The article examines the print history of Robert Southey and S. T. Coleridge’s co-written but anonymously published ‘The Devil’s Thoughts’ (1799). Over more than three decades, the ballad was transcribed, reprinted, and imitated. Most notably, an illustrated edition of 1830—erroneously ascribed to the classical scholar Richard Porson—enjoyed much popularity in the market for print, allegedly selling fifteen-thousand copies. The satirical poem aims its barbs at lucrative but immoral professions (lawyers, apothecaries, and booksellers), but government policies on prisons and support for war with France are also criticised. The article aims to discuss the poetical and political reasons why the two poets were reluctant to acknowledge the authorship of the satire. Examining the ballad’s various reproductions provides an illuminating case study of how nineteenth-century print culture could exploit popular texts that were placed in the public domain. The discussion will be divided into three sections. The first section will examine the poem’s genesis and unpack its most significant allusions in the context of contemporary print satire. The second section will document the reproduction trajectory of a Romantic-period poem that was dispossessed for most of its popular lifespan. The final section will critically examine how entrepreneurs in the book market cashed in on the popularity of the illustrated version (1830) by publishing several derivative compositions in hasty succession. Continue reading →
Late in life in in his Memoirs of a Literary Veteran (1851) R. P. Gillies reflected on a career fraught with difficulties owing to debt and other obstacles, though in it earlier stages it might be said to have paralleled in some respects the path of Walter Scott, while reaching a highpoint in the 1820s through Gillies’s significant input as a Germanist into Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. One deep regret as expressed in the Memoirs was his eventual incapacity to piece together his own literary record owing to the loss of materials at significant points in his life. The present article attempts to ameliorate this situation by providing a fuller record than was then available to Gillies himself, through means such as the recovery of rare editions, identification of periodical contributions, and information provided by the archives of the Royal Literary Fund. More particularly it offers an improved account of Gillies’s output as a novelist and translator of fiction, with some newly identified titles being added to the list, while others are removed. Continue reading →
This article is the first to focus upon Helen Monteagle (1818), a novel written by Alicia LeFanu and the second of six works of fiction she is known to have published between 1816 and 1826. In part an act of recovery, the article explores Helen Monteagle’s significance to understandings of the development of prose fiction in the romantic period, and situates the novel in relation to the traditions and innovations of satirical writing in particular. Tracing the various acts of conformity and resistance displayed by its female protagonists, the article identifies in the novel a corresponding interest in the terms of women’s professional practice as performers and authors in a year which also saw publication of Shelley’s Frankenstein and Austen’s Northanger Abbey. LeFanu’s novel, the article argues, reflects upon the author/creator and her audience, and articulates a commentary upon the adequacy of conventional narrative frameworks in the context of market competition and anxieties about the integrity of contemporary literary culture. The novel’s innovative and allusive approach to plot and character are examined in relation to LeFanu’s third novel of 1819, entitled Leolin Abbey. In its discussion of the various personal, professional and commercial imperatives which informed LeFanu’s career as a writer, the article reflects upon the broader context of women’s writing in this period and aims to enhance an appreciation of its diversity. Continue reading →
While the critical establishment baulked at the rapid expansion of the literary marketplace in the early nineteenth century, Lady Morgan’s Florence Macarthy boldly declared its allegiance to the precariously feminised domain of popular romance. Embracing its own synthetic and syncretic modernity, Morgan’s seventh novel revels in the spectacle, sensation and simulation so vociferously denounced by reviewers of her earlier works. Moreover, in its self-reflexive scrutiny of the material processes of Romantic literary production, Morgan’s fiction interrogates its own position within an increasingly commercialised and mechanised publishing industry. In asserting the centrality of such commercial and mechanical modernity to Morgan’s aesthetic, this article departs from previous scholarly discussions of her oeuvre. It argues that Florence Macarthy’s engagement with Irish politics is not anchored in antiquarian retrospection but instead emerges out of an effervescent literary marketplace in direct competition with new arenas of spectacular entertainment. Thus, rather than promote a supposedly atavistic and anachronistic cultural nationalism, the surface narrative’s flirtation with the romance of Irish antiquity is continually disrupted by an underlying acknowledgement of the competing literary, political and historical narratives at play within the national tale. Synchronising and synthesising these competing discourses for the popular reader, Florence Macarthy registers the hybridity of its own romance as a distinctly modern yet sophisticated form of mechanical reproduction that cannot be dismissed as the mere automatism of an antiquarian reflex. Continue reading →
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