The Features section of The 18th-Century Common collects original pieces written by scholars and graduate students specifically for this site. Here scholars describe their recent books, digital projects, or other research, discuss museum exhibits, or examine current events with a connection to the eighteenth century.
We’re always looking for new material! If you are interested in writing a Features piece for The 18th-Century Common, click Get Involved.
The Restoration Printed Fiction database, now available online, catalogs metadata for the 394 works of fiction published between 1660 and 1700. To generate this list of fiction, entries were drawn from three main bibliographic sources (with some additions): Paul Salzman’s English Prose Fiction 1558-1700, Robert Letellier’s The English Novel, 1660-1700, and Robert Adams Day’s Told in Letters. For the purposes of the database, fiction was defined very broadly; given the novel genre’s emergent status at the time, it makes little sense to apply any kind of strict definition that would not have operated for contemporary readers. If one of the bibliographies (or another scholarly source) treated it as fiction, it was included in the database. This broad approach makes it possible for scholars to cast a wide net when considering the nature of fiction. Also, I’ve only included the first printing in this period of a given text: If a text was first published before 1660, I included the first edition that was published after 1660; for texts first published after 1660, only the first edition is listed. In a later phase of the project, it may be possible to include subsequent editions, which would be helpful in gauging the popularity of texts.
Writing this book was a great pleasure because it allowed me to investigate one of my favorite forms of fiction while employing my scholarly interest in the development of the novel. I realized that I have been reading historical fiction for most of my life. Writers of historical fiction today need not have read a Waverley Novel in order to be influenced by Walter Scott, any more than we need to know who our great-great-grandparents are for our genes to be affected by them. The first section of my book contains two chapters that develop this critical framework. In the second, I devote two chapters to the establishment of authenticity while retaining accessibility, the first on literary intertextuality and the second on the use of images, such as portraits, both historical and fictional. Readers of historical fiction are interested in the “truth” of the narrative, but they generally are concerned about the what and I am interested in the how, which is the function of romance. The third section covers the metamorphosis of the form, with the first chapter discussing three subgenres: the embedded narrative, the historical detective novel, and young adult fiction.
There’s no question that celebrity style has long had an impact on the fashion world—think Beau Brummell, Lillie Langtry, Jean Harlow, Katherine Hepburn. The question is how new is the celebrity-cum-couturier? The life of the British actress Mary Robinson (1757?-1800) would suggest that celebrity clothing and accessory lines are, in fact, nothing new.
On April 22, a vast cohort of scientists and their allies descended on Washington to take part in the DC March for Science. Researchers and educators, academics and civilians, town and gown, stood together to “express their fealty to reason, data, and, above all, the scientific method,” as a recent New Yorker article put it. Striking back at a Administration that has openly denied scientific consensus on issues such as climate change, even going so far as to purge scientific data from government servers, scientists marched against what seems to many like a sudden and shocking politicization of science. It’s like its 1676 all over again.
“One domestic, at least, that may be spared”: Male Violence and Female Pet Keeping in Eliza Haywood’s Betsy Thoughtless
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.
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.
Humanities 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 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.
The 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’.
The Collected Poems of Gavin Turnbull Online presents the first-ever full collection of writings by the Scottish poet Gavin Turnbull (1765-1816). Turnbull, a younger contemporary of Robert Burns, started writing 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. In the 200 years since Turnbull died, only a handful of his poems have been available in anthologies or online, and his Charleston writings have never previously been collected. The open-access digital edition collects and annotates all Turnbull’s extant writing, both in Scotland and later in America, including his prefaces and his short play The Recruit (1794).
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.
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 (1749-1831) collected in early nineteenth-century Boston.
Longitude was a hot topic in eighteenth-century Britain. “Looking for the Longitude” brings together a series of images and commentaries to consider how people experienced the longitude debate in eighteenth-century London.
Sheffield: Print, Protest and Poetry, 1790-1810 is an ever-growing digital anthology of protest poetry printed in Sheffield’s radical press at the end of the eighteenth century.
