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Bristol: Romantic City, Conference Program (1998)

Romantic Circles


John Thelwall and the West Country: The Road to Nether Stowey Revisited

This article presents arguments for continuities in John Thelwall’s life and career from the early 1790s through to the new century, post-1800. Thelwall’s westward migration in 1797 is explored in detail, as is the publication of his essay "The Phenomena of the Wye" in the Monthly Magazine for May and July of 1798. Consideration is given to Thelwall’s various identities, and to the political/cultural significances of England’s west country between 1797 and 1819. Thelwall’s friendship with Coleridge is assessed in the light of intractable differences between the two men.
September 2011

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“A Son of John Thelwall”: Weymouth Birkbeck Thelwall’s Romantic Inheritance

This essay traces the meandering career of Weymouth Birkbeck Thelwall, the son of John Thelwall and his former pupil and second wife, the young and beautiful Henrietta Cecil Boyle. Born on the eve of reform and near the end of John Thelwall’s life, Weymouth followed in his father’s artistic, adventurous and amorous footsteps; creating his own peripatetic journey which led him eventually to a tragic and isolated death in colonial Nyasaland. His life narrative graphically illustrates how the Romantic idealism espoused by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century radicals; the reforms in education, and the civil and religious liberties which they campaigned for had unlooked for consequences, culminating in the late Victorian grab for Africa figured in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. In Weymouth Thelwall we have a true “son of John Thelwall” and a strangely prophetic model of Mr. Kurz: citizen, artist, journalist and romantic idealist—with an eye to the main chance and a defiant propensity to take one too many risks.
September 2011

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"The Talk of the Tap-Room: Bloomfield, Politics, and Popular Culture"

This article takes as its point of departure Bloomfield’s repeated and insistent claim that he was a poet, not a politician. Drawing on the fascinating recently published correspondence of Bloomfield and his circle, it examines how the dissociation of poetry and politics in the post-revolutionary decades affected the poet’s public and private identities. In the first instance, the article explores how the ideology of natural genius exerted pressure on Bloomfield and other laboring-class poets to think about poetry as a cultural form that was incompatible with the public sphere of politics, especially the combative world of artisan radicalism. But the article also shows that the polarization of political culture in the aftermath of the French Revolution debate had the effect of politicizing even the most private aspects of Bloomfield’s life and literary productions. Much to the poet’s profound vexation, his public persona was appropriated by radicals, liberals, and loyalists alike, depriving him of the privacy the theory of natural genius assumed he should embrace.
December 2011

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214. Robert Bloomfield to Mary Ann Bloomfield, 30 August 1807 

September, 2009


Findlay, "'[T]hat Liberty of Writing': Incontinent Ordinance in 'Oriental' Jones"

Sir William Jones (1746-1794) remains a key figure in the continuing history of romantic and other orientalisms. At the very mention of the idea of "Containing English India," he leaps to mind not only as part of the contents contained within any envelope or archive so designated, but also as part of the discontent and unruly dissemination of such contents. Jones is both of the Indian sub-continent and in various senses incontinent within it and when writing about it (just as he is both inside and outside the dominant versions of Englishness in the later eighteenth century). In this essay, I revisit this dialectic of positioning or location, containing and incontinence, and the related contradictions that constituted Jones's early libertarianisim in England and his later legal and philological activities in India. My emphasis at every stage is on the Anglo-Indian Jones. Moreover, the echo in my title of that Gulf War euphemism, incontinent ordinance, is a deliberate gesture towards two points I stress in my conclusion: namely, that imperialism did not end with the British in India, and that imperialism's instabilities and illusions are always evident, if we care to look, in the language it uses to describe itself.
November 2000

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