September 14, 2016
Now Available: 19th Century Studies, Vol. 25.
March 7, 2013
NCS introduces new online reviews feature. See online reviews.
March 1, 2011
NCSA introduces new Nineteenth Century Studies journal Web site.
March 15, 2010
Now Available: 19th Century Studies, Vol. 22.
Necromanticism: Travelling to Meet the Dead, 1750–1860. By Paul Westover. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Pp. v + 217. 7 black-and-white illustrations. $85.00 (cloth).
Paul Westover’s insightful analysis of literary tourism between 1750 and 1860 places pilgrimage to authors’ “homes, landscapes, and especially graves” (p. 3) at the center of a set of cultural processes that elided the ideal as represented by fiction with the real as experienced in everyday life. For Westover, the explosion of literary tourism during this period emerges from readers seeking to exhume the material reality of authors entombed by fiction’s rapid and epistemologically disorienting proliferation. Thus, the grave becomes the governing metaphor of necromanticism, which is Westover’s compelling neologism for period-defining “oscillations” between the stuff of life and the stuff of fiction (p. 5). Examples of these tense oscillations include tourism’s simultaneous charting of “geographical and imaginary terrains,” its blurring of the boundary between “implied authors and embodied ones,” as well as its enthusiastic collecting of dead authors’ “literary and physical relics” (p. 5). Filtering Lord Kames’s (1696–1782) concept of “ideal presence” through Derrida, Westover argues that graves functioned as “transcendental signified[s]” (pp. 24-25), by which he means that the period’s emerging investments in presence, authenticity, reputation, canonicity, and national literary heritage come together when one grasps the cultural principle that drove reader-travelers to blend fact with fiction while journeying to dead authors’ resting places.
By convincingly situating graves and their conceptual analogues at the center of the Romantic era’s signifying system, Westover enables himself to link disparate phenomena while also extending the cultural heritage of Romanticism into the Victorian period and across the Atlantic in compelling ways. In this respect, it is appropriate that his book highlights travel as its central dynamic, for the reader is invited to trace unconventional theoretical byways—for instance, from Enlightenment fictional theory to photographic “illustrations” commingling lived and literary terrains, or from the European grand tour to nineteenth-century American writers’ simulacral tours of Britain. These and other trajectories add up to a work that will appeal widely to scholars of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century anglophone literature and culture. In fact, Westover’s interventions into contemporary scholarship are provocative, as when he links the production of literary posterity to recent studies in literacy and print history by Andrew Piper and William St Clair, when he teases out the complex relationship of religious pilgrimage to literary pilgrimage, when he marshals socio-anthropological tools to frame monumentality as community formation, and when he ties necromanticism to suspiciously unreal photorealism. This list forms only an abbreviated accounting of the book’s theoretical stakes. It is also notable that Westover brings a rich breadth of philosophical references to the table, a dimension that is sometimes underemphasized in books as conceptually and temporally focused as this one.
Because Necromanticism offers a broad reconceptualization of a multifaceted literary period, the author could have formulated his materials in a number of ways. The organization he has chosen makes sense even though the topic’s girth means that there is ample space for rereading and rebutting what he has and has not included. The author opting to begin with theory, the book’s introduction contains a cogent definition of necromanticism, and the first chapter sketches the prehistory of necromanticism through the Scottish Enlightenment’s concern with “ideal presence” (p. 11). The second chapter provides a genealogy of literary tourism that interweaves sacred pilgrimage, eighteenth-century Continental tourism, domestic tourism during the French Revolution, as well as the creation of martial, national, and literary monuments within the domestic space during these latter revolutionary upheavals. Chapter three is what Westover himself calls a “core chapter” (p. 12). In it, he reads Godwin’s Essay on Sepulchres (1809)—a “necro-tourist manifesto” (p. 27)—alongside fascinating case studies documenting the satisfactions and surprises of tourists who set about tracking down jumbled reliquaries to the real lives and creative works of William Shakespeare (1564–1616), John Milton (1608–74), Robert Burns (1759–96), and others.
Chapter four focuses on the necromanticism of Felicia Hemans (1793–1835), and aside from a brief later section on Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–96), this chapter is the book’s most sustained engagement with authorship and gender. This dimension might have cropped up in other ways—for example, through a consideration of women’s writing and anonymity—but nonetheless Westover’s readings of Hemans’s “England’s Dead” (1822) and her graveside tribute poems are timely and insightful, especially insofar as they emphasize the necromantic dimensions of poetic journeys to monuments unseen. Chapter four is followed by a half-chapter interlude that is truly a pleasure. Here, Westover interrogates literary tourism’s effects on living authors and cleverly characterizes the peculiar position of being rendered immortal before one’s actual death—as in the case of William Wordsworth (1770–1850), about whom it was reported in the 1830s and 1840s that “literary tourists in the Lake District were often startled to find Wordsworth alive” (p. 94). The fifth chapter will interest scholars working on transatlantic exchange, for herein Westover addresses the ways that American visions of British writing shaped British national literary heritage in addition to the increasingly necromantic tourism industry. A surprising reading of literary tours through Britain by the abolitionist lecturer, William Wells Brown (1814–84), injects race and cultural inheritance into the equation, although given different parameters this treatment might have been more robust. Finally, Westover’s sixth chapter features an incisive, multimedia reading of the problem of the ideal versus the real vis-à-vis the legions of illustration books that fed touristic zeal for conceptual mappings of Walter Scott’s (1771–1832) real and created spaces.
One difficulty of this text is that the breadth of Westover’s vision and the briefness of the book collude to make certain assertions feel either tentative or offhanded. Toward the end, for example, the author suggests a provocative analogy that is never filled out: “Reflecting on the participatory nature of Web 2.0 tempts me retroactively to describe Romantic-era literary tourism as Reading 2.0” (p. 172). In truth, I found this fugitive moment tremendously insightful, as it made Westover’s theories of the nineteenth century seem inextricable from contemporary network and media theory; and despite the occasional cursory treatment, the book is well worth reading, if not for its lively treatment of the topic, then for the laudable way it models energetic and passionate scholarship alongside critical self-awareness.
George Washington University
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Rambles of a Runaway from Southern Slavery. By Henry Goings. Edited by Calvin Schermerhorn, Michael Plunkett, and Edward Gaynor. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012. Pp. xxxvi + 157. 4 black-and-white maps. $45 (cloth); $30 (paper).
The appearance in 2012 of a rediscovered slave narrative written by a certain Henry Goings was significant news for scholars of the genre and for those who teach nineteenth-century American history and literature. In 2006, a private book dealer sold the edition to the University of Virginia Library’s Special Collections; the editors traced it to a former slave by the name, not of Goings, but of Henry Gowens of Ontario, Canada, who had promised in 1855 to write the account of his life. In keeping with the Nineteenth Century Studies Association’s 2013 conference theme, Loco/Motion, the former slave, whose narrative we now have the privilege of reading, was peripatetic for much of his life, whether enslaved or free, a fact attested to by frequent changes in his name and his locale.
Born Elijah Turner, sometime around 1810, the young man took the name Henry Goings from that on the “free papers” he purchased to secure his freedom; as the editors note, “Goings was an appropriate name for the author…[He] was moved about the landscape…according to the designs of slaveholders and slave traders” (p. xiv), traveling hundreds of miles in total. As a “rambling” slave, he spent time in places such as Raleigh, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Florence, Alabama (named for the Tuscan city); and Milledgeville, Georgia, the state’s capital from 1804 to 1868; and he traveled by horse as well as by a steamboat, which made its maiden voyage on the Tennessee River with Goings aboard. Throughout the ensuing decades, his name appeared as “Gowens,” “Gouins,” “Goins,” and “Goings.”
The history of Henry Goings, and of the narrative itself, is admirably traced by the three editors of the volume, and is meticulously supported by verifiable data drawn from a wide variety of primary records and sources. The volume no doubt benefits from the fact that two of the three editors work or once worked in Special Collections at the University of Virginia. It includes a revelatory preface by Edward Gaynor and Michael Plunkett on the discovery of the narrative; an informative and insightful introduction by Calvin Schermerhorn regarding the importance of the work; a chronology; several appendices; very detailed notes; and a bibliography and index. In short, this is a superbly researched and highly important contribution to the field of nineteenth-century American studies.
