This essay uses Isabella Kelly (c. 1759–1857) to demonstrate the critical and historical value of Minerva novelists for gothic scholarship. Minerva’s fictions have traditionally been dismissed by gothic critics as uninteresting ‘imitations’ of Radcliffe and Lewis. I propose that we need to question this too-simple label: rather than disqualifying them from serious study, Minerva novels’ formulaic gothic elements are an entry point for fertile analysis, exposing a lively dialogue between many novels that is itself an under-examined part of the gothic’s history. I also address the dilemma of scope: should gothic scholars read Minerva novels individually and closely, or as a large mass viewed from afar? Drawing on the insights of recent scholarship, I propose that there are unique benefits to a combined perspective, which recognises the potential richness of individual Minerva gothics while noting the distinctive features that arise from their publication as part of a larger mass. Isabella Kelly’s seven Minerva novels allow me to test both of these methodological assertions. A ‘semi-distant’ overview of Kelly’s career reveals her rapidly changing, diverse and creative use of gothic materials over time, exposing an aspect of gothic authorship not visible in traditional accounts. I then zoom in on a single Kelly novel, The Ruins of Avondale Priory (1796), to show the surprisingly complex, idiosyncratic uses to which she puts familiar tropes. Examined closely, Kelly’s novel proves less an ‘imitation’of canonical gothics than one in a chain of adaptations to which those more famous works also belong. Kelly’s case also shows how Minerva novels challenge critical categories formed on the basis of the canon alone, such as the supposed division of gothic fiction into distinct ‘male’ and ‘female’ strands. Continue reading
Home » Items tagged with 'imitation'
Items tagged with 'imitation'
Jane Austen’s famous reference to Ann Radcliffe and ‘all her imitators’ in Northanger Abbey can be understood both as a satirical characterisation of popular gothic novels and as a record of a historical mode of describing those same texts. This article provides a new reading of fictional ‘imitation’ in the Romantic period arguing that, as it was practised by Minerva Press novelists, it became a crucial fulcrum in the ongoing Romantic debate over the literary status of the novel. While charges of ‘imitation’ are often understood as derogatory, and were frequently deployed against the Minerva Press’s fiction by critics, looking closely at the novels in question suggests that many novelists used imitation quite deliberately as a literary strategy. This essay suggests that the fiction produced by Minerva’s novelists is deeply entwined with the press’s status as England’s highest-producing novel publisher, in that the form and function of Minerva novels stems from their collective identity: each novel is produced and consumed specifically as one of many—one of many narratives, but also one of many physical, circulating objects, lent, sold and exchanged between readers. Using allusions, parodic inversions, self-referential prefaces and a multitude of other narrative strategies, the novelists exploit the creative potential of their imitative parameters. Continue reading
Article: Radcliffe Incorporated
This essay examines the false and dubious attributions of select Minerva novels to both Ann Radcliffe and her lesser known contemporary Mary Ann Radcliffe, arguing that the constellations of texts and authors that signified under the Radcliffe aegis point to the existence of a corporate Radcliffe whose influence on Romantic print culture has yet to be fully documented. In sales catalogues and later scholarly studies and encyclopedias, this corporate Radcliffe blended work initially published anonymously by the Minerva Press with the known output of Ann Radcliffe and Mary Ann Radcliffe. These texts include the Minerva novels The Fate of Velina de Guidova (1790), Radzivil, a Romance (1790), Mary Ann Radcliffe’s The Memoirs of Mrs Mary Ann Radcliffe (1810) and The Female Advocate; or an Attempt to Recover the Rights of Women from Male Usurpation (1799), in addition to the gothic novels of Ann Radcliffe. A composite created by the print market-place and later scholars’ own compulsion to fix or challenge questionable attributions, this corporate Radcliffe elevates the popular Romantic practices of imitation and translation and provides an alternative to narratives of Romantic authorship that rely on singular genius and originality. Continue reading
This essay offers a historical and generic account of the inter-cultural British and Irish nexus of imitation surrounding Thomas Moore’s first published volume of verse, his remarkably successful Odes of Anacreon, Translated into English Verse, with Notes (1800). I situate Moore’s volume, imitative of the sixth-century BC poet Anacreon’s lyrics of wine, women and song, within the dual Irish and British contexts of Anacreontic verse published in Ireland in the eighteenth century, in the contemporary cultural milieu of glee clubs, bodies such as the Hibernian Catch Club, the Beefsteak Club, the Humbug Club and the tellingly named Anacreontic Society, whose members frequently performed Anacreontic sentimental and drinking songs, and in the Cockney School Romanticism of Leigh Hunt and John Keats. In doing so, the paper repositions Moore, in his role of Anacreontic versifier as a formative presence at the genesis of British Romanticism as the turn of the nineteenth century, in ways that allow a deeper understanding of the culturally complex formation of Four Nations Romanticism. Continue reading