Posts in category "Vol. 3 No. 2"

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Jane Girdham, English Opera in Late-Eighteenth Century London: Stephen Storace at Drury Lane

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Jane Girdham, English Opera in Late-Eighteenth Century London: Stephen Storace at Drury Lane. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997.  xiv + 272pp. illus: 5 halftones, 8 tables, 29 score samples. $89.00 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-19-816254-5).

Reviewed by Alex J. Dick
University of Toronto

Scholars of Romantic-period theater have done much of late to demystify artistic creation by highlighting the material contingencies of stage production. Those processes of theatrical production are now seen, in turn, to havebeen instrumental in forming the ideals and ideologies that we associate with Romanticism. Theater does not represent culture; rather, it is a culture industry. Theatrical music, by contrast, has remained for the most part something of an enigma. Jane Girdham's study of the life, career, and works of Stephen Storace, the de facto composer-in-residence at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane from 1787 until his premature death in 1796, goes a long way toward clarifying the dynamics and the importance of music to early Romantic theater. The rigorous historical and archival orientation of this book does not achieve the critical potential apparent in many of its findings.  Nevertheless, it provides a clear and useful view of just how complex stage performance and theatrical management were in the late eighteenth century.

At the heart of the book is Storace himself, who was born in London on 4 April 1762. His father was an Italian émigré and a well-known musician in his own right who adapted a number of Italian operas for the burgeoning London opera scene. Though very much involved in the Italian musical community in London, the Storace family was also connected to the English theater, mainly through Storace's mother, the daughter of the proprietor of Marylebone Gardens, John Trussler (6). Stephen Storace and his younger sister Nancy were trained by their father and both were musical prodigies (8). In the late 1770s, Storace traveled to his father's native city of Naples to advance his musical training, and by the mid-1780s, he was performing both in England and on the continent, teaching singing, harpsichord, and organ, and publishing compositions (12). Nancy, already a successful performer when she played La Scala at age seventeen in 1782, joined "the Burgtheater in Vienna as prima buffa" (13), the lead voice in comic opera, with the English singer Michael Kelly, whom the Storaces met in 1780 and whose memoirs are a valuable source of information on the family. Storace was in Vienna for the premieres of his first two Italian operas, Gli Sposi Malcontenti and Gli Equivoci, in both of which Nancy and Kelly appeared. During this time, Nancy began to import songs and arias by her brother into her performances, a liberty that was apparently favored by the audiences and did much to advance her brother's reputation. Nancy was married briefly to a Dr. John Abraham Fisher, but the marriage was an unhappy one. Their one child disturbingly "died of neglect" in July of 1785, reflecting the difficulty not only of Nancy's marriage but also of an operatic career at that time (14). The Storaces' most notable association with Vienna is their friendship with Mozart. Stephen Storace was one of the first compilers of continental music to publish Mozart's compositions in English (in his 1787 Collection of Original Harpsichord Music); Nancy was the original Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro (15).

In 1787, Storace returned to London and settled there permanently, marrying Mary Hall, daughter of the court engraver, the following year (22). First composing and directing Italian opera at King's Theatre, Storace became the unofficial composer for Drury Lane in 1789; Thomas Linley, one of the proprietors of Drury Lane and the father-in-law of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, held the official title of Composer to the Theatre. Though unsalaried, Storace's living was quite comfortable, combining performance fees, benefits, teaching, and publication. He also composed two operas a year for which, it was reported, he was paid handsomely (25). Most of these were in the English style, meaning that the plot was developed by spoken dialogue and only punctuated by songs. Nancy debuted at Drury Lane with Kelly in her brother's The Haunted Tower (1789); the two singers soon became prominent members of the company. By the mid-1790s Storace had established himself as one of the most important players in the theatrical scene. Unfortunately, a bad chill was worsened during rehearsals of his last completed work, The Iron Chest. He died on 15 March 1796 at age thirty-four.

In the remainder of the first part, Girdham explores the contingencies of London theatrical life in the 1780s and '90s as a backdrop for her readings of Storace's operas. For scholars unacquainted with the ins-and-outs of late eighteenth-century theater management and production, this section is a must, and even those already familiar with the general conditions of theater culture will find in these chapters a significantly enhanced review. Using Storace's operas as examples, Girdham outlines the general dynamics of an evening's entertainment, including the kinds of interruptions and malfeasances to which such an evening was heir. She provides a detailed overview of theatrical production, from submission and rehearsal to opening night and review, and she rightly suggests that putting on a play, especially an opera, was a continual process of modification and revision. She very carefully documents the theaters' finances, covering admission prices and the pay scale of the employees, especially the musicians, of whose seldom considered importance Girdham presents a timely and precise account.

In Chapter 4, Girdham considers the publication of Storace's musical scores and theatrical songs. The decision to publish a musical score was based primarily on the popularity of the play or opera from which it came; it is, therefore, a testament to Storace's importance in the period that all but two of his operas were published in his lifetime, including four versions of his complete works (100). Most operatic music was published for amateur singers, though a number of instrumental arrangements, particularly for flute, were also produced. Normally the score was reduced to a keyboard arrangement with overtures omitted, though many of these published arrangements contain addenda for further musical accompaniment (104). Single songs were also published and, even more than scores, testify to the popularity of Storace's music long after the operas were forgotten. "Should e'er the fortune be my lot" from The Three and a Deuce entered the popular repertoire as "Little Tafflin"; the song was rehearsed as such by Mrs. Micawber in Dickens's David Copperfield (119). The impression one gets of musical publishing in the period is that it was a largely collective and collaborative effort, regulated by the practical contingencies of popularity and demand, even as the texts moved out of the theaters and into the hands of private consumers. Such a contention further troubles the tenuous distinction between stage and text which has plagued Romantic theater studies as the open-ended propriety of the performative experience is translated into and adapted for the published work. Indeed, the question of property is directly at issue here: Girdham explores not only Storace's own legal difficulties with unauthorized versions of his songs and scores, but also the problems posed for our own scholarly investigations of dating, collecting, authorizing, and reviewing the music of Storace still extant.

The second part of the book is devoted to a close analysis of Storace's music for the English stage. These analyses are directed primarily at musicologists. They include samples from the published and manuscript scores, summaries of the musical numbers and their relation to the plays' action, accounts of the performances, and, finally, discussions of Storace's influences on and borrowings from other English and continental composers. The purpose of this section is to establish Storace's facility with a number of operatic traditions and dramatic modes. For example, Girdham compares two of Storace's mainpieces, The Haunted Tower (1789), a conventional English opera, and The Pirates (1792), a more innovative work. The former work features a typically Gothic setting, a storm, false ghosts, a disguised heroine, wily servants, and two love plots. Storace adapted a number of melodies and even whole movements from his earlier Italian works for his first major English production (140–41), but for the most part the music in this play does little more than punctuate scenic effect. Girdham argues that Storace purposefully subordinated his often complex musical stylistics to the plot and setting as was frequently demanded by English audiences and critics. Following a number of failed attempts to bring "serious all-sung opera" to Drury Lane (154), Storace returned to a form approaching that of the traditional English opera for The Pirates. This opera maintains a more dynamic relationship between dramatic action and music, in contrast to the dialogue which is, for the most part, "trite" and expendable (155). Much of the music is used to establish character motivation, something not as apparent in The Haunted Tower, and the choruses are effectively broken up over the course of the performance to add tension and coherence. Girdham's detailed attention to the connections between the musical sophistication of this opera and its dramatic development is a fitting tribute to Storace's importance as a composer and innovator. Storace was quite able to anticipate the expectations of his demanding audience, but he was also able to balance those expectations with his musical interests.

