makes in getting a foothold in, let alone patronage from, Westminster’s elite. In ‘ “A relish for hedge-row poetry”: A Newly Discovered Letter from Robert Bloomfield to Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges’ ( N&Q 61 76–80), meanwhile, Whitehead suggests that Bloomfield’s only traced usage of ‘hedgerow poetry’ implies ‘self-deprecation on the labouring-class poet’s part’ (p. 80). He writes eager to secure both literary support and financial assistance from Brydges—who was a writer, patron of the arts, and founder member of the Roxburghe Club. Finally, ‘ “Thou Gem of the Ocean, That Smil’st in thy Power”: The Full Text of Robert Bloomfield’s “Address to the British Channel” ’ ( N&Q 61 81–3) reflects on the ‘chequered textual and reception history’ (p. 83) of Bloomfield’s widely circulated poem. As Whitehead observes, the questionable state of so much of Bloomfield’s work as it has been handed down to us calls out for a reliable and definitive edition, as well as the need for a more comprehensive biography of this notable figure.
In the past five years there have been a number of major editorial undertakings on the collected works of Scottish Romantic writers. Edinburgh University Press will soon be publishing the Edinburgh edition of the poetry of Walter Scott, a project under the stewardship of Alison Lumsden at Aberdeen, and over the next decade or so we will have the fifteen-volume Oxford Edition of the Works of Robert Burns from the team at the centre for Burns studies at Glasgow, with Gerard Carruthers as its general editor. The first volume offered as part of this huge undertaking is the Commonplace Books, Tour Journals, and Miscellaneous Prose , edited by Nigel Leask. Burns’s songs and poetry are justly regarded as some of the most vibrant and evocative of the Romantic period, and his letters afford a valuable example of life-writing. But the prose works presented in this edition have tended to be marginalized by Burns’s editors over the years. Indeed, the volume offers the first edited collection of Burns’s writing in prose. Leask’s Robert Burns and Pastoral (reviewed in YWES 91) previously illustrated the critic’s deep appreciation of the poet’s place in eighteenth-century life and letters. Here, as editor, Leask brings all his vast knowledge to bear in a series of introductory essays for each item in the edition. In command of his sources and a range of scholarship, he neatly conveys the salient issues for modern readers of Burns, especially useful in the context of these less well-known works. Leask provides an uncluttered working text, with the accompanying notes given at the back of the volume. At a little over 100 pages, the notes take up a quarter of the volume. But they are a delight, and both inviting and illuminating. To read them in isolation is to find it confirmed just how knowledgeable Burns was about the history, politics, and literature of the British nation, and to see illuminated his deep love of Shakespeare and Pope in particular. It was also a delight to discover that whimsy was a favourite word of Burns’s (p. 318). Since they constitute key periods in Burns’s career many readers will probably delve into the three commonplace books reproduced here, at least initially. But even in the ‘Prose Fragments’ of the final chapter there is much to discover. In just a few pages we are offered a chance to peer into the playful workings of Burns’s crafty imagination as he engages with contemporary issues, and mocks literary hacks. Unlike the work of some of those scribblers Burns enjoyed ridiculing, Commonplace Books, Tour Journals, and Miscellaneous Prose is a major piece of scholarship, offering ample new material for Romanticists. It is a highly accomplished opening to what promises to be a seminal edition of Burns.
The Reception of Robert Burns in Europe , edited by Murray Pittock, offers fourteen critical essays that trace the cultural impact of Burns’s work on the Continent. Often thought of as Scotland’s national poet, Burns’s appeal has long stretched right across Europe. From the beginning, his verse and song were situated within issues of national identity, celebrated for drawing out and demarcating various cultural memories. As befits a book detailing Burns’s transnational influence, Pittock has assembled an international group of scholars and translators that bring with them a broad expanse of knowledge. Each critic helpfully outlines the finer details of a country’s historical relation to Burns, something I found extremely helpful. The book opens with Pauline Mackay’s very useful timeline which delineates the response to Burns on the Continent between 1795 and 2012 and puts us on a firm footing for the largely historicist readings that lie ahead. Pittock’s own introduction nicely highlights that the assimilation of Burns within the complex cultural needs and narratives of European nations had the inevitable effect of removing the poet from his original concerns. Burns initially gained traction on the Continent by way of the German states during the Napoleonic era. As Frauke Reitemeier’s chapter, ‘Lost in Translation’, shows, German reference books published Burns while he was still alive. According to Reitemeier’s research, these early translations suggest that what attracted German readers most were the folk-song tradition and the perceived primitivism of Scotland. Burns’s progressive politics and linguistic dexterity, in contrast, were of less significance. As Jahn Thon shows in chapter 13, though, these issues were of central importance in Norway as Burns contributed to its growing national fervour.
The reception of Burns in Austria is the subject of Eleoma Bodammer’s chapter. As she explains, nineteenth-century Austrian responses to Burns took various forms, and included translations, adaptations, and reviews. Scholars of the German-language reception of Burns have generally overlooked his significance in Austria, however, and Bodammer is effective in explaining the way Austro-German reaction to Burns differs from the better-understood German reception. Rounding off the German-language reception, Silvia Mergenthal considers the impact of Burns in the context of multilingual Switzerland. Dominique Delmaire is keen to ‘explore an enigma’ (p. 68) in his highly detailed chapter on ‘The Critical Reception of Robert Burns in France’. The enigma, as Delmaire understands it, is why Burns’s reputation plummeted in France at the start of the twentieth century, when it had been so high and so politically and culturally significant prior to this time. Focusing on Burns’s reception in Italy between 1869 and 1972, Francesca Saggini traces the interest of successive generations of Italian critics in the Scottish poet. In contrast to the rather complex cultural landscape that emerges out of Saggini’s sketch of Italy, Andrew Monnickendam, in ‘Robert Burns and Spanish Letters’, argues for only a limited response to Burns in Spain; ultimately Walter Scott’s fame appeared to bar any other Scot from getting much of a foothold.
Eastern Europe is pleasingly well represented in this collection by a number of insightful essays. Veronika Ruttkay considers Burns’s place amongst popular poetry in nineteenth-century Hungary, while the reception of Burns in all sections of Russian society is well captured by Natalia Kaloh Vid. Martin Procházka, in his chapter on Czech translations of Burns, wonders just how significant a part the poet played in constructing a tenacious national identity, particularly through folk tradition. The impact of Burns on Ukrainian rights is explored by Hanna Dyka, and, much like her impressive charting of Burns as a symbol of liberty to states within the Soviet bloc, Mirosława Modrzewska argues that Burns’s relevance to Poland is a particularly contemporary political phenomenon. In chapter 12, Valentina Bold explains that Slovenia’s appreciation of Burns began in the nineteenth century, and continues strong today, with Burns primarily understood there as a nature poet and a poet of love (p. 254). The final chapter of the collection, by Kirsteen McCue and Marjorie Rycroft, moves away from the structure of focusing on one nation at a time, and considers the broader theme of ‘The Reception of Robert Burns in Music’. This feels a fitting end to a book that details so well the rich migration of Burns. Excepting only ‘Happy Birthday’, Burns’s ‘Auld lang syne’ is surely the most widely known song around the world. Burns’s songs travelled across many continents, in part at least because of Scottish emigration. But his songs were also amongst the earliest recorded music at the beginning of the twentieth century. Focusing on specific historical periods, McCue and Rycroft highlight how European composers and musicians have consistently found Burns to be a personal, political, and musical stimulus. This valuable volume, which combines depth with breadth, illustrates the mixed reputation and continuing importance of Burns in European nations, and is an excellent example of the way reception studies draws attention to the complex interweaving of peoples, periods, and ideas.
Reading Robert Burns , by Carol McGuirk, aims to provide a comprehensive assessment of Burns’s poetry and songs. Like other recent studies, McGuirk’s book challenges the ‘broad brush of myth’ (p. 1) that has turned Burns into a cultural icon. McGuirk is keen to re-engage with the elusive and ambiguous elements of his writing. Throughout she saves biographical matters, and political and social contexts, for when she feels they most influence the writing. Her primary attention is given to early manuscripts, Burns’s favoured verse forms, and his habits of revision. McGuirk believes that Burns’s inventive intertwining of ‘vernacular Scots with standard English, changed literary language forever’ (p. 4), and she gives a good indication of the importance of his contribution in this field. In her ‘Epilogue’, McGuirk extends this largely linguistic matter into a discussion of how Burns’s distinctive poetic language has become ingrained in what she calls the ‘interactive matrix of living cultural exchange’, as Burns is ‘spoken and sung, or transplanted into new contexts’ (p. 190). McGuirk’s wide-ranging thesis is most incisive when she reads Burns in relation to other writers, a trend that has become increasingly popular and productive of late. McGuirk naturally feeds off Burns’s instinctive openness. Frequently in poetic conversation with others, Burns has also regularly been a poet towards whom others have gravitated for inspiration. William Wordsworth’s relation to Burns has long been a subject of critical discussion. But McGuirk finds fresh things to say on the ways in which Wordsworth seeks to emulate and resist Burns’s poetic example. A chapter on Burns and other Scots poets, meanwhile, highlights the significance of drinking in Scottish verse, from the eighteenth century to the modernist vernacular of Hugh MacDiarmid. Despite the challenge that such a comprehensive account inevitably creates, McGuirk’s is largely a cohesive argument that offers a fruitful reminder of Burns’s creativity.
‘The Letters of Robert Burns’ ( CQ 43 97–119) by Grace Egan makes a compelling case for the need to examine the poet’s epistles as self-conscious exercises that provide vital insights into the life of a writer. Byron, as so often, might have been speaking of himself when he famously described the ‘antithetical mind’ possessed by Burns, which was ever ‘soaring and grovelling’, and mingled ‘dirt and deity . . . in that compound of inspired clay’ (quoted p. 97). Egan’s brilliant essay illustrates that it is in the letters as much as the verse that we find this ‘antithetical mind’ labouring upon its literary ambitions. For Egan, Burns’s ‘letters mix together the ‘common . . . Clod’ and the sentimental to create antithetical writing that is as true to form as it is true to life’ (p. 119). ‘James Morison, Book Illustration and The Poems of Robert Burns (1812)’ ( SLR 6:ii 25–48), by Sandro Jung, contextualizes an under-evaluated two-volume edition of Burns’s verse. Jung details the Morison firm’s use of the production of the illustrated book as part of a cultural and patriotic agenda to promote a Scottish canon. In ‘The First Publication of Burns’s “Tam o’Shanter” ’ ( SSL 40:i 105–15) meanwhile, Bill Dawson examines the early publishing history of the poet’s macabre mock-epic.
Byron’s place in the cultural landscape of Romanticism has often been directed by a cult of personality, or the politics of celebrity. New Historicists have commonly appropriated Byron as a means by which to critique Romantic ideology as a result of his voice’s ironic countering of his Romantic contemporaries, acknowledged by critics such as M.H. Abrams. In recent years, however, there has been a gradual formalist turn, with critics engaging with Byron at the level of the reading experience. Published in 2013, but not received in time for review in last year’s YWES , Byron and the Forms of Thought by Anthony Howe is therefore both timely and appealing in its insistence that the study of poetry must directly engage with its constituent parts, what Howe calls a poem’s ‘ways of being’ (p. 5). For Howe, it is not simply a poet who is thinking in verse, in Simon Jarvis’s terms, but any reader attentive to literary form. As Angela Leighton observes in On Form , which Howe quotes in his introduction, this formalist method ‘stops us in our tracks of thinking, and inserts itself in that moment of stillness. To attend to form is thus to admit some other kind of mental attention, which is not the quick route to a name or the knowledge of an object’ (quoted p. 5). Part of Howe’s thesis therefore rests on the belief that literary studies affords a dynamic means of unsettling modernity’s quantitative analysis in favour of a more capacious and cautious acknowledgement of the complexity of human experience. He thus subtly extends the study of Byronic forms beyond their significance to the Romantic period into questions of the value of literary criticism in modern universities and the wider culture in which they operate. Howe’s book is also part of a growing trend to defend Byron as thinker. Emily Bernhard Jackson, in The Development of Byron’s Philosophy of Knowledge: Certain in Uncertainty , recently offered a reading of Byron as deeply engaged with British empiricism. For Bernhard Jackson this engagement can be traced throughout Byron’s writing, and by the time of Don Juan has developed into a fully fledged epistemology. Howe shares the belief that Byron’s thinking has been underestimated, but he differs in arguing for a more indeterminate and hesitant philosophical stance on Byron’s part, and in assuming that it is through the process of composing poetry that Byron is continually engaging with and questioning his thoughts.
Howe divides his book into six essays, and ends with a coda. These essays perhaps necessarily privilege the later works such as Cain , but most especially Don Juan . In Part I, Howe relates Byron’s absorption in philosophical scepticism, and how this leads the poet to believe that verse carries a ‘philosophical agency of its own’ (p. 8). Part II addresses Byron as literary critic, as he reflects on what poetry might offer ahead of any other compositional practice. In Part III, Howe turns to the poetry in greater detail. He is excellent on Byronic nuance, not least those richly suggestive moments performed by punctuation. Discussing the nihilism in Don Juan , canto XVI, for instance, Howe shows Byron’s failure to communicate through simile: ‘The evaporation of a joyous day’ finally leads to his conclusion that it is ‘like—like nothing that I know / Except itself’. Suggestively, Howe notes that the dash ‘represents a tiny stretch of the infinite quietness predicted by any quest for figurative identity’ but that ‘it is only through sleight of hand (by using the failure of simile as a simile itself) that the narrator is able to continue at all’ (p. 140). For Howe, moments like these reveal Byron’s forms of thought; whilst Byron may have found a solution to the ‘voiceless thought’ in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage , the answer is uttered with the ‘suspicion that we have merely exchanged despair for textuality’ (p. 140).
Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century authors and critics regularly derided publishers as a distasteful feature of literary life. Charles Lamb was not alone in feeling that writers were slaves to the marketization of books propagated by publishers for their own profit. In contrast, Mary O’Connell’s Byron and John Murray: A Poet and His Publisher suggests publishers can be enablers of literature, and offers a much-needed reappraisal of one of the most profitable associations in book history. As O’Connell notes, a lot of attention has been paid to the rise of the marketplace and its impact on the Romantic period. Much less notice has been given to the influence of a single publishing figure as an arbiter of taste, or as shaper of a literary text, or as facilitator of the complex relationship between writer and reader. O’Connell’s choice of Murray is a smart one. As the most significant publisher in the Romantic period, he was also an essential patron of the literary world. His reach extended far beyond Byron to include publishing the Quarterly Review and Jane Austen amongst numerous other achievements. No wonder Wordsworth was eager to be taken on, and even Keats flirted with the idea, so successful was Murray in turning a profit for poets as well as for himself. Frequently imagined as antagonistic, and posited as at best a mercenary relationship by Byron scholars, O’Connell convincingly shows that despite their political polarity and ‘the difference in class’ Byron and Murray ‘had fundamentally compatible personalities’ (p. 201). For O’Connell, they were friends. At least as Byron defined friends in a letter to Mary Shelley as ‘like one’s partners in the waltz of this world—not much remembered when the ball is over, though very pleasant for the time’ (quoted p. 201). The transitory nature that such a remark suggests also accommodates Byron’s pleasure in picking up the dance of friendship at any time. O’Connell’s meticulous archival research and thoughtful readings reveal that poet and publisher were frequently in step with each other, and that this presented a personal and creative profit, as well as a financial one. Sensitive yet piercing in its observations, Byron and John Murray opens up new pathways in the fields of book-trade history and Byron studies.
The Burning of Byron’s Memoirs is an invaluable collection of the late Peter Cochran’s essays and papers written over twenty years. An independent scholar, Cochran was a leading authority on Byron for decades, and many of these essays have not been published before or even heard in public. The essays cover various aspects of Byron’s life and work, including his complex relationship with friends and family, his conversations with, and allusions to, other writers, and his feelings about men and women. Their range, in keeping with Cochran’s capacious interests, is eclectic. Byron’s ‘dirty jokes’ and ‘problem with mothers’ sit alongside the challenge of being Byron’s banker and the poet’s relation to nations—especially Scotland and Greece—and to other poets, most notably and insightfully his relation to Shakespeare. The essay from which the book gets its title is a tour de force of documentation, detailing the way Byron’s Memoirs were destroyed days after his death was announced. Each essay in this collection benefits from Cochran’s interest in contemporary issues—from geopolitics to sexual politics. Cochran’s engagement with these issues is fired by what he feels is Byron’s own prescience. As Cochran points out, the ‘one thing you can’t say about Byron, on most subjects, is that he’s out-dated’ (p. xii). The Burning of Byron’s Memoirs affords its readers an insight into the enormous importance of Cochran’s work to Byron studies over the years. His website, at https://petercochran.wordpress.com/ , has serviced us with accounts of Byron’s life and writing, whilst his editorial work and commentary have been priceless. Cochran died in May last year. The Burning of Byron’s Memoirs articulates how much his voice will be missed.
Byron’s sociability is addressed by a number of articles that reflect on his friendships, and relationship to other writers. David Francis Taylor explores Byron’s obsession with the oratory of the late eighteenth century in ‘Byron, Sheridan, and the Afterlife of Eloquence’ ( RES 65 474–94). Taylor focuses on a number of speeches by Sheridan from 1787–8, and suggests that Byron self-consciously problematizes any attempt at rendering what was spoken in the past. This thoughtful essay nicely conveys the way Byron’s buoyant emulation of Sheridan is also one of inevitable, and necessary, imperfection. ‘The Politics of Byron and Alfred de Musset: Marino Faliero and Lorenzaccio ’ ( ERR 25 757–71), by Joanne Wilkes, shows the importance of Byron’s play to the development of Musset’s later stage work. While Byron’s influence on Musset was immediately recognized on the first publication of the French poet’s work in 1829, assessing the overlaps and divergences between the two from a political context reveals Musset’s cynicism regarding the chance for any meaningful change, Wilkes argues. This is a skilful essay that combines context with intertextuality.
‘The Variants and Transformations of Fantasmagoriana : Tracing a Travelling Text to the Byron–Shelley Circle’ ( Romanticism 20 306–20), by Maximiliaan Van Woudenberg, looks at the infamous ghost-story contest at the Villa Diodati in the summer of 1816. Instead of raking over familiar ground, however, the essay delves into the now little known Fantasmagoriana , the French volume of ghost stories, which, according to Mary Shelley later, had been one of the inspirations behind the contest. Van Woudenberg highlights the narrative and genre influence of Fantasmagoriana on Frankenstein and Byron’s ghost story, which would subsequently be adapted by John Polidori as The Vampyre . The period after that year without a summer is the subject of ‘Byron—Frere—at the Octave’ ( ByronJ 42 133–43) by N.E. Gayle, which reconsiders the comic creative vista that opened up for Byron in 1817 once he was more familiar with ottava rima. Byron already knew the form in the shape of works by Pulci, Ariosto, and Tasso. For Gayle, however, it is Byron’s discovery in 1817 of the humorous English epic, supposedly by the brothers Whistlecraft, but actually by John Hookham Frere, that is of distinct importance to a poet seeking an alternative to the tragic Tales and Manfred. In ‘P. L. Møller: Kierkegaard’s Byronic Adversary’ ( ByronJ 42 35–47), Troy Wellington Smith looks at the philosopher’s turn away from the poet via their contemporary Peder Ludvig Møller. Smith discusses how both Byron and Møller serve as models for Kierkegaard’s fictional character Johannes the Seducer. In ‘Catullus and the Missing Papers’ ( ByronJ 42 111–22) Timothy Webb reflects on the politically fraught relationship between Byron and Leigh Hunt, and the publisher John Murray. In October 1822, spurred on by Murray’s refusal to return The Vision of Judgement to Byron, Hunt sent his friend an adaptation of a satirical poem by Catullus. Webb uses this incident to illustrate both Byron’s and Hunt’s indignation at Murray, and links this to Byron’s turn to Leigh’s radical brother John in 1823 for the publication of the remainder of Don Juan , and The Vision of Judgement itself. Webb’s insightful essay throws new light on the alliance between Byron and Hunt, who were living near each other near Genoa during this time and collaborating on The Liberal .
Ideological as well as literary disputes within publishing history are also the subject of Jason Kolkey’s confident and convincing ‘Mischievous Effects: Byron and Illegitimate Publication’ ( ByronJ 42[2014) 21–33). Focusing on texts and paratexts, Kolkey shows that the battle between legitimate and ‘pirate’ booksellers was a pivotal factor in the marketization of books, and details Byron’s adroit response to the ever-increasing commodification of his poetics and personality. Paratexts are also of central concern to Ourania Chatsiou’s exploration of Byronic irony. In ‘Lord Byron: Paratext and Poetics’ ( MLR 109 640–62) Chatsiou focuses on annotation to illustrate how Byron imaginatively utilizes the opportunity that liminality affords. Delving into Byron’s annotations reveals that his notes are not simply an ‘undisciplined or calculated authorial self-projection’, but also essential to how he seduces and disrupts his readers—what Chatsiou sees as the poetics of Romantic irony, part of a ‘total “macro-text” in which everything matters and productively interplays’ (p. 642).
A number of critics addressed Byronic travel, broadly conceived, in 2014. In ‘Prospects of Europe: The First Iteration of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage ’ ( KSR 28:i 37–48) Richard Lansdown offers an analysis of Byron’s ambivalent reaction to the history, land, and people of Europe. Lansdown believes that Byron’s travels constitute not the ‘random series they appear to be’ but rather an ‘intellectual sequence’ that is fashioned from the poet’s endeavour to ‘understand the present in terms of the past’ (p. 38). This excavation of Europe’s history in relation to the geopolitical landscape Byron saw all about him is what makes the first two cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage , for Lansdown as for many others, the greatest European poem since the Aeneid . ‘Transformations of Byron in the Literature of British India’ ( VLC 42 573–93), by Máire ní Fhlathúin, reflects on the reception of, and responses to, Byron’s writing by a community of British poets in Romantic-period India. It provides a fascinating account of the dissemination of Byron’s work and the personality politics that surrounded the poet. Ní Fhlathúin shows that Indian-based writers also co-opted Byronism into their works via various allusions, adaptations, and imitations, as was also the case with British-based poets in the first half of the nineteenth century. This influence was freighted with political and cultural agency, according to Fhlathúin, as Byron’s exoticized vision of the Orient is reconfigured in the context of British India. Paul Giles argues for an important antipodean imaginary in Byron’s poetry. ‘Romanticism’s Antipodean Spectres: Don Juan and the Transgression of Space and Time’ ( ERR 25 365–83) makes a convincing case for reading Romantic poetry via the ‘relativism associated with spatial boundaries’ (p. 365). For Giles, the ‘spectre of antipodes British imperial enterprises’ (p. 365) helped to fashion the writing of the Shelleys and Byron. Of particular note in this essay is the way Giles understands this process as at work on a formal level in Byron’s verse.
In ‘ “The Controlless Core of Human Hearts”: Writing the Self in Byron’s Don Juan ’ ( ByronJ 42 123–32), by Michael J. Plygawko, Byron’s claim to his publisher in April 1817 that ‘I hate things all fiction ’ becomes a means of investigating what truth might mean for the poet. Via a series of close readings, Plygawko considers the creative agency at play whenever Byron brings into tension the imagined and the real. ‘ “Our Mix’d Essence”: Manfred ’s Ecological Turn’ ( ByronJ 42 5–20), by J. Andrew Hubbell, attempts new insight into a well-worn critical field: Byron’s radically ambivalent approach to nature. Manfred dramatizes the failure of a Wordsworthian faith in nature for Byron, as Hubbell notes. Hubbell’s ecocritical stance benefits from recent work by Stephen Cheeke and Timothy Morton, as he acknowledges. But his primary interest lies in pursuing what he sees as Byron’s lifelong attention to ‘the co-evolutionary interdependence between the natural environment and human society’, what Hubbell calls the poet’s ‘theory of cultural ecology’ (p. 6). The brooding Byronic hero is the subject of an article by Gregory Olsen, though with a telling difference. In ‘Rewriting the Byronic Hero: “I’ll try the firmness of a female hand” ’ ( ERR 25 463–77) Olsen shows in compelling ways how Gulnare in The Corsair has many of the characteristics of the Byronic hero. Like Byron’s male heroes, Gulnare is ‘both Romanticized and demonized’ (p. 470) throughout, while her ‘crime’, for Conrad at least, is her defining feature. ‘Energy Like Life: Byron and Ballet’ ( ByronJ 42 145–56), by Betsy Winakur Tontiplaphol, rehearses the balletic movement of Don Juan . Offering a reappraisal of the Romantic period’s response to dance culture by challenging the assumption that Englishmen did not view ballet very highly, Tontiplaphol details the various references to ballet in Byron’s writing. Byron’s club foot left him rather envious of dancers, and meant he generally refrained from dancing in public. But Tontiplaphol suggests that ballet is the ‘non-literary art with which Don Juan is most profoundly and productively engaged’ (p. 147) and traces the thematic and formal value of the dance to the vim and vigour of his verse. Jonathon Shears’s ‘Byron’s Habits’ ( KSR 28:i 25–36) delves into the poet’s personal peculiarities. Shears’s compelling argument is that, even when his actions are apparently desultory, Byron’s behaviour might be understood through internal compulsions that the poet was not always conscious of. Using the theory of Pierre Bourdieu and others, Shears provides a fresh approach to that typical Byronic paradox: that the poet is most in control when seemingly surrendering to the loss of it.
Each year John Clare’s reputation grows. Yet the criticism that at times his writing focuses too intently on describing the natural world to the detriment of human feeling is one that seems to linger for scholars of his work, despite Jonathan Bate’s efforts to reverse this. In Clare’s Lyric: John Clare and Three Modern Poets , however, Stephanie Kuduk Weiner deftly unearths how Clare ‘perceives, feels, and thinks about the world’, and how his lyric moments in turn ‘invest that world with vividness and immediacy’ (p. 3). Her three essays devoted to Clare follow the poet’s own practice in being excellent examples of the value of close attention to little details. But Kuduk Weiner also has the capacity of drawing out onto a broader canvas. The first chapter reads Clare as a close listener, and understands the poet’s skill at pulling the reader with him in rapt attention to the sounds of the natural world which Clare renders through the soundscape of verse. Kuduk Weiner argues that Clare’s use of sound at once admits and looks to overcome the limitations of any verbal mimesis in reading. The second chapter makes a compelling case for reading Clare’s hundreds of sonnets as attempts to ward off enclosure by using endings to invite new beginnings. Chapter 3 gives us a fascinating account of Clare’s late asylum poems and suggests that he self-consciously uses the medium of poetry to consider ‘the linguistic and poetic challenge of representing absence’ (p. 87). The second part of the book is concerned with the inspiration poets derive from other poets. Kuduk Weiner explores the impact of Clare’s lyrics on Arthur Symons, Edmund Blunden, and John Ashbery. Being, as Kuduk Weiner concedes, ‘the foremost theorist of the cosmopolitan, urban, impressionistic aestheticism of the fin de siècle ’ (p. 125), Symons might seem somewhat out of place amidst Clare’s creative streams. But Symons’s introduction to his 1908 edition of Clare’s poems is full of searching insight, and Kuduk Weiner captures the kinship between the two of them well. In chapter 5, Kuduk Weiner finds Clare illuminating Blunden’s response to the horrors of the First World War. Her final chapter considers Ashbery’s creative and critical responses to Clare as he seeks to ‘extract pieces of the world in order ‘to re-create reality’ within the frame of a work of art’ (p. 169). The joy of this book is its framing of Clare’s poetics in relation to other artists, asking us to look again at his place in the canon.