Goings begins his story in the typical fashion of the genre, and is almost identical to the manner in which Frederick Douglass (1817–95) begins his, The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (1845), with the fact that he does not know his birth date. Unlike Douglass, however, Goings is sure of his parentage, though he does not mention their race. It is thus a little confusing when he later writes that, on one occasion during his escape, he was taken for a white man. The first three chapters chronicle his life in slavery, including the separation from family members and the denial of any education.
By the end of chapter one, Goings has decided to escape, a journey he details in the shorter second chapter. Still, these pages remain fascinating because they fill the lacunae left by other slave narratives. Goings reveals the step-by-step process he endures to attain freedom. In the third chapter, Goings arrives in Canada, where he is nearly victimized by being forced into slavery again, but returns to freedom and is married to his second wife (the first he was never able to rescue from slavery). According to the editors, Goings wrote these first three chapters around 1859 or 1860; he added the fourth and fifth chapters later, after he was settled, remarried, and had had children. The latter chapters are more general in tone, and comment on such issues as the Civil War; the state of the church for blacks; the Irish orator, Richard Lalor Sheil (1791–1851); and life in the Southern states in the era of Reconstruction. Thereafter, Goings also wrote a 41-page appendix, which amounts, like in the appendix of Douglass’s Narrative, to a lengthy political manifesto regarding freedom and citizenship for blacks. Here he seems to despair of black Americans ever becoming full citizens. He writes: “I would say then to my lately emancipated brethren, unite as one man in your resolve to emigrate to British Honduras. There you may, and can become a nation” (p. 81).
Goings was able to publish his narrative in 1869, and to do so without the usual sponsorship of abolitionists; also, unlike the typical escaped or freed slave, Goings did not become an abolitionist. For example, the editors note that three of Goings’s contemporaries—Henry Bibb (1815–54), William Wells Brown (1814–84), and Josiah Henson (1789–1883)—all lived or worked near where Goings did, but they established careers as abolitionist speakers or agents, and were connected to a broader network of activism. Goings, by contrast, “spoke as an independent observer and [as] someone who made his living from the quotidian activities of barbering, waiting [tables], stewarding, and selling, real estate and his own labor” (pp. xv–xvi). Also unlike Bibb, Brown, and Henson—and Frederick Douglass—Goings worked throughout his freed life in relative obscurity. While all five of these men published autobiographies in their lifetimes, Goings was unique in that his was pitched to African Americans like himself, who focused on raising their families and earning a living. (He had five children by his second wife, Martha Bentley.)
This becomes particularly clear in his fifth chapter when he offers advice on establishing oneself in the Southern states in the post–Civil War years. Invoking his “dear Brethren,” his “colored Brethren,” and the “Colored Sons of Africa,” Goings beseeches his fellow African Americans to keep alive Abraham Lincoln (1809–64) in their memories (p. 71); to “[a]ct as men” (p. 73); to work “with the cheerfulness that freedom always bestows” (p. 73); and to “put the means of mental elevation within your children’s reach” (p. 75).
In sum, the Rambles of Henry Goings reveals that slaves were not always bound to the plantation; rather, they could be found perpetually roaming the country’s roads as they followed a master from place to place. Epitomizing the transitory nature of life in the mid- and late-nineteenth century, Goings’s reflections offer important primary documents of African American life before, during, and after the Civil War. It is commendable indeed that the University of Virginia Press and the editors have brought to light such a well-researched and engaging volume.
Elif S. Armbruster
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Sanctified Landscape: Writers, Artists, and the Hudson River Valley, 1820–1909. By David Schuyler. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2012. Pp. xii + 206. 33 black-and-white illustrations and 14 color plates. $29.95 (cloth).
When Heraclitus said you can’t step in the same river twice, he wasn’t thinking of the Hudson, but his remark aptly describes the ever-changing historiography of this river valley. For two centuries, the Hudson has been an inexhaustible source of material about American culture. In Sanctified Landscape: Writers, Artists, and the Hudson River Valley, 1820-1909, David Schuyler, the Arthur and Katherine Shadek Professor of Humanities and American Studies at Franklin & Marshall College, tells the river’s story through the eyes of an “educated elite”: the artists Thomas Cole (1801–48) and Jervis McEntee (1828–91), the writers Washington Irving (1783–1859) and Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806–67), the landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing, the historian Benson John Lossing (1813–91), and the naturalist John Burroughs (1837–1921). According to Schuyler, the book’s title was inspired by the painter Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School of landscape painting, who stated that the valley’s strategic importance during the Revolutionary War had “sanctified many a spot” (p. 1). Not to be confused with the sacred cult of wilderness that Cole promulgated, Schuyler’s “sanctified landscape” is a distinctly human habitat. The anthropocentric perspective is the distinguishing feature of his approach to the subject.
Schuyler develops three themes: first, the selected artists’ and writers’ evolving attitudes toward the landscape during a period of “tremendous economic, social, and environmental change”; second, “the importance of historical memory” (p. 2), specifically, the role of the Hudson Valley in the Revolutionary War and the movement to preserve its historic landmarks; and third, the “domestication of the Hudson Valley”; the building of private residences along the river that “civilized the landscape” and promoted an aesthetic that became a national model (p. 3).
Schuyler is an experienced guide to the region having previously published articles on tourism in the Hudson River Valley from 1820 to 1850, as well as a biography of Andrew Jackson Downing. He provides the reader with two maps of the focus area, a hundred-mile expanse of the lower Hudson punctuated by historic sites from Washington Irving’s home Sunnyside at Tarrytown in the south to Thomas Cole’s Cedar Grove at Catksill in the north. The journey begins in the 1820s with the arrival of the first tourists at the new hotels in the Catskills and proceeds chronologically to the Hudson-Fulton Celebration commemorating the discovery of the river and the first successful commercial steamship in 1909.
The book is organized primarily as a series of biographical sketches interspersed with chapters discussing the growth of tourism, urban and industrial development, and historic preservation. Separate chapters devoted to Cole, Irving and Willis, McEntee and Burroughs provide an intimate look into their personal lives and careers and take the reader on a house tour of their now historic properties, most of which were designed by Downing’s partner, Calvert Vaux (1824–95). The lives of Washington Irving and Nathaniel Parker are combined in a single chapter, “The Writers’ River,” because “the careers and dwellings of both became inseparable from the public perception of the river” (p. 47). Remembered chiefly for his delightful legends of New York’s early Dutch history, the immensely successful Washington Irving was one of the first writers to sing the praises of the Hudson Valley. But even a man with his cultural status and political capital could not prevent the railroad from running in front of his idyllic estate Sunnyside. The younger N. P. Willis, whose residence Idlewild was built overlooking the river at Cornwall, was once a popular journalist who introduced a generation to the beauty and historic significance of the Hudson Valley primarily through his text for the illustrated gift book American Scenery (1836). In a similar fashion, historian Benson J. Lossing’s Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution (1850–52) generated patriotic appreciation of the Revolutionary War sites in the Hudson Valley. Restoring the important roles played by these now obscure writers in promoting preservation is one of the book’s contributions.
Another minor figure who receives attention is the Hudson River School landscape painter Jervis McEntee whose specialty was the late autumn woodland scene. McEntee’s house and studio, designed by Calvert Vaux circa 1854, is one of several Hudson Valley residences illustrated here with contemporary engravings and plans. Otherwise McEntee’s influence was slight, particularly when compared to his teacher, the internationally acclaimed landscape painter, Frederick Edwin Church (1826–1900). Why Schuyler does not discuss the career of Church, who was the living link between his teacher, Thomas Cole, and the second-generation Hudson River School painters, is perplexing. Church’s striking Persian-Moorish Revival mansion Olana built with Calvert Vaux in the town of Hudson is located on the book’s map, but it is not described in the text. None of Church’s numerous paintings of the Hudson Valley are mentioned, not even the panorama of Niagara’s Horseshoe Falls (1857) which became the iconic view, spread the fame of American scenery abroad, and influenced the decision of the state legislature to preserve the falls.