Two final chapters on Storace's afterpieces and other musical endeavors and his borrowings from English and continental operatic and musical traditions further explain Storace's understanding of the necessary interplay between theatrical action and musical practice. Most of his afterpieces—short, usually comic works performed after the main entertainment of the evening—contain few musical numbers, seldom have an overture, and are written often only for one voice and with a specific singer in mind (171–72). A notable exception is No Song, No Supper, one of Storace's most enduring efforts and his "only English opera to survive in full score" (177). With an overture, ten solos, and five ensembles, it has the musical complexity of a mainpiece while still having the lightness of plot and action characteristic of the domestic farce common to afterpieces. Lodoiska, an unusually serious afterpiece with libretto by John Phillip Kemble, is almost musically dense enough to count as a mainpiece. Lodoiska was also almost entirely adapted from two contemporary French operas, though Storace added a good deal of songs and music (212). Girdham makes it quite clear that the use of borrowed musical material was standard practice in the late eighteenth century and accepted for the most part by composers, critics, and audiences. Storace adapted works from the Italian, Viennese, French and English repertoires, both staged drama and published music, and, Girdham claims, he "always have credit to the original composers of the music he borrowed" (200–201). Once again, Storace's methods can be seen to exemplify a process of composition geared toward the demands of theatre and public, rendering music itself as a definitively social mode of expression.

Behind the specific details of inspiration and designation, however, are more vexed questions of genre and reception. Girdham traces the problems involved in classifying opera based on national characteristics, quantity of music, and place in the evening's entertainment, either mainpiece or afterpiece. Her description of eighteenth-century and modern views on generic problems reveals the extent to which genre itself is a matter of context rather than of strict classification (124–31). Although an attention to the implications of these issues to the larger context and milieu of theatrical culture appears to be the aim of recent dramatic criticism, it is absent here in Girdham's description. Literary scholars may find it less interesting that Storace's last completed work, The Iron Chest, is a "play with music" rather than an "opera" because it has fewer musical numbers, than that it is based on William Godwin's crucial 1794 novel, Things as They Are; or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams. The novel was, of course, altered to fit the demands of operatic production.  According to later critics such as William Hazlitt and John Genest, The Iron Chest failed initially because Colman and Storace tried to expand Godwin's novel into too many kinds of play—comedy, tragedy, farce, opera—at once.  The Morning Chronicle noted that the audiences had the novel "fixed too deeply in the heart to admit the faint traces of the copy" (190). The Iron Chest has a prominent comic subplot based on the relatively minor incident of Williams's capture by thieves, and, in fact, all of the musical portions of the play are to be found in the subplot. But, considering that Caleb Williams is regarded as one of the most problematic texts in the early Romantic canon, Storace and Colman's specific adaptations of it for the stage might alter our understanding of how the French Revolution and its political implications were perceived. As a reflection of British post-revolutionary anxiety, Godwin's novel is vitally unsure of its political sympathies and generic orientations. The Iron Chest highlights these generic and political difficulties. Girdham points out that its source in Godwin's novel did cause the Examiner of Plays, John Larpent, to recommend a number of changes (51). Given Storace's own nationalistic reactions to the French Revolution (23–24), The Iron Chest brings into focus that curious borderline between literary performance and ideological reception.

Not every work of Romantic scholarship can address ideological questions, nor should it. Anyone who has tried to work through theatrical business in this period knows that it is an unwieldy and frequently discouraging experience. As a historical resource Girdham's book will therefore be invaluable. I am not a musicologist, but even with my own rudimentary understanding of music theory and form and my admiration for Romantic opera, I was impressed by this account of one of its most significant innovators. I can confidently predict that anyone with an active interest in music or theater in this period will be enlightened by its perspicacious presentation. Hopefully, it will inspire further research into the dynamic interrelationship between theater and music, and between theater and culture, in the Romantic period.

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Jonathan David Gross, ed., Byron's "Corbeau Blanc": The Life and Letters of Lady Melbourne

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Jonathan David Gross, ed., Byron's "Corbeau Blanc": The Life and Letters of Lady Melbourne. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 1997.  xiii + 488pp. illus. $24.95 (Pbk; ISBN: 0-89263-351-4).

Reviewed by
William D. Brewer
Appalachian State University

Lord Byron met Lady Melbourne (1751–1818) when she was sixty and he was twenty-four, and he came to regard her as his only "confidential correspondent on earth," "the best friend [he] ever had in [his] life, and the cleverest of women." He found her conversation delightful and declared that her letters were "the most amusing—the most developing—and tactiques [sic] in the world" (Byron's Letters and Journals, ed. Marchand, 3:141–42, 3:209, 3:153). Jonathan Gross's edition of Lady Melbourne's correspondence makes her numerous letters to Byron, the Duchess of Devonshire, the Prince of Wales (later George IV), Caroline Lamb, her niece Annabella Milbanke (Lady Byron), and others widely available for the first time. He supplements the letters with an informative introductory biography, extensive headnotes and endnotes, a helpful "Glossary of Personalities," and sixty-five illustrations. The illustrations alone make this a valuable book: they include portraits of Lady Melbourne, her family members, and associates; photographs and drawings of her various houses; and political cartoons. Gross also provides the reader with a "Scale of Bon Ton" printed by the Morning Post which ranks Lady Melbourne and other upper-class women on a scale of 0–19 in the following categories: beauty, figure, elegance, wit, sense, grace, expression, sensibility, and principles. (Oddly, Lady Melbourne only scores a three in wit.)

Born Elizabeth Milbanke, the daughter of a Yorkshire baronet, Lady Melbourne married the wealthy Peniston Lamb (later Lord Melbourne) in 1769, and, along with the Duchess of Devonshire and Anne Damer, dominated Whig society from 1774-1776. To memorialize her social success, Lady Melbourne had herself and her two friends painted by Daniel Gardner in his Witches 'Round the Cauldron (1775) as the three witches in Macbeth. Richard Brinsley Sheridan caricatured her in his The School for Scandal (1777) as Lady Teazle, who defiantly informs her husband that "women of fashion in London are accountable to nobody after they are married" (II.i). The three witches' social ascendancy was, however, short-lived. The suicide of Anne Damer's husband in 1776 left her destitute, and she became a sculptor. In 1779, the Duchess of Devonshire published The Sylph, a roman à clef in which Lady Melbourne is presented as the worldly Lady Besford, who argues that women should commit adultery with discretion. The Duke of Devonshire banished his Duchess to the continent in 1791 after she indiscreetly became pregnant with her lover's child.

