March 2007

James Bieri, Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Biography: Youth's Unextinguished Fire, 1792-1816 & Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Biography: Exile of Unfulfilled Renown, 1816-1822

James Bieri, Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Biography: Youth's Unextinguished Fire, 1792-1816. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2004. 457pp. $69.50 (Hdbk; ISBN 0-87413-870-1).
James Bieri, Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Biography: Exile of Unfulfilled Renown, 1816-1822. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2005. 441pp. $69.50 (Hdbk; ISBN 0-87413-893-0).

Reviewed by
Stephen C. Behrendt
University of Nebraska

James Bieri's new two-volume biography of Percy Bysshe Shelley appeared in 2004-05 with relatively little fanfare, perhaps because it was published by a less prominent press than one might expect for so major a biography. A flurry of comments in October 2005, though, on the on-line discussion list of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism, has focused attention at last on this important new study. As well it should. For Bieri's biography, which will surely be the definitive study of Shelley's life and work for many years to come, advances and enriches the state of contemporary Shelley studies in remarkable ways.

Luke Gibbons, Edmund Burke and Ireland: Aesthetics, Politics, and the Colonial Sublime

Luke Gibbons, Edmund Burke and Ireland: Aesthetics, Politics, and the Colonial Sublime. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.  xiv +304 pp.  $60.00 (Hdbk;  ISBN: 0-521-81060-4).

Reviewed by
Frans De Bruyn
University of Ottawa

Until fairly recently, the Irish dimension of Edmund Burke's life experience and his views on colonialism and empire have been under-explored by scholars and critics.  Yet, as Luke Gibbons shows in Edmund Burke and Ireland:  Aesthetics, Politics, and the Colonial Sublime, both these circumstances are central to any adequate understanding of Burke himself and his extensive writings.  Moreover, as Gibbons further claims, Burke's opinions about the British imperial project were intimately shaped by his experience of the colonial system in Ireland.  Gibbons brings these interconnected themes together across a wide range of cultural and political contexts, including aesthetics, economic theory, philosophical history, and Irish unrest (the Whiteboys, agrarian struggle, the United Irishmen) to argue for a more integrated understanding of Burke's multifarious thought and experience.

Jillian Heydt-Stevenson, Austen's Unbecoming Conjunctions—Subversive Language, Embodied History

Jillian Heydt-Stevenson, Austen’s Unbecoming Conjunctions: Subversive Language, Embodied History. New York and Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. x + 275pp. 11 Illustrations. $65.00. (ISBN 1-4039-6410-6).

Reviewed by
Anne K. Mellor
University of California, Los Angeles

This is a book that will forever change the way we read Jane Austen's fiction. In a series of compelling and well-documented analyses, Jillian Heydt-Stevenson shows us that Austen's work is replete with sexual jokes, bawdy humor, double-entendres, erotic puns. Moreover, she persuasively argues that for Jane Austen, the mind cannot be separated from the body: sense and sensibility, consciousness and physical sensations, thought and feeling, are inextricably fused. Heydt-Stevenson here puts paid once and for all to the misconceived notion that Austen was too "respectable" to explore the functioning of the human body in all its unruly sexuality. She further links Austen's use of bawdy language to her overriding concerns with the economics of marriage, the commodification of the female body, the advent of a consumer culture, and the role of language in mediating between "nature" and "fashion."

William Hone, Regency Radical: Selected Writings of William Hone, eds. David A. Kent and D. R. Ewen

William Hone, Regency Radical: Selected Writings of William Hone. Eds. David A. Kent and D. R. Ewen. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 2003. 460pp.  $51.95. (Hdbk. ISBN: 0-8143-3060-6).

Reviewed by
Kyle Grimes
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Romanticists have an unusual penchant for "circles" and "schools."  We have a Lake School, a Satanic School, and a Cockney School (which includes the Hunt circle); we have Joseph Johnson's circle, the Wordsworth Circle, Shelley and his Circle; and we have, of course, the plural and seemingly all-encompassing Romantic Circles.  It is as if romanticists wish to account for the literary culture of the early nineteenth century in the graphic terms of a Venn diagram. And yet, for all these overlapping schools and circles, some figures always seem to lie just beyond the circumference, unlisted on the roster of any particular school and thus relegated (literally) to the margins of literary history where they appear only occasionally in the odd footnote.  Until quite recently, William Hone has been just such a figure.  Though he was well known to many of the central writers and publishers of the Regency period, and in spite of his general fame (or notoriety) in the public prints, and though he was the long-time friend of Charles Lamb, the publisher of Hazlitt's Political Essays, and perhaps the best-selling writer in England during the post-Peterloo and Queen Caroline affair periods, Hone has not been widely known or widely read among more recent romantics scholars.  Happily, over the last dozen years or so this state of affairs has begun to change.  With the publication of such works as Marcus Wood's Radical Satire and Print Culture, Joss Marsh's Word Crimes, a handful of essays and electronic editions (such as The Political House That Jack Built, here on Romantic Circles and on my BioText website), and most recently in Ben Wilson's Laughter of Triumph, Hone's work as a publisher and journalist, parodist and antiquarian is coming into increasing prominence.

Jerome McGann, Byron and Romanticism & Drummond Bone, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Byron

Jerome McGann, Byron and Romanticism. Ed. James Soderholm. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003. 328 pp.  $85.00. (Hdbk: ISBN 978-0521809580).
Drummond Bone, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Byron. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004. 360 pp. $24.99 (pbk). (Pbk: ISBN 978-0521786768).

Reviewed by
Gillen D'Arcy Wood
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Byron plays Mephistopheles to Wordsworth's (and synecdochally, Romanticism's) Faust. Even at moments where he appears a poetic failure—in Childe Harold III or "Fare Thee Well"—he remains magister ludi, hoisting the reader on his own falsifiable expectations. But Byron at the last is also Faust himself. . . .

Such is Jerome McGann's Byron, whose articles on the poet, independent of his two early books, have now been collected in a single, indispensable volume. The first two-thirds of the collection, nine essays in all, constitute a Byron book unto themselves, but have been supplemented by seven further pieces, including a retrospective interview published here for the first time, that showcase McGann's crucial theoretical interventions—on the subjects of ideology, historical method, and deconstruction—and treat Byron mostly obliquely. Taken together, the volume offers both an assembly of vital essays by the most important Byronist of his generation, while pointing toward the Greater McGann of Social Values and Poetic Acts (1988) and the epoch-making Romantic Ideology (1983).