Romantic Circles Blog

Byron Society Collection to go to Drew University

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The Byron Society of America announced January 22, 2010 that it has chosen Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, as the new home for its Byron Society Collection. The collection of almost 5,000 items, including rare books, portraits, letters, and other priceless material, will be housed with the Drew Library’s special collections, where students, scholars, and members of the public will be able to access it. Robert Weisbuch, president of Drew University and a specialist in nineteenth-century British and American writers, stated in his welcome: “The arrival of this collection will provide a feast of research opportunities for scholars and undergraduates alike.”

Included in the Byron Society Collection are letters from Mrs. Byron, Thomas Moore, and Lady Byron, and the splendid collection of 1,900 volumes, including many early and rare editions, together with 600 booklets and 60 material objects belonging to collector Michael Rees, former secretary of the International Council of Byron Societies. Papers, correspondence, books, and photographs once owned by the late Leslie A. Marchand, author of Byron: A Biography, and editor of Byron’s Letters and Journals, likewise form an essential part of the collection’s holdings. The collection also includes visual representations of the poet, such as Rembrandt Peale’s 1825 lithograph of Byron, as well as statuary, mezzotints and engravings, Staffordshire figures, and decorative and other material objects that demonstrate the impact of Byron’s life and works on his readers, both past and present.

“The deposit of the Byron Society’s important archive of books and cultural materials in the Drew University Library is one of those events that do not often capture public attention,” noted Jerome McGann, editor of Byron: The Complete Poetical Works. “But it is a moment in the history of the university where its commitment to the preservation of our cultural heritage is clearly displayed.”

Drew University ( is known for its special collections and archives, including distinctive holdings on Willa Cather, Walt Whitman, John Wesley, and the history of world Methodism. Discussions between Drew and the Byron Society began when it became known that the university had been given the coveted Byron and Whitman holdings of private collector Norman Tomlinson.

“Drew is the natural home for the Byron Society Collection,” commented Marsha Manns, chair of the Byron Society of America and co-founder, with Leslie A. Marchand, of the Byron Society Collection. The library’s current holdings, including the Tomlinson Byron Collection, along with the value placed on collections of material culture and the university’s willingness to provide wide access to the collection, were all important considerations for the society.” Scholars agree. “The settlement of the Byron Society Collection at Drew University opens exciting new opportunities for research and teaching in material culture,” said William St Clair, author of The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period and That Greece Might Still Be Free, “Given the rich collections already there and Drew’s pioneering work in studying the reception and diffusion of ideas, I see a perfect fit. Many scholars and others will wish to be associated with this imaginative project.”

The Byron Society of America ( is a non-profit literary organization founded to study the life and works of the English Romantic poet, George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), whose immense cultural impact extends from the nineteenth century to the present day. The Society is one of forty societies representing forty countries that collectively comprise the International Byron Society.

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John Cam Hobhouse diary: fresh content and new location

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The diary of John Cam Hobhouse on the Web has undergone some changes. It's current location at has moved to the Blog site of Peter Cochran at With the move comes significant new content, including full coverage from the years 1809-1824 and new material from Hobhouse's time in London and Switzerland.

From the foreword to the Hobhouse diary:

John Cam Hobhouse (1786-1869) was Byron’s best friend. Educated at Westminster and Trinity College Cambridge, he travelled east with Byron in 1809, was Best Man at Byron’s wedding in 1815, travelled across Switzerland in Byron’s company in 1816 after the separation, around Rome with Byron in 1817, and lived with Byron in Venice in the same year. He met Byron at Pisa again in 1822, after Byron’s facetious poem on his imprisonment in Newgate, My Boy Hobby-O, had almost terminated their friendship. As a member of the London Greek Committee he encouraged Byron on his last journey in 1823; and had he insisted, Byron’s memoirs would almost certainly not have been destroyed in 1824.

Hobhouse’s diary was published in heavily truncated and censored form, as part of Recollections of a Long Life, edited by his daughter, Lady Dorchester, in six volumes between 1909 and 1911. He had used it as the basis for three previous publications: A Journey through Albania, and other Provinces of Turkey in Europe and Asia, to Constantinople, during the years 1809 and 1810 (1813), Travels in Albania and other Provinces of Turkey in 1809 and 1810 (1855) and Italy: Remarks made in several visits from the year 1816 to 1854 (1859).

