Fictional Representations of Romantics and Romanticism
A (Partially Annotated) Bibliography Generated by the NASSR Discussion List
Latest Updates: August 2002
Compiled by Melissa J. Sites and Neil Fraistat
This bibliography lists items (books, plays, films, etc.) that represent historical Romantic figures in fictional contexts, and takes as its starting point a thread which began as a query about current (twentieth-century) works of science fiction that feature Romantic figures. The thread soon spread to include the representation of Romantic figures in non-SF works from the twentieth century and earlier.
Annotations appear on the page; links lead to related comments or sites. Thanks to contributors Rick Albright, Bryan N. Alexander, Robert Frost Anderson, Amanda Berry, Jay Clayton, Tom Dillingham, Bruce Graver, Ann Hawkins, Mary Lynn Johnson, Ken Johnston, Steve Jones, Jack Kolb, Beth Lau, John W. Leys, Alan Liu, Jack Lynch, Anne Mellor, Carole F. Meyers, Richard A. Nanian, Rebecca Nesvet, Megan O'Neill, Morton Paley, Alan Richardson, Daniel M. Riess, Michele Sharp, Atara Stein (who started the thread), Nan Sweet, and Julia Wright. Special thanks to all those who sent in annotations and to William Jewett for his especially long list of related works.
See also our bibliography on Frankenstein: an annotated chronological selection of works adapted from or responding to Mary Shelley's novel. Along the same lines, see our bibliography of Pop Culture Interpretations of Romantic Literature, mostly pop song renditions of Romantic period poems.
CONTEMPORARY NOVELS AND SHORT FICTION
Adams, Douglas. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (1987). "The Coleridge incident appears in chapters 6 and 35, although Dirk Gently disturbs STC intentionally, not by accident." --J. Lynch. Lynch suggests that this might be the story described by N. Fraistat "in which a contemporary (to us) lover of 'Kubla Khan' goes back in time and stands guard at STC's door while he sleeps, determined to stop the man from Porlock. Well, he waits and waits and no man from Porlock appears. Finally, worried, he knocks at the door to find out if the man from P has somehow got round him only to discover that, dum de dum dum dum, HE is the man from Porlock."
Ackroyd, Peter. Chatterton (1986)
Anderson, Poul. "The Person From Porlock." "The theme is that there are alien beings watching us, and every time a human being is about to make a significant breakthrough they send a Person from Porlock as a distraction."--M. Paley.
Bear, Greg. The Infinity Concerto (1984) and The Serpent Mage (1986). "[in which] Coleridge's interruption during his composition of 'Kubla Khan' was orchestrated by the Sidhe, who were afraid that the Song of Power embodied in the poem would result in a cleansing of our world's evils, which are themselves orchestrations of the Sidhe to keep humans in chains."--M. O'Neill.
Bishop, Michael. Brittle Innings (1994). "a wonderful book by a Nebula award-winning author. The basic premise is that Frankenstein's creature never died and is alive and playing baseball for a minor league team in the South during WWII. The story is told through the eyes of a young man recently drafted to the team who ends up sharing a room with 'Jumbo.' Said young man was deserted by his father early in life and his efforts to handle his anger and betrayal are mirrored by Jumbo's feelings toward his creator. Adding complexity is Jumbo's increasingly parental role. Not really SF in the 'classic' sense of the word -- Jumbo's appearance is the only SFish element but a great book nonetheless."--C. Meyers.
Burgess, Anthony. Abba Abba (1977). re Keats
Burgess, Anthony. Byrne (1995) "as I understand, is in part a take on Don Juan (it adopts the Juan's verse form)."--R. Anderson.
Byatt, A.S. Possession (1990). "for the later end of the matter"--T. Dillingham.
Card, Orson Scott. Seventh Son (1987). "The first book in an alternate history of early nineteenth-century North America; portrays William Blake as an itinerate prophet."--M. Sites.
Chernaik, Judith. Love's Children (1992)
Combuchen, Sigrid. Byron (1993)
Edwards, Anne. Haunted Summer (1972). See below for a discussion of the film based on Edwards's book.
Farmer, Philip Jose. Tarzan Alive (Playboy, 1981 - ISBN0-872-16876-X) "Farmer's biography of John Clayton, Lord Greystoke. Byron is mentioned briefly several times. Most notable is Farmer's assertion that Lord John Roxton (from Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World) and several pulp heroes, The Shadow, The Spider, and G-8, are all descended from Byron's daughter, Augusta Ada Byron. See also Farmer's Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (Bantam, 1973)."--J. Leys.