The wonderful John Clare Society Journal kept up its high standard with a number of admirable essays. ‘John Clare’s Recollections of Home: The Poetics of Nostalgia’ ( JCSJ 33 5–19), by Valerie Pedlar, captures the tensions Clare felt and exhibited about being ‘at home’, not, as she explains, the ‘physical attributes’ of the place, but the ‘fragility and vulnerability of one’s relation to oneself, and one’s community’ (p. 18). Clare’s ‘nostalgia for home’ (p. 18) is expressive of his craving for a time and space before these conflicts existed, Pedlar believes. In a highly suggestive essay, Erin Lafford explores ‘the way Clare represents health and madness at the level of sound’ (p. 24). ‘Clare’s Mutterings, Murmuring, and Ramblings: The Sound of Health’ ( JCSJ 33 24–40) argues that Clare’s use of indeterminate, non-linguistic vocal sounds counters the prevailing medical belief at the time that muttering connoted insanity. Employing the work of Gilles Deleuze, Lafford argues that Clare’s sounds bring ‘health and madness together in the same poetic voice’ (p. 25). In ‘John Clare and William Hone: A Letter Redated’ ( JCSJ 33 48–56) Robert Heyes delves into the history of a letter purporting to be from 15 May 1823. It is a letter, Heyes explains, that has always ‘puzzled’ him (p. 48) because there is no other evidence that Clare was even aware of Hone at this time. Whilst Heyes solves the puzzle simply enough, he uses the mystery to sketch further details of Clare’s contact with the literary scene in London, an area, as he says, we still do not know enough about. ‘ Hic Inde Clare : Interity, Exocognition, & John Clare’s “Proposals for Building a Cottage” ’ ( JCSJ 33 57–72), by Ron Paul Salutsky, offers a neuroscientific approach to Clare’s writing, and to art more generally. For Salutsky, a time will soon be upon us when we will be able to read more accurately what occurs in the brain during an aesthetic experience, and not only gain a fuller appreciation of what art means for individual pleasure, but also its therapeutic benefits for our wider community. In ‘John Clare’s Spenserian Lyric Fragments’ ( JCSJ 33 73–86), Adam White locates Clare within the tradition of the Romantic fragment poem. Like other exponents of the form, Clare’s fragments invoke the idea of a whole. But, White argues, unlike Byron, Shelley, or Keats, Clare’s Spenserianism frequently combines its ‘interrelations with, and independence from . . . The Faerie Queene ’ (p. 73). This continual construction of Spenserian fragments, White contends, offers a new formal context for thinking of Clare as ‘the poet of “little things” ’ as Mina Gorji has proposed (quoted p. 74).
Two essays found new things to say about the status of enclosure in Clare’s thinking. ‘The Place of Rhyme in John Clare’s Northborough Poems’ ( KSR 28:i 14–20), by Alex Latter, makes a fine case for the need for greater critical attention to the poetry Clare wrote between 1832 and 1837. In his close readings, Latter skilfully shows how Clare’s later use of rhyme was a major innovation in both the sonnet tradition and the eighteenth-century pastoral mode. Essentially, Latter hears the rhyme from this time as a destabilizing impulse redolent of Clare’s resistance to all forms of enclosure. In ‘John Clare and Biopolitics’ ( ERR 25 665–82) Chris Washington offers a different spin on ecocritical readings of Clare by considering how enclosure shifts the poet’s understanding of the relation between humans and animals. Washington shows how, in Clare’s ethical and poetic vision, the consequences of the Enclosure Act transform spaces of human–animal relations once ‘consciously and conscientiously respectful’ (p. 667) into ‘confrontational staging grounds’ (p. 666).
The poetry of George Crabbe was given a special issue in Romanticism this year . As the editors explain in ‘George Crabbe: Times and Spaces’ ( Romanticism 20 103–5), the essays were originally offered as papers at the ‘Crabbe’s Tales’ conference at Newcastle University in July 2012. This event had celebrated the bicentenary of the publication of the Tales by considering Crabbe’s place in nineteenth-century poetry and cultural life. Francis Jeffrey felt Crabbe was ‘the most original writer who has ever come before us’ (quoted p. 103), and the range of articles offered reflect on that originality in a broad but always richly detailed context. Claire Lamont’s ‘ “The smallest circumstances of the smallest things”: Domestic Interiors in Crabbe’s Poems’ ( Romanticism 20 106–16) delves into the various dwellings described in Crabbe’s oeuvre. Throughout, Lamont thoughtfully weaves close reading with valuable nods to Crabbe’s inheritance of an eighteenth-century tradition, including that of Goldsmith, who influences Crabbe’s The Village , and Gray, as well as the many allusions to Burns. Lamont argues for the ‘shared spaces’ (p. 115) that Crabbe creates—be they poetic, personal, or physical—which, she says, he carefully constructs and sees as so essential to the building of human experience. Lamont is unusual, however, in galloping across Crabbe’s published work, from The Village  up to Tales of the Hall ; the remainder of the essays in the special issue focus in the main on The Borough and Tales . The latter is the focus of ‘Putting Stories Together’ ( Romanticism 20 185–94) by Gavin Edwards. In a fascinating account, Edwards takes us through the various relations and divergences between the Tales and various frame narratives like A Thousand and One Nights , the Canterbury Tales , and the Decameron .
In ‘Crabbe’s Times’ ( Romanticism 20 117–27) Michael Rossington is interested in revealing the ‘sophistication of Crabbe’s historical sensibility’ (p. 117), something that few critics have paid much attention to. Rossington reads this sensibility as subtle, with the tales reflecting several narrative and historical perspectives that rarely take priority over each other and so establish tensions between the time of the Napoleonic Wars, when Tales was first published, and the periods which the narratives inhabit. For Rossington, the tales therefore invite the reader to identify any political and religious tensions in an English past, while understanding present divisions within that past experience. And while this may provide remedies for repairing social tensions, Rossington argues that it also undermines the very enterprise by suggesting their embedded and repetitive inevitability through history. In ‘The “Species in This Genus Known”: The Influence of Taxonomy on Crabbe’s Tales’ ( Romanticism 20 128–39) James Bainbridge acknowledges Crabbe’s ‘love of ambiguity’ (p. 139) while arguing for the importance of natural science in the verse. It is the ‘tension between the known and unknown’ that makes Crabbe’s ‘poetry unique’ (p. 139), according to Bainbridge.
Crabbe’s The Borough —a series of verse letters that detail the personal lives, events, and buildings of a coastal town—offers a fascinating example of the incongruity at the heart of Crabbe’s poetics. It brings into view the specialness of common everyday things so prevalent in much Romantic writing, and in its descriptions anticipates the detail and richness of Victorian novels. Formally, however, it capitalizes on the refinement associated with the heroic couplets of the eighteenth century. This special issue of Romanticism reserves a number of its pages for this vital work. In ‘ “Fences . . . form’d of Wreck”: George Crabbe’s The Borough and the Resources of the Poor’ ( Romanticism 20 140–50) Matthew Ingleby is interested in the still live issue of the poet’s contentious relation to, and description of, the poor. For Hazlitt, after all, Crabbe was incurably conservative, rarely sympathizing with those he depicted, and seemingly unable or unwilling to question the state of the nation. For Fiona Stafford, The Borough affords an opportunity to discuss the resonance of the sea, not only as something vital in and of itself, but also as way of evoking the internal movements of Crabbe’s thoughts, an ‘emblem of my mind’, as he was keen on calling it. ‘ “Of Sea or River”: Crabbe’s Best Description’ ( Romanticism 20 162–73) is sensitive to Crabbe’s interest in the limitations of language in capturing the world around him, in a way that Stafford feels is comparable to contemporaries like Wordsworth and Coleridge, and would later be explored by Percy Shelley. Andrew Lacey also considers Crabbe in relation to Wordsworth in ‘The Epitaphic Poetry of Crabbe and Wordsworth’ ( Romanticism 20 151–61). Lacey addresses the fact that whilst Romantic epitaphic writing has been the subject of some discussion over the years, Crabbe’s place within this tradition is consistently overlooked. As Lacey points out, this is typical of Crabbe’s marginal position in Romantic critical discourse, partly because he is associated with an Augustan aesthetic at least as much as a Romantic one. Lacey is right to point out the curiosity of this critical position, since most of the mature work was published after the seminal date (for Romanticists at least) of 1798. Lacey is keen to treat Crabbe as Wordsworth’s contemporary, and trace what he calls the ‘incongruent treatment of the epitaphic in each poet’s oeuvre’ (p. 151). Thomas Williams investigates Crabbe’s relation to another contemporary poet. In ‘George Crabbe and John Clare: Refinement and Reading’ ( Romanticism 20 174–84) Williams considers both social and subjective identities in poetry. Clare is an interesting poet to bring into comparison with Crabbe, not least because of the former’s once marginalized place in the canon and increasing significance for Romantic studies—something that all these essays seek for Crabbe—but more specifically because, as Williams explains, each poet explores how reading provides a means of attaining a curious form of refinement in rural life. As a collection, these essays go a long way in revealing Crabbe’s important place in critical discourse, as both Romanticist and witty critic of such a notion. Perhaps the most crucial contribution these essays make to literary criticism is in giving Crabbe an equal footing with more established writers.
Published in 2013, but not received in time for review in last year’s YWES , Chris Murray’s Tragic Coleridge details the poet’s multitudinous interest in tragedy. The significance of classical precedent to Coleridgean thought is addressed when Murray examines ‘On the Prometheus of Aeschylus’, a lecture Coleridge wrote late in life. But for Murray its philosophical argument, ahead of any detailed engagement with Aeschylus, suggests that by this stage Coleridge was unwilling to engage with tragedy (p. 158). Moreover, Murray suggests that Coleridge’s reluctance to offer a theory of tragedy might lie in a fear that it might be in conflict with Christian orthodoxy. That is not to say that the tragic did not continue to play an important role in Coleridge’s thinking. As Murray neatly shows, it pervades Sibylline Leaves , Biographia Literaria , and The Statesman’s Manual . What Murray calls ‘tragic Romanticism’ (p. 2) is revealed as an idiosyncratic concept for Coleridge, rather than something reducible to classical inheritance or genre. Murray captures the importance of not only London theatre but also Romantic organicism and the fragment in fostering Coleridge’s tragic thoughts. He suggests that Coleridge would have been more than capable of advancing tragedy on the stage if there had been more of an opportunity for him to do so. Murray’s thesis is a timely contribution to two areas recently given attention. His long section on ‘The Daemon’, for instance, reveals a parallel with Gregory Leadbetter’s Coleridge and the Daimonic Imagination  in its attraction to Coleridge’s unease over his own inspiration, perpetually dazzled by daemonic poesis yet fearful of its threat to Reason. Murray’s well-argued belief that drama is an essential means of understanding Coleridge’s output picks up, as Murray acknowledges, J.C.C. Mays’s call for the dramatic mode to be ‘incorporated within his writing as a whole’ (quoted p. 95). It will be interesting to see how these two strands of Coleridge criticism are taken up further in the years ahead.
Like Tony Howe’s Byron and the Forms of Thought reviewed above, Ewan Jones’s Coleridge and the Philosophy of Poetic Form is wedded to the idea that poetry is a medium that performs and reveals a particular kind of thinking. In his introduction, Jones notes that focusing on poetic form flies in the face of the current state of Coleridge scholarship. But as he outlines in his ‘Coda’, recent years have brought something of a turn towards defending literary form as a subject worth critical investigation (and many of the works reviewed here seem to back this assertion up). Throughout, Jones is attentive to verse form, both in his perceptive and original close readings of its constituent parts, and as a broader category that might tell us something significant about artistic thought. This is a revisionary account of Coleridgean poetics and philosophy. In his four chapters Jones unsettles any simplistic summary we might like to believe in, of the best years of Coleridge’s verse belonging solely to the energies of his youth. Chapter 3, as well as being full of perceptive observations on the background and practice of the pun, is also admirably focused on Coleridge’s late composition ‘Limbo’. In the face of Coleridge’s own assertions of unproductiveness, Jones proves the significance of Coleridge’s post-1800 verse. The established chronology of Coleridge’s intellectual development—in broad terms Associationism, to German Idealism, to the ‘hermetic idiosyncrasy’ (p. 9) of the late Highgate years—is also thoroughly undermined. Rather than detecting a coherent and consistent Coleridgean system, Jones is in agreement with Seamus Perry concerning the ‘muddlesomeness of Coleridge’s writing’ (quoted p. 9). What Jones brings to this notion, however, is the idea that Coleridge philosophized through verse because its form frequently afforded him a particular means of playing with his thoughts. In Jones’s hands, very often the turns and returns of Coleridge’s verse form are shown to generate unforeseen and unintended consequences for Coleridgean philosophy.
