Charles Harpur (1813–68) is recognised in his native Australia as a pioneering Romantic poet, but his achievements are little recognised elsewhere. This essay considers his contribution to the development of Romantic tragedy. He wrote two tragedies, The Bushrangers (1853, orig. 1835), a gothic bandit drama in the tradition of Schiller’s Die Räuber (1781), and King Saul (c. 1838), an incomplete Biblical drama apparently inspired by Byron’s Cain: A Mystery (1821). Like many European playwrights of the period, Harpur was deeply influenced by the new kinds of melodrama that were sweeping the stage, but also sought to distinguish his literary productions from more popular fare. His alienation from the popular theatre was exacerbated by his colonial context, where strict censorship, rising snobbery and plentiful cultural imports from Britain stifled the early efforts of nationalist, convict-born writers like himself. These contexts help to explain three distinctive aspects of Harpur’s Romantic tragedies: they were direct in an age when drama was often evasive, radical even in an age of revolution, and mystical in an age of increasing religious scepticism. Whatever his theatrical merits, Harpur was a bold playwright who worked through controversial political and aesthetic problems in a remarkably explicit way. Continue reading →
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 →
Described by Thomas de Quincey as ‘the great enchantress of [her] generation’, Ann Radcliffe has long been identified as the author whose work contributed more than that of any other to the popularity of Gothic … Continue reading →
This collection of articles, which results from the ‘Four Nations Fiction’ conference that took place in 2013, is structured around the intersection of place with gender in terms of two vibrant research fields: the archipelagic or four nations turn within literary studies and the still-expanding map of Romantic-period women’s writing. Continue reading →
In 1798, Mary Barker published her only known novel, A Welsh Story, which follows members of two Glamorganshire families through courtships to marriage and parenthood. Largely forgotten today, Barker was good friends with Robert Southey, collaborated with Wordsworth to publish Lines Addressed to a Noble Lord (1815) an attack on Byron and lived amongst the Lake Poets for much of the early nineteenth century. Reading A Welsh Story alongside Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) I argue here that Barker altered the form of Wales-related Romantic novels and utilised the radical potential which the imagined space of Wales offered her in order to create a fictionalised vision of Wollstonecraft’s depictions of, and idealistic hopes for, British society. Continue reading →
The Northanger Library Project (HUM2006-03404) was a three-year state-sponsored project (2006–09) that sought to study the rise of gothic literature against the background of the ‘long’ eighteenth century in Britain. The central concern of the … Continue reading →
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