Fleming, Ann. Death and Deconstruction (1995). "detective novel set among the Byron Society at Newstead Abbey"--N. Sweet.
Gibson, William, and Bruce Sterling. The Difference Engine (1990). "An alternate history which recognizes Ada, Countess of Lovelace (Byron's daughter) as the world's first computer programmer. Alternate lives are imagined for other Romantics, like Keats, and Byron, who leads the Rad Lords in Parliament."--M. Sites.
Holland, Tom. Lord of the Dead: The Secret History of Byron (PocketBooks, 1995 - ISBN 0-671-53425-4). "In this book, Byron is really a vampire. Holland ingeniously incorporates elements of Byron's life and themes in his poetry to vampirism, but it seems an awful lot like other vampire novels in terms of structure and plot (sort of like Interview with the Vampire but about Byron)."--A. Stein. "Published in Great Britain as The Vampyre."--J. Leys.
Iremonger, Lucille. My Sister, My Love (1981)
Kenyon, F W. The Absorbing Fire (1966). re Byron
Marlowe, Derek. A Single Summer with Lord B. (1970)
McKenna, John. Clare (1993)
Nelson, Ray Faraday. Time Quest. ". . . long out-of-print, follows Kate and William Blake's 'mad' marriage and immersion in 'The Learning.' Portrays meetings among W. Blake, Paine, Godwin, and Wollstonecraft at Joseph Johnson's. Recasts Blake's allegories as time-travel, simplifying some, of course. . . . But my students and I enjoy my xeroxed copy--it speaks to feminists, historicists, and allegorians (?) alike."--N. Sweet.
Nicole, Christopher. The Secret Memoirs of Lord Byron. (Lippincott, 1978 - ISBN 0-397-01290-X)
Norfolk, Lawrence. Lempriere's Dictionary. (1991, "Winner of the 1992 Somerset Maugham Award") "deals at length with the 1780s and 1790s. Besides the obvious reference to the mythological dictionary of John Lempriere, there are also a variety of allusions to historical and literary figures of the period, from direct references to Warren Hastings, to a conspiracy-theory re-imagining of the French Revolution, to (my favourite) the 'Pantisocratic Pirates'--founded upon radical principles, and led by Wilberforce van Clam."--J. Wright.
Powers, Tim. The Anubis Gates (1983) and The Stress of her Regard (1989). "The former deals with a professor travelling back in time and meeting Byron, while the latter very ingeniously attributes a type of vampire possession to Byron, Shelley, and Keats, cleverly incorporating incidents in their lives and quotations from their poems into a very coherent system." --A. Stein.
Prantera, Amanda. Conversations with Lord Byron on perversion, 163 years after His Lordship's death (New York : Atheneum, 1987). "Delightfully odd. The premise is that some computer types download Byron's biography and (thus, they hope) personality to see if they can get the computer to produce more authentic Byron poetry. Great spring-break reading."--A. Hawkins.
Prokosch, Frederic. The Missolonghi Manuscript (1968; FSG, 1984). "essential . . . A book worth stealing and xeroxing. Or maybe you could get reprint permissions."--J. Kolb. "A novel written in the form of Byron's Journal. Takes place, as the title suggests, during his stay in Missolonghi."--J. Leys.
Roszak, Theodore. The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein (1995)
Sherwood, Frances. Vindication (1993). "dreadful"--T. Dillingham.
Simmons, Dan. Hyperion (1989), Fall of Hyperion (1990), Endymion (1995), The Rise of Endymion (1997). "A far-future science fiction tetralogy in which an Articial Intelligence reconstruction of John Keats plays a major role. They're long books and quite a commitment of time, but they're excellent, and the treatment of Keats's life (and death) is very movingly integrated into the story. . . . Aside from the fact that the words "I was an English major" seem to scream from every page (the first novel is a version of Canterbury Tales, among other things), [the novels] are very engrossing and explore Keats's life and poetry in a fascinating way. Essentially, [the Keats AI] becomes involved in (what else?) the entire fate of the galaxy." --A. Stein. "I skimmed [Endymion], whose Romantic allusions were Keatsian but nicely oblique in ways. Its symposium section reminds me, as Romantic dialogues do, of Wordsworth's Excursion times Julian and Maddalo."--N. Sweet.
Sontag, Susan. Volcano Lover (1992).