Directed by Dr Hamish Mathison and researched by Dr Adam James Smith, the anthology was born of an AHRC-funded cultural engagement project focusing on the full collections of The Sheffield Register (1787-1794) and The Sheffield Iris (1794-1825) newspapers held in University Library Special Collections. The Register was edited by Joseph Gales, the Iris by Sheffield’s legendary poet and prolific champion of cause, James Montgomery.
The Marquis d’Argens (1704-1772) is mainly famous for a book he did not write, Thérèse Philosophe. That is a great pity, as the books he did actually write are far more fascinating and entertaining than that unfortunate misattribution. D’Argens was a sceptic, a thorn in the side of the Catholic Church, whose books were denounced by the Inquisition; one of them, La Philosophie du Bon-Sens, was burnt in Paris. He was also a close friend of Voltaire, and belonged to the generation that is often overshadowed by that towering genius.
The Anne Finch Digital Archive complements the print edition of Anne Finch’s works, forthcoming from Cambridge University Press. Materials on the open-access Anne Finch Digital Archive enable users to explore the archival elements of Finch’s texts. The featured poems on this site have been selected from a great number in Finch’s œuvre to illustrate her work in different poetic kinds, including song, fable, biblical paraphrase, translation, verse epistle, and devotional poetry. For every featured poem, the site includes commentary with embedded links to illustrations, information about composition and printing dates and sources, audio files of the poem read aloud, and source copies showing authorized manuscript and print texts with transcriptions. We will continue to add resources to the site, including recordings of musical performances of the songs featured. The multimedia elements of this site reflect the various ways that Finch’s work engaged her contemporary readers and listeners, who knew her work in manuscript, print, or performance, or in all of these forms.
As any reader of The 18th-Century Common knows, the last quarter century has witnessed the astonishing digitization of thousands of texts from the past: novels, poems, essays, histories, plays, many of them available for free. For scholars, the creation of this Digital Republic of Learning has (on the whole) been a boon, enabling new modes of inquiry that could barely have been imagined a generation ago. For students, however, the digitization of the archive has been a more mixed blessing. As newcomers to the field, students can very easily find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer abundance of material that shows up in the simple Google search that is likely to be their first means of access. Students are unlikely to know how to judge of the quality or authenticity of what they find, or to be able to recognize the difference between a well-edited text and something with virtually no authority whatsoever. Our projects intend to improve the quality of eighteenth-century texts available for students, general readers, and scholars, and to enlist students in the project of producing them.
The Letters of Hannah More: A Digital Edition brings together for the first time the fascinating letters written by the celebrated playwright, poet, philanthropist, moralist and educationalist Hannah More (1745-1833).
More was one of the most important voices of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. At the heart of a complex and extensive network of politicians, bishops, writers, and evangelical Christians which included figures such as William Wilberforce, Samuel Johnson and Elizabeth Montagu, More sought to redefine and reshape the social and moral values of the age.
‘The Lady’s Magazine (1770-1818): Understanding the Emergence of a Genre’ is a two-year project funded by the Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant scheme. The team of academics behind it is based at the University of Kent and is led by Jennie Batchelor, who works closely with the project’s two full-time Postdoctoral Researchers: Koenraad Claes and Jenny DiPlacidi. Our aim is to shed new light on one of the first and longest running women’s magazines of all time.
he Eighteenth-Century Poetry Archive (ECPA) is a digital project in support of the teaching, study, and research of the poetry of the long eighteenth century. It comprises a full-text collection of richly-encoded digital texts and a research project that aims to integrate texts and (digital) scholarship into a curated research collection. ECPA is based on the principle of user participation, the corpus is edited and annotated collaboratively, and will grow and evolve with the requirements and interests of its users.
The Novels Reviewed Database, 1790-1820 (NRD) is the first and only database to focus on one genre’s historical reception. Cataloging reviews of novels from the period’s two foremost review periodicals, the Monthly Review and the Critical Review, the NRD brings together book reviews and book market data, providing a repository of criticism reacting in print to this period in the novel’s, and women’s, literary history.