As well as her 2013 essay in Coleridge, Romanticism and the Orient on ‘The Integral Significance of the 1816 Preface to “Kubla Khan” ’ (reviewed YWES 94), Heidi Thomson published further material on the poet in Notes and Queries . ‘Coleridge’s “On a Supposed Son” and Friedrich Von Logau’s “Auf Ein Zweifelkind” ’ ( N&Q 61 58–61) details the ‘private preoccupations’ as well as the ‘political and economic situation’ (p. 59) reflected in the epigram ‘On a Supposed Son’. Thomson locates this work partly in the personal context in which Coleridge found himself. As she explains, in the winter of 1800 Coleridge was starting to publicly express his unhappiness over his marriage, and his more insecure feelings over the long-term prospects of fruitful relations with the Wordsworths. Other pieces on Coleridge appeared in Notes and Queries . In ‘Twenty Untraced Allusions in Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria ’ ( N&Q 61 61–9) Adam Roberts identifies a number of previously unattributed references in Coleridge’s monumental work. As Roberts notes, Biographia Literaria is a ‘complex web of quotation, reference, allusion, and intertextuality’ (p. 61), and trying to account for all of them appears an impossible task. But Roberts seems to have meticulously traced almost all of those either not glossed or not able to be traced in the Princeton edition of 1983, edited by James Engel and W. Jackson Bate. ‘Coleridge and Kurrentschrift ’ ( N&Q 61 50–4), by Maximiliaan Van Woudenberg, looks at Coleridge’s difficulties with reading German characters—the handwritten script today known as Kurrentschrift. Despite learning German, Coleridge struggled with Kurrentschrift not least because its representation of a number of vowels and consonants is illegible for anyone more used to Latin script. Coleridge portrays his difficulties comically. But the incident ‘opens up a new perspective about his reading activities . . . while in Germany’ (p. 51). Kathryn Walls, in ‘The Wedding Feast as Communion in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ( N&Q 61 56–8), offers an interpretation of the final stanzas of the poem based on two religious contexts: Christ’s parable of the wedding feast, and the Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion as it is offered in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. As Walls says, this text was the Church of England’s standard prayer book at the time Coleridge was composing The Ancient Mariner .
Thomas Owens produced two very different yet equally compelling essays on Coleridge. In ‘Coleridge, Nitric Acid and the Spectre of Syphilis’ ( Romanticism 20 282–93) Owens is careful never to state categorically that Coleridge did in fact suffer from syphilis. But he makes a convincing case for his suffering from a ‘psychological preoccupation with venereal disease . . . real or imagined’ (p. 282). Owens combines knowledge of the medical discourse of the time with a biographical reading of the poet to provide a fascinating insight into Coleridge’s own fear that he had the symptoms of the disease, and the sexual experience to have contracted it. In ‘Coleridge’s Parentheses and the Question of Editing’ ( EIC 64 373–93), Owens reads Coleridge’s punctuation, including his ‘mispunctuation’, as ‘load-bearing’, registering ‘the absence or presence of strain conceived as mimetic patterns of restraint or exertion’ (p. 390). He makes a compelling case for the need for an edition of Coleridge’s occasional prose that affords full credence to Coleridgean textual variance, one that does not efface ‘Coleridge’s mental activity beneath the print’ and gives full range to his ‘ “antiphonal voice” ’ (p. 390).
‘ “Jealous of the Listening Air”: Silence and Seduction in Christabel ’ ( Romanticism 20 261–70), by Richard Berkeley, examines the Gothic associations of Coleridge’s enigmatic poem . Berkeley sees Christabel as offering an ‘interesting interpretive problem’ (p. 261), not least because it refuses to offer its reader a rationalization of its narrative meaning. Berkeley details the way Coleridge identified himself with Christabel’s experience so that what is at stake in the seductiveness of the poem is emblematic of the ‘poet’s own guilty encounter with gothic literature’ (p. 261). Coleridge’s engagement with European thought is outlined in detail by James Vigus in ‘The Philosophy of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’ (in Mander, ed., The Oxford Handbook of British Philosophy in the Nineteenth Century , pp. 520–40). As Vigus explains, Coleridge’s literary, philosophical, and theological pursuits all make up his ‘encyclopaedic quest for unified knowledge’ (p. 520). This took the form of a deep engagement with German philosophy, and especially Kantian arguments, so as to pursue a ‘rational religion’, something that consistently underpins Coleridgean speculation, and which was, Vigus shows, the ‘great philosophical challenge of the age’ (p. 521).
In ‘Coleridge’s Disappointment in The Excursion ’ ( WC 45 147–51) Seamus Perry shows how frustration was also fruitful for Coleridge. As part of a special issue of Wordsworth Circle on The Excursion , Perry’s essay deftly examines crucial divergences that emerged between Wordsworth and Coleridge that can be perceived in the latter’s reaction to The Excursion . Examining an imaginative difficulty Coleridge felt was at the heart of Wordsworth’s philosophical poetry, Perry explains that the problem ‘lies in the relationship between the profound universality of the wisdoms that the poem sets out to enunciate and the highly particularized representation of their contingent spokesman’ (p. 148). As Perry shows, this was an issue that stretched back to the two poets’ collaborative heyday in the 1790s. ‘Coleridge: “Work without Hope” ’ ( WC 45 21–9), by Graham Davidson, examines one poem in subtle and rich detail. Coleridge wrote the first draft of ‘Work without Hope’ in February 1825. As Davidson explains, on first inspection the poem appears to readers as a pleasingly simple work—displaying the kind of impressions that seemed to form ‘themselves into verse instinctively’ as J.C.C. Mays has said (quoted p. 22). Davidson nicely weighs up the oddities and ambiguities at play in the poem, however, and their touching import to Coleridge’s life.
Sara Coleridge is gradually being accepted as much more than just the preserver of the Coleridge family reputation, or defender of her father’s legacy. A number of scholars, perhaps most especially Peter Swaab, have offered us a portrait of her as polymath: a talented poet and prose writer, and a thinker who engaged with politics, philosophy, and theology. Because of this we are slowly appreciating her as one of the leading scholars and artists of the late Romantic and Victorian eras. Jeffrey W. Barbeau’s Sara Coleridge: Her Life and Thought (also discussed in Section 1 above) adds to this portrait in various ways, skilfully capturing her ‘ inquiring spirit’ (p. ix). Underpinning this book is a belief in the interrelation between parents and their children. Barbeau understands Sara as ‘heir to her father’s capacious mind’ (p. x), and argues that her intellectual and creative development was fashioned out of her deep knowledge of her father’s writing, which produced in her a ‘thoroughly Coleridgean frame of mind’ (p. x). But at its heart this is a biography of, and critical introduction to, Sara, one that deepens our knowledge of its subject in admirable ways. Barbeau reveals her engagement with the key religious and philosophical debates of her time. As he explains, the issues that concerned her father’s generation were well known to her, but she was conscious of the need as a woman to wrestle with new concerns emerging out of an increasingly fast-moving modern world. By the end of this book we better appreciate Sara’s independent and energetic intellect, and richly creative voice.
Much good scholarship continues to be published on the evocative verse of Felicia Hemans. Two essays appeared in Studies in Romanticism that show the almost limitless ways in which we might read and interpret her poetry. ‘ England and Spain and Domestic Affections : Felicia Hemans and the Politics of Literature’ by Juan Sánchez ( SiR 53 399–416) offers a perceptive historicist account of Hemans’s engagement with war and imperialism. Sánchez shows how literature becomes a political weapon by which Hemans intervenes in the most charged concerns of her time. Sánchez discerns an ambiguity at the heart of Hemans’s response. England and Spain , for instance, appears to advance support for Tory policy during the Peninsular War through its invective against Napoleon and patriotic call to arms, yet Hemans can also be heard ‘consciously adopting a radical voice’ that at times shifts the focus of tyranny from Napoleon and onto England (p. 405).
Image of Dionysian inspiration and Christian sacrifice, of physical pleasure and spiritual healing, the motif of the drinking cup has been ebullient inspiration for numerous Romantic writers. While this theme has regularly focused on a masculine poetic economy, Young-Ok An’s ‘The Poetics of the “Charmed Cup” in Felicia Hemans and Letitia Elizabeth Landon’ ( SiR 53 217–38), explores the image in the context of female authorship and power. Hemans and Landon understand the cup and its intoxicating powers as a ‘metapoetic device’ for analysing the ‘intersections of gender, authorship, and life’, An argues (p. 218). She proposes that Hemans and Landon ‘invert and revise the male-oriented rhetoric of the charmed cup’ not only to ‘signify their struggles for authorship but also to explore the transformative potential of those struggles’ (p. 218). An’s intertextual reading is highly suggestive and consistently convincing. These two articles (and the works on Yearsley discussed above) aside, however, there was on the whole too little published on individual female poets, as is further indicated below.
Michael Edson offers us a new way of approaching the retirement poem in the Cockney School of poetry. In ‘Leigh Hunt, John Pomfret, and the Politics of Retirement’ ( ERR 25 423–42) Edson explores how Hunt’s turn to this mode ‘reflects the rise of a city-bound, middle-class audience for whom retirement was necessarily limited to the reading of retirement poetry’ (p. 425). Far from the conservative and conformist response to the pressures of modern life that retirement poetry is sometimes classed as, Edson proposes that Hunt and his contemporaries celebrated the ‘pleasure of escaping politics’ (p. 425) as a means, paradoxically, of accommodating and realizing reformist principles.
Byron’s problem with Keats, so he said, was that his writing too often displayed signs of a ‘sort of mental masturbation—he is always f-gg-g his imagination’ ( Byron’s Letters and Journals , ed. Leslie A. Marchand, HarvardUP, 7: 225). For Byron, Keats’s 1820 volume of poetry, the extraordinary Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St Agnes, and Other Poems , was the work of an adolescent (‘p-ss a bed poetry’), whose sexual immaturity lent his verse an obsessive over-indulgence in sensual desire. The intriguing thing about Keats, Modesty and Masturbation is that Rachel Schulkins uses this idea of Keats self-indulgently playing with his quill to suggest that it can be read as offering a form of social utility. Schulkins assumes that the autoeroticism that underscores Keats’s verse exists as a ‘sexual-political stance’ which reveals his criticism of the ‘conservative construction of the female as passionless’ (p. 3). Like so many other Keats scholars, Schulkins benefits from the brilliant work of Jeffrey Cox and Nicholas Roe, in this case by associating the sensuality of the verse with Keats’s liberal politics. Schulkins attempts to move from poetic analysis to wider cultural issues throughout her thesis. Specifically, she proposes that Keats’s lines of verse need to be understood within the ‘liberal-conservative debate surrounding sexual freedom . . . specifically female sexuality’ (p. 3). This is Keats’s ‘radical eroticism’ (p. 43) according to Schulkins, which counters the notion of an asexual woman. Thus female masturbation is read as a performance of ‘social revolt against social limitations, pursuing in private that which is publicly prohibited’ (p. 5). Schulkins seeks to distinguish her argument from Marjorie Levinson’s in Keats’s Life of Allegory , which, Schulkins suggests, reads Keats’s onanistic style with his literary and social insecurities. In contrast, Schulkins identifies masturbation with the ‘private sphere of imagination’ one where an ‘individual seeks his own personal advantage over social good’ (p. 4). For Schulkins, this is more typical of the context of the time, which saw masturbation not just as a physical gratification but also indicative of further conditions of the mind.
In ‘Keats, Antiquarianism, and the Picturesque’ ( EIC 64 119–37), Rosemary Hill offers a lively account of how the poet’s sensibility was ‘imbued with popular antiquarianism’ (p. 120). In tracing this aspect of the Keatsian aesthetic, Hill delves into the philosophical underpinnings of the picturesque, specifically the way landscape painting influences the manner in which the natural world is viewed and how in turn it is re-represented in art. For Hill, Keats is keener on mediated rather than direct experience; and certainly many of his letters and verse back up this idea. Not surprisingly, then, the picturesque, with its ‘re-echoing between art and life[,] appealed to Keats’s temperament’ (p. 121). Hill is particularly adept at illustrating how the ‘synthetic, the imitative, the second-hand, and sometimes frankly second rate . . . were the ideal subjects for Keats’ (p. 121). In ‘John Keats and Some Versions of Materiality’ ( Romanticism 20 233–45) Richard C. Sha seeks in Keats’s poetry a Romantic aesthetic that ‘refuses to choose between materiality and ideality, substance and event’, and seeks out a ‘possible ground of synthesis’ (p. 241). In a complex but sparklingly communicated argument, Sha describes what he calls ‘Romantic matter’, and what this means for an understanding of Keats; how, in moving away from mechanism, writers ‘sought to restore volition, attraction, and sympathy to the physical world’ conceptualizing things as dynamic, but ‘always on the move, in the process of becoming’ (p. 238).