Stephenson, Neal. The Diamond Age. ". . . another beautifully rendered and detailed imagination of [a cyberpunk] world, though ... more gentle and erudite in tone than picaresque. The use of the Romantics, including Wordsworth and Coleridge, is clear. But the real heart of the book is the 'clave' or "phyle" (corporate clan) of the Vickys, who style their life and ideology after the Victorian age. The plot of the novel places the world view of the Vickys into play against the world of a powerful post-colonial China in ways that make for delicious ironies in the history and meaning of imperialism (including a neo- or retro-Boxer Rebellion). In general, the whole notion of setting Victorian culture in play against the grain of postindustrial and global culture is a delicious one."--A. Liu (excerpted from a short essay/post on cyperpunk; here's the whole thing).
West, Paul. Lord Byron's Doctor (1989). "great to teach. An excerpt: 'Had I known, in later years, I would be called a plagiarist, I would have taken careful notes of the whole creative onset and have Mary and Shelley sign them as witnesses, for at least the squelching of rumour.' Polidori-as-contemporary-subject makes good reading."--A. Berry.
Williams, Walter Jon. "Wall, Stone, Craft." Fantasy & Science Fiction (Oct/Nov 1993, pp. 161-239) "An alternate reality story set in a universe where Byron didn't have a club foot. The story is told from Mary Shelley's point of view, shows Byron as a war hero (he helped defeat Napoleon!) who's just been created The Marquess of Newstead, and gives a different inspiration for Frankenstein."--J. Leys.
Wilson, Colin. The Glass Cage (1966)
MORE NOVELS PRE-1960
Ashton, Helen. William and Dorothy (1938)
Beck, Lily Adams. Glorious Apollo (1925) re Byron
Cary, Joyce. The Horse's Mouth (1944)
Dodd, Catherine Isabel. Eagle-feather (1933) re Shelley
Edschmid, Kasimir. The Passionate Rebel (1930) re Byron
Harvey, Alexander. Shelley's Elopement (1918)
Kruger, Rayne. Young Villain with Wings (1953) re Chatterton
Landau, Mark A. For Thee the Best (1945) re Byron
Moore, Doris Langley. My Caravaggio Style (1959) re Byron
O'Neil, George. Special Hunger (1931) re Keats
Pollock, John Hackett. The Moth and the Star (1937) re Shelley
Wylie, Elinor Hoyt. The Orphan Angel (1926) re Shelley
PURPORTED ROMANS-A-CLEF IN WHOLE OR IN PART
Disraeli, Benjamin. Venetia (1837)
James, Henry. The Aspern Papers (1888)
Lamb, Lady Caroline. Glenarvon (1816)
Lloyd, Charles. Edmund Oliver (1798)
Peacock, Thomas Love. Nightmare Abbey (1818)
Poe, Edgar Allen. "The Visionary"
Shelley, Mary.The Last Man(1826)
Ashton, Winifred. Come of Age (1953) re Chatterton
Bond, Edward. The Fool (1978). About John Clare: "brilliant, sad and grittily true to the spirit if not the letter of his legend. Bond is somewhat critical of Clare, but also sees him fighting vainly with his circumstances, the class system, reality. Bond absolutely refuses to turn the play into a hagiography or a distant period piece" --R. Nesvet.
Brenton, Howard. Bloody Poetry (1985). "Byron, the Shelleys, and Claire Clairmont league in incest and irritate one another, to the amusement of Harriet Shelley's ghost" --A. Richardson.
Brown, Alice. Charles Lamb (1924)
Dangerfield, Elma. "Mad Shelley" : a dramatic life in five acts (1936).
Drinkwater, John. Robert Burns (1925)
Ferber, Maurice. Lord Byron (1924)
Flexner, Anne Crawford. Aged 26 (1936) re Keats
Goodchild, William. Shelley (1934)
Hardinge, George. Rowley and Chatterton in the Shades (1782)
Jellicoe, Ann. Shelley; or, The Idealist (1966)
Lacy, Ernest. The Bard of Mary Redcliffe (1916)
Lavery, Emmet. Second Spring (1938) re Wordsworth
Lea, Fanny Heaslip. Crede Byron (1936)
Linney, Romulus. Childe Byron : a play in two acts (1981) re Byron
Mitchell, Adrian. Tyger (1971)
Parker, Dorothy and Ross Evans. The Coast of Illyria (1949) re the Lambs
Peabody, Josephine. Portrait of Mrs. W. (1922) re Wollstonecraft
Read, Sir Herbert Edward. Lord Byron at the Opera (1963 radio play)
Rice, Cale Young. Love and Lord Byron (1936)
Stoppard, Tom. Arcadia (1993). ". . . wonderful play about Byron which alternates between the misguided present-day attempts by a group of dogmatic literary critics to interpret and reconstruct key events in the Byron circle, and the actual events. Hilarious."--D. Riess. "Yes, hilarious and heart-stopping. Went to a recent performance of it in Los Angeles, and was transfixed for three hours. Worth any amount of effort to see."--A. Stein. " . . . wonderful intellectual theater. . . . its mathematical and scientific dimensions are . . . better accessed through that other Byron, Ada, Countess of Lovelace, whose prophetic notes on computer programing undergird the character Stoppard names Tomasina. ...St. Louis Repertory Theatre [gave a] fine production through March 7, 1997."--N. Sweet.