Lady Melbourne's husband was a virtually illiterate drunkard and spendthrift who began an affair with an actress soon after his marriage, but he also proved to be generous and complaisant, showering his wife with gifts and allowing her to oversee the construction of Melbourne House, Piccadilly and the decoration of his other estates. He also tolerated her numerous infidelities. Following the common practice of upper-class women during the eighteenth century, Lady Melbourne remained faithful to her husband until her son Peniston was born. Having ensured that Lord Melbourne would have a legitimate heir, she had affairs with Lord Egremont (who may have fathered William and Emily Lamb) and the Prince of Wales (who was widely regarded as the father of her son George). Peniston died, however, in 1805, and William inherited Melbourne's title and properties. Lady Melbourne's relationship with the Prince of Wales attracted the attention of political satirists and cartoonists, but Lady Melbourne seems to have weathered the scandal with her usual good humor. According to her, "Life is a tragedy to those who feel and a comedy to those who think" (18).

As a well-connected upper-class hostess and close friend of the Prince, Lady Melbourne had considerable political influence which she employed on behalf of her family and friends. Partly through her efforts, her husband became an Irish peer, and her relationship with the Prince led him to appoint Melbourne lord of the bedchamber and, in 1816, peer of the United Kingdom. During her years of social pre-eminence, the Whig leader Charles James Fox was Lady Melbourne's frequent guest, and she worked tirelessly to advance her sons' careers. Frederick had a long and distinguished career as a diplomat, and after his mother's death William served as Prime Minister under William IV and Queen Victoria (1834, 1835-41). Lady Melbourne had, however, less success in managing William's wife, Lady Caroline Lamb, who had affairs with Sir Godfrey Webster in 1809 and Lord Byron in 1812. She found her daughter-in-law's complete lack of discretion unforgivable. In a 13 April 1810 letter she scolded Lady Caroline for her "disgraceful" and "disgusting" behavior and warned her that "when any one braves the opinion of the World, sooner or later they will feel the consequences of it" (107).

Lady Melbourne began her correspondence with Byron in order to persuade him to break off his relationship with Caroline, but her friendship with the poet survived the affair. Byron later explained to Lady Blessington that "Lady M[elbourne], who might have been my mother, excited an interest in my feelings that few young women have been able to awaken. She was a charming person—a sort of modern Aspasia. . . . I have often thought, that, with a little more youth, Lady M might have turned my head" (Lady Blessington's Conversations of Lord Byron, ed. Lovell, 132). Lady Melbourne served as a mediator between Byron and the increasingly unstable Caroline, urging him to grant her daughter-in-law's request for a lock of hair. (Byron mischievously sent Caroline a "double lock" of his and his current mistress's hair.) Despite her knowledge of Byron's sexual promiscuity, Lady Melbourne gave him her "free permission" to pursue her niece (174), Annabella Milbanke. In a 10 June 1814 letter Byron's only "confidential correspondent" expressed her dismay over his incestuous relationship with his half-sister Augusta Leigh: "I am shock'd at some of the things you sd to me last Night, & think the easy manner in which two people have accustom'd themselves to consider, their Situation quite terrible" (180). She apparently believed that if Byron married Annabella he would no longer be vulnerable to Augusta's dangerous influence and Caroline's hysterical outbursts.

In her advice to her niece, Lady Melbourne asserted that "Marriage after all we can say, or do, must be a sort of Lottery" (132). Soon after she married Byron, it became clear to Annabella that she had picked a losing lottery ticket, and she decided to seek a separation. The failure of the marriage that she did so much to engineer surprised and saddened Lady Melbourne. It took all of her diplomatic skills to repair her relations with the Milbankes, who held her partly responsible for Annabella's marriage to the mad and bad lord. To make matters worse, Caroline Lamb published her novel Glenarvon (1816), in which her mother-in-law is presented as the crafty and villainous Lady Margaret Buchanan, soon after the separation. In contrast, Byron's portrait of Lady Melbourne in Don Juan is extremely positive. Although she was a prominent member of the "gynocracy" that Byron despised (Don Juan, 16:52), she appears in his poem as the maternal Lady Pinchbeck, whom Juan chooses as Leila's guardian:

I said that Lady Pinchbeck had been talk'd about—
   As who has not, if female, young, and pretty?
But now no more the ghost of Scandal stalk'd about;
   She merely was deem'd amiable and witty,
And several of her best bon-mots were hawk'd about:
   Then she was given to charity and pity,
And pass'd (at least the latter years of life)
For being a most exemplary wife. (12:47)

Lady Melbourne would have been horrified, however, by her most recent fictional incarnation as a sinister, middle-aged bloodsucker in Tom Holland's Gothic thriller Lord of the Dead (1995; published in Great Britain as The Vampyre) who guides Byron during his years as a Regency vampire.

Lady Melbourne's letters to Byron should be read alongside his numerous letters to her. Gross provides a fraction of Byron's part of the dialogue in endnotes, but for a fuller sense of their interchange one needs to refer to volumes 2–4 of Leslie A. Marchand's edition of Byron's letters and journals. As Gross observes, "To read both ends of the correspondence is to realize how often Byron's literary imagination was first stimulated by the worldly insights offered to him by Lady Melbourne" (6). Their letters to each other are chatty, gossipy, and intimate. In a 21 June 1813 letter to his "corbeau blanc" Byron jokingly proposes that they elope together (Byron's Letters and Journals, 3:66), and the disappearance of "Many of Lady Melbourne's letters to Byron from April 1813" makes one wonder if their relationship was more than platonic (116). Expertly and meticulously edited, Gross's collection of Lady Melbourne's correspondence adds a great deal to our understanding of English upper-class life during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and Byron's relationships with women during his years of fame.

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Anne Janowitz, Lyric and Labour in the Romantic Tradition

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Anne Janowitz, Lyric and Labour in the Romantic Tradition. Cambridge Studies in Romanticism, no. 30. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.  xii + 278pp. illus. $64.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-521-57259-2).

Reviewed by
Michael Scrivener
Wayne State University

The question with which Janowitz begins her very stimulating consideration of Romantic literature—"Can we extricate ourselves enough from romantic presuppositions to produce a history of romanticism?"—does not lead her to an epistemologically oriented inquiry under the sign of either Derrida or Althusser or Foucault. Her study is neither a self-conscious performance of a Romantic and futile attempt to escape a Romantic logic (deconstruction), nor a strenuous act of intellectual disciplining whereby the wheat of scientific knowledge can be separated from the chaff of ideology (ideological critique). Rather, she draws a new map of Romanticism that includes these—and other—recent approaches within a "unified field" whose coordinates are determined ultimately by "debate" and "unrelieved tension" (1).