For Carmen Faye Mathes, passivity is, paradoxically, a dynamic proposition for Keats. ‘ “Let us not therefore go hurrying about”: Towards an Aesthetics of Passivity in Keats’s Poetics’ ( ERR 25 309–18) conjures the staged detachment Keats assumes in order to engage with others, arguing that ‘Keatsian passivity invites sociability’ (p. 310), opening up mediated lines of discourse to others. As Mathes states, this essay invites us to think through new ways of reading the productivity that emerges out of Keatsian indolence. ‘Reading the Heart, Reading the World: Keats’s Historiographical Aesthetic’ ( ERR 25 275–88), by Emily Rohrbach, looks afresh at the relation between William Robertson’s History of America and Keats’s sonnet on Chapman’s Homer. Instead of offering another account of the thematic and historicist influence of Robertson’s text on Keats’s sonnet, however, Rohrbach considers the importance of its mediation through its form. This approach allows Rohrbach to show that Keats’s poem ‘both critiques Enlightenment causality and progressive historical narration’, making available to the ‘historical imagination an alternative temporality of surprise that foregrounds the individual subject’ (p. 276).
‘Keats’s Ways: The Dark Passages of Mediation and Why He Gives Up Hyperion ’ ( SiR 53 171–93), by Yohei Igarashi, builds on recent work surrounding ideas of media and Romantic poetry. Igarashi is an important figure in this movement, having participated in an MLA roundtable on ‘Romantic media studies’ in 2013. In this essay, he centres his interest on Keats’s fascination with ‘imagining communication at a distance’ (p. 174). Igarashi attempts, as he says, to take that familiar image of Keats, indoors, absorbed in what he is reading, and ‘superimpose upon it an image of Romantic-era Britain enmeshed in increasingly far-reaching domestic and global communication and transportation networks’ (p. 174). Where Igarashi is eager to reimagine our impression of Keats via the criss-crossing of international relations of his writing, Scott McEathron, in ‘William Hilton’s Lost Drawing of Keats’ ( KSJ 63 58–77), focuses his gaze on a specific portrait of the poet. William Hilton’s iconic image from 1822, which is currently sitting at Keats House in Hampstead, is based, as McEathron explains, on a miniature produced by Joseph Severn in 1819. Hilton had depicted Keats in a chalk drawing in 1820, but this has long since vanished—something that has frustrated Keats scholars for years. McEathron, though, has discovered that it survives not only in the known Wass engraving of 1841, but also via an 1865 copy made by George Scharf. This image, reproduced in this essay for the first time, gives us, as McEathron nicely suggests, a contrast to the ‘ornate, dark, and almost saddened mien of the Wass engraving’, via the more ‘open countenance often assigned to the poet’. This valuable essay also makes an important case for giving the rather peripheral figure of Hilton more prominence in Romantic studies.
‘ The Narrow Road to the Western Isles —If Keats Had Journeyed with Bashō’ ( KSR 28 49–57), by Geoffrey Wilkinson, is an imagining of the similarities between Keats and the Japanese poet. As Wilkinson shows, these poets are very different in a number of significant ways. But each shares a sense of himself as a literal and metaphorical traveller at times seeking the anonymity and even annihilation of the self. Christopher Langmuir examines Keats’s interest in, and the spiritual nourishment of, travel in ‘Keats: The Two and Thirty Palaces Revisited’ ( N&Q 61 514–15). Keats’s letter to Reynolds in February 1818 refers to a place of ‘two-and-thirty Palaces’, and Langmuir is keen to account for it beyond the orientalist explanations often proposed by editors and critics alike. Langmuir shows that the palaces are the abodes of the winds, something Keats uses to represent the all-encompassing—those ‘conceivable points of the compass’ (p. 515). As Langmuir explains, this ties in to readings of Keats’s thoughts on the capacity of the mind, free to follow its own path, as ‘the flight of the imagination radiates in all directions’ (p. 515).
Previously reviewed in last year’s YWES , but reissued in paperback in 2014, was Kathleen Kerr-Koch’s Romancing Fascism: Modernity and Allegory in Benjamin, de Man, Shelley . One of the early figures associated with deconstruction, and an important critic of Percy Bysshe Shelley, was the sometime controversial figure of Paul de Man. The posthumous discovery of de Man’s wartime journalism in 1988, written for occupied Belgium’s newspaper Le Soir , revealed alleged collaborationist tendencies with the National Socialist occupiers and, most damningly, implicit and explicit anti-Semitism. The fact that de Man has both been tarred by accusations of fascist sympathies and seen as a philosopher and literary theorist with a particular interest in Romanticism is striking; it reminds us of what Kerr-Koch refers to as ‘the often presumed antecedent connection between Romanticism and irrationalist ideologies’ (p. xii). Whether fascism is necessarily irrational and counter to the Enlightenment project or, in fact, the Enlightenment’s apotheosis, is not, however, up for debate.
It is fitting that Kerr-Koch considers de Man alongside Walter Benjamin—a figure who also flirted with anti-Semitism in his life—as readers of Percy Shelley. Kerr-Koch’s study is not so much an investigation into the connection between the ‘romanticism’ of Shelley and the ‘fascism’ of de Man and Benjamin, as the perhaps misleading title suggests. Rather, Kerr-Koch’s interest is in the role played by literary allegory in the works of three writers in the so-called ‘age of modernity’ of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her study seeks to contest the notion that allegory is somehow ahistorical or depoliticized; its ‘process of regraphing’ (p. 2) makes it highly appropriate in addressing the vexed issue of ‘modernity’, perceived as constantly changing, evolving, or advancing. The book essentially turns on considering differing reactions to the Enlightenment legacy that spawned ‘modernity’. Benjamin, de Man, and Shelley have, for Kerr-Koch, thought ‘about the question of progress in modernity’s claim to historical advancement’ and ‘each has mobilized allegory in the configuration of modern temporality’ (p. 9). The fact that these three figures are considered in the same volume, and not in chronological order, can be seen as evidence enough that Kerr-Koch’s study offers a challenge to conceptions of a modern, linear, and progressive temporality.
Kerr-Koch’s critical and theoretical framework is rigorous and well researched, but her approach would benefit from far more attention to close reading and form. Too often Shelley is not allowed to speak for himself. Formal attention would have aided Kerr-Koch’s argument, such as in considering specific examples of Shelley’s shifting, unsettled—and unsettling—metaphors. The complexity of the topic cannot be overstated and, generally, Kerr-Koch’s prose is clear and accessible (but not always). Nevertheless, this is an ambitious work that rewards close scrutiny and is sure to be of use to scholars of Shelley interested in recontextualizing his approach to allegory and revisiting the history of Shelley criticism.
Two other 2014 articles explore the rich poetic and theoretical legacy of Shelley. Luke Donahue’s essay, ‘Romantic Survival and Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” ’ ( ERR 25 219–42), on the (im)possibility of ‘ending’ in Shelley’s poetry, engages with and contests both deconstructive and historicist readings, from Paul de Man to James Chandler. Focusing on ‘Ode to the West Wind’, Donahue seeks to ‘address the possibility of the final end of mutability’ (p. 220) in a poem that seems to suggest the opposite. What follows is a close reading that is often convincing if not always sufficiently attentive. For instance, the leaves in the opening stanza are not ‘ghosts’ as Donahue states; rather, they are simply ‘ like ghosts’ (this is a crucial distinction in Shelley). Similarly, the discussion of the death-to-life movement of the leaves would have been enriched by a consideration of the slipperiness of metaphor in Shelley’s poem where the leaves, in fact, are always ‘dead’, but simply signify or allegorize different things (the poet, his words, his thoughts, etc.). This is nevertheless largely nit-picking of what is a theoretically stimulating piece that adds to, and contests, the wealth of criticism on the poem. Forest Pyle’s brief ‘Skylark-Image, or the Vitality of Disappearance’ ( ERR 25 319–25) explores the tension between Shelley’s ‘vitalism’ and, read through Deleuze, his aesthetics of disappearance or absence. Focusing on ‘To a Skylark’, Pyle compares Deleuze’s notion of the time-image with the (non)image of Shelley’s bird, which he terms ‘Skylark-Image’. Of course, the ‘Skylark-Image’ is absent or not ‘visual’, yet this does not mean that the poet does not attempt to figure it with a series of imagistic ‘failed’ similes. Pyle calls this process an ‘untethering’; this disappearing bird is conceived as ‘vital’, and related to the vitally disturbing effect of the Deleuzean cinematic time-image. An interesting, original, and theoretically thorough article, it is hoped that Pyle will expand this into a larger project and apply this framework to Shelley’s poetry more widely.
Cian Duffy produced four short Shelley pieces in Notes & Queries that remind us of a number of influences on, and sources for, Shelley’s poetry. The first of these, ‘ “Such sweet and bitter pain as mine”: Mary Wollstonecraft’s Short Residence and Percy Shelley’s “Lines Written in the Bay of Lerici” ’ ( N&Q 61 515–17), reasserts the clear influence of Wollstonecraft. Not only does Duffy trace the verbal and linguistic echoes of a section of Wollstonecraft’s Short Residence in Shelley’s ‘Lines Written in the Bay of Lerici’, he also suggests these are ‘ conceptually equivalent’ (p. 517); both concern the loss of someone loved. Two of his further pieces are concerned with aspects of Shelley’s Hellas . ‘ “Less accessible than thou or God”: Where Does Percy Shelley Locate Ahasuerus in Hellas ?’ ( N&Q 61 517–19) considers sources for Shelley’s location of the Wandering Jew figure in the poem beside the Bosphorus, and speculates that Shelley’s blending of his source material served as a way to dodge the censor. ‘Percy Shelley’s “Display of Newspaper Erudition” in Hellas, A Lyrical Drama (1822)’ ( N&Q 61 519–23) considers Shelley’s use of newspapers, the Galignani’s Messenger in particular, as sources for an authentic account of the rebellion in Greece. This is strange, however, since the Galignani’s Messenger was unfavourable to the rebellion, although Duffy demonstrates that Shelley drew on it for what he calls ‘matters of fact’ (p. 521). Duffy’s final piece, ‘ “Radiant as the Morning Star”: A Little-Known Shelley Fragment and its Context’ ( N&Q 61 523–25), considers a short manuscript fragment of Shelley’s that is yet to appear in any scholarly edition of Shelley’s poetry. Duffy sets out to contextualize the piece, arguing that it is likely associated with Shelley’s relationship with Jane Williams and the ‘Fragments of an Unfinished Drama’ that Mary Shelley included in Posthumous Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley . This is not simply historical context, however, as Duffy notes thematic echoes. One other Shelley piece that appeared in Notes & Queries was Andrew Lacey’s ‘A Possible Echo of Herrick in Shelley’s “The Flower That Smiles Today” ’ ( N&Q 61 525–7). Lacey suggests that this short poem, originally entitled ‘Mutability’, echoes the seventeenth-century carpe diem tradition of poetry that is evident in Robert Herrick’s ‘To the Virgins, to make much of time’. A convincing reading, the fact that Shelley’s poem was originally entitled ‘Mutability’ reminds us also of Shelley’s other influence, Edmund Spenser and his ‘Mutabilitie Cantos’, only a generation preceding Herrick.
Stephanie Dumke’s ‘Rediscovered Keats and Shelley Manuscripts in Kraków’ ( KSJ 63 39–57) is a fascinating and thoroughly researched article that reminds us not only of the fetishistic nature of nineteenth-century manuscript and holograph collections of Romantic poets, but also the oft-neglected notion of a pan-Continental literary culture in the period (see also Paul Stock’s The Byron-Shelley Circle and the Idea of Europe , reviewed in YWES 91). Dumke’s discovery of manuscript fragments in Kraków, particularly the Shelley pieces, shines a new light on to the vexed relationship between author’s fair copy and publisher’s printed page. Of particular interest is Dumke’s tracing of the differences between a fragment of Laon and Cythna , canto I, and the version that made it into print. The fact that this poem was later revised into The Revolt of Islam , even though Dumke notes that this particular passage remained unaltered, nevertheless raises interesting questions when attempting to read the Laon and Cythna / Revolt of Islam alterations thematically. This article is recommended to scholars of Keats and Shelley if only to remind them that authoritative texts of these two poets may yet be challenged with further manuscript discoveries.
A number of 2014 articles reflected a growing trend in Shelley scholarship to consider Shelley in the context of his readership and the publishing realities of his age. Much of this work is indebted to Neil Fraistat’s ‘Illegitimate Shelley: Radical Piracy and the Textual Edition as Cultural Performance’ ( PMLA 94 409–23). Like his article on Byron (see above), Jason I. Kolkey’s ‘Venal Interchanges: Shelley’s Queen Mab and Literary Property’ ( ERR 25 533–50) argues that the copyright law of the period, largely determined by Southey v Sherwood (1817) concerning Southey’s Wat Tyler , had a profound impact on the readership of Shelley’s Queen Mab following its 1821 piracy. Not only was this in terms of numbers of readers but, more importantly, in terms of their class. Kolkey illustrates Shelley’s contradictory and vexed position on this issue and demonstrates some thorough research into letters, periodicals, statutes, and court proceedings. The reality of this ‘democratic’ piracy is excellently related to Shelley’s own writing; although some close reading of Queen Mab itself would have helped to develop an understanding of its attraction to such a readership. Nevertheless, Kolkey is convincing in demonstrating how piracy in the period should make us refigure our conceptions of Romantic authorship and genius.