Toller, Ernest. The Machine-Wreckers (1923 Luddite play with Byron)
Vigny, Alfred de. Chatterton (1835)
Williams, Tennessee. Camino Real (1953 play with Byron cameo)
Clouds of Glory: William and Dorothy and The Ancient Mariner dir. Ken Russell (1978 TV documentaries). "David Warner as WW, David Hemmings as STC"--A. Richardson.
Dead Man dir. Jim Jarmusch (1996). "Johnny Depp plays an accountant from Cleveland named William Blake. He travels into a surreal western landscape where he meets a Crow Indian named 'Nobody' (an equivalent of the Crow name with which he had been branded, meaning something like 'he who talks loudly, but says nothing'). Nobody takes him for a reincarnation of the great English poet whose 'words of power' he had read in London as a boy where he had been taken as a captive. Oddly enough, William Blake doesn't remember his poetry or his supposed past, but acquires a power to 'speak' with violence--he shoots a number of men, and is finally shot himself--never seeming quite to understand what he's doing or why."--M. Sharp.
Gothic dir. Ken Russell (1986). "Gabriel Byrne as Byron, Julian Sands as PBS, Natasha Richardson [no relation] as MWGS"--A. Richardson. ". . . filmed in the Lake District"--W. Jewett. "I've occasionally used a very small clip from this film (about 5 minutes or so) to introduce the topic of the ghost-writing contest. . . . In Russell's hands, the events become a nightmare of drugs, sex, horror . . . . It is probably the note of excessiveness to which I most object . . . . The dramatization of Mary's waking dream--and her vision of Fuseli's 1781 painting "The Nightmare" lit by flashes of lightning, (I don't know if the painting was there or not, but it's a nice touch) do provide an interesting atmosphere, and this is the portion of the film I've used a few times in my classes."--R. Albright [excerpt; here's all of Rick Albright's review]. "Rick Albright's discussion of Gothic shows how, in the hands of skilled critic-teacher, even a godawful film like this one can be used to open up important points. I remember getting the video when it first came out, to show to a party of friends, and shutting it off in embarrassment after 5-10 minutes. On the other hand, in a class, its very excessiveness opens up issues about Frankenstein and romanticism and the Gothic that more "faithful" adaptations of the novel may not."--K. Johnston.
Haunted Summer dir. Ivan Passer (1988). "Laura Dern as Claire Clairmont (which would you least want to be pursued by, Byron and PBS or a clutch of velociraptors?), Eric Stoltz as PBS, Alice Krige as MWGS"--A. Richardson. "Alex Winter (Bill of Bill & Ted fame) as Byron's excellent doctor"--W. Jewett. "Alice Krige as MWS!!! I get a distinct sense of satisfaction from the idea that the woman who played the Borg Queen also played the woman who gave us Frankenstein."--M. Sites. "...the best aspect of this film for me ... is how appropriately young the actors look. I have shown Haunted Summer to my classes, and always the students are shocked to see that these long-canonical figures were barely older than themselves. They may know it from their assignments, but to see it is a different matter. It casts their experimentation, sexual and chemical ... in a very different light from Gothic, which makes them out to be decadent and haggard. ..."--R. Nanian [excerpt; here's all of Richard Nanian's review].
Impromptu dir. James Lapine (1991). (Judy Davis as George Sand, Hugh Grant as Chopin, Julian Sands as Lizst, Mandy Patinkin as Alfred De Musset, Bernadette Peters as Marie D'Agoult, and Ralph Brown as Eugene Delacroix.)