The issue of preservation gained ground during the second half of the nineteenth century, and Schuyler associates its rising importance with the disruption of the river communities by rapid industrialization, immigration and urbanization which he documents in detail. He analyses the competing aesthetic, economic and political interests that clashed over land use as signs of permanent damage to the natural environment created a sense of urgency in preservationists. Fortunately for them, their ideals were shared by Teddy Roosevelt (1858–1919), historian, nature-lover and governor of New York. Schuyler demonstrates that the convergence of the goals of historic preservation and scenic preservation towards the end of the century, represented by the organization of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society in 1895, was a force that could stand against the industrial lobby. His conclusion suggests that, by identifying the Hudson River Valley with the founding of the United States, preservation was raised from a regional concern to a national interest.
Patricia Likos Ricci
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Gateway to Vacationland: The Making of Portland, Maine. By John F. Bauman. Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012. Pp. xvii + 285. 29 black-and-white illustrations and 2 maps. $26.95 (paper).
Aesthetics rarely play a large role in the calculus of urban growth and development. Traditionally, city leaders viewed the various factors of growth solely through an economic lens. More recently, environmental issues have held increasing sway. But in Gateway to Vacationland, John F. Bauman chronicles the highs and lows of a city whose leaders consistently relied heavily on aesthetics to craft their visions of a thriving metropolis. He uses the theme of aesthetics to chart and link various patterns and highlights in Portland’s history. Major political, religious, business, and literary figures feature prominently and reveal how the events of one locality intertwined with the national narrative.
The book spans the entire chronology of the city’s existence, beginning with its founding in 1632 as a fur trading outpost. The first chapter succinctly covers almost two hundred years of Portland history. The author masterfully places the city firmly within the context of colonial, early national, and antebellum America, thus providing the background necessary to understand Portland’s later rise as a tourist destination. The rest of the book is devoted to this journey, Bauman continuing to tell the story of tourism with an eye on the rest of the country, thus showing the tensions in a city keenly aware of its place in America while persistently trying to compete in commerce and industry.
Originally called Falmouth, the town competed with other New England ports, setting it apart by supplying masts to the British navy. Renamed Portland in 1786, a bustling trans-Atlantic trade emerged, driving industrial growth and making the city a mid-sized regional hub during the antebellum era. It was closer to England than was Boston and, offering an ice-free harbor, proved an ideal place to store and ship Canadian winter grain. The need to transport grain provided the impetus for railroad construction, and ribbons of lines coming north from the rest of New England and south from Canada met in the “Forest City.”
Portland acquired that appellation for its “penchant for lining all its major streets with elms” (p. 29). Portland stood at the vanguard of the urban parks and beautification movement in America, hiring Frederick Law Olmsted (1822–1903) to enhance the beauty of the city. Tourism constituted the core of Portland’s economy and identity. The railroads which undergirded the modest manufacturing segment could be used to transport a growing middle class to the mountains and beaches of Maine. The city and its environs could also house a bustling hospitality industry.
A willingness to employ natural and man-made beauty typified Portland’s vision. After 1866, when the town was destroyed by fire, residents rebuilt with renewed commitment to aesthetics, using the fashionable styles of the day in both the downtown and business districts. The concept of beauty added impetus to the wide array of Gilded Age and Progressive Era reform movements. At the same time, tourism became an increasingly important part of the economy, and the city started advertising itself as the “gateway to vacationland” (p. 68).
The first half of the twentieth century reinforced dependence on tourism. Despite the boom years associated with two world wars, which added shipbuilding and oil to the economy, the city still could not compete with more established manufacturing and industrial centers, as depression and then post-war economic reconversion took their tolls. But through war and depression, Maine in general and Portland in particular continued to attract vacationers. The 1960s and 1970s exerted their transformative influences on the city as much as anywhere in the country. But the vision of a sun-splashed city by the sea, immortalized by the city’s most famous son, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–82), held fast, and in fact, grew stronger. City planners worked closely with the federal government for two decades updating and revitalizing the city, gearing improvements toward retaining and recovering the beauty of the past. By the dawning of another new century, the “Gateway to Vacationland” stood as poised as ever to welcome visitors to the beaches, forests, and mountains of Maine.
In many ways, Bauman’s history of Portland functions as a microhistory. While perhaps not as narrow in scope as true microhistory, the book uses the application of aesthetics in Portland as an interpretive window to view the effects of broader trends in American society on a particular location. The use of aesthetics as an interpretive lens adds an element of cultural history as well. Urban residents drew upon their own traditions—Puritan, Yankee, and maritime—to forge an existential nucleus which proved both long-lasting and adaptable. Without losing sight of the whole, the author delves into the details of this core to show the relationship between culture, economics, and individuals.
The greatest strength of the book is the author’s use of aesthetics, which can be hard to quantify. But the author does not try to define beauty. Rather, he tells the story of how Portlanders conceived the concept, thus showing the complexity of the driving historical force in the city, as residents prospered from good stewardship of their surroundings. In the final chapter, however, attention shifts from aesthetics to environmentalism. It is a subtle shift, and, in the context of Portland, both are concerned with preservation. However, the author might profitably have gone into the differences between the two, perhaps exploring the different loci of significance—the environment being something external to humans, and aesthetics something internal.
At the same time, however, this transition from internal to external actually gets to the original purpose of the “Gateway to Vacationland”—to attract people to the scenic wonders of Maine. This insight could be more pronounced, but it is there. And this slight modulation at the end hardly detracts from the narrative. Bauman’s work stands as a significant addition to urban history and demonstrates the importance of smaller and lesser-known cities to the saga of America.
West Virginia University
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George Eliot, European Novelist. By John Rignall. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2011. Pp. 184. $94.95 (cloth).
In George Eliot, European Novelist, John Rignall makes a case for reading George Eliot (1819–80) as a European, rather than British, novelist. The ten chapters of this book approach the subject of Eliot’s Europeanness in two ways: first, chapters one through four examine Eliot’s personal and creative engagement with Europe; secondly, chapters five through ten situate her work in relation to that of multiple European writers: Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850), Gustave Flaubert (1821–80), Gottfried Keller (1819–90), Theodore Fontane (1819–98), Marcel Proust (1871–1922), and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900).
Rignall’s treatment is confined mostly to the connections of Eliot’s fiction with French and German novels—“the other two great literatures of the world apart from English in her view” (p. 3). Rignall explains in his introduction that comparisons with the Russian novel will not be pursued, and the ties between Romola (1862–63) and Italian literature will receive only slight attention. Furthermore, Rignall admits that he will not address Eliot’s poetry. His approach concerns itself with literary affinity more than with authorial influence—whether influence upon Eliot, or hers upon others. Rignall sees Eliot’s work as interacting with that of other authors in a dialectical sense and argues that reading Eliot as a European novelist has “the effect of enlarging the fiction and displacing Englishness from its assumed centrality” (p. 8). Thus, the aim of the study is to widen perspectives of Eliot’s fiction in much the same sense that Eliot sought to “widen the English vision a little” with her writing.1
Rignall’s exploration of Eliot’s European travels and writings brings to light her reflections on foreign cultures, her ambivalence about French and German culture, her response to aggressive nationalism in history, and her attitudes toward England. Rignall establishes the importance of Europe to Eliot’s ability to reflect critically on and understand other cultures as well as her own. In a chapter outlining her views on France and Germany, Rignall discusses the juxtaposition of the Rhône and the Rhine river landscapes in The Mill on the Floss (1860), showing how the contrast reveals her (and England’s) wavering views on the two cultures—one representing historical continuity and the other associated with modernity. Rignall argues that Eliot’s comparison between France and Germany implies two literary modes associated with the old and the new, neither of which she explicitly committed herself to. Rignall’s discussion of Eliot’s depictions of European land- and cityscapes reveals her views on history, violence, and suffering.
