“One domestic, at least, that may be spared”: Male Violence and Female Pet Keeping in Eliza Haywood’s Betsy Thoughtless

“Duvaucel’s Squirrel” (ca. 1837) by Charles Hamilton Smith (1776–1859). Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Scholarship concerning Eliza Haywood overwhelmingly bends towards misogyny and dismissal.  Since the publication of Kathryn King’s herculean Political Biography of Eliza Haywood (2012), scholars and students alike have begun to shift those decidedly problematic stances towards an appreciation of Eliza Haywood as an author integral to our understanding of eighteenth-century literature.  This still-emerging narrative runs counter to attempts to understand Haywood on a pre- and post-Dunciad, Alexander-Pope-defined timeline that has been cemented by centuries of conjectural scholarship and, at times, ad hominem attacks on Haywood’s person and supposedly lewd amatory writing.[i]  The assumption that Pope’s petty insults against Haywood caused a period of unproductive reclusion followed by a conservative reformation of her writing occlude and foreclose potential readings of Haywood’s writing which might prove liberating, progressive, or which simply object to the perpetuated fiction that Haywood was a hack, an amatory novelist turned moralist writer.  What follows, then, is an attempt to assist in curving Haywood’s critical arc and to continue the project of cataloguing the concerns present in her prose which make her a “slippery, fluid, multifarious, strategic, opportunistic, [and] chameleon-like writer” (King 195).

Haywood’s The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless (1751) follows the emotional maturation–a Bildungsroman with a British lilt–of the titular Betsy Thoughtless.  During the novel, between a parade of potential husbands and the interloping of her two brothers, Betsy receives a small pet squirrel from Mr. Trueworth, one of her many suitors.  This squirrel, Betsy’s beloved pet, becomes a focalizing object through which Haywood raises and explores the subjects of male aggression, women’s personal rights, and the value placed on animal life.  By examining the tenderness with which Trueworth crafts his gift and the economics associated with eighteenth-century pet ownership, we can better understand how Haywood intentionally frames the animal abuse perpetrated by Betsy’s first husband, Mr. Munden, against her pet squirrel as one motivated by Munden’s anxieties about both the state of his household economy and his wife’s undivided attention.  Furthermore, by contextualizing Betsy’s overt concern for the well-being of her pet within the anti-cruelty movement of late eighteenth-century Britain, we can begin to see the complexity with which Haywood positions Betsy’s modes of self-activism relative to the legislation that would follow the novel’s publication some decades later.  While John Richetti cites much of the same evidence found in this analysis, such as the economic importance of the squirrel and the shocking realism with which Haywood writes Munden’s “male rage,” in his chapter comparing the histories of Fielding and Haywood, Richetti wields these examples to a decidedly more trivializing end (“Histories” 256).[ii]

Writing in 1791, Ralph Beilby broadly waxes about squirrels, “This beautiful little animal is equally admirable for the neatness and elegance of its formation, as for its liveliness and activity” (352).  Though written after the publication of Betsy Thoughtless, this brief entry on squirrels illuminates the popular attitude toward the rodent and helps explain why Betsy is smitten with the squirrel Trueworth sends to her as a gift.  In the letter that accompanies the squirrel, Trueworth recalls Betsy’s delight at the sight of “the pretty tricks of a squirrel, which a lady in the company [at Oxford] had on her arm” (Thoughtless 137).  Trueworth downplays both the romantic and monetary significance of his gift calling it “so trifling an offering” (Thoughtless 137).  Trueworth’s self-deprecation and downplaying of his gift to Betsy is indicative of his overall disposition:  polite and mostly inoffensive.

As Betsy and the women in her company examine the squirrel, they begin to recognize that the gift is a significant gesture on Trueworth’s part.  The narrator describes the squirrel as “doubtless, the most beautiful creature of its kind, that could be purchased” with a “chain . . . [of] gold, the links [of which were] very thick, and curiously wrought” (Thoughtless 138).  The trappings of the pet squirrel come to represent several desirable qualities found in Trueworth’s character.  As Ingrid Tague argues, “Collars, like human clothing, could be the sites of luxurious display, sentimental attachment, or modest utility” (41).  Aside from its practicality, the leash and collar of the squirrel simultaneously displayed “the elegance of the donor’s taste . . . [and his] respectful passion” while also conspicuously displaying Trueworth’s economic prosperity (Thoughtless 138).

Haywood’s preoccupation with the description of the squirrel and its accessories is indicative of a larger trend of fashionable pet keeping during the eighteenth century.  As Tague notes, “On some level . . . pets were fashionable consumer goods” at that time (92).[iii]  English pet shops began selling more exotic species while also appealing to less adventurous consumers with commonplace animals like squirrels, whose appeal stems from their “attractive characteristics as small, clever, and fairly clean animals” (Tague 92). The squirrel becomes a token, not only of the attention that Trueworth pays to Betsy’s desires but also his ability to financially support those desires.  Despite the implications of Trueworth’s gift, Betsy later marries “a gentleman named Mr. Munden,” a lover initially described as “soft and complaisant” (Thoughtless 295, 486).  His courting of Betsy does not involve the extravagant gift giving that characterized her relationship with Trueworth.  Rather, Munden conducts his courtship as shrewdly as possible and “with less love, perhaps, than many, who had addressed her” (Thoughtless 296).  At the incessant badgering of her older brothers, Betsy acquiesces to marry Munden, not for his displays of passion or affection, but because she has “gone too far with Mr. Munden to be able to go back with honour” (Thoughtless 484).  The timbre of Betsy’s engagement, then, is not wonder, as she felt at the sight of Trueworth’s gift, but tolerable consolation for having toyed with Munden for too long.

Soon, however, a “darkening gloom” overtakes their relationship, as Munden realizes that he cannot financially support Betsy’s lifestyle (Thoughtless 498).  Munden becomes “excessively parsimonious at home” and reduces Betsy’s pin money to such an inadequate sum that she is “without means to support her character” (Thoughtless 499).  This tension erupts in a series of arguments concerning Betsy’s spending and personal funds.  With a “surly look,” Munden expresses to Betsy his fear that “she [is] a bad economist” (Haywood 499).  By all accounts, Munden’s temper surprises Betsy who finds his demeanor “cold and indifferent” (Thoughtless 501).  The omniscient narrator details Munden’s belief that “a wife [is] no more than an upper servant, bound to study and obey,” and because Betsy’s objections to her pin money allotment threatens his control over her, Munden “fixe[s] his resolution to render himself absolute master” (Thoughtless 507).  Munden’s character, by this point, is diametrically opposed to Trueworth’s.