Remando al viento dir. Gonzalo Suárez (1987) (re-released as Rowing with the Wind Miramax video, 1999) . "Hugh Grant as Byron and Elizabeth Hurley as Claire Clairmont--this really seems too good to be true, but that's what the Internet Movie Database claims"--A. Richardson. "Also features Lizzy McInnerny as Mary Shelley, Valentine Pelka as Percy Bysshe Shelley, José Luis Gómez as Polidori. The premise is that Mary Shelley somehow brings her Creature to life, and that it is then responsible for the series of deaths in her life. The biggest flaw of the film is in the skewed timeframe and inaccurate manner of these deaths--especially the death of baby William, who is far too old when he drowns (!) in the movie. The biggest strength of the film is characterization: Lizzy McInnerny plays a serious and vividly intelligent Mary, while Valentine Pelka hits the perfect balance of restrained mania in Shelley's more stressful moments. Plus, the actors bear striking resemblances to the Shelleys. Hugh Grant, despite his lack of any kind of Scottish accent, plays a suitably world-weary Byron, while Elizabeth Hurley's Claire has just the right degree of desparation. Unfortunately, Teresa Guiccioli and Jane and Edward Williams are less well fleshed out. My favorite moment is the confrontation between Godwin and Shelley: Shelley holds a pistol to his head and Godwin quotes Queen Mab at him!"--M. Sites.
Benet, Laura. The Boy Shelley (1937 bio for adolescents)
Bogan, James and Fred Goss. Sparks of Fire (1982 Blake omnibus)
Crawford, Walter and Ann. "The new Coleridge bibliography [which] includes references to Coleridge in fiction, rock lyrics, films, advertisements--wherever they occur. ... a good place to start for Coleridge material, if one wanted to compile a list of allusions to Romantic-era writers."--B. Lau.
Graham, Jorie. Erosion (Princeton UP, 1983). This volume includes two poems about Keats: "Scirocco" (p. 8), which begins "In Rome, at 26 / Piazza di Spagna, / at the foot of a long / flight of / stairs, are rooms / let to Keats" and "For John Keats" (p. 50), which begins "Today, with a friend, in an archaic yellow light, I visited the graveyard / here, an easy lawn behind the school. . . ."--M. Johnson.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "P.'s Correspondence" (1845 story)
Holmes, Richard. Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer (1985)
Jackson, Shelley. Patchwork Girl. " . . . hypertext with the premise that the female creature was in fact created (although by Mary Shelley, it seems, whose alter ego she seems to become). Jackson gives each of creature's body parts an individual biography, literalizing the "body as text" metaphor in a very funny way. Towards the end (if these things have endings), the creature's seams start to fall apart and she has to hold herself together with (here I may be mis-remembering) duct tape, except that when she bathes she has to remove the tape, and then her parts float around separately in the soapy water. Patchwork Girl is a Storyspace hypertext, available from Eastgate Systems. I highly recommend it."--B. Graver. "This ambitious hypertext, one of the most successful efforts in the medium, . . . has no proper beginning or end, but it does have numerous narrative characteristics, including characters, settings, flashbacks, and shifting points of view, as well as temporally consecutive sequences, which arouse various kinds of affective response in the reader, such as curiosity, suspense, amusement, erotic tension, and surprise."--J. Clayton (more).
Lindsley, Mar Flora. Marvelous Boy (Education of a Poet in Age of Reason (1979 sonnet sequence on Chatterton)
McPherson, Sandra, ed. Journey from Essex: Poems for John Clare
Moore, Julia A. "A Sketch of Lord Byron's Life." A poem originally published in 1878. See Tom Dillingham's Transcription and Notes.
Morrison, Grant. The Invisibles " . . . [comic book/utopian fantasy which] featured a storyline involving Byron and both Shelleys discussing the nature of mind and utopia, with excellent use of Julian and Maddalo and Lines written among the Euganean Hills." --B. Alexander. "Mary Shelley and friends appear in issues 5-8, which have been collected in "trade paperback" format entitled The Invisibles: Say You Want a Revolution (ISBN 1-56389-267-7) --more durable and easier to acquire for the non-comics reader. This book is intended for mature readers and features graphic disturbing imagery--though less so in the sections that actually feature Byron and the Shelleys."--M. Sites.
Nicolson, Harold. "The Gamba Papers: Being a Review of the Memoirs of Pietro Gamba, Duke of Negroponte (If Byron Had Become King of Greece)" in Guedalla, et al., If, or, History Rewritten (1931 counterfactual history)