Travel, for Eliot, serves to liberate and to alienate. The tension between the cultured, metropolitan mind and the pastoral, rooted mind plays out in her writing from Scenes of Clerical Life (1857) to The Impressions of Theophrastus Such (1879). This travel motif reveals Eliot’s shifting views on cosmopolitanism and her perception of travel as divided along gender lines. Whereas travel for male protagonists in Eliot’s fiction serves to enlarge the self, travel for female protagonists dramatizes crises of selfhood. Privileged by gender, Will Ladislaw and Daniel Deronda travel to explore and broaden their lives; while doing so, they do not face crises or potentially fatal danger. By contrast, journeys undertaken by Maggie Tulliver, Romola, Gwendolen, and Dorothea are painful—sometimes dangerous—labors of self-scrutiny. On the whole, however, Rignall reveals that Eliot challenges the reader’s imagination by broadening geographical boundaries and introducing new cultural contexts.
Having established the centrality of Europe to Eliot’s ideas, Rignall devotes the second part of his book to connecting her with other Continental authors. A chapter on Balzac compares the two authors’ use of provincial life; Rignall traces patterns of difference and likeness to show that Eliot diverges from Balzac to promote sympathy for her characters. A comparison of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1856) with Middlemarch (1874) reveals a similar theme of “diffusion,” which represents the instability of modernity (“Diffusion” found on p. 87 of Rignall). In a discussion of Eliot’s affinity with German contemporaries, Gottfried Keller and Theodore Fontane, Rignall links the elegiac strain of the authors’ novels and lives. Rignall devotes two chapters to Daniel Deronda(1876): he first reads the novel in the context of the Jewish Diaspora and as a representation of Jewish and European life; then he then places the work in a tradition of French novels that harkens back to the realism of Balzac and Flaubert and anticipates the modernity of Proust. Rignall’s final chapter fascinatingly places Eliot in conversation with one of her detractors, Nietzsche, bringing to light the writers’ similar mistrust of intellectual systems, use of language, and understanding of history and modernity.
In connecting Eliot with various European authors, Rignall places her in a larger discussion of European authorship. His accessible prose and thoughtful comparative readings make George Eliot, European Novelist a worthy and important contribution to the field of transnational literary studies.
John V. Roach Honors College
1 George Eliot, letter to John Blackwood, The George Eliot Letters, vol. 6, ed. Gordon Sherman Haight (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1954), 304.
Victorians in the Mountains: Sinking the Sublime. By Anne C. Colley. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2013. Pp. vii + 228. 45 black-and-white illustrations. $104.95 (cloth).
In her work, literary critic Ann Colley examines a shift from the eighteenth-century “cult of sublimity” to a “perspective in the second half of the nineteenth century that often diminished, compromised, and either consciously ignored or reshaped the [sublime] experience” (p. 2).
Her book is organized into three parts. In part 1, “Tourists, Climbers, and the Sublime,” Colley explores how the traveling habits of middle- to upper-middle-class English men and women began to erode the more notable features necessary to confront the sublime—namely, the prerequisites of “silence and solitude” (p. 20). Using entries from personal diaries, satirical cartoons from newspapers, and archival materials from the Alpine Club, Colley shows how once formidable mountaintops eventually became familiar sites—perhaps too familiar. Thus, Mont Blanc, the symbolic locus of the European sublime, was no longer valued for a soul-paralyzing confrontation with something confusing, awful, and terrible, but instead as a place for recreation and sport.
Eventually, more able mountaineers—disdaining the easier, well-traveled routes that amateur tourists relied on to reach the summit of Mont Blanc—sought higher peaks to exemplify their mastery over vertical terrain. These higher peaks were more technically challenging and were not yet accessible by established routes. No longer were the mountains a place to confront the terrible and terrifying; they had become an Anglicized space where vain Englishmen could flex their Alpine muscles and show their dominance in situations that required “determination, intrepidity, and skill” (p. 51). Though Colley suggests that new technology, especially “cameras and film,” helped to reclaim some of the “mystery of the mountains” (p. 58), it seems that the telescope was unfortunately more powerful in leading to a further diminution of sublime sentiments. Tourists became myopic voyeurs, fetishistic sightseers, intent on tracing the ascent, descent—or worse, death—of the intrepid Alpinists. The sublime was not only sinking, Colley seems to suggest; it had already sunk.
In an interesting shift away from the all male Alpine Club and burgeoning mountain-viewing technologies, in chapter 3 of part 1 Colley writes about women mountaineers and their keenness to show their own physical aptitude, strength, and resilience at vertiginous heights, as is well documented. In fact, unlike other critics, Colley believes there is clear evidence that a “more than sufficient number of members in the Alpine Club, as well as the general public, encouraged, applauded, and respected the achievements of British women” (p. 127). Clearly, her many sources seem to support her assertion. What is unclear, though, is whether the achievements of these women Alpinists bolster or detract from the main premise of the book: the disappearance of the sublime. Overall, the chapter seems disconnected from the first two.
The section most difficult to reconcile with the “sinking sublime” is part 2. Throughout, Colley discusses individual writers—John Ruskin (1819–1900), Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889), and Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894). Though the term sublime persists in each successive chapter, Colley’s inability to connect the writers’ disparate approaches to sublimity is problematic. In fact, introducing her chapter on Ruskin, Colley admits it “does not directly address the sinking of the sublime” (p. 145). The statement is portentous: before long, the reader would settle even for an indirect connection. Though an underlying theme is recognizable—each author’s subjective ideas of the sublime influenced his written, and, in the case of both Ruskin and Hopkins, artistic, responses to it—how these differing conceptions of sublimity contributed to its sinking is difficult to determine.
In her concluding section, “Coda: The Himalaya and the Persistence of the Sublime,” which is the sole chapter in part 3, Colley attempts to show how Victorians’ sense of the sublime was renewed by their “fixed attention on the unknown, the stern, desolate landscape, as well as on the melancholy of the endless snows” ever abundant in the Himalayas (p. 224). As a terminus, the chapter is lacking and seems, like its counterparts, to stand by itself. And though many Victorians, used to the comparative safety of established routes in the Alps, may have been in awe of mountains that were mysterious, powerful, and hypnotizing, how the old vestiges of the sublime were revivified by them is difficult to factor since those vestiges had been “sinking”—or perhaps sunk—in earlier chapters.
Colley’s work, viewed as a sort of triptych of disparate parts, is surely an interesting introduction to the early history of mountaineering and the changing nature of individual and collective interactions with, and expectations of, the sublime. Additionally, Colley expertly weaves an abundance of primary and scholarly sources into her own writing. Thus, readers will find the chapters helpful in examining particulars of Victorian culture and well-known writers of the time. What they will not find is a clear explication of how adventurous mountaineers, thrill-seeking tourists, idiosyncratic writers, and English cartographers inevitably caused the “sinking sublime.”
Gregg W. Heitschmidt
Surry Community College
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Feminism and the Politics of Travel: After the Enlightenment. By Yaël Schlick. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2012. Pp. vii – 23. $70.00 (Hardback).
Yaël Schlick offers a carefully researched volume which considers the intersections between fictional and nonfictional travel literature and gender post-Enlightenment. Schlick’s work examines both male and female contributions to the genre of travel writing over time, with special attention paid to the “educational, political and emancipatory potential of travel” in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (p. 7). In “gendering” travel the author attempts, with success, to demonstrate the nuanced experiences of the female traveler, suggesting that the historical realities of travel for women were often far afield from the broader social expectations for their sex.
Schlick opens with a well-crafted introduction that solidly places her work in the field of literary analysis of travel writing along with the likes of Patrick Holland and Graham Huggan, Debbie Lisle, and Mary Louise Pratt. From the outset the author presents her audience with an extensive range of literature, engaging the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–78), Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–97), Stéphanie-Félicité de Genlis (1746–1830), Germaine de Staël (1766–1817), Flora Tristan (1803–44), Suzanne Voilquin (1801–77), George Sand (1804–76), Frances Burney (1752–1840), and others. In three parts, “Travel and Domesticity,” “Travel and New Communities," and “Travel and History,” the author reveals the ways in which women met opposition to and gained varying degrees of social progress through their experiences of travel. For Mary Wollstonecraft in particular, this progress was realized in the female traveler who was able to transcend the merely sentimental, nearing what Rousseau defined as a strictly masculine tendency toward reason in his fictional treatise on education, Emile (1762).