Similar interests are encountered in Alison Morgan’s ‘ “God Save Our Queen!”: Percy Bysshe Shelley and Radical Appropriations of the British National Anthem’ ( Romanticism 20 60–72). This thoroughly researched article is as much a study of the vexed history of the British National Anthem as it is of the relationship between Shelley’s ‘A New National Anthem’  and the radical tradition of appropriating ‘God Save the King’. Morgan shows how the history of the traditional anthem is itself formed by popular Jacobite tavern singing and the contested rearticulation by English and Welsh citizens. Shelley’s radical appropriation—in which ‘our Queen’ is ‘liberty’—is therefore an appropriation of an appropriation. This contextualized reading of Shelley helps us to reconsider the poet alongside not only a ‘radical’ tradition, but a vernacular culture more widely.
Byoung Chun Min’s ‘Beyond an Intellectual Bourgeois Public Sphere: Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Hermit of Marlow Pamphlets” ’ ( KSR 28:ii 86–103) is another example, as evidenced by its title, of a work that attempts to reconsider Shelley’s relationship with the wider reading public. Min’s essay focuses on Shelley’s so-called ‘Hermit of Marlow’ pamphlets— A Proposal of Putting Reform to the Vote and An Address to the People on the Death of the Princess Charlotte —published in 1817. Min’s contention is that these pamphlets mark an increasingly close political relationship with Leigh Hunt, particularly in how the elite intellectual poet could begin to engage the public in wider political discussion. Whereas for Min these pamphlets attempt to construct heterogeneity in political discourse, inculcating a unified and inclusive public sphere, this attempt failed. Instead, the pirating and ‘illegitimate publishing’ of Shelley’s works after his death, making him a champion of radical, working-class causes, ‘consolidated class consciousness . . . rather than Shelley’s inclusive public sphere open to all classes’ (p. 102). An interesting reconsideration of Shelley’s relationship to the Habermasian public sphere, Min’s contention is that readings of Shelley’s radicalism are essentially a misappropriation of his project.
Shelley’s relationship with and to the wider population is at stake in Dallin Lewis’s ‘Prophesying the Present: Shelley’s Critique of Malthus in A Defence of Poetry ’ ( ERR 25 575–90). Lewis’s article details Shelley’s nuanced engagement with Malthus, noting, for instance, that ‘if Shelley was largely persuaded by Malthus’s ratios and principles of population, he was aghast at the social policies he drew from them’ (p. 579). Lewis intriguingly and convincingly goes on to consider this in light of A Defence of Poetry , indicating that it not only appropriates Malthus’s rhetoric of scarcity and excess, but reflects Shelley’s anxiety that a Malthusian political economist should usurp the prophet-poet’s role as an anticipator of the future.
Charlotte Smith’s hugely important role in the Romantic-period sonnet revival is evident in two 2014 articles that focus on these most particularly, offering attentive close reading as well as thorough contextual research. Keith Hasperg’s ‘ “Saved by the Historic Page”: Charlotte Smith’s Arun River Sonnets’ ( SiR 53 103–29) considers the clear historical and historicizing impulse in Smith’s writing, such as in The Emigrants  and Beachy Head , in relation to the literary history evident in her earlier Arun River sonnets . Hasperg’s opening contention is that Smith’s sonnets ‘contain the genesis of her unique melding of local history and emotional inflection’ (p. 103) that she develops in her later blank-verse poems. As well as noting Smith’s invocation of local historical literary figures such as Thomas Otway, Hasperg’s most interesting argument is that Smith ‘meld[s] a Continental tradition, the Petrarchan sonnet of complaint, with an English strand of loco-descriptive verse’ (p. 121). In this engaging piece, Hasperg re-emphasizes Smith’s abilities as a sonneteer as well as her complex relationship to tradition and originality. This discussion, and particularly Smith’s engagement with Petrarch, is similarly encountered in Mary Anne Myers’s article, ‘Unsexing Petrarch: Charlotte Smith’s Lessons in the Sonnet as a Social Medium’ ( SiR 53 239–59). Myers traces Smith’s varying Petrarchan influence through the different versions of the Elegiac Sonnets that first appeared in 1784, noting the various intertextual echoes. While arguing that Petrarch served as Smith’s model of poetic immortality, Myers also argues for Smith’s originality in radically transforming ‘Petrarch into something historical yet modern: a sad sonnet speaker freed from gender constraints’ (p. 245). Not only does Myers remind us of Smith’s poetic abilities, she also offers an intriguing gendered, or rather non-gendered, reading of her aesthetics arrived at through Petrarchan influence.
Discussions of the relationship of a highbrow Romantic poet to the murky publishing realities of the age were not limited to Shelley in 2014. David Duff’s ‘Wordsworth’s “Prospectus”: The Genre’ ( WC 45 178–84), for instance, does much the same with Wordsworth. Duff relates the 107-line passage from the unfinished first book of The Recluse , which Wordsworth had called ‘a kind of Prospectus’ in his preface to The Excursion , to a genre that would have been familiar to many of his readers. A prospectus was not only a manifesto of the literary and philosophical concerns of, say, Wordsworth’s poem or of Romanticism more widely, but also, as Duff reminds us, a simple printed advertisement for a future publication in order to attract readers and, most importantly, sales. Not only are we thus reminded of Wordsworth’s position within, and negotiation with, the marketplace, but through a thorough consideration of a variety of sources Duff demonstrates how the ‘language of the marketplace’ frequently also inflects poetic language, for example in the work of Byron and even Keats. In this sense, Wordsworth’s prospectus works on a number of levels, and it is of course striking that this prospectus was for a poem that never appeared. This, as Duff reminds us, was not uncommon to the genre. This is an excellent example of New Historicist criticism at its best.
Duff’s interest in The Excursion was not an isolated example. The year 2014 was, after all, the bicentenary of its publication, and journals, most particularly the special issue of Wordsworth Circle , published a large volume of articles and papers on the poem. Famously derided by contemporary critics, a number of bicentenary articles worked not only to salvage the poem from its relative critical neglect, but also to argue for its profound literary merit and its importance within Wordsworth’s oeuvre. Some articles, such as Graham Davidson’s ‘Wordsworth’s Wasteland or the Speargrass Redemption’ ( Romanticism 20 73–83) and Sally Bushell’s ‘From “The Ruined Cottage” to The Excursion : Revision as Re-Reading’ ( WC 45 75–83), focus on the vexed textual history of the much-revised poem. Both take the first book of The Excursion , more commonly anthologized separately as ‘The Ruined Cottage’, as their starting point. Davidson’s piece offers sensitive close reading of the different manuscript versions in which the stories of the Pedlar and Margaret are either separate or ‘yoke[d] . . . together’ (p. 74). Davidson’s argument is that Wordsworth’s final decision to combine the two stories is ‘a courageous acknowledgment of a conflict in his genius’ (p. 74). This conflict is essentially between the mortal, momentary, and earthly suffering of non-poetic everyday life (Margaret) and the visionary, poetic infinite demonstrated by the Wordsworthian poet-figure of the Pedlar. Davidson therefore enables us to see The Excursion as a critical poem in the Wordsworth canon that bridges the gap between Lyrical Ballads and the more visionary Prelude. Bushell’s article similarly notes the tensions involved in revision and (writerly) rereading, but uses such theorists as Barthes and Bakhtin to argue for how conceptions of a text’s totality and temporality inflect our reading(s) and interpretation(s) of fragments and vice versa. Bushell posits Wordsworth as a ‘writerly reader’ in this light, and notes how Wordsworth’s ‘return’ to the poem is akin to the Pedlar-cum-Wanderer who guides the reader through ‘The Ruined Cottage’ and The Excursion.
William Galperin’s ‘The Essential Reality of The Excursion ’ ( WC 45 104–18) similarly begins with the revisions made between ‘The Ruined Cottage’ and Book I. Galperin’s convincing argument is that many of the revisions reflect Wordsworth’s shifting attitude(s) to the nature of reality and his revised emphasis on ‘human life’ as opposed to ‘Man’ and ‘Nature’ as argued for in the prospectus. The narrative present-tense vignettes in the poem, Galperin argues, serve as a ‘memorial to the living’. This article very much functions in dialogue with Jonathan Wordsworth’s The Music of Humanity (reviewed in YWES 50) and serves as an excellent supplement to this monumental work. A consideration of The Excursion ’s ‘musicality’ is the focus of Richard Gravil’s ‘The Excursion: An Unparalleled “Variety of Musical Effect” ’ ( WC 45 84–92), which not only reminds us of John Thelwall’s reading of The Excursion (Wordsworth had praised, as Gravil reminds us, Thelwall’s good ear) but also offers an overview of Wordsworth’s metrical theory. This, excluding Gravil’s own work, is barely covered by Wordsworth scholars. Gravil’s thorough scansion of passages from The Excursion helps to remind us of the variety of musical effects in the poem, arguing strongly for an aural approach to the text that may help us to discern the different speakers more easily. Gravil also situates Wordsworth’s prosody as conversely both within and outside literary tradition, allowing us to reflect on the position of Wordsworth’s poetics in literary history. Michael O’Neill’s ‘Ebb and Flow in The Excursion ’ ( WC 45 93–8) similarly makes a very strong case for The Excursion ’s literary merit, referring to it as a ‘masterpiece’ that requires no ‘self-qualifying apologia’ (p. 93) from critics. O’Neill proceeds to justify his claim through his trademark formal attention that shows the poem to be one of sophisticated, intellectual paradox. O’Neill concludes that the poem is one aware of its own ‘struggle and difficulty’ (p. 98), in ways that later influenced Keats and Shelley.
Jonathan Farina’s ‘ The Excursion and “The Surface of Things” ’ ( WC 45 99–105) reconsiders Wordsworth’s attitude to surfaces and depth in the poem, noting that, despite Wordsworth’s accomplishment in a ‘depth model of character’ (p. 99), surfaces nevertheless remain important to him. Farina suggests in particular that ‘ The Excursion exhibits a meaningful superficiality’ (p. 99). Highlighting the frequent references to ‘things’ both in The Excursion and in Wordsworth’s poetry more widely, Farina’s main argument is that these things or objects allow for a ‘process of abstraction that produces [a] kind of social connectivity and knowledge’ (p. 100). Essentially, surface interest in objects produces an ‘epistemological credibility’ and serves as a way of determining character through their ‘interfac[ing] with the outside world’ (p. 105). Tom Clucas’s article ‘Plutarch’s Parallel Lives in The Excursion ’ ( WC 45 126–30) shares a similar interest in Wordsworth’s characterization but takes a rather different approach. Focusing on the influence of Plutarch, Clucas argues for how Plutarch’s view of character shaped Wordsworth’s own. In particular, by incorporating ‘Essays upon Epitaphs’, Clucas discusses the ‘Parallel Lives’ of Grasmere, ending by demonstrating how ‘The “Church-yard Among the Mountains” offers more than Christian solace in The Excursion : it serves as a library of human character every bit as replete as Greek and Roman history with exemplary lives’ (p. 130). Although Wordsworth’s classical inheritance is hardly neglected, as J. Douglas Kneale and Bruce Graver have shown us, Clucas’s article nevertheless offers a reading of classical character as fundamental to his poetics.
A number of scholars focused on the religious medieval history in the poem, as opposed to the classical. Ruth Abbott’s ‘Scholarship, Spontaneity, and The Excursion Book IV’ ( WC 45 119–25) adds a level of nuance to considerations of Wordsworth’s epistemology. The detailed accounts of early religious practices outlined by the Wanderer in Book IV are considered as the result of Wordsworth’s meticulous scholarship rather than solely spontaneous, poetical inspiration. Abbott’s argument is that Wordsworth sees the relationship between scholarship, that is, learning from books, versus inspiration or learning from nature such as in ‘The Tables Turned’ , as a tense one; nevertheless, it is one that is ‘paradoxically co-dependent’ (p. 125). The Wanderer’s religious history narratives, then, are seen as illustrating how scholastic learning can inform spontaneous inspiration and vice versa. Clare A. Simmons’s ‘Medievalism in The Excursion ’ ( WC 45 131–7) reads the poem in the light of Gothic medievalism despite its early nineteenth-century ‘setting’. Simmons notes how The Excursion ’s four speakers find something of value in the medieval past which combines to give a Wordsworthian-inflected and ‘reformed’ medievalism. The medieval past—and the unreformed church—is acknowledged patriotically by the four speakers as part of the past of England and as a pointer towards futurity. The physical church encountered in Book V, often regarded as resembling St Oswald’s in Grasmere, is read as a palimpsest in which English and Anglican values are read ‘over’ the Catholic medievalism that preceded them.
Richard E. Brantley’s ‘ The Excursion : Wordsworth’s Art of Belief’ ( WC 45 162–70) continues this interest in Wordsworth’s theology. Brantley notes the tension between the Anglo-Catholic metaphor of a Gothic church that Wordsworth employs in describing his corpus, and The Excursion ’s expression of High Church Romanticism. Brantley’s reading of the poem, however, is one that reminds us of Wordsworth’s engagement with a Low Church dissenting and evangelical tradition as much as, if not more than, Anglicanism. The Wanderer’s testimony, for instance, is likened to the teachings of Isaac Watts and John and Charles Wesley. Similarly, the Pastor’s story of Ellen is compared to John Wesley’s account of Mary Pendavres. Brantley’s main contention is that The Excursion dramatizes the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century tension between faith and works, or Calvinism and Arminianism, with Wordsworth seeming to settle on the latter. However, this tension is nevertheless poetically fruitful, in that Wordsworth lets the ‘theological conundrum of inspiration versus obligation deepen his poetic faith’ (p. 170). Brantley helps us to remember that much of the co-opting of Wordsworth as wholly Anglican, whatever his public declarations, was more the work of Victorian appropriation. In this sense, Stephen Gill’s work still has a very discernible influence. The consideration of Victorian readings of Wordsworth’s theology is the subject of Robert M. Ryan’s ‘Religious Revisioning in The Excursion ’ ( WC 45 171–7). Indeed, Ryan’s main argument is that ‘Wordsworth’s poetry, The Excursion in particular, figured prominently in theological discussion during what is called the Victorian crisis of faith’ (p. 171). Ryan rightly highlights how the poem was claimed by numerous different religious denominations and was seen as fulfilling often opposing spiritual needs. The theological discussions between the four speakers of the poem are seen to offer ‘a model of speculative freedom in theology’ with various readers seeing Wordsworth’s poetry either as ‘supplementary to the Bible’ or as ‘an alternative to scripture’. Ryan’s article is itself an excellent supplement to his magisterial The Romantic Reformation (reviewed in YWES 77) and is a superb addition to the debates concerning Wordsworth’s religion as well as posthumous reception.