As Munden is “ready to burst with an inward malice,” the narrator reminds us of the gift Trueworth had made to Betsy, “a present of a squirrel . . . [her] first token of love” (Thoughtless 507).  The care she pays to the squirrel makes it the target of Munden’s wrath.  Whereas, Trueworth provided the squirrel, Munden acts to take it away permanently.  Munden grabs the squirrel “by the neck, and throw[s] it with his whole force against the carved work of the marble chimney” where the rodent’s “tender frame [is] dashed to pieces” (Thoughtless 507).  During this disturbing act of animal abuse, Munden delights in his destruction, “Here is one domestic, at least, that may be spared” (Thoughtless 507).  Munden betrays one of the specific reasons he killed the squirrel—to ease the household debt by ridding it of at least one expense.  As Tague notes, “pets embodied the worst excess of fashionable consumption, thanks to the fact that in addition to their status as fashionable goods, they were also literally consumers, draining resources” (94).  Betsy is deeply troubled by Munden’s action, “the massacre of so unhurtful a little creature” (Thoughtless 509).[iv]  It is not Trueworth’s connection to Betsy and the squirrel that causes Munden to kill it but, rather, the perceived overabundance of attention with which Betsy lavishes it–the pet she “always cherished”–and the cost of its maintenance (Thoughtless 507).

Despite the “splenetic and barbarous” nature of the murder drawing the righteous indignation of Betsy and potentially disturbing the modern reader, the social company that Munden and Betsy keep do not overtly condemn or vilify his actions (Thoughtless 509).  Even after Betsy tells Lady Trusty, a confidant, about the incident and suggests pursuing a legal separation from Munden, Lady Trusty impresses upon Betsy the “absolute necessity for a reconciliation” as “all you [Betsy] can accuse him of will not amount to a separation” (Thoughtless 511).  Because Munden views both his wife and her pet as his personal property, he believes that he is well within his legal rights to act against them as he sees fit, and to no small degree, he is correct.

Efforts to legislate animal abuse began to shift public sentiment concerning the well-being of non-human species at the end of the eighteenth-century, decades after the publication of Betsy Thoughtless.  These anticruelty movements were limited, though, and only “focused on working animals” and livestock (Tague 157).  David Perkins notes that while, for example, the reformation of prison conditions was championed by John Howard leading up to 1774, the “cause of animals did not enlist comparably dedicated persons” (44).[v]  Outrage over the abuse of domesticated pets “was still far in the future . . . for anticruelty advocates” and as Tague points out, “it would be reasonable . . . to envision the eighteenth-century as very distant from our own pet-loving culture” (157).  Rob Boddice highlights the laxity with which early anti-cruelty legislation was formulated claiming that “Very occasionally, the charge of cruelty had in mind the consequences done to specific animals” (15).[vi]  This is a significant part of Lady Trusty’s argument against separation; Betsy’s case against Munden rests on no real legal ground, as Munden did not actually break any contemporary law when he killed the squirrel.  According to Lady Trusty, attempting to separate from Munden would prove fruitless and potentially cause Betsy further harm.  Betsy’s concern and attempt to correct the abuse committed against her pet, however, is particularly uncharacteristic of the period.

While Haywood writes about pet keeping at other times, she does not write as frankly about the inhumanity of animal cruelty elsewhere in her bibliography.  In her novel, The History of Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy (1753), Lady Speck dismisses the loss of a womanizer and “coxcomb,” Celadine, as akin to “the loss of a squirrel or monkey who has diverted one with its tricks” (208).  Here, the squirrel is dismissed as a mere bauble, easily forgotten once lost.  In the Epistles for the Ladies (1748), Hillaria writes to Clio, two eidolons Haywood assumes, asking whether or not a “Person, whose Pleasure is in the Company of a Dog, a Monkey, a Parrot, a Cat, a Horse, or any other Species of the Brute Creation, [can] be imagined to have Taste for the Conversation of Cherubs, Seraphs, and the rest of the Angelic Throng” (293-4).[vii]  While dismissive of those fashionable individuals that keep pets, Hillaria makes sure to clarify that she did not mean to offend Clio, who keeps “Tib, your little favourite Squirrel” for a pet (Epistles 294-5).  Hillaria appears to hold a similar view of pet keeping to that of Lady Speck and goes as far as to associate a lack of religiosity with those who excessively fawn and dote over pets.  An exception is made, however, for Clio’s squirrel, which Hillaria deems one of the “harmless Animals,” though, this does little to alter the overall tone of the letter which condescends greatly toward pet owners (Epistles 295).  While these figures do not abuse animals, they certainly share Munden’s belief that the attention given to animals, their lives, and their loss are ultimately inconsequential.

While writing The Wife (1755) as Mira, one of Haywood’s better known eidolons of The Female Spectator, we learn that “Among all the various foibles of which the softer sex are but too justly accus’d, I [Mira] know of none more preposterous than the immoderate fondness” given to pets of all varieties (96).[viii]  Mira then begins the first of several anecdotes that concern a wife who “is all the time playing with her lap-dog,” causing her to ignore her husband (Wife 96).  Mira quips that a man who endures this behavior is either “quite a fool, or endued with an uncommon share of philosophy and fortitude” and “if the latter, nothing but the most low contempt could restrain him from giving her some marks of his resentment, and throwing her favourite dog out of the window” (Wife 96).  While this story is likely meant to take advantage of an eighteenth-century “satirical convention of representing women taking personal offence at any perceived mistreatment of their pets,” as Theresa Braunschneider claims, there is little similarity between the reactions of the women in Mira’s anonymous stories and Betsy’s reaction to the deeply personal affront committed by Munden (43).[ix]

As they far better resemble Munden’s character, the men of Mira’s story do provide clearer insight into the reactionary nature of his animal abuse.  If one were to swap the dog for a squirrel, Mira would, in fact, describe the precise situation in which Betsy finds herself and, using the example given by Mira, we might better understand Munden’s intention when he murders Betsy’s squirrel.  Because Betsy pays, what Munden deems, a frivolous amount of money on and attention to the squirrel, he abuses her pet in lieu of physically harming Betsy and further reducing her pin money allowance.  The squirrel, thus, mediates the physical and economic harm done by Munden against Betsy.  Through the examples of animal abuse committed by the unnamed husband of Mira’s anecdote and Munden, Haywood convincingly frames marital aggression against animals as not only an exclusively male attack on a wife’s personal and economic autonomy but also a means of mediating a husband’s desire to physically assault his wife.  To return to the language of the text, if Munden continues to find Betsy’s spending excessive, she might easily become yet another “domestic . . . spared” (Thoughtless 507).

