Romantic Circles Blog

New Edition: Hemans's The Sceptic

Romantic Circles has just published The Sceptic: A Hemans-Byron Dialogue, edited by Nanora Sweet and Barbara Taylor, with Adriana Craciun as Consulting Editor and Andrew Elfenbein and Anne Hartman as Contributors.

This edition excavates the text and context of Felicia Hemans’s 1820 pamphlet-poem, The Sceptic. Neglected by Hemans’ pervious editors, this 550-line poem places her in direct contention with Byron over questions of doubt and belief in a time of personal and national uncertainty. Essays incorporated in the digital edition by Anne Hartman, Andrew Elfenbein, Barbara Taylor, and Nanora Sweet present Hemans’s inclinations toward philosophical and theological scepticism, her immersion in the topics and stylistic experiments of the day, and her challenges to Byronic genre, style, and theme. Featuring images, letters, and reviews, the edition includes a "guided tour" of the poem that follows its Sceptic’s "progress" through a cosmos spanning heaven and earth.

RC Eds.

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Kofi Annan to deliver Robert Burns Memorial Lecture

Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan will deliver tonight the inaugural Robert Burns Memorial Lecture at the UN in New York. His topic is "The State of the World and the Brotherhood of Man.” The lecture series is named in honor of the poet and his “belief in the equality of mankind.”

The story can be found at

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Supplement 2003 to the Coleridge Bibliography now online

The updated selective online Supplement 2003 to volumes I-III of the Coleridge Bibliography was released on December 12, 2003. The last to be prepared by Walter B. Crawford and Ann M. Crwaford, it contains a revised Preface and more than 400 annotated items (many illustrated), including about 70 added since the 2000 edition. It can be found at:

Supplement 2003 is hyperlinked to and from the Crawford Coleridge Collection Website:

and to and from the Coleridge Bibliography Website:

To make it easy for the users of this Supplement to discover what items have been added, revised, or updated since the 2000 edition, a section has been added listing just the identifying first line of each such item, enabling a user to determine quickly their location.

Librarians, scholars interested in the English Romantics, Coleridge scholars particularly, and those teaching graduate students most particularly, should pay special attention to the revised Preface to Supplement 2003, and most especially to the paragraphs looking forward to volume IV of the Coleridge Bibliography.

The Crawfords express their gratitude to the many persons interested in Coleridge who have sent them information for the Supplement as well as materials to be deposited in the non-circulating Crawford Coleridge Collection, where this material will always be available to scholars—including future bibliographers—and others interested in Coleridge. Such contributions have been noted in the Supplement as well as acknowledged by the Dean of the Library of California State University, Long Beach.

W. B. Crawford

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Online Every-Day Book by William Hone (ed. Kyle Grimes)

Kyle Grimes recently announced that he is now editing and publishing online The Every-Day Book by radical publisher William Hone:

Grimes had this to say about his serial project:

The two volumes of Hone’s Every-day Book present all sorts of diverse readings and "useful knowledge" as appropriate to each day of the year. Thus, for example, the first day's issue offers some extensive commentary on local customs having to do with New Year's Day as well as some discussion of the January 1 saints' days and other seasonal matters. Later issues offer descriptions of London street life and English popular culture, biographical sketches of significant persons, accounts of historical events, extensive commentary on English holidays, etc. Many of the numbers are illustrated with engravings Hone commissioned for the occasion.

The two hefty antiquarian volumes were originally published in serial form in 1825 and 1826, and I am planning to adopt this mode for the publication of the initial electronic edition. For the next two years (assuming both my stamina and my keyboard hold up) I will be issuing weekly numbers of the Every-Day Book through the e-text page of my William Hone BioText Website.

In addition, I am establishing a listserv through which I will announce and introduce each week's issue and which will also serve as a venue for any discussion of Hone's books (or of Romantic-period antiquarianism in general). I would like to invite interested readers to sign on to the Hone/antiquarianism listserv by dropping me a line at I don't anticipate that the listserv will be especially busy, but it could be that some useful and illuminating discussion will emerge.

A more extensive introduction both to Hone's Every-Day Book and to the electronic edition is available on the site's homepage, and I will of course be happy to address any questions that might arise.

Kyle Grimes

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Turner's Death Mask Stolen

The Royal Academy now says a cast of painter J.M.W. Turner's death mask, which has been missing since the mid 1980s, may well have been stolen.

Turner was of course famous as a colorist of sublime landscapes and seascapes--and for creating a stir at his own R.A. exhibits and lectures, where he was a member from 1802. Digital images of some of his works can be seen at various sites on the Web--here at the BBC site, for example, which also contains general information on the artist.

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Brian Wilkie (Mary Lynn Johnson)

This notice from Mary Lynn Johnson came to our attention this morning.

I am sad to relay news of the death yesterday [December 14] of Professor Brian Wilkie of the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville), formerly of the University of Illinois, Dartmouth College, and the University of Wisconsin. Brian will be remembered by many as a thoughtful critic and as a brilliant and beloved teacher. I was lucky to be on the same faculty with him at Illinois in the 1960s, when we were both wrestling for the first time with Blake as we taught concurrent courses in the Romantics. He loved teaching and had no plans for retirement. He co-edited Literature of the Western World, 2 vols., the fifth edition of which was published in 2001 and was the author of Blake's Thel and Oothoon (English Literary Studies, 1990), Romantic Poets and Epic Tradition (Wisconsin, 1965) and co-author of Blake's 'Four Zoas': The Design of a Dream (Harvard, 1978), and numerous articles and reviews. He leaves his wife Ann and three adult sons and grandchildren.

Mary Lynn Johnson

[Formal notice on the University of Arkansas Website.]