In part 1, Schlick asserts that, while Rousseau approached travel through a normative gendered lens, Wollstonecraft’s narratives in Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark (1796) and A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) view travel as an outlet for the expression of feminism. The author notes that, while both Rousseau and Wollstonecraft project (disparate) gendered ideals, it is de Staël’s fictive Corinne (1807) that most successfully produces a “mobile, liberated female” traveler (p. 14). From these initial comparisons, Schlick continues on in this section to a study of de Staël, de Genlis, and Burney. From the angle of these authors’ travel volumes, Schlick suggests that period conceptions of female freedom in travel were tightly bound to broader cultural implications for gendered behavior. In both de Genlis and de Staël the result is a female traveler who was “separate but equal,” worldly but modest, playing against the strong anti-progressivism of gendered freedoms that existed in post-Revolutionary France (p. 61).
Part 2 of Schlick’s volume, “Travel and New Communities,” deals with the issue of female travel in the face of post-Enlightenment feminist ideals in light of women’s continued domestic responsibilities. In this section, dedicated to the works of Tristan, Voilquin, and Saint-Simonian feminist writers such as Jeanne Deroin (1805–94), the author highlights the undercurrent of “revolutionary feminist-socialist activism” that resulted in answer to calls for retaining the domestication of women (p. 89). Schlick suggests that, for Tristan, this meant extensive writing on the topic of solo female travel and an inquiry into the questions that arise when such a subject is broached. For instance, what happens when a woman, someone who is supposed to remain in the domestic sphere, travels and is suddenly “out of place” (p. 94)? What are the social mechanisms that make it possible or difficult for women to travel? What challenges did Tristan’s liberated female traveler or the Saint-Simonians face in pursuit of a utopian feminist ideal?
In part 3 Schlick turns to the historical fiction of Gustave Flaubert (1821–80) and George Sand, who both wrote of eighteenth-century conceptions of female travel from a nineteenth-century perspective. In this final chapter, of which a version was first published in Nineteenth Century Studies, the author addresses the importance of education in the potential successes or setbacks that the female traveler might encounter. In a chapter in which female mobility is assumed rather than imagined, Schlick emphasizes the importance of what she calls “spatial literacy,” or the connection between place and “knowledge, liberty, and even citizenhood” (p. 161). Schlick notes that these nineteenth-century writers endeavored to create narratives in which the female traveler was either spatially literate (as in Sand) or spatially illiterate (as in Flaubert) in order to demonstrate the vital role of education for the informed female traveler. In this final chapter, one cannot help but notice that Schlick has neatly come full circle, connecting the success of the fictional, educated eighteenth-century female traveler in Sand to the educational model of Rousseau’s Emile examined earlier in the text.
Schlick’s epilogue carries her conversation forward to the present day, as she notes that contemporary female travel narratives often contain lamentations from their authors about the limitations that women face when traveling, especially when setting out alone. Fears about physical safety and domestic responsibility laid forth in the western travel literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are echoed in these pages, where Schlick suggests that sexism continues to thrive in a world where solo travel is still very much a masculine pursuit. The author asserts the importance of continued female voices in travel literature as a means through which feminist progress might be made with regard to the creation of future stories about travel without concern for gender.
In its depth, Schlick’s text serves as both a survey of post-Enlightenment travel literature and a detailed analysis of gender in that context. Feminism and the Politics of Travel After the Enlightenment is undoubtedly a valuable resource for the specialist in the field, particularly those with prior knowledge of the period texts with which Schlick so masterfully engages. One limitation of the text for the non-specialist is the author’s apparent presumption of familiarity with the extensive body of literature that she employs. A future edition may benefit from an extended reading list or brief summaries of the texts engaged with in the volume in order to orient the reader more effectively to the impressive scope of her analysis.
University of Pittsburgh
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Romantic Readers and Transatlantic Travel: Expeditions and Tours in North America, 1760–1840. By Robin Jarvis. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2012. Pp. iii + 205. 10 black-and-white illustrations. $89.96 (hardcover).
As part of the Ashgate Series in Nineteenth-Century Transatlantic Studies, Robin Jarvis’s Romantic Readers and Transatlantic Travel: Expeditions and Tours in North America, 1760–1840 explores transatlantic Romanticism by establishing a reception history of travel writing. Jarvis’s criticism works to fill the gap in scholarship on travel writing, a genre that scholars have only recently explored.
Rather than using feminist or postcolonial theory, as seen in other influential criticism of travel writing (for example, Mary Louise Pratt’s Imperial Eyes ), Jarvis is more interested in using the framework of book history to explore trends in travel writing readership. He expresses dissatisfaction with reader-response and reception theorists whose reader is not fully defined, over-theorized, or limited to genre, and he suggests book history to be the more applicable theoretical framework. Through the history of reading, critics can begin to understand and visualize the “real readers” of travel literature. This is not to say that Jarvis’s text lacks the appropriate historical contextualization, which he clearly and thoroughly details in the first half of chapter 1. But in Romantic Readers, the uniqueness of the source material and want of previous criticism on the subject inherently mark the study necessary. With careful attention to various source materials including autobiography entries, marginalia, letters, diaries, and periodical reviews, Jarvis defines the readers of travel writing, not as passive receptors, but as active responders. He demonstrates that readers of travel writing did not merely regurgitate the imperialist, sexist, and/or racist attitudes of the authors they read, but were, in fact, diverse, opinionated, and discerning. Consequently, Romantic Readers revises the characterization of Romantic-era readers of travel writing, and broadens transatlantic Romanticism to include new histories of reading.
Through the examination of British reader responses and periodical reviews written over an eighty-year span, Romantic Readers demonstrates how emerging national identities of the United States, Canada, and Arctic archipelago created a transatlantic dialogue. Here, British reader responses range from intellectually impartial to extremely nationalistic. Jarvis distinguishes between the politically motivated responses to travel narratives from the United States and Canada and the adventurous whirlwind of emotion elicited by Arctic explorations. Jarvis notes that in the United States and Canada both writers and readers of travel literature tended to lack impartiality when issues such as emigration colored moments in travel narratives. In comparison, Arctic travel narratives caused readers to “abandon their finer judgment and get swept up in a tidal surge of patriotic sentiment” (p. 182). Romantic Readers refutes the misconception that readers of travel writing embodied the same voices, ideas, and politics of the biased narratives they read, the study showing instead that readers created discerning, informed, and opinionated responses.
British Romantic readers, the author claims, were unanimously driven by curiosity to experience vicariously North American voyages and travels. Chapter 1 discusses miscellaneous reading experiences that range from those of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) whose marginalia describe “delicious” American travel writing (p. 32), to those of Alexander Somerville (1811–85) who read aloud to his fellow farmworkers so they may take “journeys…in the mind” (p. 37). In this chapter, both famous and average readers are linked by the low-stakes genres of marginalia and journal entries, and Jarvis notes how the transparent nature of these mediums moves critics closer to the “bone of the reading experience” (p. 45). Chapter 2 looks at the more public and political genre of periodical reviews. By specifically examining the British reviews of narratives about United States travels, Jarvis concludes that, while the most polarized and uncongenial opinions about the U.S. occur in these texts, the reviews also demonstrate the growing open-mindedness of ordinary readers and the accommodation made by reviewers who spoke to a more liberal audience.