While Haywood’s depictions of pet keeping and animal cruelty vary from overwhelming dismissal to sincere concern, the latter impresses upon modern readers the potentially progressive nature of Haywood’s writing.  Betsy’s attempt to rectify her husband’s animal abuse and economic stricture through legal separation, though ultimately unsuccessful, as well as Haywood’s poetic deus ex that releases Betsy from her marriage through Munden’s death to seek out the newly widowed Trueworth, predate most historical attempts to condemn harm towards household pets.  Ultimately, if we are to begin bending Haywood’s critical arc towards an end which positions her as a “mistress of multiplicity,” we must embrace the contradictory viewpoints Haywood confronts in her writing as indicative, though not necessarily reflective, of her own complicated subject position as a female writer in the eighteenth century (King 195).

As Alexander Pettit notes in his introduction to The Wife, Haywood approaches the issue of wifehood through diverse means in equally diverse genres.  According to Pettit, such “Juxtapositions . . . suggest that although Haywood may have chosen to entertain certain socio-generic fantasies in her novels, she did not do so naively” (Works I.III 3).  Haywood’s writing is anything but linear or formulaic, and, as Pettit acknowledges, we must assume that Haywood did not include various depictions of pet keeping, as she did with marriage, without a reason for presenting these multiple subjectivities, fictional and practical alike.[x]  Thus, because writers were “denied the luxury of politically pure positions,” Haywood’s various writings on pet keeping across several genres sought to appeal to the multifaceted and multimodal audiences that consumed her writing (King 27).  Haywood’s distinct depictions of attitudes concerning pet keeping and animal abuse suggest that, rather than composing with a rote amatory method, she created narrative voices that were often at odds with one another to confront looming questions concerning the fragility and aggressivity of the male ego, the prospect of personal and economic autonomy for women, and the value of animal life in the eighteenth century.

Notes

[i] See James Sutherland’s edition of Alexander Pope’s Dunciad (Book II, lines 149-156) for this reference to Eliza Haywood.  I suggest Sutherland’s edition because he claims that “Pope’s satire [of Haywood] was merciless, but not undeserved” (443).  Much of the scholarship concerning Haywood presumes the purportedly devastating ramifications of these lines.  This is a relatively invariable trend in Pope scholarship.  However, King deftly rebuts scholarly work that relies heavily on Pope’s attack on Haywood as it “rests to an uncomfortable extent on readings of her life filtered through the detractions of her enemies as they are betted by present-day desires to give her an appealingly unconventional history” and relies heavily on “details drawn from the well-stocked cabinet of misogynistic satiric conventions” (5-6).

[ii] While Richetti certainly notes the “significant domestic realism” of the scene in “Histories by Eliza Haywood and Henry Fielding:  Imitation and Adaptation,” he places her work at odds with the writing of Henry Fielding, claiming that “Haywood’s interesting . . . exposure of ideological contradiction[s]” are the result of an imperfect imitation of Henry Fielding’s histories (255).  Richetti’s reading of Haywood is yet another example of scholarship undermining the importance of Haywood’s work through comparative, deprecating, and, misogynistic criticism. Ultimately, Richetti concludes that the squirrel “is nothing more nor less than an interesting prop” and that Haywood’s Betsy Thoughtless, like the animal abuse scene, is “loose and opportunistic, [a] stringing together [of] striking scenes” which “Fielding doubtless would have disdained as literal-minded and vulgar, lacking true inventiveness” (“Histories” 258).  By contextualizing Haywood, not against the work or presumed opinions of her contemporaries, but against the craft and views of her own works, the conclusion of this analysis reveals the incredible wit and flexibility with which Haywood considered marriage and pet keeping–rather than deeming Haywood’s writing a defense of “a conventional bourgeois ideology of female subordination and sexual suppression” (“Histories” 255).

[iii] As Keith Thomas notes in Man and the Natural World:  A History of the Modern Sensibility, “By 1700 all of the symptoms of obsessive pet-keeping were in evidence [in Britain].  Pets were often fed better than the servants.  They were adorned with rings, ribbons, feathers and bells; and they became an increasingly regular feature of painted family groups” (117).  The ubiquity of pet keeping in the eighteenth century cannot be understated.

[iv] While the actions of Munden may come as a surprise to both Betsy and the modern reader, Erin Mackie claims in Rakes, Highwaymen, and Pirates:  The Making of the Modern Gentleman in the Eighteenth Century that the identified social class Munden inhabits–the gentleman–is one steeped in a history of criminality and skullduggery associated with rakes, highwaymen, and pirates.  Mackie notes that “especially in the case of the rake and the highwayman, unauthorized types often forward a claim to those very characteristics of gentility which the modern gentleman would monopolize” (4).  While not legally considered a criminal for his actions, the history that Mackie traces proves helpful when attempting to explain Munden’s cruelty towards Betsy and her pet.  Likewise, though Trueworth is deemed a gentleman, Mackie argues for an understanding of masculinity’s role in criminality and gentlemanliness which is by no means an assurance that every gentleman would act as Munden does in the text.

[v] Perkins similarly notes that the cause of anti-cruelty “was an effort that one might take up occasionally, episodically, among other projects, paying for a sermon on the subject, giving one, or getting up a petition, or introducing a bill in Parliament.  And then, in most cases, you went on to matter that concerned you more” (44).  Perkins identifies William Cowper’s 1774 poem The Task, which “strongly urged compassion for animals, weaving this virtue into [Cowper’s] powerful image of the good person and the good life,” as one of the later catalysts for the increased awareness of the anti-cruelty movement (45).

[vi] Boddice defines more clearly the charge of cruelty as one “of unmanliness, a charge of callousness, a charge of being uncivilized, on the one hand; cruelty was a masquerade for class interests, a vehicle for social control, an abhorrence of tradition or custom, on the other” (15).

[vii] The Epistles for the Ladies appears in the Selected Works of Eliza Haywood I, Vol. 2.

[viii] The Wife appears in the Selected Works of Eliza Haywood I, Vol. 3.  For more information concerning the role Mira plays in Haywood’s periodical The Female Spectator and female subjectivity in periodical culture, see Manushag Powell’s Performing Authorship in 18th-Century English Periodicals.  Powell claims that Haywood’s eidolons in The Female Spectator try “to make use of the traits any woman might use in navigating the social world . . . to educate by pleasing” (152).  One of these traits is, no doubt, the ability to learn from the mistakes of others.  Thus, Mira’s use of absurd and anecdotal tales of female pet keeping folly in Haywood’s conduct literature is both sadistically humorous and didactic.