The Mind Is a Collection is a born-digital museum of early modern cognitive models. For the last decade or so, I have been studying the spaces in which the philosophies of the British Enlightenment were thought, penned, or put into practice. One outcome of this research is a book, The Mind Is a Collection: Case Studies in Eighteenth Century Thought (Penn, 2015). But this book was all along imagined as the catalogue of a museum, a collection of the things that people used to make sense of mental processes. The Mind Is a Collection is that museum, gathering in one place roughly a hundred objects used to model the mind. Some of these objects can be found in private collections or museums around the world, but others have vanished, are fixed in place, or never existed in the first place.
Every reader of eighteenth-century literature is familiar with the paradox of the Google Books era: while the archive of digital texts has expanded exponentially in recent years, our ability to locate them has diminished. Even basic bibliographic details such as complete titles, prefatory materials, narrative forms, and tables of contents are often missing from digital facsimiles. The Early Novels Database (END) project reunites missing metadata with digital facsimiles of early fiction to make them easier to find and categorize. Uniting twenty-first-century data structures with the sensibility of eighteenth-century indexing practices, the project creates detailed metadata about novels published between 1660 and 1850.
Thomas Gray is most famous for his poem “Elegy written in a country churchyard”. It was an instant success, and even today it is the most visited page on the Thomas Gray Archive website. There is more to Thomas Gray than just this one poem, however. Born in 1716, he was one of the key poetic figures in the early romanticism of the mid-eighteenth century. The Thomas Gray Archive aims to make all his writing universally accessible online, along with important secondary works and crowd-sourced comments from today’s researchers.
We live in a world saturated with advertising. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries new technologies and new media have been created or adapted to deliver so many marketing messages to potential consumers that sometimes it has become impossible to recognize advertising when we encounter it. Other times advertising is blatant, obvious, and even infuriating as it infringes on the rest of our daily activities. Many of us tend to think of advertising as a modern invention, something that became ubiquitous in American life as a result of radio, television, and the Internet. Sometimes we assume that widespread advertising got its start in the twentieth century. The Adverts 250 Project, however, offers a different story of advertising in America.
Home Subjects is a website and blog that brings together those interested in exploring an alternate history for the display of art in Great Britain: its important role in decorating the private interior, c. 1715-1914.
The decoration of and display of art in the private home have become the focus of a tremendous amount of academic energy during the past five years. Yet much scholarship of the past two decades has posited that British art developed primarily in relationship to the growing number of art institutions and exhibitions that captured the public imagination. This compelling narrative has overlooked the persistence of a cultural ideal premised on private and domestic spaces for exhibiting and experiencing art.
Where is fiction in manuscript during the age of print? While difficult to find the archive, it exists, and I collect it. Since 2009, I have collected examples of what I call “manuscript fiction”: a term I use to describe works (complete or incomplete) of fiction that survive during the age of print culture, despite never seeing print. (You can see my early work on this here) Some are found in the archive bound and resembling print in sizes ranging from heavy tomes to tiny packets, while some survive only in fragments. Some resemble print editions closely and include elaborate title pages, while others are barely decipherable without intense deciphering. Some contain chapters and a clear plot, and some ramble in ways worthy of Smollett or Richardson (or are, indeed, parodies of those famous novelists). Some are written by those famous in other fields (such as playwright/actor Charles Dibdin or Governor-General of India Warren Hastings), while some linger just on the edges of the historical record. While a few may have been imagined as future printed books, none of them made that leap.
James Gillray (1756-1815) was one of the greatest caricaturist of the 18th century. From around 1775 until 1810, he produced nearly 1000 prints—including brilliantly finished portrait caricatures of the rich, famous, or frivolous, wonderfully comic caricatures of people being awkward, and unquestionably the best satiric caricatures of British political and social life in the age of Napoleon. His preeminence in graphic satire, especially in the 1790s made him both sought after and feared. No sooner did a new Gillray print appear than it was sure to be plagiarized or imitated by contemporaries both in England and abroad. And even today, there are few political cartoonist who would not admit to some debt to Gillray’s work. For those interested in the development of English caricature and especially the prints of James Gillray, I have created a web site you can visit for a comprehensive overview of his work–James Gillray: Caricaturist.