The particular debate her book highlights is the one provoked by the literary form of the lyric as it became the most prestigious genre in nineteenth-century constructions of the canon. As defined by John Stuart Mill and Harold Bloom, the Romantic lyric has a deeply subjective, "unencumbered lyric speaker" who aspires to transcendence (7). Janowitz points to the concurrent existence of a communitarian lyric informed by "collective, embedded experience" (7). The latter has been woefully neglected until recently, but Janowitz's book does more than make a huge contribution to one of the recent trends in Romantic studies that has been called "plebeian studies," that is, the recovery and revaluation of the mostly ignored popular literature, especially its radical varieties, of late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century London (4). Janowitz dialectically situates the communitarian lyric in conversation with the individualistic lyric, carrying the dialogue between "the rhetorics of custom and reason" into the twentieth century with the Anglo-Communist poetry of Auden and the English miners' poetry of 1984–85.

The book's first part, "A Dialectic of Romanticism," deploys the familiar ideological dichotomy of Burkean custom and Painite reason to develop a nuanced contrast between individualistic and communitarian lyrics in the Romantic period. Using the well-known example of individualistic lyricism, "Tintern Abbey," and drawing upon the feminist and New Historicist critiques of its strategies of transcendence, Janowitz contrasts this instance of self-possession with contemporaneous lyrics that have socially embedded speakers, such as Wordsworth's own "We Are Seven," Joanna Baillie's "A Summer's Day," and Anna Barbauld's "Washing Day." She rescues the "customary consciousness" in Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads from a totalizing critique of Wordsworth's bad individualism. The extended discussion of Wordsworth in terms of the conflicting logics of individualistic and customary tendencies in the Lyrical Ballads is one of the finest things in the book. Janowitz is able to cite—and in the second part discuss in detail—Chartists who appropriated a strain of Wordsworth's poetry that was deemed "democratic" (43). Wordsworth is "a carrier of customary tradition of the common life, the narrator of a tradition, as well as the model of the unencumbered individual" (45–46). Of course in this particular instance she is following the interpretive path marked by E. P. Thompson in his commentary on Wordsworth.

Another fine feature of the first part is a recovery of radical writers such as Thomas Spence, George Dyer (whose 1802 essays that linked poetry's energies with political freedom are saved from oblivion), and John Thelwall in order to describe the distinctively Romantic interaction between popular and polite kinds of literature. Chapter three is especially innovative in its discussion of plebeian writers like Spence, Allen Davenport, Robert Fair, and E. J. Blandford. The tension that is Romanticism at this time is between the "interventionist poetics" of writers such as Spence and the "private individual voice" celebrated by Mill. Spence, an agrarian radical anticipating socialism, plays a rightfully central role in her discussion of Romantic lyricism for his mediating role between customary oral culture and rational print culture, and his sense of the land as principally the instrument by which people's bodies will be fed, not a backdrop for the meditations of a solitary consciousness. Appropriately inserted into the discussion of communitarian lyricism is Shelley's Mask of Anarchy, whose ideological affiliations are more with plebeian rather than Godwinian forms of radicalism; her reading of the Mask highlights the communitarian aspects of the poem in an unprecedented way.

The book's second part, "The Interventionist Poetics in the Tradition of Romanticism," goes from Allen Davenport and Chartist poetry to W. J. Linton and William Morris. Romanticism, then, is not just a period concept for Janowitz but a "persistent" literary tendency (2). Chapters four and six on Davenport, which are unaware of my "Shelley and Radical Artisan Poetry" (Keats-Shelley Journal 42 [1993]: 22–36), highlight a radical poet who was active in the Regency and well into the Chartist period as well. I would have liked a more detailed discussion of Davenport's ambitious volume, The Muse's Wreath (1827), but the analysis of the political satire Kings (1819) handles the issue of poetic form expertly in its comparison with Blake's Jerusalem (123–24). Davenport's poetic ambition as it was stimulated by exposure to Cooke's Pocket Edition of Select English Poets (London, 1794–1804, 46 vols.) is not occasion for ideological dismissal of a naïf deluded by bourgeois individualism. Rather, Janowitz claims that the "idea that poetic vocation merely emulates the literary elite rather than being part of an important discourse of self-actualisation within the radical movement underestimates both the practical and the utopian power of lyric intervention" (122).

In chapter five Janowitz shows how poetry for the Chartists was not ornamental but integral to the movement's awareness of itself and its possibilities. She illustrates the absurdity of the middle-class depiction by Carlyle, Gaskell, and Disraeli of Chartists as culturally mute. In the poetry columns of the Northern Star and elsewhere, Chartists were energetically expressive as they fashioned a lyricism that appropriated the Romantic meditative mode without individualistic isolation.

The discussion in chapter six of the conflicting models of poetry written by the Chartists Thomas Cooper—"aspiring autodidact"—and Ernest Jones—"déclassé gentleman"—is fascinating for revealing ultimate triumph of the "hegemony of liberalism" (190). Liberal individualism also shadowed the efforts of W. J. Linton, a remarkable latter-day Blakean discussed in chapter seven. The hero of Janowitz's study is William Morris, who carries into Marxist self-awareness the prior examples of the communitarian and Chartist writers. Her analysis of The Pilgrims of Hope (1885–86) explicitly echoes E. P. Thompson's study of Morris, in which he linked Romanticism with Morris's Marxism, but departs from Thompson in finding the poem successful. Thompson's reading saw only a liberal individualism in the poem's Romantic effects, but Janowitz convincingly demonstrates the communitarian Romantic elements of the poem.

Janowitz's book is valuable for a number of reasons: as a contribution to plebeian studies, especially highlighting Thomas Spence and Allen Davenport; as a description of the radical legacy in Chartist and working-class writing of Shelley, Byron and Wordsworth, who were available for cultural appropriation; as an extended discussion of the social problematic of individualism and left-wing communitarianism as it works itself out in poetry and poetics; as a rescue of Wordsworth's communitarianism (Shelley's was not really in need of rescuing); as a creative use of E.P. Thompson's historiography and writing on Romanticism; as an innovative treatment of "Romanticism" in relation to the most current theoretical and research developments; and finally as an act of politically committed scholarship that is respectful but appropriately critical of the radical tradition with which she is in deep sympathy. There is throughout the study a careful and sensitive attention to poetic form as it is related to political and social agency. I found, however, her use of the contrast between the communitarian "four-beat" measure of oral culture with the print-culture and individualistic iambic pentameter sometimes mechanistic. John Clare's poetry undoubtedly is close to oral culture but the four-beat norm does not characterize the bulk of his poetry. The conceptual category, "interventionist," is both provocatively stimulating and heavy with discredited notions of artistic conformity. In her interpretive hands, the interventionist poetics are capacious, but one still wonders how far the injunction against liberal individualism goes. Oscar Wilde's Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891) discriminated between economic individualism, which it repudiated absolutely, and artistic individualism, which it celebrated, yet one cannot characterize Wilde's oeuvre accurately as self-possessing and transcendent; it is rather radically contingent and socially embedded. So where does that leave us? Wilde needs to be put in dialogue with Morris, and to do such a thing would be in the spirit of Janowitz's book.