John Cam Hobhouse’s diary is one of the two major texts written about Byron by his contemporaries which has still to see the full light of day – though it is about much more than Byron, for Hobhouse became, as he cast off his Byronic shackles, a significant political figure in his own right. The sections on his two Napoleonic French excursions – on both of which he went without Byron – are worth books in themselves. His weeks in Newgate, just before he was elected MP for Westminster, will be included. However, the extent to which he played Sancho to Byron’s Quixote - Pylades to Byron’s Orestes - Hal to Byron’s Falstaff - Horatio to Byron’s Hamlet - Celia to Byron’s Rosalind – cannot be exaggerated, and will have justice done to it.

Karl Kroeber (1926-2009)

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We note with sadness the death on Sunday, November 8 of the distinguished scholar of the romantic period, former Mellon Professor of the Humanities and Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, Karl Kroeber. A notice and a separate appreciation appeared yesterday in the Columbia Spectator. Here at Romantic Circles, you can read in its entirety a 2007 special issue of The Wordsworth Circle, "In Honor of Karl Kroeber."

Romantic Circles Audio: Bright Star Panel Discussion

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On 13 September 2009, the Keats-Shelley Association of America hosted a special advance screening of Jane Campion's new film Bright Star (previously discussed here), about the love between John Keats and Fanny Brawne, at the New York Public Library. Following the screening was a special panel of reactions to the movie, featuring Stuart Curran (distinguished professor Emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania and president of the KSAA), Christopher Ricks (William M. and Sara B. Warren Professor of the Humanities and Co-Director of the Editorial Institute, Boston University), Timothy Corrigan (professor of English and Director of Cinema Studies, University of Pennsylvania) and Susan Wolfson (Professor of English, Princeton University).

Special thanks are due to to several people who helped to facilitate this screening/panel and its recording: Marsha Manns (Director, Keats-Shelley Association of America), Oleg Dubson (Apparition, the film's distributor), Doucet Devin Fischer (Co-editor, Shelley and his Circle) Cheryl Raymond (Manager, Programs, Special Events, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts), Mike Diekmann (Manager of Audio Visual Services New York Public Library for the Performing Arts), Sarah Zimmerman (Associate Professor of English, Fordham University), John Bugg (Assistant Professor of English, Fordham University), Zachary Holbrook (Research Associate, Shelley and his Circle), and Elizabeth Denlinger (Curator, Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle, New York Public Library).

Romantic Circles Audio is now pleased to make the panel discussion available here as a podcast. The lecture is downloadable by clicking on the speaker icon below, or you can subscribe (free of charge) to the panel as a podcast--and then receive future podcasts from Romantic Circles Audio--manually, by using the RSS button below, or (again free of charge) via the iTunes store using the iTunes button.

Though he does not introduce himself on the recording, Stuart Curran introduces the panel.

click here to listen directly, or right click to download

To manually subscribe, simply follow these steps:

1. Copy the link attached to the RSS button below (Mac users ctrl-click, Windows users right-click).

2. Paste this link into any podcast aggregator--for example, iPodder or Apple's iTunes player (under: Advanced > Subscribe to podcast).


Note: Romantic Circles also publishes the Poets on Poets Archive as a free quarterly podcast.

New RC edition: The Letters of Robert Bloomfield and His Circle

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A sample letter from Bloomfield's letters. The edition includes annotations; contextual materials, including a chronology, images, reviews, and selected poems by Bloomfield; indexes of the people and places mentioned in the letters; and an Introduction by Tim Fulford.

Romantic Circles is very pleased to announce the publication of a new electronic edition, The Letters of Robert Bloomfield and his Circle, edited by Tim Fulford and Lynda Pratt, with Associate Editor John Goodridge and Technical Editor Laura Mandell.