Circulating Enlightenment introduces users to historical sources that document literary culture in eighteenth-century Edinburgh and London, along with e-learning modules for teaching. A growing suite of otherwise unpublished primary documents, largely correspondence between authors and their London bookseller, Andrew Millar (1705-68), can be downloaded and used for teaching and research—as scans of the original manuscripts, as direct transcription, and as edited materials. Circulating Enlightenment is an extension of an AHRC-funded research project, which collects, edits, and will publish (with Oxford University Press), the correspondence and business ledgers of Andrew Millar, one of the most important publishers of the eighteenth century.
Out of print for over a century, Stella, Haiti’s first novel, has often been overlooked. This neglect is partly due to a nineteenth-century colonial mentality that denigrated Haiti and Haitians, constantly judging them against standards established for the purpose of exclusion.
Appropriating the Restoration: Fictional Place and Time in Rose Tremain’s Restoration: A Novel of Seventeenth-Century England
It was the sixties—albeit the 1660s—a time for tricksters, rakes, subversive women and sexual energy on the stage. It was a time of fun for those with the means to partake of it. The “good old days” are, of course, always better from a distance, but writers on through the twentieth century found the Restoration an apt setting for their fictions about prostitution, political intrigue, and tragic or comic historical events, especially for the cinema.
What the Abyssinian Liar Can Tell us about True Stories: Knowledge, Skepticism, and James Bruce’s Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile
In 1773, James Bruce of Kinnaird returned to Europe after a decade of travel and study in North East Africa and Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia). Initially, the knowledge he brought back with him was favorably received by notable figures like the great naturalist the Comte de Buffon, Pope Clement XIV, King Louis XV, and Dr. Charles Burney, ethnomusicologist, composer, and father of author Frances Burney. But as time went on, the public began to grow suspicious of some of his stories, such as his claims that he had eaten lion meat with a tribe in North Africa or that Abyssinian soldiers cut steaks from the rumps of live cows, then stitched the cows up again and sent them out to pasture.
Now that Scots have voted to remain with the United Kingdom, perhaps it is more appropriate to recognize that the vote was also held during the bicentennial of Walter Scott’s Waverley—a novel that at once celebrates a distinctively Scottish identity and defends the established Union as a valuable political arrangement. This complex statement of Scotland’s union with England has echoes in the referendum itself.
Within the records of the early United States War Department, amidst the pay receipts and accounts of treaty negotiations with Native American tribes, there are glimpses into the life of relatively ordinary Americans, many illiterate, who served their country during the war for Independence.
Disasters permeate the daily news and saturate our consciousness. This, as Marie-Hélène Huet proposes in a new book, is the way of the modern world.
By tracing how intimacy has figured in popular memory of the Founders from their own lifetimes to the recent past, Sex and the Founding Fathers shows that sex has long been used to define their masculine character and political authority and has always figured in civic and national identity.
Faculty and students at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg are working on a long-range digital project — Digital Archives and Pacific Cultures — to code and analyze the voyage narratives of eighteenth-century European expeditions to the Pacific, together with the English poetry and print media that responded to the published accounts of Pacific voyages. We are attempting to study the cross-cultural significance of European voyages in the Pacific and cultural contact experiences in Oceania and Australia, using digital coding and “text-mining” to collect information from very long voyage records in systematic ways through computational methods.
Olaudah Equiano was most certainly a key figure in the abolition movement of the eighteenth century. His narrative, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African (1789), is one of the best known of the ere and […]
I don’t expect Walter Scott’s novels to be re-imagined to include kilt-wearing vampires any time soon. But I am confident that readers interested in the eighteenth century would be drawn to Scott’s representations and interpretations of what he recognized as a tumultuous and exuberant age.