[ix] Braunschneider elaborates further and in agreement with numerous other sources used here which claim that a woman’s pet was “an extension of its owner’s self . . . satirical depictions of women of fashion intimate that such narcissistic consumption could be the inevitable result of British involvement in world trade and cultural exchange” (43).

[x] While Haywood certainly leaned on a stock set of tropes for her writing, she did so no more frequently than her contemporaries.  The degree to which Haywood relies on stock figures and conceits is vastly overstated in lieu of properly examining the multiplicities of expression found in Haywood’s writing.  For an example of this maligned argument concerning Haywood’s allegedly formulaic style, see Richetti’s chapter “Popular Narrative in the Early Eighteenth Century:  Formats and Formulas” in which he claims, “Haywood produced a highly successful imitation of Manley’s secret history,” but dismisses Haywood as a non-political writer (a claim which King’s biography more than adequately proves false) whose “tremendous output of popular narrative during the 1720s repeats tirelessly the formulas of the amatory novella, occasionally extend to novel length” (“Formulas” 83).  Unable to admit that Haywood might be contributing to a literary tradition rather than simply poorly mimicking it, Richetti compartmentalizes and condescends, designating this form of amatory writing, “Haywoodian” (“Formulas” 91).

Works Cited

Beilby, Ralph.  A General History of Quadrupeds.  The Figures Engraved on Wood by T. Bewick.  2nd ed.  Newcastle upon Tyne, 1791.  Eighteenth Century Collections Online.  Gale.  Purdue University Libraries.  20 Apr. 2017.

Boddice, Rob.  A History of Attitudes and Behaviours Toward Animals in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain:  Anthropocentrism and the Emergence of Animals.  Lewiston:  Mellen, 2008.  Print.

Braunschneider, Theresa.  “The Lady and the Lapdog:  Mixed Ethnicity in Constantinople, Fashionable Pets in Britain.”  Ed. Frank Palmeri.  Humans and Other Animals in Eighteenth-Century British Culture:  Representation, Hybridity, Ethics.  Burlington:  Ashgate Publishing Company, 2006.  31-48.  Print.

Haywood, Eliza.  Selected Works of Eliza Haywood I.  Ed. Alexander Pettit and Christine Blouch.  Vol. 2.  London:  Pickering & Chatto, 2000.  Print.

—.  Selected Works of Eliza Haywood I.  Ed. Alexander Pettit and Margo Collins.  Vol. 3.  London:  Pickering & Chatto, 2000. Print.

—.  The History of Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy.  Ed. John Richetti.  Lexington:  UP of Kentucky, 2005.  Print.

—.  The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless.  Ed. Christine Blouch.  Peterborough:  Broadview P, 1998.  Print.

King, Kathryn R.  A Political Biography of Eliza Haywood.  London:  Pickering & Chatto, 2012.  Print.  Eighteenth-Century Political Biographies; No. 9.

Mackie, Erin Skye.  Rakes, Highwaymen, and Pirates:  The Making of the Modern Gentleman in the Eighteenth Century. Baltimore:  Johns Hopkins UP, 2014.  Print.

Pope, Alexander.  The Dunciad.  Ed. James Sutherland.  3d. ed. rev.  New Haven:  Yale UP, 1963.  Print.

Powell, Manushag N.  Performing Authorship in Eighteenth-Century English Periodicals.  Lewisburg, PA:  Bucknell UP, 2012.  Print.

Richetti, John.  “Histories by Eliza Haywood and Henry Fielding:  Imitation and Adaptation.”  The Passionate Fictions of Eliza Haywood:  Essays on Her Life and Work.  Ed. Kirsten Saxton and Rebecca Bocchicchio.  Lexington:  UP of Kentucky, 2000.  240-58.  Print.

—.  “Popular Narrative in the Early Eighteenth Century:  Formats and Formulas.”  The English Novel, Volume I:  1700 to Fielding.  Ed. Richard Kroll.  New York:  Routledge, 2013. 70-106.  Print.

Tague, Ingrid H.  Animal Companions:  Pets and Social Change in Eighteenth-Century Britain.  University Park, PA:  The Pennsylvania State UP, 2015.  Print.

Thomas, Keith.  Man and the Natural World:  A History of the Modern Sensibility.  London: Allen Lane, 1983.  Print.

Statement of Support for the National Endowment for the Humanities

The 18th-Century Common was developed with substantial support from the Wake Forest University Humanities Institute, which itself was founded with generous support from an National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant. We are grateful that NEH funding has enabled an international array of scholars writing for The 18th-Century Common to share research with nonacademic enthusiasts of eighteenth-century studies.

Read the Wake Forest University Humanities Institute’s Statement of Support for the NEH.

Jane Austen Summer Program Presents: 
“200 Years of Persuasion

The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and The Jane Austen Society of North America—North Carolina

June 15 to 18, 2017
.

This summer more than 100 people, including Austen fans, established scholars, graduate students, K-12 teachers, and aspiring authors, will have the opportunity to hear expert speakers and participate in discussion groups on Austen’s last completed novel, Persuasion.  Attendees will also partake in an English tea, dance at a Regency-style ball, attend Austen-inspired theatricals, and visit special exhibits tailored to the conference.

They will be attending the fifth-annual Jane Austen Summer Program from June 15 to 18, 2017 to explore this year’s chosen theme: “200 Years of Persuasion.”  The events will take place at the Hampton Inn in Carrboro, NC and at various locations on the UNC-CH campus in Chapel Hill, NC.

The discussions will consider Austen’s last completed novel Persuasion in its historical context as well as its afterlives in fiction and film.  “This year we are so pleased that Jocelyn Harris, a Persuasion expert and a delightful individual, is coming from New Zealand to join us as a keynote speaker,” says Inger Brodey, co-director of the program with James Thompson.  “We will also have a naval historian guide us through the mostly off-stage military dimension of the novel.”

Participants old and new praise the program’s accessibility, innovation, and community-building.  “Last year’s conference on Mansfield Park was my first experience of JASP—and now I’m hooked!,” says Vicky Brandt.  “It’s a wonderful idea to open up an academic conference to the interested public:  everyone should be able to experience the loving inquiry that is the heart of scholarship.  All the presentations were enlightening; the small group discussions lively and insightful; the Saturday evening Regency ball almost as beautiful to watch as the ones we see on film.  In short, I can think of no better way to describe it than with Austen’s own words:  ‘the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation.’”  Attendees express special appreciation for the cultural and historical knowledge exchanged at the program.  Patrick McGraw states, “Over four days, I learned more about Austen’s novel than I ever imagined I could.  I cannot wait to return to UNC-Chapel Hill this coming summer to explore Persuasion.”