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Mary Ann O'Farrell, Telling Complexions: The Nineteenth-Century English Novel and the Blush

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Mary Ann O'Farrell, Telling Complexions: The Nineteenth-Century English Novel and the Blush. Durham: Duke University Press, 1997.  ix + 197pp.  illus.  $49.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-8223-1903-9).  $17.95 (Pap; ISBN: 0-8223-1895-4).

Reviewed by
Laura Mooneyham White
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Mary Ann O'Farrell's Telling Complexions: The Nineteenth Century English Novel and the Blush extends an already burgeoning line of Foucauldian analyses of the connection between the social and somatic through a study of the blush, that physiological response so readily employed in nineteenth-century novels as a sign of a character's real feelings—shame, embarrassment, self-consciousness, or erotic interest. O'Farrell works throughout to distinguish between the expressive blush, a sign of "deep personal truth (expressive of character, of self, of the body)" and the mechanistic and/or social blush, a blush that arises as "the appropriate local response to and inevitable product of the pressure of social circumstance" (111). She argues that the use of the blush in the nineteenth-century English novel becomes increasingly complex, undermined, and reconfigured as authors such as Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Henry James work through their growing awareness of the blush as mechanical, concomitantly losing a faith in the more innocent expressive blush, as well as losing faith in the blush as novelistic device. Extending her discussion to other forms of somatic telling (stumbling, swooning, the scar), O'Farrell argues that each new device which attempts to reclaim a simple expressivity becomes convoluted with cultural twists almost as soon as it is deployed, whether the device at issue is the scar on Rosa Dartle's mouth in David Copperfield or the recurrent stumbles and fumbles of Margaret Hale, the heroine of Gaskell's North and South. O'Farrell is particularly adept at showing this authorial discomfort with the blush as device in her discussion of Dorothea in Eliot's Middlemarch, rightly noting that Eliot describes Dorothea as blushing more than several dozen times in the novel while nonetheless maintaining as narrator a contradictory belief that Dorothea is a character who does not blush, or blush much: what Dorothea's "blush tells is what the silliest of novelistic blushes have long been known to tell . . . [but] Eliot's desire to assert the rarity of Dorothea's blush registers her own irritation with a blush that has been debased and robbed of expressivity by convention" 120–21).

There is something contrived nonetheless in O'Farrell's version of literary history and its involvement with the blush. The central distinction, between the expressive blush and the social, one revealing simple emotional truths untouched by culture and the other mechanically reproducing society's obligations, tends to collapse under O'Farrell's ever more nuanced accounts of particular blushes. The expressive blush can offer only a heuristic starting point, for this blush which comes to the face as a register of feelings beyond the reach of culture does not exist and never existed in the English novel. A brief examination of O'Farrell's first distinction between expressive blush and social blush, made in the opening chapter on Pride and Prejudice, may make this difficulty clearer. O'Farrell begins with the blush that promises true feeling, on the cheeks of both Elizabeth and Jane Bennet, and then moves to the unblushing cheeks of their unregenerate sister Lydia, who late in the novel returns home with her captive bridegroom Wickham. O'Farrell makes much of the fact that Elizabeth and Jane blush for their sister—blush for Lydia's embarrassing situation and for the embarrassing situation in which Lydia's and Wickham's recklessness has placed the Bennets; as Austen describes the scene, "[Elizabeth] blushed, and Jane blushed; but the cheeks of the two who caused their confusion suffered no variation of colour." In this scene we are to see the beginning of mechanistic, social, or obligatory blushing (the terms are used more or less interchangeably throughout this study) as O'Farrell sees the phenomenon: "Austen's writing makes and enforces a social and physical law: for her characters, it is as if in this room, at this time, so much blushing must occur; if those responsible for the pressure of its imperatives do not respond to that pressure, response then becomes the social obligation of those who recognize the insistence of its pulse" (17). But the blushing for others and for their own situation that takes place in this scene is no more obligatory or voluntary than the other blushes of the novel, nor are those other blushes less innocent of cultural tinct. Characters in novels—and real people—blush when they feel or think something that makes them ashamed, or embarrassed, or self-conscious, and shame, embarrassment, and self-consciousness are themselves artifacts of cultural experience. More to the point, there is no clear trajectory of movement from belief in the expressive blush to the mechanistic in the nineteenth-century novel, for the earliest Austen novels and the last novels of Henry James show an almost equal authorial awareness of blushing as "the embodied assumption of a social obligation" (123).

A secondary theme advanced by O'Farrell concerns the intersections of the blush—most clearly legible on pale skin—with issues of race and class. Beginning with Darwin's meditations on the biological utility of the blush and the blush's status as moral index, O'Farrell explores the way Austen, Dickens, and others make use of the biological fact that darker skin, whether dark naturally (i.e., through race) or darkened through sun, wind, or hard work (i.e., through class), cannot blush as recognizably. From Sir Walter's bigotry against sailors in Persuasion (they cannot be desirable tenants for his estate because their skins are "rough and rugged," quot;weather-beaten," and "mahogany" [43]) to Steerforth's breezy assumption of greater sensitivity than the working-class Peggottys in David Copperfield ("They may be thankful that, like their coarse rough skins, they are not readily wounded" [87]) to the "lovely blackamoor," Lizzie Eustace in Trollope's The Eustace Diamonds (116), O'Farrell demonstrates the complexities of complexion read through class or race. She shows how these novelists and others generally hold up for ironic distaste those of their characters who presuppose that because certain darker skins are harder to read, the souls and minds of those beneath the darker skins have less worth reading; she also shows that these authors become themselves caught at times in the metonymic connection between skin and character. As O'Farrell notes about Trollope, for instance, "Trollope's contrast of Lizzie's brownness with the brilliance of color that constitutes [ideal] Trollopean complexion invokes such racial terms as those in which Darwin casts his debate about the moral status of complexion" (116).

The issue of the skin as legible and thus superior by virtue of the metonymically assumed more sensitive inner life becomes further vexed with the introduction of artifice, either through rouge or acting. O'Farrell canvasses such figures as Miss Mowcher the cosmetician in David Copperfield, the actress O'Neal instanced in Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret, and Lizzie Eustace of The Eustace Diamonds—who in her simulations of anger is capable of "calling the thinnest streak of pink from her heart, to show that there was blood running in her veins" (116)—to demonstrate the complications wrought on the semiotics of blushing by the fact that blushing can be manufactured. But the very existence of these clearly voluntary blushes, blushes with "well-behaved utility" (118), renders all the more problematic the other form of "obligatory" blush O'Farrell has been at pains to establish, i.e., blushes that come to the face because society's teachings have led one to react with embarrassment or shame in certain circumstances.