Chapter 3 changes locations, examining the travel narratives from British North America, which includes Canada, the Arctic coastline, and archipelago. Containing episodes of adventure and exploration alongside descriptions of natural imagery, these narratives inspire not only pure curiosity but also patriotism from their reviewers and readers. Samuel Hearne’s (1745–92) A Journey from Prince of Wales’s Fort in Hudson Bay, to the Northern Ocean(1795) serves as one of Jarvis’s strongest examples of a private reading experience. He analyzes an anonymous, annotated copy located in the National Library of Scotland, and claims that this ordinary reader is a “serious, thoughtful, unprejudiced individual who engages with travel works chiefly on an intellectual level” (p. 105). Jarvis’s example calls into question the characterizations of these ordinary readers as passive, remarking that these readers were perhaps much more engaged with travel writing texts than previous critics considered. In addition to extended close readings of Journey, a subsection of chapter 3 humorously titled “Interlude: Romancing the Beaver” examines cultural media to further define histories of reading. Here, Romantic-era discourse on beavers illustrates ecocritical and postcolonial issues related to the growth of Canadian trading industries. Additionally, beaver-related public exhibitions and museums created a transatlantic dialogue about industrial impact.
The last chapter in Romantic Readers cites Romantic poets and novelists who responded to American travel narratives. Noting further differences between these literary-minded writers and professional and recreational readers, Jarvis examines prose footnotes and literary cross-references in order to reconstruct the process of reading in the Romantic era. In his conclusion, Jarvis clearly and concisely enumerates eight main results of his reception study and ends with the hopes of inspiring respect for the Romantic era’s diverse and intelligent readers.
By focusing primarily on private reading experiences and contemporary periodical reviews, Romantic Readers characterizes Romantic-era readers as actively engaged with North American travel writings. Jarvis’s work excels by highlighting an area of criticism that necessitates further exploration. More importantly, scholars can expand on this study by widening its geographical scope or including other literary genres. In terms of his writing style, Jarvis smartly summarizes his main points, which could become overwhelming given the amount of unfamiliar source material. Ultimately, Romantic Readers demonstrates that in examining reader responses to travel literature, critics can begin to craft a transnational history of reading in the Romantic era.
Florida State University
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National Identity in Great Britain and British North America, 1815–1851: The Role of Nineteenth-Century Periodicals. By Linda E. Connors and Mary Lu MacDonald. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2011. Pp. viii + 234. $99.95 (hardback).
Linda E. Connors and Mary Lu MacDonald explore the way British magazines, journals, and other types of periodicals shaped and defined conceptions of national identity among middle- and lower-class audiences between the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1815) and the Great Exhibition (1851). They concede that popular conceptions of “Britishness”—what it conceivably meant to share certain historical, cultural, and even racial characteristics of a British people, would reach full bloom in the latter half of the nineteenth century, contemporaneous with the height of British industry and imperialism. The authors convincingly argue, however, that the period of international ascendency between 1815 and 1851 was foundational to this later nationalism. These years were marked by profound political and social changes brought about by, among other factors, urbanization, industrialization, and governmental reforms. Connors and MacDonald make a compelling case for the important role print played in establishing a sense of order and meaning amidst these changes by creating and perpetuating cultural norms, stereotypes, as well as narratives about a shared past and common values. This evoked a sense of national belonging among an ethnically, religiously, socially, and geographically diverse reading public at home and in the North American colonies (i.e., Canada).
Both Connors and MacDonald are seasoned scholars of British publication history and draw their sources from religious as well as secular periodicals produced throughout Britain and British North America. They examine not only well-known, long-running periodicals like The Church and The British Review, but also dozens of smaller magazines and journals that, in many cases, lasted less than a year. Their approach to the subjects of nationalism and identity is largely shaped by the work of Benedict Anderson and Linda Colley. Colley’s book, Britons: The Forging of a Nation, 1707–1837 (1992), argues that the idea of the “Other,” a stereotyped image of a person or people against which one defines oneself, was a principle factor in the formation of British national identity. Anderson’s book, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (1983), argues that national identity is a dynamic cultural product, constructed and perpetuated among people who imagine themselves participating in a larger community that shares mental, physical, and cultural characteristics. Mining the rich and diverse source material at their disposal, Connors and MacDonald portray national identity as a negotiation between notions of a shared past, a transcendent ideology, and the Other. They also reveal variations in this negotiation process contingent upon regional and ethnic loyalties. How does one navigate being both British and Scottish, for example, and how is this further complicated when one also sees oneself as Canadian?
The book is divided into seven chapters, with the body of the book (chaps. 2–6) exploring how this negotiation took place in various aspects of British life. Chapter 2 discusses the rhetoric surrounding political and economic reforms such as Catholic Emancipation and the repeal of the Corn Laws. Chapter three examines faith and religion, while chapter four explores conceptions of gender and the family. Scientific and material progress is the topic of chapter five and the interrelationship of different ethnic groups within the empire occupies chapter six. In each chapter, Connors and MacDonald tease out the three components they see behind national identity. National narratives in which a particular group and region participated in British history created a sense of continuity with the past. But different emphases were placed in narratives aimed at, for example, a Scottish or Welsh audience, as the tension between preserving a unique, more provincial identity within a larger national narrative played out. The Catholic Church and the French served as the Other, as Colley has argued, but Connors and MacDonald also show that different ethnic and racial groups both within the empire and beyond its borders became sources of oppositional identity. Since they were closer to the U.S., emigrants to Canada emphasized the value of monarchy over republicanism as well as their voluntarily role agents of civilization. The idea of progress served as the transcendent ideology shared by British people, but social progress was emphasized more in periodicals published in the urbanizing British Isles, while technological and material progress became the theme of self-conscious colonials eager to demonstrate their success at civilizing Canadian lands.
The periodicals Connors and MacDonald use are excellent windows into the discourse surrounding these aspects of British life. However, the extent to which they actively shaped public perception is questionable. The strongest case can be made for travel literature. Stories printed in magazines of missionaries and explorers and their encounters with indigenous peoples and cultures were filtered by editors and presented in a way that shed favorable light on British people. But even then, because an editor’s main concern was to sell their product (and thus insure its survival), the editorial process was shaped by the prevailing expectations of the audience. The case for the subjects of gender and religion is weaker. While periodicals were active in maintaining certain presumptions and biases, the biases and presumptions themselves had different and deeper origins. Denominational magazines, as the authors remind us, were parochial endeavors. The Banner, for example, might have provided a forum to discuss the superiority of Scottish Presbyterian polity over Anglicanism in Canada, but these convictions were already part of the identity-making discourse of Presbyterian communities.
National Identity in Great Britain and British North America, 1815–1851 is nevertheless an excellent contribution to the study of transatlantic British society. National identities existed, Connors and MacDonald observe, and the book’s organization allows them to explore this succinctly and clearly. While the precise role of periodicals in shaping nationalist discourse is less clear, the authors demonstrate that this source material, often underused by scholars, was valuable to the conversation. Their extensive knowledge and lucid analysis of British print culture (a helpful appendix of periodical information is included) will be a benefit to historians and literary scholars alike.
Daved Anthony Schmidt
Princeton Theological Seminary
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Sismondi Biographe: L'Histoire Italienne dans la Biographie Universelle et L'Encyclopédie des Gens du Monde. Edited by Maria Pia Casalena. Paris: Honoré Champion, 2012. Pp. 712. €112.00 (cloth).
With this edition of Sismondi’s biographies of historical Italian figures, Maria Pia Casalena adds significantly to the field of Italian political thought and history. Jean Charles Léonard Simonde de Sismondi (1773–1842), Swiss historian, economist, and critic, was very well known in his time for his Histoire des Republiques Italiennes du Moyen Âge (History of the Italian Republics of the Middle Ages [1807–18]) and Histoire des Français (History of French [1821–44]). Little attention, however, was paid to his biographical work. In the early nineteenth century, Sismondi contributed to the brothers Michaud’s Biographie Universelle Ancienne et Moderne (Universal Biography, Ancient and Modern [1811–62, 2d ed. 1854–65]), supplying hundreds of biographical entries for major figures of Italian history, dating from the fall of the Roman Empire until the fall of Napoleon’s army.
Casalena provides a clear and informative introduction, printed in both Italian and French, each of approximately thirty pages. The introduction is divided into six sections. In the first, Casalena offers a brief but exhaustive account of Sismondi’s association with the brothers Michaud—Joseph-François (1767–1839), and Louis-Gabriel (1773–1858)—who, for both editions of their extensive Biographie Universelle, availed themselves of the collaboration of many scholars, most belonging to the so-called Groupe de Coppet. This was a group of intellectuals who gathered around Madame de Staël (1766–1871) at her chateau in Switzerland, between the French Revolution and the Restoration, and who were in opposition to Napoleon’s repressive policies. The first biographical entries by Sismondi, too concise and sketchy, did not please the French brothers who pushed him for more detailed and analytical information.