For more program information, to see comments and photos from previous programs, or to register, please visit the program’s website janeaustensummer.org/ or follow the program on facebook.com/janeaustensummer or via Twitter, @JASPhotline.  You may also contact us at [email protected].

Elementary and secondary school teachers are encouraged to visit the website for information on available scholarships and continuing education credits.

(This post was made available by Carlie Wetzel, UNC-CH)

Veiled Intent: Dissenting Women’s Aesthetic Approach to Biblical Interpretation

veiledintentIn the long eighteenth century, attitudes towards a woman lifting her voice within the religious public sphere varied denominationally.  In differentiation from Anglican and Presbyterian communities, Quakers accepted the idea of women preaching from the mid-seventeenth century onwards.  The process in the Methodist church was more gradual.  Though female Methodists were preaching by 1787, at first they could only share their personal conversion narrative or give an “exhortation” as long as they avoided the “taking of a text.”  In other words, a woman could lead through public speech, as long as she did not quote from the Bible.  Little wonder women needed to veil their biblical interpretation in forms viewed as acceptably feminine when writing for print.  Within Presbyterian and Congregationalist communities women were not engaged in public speaking at all, which is perhaps why they channeled their biblical interpretation so powerfully into poetry, hymns, plays, letters, and even novels, as well as essays on taste and aesthetics.  Extremely learned women in these Dissenting communities deployed their significant knowledge of Hebrew, Greek, and theology in composing book-length works containing substantial biblical hermeneutics written from a female standpoint.

These women Dissenters focused on biblical content often overlooked by male biblical commentators.  Phillis Wheatley and Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck analyzed biblical stories of the weak overcoming the strong (e.g., David and Goliath) as a veiled analogy for women’s fight against systemic oppression.  Presbyterians Anna Barbauld, Helen Maria Williams, and Joanna Baillie explored biblical birth and mothering metaphors for God’s omnipotence, contra Edmund’s Burke’s focus on divine wrath.  Women cloaked their substantial biblical exegesis in works such as Poems on Various Subjects:  Religious and Moral (Phillis Wheatley, 1773), Hymns in Prose for Children (Anna Barbauld, 1781), A Poem on the Bill Lately Passed for Regulating the Slave Trade (Helen Maria Williams, 1788), and Poems, Wherein it is Attempted to Describe Certain Views of Nature and Rustic Manners (Joanna Baillie, 1790).  If modern readers pay careful attention, they will hear these women preaching through their printed works.

Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck, one of the first women to publish a comprehensive work of biblical interpretation in English, witnessed the empowerment of women’s voices within eighteenth-century Quaker and Methodist communities before eventually becoming a Moravian.  The Moravians were a somewhat experimental spiritual community to which William Blake’s mother – Catherine Wright Armitage Blake – belonged.  Schimmelpenninck was an anti-slavery activist and philosopher who referenced the work of Anna Barbauld and Joanna Baillie repeatedly in her prose.  Her modestly titled book Biblical Fragments (1826) draws on the church fathers and cites passages of the Old Testament in Hebrew to contest the King James translation.  Schimmelpenninck also boldly transcends historical divides between Protestants and Catholics by praising the biblical interpretation of seventeenth-century French nuns.  Her ground breaking ecumenical work has been undervalued in histories of Dissenting women’s social activism and the scriptural engagement that undergirded it.

My book Veiled Intent: Dissenting Women’s Aesthetic Approach to Biblical Interpretation asks how eighteenth-century dissenting women writers were able to ensure their unique biblical interpretation was preserved for posterity.  And how did their careful yet shrewd tactics spur early nineteenth-century women writers into vigorous theological debate?  Why did the biblical engagement of such women prompt their commitment to causes such as the antislavery movement?  Veiled Intent traces the pattern of tactical moves and counter-moves deployed by Anna Barbauld, Phillis Wheatley, Helen Maria Williams, Joanna Baillie, and Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck.  These female poets and philosophers veiled provocative hermeneutical claims and calls for social action within aesthetic forms of discourse viewed as more acceptably feminine forms of expression.  In between the lines of their published hymns, sonnets, devotional texts for children, and works of aesthetic theory, the perceptive reader finds striking theological insights shared from a particularly female perspective.  These women were not only courageously interjecting their individual viewpoints into a predominantly male domain of formal study–biblical hermeneutics–but also intentionally supporting each other in doing so.  Their publications reveal that they were drawn to biblical imagery of embodiment and birth, to stories of the apparently weak vanquishing the tyrannical on behalf of the oppressed, and to the metaphor of Christ as strengthening rock.

Humanities Viewpoints: Hamilton

HumanitiesViewpointsLogoHumanities Viewpoints is a monthly podcast from the Wake Forest University Humanities Institute.  It features short conversations between host Aimee Mepham, Humanities Institute Assistant Director, and a WFU faculty member working in the humanities.  The conversations focus on a timely subject – a current event, holiday, cultural moment – and how this subject connects to the faculty member’s field, teaching, and expertise.  The podcast debuted in 2014, and WFU faculty members from Art History, English, German, History, Religious Studies, and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies have participated.

The September episode, the first of the 2016-2017 academic year, features a conversation between Mepham and Jake Ruddiman, Associate Professor of History at Wake Forest University, on Hamilton, the man and the musical.  Ruddiman, a scholar of the American Revolution, received his PhD from Yale and joined the WFU faculty in 2010.  His first book, Becoming Men of Some Consequence, presents the experiences of young men fighting in the Revolutionary War.  His next projects explore the Revolution in the Southeast.

Hamilton:  An American Musical tells the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton.  It was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also starred in the title role.  It debuted Off-Broadway at the Public Theatre to critical acclaim and transferred to Broadway in August 2015.  Since then it was nominated for a record-setting 16 Tony Awards, winning 11, including Best Musical as well as awards for Best Book and Best Score for its creator, Miranda.  It was also the recipient of the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album and the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.  It’s even made its way into Wake Forest University’s undergraduate admissions application as a short-answer question.

During the conversation, Ruddiman discusses the Hamilton phenomenon, including what Hamilton, the musical, gets right, what it leaves out, and what may have captivated Lin Manuel-Miranda’s imagination, inspiring the creation of his version of this “Founding Father without a father.”

One of the things Ruddiman commends the musical for is the ideas it presents about history itself.  He says, “Lin-Manuel Miranda gets something profoundly correct about history, and that history, the story, first is contingent . . . and the second thing is that history, as a record of the past, of events, is incomplete.  The line that I love and that other historians have loved is, ‘Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?’  That is a historiographical statement, a philosophical statement about history if there ever was one.”