This reading of Wordsworth through a Victorian perspective is, at least in part, also found in Kenneth R. Johnston’s ‘Wordsworth’s Excursion: Route and Destination’ ( WC 45 106–13). Contextualizing the composition of The Excursion / Recluse project within the repressive climate of the French Revolutionary Wars, Johnston reads the Solitary as a figure suffering ideological despair following the apparent failure of the ideals of the revolution. Johnston sees Wordsworth’s project, then, as one that attempts to revive the Solitary’s lost idealism but, unfortunately, results in failure. Intriguingly, Johnston contrasts this to the apparent optimism in Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities . Following attentive close reading of the novel, Johnston argues that it is in the intertextual reading of the two writers that one can observe how the ideals of the French Revolution could still live on in nineteenth-century British culture. Dickens and Wordsworth, then, are seen as writers keen on capturing revolutionary ideals despite the difficult domestic and cultural politics of their respective ages. Revolutionary ideals are also the subject of Stuart Andrews’s ‘Wordsworth, Southey, Coleridge: Their Iberian Spring’ ( WC 45 49–3). Andrews’s piece is a meticulously researched account of these three poets’ reaction to the military and political situation in Spain during the Peninsular Wars as well as their various writings on such issues as the Convention of Cintra. Although Andrews’s piece functions more as a historical overview rather than necessarily presenting a rigorous argument, he nevertheless concludes by suggesting that, far from the poets having abandoned their revolutionary ideals by 1810, the location of ‘revolution’ had simply moved to Spain, as Southey had himself declared in his letters. This article can therefore be read in relation to the work of Diego Saglia, who argues that the Iberian peninsula was seen as a space of British imaginative and revolutionary possibilities.
Reading Wordsworth in relation to, or through the lens of, another writer was the subject of four further articles in 2014. Two of these discussed the co-influential relationship between Wordsworth and Robert Southey in relation to The Excursion . Tom Duggett’s ‘The Dramatic End of The Excursion ’ ( WC 45 157–61), for instance, notes how the Wanderer’s calls for a ‘System of National Education’ are not only inspired by the writings of the educational theorist Dr Andrew Bell. We are also reminded, in an echo of Alan Richardson’s Literature, Education and Romanticism , how Books VIII and IX are heavily indebted to Southey’s recent writings in the Quarterly Review . Duggett goes on to demonstrate how the debt to Southey is even more pronounced when considering manuscript drafts, and suggests that the seeming endorsement of Bell’s theories contains within it the seeds of Wordsworth’s later rejection of them by 1838, perhaps influenced by Southey. Quentin Bailey, by contrast, argues in ‘ “The Ruined Cottage” and Southey’s English Eclogues ’ ( WC 45 151–7) that Southey’s ‘English Eclogue VI’, known as ‘The Ruined Cottage’, was heavily influenced by the first version of Wordsworth’s poem of the same name. Bailey also compares the protagonist of Southey’s poem ‘Hannah’ to Wordsworth’s Margaret. Because of what he sees as Southey’s reassertion of class difference, however, the presentation of human suffering is seen as very different in the two poets’ work, with Bailey arguing that Southey’s depictions result in ‘sentimental morality’ or ‘condescending sympathy’ (p. 161). While this is subjective, Bailey’s analysis nevertheless helps to reassert the fruitful poetic relationship between the two men, while simultaneously emphasizing their marked differences and individuality.
Robert Stagg’s ‘Wordsworth, Pope, and Writing after Bathos’ ( EIC 64 29–44), focuses on a rarely studied element of Wordsworth’s poetry through an even rarer literary comparison. Stagg traces Wordsworth’s use of bathos in relation to its extensive use by Alexander Pope, who is credited as having brought the word into English in his Peri Bathous; or, The Art of Sinking in Poetry . Whereas Pope generally employed it for satirical effect, Stagg argues for Wordsworth’s bathos as working alongside and even enhancing the wonder of the sublime. In order to exalt or to rise, Stagg argues, Wordsworth often has ‘to sink’ first, meaning that ‘wonder emerges from the bathos that initially contains it’ (p. 42). This article essentially reveals the Augustan source for a distinctly Romantic effect. Daniel Clay’s ‘Milton, Mulciber, and The Prelude ’ ( WC 45 66–8), on the other hand, revisits and reinterprets The Prelude ’s Miltonic inheritance and allusions to Paradise Lost. Although noting the Miltonic echoes in Wordsworth is not new, indeed, Robin Jarvis, Lucy Newlyn, Jonathan Wordsworth, and Harold Bloom are clear influences on the piece, Clay nevertheless offers an original close reading. Clay notes an allusion in descriptions of Wordsworth’s childhood games in both the 1805 and 1850 Prelude to the fall of Mulciber in Milton’s poem. Such a comparison seems a strange one. Clay’s suggestion is that this allusion is perhaps to be considered in the mock-heroic mode, much like Pope’s The Rape of the Lock . Furthermore, in the light of Harold Bloom, it is perhaps another example of the anxiety of influence.
Two further articles that did not focus on The Excursion in 2014 both took original approaches to some key Wordsworthian concepts. James Castell’s short article, ‘Wordsworth, Silence and the Nonhuman’ ( WC 45 58–61), turns on two familiar Wordsworthian tropes or themes—his poetry’s engagement with animal and other non-human elements, and his paradoxical representation of silence—and considers them through a sophisticated theoretical lens. Not only, then, does Castell’s article work within the emerging ‘nonhuman turn’, it is also far more philosophically and theoretically rigorous, as well as formally attentive, than many pieces that characterize this new literary-critical approach. Considering literature as paradoxically ‘silent’ and ‘breaking the silence’, Castell relates this to treatment of the nonhuman, ‘when the human noise of language interacts with the natural world’ (pp. 58–9). Focusing on ‘Yes! Full surely ’twas the Echo’ , Castell convincingly demonstrates that ‘the relation of animal life to song . . . results in a voiced silence as profound as it is obscure’ (p. 61). A stimulating piece, it would be pleasing to see such formal and theoretical rigour applied in a longer article and to a wider body of Wordsworth’s poetry.
Although Wordsworth is perhaps most commonly seen as a poet of nature and the nonhuman, it is worth remembering that the city—and London most particularly—plays an important role in much of his writing, whether in simple opposition to Wordsworth’s desired ‘natural’ solitary repose or otherwise. Peter Larkin’s complex ‘Wordsworth’s City Retractions’ ( WC 45 54–8) considers Wordsworth’s ambivalent attitude to London primarily in Books I and VII of The Prelude but also the much-anthologized ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge’ . Larkin reads Wordsworth’s city as a space that resists easy definition. His discussion of the Bartholomew Fair passage is engaging, although the ‘blank confusion’ the poet encounters in his endless listing of the ‘faces’ of the tide of people (as Larkin discusses) could have been read as poetically self-conscious; is this ‘blank confusion’ a reference to the ‘failure’ of Wordsworth’s blank verse in capturing the ineffable city? Nevertheless, this is a dense, theoretically informed article that rewards attentive reading.
Three articles took a slightly more biographical approach to Wordsworth’s poetry, particularly focusing on youth, old age, and death. Peter Swaab’s ‘Wordsworth’s Elegies for John Wordsworth’ ( WC 45 30–8), for instance, considers a number of elegiac poems Wordsworth wrote following the death of his brother John at sea in 1805. Noting the productive paradox of elegy, in which grief essentially suits the poet’s aim, Swaab posits that Wordsworth does not quite seem to fit this pattern. At first, John’s death halted Wordsworth’s productivity, but ultimately, Swaab argues convincingly through thorough engagement with Wordsworth’s letters and poetry, not only do the poems dramatize a struggle to come to terms with grief, they also reflect profound developments in Wordsworth’s professional career. Wordsworth’s revisionary tendencies throughout his long life, as seen in a number of other articles in 2014, are connected to his interest in the encounters between youth and old age that characterize so much of his poetry. Peter Manning’s article ‘Wordsworth in Youth and Age’ ( ERR 25 385–96) takes a multifaceted approach to this issue, considering publication and book history, with images, as well as comparative readings between two 1800 poems and Wordsworth’s To an Octogenarian . Whereas the earlier poems are concerned with potentiality, from ‘the here’ to ‘the there’ as Manning puts it, To an Octogenarian is from the position of ‘there’ (which is now ‘here’), and is more a contemplation of loss and what has passed. Nevertheless, Manning is at pains to stress that potentiality still remains in the later poem, even if this future remains a bleak one. As well as offering up a close reading of a number of less familiar poems, Manning’s article encourages us to trace trends and themes in Wordsworth—such as contemplations of youth and age—across his whole career in order to discern both continuation and revision. Returning to a consideration of Wordsworth’s youth, Jack Vespa’s ‘Veiled Movements in “The Vale of Esthwaite” ’ ( WC 45 62–6) follows very much in the wake of the work of David Fairer, in that this early poem of Wordsworth’s is read in relation to a Virgilian georgic tradition. Vespa contends, however, that this georgic mode is one approached through seventeenth- and eighteenth-century understandings of Virgil’s georgics and that ‘The Vale of Esthwaite’ demonstrates both an awareness of literary tradition and the promise of the poet that is to come.
Biographical approaches to Wordsworth dominated the monograph publications in 2014. Stephen Gill’s 1989 biography, William Wordsworth: A Life , is exhaustive, thoroughly researched yet written in an accessible style and thus of use to scholars and more casual readers alike. It is, therefore, rightly considered the go-to critical biography of Wordsworth’s life and works and the intersection of the two. In the decades since, numerous other biographies, such as those by Juliet Barker and Lucy Newlyn, have appeared to shed further light on the life of one of the most well-known poets of all time. It would appear then that there is very little space remaining or, indeed, need for, a further biography of Wordsworth. However, 2014 saw the publication of two, admittedly rather different, biographical studies. Of the two, John Worthen’s The Life of William Wordsworth: A Critical Biography is most similar to Gill’s, at least in form, in that it is a single-volume work of exhaustive and highly detailed research into the minutiae of Wordsworth’s daily life. What Worthen adds to the wealth of biographical information is an intense attention to Wordsworth’s financial situation. Indeed, although it is no secret that Wordsworth’s early years were largely spent in poverty, particularly after the death of his father while William was still a child, and then of his brother in 1805, Worthen’s study sets out to consider how these financial circumstances in fact affected his creative work as a poet into adulthood and throughout his life. Not only did this situation shape the character of a man Worthen sees as an obstinate, single-minded poet, but we are offered an insight into Wordsworth’s publishing practices as allied to his existing economic concerns. Worthen’s research is astonishingly attentive to very specific prices and costs and to the mundane realities of a poet’s life.
It is this very mundanity, however, that calls into question whether labelling the text a ‘Critical Biography’ is helpful. Much of Worthen’s research does not help in interpreting the poetry, nor do we gain an insight into the creative process; financial minutiae are not exactly thematic concerns for Wordsworth. Connected to this, it is difficult to discern the biography’s intended audience; a number of footnotes gloss such things as pre-decimalization currency (p. 11), which would seem to imply an undergraduate readership. It is debatable, however, whether undergraduate students would learn much from, or be interested in, such details of Wordsworth’s life. Nevertheless, the level of research is to be commended, and Worthen’s book is sure to serve as a valuable resource for future scholars.
Daniel Robinson’s Myself and Some Other Being: Wordsworth and the Life Writing is an engaging and highly accessible short book that is more than simple literary biography; it turns on the multiplicity of meanings in the phrase ‘life-writing’. As well as suggesting Wordsworthian (auto)biography, it also offers up the notion of life-writing as not simply mimetic but life- creating , involving a construction of the self as much as it does a simple record. As Robinson himself puts it ‘Wordsworth writes The Prelude to write that self into existence. This person, the life writing (that is, the living person doing the writing), William Wordsworth, writes his life in the hope of finding words of writing himself as a writer, as Wordsworth ’ (p. 2). This is not to suggest that Robinson—or indeed Wordsworth—somehow sees this life-writing as the solely authentic self since his title, adapted from the second book of The Prelude , indicates that writing also creates a ‘second self’. Robinson’s book then, if implicitly, reminds us not only of Romantic writing’s influence on deconstruction but also of Wordsworth’s own self-fashioning. It is evident that Andrew Bennett’s work on Wordsworth is a strong theoretical influence.