In the second section of her introduction, Casalena explains how Sismondi organized his entries, presenting an Italian history divided into centuries, a term understood not in the ordinary sense but as a period when a common mentality and values were shared by most of the Italian peninsula. Sismondi treats Italian history through his characters, organizing his entries by geographical groupings, from the north to the south of the peninsula, without favoring any particular period. Casalena notes that the entries dedicated to the Communal Age do not reflect the grandiosity of a period regarded as the birth of modern Italian freedom, offering instead a limited pool of characters and examples. Sismondi emphasized, however, the history of the various factions that determined bloody struggles and frequent institutional changes in the cities.
The third section shows how Sismondi not only changed the way he divided Italian history compared to his procedure in his previous work, Histoire des Républiques, but also explains how he changed his opinions about the value of his chosen individuals. In the Biographie, Sismondi pays attention to those characters who appeared to be the best examples of each epoch, regardless of their nationality, family, or party. Odoacer (433-493), for example, of German origin and first king of Italy, is commonly seen as the person ultimately responsible for the fall of the Roman Empire; Sismondi, however, points out that the king “was able to demonstrate the appropriate talent and value for the rank to which he had risen.”1 Sismondi focuses on the magnitude of the prince, who achieved power most often through usurpation—a method that should necessarily be considered negative. As an example, he cites Lionello, (1407–50), son of Nicola d’Este, who rose to power not by his own efforts primarily, but rather as a result of the many problems that affected his family. Although he neither conquered anything in particular, nor created any relevant political event, he was very much loved by his people for devoting himself to public service.
Casalena notes that Sismondi, with other biographers of the Groupe de Coppet, developed an alternative approach to biography, rediscovering and exalting many of the great, misunderstood monarchs or warriors of the past, and creating the typology of the tragic hero. He also utilizes the category of decadence, meant as material and moral degeneration. To this category belong the Germans, who had divided up the government of the decayed Roman Empire among themselves; the great feudal lords, who had split up the government of the central and northern territories without reaching a uniform solution; and the medieval municipalities, who perished because of the struggles that opposed the Guelphs and Ghibellines. Casalena explains that Sismondi identifies the symptoms of the decline in the history of the most influential and representative members of an era or family, predicting that those seeds would continue in a curse on their descendants. The final outcome of this political action was the fall, or the extinction, and the disappearance of Italians from positions of command for the benefit of European powers, until reaching the complete subjugation of the peninsula (see, e.g., the history of Italy in the eighteenth century, the Napoleonic domination, or the territorial redistribution resulting from the Congress of Vienna).
In section four of her introduction, Casalena mentions the two brief, but intense profiles that Sismondi dedicated to contemporary figures: the Swiss jurist and politician, Jean-Pierre Bérenger (1740–1807); and the poet and playwright, Carlo Tedaldi Fores (1793–1829). The latter wrote historical dramas that represented human passions, a technique that Sismondi followed in his biographies. This technique brings together literature and biography, combining both educational and popular functions.
In section five, Casalena writes about another work in which Sismondi participated, the Encyclopédie des Gens du Monde (1833). In this work, his articles, much more limited in number compared to those contained in the Biographie Universelle, were longer and more detailed, such as the article on the origin of the feud between the Guelphs and Ghibellines, a key for the interpretation of a long period of Italian history. While the voices treated in the Biographie Universelle were specific passions of some individual destined to go down in history, in the Encyclopédie the voices represent whole cities engaged in countless wars for territorial expansion and regional hegemony. In the Encyclopédie, Sismondi becomes more pessimistic, treating many medieval leaders as not so much heroes as a spectrum of decay after their glorious season.
In her conclusion (section six of the introduction), Casalena points out that Sismondi’s biographical entries constituted another book dedicated to Italian history beyond the Histoire des Républiques, one dictated particularly by feelings that matured around 1815, following the sad events that oppressed the peninsula. His pessimistic vision, however, was sometimes replaced by positive examples of great notables, heroes who contributed to capture the attention of the patriots who were fighting for Italian freedom. Casalena’s volume allows the reader to perceive Sismondi’s reflection on keywords of political history such as sovereignty, freedom, nation, decay, and rebirth. Superbly edited with notes for clarification when needed, this volume can be a precious compendium to anyone interested in Italian history.
Southeastern Louisiana University
1 Translations of the text are by the reviewer.
Grace Moore, ed. Pirates and Mutineers of the Nineteenth Century: Swashbucklers and Swindlers. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011. Pp. 314. 10 black-and-white illustrations. $124.95 (cloth).
This collection speaks to a welcome, renewed focus on maritime culture in recent years, one that has had the good fortune of building on the important work of such scholars as Marcus Rediker, Peter Linebaugh, Cesare Casarino, John Peck, and Margaret Cohen, whose award-winning The Novel and the Sea appeared in 2010.1
Grace Moore’s swashbuckling collection attests to the “voracious public appetite for pirate tales” (p. 1) that persists to this day, as the pirate is perpetually reimagined in what seem increasingly sanitized versions, especially those that are directed at the smallest among us -- the mostly affable Captain Hook in Disney’s Jake and the Never Land Pirates (2011 – ; dir. Mickey Corcoran and Howy Parkins) is only the latest saccharine incarnation. Looking back to the “golden age of piracy” (p. 2), Moore casts a wide net, moving us from the Romantic era across the century to the likes of Pirates of Penzance (1879) by Gilbert (1836-1911) and Sullivan (1842-1911) in an essay by Burnham Bloom; The Mystery of the Sea (1902) by Bram Stoker (1847-1912) in an essay by Carol Senf, and the early work of Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) in an essay by Tamara Wagner. The contributors thus address a range of genres, from nautical melodrama to Victorian and modern fiction, and engage with an equally broad range of cultural and theoretical matters, from the aesthetics of literary piracy (Mel Campbell, Andrew Knighton, Kate Mattacks), to the construction of the female pirate in the context of an emergent America (Katharine Anderson). Collectively the essays show how the nineteenth century stands as a particularly productive period for the construction of the pirate which, at that time, “underwent a metamorphosis . . . in both British and American literature” (p. 1), becoming, it seems, all the more charismatic with age.
Yet despite its proclaimed focus on a particular strand of nautical identity and activity, this collection is in some ways as vast as the sea itself, and that breadth ultimately proves a challenge for the reader, even one with a particular interest in maritime and culture its representation. Given that the collection contains sixteen chapters, in addition to the editor’s introduction, it would have been useful had the essays been organized into sub categories, perhaps by genre or chronology.
The collection seems nonetheless to have its own internal logic in this regard, commencing in the first three chapters with discussions of the enduring influence of the construction of the Romantic era pirate, especially in Lord Byron’s (1788 – 1824) Corsair (1814). In this context, Mel Campbell explores literary piracy and the Regency political environment. Deborah Lutz takes up thematic explorations of the Romantic pirate through the figure of the pirate poet, while Joetta Harty examines Branwell Brontë's pirate realms. In Chapter 4, Ting Man Tsao considers piracy and imperialism in 1830s China. We then move to the American context as Andrew Lyndon Knighton “examines the interplay between literary piracy and the nautical pirate” (p. 6). Deborah Morse’s chapter on Elizabeth Gaskell’s (1810 – 65) North and South (1855) likewise encourages us to consider the pirate’s inherent defiance of geographical, national, and even religious, boundaries.