O'Farrell writes in a highly wrought contemporary style, with playfully labored and convoluted prose and reachings for puns and the demotic at perhaps too-regular intervals. Note, for example, the following about Middlemarch's protagonists: "Their blushes (his frequently noted, hers broadly dismissed) establish some relation between the imagined bodies of Dorothea and Will: an almost sexy complementarity, or a supplementary Fred-and-Ginger give-and-take (she gives him depth / he gives her sex)" [125]). And, as something of an aside, may I say that I for one will be relieved when criticism puts aside "perversity" as a critical heuristic; most of the insights in this generally very useful and pleasurable book would be strengthened were it not for the author's insistence on stretching her insights into the realm of what she herself terms the notorious and perverse. Emblematic of this point of view is the conclusive statement of her first chapter on Austen: "Jane Austen discovers pleasures in the ability of embarrassment's pangs to recover a sense of the body in manners; readers of Jane Austen may discover those pleasures and acquire a habit of mind that, reading sometimes perversely, reads nonetheless with perverse accuracy" (27). Telling Complexions has, however, conspicuous rewards for the reader, if one attends most closely to its nuanced close readings of the novels, most particularly those of Persuasion and David Copperfield, and much of value to say about the complexities of the blush as narrative sign. Towards the end of this study, O'Farrell quotes George Eliot in Daniel Deronda as asserting that "[a] blush is no language: only a dubious flag-signal" (121). O'Farrell's work amply demonstrates the limits of Eliot's assertion, and works out the language of the blush in the English novel as eloquently as it can be interpreted.

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Thomas Pfau and Robert F. Gleckner, eds., Lessons of Romanticism: A Critical Companion

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Thomas Pfau and Robert F. Gleckner, eds., Lessons of Romanticism: A Critical Companion. Durham: Duke University Press, 1998.  xii + 475 pp. illus: 19 halftones, 7 score samples. $69.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-8223-2077-0).   $24.95 (Pap.; ISBN: 0-8223-2091-6).

Reviewed by
Bridget Keegan
Creighton University

Subtitled "A Critical Companion," the Lessons of Romanticism, edited by Thomas Pfau and Robert Gleckner, does not accompany any new anthology of Romantic "primary" works (although a glimpse at the table of contents reveals a more expansive understanding of what constitutes a Romantic text). Rather, the volume serves as a worthy companion to anyone engaged in the advanced study or teaching of the field. This collection of essays powerfully illustrates the variety, vitality, and continued viability of the study of a period that has—somewhat perilously of late—tended to define itself precisely by questioning its very status as a period. Without ignoring that (un)defining question, Lessons of Romanticism ought to put to rest any remaining questions about the future of the field. Such questions seemed particularly acute in 1994, the year during which the papers that became the Lessons of Romanticism were first delivered at the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism conference. That very November, only five positions out of the several hundred advertised in the MLA Job Information List had designated "Romanticism" as an area of specialization, granting a new urgency to the question of not just how but whether Romanticism could still be taught or studied.

A sense of crisis loomed at that meeting in Durham, and it was not merely due to the economic and bureaucratic threats from pending institutional downsizing. The new historicism had left many scholars—particularly younger ones—concerned that if their method or findings did not promise to reveal conspiracy, bad faith, or a repressed but oppressive political agenda in the text, they were no longer of interest. Or worse, if their scholarship pursued anything other than overtly political questions it replicated the bad faith of its object of study, guilty by association of aiding and abetting the repressive agenda of the past. In an even more significant way, Pfau and Gleckner's collection responds to and forcefully quells this anxiety. As the written record of a particular moment in the history of the study of Romanticism, the document that has emerged from the conference testifies to the continued vigorousness and soundness of Romantic studies. As Pfau remarks in the introduction, the essays respond to the "consciousness of crisis" by making an "ethical commitment to unfolding that crisis in the various forums and modes of teaching" (33). Foregrounding what it means to teach and learn about Romanticism and investigating how this question is articulated in a wide variety of the texts in the period, Lessons of Romanticism is necessarily of interest to anyone concerned with European culture between 1770 and 1832.

Pfau's introductory essay brilliantly sets the tone and the agenda for the essays that follow. Continuing to prove himself one of the most informed and rigorous thinkers about the defining questions of the period, Pfau challenges "recent historicism and cultural criticism" that "premise their institutional and methodological authority on an obliquely moral charge against their aesthetic objects . . . to be what they properly ought to have been, past representations should have given the type of account now furnished by historicism itself" (5). What Pfau objects to about the new historicist demonization of "the Romantic aesthetic ideology" is that it is grounded on "the dream of criticism as a form of revelation, a mode of producing knowledge indemnified from all charges of methodological complicity in the construction and articulation of its objects" (4). Moreover, he notes the dangers inherent in "the historicist spirit in which localisms, particularisms, and pluralisms have been proffered as solutions." Such a spirit, Pfau asserts, "perpetuates the (utopian) longing for a unified field-theory for Romanticism by dispersing it in a number of increasingly solipsistic specializations" (24). Taken together, the individual essays work within and against this tension. It is true that several of the individual contributions are devoted to particular, local texts and topics. However, read collectively and in relation to one another, the essays contribute to the volume's project of exploring how Romanticism can be located in "the subtly regulative play of an aesthetic model continually anticipating and predetermining the conditions and terms of its belated critical reception and elaboration" (33).

Other essays, following Pfau's, do test wider theoretical claims. Several attempt to reveal how, in the wake of new historicist indictments, we might reconceive political analyses in and with aesthetic analyses in such a way that the aesthetic is not solely an obfuscation of the political. To that end, David Ferris's essay is exemplary. His superb, complex, and fully convincing argument recuperates the aesthetic as an indispensable category of critical inquiry (via a reading of Hegel and of Keats's "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" and "Ode on a Grecian Urn"). Ferris demonstrates that "history and the politics . . . are not the repressed content of the aesthetic but rather one of its representations. The aesthetic is not one critical approach among others; the aesthetic possesses a generality that is coextensive with the practice of criticism as well as the history in which this practice takes place" (109). In his meticulous reading of Keats, Ferris calls for a re-examination of the presumably "insignificant" category of the aesthetic by demonstrating that it is, in fact, the very precondition of the political and historical critiques of ideology that necessitate its insignificance.

Although not every essay directly engages the theoretical problems of new historicism as directly as Pfau's or Ferris's, taken as a whole, all of the essays work together to illustrate Pfau's initial premise of the dangerous reductiveness of historicist readings. The collection richly represents a variety of critical concerns and methodologies, without necessarily privileging any particular approach. Individual essays run the gamut from exquisite analytical bibliographical and textual criticism in Joseph Viscomi's magnificently argued revision of the historical record of Blake's relationship to Swedenborg to Adela Pinch's provocative application of recent queer theory to explore the intertextual influence of William Shenstone's "The School-Mistress" (1742) on instances of Romantic Spenserianism. This Critical Companion reopens the notion of a canon of Romantic criticism just as several of the recent teaching anthologies have expanded knowledge of the variety of literary production in the period.

