May 2009

Sara Coleridge, Collected Poems, ed. Peter Swaab

Sara Coleridge, Collected Poems, ed. Peter Swaab. London: Fyfield Books / Carcanet, 2007. 256 pp. £14.95 (Pbk; ISBN 978 1 857548 95 2).

Reviewed by
Dennis Low

When Peter Swaab’s edition of Sara Coleridge: Collected Poems appeared in 2007, the media leapt upon it with gusto.

“POEMS BY DAUGHTER OF LAKES BARD DISCOVERED IN AMERICA,” ran the headline of the North-West Evening Mail: “The poems, by Sara Coleridge, had lain undiscovered for 150 years and have now been published in a collection for the first time.” “Dr Peter Swaab,” reported the Bridgwater Mercury, “stumbled across an anonymous poem by chance when he was researching for a book on William Wordsworth at the University of Texas.” The national broadsheets were similarly impressed. “A British academic has discovered 120 unknown poems by Sara Coleridge” said The Telegraph; “Now,” said The Guardian, “with the publication of 185 of her poems, two-thirds of which have only recently been discovered, the daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge has been revealed as a talented and versatile poet in her own right.”

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Ron Broglio, Technologies of the Picturesque: British Art, Poetry, and Instruments, 1750-1830

Ron Broglio, Technologies of the Picturesque: British Art, Poetry, and Instruments, 1750-1830. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2008. 236pp. ISBN-10: 0-8387-5700-0 (Hdbk.), $50.00.

Reviewed by
Julia Sandstrom Carlson
University of Cincinnati

Water, earth, sky, and animals? At first glance, one of the four sections into which Technologies of the Picturesque is divided seems unlike the others. We come quickly to recognize, however, that the likeness of “animals” to the other categories lies in its also being an object of picturesque vision: one of the basic “elements of nature” (15) encountered, perceived, and composed in visual art according to the rules of picturesque aesthetics. Water, earth, sky, and animals are the basic vocabulary of the picturesque. Yet, as Ron Broglio shows, Romantic artists were not alone in representing these objects and fitting them to human use; eighteenth- and nineteenth-century scientists and surveyors encountered and inscribed the same elements according to their particular technological, cartographic, agricultural, and immunological agendas. In six tightly focused chapters, the author compares artistic and scientific encounters with nature, their tools and epistemologies, and their respective effects on human subjectivity and sense of space. Crossing disciplinary divides consolidated only after the Romantic period, Broglio brings to light the reliance of poets and artists on the technologies of scientific endeavor and, conversely, the employment by scientists of picturesque principles and tools. Both sorts of optical projects and systems made chaotic nature “legible” to humanity but in doing so enforced a Cartesian divide between human perceiver (eye, mind) and nature (body, matter) that materially distanced human beings and the environment.

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