“An Unknown Arc into the Future”: An Interview with Daniel Lewis, Curator of Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World
Megan Gallagher interviews Daniel Lewis, Curator of the Huntington Library’s exhibit, entitled Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World.
Fantomina: Or, Love in a Maze (1725) is perhaps Eliza Haywood’s most intriguing example of amatory fiction, and it provides a good case study for understanding the similarities between contemporary rape culture and the sexual conventions of the eighteenth century.
In her capacious understanding of not just the hows of behavior in public places, but the whys of behavior in public spaces, Austen prefigures the development of micro-sociology, those analyses of specific rituals, such as Georg Simmel’s study of cocktail party talk and flirtation, or Erving Goffman’s later analysis of civil inattention (how not to attract stranger’s attention on the street) or waiting room or elevator behavior.
Counter to my own argument in Desire and Domestic Fiction (1987) that domestic fiction proposes a self-enclosed household as a model for the modern nation, I’m contending that each Austen novel tears open the traditional household and disperses its members (especially daughters) by putting them into circulation.
So is Sterne a man for our times? I believe that he is, and that his voice, speaking of a humanity dominated by benevolence, is urgently needed to remind the religious of this basic component of their religion; to direct people towards their common humanity; and, in the course of this to help us to determine what, in fact, it means to be human.
We often think of feminism as something belonging to the twentieth century. But in 1791, Olympe de Gouges (1748-1793) wrote: “Man, are you capable of being just? It is a woman who asks you this question… Tell me, what gives you sovereign empire over my sex?” The first lines of the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and Citizeness might seem, to many of us, ahead of their time.
We might have grown skeptical about our cultural legacy, but it is quite natural for us to assume that our own cognitive theories are the latest word when compared with those of our predecessors. Yet in some areas, the questions we are now asking are not too different from those posed some two-three centuries ago, if not earlier.
The eighteenth century has served as the backdrop for some of the greatest historical novels, from William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Luck of Barry Lyndon (1844) to Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety (1992) and Thomas Pynchon’s Mason and Dixon (1997). But the century also produced a large number of historical novels, many of which are less well known. My book British Historical Fiction before Scott (2010) examines the popular historical novels of this era. I look at 85 novels published between 1762 and 1813 to explore how the conventions of the historical novel took shape during this period, how the genre grew out of but eventually branched off from the Gothic tradition, and how it was received by readers and reviewers.
In September 1792, on the day of the autumnal equinox, a Welshman named Iolo Morganwg met friends on Primrose Hill near what is now Regent’s Park in London. There, they made a circle out of stones. The largest stone was fashioned into an altar. On this altar was placed an unsheathed sword. Standing on these stones and dressed in wildly colored robes, the company recited Welsh history and poetry.
It is November 1794. The French Revolution has taken a sharp turn for the worse, and Britain and France have been at war for well over a year and a half. The English have recently witnessed the Treason Trials and the suspension of Habeas Corpus at home and the September Massacres, the Reign of Terror, the Glorious First of June, and the execution of Robespierre across the Channel. Soldiers are dying, the British government is hunting down spies and locking up radicals, and the nation is in a state of social and political unrest. It is at this time, at the very height of this tension, that Mary Robinson—the former actress, fashion icon, celebrity sensation, and mistress of the Prince of Wales—debuted her two-act comedy Nobody at London’s Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. The 29 November 1794 performance did not go well.
Kathleen Winsor’s historical romance Forever Amber (1944) and Laura Linker’s Dangerous Women, Libertine Epicures, and the Rise of Sensibility, 1670-1730 (Ashgate 2011).
Emma Donoghue’s historical novel Life Mask (2004) represents the lives of the 18th-century sculptor Anne Damer, actress Eliza Farren, and painter Thomas Lawrence. In a novel filled with artists and their subjects, a famous portrait plays a critical part in illuminating friendship and its rupture. Donoghue enhances the historical background of the creation and presentation of Lawrence’s portrait of Farren to reveal the conflicts that class and sexuality cause.