While this is incontrovertibly an essential intellectual agenda, as is often the case with collections derived from the proceedings of a large conference with a (purposely and productively) broad topic, Lessons of Romanticism can at times feel like a bit of a grab bag. While most of the essays are rewarding to read in and of themselves, it is not always clear why particular essays are grouped into the three subsections or how the essays in those subsections speak to one another. The editors have done well to ensure coverage of more than British Romanticism—with essays such as Nancy Rosenblum's on Thoreau and Nanora Sweet's on the Italianate Salon and the influence of Germaine de Staël—and of more than just literary texts, as with Maynard Solomon's analysis of Beethoven's musical imagery or C. S. Matheson's discussion of Royal Academy exhibition catalogues and prints. But it is an inescapable dilemma that aspiring to broaden the "coverage" of a topic risks obscuring it. Reading the volume through from cover to cover may leave the reader puzzling about the oversubtle organization of the whole. Pfau's introduction, excellent though it is, offers little explanation for the subdivisions of the book. Several essays, for example, included in the third section, "Gender, Sexuality and the (Un)Romantic Canon," discuss rather canonical Romantic authors, such as Byron and Shelley. One wonders, too, why the categories gender and sexuality are singled out for being potentially "(Un)Romantic."

In the end, however, the lack of exposition of the tripartite structure is a minor quibble. The reader will be amply rewarded for reading all of the essays included and will soon notice how the essays in fact complement one another at levels transcending the linear arrangement of the book form. For example, several essays explicitly address the conference's theme of "Romanticism and Pedagogy." By unpacking the philosophical resonance of the term Bildung, Marc Redfield interrogates the appropriateness of the category of Bildungsroman to designate the period's several significant novels of education. Also focusing on elusive yet essential terms, H. J. Jackson investigates Coleridge's concept of "method" and "transition" and the political significance of how these concepts could be taught. Exploring how we teach Romantic texts today, Karen Weisman shrewdly disputes the promise of demystification that new historicist readings claim to teach us (and we may teach our students) about Romanticism. In an even more provocative challenge to the teaching of politics in and through Romantic texts, Marlon Ross dismantles the eco-literacy that Jonathan Bate locates in Wordsworth's poetry and that Karl Kroeber applies to other canonical poets. Ross invites us to learn a new way to apply environmentalism to the work of literary criticism. His agenda for a "culturally grounded, materialist ecology" argues an alternative to the "ever escalating cycle of consumption" created by historicist reading practices, "whereby we need ever more materials, re/sources, to produce ever more refined achievements of culture" (143).

The essays in the volume are not only devoted to how we can teach literary texts of the period or what they can still teach us. Several contributors argue, some more persuasively than others, that Romanticism teaches us about postmodern genres or other academic disciplines. Theresa Kelley sees John Clare's narrative of his escape from the lunatic asylum in Epping Forest haunting two recent novels: David Malouf's Remembering Babylon (Vintage Books, 1994) and Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker (Indiana University Press, 1998). Regina Hewitt demonstrates that Coleridge's efforts in The Friend anticipate the field of sociology, while Joel Faflak argues that Keats's two Hyperions, "through their staging of identity, mark one of the sites where Romanticism invents rather than merely anticipates, psychoanalysis" (304). Psychoanalytic method recurs in several essays, such as Steven Bruhm's "Reforming Byron's Narcissism" and Richard Swartz's analysis of John Clare's superstitiousness. These interdisciplinary studies complement those treating the productive interstices of literary with non-literary cultural institutions in the period, such as music, painting, and landscape design in the Maynard Solomon, C. S. Matheson, and Jill Heydt-Stevenson contributions respectively.

One of the most vigorous threads running through the collection, however, deals with the literary institution of genre, and numerous pieces investigate the formation or transformation of particular genres of discourse in the years between 1780 and 1832. Along with Redfield's analysis of the necessary fictions of the Bildungsroman, some of the best essays in the collection might be categorized as generic or discursive analyses. Greg Kucich delineates convincingly the influence of Catherine Macaulay on Shelley's historical vision in his works after 1820, offering it as a way of understanding his poetry's increased theatricality. Miranda Burgess, also complicating the borders between genre and gender, finds yet another way to center Jane Austen within Romanticism, supplementing William Galperin's call to add both Austen and Frances Burney to the canon. Burgess argues Austen's relevance through describing her nationalistic transformations of the Gothic, while Galperin focuses on the outsider status of the novel in general within a period privileged for its lyric production. Genre makes its mark along class lines as well, as Richard Swartz demonstrates in reading Clare's Autobiography against other instances of bourgeois poets' writing of the self.

Essays such as Galperin's specifically ask us to continue interrogating how particular genres or particular authors are appropriated and misappropriated in the work of canon formation. Others do so less explicitly. Critical accounts of the contribution of women writers, for instance, make up about a third of the collection, and not all of these are relegated to being a part of the "(Un)Romantic Canon." Questions of gender are central to Sweet's exploration of salon culture in Hemans and Jewsbury and to Heydt-Stevenson's reading of how Austen links social status with proper aesthetic responses to the picturesque. Within the third section of the book, Susan Wolfson's lead essay is a lucidly-argued survey of the gender politics of Romantic poets, both men and women, in their representation of the idea of the soul. Wolfson's erudite and nuanced discussion suggests why it might be necessary to problematize the "un" affixed to the Romantic of the section's subtitle.

It may sound strange to admit, but after reading the twenty-two essays of Lessons of Romanticism, I was left with the feeling that there was something missing. As I returned to take account of the literary and intellectual figures that peopled the pages, it gradually occurred to me to ask: "Where's Wordsworth?" Considering the centrality of Wordsworth to the new historicist conspiracy theories which the volume sets out to debunk, it seems curious that although Marjorie Levinson's controversial landmark study of Wordsworth is invoked often enough, the poet and his poems are mentioned briefly, usually in passing, in only a few essays. To be sure, it is precisely the point of Lessons of Romanticism to expand critical perspectives and, by extension, expand the critical gaze beyond "the big five or six" (to use Galperin's phrase). Nonetheless, while I welcome a collection of essays on Romanticism that includes three separate articles on Jane Austen and two devoted to John Clare, given the place of readings of Wordsworth in inciting the crisis that the collection responds to, it may appear to some as a significant gap. This potential shortcoming aside, one rarely encounters an anthology of criticism as varied and as consistently engaging as the one which Pfau and Gleckner have succeeded in gathering in Lessons of Romanticism.

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James Watt, Contesting the Gothic: Fiction, Genre and Cultural Conflict, 1764–1832

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James Watt, Contesting the Gothic: Fiction, Genre and Cultural Conflict, 1764-1832. Cambridge Studies in Romanticism, no. 33.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.  x + 205 pp. $59.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-521-64099-7).