The Great Forgetting: Women Writers Before Austen

GreatForgettingThe Great Forgetting: Women Writers Before Austen is a free podcast series addressing the lives and works of eighteenth-century women writers,  devised and produced by one journalist and three academics.  One day while chatting on Twitter, Helen Lewis (deputy editor of the New Statesman, a leading British weekly magazine focusing on politics and culture) Jennie Batchelor (University of Kent), Sophie Coulombeau (Cardiff University), and Elizabeth Edwards (University of Wales) discovered that they shared not only a love of eighteenth-century women’s writing but also a conviction that the world needed to know more about it.  An idea was born: a six-part podcast series, aimed at the non-specialist listener, about the lives, works and legacies of the women who changed the face of literature – but had, from the beginning of the nineteenth century, been gradually subjected to what Clifford Siskin calls “The Great Forgetting.”

Each week, we came up with a different theme to shape our conversation.  In the first week, Rewriting the Rise of the Novel, we asked: who gets overlooked when we let Defoe, Fielding and Richardson hog the “rise of the novel” narrative?  In this episode we aimed to explain the importance of some of the eighteenth century’s most prolific and innovative female novelists; from Aphra Behn and Frances Burney to Eliza Haywood, Maria Edgeworth, and Delarivier Manley.  We asked what sorts of challenges these women overcame in order to make it as successful writers, and what flak they received in return.  And we spoke about some of our favorite moments in female-authored novels: from Evelina’s odd monkey to the glorious butch of Harriot Freke.

In the second week, we put Bluestocking culture under the microscope.  Who were the Bluestockings, why did they matter, and was their footwear really as lurid as we’ve been led to believe?  We explained how, through salons hosted by the likes of Elizabeth Montagu, Elizabeth Vesey, and Hester Thrale Piozzi, this group of highly educated women helped shape a new age of sociability and creativity, making it commonplace rather than controversial to assert that a woman might be the intellectual equal of a man.  And we also revealed juicy details about Elizabeth Carter’s snuff-snorting habit.

Week three saw us turn to the subject of Sociable Spaces.  We focused first on the Lady’s Magazine, asking who wrote it, read it and published it, and how far its subject matter might be defined as “feminine.”  We then turned to think about the proliferation of all-female debating societies, such as La Belle Assemblée, in the early 1780s.  What topics did women want to chew over?  How were their debates alternatively valorised and satirised?  And why did these societies die out?  Highlights included discussions of eighteenth-century mansplaining in the pages of the Lady’s Magazine, and #everydaysexism in the galleries of the debating chamber.

In week four, we examined the Unsex’d Females, advocates of radical politics – and the conservative powerhouses who opposed them.  Novelists, poets and pamphleteers including Charlotte Smith, Anna Barbauld, and Mary Wollstonecraft all engaged with major political questions of their day including the French Revolution, the slave trade, and women’s rights – and argued for radical reforms.  But not everyone approved of their zeal: Hannah More and Hester Thrale Piozzi argued in favour of conservative agendas, and Richard Polwhele lamented the “Female Band, despising Nature’s Law” in his memorable poetic rant, “The Unsex’d Females.”

Week five saw us roll up our sleeves and enter the ring for Fight Club, each of us slugging it out on behalf of our favorite woman writer of the eighteenth century.  Sophie was in Frances Burney’s corner, Liz flew the flag for Hester Thrale Piozzi, and Jennie championed an unusual candidate – “Anomymous.”  Who won? Listen to find out…

In the sixth and final week of the podcast, we put the idea of “The Great Forgetting” under the microscope.  Why, exactly, do the vast majority of people now draw a blank at the mention of these women’s names?  How did they go from enjoying fame and success to obscurity?  How did their works shape the literary canon?  And why is it important that we remember and celebrate them in an age when female writers and scholars still face disadvantage and marginalization?

The podcast was devised and recorded in early 2016 and broadcast in April and May via the website of the New Statesman.  It remains available to stream or download here and through iTunes.

Our hope in creating The Great Forgetting was that we would be able to help a wide non-academic audience to become familiar with these writers and their works, and to stimulate reflection on the gendering of literary prestige in the past and present.  In that, we seem to have succeeded: in just the first three weeks, the podcast received almost 3000 listens, exclusive of iTunes downloads.  We continue to be delighted and excited to think that, as the podcast remains online, more thousands of people might encounter the writing of women like Aphra Behn, Eliza Haywood, Delarivier Manley, Frances Burney, Hester Thrale Piozzi, Mary Wollstonecraft, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Hannah More, Ann Yearsley, Phillis Wheatley, Elizabeth Montagu, and Charlotte Smith.  We’re beginning to think about ways in which we might integrate the podcasts into our teaching curricula, and we would love to hear from anyone else who has done so.

But, although making the podcast was a rewarding experience, it also provoked some sobering reflections about what happens when traditional academic methodologies meet new media.  For example, we were chagrined to discover – even faced with the luxury of over three hours’ airtime – how many women writers we still ended up leaving out.  We were abashed to realize that we hadn’t managed to give novelists such as Sarah Scott and Sarah Fielding any attention, while our paucity of female playwrights was another sore point.  We spoke far more about the second half of the eighteenth century than the first.  In light of this, we were forced to ask ourselves what criteria (aesthetic? biographical? canonical?) we had unthinkingly imposed on our selection process for subjects for the programe, even as we railed against ideas of “literary value” that had been dominant in the past.  On a similar note, it was difficult – almost impossible – to credit the academics whose works we drew upon, heavily, in our conversations with Helen.  In other words, you can’t add a footnote to a podcast (though we did try to remedy this a bit by providing reading lists every week – see here).  With initiatives like this, then, might we run the risk of appearing to present ourselves in glorious intellectual isolation – ironically erasing the work of previous scholars (many of whom are women) even as we argue against that very process?

These, and other issues, preoccupy us as we evaluate the success of the podcast series.  If readers of The 18th-Century Common have any feedback, we’d be delighted to hear it.

The Collected Poems of Gavin Turnbull Online

Turnbullfrontscreen

Dear Sir, if my unnotic’d name,

Not yet proclaim’d by trump of fame,

Has reach’d your lugs, then swith attend, 

This essay of a Bard unkend.

–Turnbull, “Epistle to a Black-smith” (1788)

The Scottish poet Gavin Turnbull (1765-1816), a younger contemporary of Robert Burns, published two books of poetry in Scotland before emigrating to America in 1795, where he contributed poetry to South Carolina newspapers.  The Collected Poems of Gavin Turnbull presents the first-ever full collection of Turnbull’s writings.

