This essay examines the cataloguing practices of James Hammond, the proprietor of a large nineteenth-century New England circulating library, and the marginalia in his collection of sixty-five Minerva Press gothic novels, which were later acquired by the New York Society Library in New York City. Hammond’s catalogues, four of which are examined here, arranged and altered Minerva titles and authors and appended reviews. These promotional strategies foregrounded the gothic content of these novels and attested to their quality. In so doing, the catalogues assisted subscribers in selecting books and prepared them for reading those selections. If Hammond’s catalogs prepared patrons for quality gothic reading experiences, the novels’ marginalia reshaped patrons’ expectations and influenced their engagement with the novels. Written by other subscribers or earlier readers, these marginalia evaluated the novels and commented on their gothic and non-gothic elements. In the process, the marginalia sometimes supported, and at other times conflicted with, Hammond’s promotional strategies. For Hammond’s patrons, the catalogues and the marginalia constituted two points of entry into the Minerva gothic novel. Only by examining both the catalogues and the marginalia can scholars assess the degree to which Minerva’s gothic novels terrified and delighted New England readers decades after the press’s London heyday. Continue reading →
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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