Reviewed by
Diane Long Hoeveler
Marquette University

In a valuable new study of the gothic, Watt claims that he wants to "take issue with received accounts of the genre as a stable and continuous tradition." His stated intention is to depict the gothic as a "heterogeneous body of fiction, characterised at times by antagonistic relations between various writers or works" (i). Given the mass of critical studies published in the past five years or so on the gothic that adopt a historicist perspective, such as Emma Clery's The Rise of Supernatural Fiction, 1762–1800 (Cambridge University Press, 1995), this is not as original or startling a claim as Watt seems to believe, but Watt's book does bring some exciting archival material to the project, and for that reason alone the book is new and grounded in historical material we have not seen before. His stated foci are: 1) "Walpole's attempt to forge an aristocratic identity"; 2) the "loyalist affiliations of many neglected works of the 1790s"; 3) the "subversive reputation of The Monk"; 4) "the ways in which Radcliffean romance proved congenial to conservative critics"; 5) the status of Scott within the gothic; and (6) the "process by which the Gothic came to be defined as a monolithic tradition" (i).

In his Introduction, Watt summarizes the critical positions put forward by gothic theorists such as David Punter, Chris Baldick, and Ian Duncan, all of whom, according to Watt, tend to privilege a monolithic approach to the gothic, and to present the genre as less problematic than it actually was (and is). He moves then to the first statement of his thesis: "Gothic fiction was far less a tradition with a generic identity and significance than a domain which was open to contest from the first, constituted or structured by the often antagonistic relations between different writers and works" (6). By examining publishing records as well as reception histories, Watt intends to follow the historical method advanced by Jerome McGann in his argument that every piece of literature has "two interlocking histories": "one that derives from the author's expressed decisions and purposes, and the other that derives from the critical reactions of the [work's] various readers" (The Beauty of Inflections: Literary Investigations in Historical Method and Theory [Clarendon Press, 1985], 24).

Watt's chapter on Walpole advances this methodology by examining what Watt calls the "larger matrix" out of which The Castle of Otranto originated. For Watt, the novel must be understood "in terms of its author's attempt to distinguish himself from other writers of fiction [by] providing novelty for a particular audience . . . [while] the meaning and influence of the work ultimately need to be considered relationally, and addressed in the context of the overall system of its 'field of production'" (13). Walpole was, for Watt, not simply a writer obsessed with fashioning an "aristocratic" identity for himself; he was also a "licensed risk-taker," someone who thought he could "consecrate 'stupid' and 'incongruous' material" simply through the power of his self-created persona (13). Relying heavily on Walpole's extensive correspondence, Watt makes the case that Walpole was not simply an eccentric with a strictly personal agenda, but a man who used the two prefaces to the work to disdain the craze for antiquarianism, a craze it would appear he was complicitous in creating (39).

In his chapter on the Loyalist Gothic romance, Watt usefully introduces gothic afficionados to little known works like James White's Earl Strongbow (1789), Thomas Leland's Longsword (1762), Richard Hole's Arthur (1789), Joseph Cottle's Alfred (1800), Henry Pye's Alfred (1801), as well as Godwin's Imogen (1784) and Reeve's Old English Baron (1778) as adaptations of Otranto. In a wide-ranging reading of a number of obscure works, Watt produces what I consider to be his best chapter. Situating these works in their historical, political, and cultural contexts, Watt emphasizes the role of the gothic in the loyalist strategy: "many of these romances sought to give the native, Protestant aesthetic defended by Richard Hurd (as well as Walpole's second preface to Otranto) a military inflection or emphasis, defining a distinctively English 'genius' against French, and—later—German excess" (68).

In "Gothic 'subversion': German literature, the Minerva Press, Matthew Lewis," Watt explores the factors that led to the notoriety of so many gothic works (70), primarily the growth of William Lane's Minerva Press and the growing class-based anxiety about "'unlicensed' reading" (71). Watt's focus on Lewis concludes that, much like Walpole, Lewis as author was consumed with the need to "distinguish his own position within the field of literary production; whereas Walpole took great care to fashion an 'aristocratic' authorial identity, Lewis's quest for reputation was far more indiscriminate, and resulted in works which were consequently even more extravagant" (71). In the Minerva Press books, the upper-class critic saw a dangerous species of works catering to a new, uncontrolled population reading escapist fiction that itself was clearly influenced by the worst tendencies in German literature (uncontrolled emotion, revolutionary sentiments, conspiracies against the state and Church, and sexual deviancies of all types). In The Monk, Watt sees a "case study of the reasons why some Gothic romances were held to be so dangerous" (84). The novel did not receive universal condemnation until Lewis's identity as a Whig author was known, and it would appear that Lewis even baited his critics: he "continued to provoke his predominantly loyalist critics by appealing to German sources and, even more importantly, by pandering to popular demand" (95).

In his chapter on Radcliffe, Watt begins by placing her first novel, The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne (1789), in the tradition of Loyalist Gothic romances primarily concerned with the property restoration plot (103). The contribution of Radcliffe to the genre, I think, concerns her focus on the subjectivity of her heroines (105), and her emphasis on "the proper management of sensibility" i.e., "education") of her heroines, as well as Radcliffe's female readers (106). Watt usefully places Radcliffe's novels alongside other female gothics like Sophia Lee's The Recess (1783–35), Rosetta Balin's The Statue Room (1790), Eliza Fenwick's Secresy (1795), and Wollstonecraft's Maria (1798), and argues that her novels were not "monologically conservative," but that they instead "negotiated with contemporary constructions of femininity" (109). Radcliffe's works occasionally reveal her membership in the Dissenting, critical, "middling classes," and contain Whiggish statements against the slave trade, the horrors of the Bastille, the miseries of superstition (i.e., Catholicism), and the arbitrary government of corrupt aristocrats. But for all their political markers, "the occasional topicality of Radcliffe's work seems to have been consistently overlooked by the vast majority of critics and reviewers, who valued her romances precisely because of the refuge they provided from the taint of contemporary politics" (120).

In his final chapter, "The Field of Romance: Walter Scott, the Waverley novels, the Gothic," Watt examines how Scott "distilled or filtered for modern consumption the exotic vitality of the primitive, oral past" (133). Scott's Waverley novels are situated within the loyalist gothic tradition, as well as within the romance novel tradition. By straddling both traditions, the novels "subsumed Gothic conventions within a historical framework, or set up an opposition between romance and real life in order to relegate the Gothic romance to the status of a fictional anachronism" (144). Watt's focus in this chapter is not only on the novels themselves, but also on the shifting and ultimately degenerating reputation of Scott himself as a novelist. Contesting the Gothic is most valuable as a resource for a wide variety of historical and critical information that, while available elsewhere, must be gathered from many different sources. All of that information has been distilled here for easy access. Watt's discussions of the literary works themselves are actually somewhat truncated, but the amount of supporting apparatus—historical, critical, theoretical—that he has brought to bear on the works makes this an important work, and, I think, a predictor of where the field of gothic studies is headed.

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