The Suffolk farmhand turned London shoemaker Robert Bloomfield was the most popular poet of the early nineteenth-century before Byron, admired not just for the authenticity that stemmed from his childhood experience as a rural labourer, but accepted as a master of narrative and versification—the living continuation of the Georgic and ballad traditions epitomised by James Thomson and Robert Burns. This edition of Bloomfield’s correspondence makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in what it was like to be a professional poet in the early nineteenth century.  Intimate, humorous, self-analytical, Bloomfield’s letters show from the inside what it was like to work in the rapidly expanding book market.  They reveal the power of the publisher, and show Bloomfield struggling, as Wordsworth and Clare also did, with gentlemen patrons who resented the independence that sales gave their protègés.   Throughout, they demonstrate Bloomfield’s difficulties in straddling the labouring-class culture from which he came and the polite culture of his readers and supporters.  This is partly a matter of what they discuss—work in garrets, poor relief, popular songs and political protest, for example. Bloomfield meets the radical shoemaker Thomas Hardy and converses with Hardy’s fellow-accused in the 1794 treason trials, John Horne Tooke; he also corresponds with Paine’s admirer Thomas Clio Rickman.

Invaluable resources for the social historian, like the memoirs of Francis Place and the more passing comments of William Blake, Bloomfield’s letters open up a world not recorded in print at the time, and absent from most twentieth-century histories.   With Clare and Rogers among his correspondents, and with Moore and Wordsworth among his admirers, Bloomfield emerges here as a writer who was for a while central to the poetic culture of the Romantic era. Intended as a resource for scholars of Bloomfield and of labouring-class writing, this edition includes an introduction and extensive editorial apparatus and features transcriptions of Bloomfield’s unpublished poems, critical remarks and children’s writings.  It incorporates over forty reproductions of illustrations to his poems (Bloomfield was one of the most heavily illustrated poets of the day).  Also collected are contemporary reviews of his poems and the texts of poems by his brothers George and Nathaniel.


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James Heffernan alerted us to New Books on Literature 19, a new book review site he's editing:

Launching on September 1, 2009, is an Online Review of Books on English and American Literature of the Nineteenth Century.  Sponsored by Dartmouth College and edited by James Heffernan with technical help from Thomas Luxon  and editorial advice from thirty-three specialists in nineteenth-century literature,  this site aims to revolutionize academic reviewing by assessing new books within ninety days of their publication, by inviting authors to respond to each review within thirty days of its submission,  and by inviting comments from visitors to the site.  Taking advantage of web resources, its reviews will include pictures from the books it reviews and links to relevant material on other sites.  With reviewers ranging from graduate students to chaired professors and emeriti,  this site has commissioned  just over one hundred reviews of books published in 2009, is already posting more than twenty of them, and aims to have the rest up by next April.  Meanwhile, its Books Announced list for 2009 briefly describes all the  books it will review.

"Keats in Space": a review of Richard Holmes' _The Age of Wonder_

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The Poetry Foundation has published a review of Richard Holmes' The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and the Terror of Science, an exploration of the Romantic sensibility in science. Authored by Molly Young, the article characterizes Holmes' book as "equal parts passionate history and head-shaking elegy—a recovery of a golden era and a subsequent burial of it." Starting with Captain Cook's voyage to Tahiti in 1768 and ending with Charles Babbage's publication of Reflections on the Decline of Science in England in 1830, the book catalogues a number of Romantic explorer's and scientists--from Humphry Davy to William and Caroline Herschel. The argument throughout, according to Young, is that Romantic poetry and science have two key attributes in common: a frenzy for discovery and a lack of specialization. It should come as no surprise, then, that "the Romantic imagination was inspired, not alienated, by scientific advances."

In addition, Andrew Stauffer of The Hoarding has collected several other reviews of The Age of Wonder.

Two new reviews available on RC Reviews Blog

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Reviews editor Jasper Cragwall has just posted reviews of two new books on the Romantic Circles Reviews Blog. One, a review of The Cambridge Companion to William Blake (ed. Morris Eaves), was written by R. Paul Yoder. The other, authored by Matthew VanWinkle, is a review of Adam Potkay's The Story of Joy: From the Bible to Late Romanticism. Please visit the top of the RC Reviews Blog to read both new reviews.