The physical garden was to Sir William Temple and other Epicureans a reflection of one’s mental landscape, and in the best of all possible worlds, one would stay in the garden–a position that Voltaire would later and more famously endorse in Candide. Like seventeenth-century definitions of wit, Temple’s philosophy of the garden expresses a balance of judgment and fancy, those gendered faculties of the mind, and an appropriate blend of reason and passion. The act of gardening for Temple was the practice of freeing the self from the disordered passions, unavoidable but capable of being subdued like wild weeds. One needs only a patch of earth, a shovel, and a life of the mind.
“Terrorist” first entered the English language in Edmund Burke’s Letters on a Regicide Peace, written and published throughout 1795 and 1796 –the politician and philosopher’s extended argument against England ending its war with France, and his last reaction to the French Revolution. It came directly from the French “terroriste” and “terrorisme,” both of which came into use in 1794, during the most violent phase of the Revolution.
In mid-October 1784, two major London newspapers dedicated the poems that were a regular feature on their final page to a set of comic meditations on a unique fashion trend that had developed shortly after the first-ever human flight in England the month before.
Margaret Koehler’s Poetry of Attention in the Eighteenth Century (Palgrave, 2012) makes a case for the relevance of eighteenth-century models of attention, suggesting that earlier accounts of cognition can be just as extensive, precise, and applicable to diverse realms of human experience as 21st-century theories.
Thomas Willis (1621-1675) thought there were two equal and opposite impulses at work when a person blushed, a modest retreat and an aggressive advance. In his book on mimicry, Dazzled and Deceived (2009), Peter Forbes has argued that all systems…
Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794), Enlightenment philosopher and Italian jurist, is back in the news. Lawyers for convicted murderer Jody Lee Miles in Maryland have used his argument against the death penalty.
In his two-part medical treatise, Erasmus Darwin—physician, scientist, and inventor—anticipates his grandson Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory by making a series of startling suggestions.
A small but significant body of English-language writing on Iceland started appearing in the last decades of the eighteenth century and the early years of the nineteenth, much which proclaims itself to be the product of exactly the sort of scientific and philosophical curiosity that…
The non-Western world was the “common” of 18th-century Europe, territory to be gradually colonized—fenced off, walled off, or hedged off—by powers looking to raise the value (and the rents) of their respective empires.
The concept of Africa as a unified region whose inhabitants share a common identity developed alongside the transatlantic slave trade of the eighteenth century.
What does genius look like? One place to start is the hair, to judge from photographs of Albert Einstein. The famous physicist was not the first to suggest that an unkempt mane is a sure sign of an active mind. When […]
Richard Holmes designates the “Romantic Age of Science” as The Age of Wonder, but what of wonder before the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries? For over two thousand years before Holmes’ “Romantic generation,” Pagan then Christian thinkers viewed wonder as […]
The archetype of German mad scientist continues to evoke fascination and wonder. In the twentieth century the early cinematic portrayal of the mad scientist from Fritz Lang’s Rotwang in Metropolis and Robert Wiene’s Dr. Caligeri in the Cabinet of Dr. Caligeri, contributed to […]
Richard Holmes’ chapter on “Mungo Park in Africa” fits rather uneasily within the rubric of The Age of Wonder and thus illustrates the some of the shortcomings of the book’s popular history. Holmes presumably includes Mungo Park’s 1794 voyage to explore the […]
The Romantic poets are often viewed as antagonistic to science. For example, Theodore Ziolkowski suggests in his article, “Science, Frankenstein, and Myth,” that the radical application of science practiced by the Romantic-era polymaths often became a “mindless pursuit of knowledge with no […]
In The Age of Wonder, Richard Holmes focuses his chapters “Herschel on the Moon” and “Herschel Among the Stars” on telling the story of William Herschel and his scientific career as well as Caroline Herschel’s role in her brother William’s success. […]
In the wake of last summer’s debt-ceiling crisis, Republicans blamed America’s slow economic recovery on big government – or rather, the threat of big government. They claimed that a “climate of uncertainty” – a fear of future regulations and taxation – was keeping “job […]