Turnbull, born in the Scottish Borders, started writing poetry as a teenage carpet-weaver in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, in the 1780s.  He published his first book, Poetical Essays, in 1788, followed by Poems in 1794, when he was an actor with a theatre company in Dumfries.  In 1795, he emigrated to the United States, settling in Charleston, South Carolina, where he continued to act and write poetry, publishing not only in Charleston but also in the prestigious Philadelphia magazine Port Folio.  He became a U.S. citizen in 1813 and died in Charleston in 1816.  While he twice issued proposals for a new collection of his writings, and a further invitation to subscribers was published after his death, no collection ever appeared.  Only a handful of his earlier poems have been available in anthologies or online, and his Charleston poems have never previously been collected.

turnbullbannerThe Collected Poems of Gavin Turnbull contains 89 individual poems and songs, organized according to the date of their first publication.  The poems are grouped into one of four sections, following the sequence of the books, manuscript, or periodicals in which they are first found.  Turnbull’s two prose prefaces to the poetry (1788, 1794) and his short play The Recruit (also 1794) are included, but placed last, after the poems, as appendices.  A list of the individual poems and songs in each section and links to the texts are available in the gray drop-down menu on the left-hand side of the screen.  With the few exceptions noted below, this edition only includes each poem once, under the date of its first appearance, and poems that Turnbull subsequently reprinted are not repeated in the later section(s).

This edition aims to reproduce Turnbull’s texts as they were encountered by their first readers.  The text used is therefore taken from the first published version, and where a poem was printed two or more times, the earliest text is used, though any substantive differences between early and later texts are fully noted.  The one exception to this general policy is for Turnbull’s poem “The Cottage,” first published in 1788 with four stanzas, for which the edition uses Turnbull’s expanded version with a fifth, more political stanza, from the 1794 collection, also subsequently reprinted in a Charleston newspaper.

The first section contains 50 poems and songs, all probably written while he was still living in Kilmarnock, and published in Turnbull’s first book, Poetical Essays (1788), published by subscription and appearing with the imprint of a Glasgow bookseller.  The next short section prints three of Turnbull’s songs which Robert Burns forwarded in a manuscript letter by Robert Burns to George Thomson (October 29, 1793) for possible inclusion in Thomson’s Select Collection of Original Scottish Songs.  The second major section contains the twelve poems or songs that were first published in Turnbull’s second volume, Poems, printed in Dumfries in 1794.  As noted above, Turnbull’s play, The Recruit, which had been included in the 1794 volume, is placed separately with the “Appendices.”

After he emigrated to Charleston, South Carolina, Turnbull’s contributions to local newspapers included reprinting some earlier poems, as well as newly-written items.  The third major section of the edition contains twenty-five poems, ranging in date from 1796 to 1809.  Of the twenty-five, twenty-one are items that Turnbull had never previously published; the four reprinted items are the four songs that Turnbull himself extracted from his play The Recruit for separate newspaper publication, and which are therefore given similar separate status here.  Though he also wrote an ode to General Washington, both in the theatre, where he appeared in such Scottish plays as Ramsay’s The Gentle Shepherd and Home’s Douglas, and in the poetry he published, Turnbull continued after emigration to identify himself as a Scot.

chfergussonmar2196The online edition of The Collected Poems of Gavin Turnbull allows for fuller annotation than will be provided in the planned print edition, especially in glossing words that might cause difficulties for students outside of Scotland, as well as linking to related material, such as contemporary images and music, where Turnbull often specifies the tune to which he has written new song-text.  The first note on each text records its publication history, both first publication and any reprinting in Turnbull’s lifetime.  The first note may also contain general background information relevant to the poem.  Subsequent notes linked to specific lines gloss difficult or distinctive words, suggest literary sources or allusions, and provide historical or background information.  Turnbull’s own footnotes to some of the poems, in Poetical Essays (1788) and Poems (1794), have been included but are placed in square brackets, and introduced as “GT’s note,” to differentiate them from the editors’ notes.  The annotations are numbered sequentially rather than by line number and can be accessed in one of two ways.  The user can move the cursor over a superscript number in the body of the text, so that a dialogue box will appear with the annotation alongside the line it is explaining, or the user can scroll down the poem and find the relevant numbered annotation where the notes are grouped together in sequence at the end of the text.

turnbulscreen2The texts and annotation are supplemented by Patrick Scott’s introductory essay on Turnbull’s life and writings and by a reference bibliography.  All text files have been marked-up and prepared in accordance with TEI P5 guidelines—the standard XML language in the humanities—to allow for greater interoperability, both in this edition and future projects.  Work on the edition was supported by an ASPIRE grant from the Vice-President for Research, University of South Carolina.  The online edition is complete in itself, but Patrick Scott’s selection, A Bard Unkend:  Selected Poems in the Scottish Dialect by Gavin Turnbull (Scottish Poetry Reprints no. 10, 2015), is also available, as a print-on-demand paperback and on-line, and a parallel print edition is under consideration.

Engaging Students in The Digital Eighteenth Century

In fall 2014, Dermot Ryan—an associate professor in the Department of English at Loyola Marymount University—and Melanie Hubbard—the university’s digital scholarship librarian—designed and taught The Digital Eighteenth Century, a class which culminated in the creation of a digital space that showcases the digital projects students completed over the course of the semester.  You can find a video introduction to our class and the various student digital projects at [email protected].

Our concept for the class was simple:  students would better grasp the literature and culture of the eighteenth century by drawing connections between the eighteenth-century print revolution and aspects of the current digital communications revolution.  The incorporation of digital tools and assignments was intended to illustrate and provide hands-on experience with this technological shift as well as give students a new way into the study and presentation of eighteenth-century cultural materials.

The assignments were fairly basic.  Students used the Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) database not simply to locate specific texts but rather to answer basic research questions.  How many titles containing the adjective “lyrical” appear before the 1798 publication of Lyrical Ballads?  Can we trace any other literature on children chimney sweepers before William Blake’s poem on the subject?  Can we locate sources for the figure of the hermit in Charlotte Smith’s poem Beachy Head?  Students used TimeMapper to track the development of eighteenth-century literary or cultural events across space as well as time (see example).  Poetry Genius, an online annotation tool, was used to become more familiar with eighteenth-century poetry (see example).  Students brought eighteenth-century visual and literary culture together by creating digital essays in Tumblr (see example).  Because their work would be public, students were required to keep their audience in mind and ask themselves the following types of questions:  What helps me understand the literature and cultural artifacts that we are studying in this class?  How do I present these materials in a manner that a broader audience would find accessible and compelling?

The students’ projects are now part of [email protected], a site that Melanie created to be a hub for LMU’s current and future DH projects.  In a sense, The Digital Eighteenth Century was our practical response to a series of interrelated challenges that many of our colleagues face:  How do you foster digital humanities at a university that is largely focused on undergraduate education and has many of the trademarks of a liberal arts college?  How do you get from zero with little or no resources and a minimum of institutional support?  How do you do that when you yourself have had little or no institutional exposure to professional training in the tools, practices, and methods of DH?