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Keeping Shelley MSS together at the Bodleian

Dr. B. C. Barker-Benfield of the Bodleian Library at Oxford sends the following good news about keeping Mary Shelley's manuscripts together under one roof.

December 10, 2003
The Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford has been awarded £3 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund towards the purchase of the Abinger Papers, an archive of major literary significance which includes the surviving manuscripts of Mary Shelley’s famous novel Frankenstein. It is the largest grant ever received by the Library towards a single purchase. [cont'd]

The Abinger Papers are the most important collection of Shelley family papers remaining in private hands. The papers include the Frankenstein original draft manuscript of 1816–17, which reveals the novel in its process of conception. The draft contains many autograph corrections by Percy Bysshe Shelley, and so provides unique evidence for the much disputed question: how far did Percy Shelley influence his wife’s masterpiece?

The Abinger Papers form one third of the Shelley family papers, including letters and papers of Mary Shelley’s parents, Mary Wollstonecraft (the ground-breaking feminist writer) and William Godwin (a major intellectual figure of the period). Two thirds already belong outright to the Bodleian Library through gifts from the family. The remaining third, the Abinger section, has been deposited on loan at the Library since 1974 for the benefit of scholars, but is now offered for sale.

The Bodleian Library is launching an appeal to raise the remaining funds needed to purchase the collection. Richard Ovenden, Keeper of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, said: "Thanks to the Fund’s outstandingly generous grant, and other donations already received of almost £350,000, the Library now has until March 2004 to raise the remaining £500,000 to buy the collection and so prevent its dispersal at auction. Researchers from all over the world have visited Oxford until now to study the combined collections of Shelley materials. By purchasing the Abinger collection, we aim to ensure that the Shelley family papers remain united in one location."

Stephen Johnson, Head of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, said: "The Abinger Papers are exactly the kind of Great British heritage that the National Heritage Memorial Fund was set up to save. Few things are more precious than the Shelleys’ personal notes and Mary’s autograph draft of Frankenstein. This grant will open up this internationally acclaimed collection for everyone to enjoy in the unique surroundings of the Bodleian Library."

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Journey to Goslar (Duncan Wu in The Guardian)

With the big snowstorms up and down the east coast of the U.S. this week, it was perfect timing for Saturday's article in the Guardian, by Duncan Wu, of St. Catherine's College, Oxford, on the Wordsworths' trip to Germany in the winter of 1798.

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Messolonghi Byron Society

The Byron Society shares with us this new URL from Greece and the Messolonghi Byron Society, which is "devoted to promoting scholarly and general understanding of Lord Byron's life and poetry as well as cultivating appreciation for other historical figures in the 19th-century international Philhellenic movement."

Be sure to see the photo gallery.

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"Crossing the Channel" in New York

Back on September 8, 2003, we posted a report from Andrew Elfenbein on an exhibit in Minneapolis, Crossing the Channel. The exhibit has since moved to New York’s Metropolitan Museum, and we’re pleased to have received this firsthand review of the exhibit by Karl Kroeber of Columbia University.

Any Romanticists passing through New York en route to Bayonne or New London would be well rewarded by taking time to visit the Metropolitan Museum exhibition CROSSING THE CHANNEL: BRITISH AND FRENCH PAINTING IN THE AGE OF ROMANTICISM. No blockbuster, this exhibition even lacks sharp focus, but the blurriness is appropriate to the strange fashion in which Britain and France in the visual arts (as in other cultural areas) in the first years of the nineteenth century intersected and even interacted in a manner that only dramatized their differences--caught with deadly satiric accuracy in Carle Vernet's watercolor of English visitors in Paris after Waterloo.

One enters the exhibit to be smashed in the face by Gericault's huge RAFT OF THE MEDUSA, studding even in the form of this Victorianized 1859 copy by Guillermet and Ronjat. Alongside is Turner's DISASTER AT SEA and Danby's striking but less celebrated SUNSET AT SEA AFTER SNOWSTORM)—which epitomizes the distinctive national styles--Gericault all people suffering, Turner all waves in action. One of the best thing in the show is the variety of works by Gericault, including studies of truncated limbs and severed heads, and two of his terrific MONOMANIA portraits, as well as examples of his LONDON lithographs, with wonderful rendering not of race horses but working Clydesdales. A variety of splendid Boningtons, both oils and watercolors, may be the prize on the British side. But Turner is well represented (once dramatized by juxtaposition with John Martin's darkness-invisible DELUGE), most notably by CROSSING THE BROOK (but what the hell is the dog carrying in its mouth?), as is Constable by the lovely ON THE STOUR and the WHITE HORSE, each worth the price of admission for those who don't live near the Frick Museum. Among the French whom Constable directly influenced, Huet is the best (his HARVEST distinguished by a top-hatted scarecrow and an intrusive smoke stack signaling the advent of industrialism)--especially his watercolor CANNES.

French artists' unreciprocated illustrations of British literature are represented by three Giaours and a raft of scenes from Scott--including a weird Delacroix LUCY ASHTON'S BRIDAL NIGHT. Deservedly more famous is his GREECE ON THE RUINS OF MISSOLONGHI here with Greece's cleavage splendidly highlighted. But for many Romanticists much of the show's interest will lie in the variety of less celebrated works, among which I note only Wilkie's VILLAGE HOLIDAY, the first painting purchased for the National Gallery from a living artist, but here outclassed by the sharper-sighted and more dramatic French MOVING DAY alongside by Louis Boilly. Even more stunning is Ingres’ ENTRY OF THE DAUPHIN, a superbly painted archaizing of the troubadour style, the kind of thing only a true master can casually toss off. Something of the same virtuosity in reverse appears in Varley's amazing SUBURBS OF AN ANCIENT CITY--Poussin in watercolor, by God!

Karl Kroeber

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