Robinson’s further consideration of the term ‘life-writing’ is one that refers to the vocation in which a life is spent, that is, a ‘life [spent] writing’, and the continual editing of Wordsworth’s poetic autobiography serves to demonstrate that both life and writerly life are processes subject to revision. Robinson’s main contention is that ‘the life writing [is] part of the beginning of the writing life’ (p. 3) and we are reminded that The Prelude only details the ‘growth of a poet’s mind’ in its earliest years, as a child and a young man. It is indeed the start of, or the prelude to, what is to come, despite its posthumous initial publication. In tracing the life of a writer through his own life-writing, then, it is clever of Robinson to title his own opening chapter ‘Prelude’. This charming wit and informal style are evident throughout the book and, even if long-term scholars of Wordsworth may not find much with which they are not familiar, this is a personal and innovative approach that is likely to inform new Wordsworthians as much as it entertains old ones by the manner of its telling.
It is indeed a popular as well as a scholarly pursuit to ‘locate’ Wordsworth. If one visits the Lake District today one cannot escape the clear Wordsworthian influence on the existing tourist industry. Not all of this is down to the work of the Wordsworth Trust; popular consciousness has led to such a Wordsworthian association with the area that there are at least three Wordsworth Hotels (Cockermouth, Ambleside, and Grasmere) as well as a Daffodils Hotel (Grasmere). Wordsworth himself of course wrote one of the great guidebooks to the region, his Guide to the Lakes , which has often led critics to consider him as the Lakes’ discoverer. As is evident from the title of her William Wordsworth and the Invention of Tourism , Saeko Yoshikawa treads along the same lines. Indeed, she reminds us how the very term ‘Lake District’ did not come into being until the 1830s, and suggests that this naming was influenced by the 1835 phrase ‘the District of the Lakes’ that appeared on the title page of the fifth edition of Wordsworth’s Guide (p. 4). The fact that ‘literary tourism’ did not quite take off in the region until the Lake District was recognized as a single area, then, essentially implies that Wordsworth created it. Furthermore, Yoshikawa argues, this had a further influence on tourism more widely in the Victorian age. This may seem a bold claim, but Yoshikawa’s meticulous research is often convincing. She covers subsequent guides to the Lake District that frequently quoted Wordsworth’s poems for picturesque or topographical detail, some of which were even the first instances of the poems in print. In this sense, these guidebooks not only shaped tourists’ conceptions of the Lake District but also influenced the Victorian Wordsworth canon. Indeed, the influence of Stephen Gill’s work is once again very much in evidence here.
Yoshikawa also details other accounts, such as a book of sketches of Wordsworthian topography from 1850 by an anonymous ‘literary pilgrim’ in the few weeks after the poet’s death. Yoshikawa demonstrates through such attention that, whereas early Wordsworthian tourism was more of the picturesque kind, this developed to become one more associated with poetry and literary pilgrimage; not only to visit the locations associated with the great poet Wordsworth, but also somehow to be imbued by the poetics of the landscape. Fiona Stafford’s Local Attachments: The Province of Poetry (reviewed in YWES 91) would have helped Yoshikawa to consider the particular poetic resonance of place that draws so many to visit the places associated with great poets, and it is a shame it is not included. Nevertheless, this is an engaging monograph that is exhaustively researched—the bibliography alone will serve as a superb resource for later scholars—and offers a different approach to a relatively well-trodden topic.
Lastly, unfortunately The Charles Lamb Bulletin was unavailable throughout the entire writing of this section. Any articles published in that publication relevant to this section will be reviewed as part of 2015.
The texts in this year’s review cover a variety of topics including Shakespeare, gender, celebrity, reception, and the theatre itself.
The first text reviewed is the excellent and comprehensive Oxford Handbook of the Georgian Theatre 1737–1782 , edited by Julia Swindells and David Francis Taylor, also reviewed in Chapter XII. In his introduction, Taylor states that the aim of the Handbook is ‘to look and listen for the gaps and silences in the narratives we inherit’ (p. 2) and this provides the cohesion for the diverse range of topics examined. The Handbook is organized into eight sections: ‘Theatre, Theory, Historiography’, ‘Legislating Drama’, ‘The Changing Cultures of Performance’, ‘The Whole Show: Spectacles, Sounds, Spaces’, ‘Genres and Forms’, ‘Theatre and the Romantic Canon’, ‘Women and the Stage’, and ‘Performing Race and Empire’. Sadly, it is not possible in the scope of this piece to review all of the relevant chapters that fall under the heading of Romantic drama; the following is therefore a small representation of the excellent contributions made. Betsy Bolton’s engaging chapter ‘Theorizing Audience and Spectacle’ examines the different approaches that theatre historians and media theorists have used in the past, suggesting that there are a number of ‘truisms’ which need to be challenged (p. 32), for example the relationship between the actors and the audience. Particularly interesting is Bolton’s discussion of the importance of the persona that the celebrity actor has created, particularly when associated with prologues and epilogues that ‘are positioned precisely between the intersection between the bourgeoisie public sphere . . . and its “mass cultural public sphere” ’ (p. 42). Marvin Carlson’s chapter ‘Performative Event’ also challenges assumptions that have pervaded works about theatre by theatre historians. Carlson demonstrates how changing methodologies in the arts and humanities have opened up new possibilities for examining audience and performance. On a slightly different note, Heather McPherson examines ‘the heightened significance of the actor as cultural icon and artistic commodity’ (p. 192). She discusses prints, portraits, and ceramics that represented celebrity actors and actresses playing the roles that they were most associated with. In particular her chapter concentrates on ‘how the image of the actor was culturally re-configured, commodified and metamorphosed into porcelain’ (p. 193). Paula Backscheider’s chapter, ‘Retrieving Elizabeth Inchbald’, begins with the recognition that Inchbald’s dramatic work, until recently, has been neglected. Backscheider suggests that part of the reason for this neglect is because of the ‘unorthodox’ nature of Inchbald’s career, and that ‘to understand it requires understanding of many kinds of theatrical practices of the time’ (p. 604). In her elucidation of Inchbald’s drama, Backscheider examines the relationship between Inchbald and the Haymarket Theatre with Elizabeth Farren as its star and also Inchbald’s afterpieces, farces, adaptations, power balances, and ‘the Imperial mind’ (p. 616). Backscheider concludes by stating that we are just beginning the work on Inchbald’s ‘mastery of theatrical practices’ (p. 618), and indeed it will be an interesting field of study. All in all, this volume is a considered, coherent, and excellent resource for students and academics in this field.
Fiona Ritchie’s chapter ‘Jordan and Siddons: Beyond Thalia and Melpomene’ is the most relevant chapter for readers of this section in her compelling study, Women and Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century , also reviewed in Chapter XII. Ritchie also challenges some preconceived notions about Shakespeare which concentrate on the page by examining the role of women, critics, actresses, and audiences in the eighteenth century, all of whom were part of the reconfiguration of Shakespeare’s reputation across the century. In her examinations of the two actresses, Ritchie states that the identification of Jordan and Siddons as ‘rival muses is restrictive rather than productive’ (p. 111), and moreover that the ‘relationship between Jordan and Shakespeare’ has not been so clearly acknowledged (p. 134). Ritchie examines the identification of Siddons as playing tragic heroines and Jordan as playing breeches parts. She also points out that there is little acknowledgement of Jordan’s most successful tragic role when she played Ophelia in 1796. This is an important study, and through Ritchie’s re-evaluation of their performances we can better understand the careers of these two important eighteenth-century actresses.
Continuing the theme of the importance of women in eighteenth-century theatre is Laura Engel and Elaine McGirr’s essay collection Stage Mothers: Women, Work, and the Theater, 1660–1830 , also considered in Chapter XII. The collection is presented in three sections, ‘Actresses, Motherhood, and the Profession of the Stage’, ‘Representations of Mothers on the Stage’, and ‘Actresses and Their Children’, and examines ‘the overlaps and disconnection between representations and realities of maternity’ (p. 2). In particular the collection explores the tensions associated with maternity and motherhood for the celebrity actress. McGirr and Engel state that the main aim of the collection is to examine ideas of what it meant to be a woman in the eighteenth century and ‘how this shaped female performance’ (p. 7). The collection more than achieves its aim. Among the many erudite chapters is Elena Malenas Ledoux’s ‘Working Mothers on the Romantic Stage’, which concentrates on the similarities and differences in the approaches taken by Sarah Siddons and Mary Robinson in order to create their public personas. Moreover, Ledoux examines the ways in which each woman adapted her persona as she responded to ‘life-changing events and physical alterations, including child-birth, motherhood, aging and illness’ (p. 80). A great strength of this chapter is that Ledoux does not go over old ground with an examination positioned entirely on the personal lives of each woman; rather, she examines the ‘enormous amount of slippage between the real and the theatrical . . . and the many layers of performance and intertextuality that they must negotiate to achieve their desired persona’ (p. 84). Jade Higa’s chapter, ‘My Son, My Lover: Gothic Contagion and Maternal Sexuality in The Mysterious Mother ’, examines Horace Walpole’s closet drama written in 1786, although not published until 1781. Drawing on Eve Sedgwick’s concept of Gothic contagion and the work of Catherine Spooner, Higa examines the maternal sexuality in The Mysterious Mother alongside eighteenth-century notions about motherhood. Higa concludes that, in eighteenth-century terms, ‘the intertwining of motherhood and sexuality is monstrous and deviant because it has the ability to spread through affect’ (p. 192). Other notable essays that are relevant for this section, include Helen E.M. Brooks’s ‘ “The Divided Heart of the Actress: Late Eighteenth-Century Actresses and the “Cult of Maternity” ’, Judith Hawley’s ‘Elizabeth and Keppel Craven and the Domestic Drama of Mother–Son Relations’, and Laura Engel’s ‘Mommy Diva: The Divided Loyalties of Sarah Siddons’.
Texts about Shakespeare endure, and although much of Jean I. Marsden’s The Re-imagined Text: Shakespeare, Adaptation, & Eighteenth-Century Literary Theory falls outside the remit of this section, the text makes a number of interesting points which are appropriate, not least because of its premise that ‘the Restoration and eighteenth century produced one of the most subversive acts in literary history—the rewriting and restructuring of Shakespeare’s plays’ (p. 1). Moreover Marsden is more interested in the reception of these adaptations rather than a historical examination of the productions. The text is organized in two parts: Part I, ‘The Re-imagined Text’, which examines adaptations and early criticism of Shakespearian texts and productions, and Part II, ‘Refined from the Dross’, which examines the decline of adaptation towards the latter part of the eighteenth century. Chapter 5, ‘The Search for a Genuine Text’, is an interesting examination of the response to Samuel Johnson’s 1765 edition of Shakespeare alongside ‘the other great Shakespearian phenomenon of the 1760s, Garrick’s 1769 Shakespeare Jubilee’ (p. 127). Marsden concludes with a discussion of the reasons why so many of the adaptations have disappeared.
The final monograph for this section is one that is slightly off-track, but eminently readable. This is Richard L. Lorenzen’s The History of the Prince of Wales Theatre, London, 1771–1793 . The first two chapters which are relevant to this section, outline the beginnings of the Tottenham Street theatre and its various incarnations until it was renamed the Prince of Wales theatre in 1865; it closed in 1882. The text is meticulously researched and the playbills, engravings, photographs, and caricatures provide an enthralling read about the theatrical activity, audiences, popular taste, and the managers of this now defunct theatre.
The theme of Shakespeare and celebrity is continued in Joseph Roach’s ‘Celebrity Culture and the Problem of Biography’ ( SQ 65 470–81), which suggests a correlation between the celebrity status of David Garrick and Sarah Siddons and the ‘popular adulation’ of Shakespeare (p. 471). Moreover, Roach argues that ‘the ongoing collaboration by Shakespeare with celebrated actors and producers expands the idea of what constitutes his “life”—[and] is a more illuminating part of the playwright’s proper biography than any of the extant Elizabethan or Jacobean documents or portraits, interesting as they may be as evidence of the period’ (p. 471). To support his argument, Roach examines letters between British diplomat Sir Charles Hanbury Williams and his daughters in their discussion of their attendance at theatres and in particular Garrick’s portrayal of Lear. Roach also examines a series of sketches by John Flaxman of actors, such as Sarah Siddons, playing Shakespearian roles. Roach concludes his argument by stating that ‘a life written in legal documents and real estate transactions is clearly to suggest its evanescence’ (p. 481). However, where Shakespeare is concerned, to find the man we should look at the performances of his work.
The final journal article reviewed this year is Slaney Chadwick Ross’s ‘Maria Edgeworth’s The Rose, Thistle, and Shamrock : Symbolic Unification, Women’s Education, and the Marriage Plot’ ( ECent 55 377–90). Ross argues that this work, published in Edgeworth’s collection Comic Dramas , ‘is both a re-envisioning of the Irish national tale and a pedagogical treatise for young, upper-class Anglo-Irish women’ (p. 377). Moreover Edgeworth’s play demonstrates her ‘response to a variety of generic influences—from closet drama to the national tale to pedagogical theory’ (p. 378). Ross discusses the problematic nature of ‘Characteristick Comedy [which] can be at odds with pedagogical performance: the language of contract and moral propriety’ (p. 384). Ross concludes with the assertion that although the play is ‘a minor representative of Edgeworth’s extensive body of work’, it is ‘a mighty example of Edgeworth’s championship of an enlarged sphere of female authority’ (p. 387). Finally, it should be noted that the edition of the collected works of Ann Yearsley reviewed in Section 3 above also contains a volume of Yearsley’s play, Earl Goodwin (first performed in 1789), made available for the first time since the eighteenth century. It is pleasing to see this work in print once again, in this rigorous and intelligently conceived edition.