We discussed our experience of designing and teaching this course at the 2014 Digital Scholarship Colloquium organized by the Freedman Center for Digital Scholarship at Case Western Reserve University’s Kelvin Smith Library.  Our presentation entitled “The Promise of Digital (Undergraduate) Research:  A Perspective from a Liberal Arts College” is available for viewing.  In this presentation we explain that our discussions about DH began with our desire to engage more humanities students in undergraduate research (UR).  We speculated that DH could help us overcome some of the difficulties with sustaining UR culture in the humanities.  Such difficulties include:

  • Research in the humanities tends to be non-collaborative.
  • UR in the humanities has traditionally involved student-led initiatives with students working on topics related only tangentially to a faculty member’s own research.
  • Research in the humanities cannot be easily “segmented” into manageable units for undergraduate researchers.
  • There is a high threshold to entry into humanities research.
  • There is no incentive:  in universities that do not have large Ph.D. or postdoctoral programs, the sciences “need” undergraduates to conduct research; conversely, UR potentially distracts humanist scholars from their research.

Ways in which we feel DH can potentially address these challenges include:

  • DH can challenge the canard that research in the humanities is inherently non-collaborative.
  • Research projects in DH can be parsed into manageable units.
  • DH can allow us to generate online research projects that allow for ongoing student/faculty collaboration while contributing to faculty scholarship, rather than diverting attention from faculty research.

The eighteenth century is a particularly rich time period for these kinds of faculty and student collaborations not only because eighteenth-century print culture with its focus on social networking and media storms bears some striking resemblances to our particular moment but also because there are a number of rich online eighteenth-century resources, like ECCO, on which our students can draw.

Isaiah Thomas Broadside Ballads Project: Verses in Vogue with the Vulgar

What do Red Jacket, Pompey Fleet, James Macpherson, Mary Washington, and Geoffrey Chaucer have in common? They all are depicted in, influences for, or creators of the 300 broadside ballads Isaiah Thomas (1749-1831) collected from Boston printer Nathaniel Coverly in 1814.  Mostly printed in Coverly’s shop between 1812 and 1814, these ballads offer a window into street life in the early United States, with an eye toward the future but with a preoccupation with the past.  Thomas coined the phrase “verses in vogue with the vulgar” to describe this collection that he had bound in three volumes and that are some of the American Antiquarian Society’s earliest holdings.

With over 800 images and 300 mini-essays, Isaiah Thomas Broadside Ballads Project: Verses in Vogue with the Vulgar offers a unique and comprehensive view of the broadsides that Isaiah Thomas collected.  Each broadside includes a brief explanation of its content by Kate Van Winkle Keller.  The Isaiah Thomas Broadside Ballads Project includes over 30 ballads performed by David and Ginger Hildebrand as mp3s on the site.  And 25 broadsides (and counting!) have been transcribed with TEI-encoded XML available for download.  In addition to the short essays that accompany each broadside, longer essays by Keller, Dianne Dugaw, and Marcus McCorison give an overview of the content, detailing the Coverly printing networkthe type and paper used to print the broadsides, and the culture of song in early America.  All of the sources cited in these essays and in the individual broadside essays are in the Works Cited, which includes over 1,200 sources.  Please join our Zotero group, which is open to the public and will allow a user to export these citations as needed.

In the spirit of AAS’s rich tradition of deep cataloging, extensive subject headings are provided for each broadside, and these subject headings can all be searched.  This index of topics covered in the ballads allows a user to group the ballads thematically in a way analogous to chapters in a book.  For example, by clicking on “Adultery” one can see that two broadsides include ballads on this subject:  “Penny-Worth of Wit” and “The Country ’Squire.” Note too that the subject headings appear at the bottom of the page.  By clicking on “children,” one can see the 10 total items that include this subject heading as well.  Any combination of search results can be exported by the user in a number of machine-readable formats.  Additional mechanisms are also in place to illuminate the relationality of the broadsides.  For example, most individual essays make reference to other ballads that share a tune or perhaps a thematic link.  In addition, the woodcuts that appear on multiple broadsides can be traced.

“Looking for the Longitude”

Screen ShotLongitude was a hot topic in eighteenth-century Britain.  What we might perceive now as a niche, and perhaps rather uninteresting, navigational problem, was then crucial to finding a means of accurately measuring longitude at sea as Britain’s trade and naval aspirations expanded.  Supported by very large award monies from the government, the search for a solution became a subject of national discussion, ridicule, and social relevance appearing in every conceivable type of source from newspapers and novels to prints and paintings.

My research looks at that plethora of paper materials, which had to be navigated on land by any person putting forward a potential solution, before it would ever be trialed at sea.  The questions, conversations, jokes, diagrams, and drawings in which Georgian men and women referenced longitude become visible in precisely the sorts of digital databases and collections that The 18th-Century Common seeks to showcase.  It is the ability to search these sets of materials that makes visible the kinds of throwaway references to longitude that would otherwise be almost impossible to locate, stimulating further research in physical collections.

Digital resources, furthermore, allow us to begin to reconstruct the patterns of production as well as the use and reference in texts and images that physical collections can obscure.  My recent project with the Paul Mellon Centre’s innovative online journal, British Art Studies, has begun to think about what possibilities this might offer.  “Looking for the Longitude” brings together a series of images and commentaries to consider how people experienced the longitude debate in eighteenth-century London, using as a starting point an engraving from William Hogarth’s famous series, A Rake’s Progress.  A pirate version of the image, done from the copyist’s memory of the original painting in Hogarth’s studio, offers the opportunity to examine what the copyist remembered and altered.  Marshaling a selection of texts and images that circulated at the time serves to show how such materials would have affected what this copyist, and other viewers, saw in Hogarth’s engraving.  It allows us to construct a period eye.

This was also a particularly London story, however, tied to a group of metropolitan locations that shaped production and consumption of text and image.  Each of my longitude images is therefore located on an interactive map and enhanced by commentary from a group of expert contributors, ranging across histories of art and science.  They consider the significance of the urban setting, bringing into play a further circle of materials and texts.  Over the course of 11 days in June 2016, these appeared as part of a daily Twitter tour that you could, and still can, follow around the British capital.

My hope is that this digital project serves to reconstruct a sense of the rapid production and discussion, the buzz and fervor, that surrounded the longitude problem in the eighteenth century; and that in combining digital collections with digital publishing it makes the case for what such platforms can achieve.