Through the exploration of a selection of Minerva titles from across the period of the Press’s dominance (1790–99), focusing on the recurring trope of violence, its varying portrayals by individual authors, and its censure by critics, this essay argues that the Press makes a unique contribution to the Romantic literary marketplace with regard to its output of violent gothic fiction. In particular, it proposes that what some Minerva authors were doing was cleverly combining gothic sensationalism with historical fact, thereby allowing Lane’s press to gain popularity by catering to the fashion for violent gothic novels while simultaneously responding to rhetoric about the corrupting influence of such violence on female readers. In addition to this, at a time when historical writing was not showcasing the horrors of war that women were experiencing, the use of gothic conventions when writing historical conflicts permitted writers to do exactly that—the implication being that Minerva authors’ use of gothic violence was not simply to entertain, but also to portray the horrors of war and its impact on women and the domestic space. Taken together, the use of historical facts alongside gothic tropes in Minerva Press works allows for a confident evaluation of the formation of an historical gothic mode. Continue reading
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Category archive: 'Featured'
In the wake of a personal scandal that Horace Walpole dubbed ‘The Gunninghiad’, Susannah Gunning returned to literary writing after some years’ absence from the scene. The two works she published with William Lane’s Minerva Press in 1792, Anecdotes of the Delborough Family and Virginius and Virginia. A Poem, in Six Parts. From the Roman History, demonstrate both Gunning’s artistic range and Lane’s marketing genius. Together, Gunning and Lane capitalised on the Gunninghiad scandal in an attempt to rehabilitate Gunning’s reputation as a writer and fill the coffers of the press. This article re-examines Gunning’s undervalued literary career to argue that publishing with Lane afforded her opportunities to rewrite the scandal of which she’d been a part, experiment with literary genres she had yet to explore, and profit from what she lived and wrote. Continue reading
This article concerns the early career of William Lane as a fiction publisher, before his adoption of the Minerva brand in 1792. It reveals that Lane played an active role in promoting Irish-authored fiction to London readers, and contributed to the endurance of a popular yet neglected form of mid-eighteenth-century comic fiction. In the 1780s, Lane published many Irish novelists; also notable among his novels were several ‘ramble novels’, or bluff comedies of masculine travel in the style of Fielding and Smollett. It was only later that his press became known for Gothic and historical fiction and associated with the female reader. The article charts the popularity of ramble fiction in the 1780s and its treatment by reviewers and anthologists. It then closely examines one Irish ramble novel published by Lane in order to demonstrate the significance of the form to the history of Irish fiction and its capacity to accommodate serious political themes. The Minor, or the History of George O’Nial (1786) engages with the campaigns against the Penal Laws, which restricted the freedoms of Catholics and Dissenters. It was written in the midst of the first repeals of certain of these laws, and calls for more far-reaching reforms. Through a narrative centred on Irish characters, the novel advocates for Ireland’s disempowered Catholic inhabitants. Continue reading
Article: Re-evaluating the Minerva Press
This collection of nine essays, several by well-seasoned scholars of Minerva or its novels, exemplifies how crucial collaboration is and will be for continued understanding of the popular novel in the Romantic literary marketplace. The essays in ‘The Minerva Press and the Literary Marketplace’ converse with each other in multiple and overlapping ways, and have been divided into three sections that illuminate exciting new inroads to scholarship on the Minerva Press. ‘Minerva Genres’ illustrates the generic diversity of Lane’s publications; this is followed by ‘Minerva Readers and Writers’, which nuances the customary profiling of Lane’s authors and his target audience; while ‘Reading Minerva with New Methods’ reassesses Minerva’s reading communities, both contemporary and more modern-day. Continue reading