Although Morse’s essay makes important claims on its own terms, rightly identifying Frederick Hale, the heroine’s brother, as “an echo of England’s bloody history of mutiny” (p. 122), it is in fact the only essay in the collection to deal at length with the question of mutiny. Garret Ziegler offers a discussion of the 1857 "Indian Mutiny," but focuses not on the concept of "mutiny" per se, but in rather limited terms on Charles Dickens's (1812 – 70) and Wilkie Collins's (1824 – 89) rendering of piracy as a racialized response to that cultural violence. To position Frederick Hale as an “accidental pirate” (p. 6), as Moore suggests in her introduction, is simply a stretch. Here, though, the collection points to future avenues for consideration of nineteenth-century maritime literature and culture. Historians, for instance, have begun to undertake new work in this direction; a recent special supplement to the International Review of Social History: Mutiny and Maritime Radicalism in the Age of Revolution that appeared in December 2013 points to the potential for future interventions in this area.2
To return to Moore's collection, a number of the essays illustrate the merit in considering of literary piracy alongside conceptions of the seafaring pirate. The broad perspective Kate Mattacks brings to her discussion of Douglas Jerrold’s (1803 – 67) Black-Ey’d Susan (1829) and the nineteenth-century stage raises provocative questions about textual and legal authority, creativity, and the control of history. Victor Emeljanow’s “Staging the Pirate” likewise moves us beyond the seemingly inexhaustible debate appearing elsewhere in the collection's pages regarding the theoretical valences of the pirate (his "enthrallingly ambiguous figure" [p. 6], his contradictory powerful and marginal status, etc.) and into the realm of the cultural history of the pirate in nineteenth-century drama. While Emeljanow notes that the pirate would occupy “a lasting place on the popular stage” (p. 233), he is attentive to important shifts, including the way in which, by mid-century, the “pirate’s lair and the high seas had been replaced by the drawing room and the streets as the primary locations for exploration of ‘wayward passions’” (p. 232).
Those essays that consider the pirate in relation to nation and race, such as Tsao’s discussion of imperialism and China in the 1830s, are also generally among the most provocative in the collection. In a highly articulate essay, Sean Grass compellingly links the representation of piracy and “racial peril” in Charles Reade’s (1814 – 84) Hard Cash (1863) to the “gross rapacity” (p. 181) of the commercial realm in mid-Victorian England. Grass presents his thoughtful and incisive argument, I would add, in admirably fine prose. Attending to the Southeast Asian context, Tamara Wagner likewise offers a wide-ranging, informed, and informative examination of piracy and imperial commerce in her focus on the construction of the Malay pirate. Her essay makes a convincing case for the way that “narratives of piracy capitalize on exotic indeterminacies” (p. 268).
Finally, I must mention the strength of Alex Thomson’s essay, which revisits the well-known depths of Robert Louis Stevenson’s (1850 – 94) Treasure Island (1883). While one might assume that there would be little left to say about what has become perhaps the ur-text of Victorian piracy, this essay offers a fine, compelling reading of law and illegality in Stevenson’s novel, concluding that it ultimately exposes the “void at the origin of law” (p. 222). Like Grass’s essay, it gestures toward one of the most interesting potential areas of future enquiry raised by the collection: the connection between piracy and cultural conceptions of madness.
Reminding us of the indebtedness of our conceptions of the pirate to the likes of Byron and Stevenson, this collection will no doubt have something to offer anyone interested in nineteenth-century renderings of the pirate, his villainy, and, perhaps especially, his subversive heroism. In some respects, then, readers of this collection will find their understanding of the pirate expanded; in many ways, however, the pirate may yet remain, as Wagner puts it, “fascinatingly,” and perhaps frustratingly, “indeterminate” (p. 255). On the whole, this collection urges us to continue to think critically about our own enduring fascination with this figure, to heed carefully Lutz’s assertion that, by and large, pirates were hardly romantic swashbucklers, but rather “obscure men – mostly drawn from the working class or lower middle class – who wanted to make money, even if it meant breaking the law, stealing, and murdering; in effect, they were violent criminals” (p. 28).
Saint Mary's University
1 Margaret Cohen, The Novel and the Sea (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2010).
2 Mutiny and Maritime Radicalism in the Age of Revolution. Special issue of The International Review of Social History 58.21 (December 2013). Web.
Steam-Powered Knowledge: William Chambers and the Business of Publishing, 1820-1860. By Aileen Fyfe. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2012. Pp. xvi + 313. 21 black-and-white illustrations. $50 (cloth).
Many scholars know that millions of readers emerged in the nineteenth century due to rather extraordinary improvements in education and literacy. Yet they might not know exactly who, or what, printed the billions of words those new readers consumed. In what promises to become a reference for future researchers, Aileen Fyfe’s Steam-Powered Knowledge offers scholars an original vantage on the subject. Fyfe recreates the commercial world of the publishing brothers Robert and William Chambers and their adoption of new print technologies in the early nineteenth century. She describes how William Chambers carefully managed those new technologies to create a successful business built on mass literacy and popular education. While their success influenced generations of English readers, their accomplishments have received little attention until now.
With spry prose and a keen sense of narrative, Fyfe pulls her readers back into the Chambers’ past through meticulous research from their company archive at the National Library of Scotland. Fyfe’s background in the history of science informs her sensitivity to her subject. With an interdisciplinary audience in mind, she elaborates on the relevant technical, cultural, and commercial factors involved in nineteenth-century print. She is particularly insightful on the challenges the Chambers overcame, including prohibitive taxes, political censorship, logistical mishaps, deadline pressures, and relentless competition. These challenges continually tested the business acumen of the Chambers brothers, who in turn tried innovations no one else had considered.
The Chambers’ story makes for great reading. William bought a second-hand press in 1820, and with perseverance began publishing cheap periodicals and books for moral and educational improvement. In the same year as the 1832 Reform Act, the brothers started their primary text Chambers’s Journal [sic], a four-page, four-column magazine sold for 1 ½ pennies a week. Within a few months they were selling 50,000 copies a week in both Edinburgh and London.
Although Part One of Steam-Powered Knowledge describes the details of paper production, type composition, plate stereotyping, and steam-powered machine printing, Fyfe skillfully propels the subjects by interpreting them through the Chambers’ urgent cost calculations. With the brothers’ business and livelihoods at stake, William utilized new stereotyping technology to expand the market for their high frequency publications. In an unusual decision for the time period, he chose to print simultaneous editions of the Journal in both Edinburgh and London rather than ship copies printed from Scotland. He did so using stereotype plates made in Edinburgh, which preserved the valuable time trapped in the type-setting process.
The Chambers passed such savings to readers. When demand proved strong, the Chambers commissioned a steam engine so they could print their publications and save still further. In turn, the engine encouraged them to print more texts to maximize their investment. The combination of stereotyping and steam power proved, in a word, “profitable” (p. 63). In fact, the Chambers even adopted steam power for book production. They controlled margins further by forgoing expensive copyrights and controlling paper costs, in part by employing small typeface, among other tactics.
Part Two of the book relates the implications of improving communication and transportation technology to the Chambers’ business, beginning with the arrival of the railways in the 1840s. Aside from allowing the Chambers to further consolidate their affairs in Edinburgh, railways expanded the market for their publications through the stalls where riders bought reading materials. Unfortunately for the Chambers, the stalls also offered opportunities to new entrepreneurs like George Routledge, who found success with cheap fiction.
Other competitors increasingly applied the Chambers’ technical innovations to the literature of shock, sensation, and entertainment; Fyfe writes that the “content of cheap print was starting to be determined by its audience’s demands, rather than its suppliers ideals” (p. 141). Along with formerly dominant religious printers, publishers like the Chambers wondered whether their initial success “might have been due to their uniquely low prices, rather than a widespread thirst for knowledge” (p. 149). Although the Chambers’ content did not always provide travellers with the distractions they craved, cheap texts like their Educational Course made popular school books throughout Britain and its colonies.
Part Three of the book relates the Chambers difficult expansion into North America. Transatlantic steamboats now made shipping more reliable than sail, but punctual transport couldn’t overcome U.S. copyright law, which only recognized publications by American authors within U.S. borders. The Chambers struggled against an entrenched “culture of reprinting,” and lacked leverage without recognition of their intellectual property (p. 193). Nonetheless, they squeezed what value they could from the situation. By the 1850s, they found “moderate success” exporting discounted titles to partnered firms, particularly those with hard-to-reproduce illustrations (p. 222).
Unfortunately, this didn’t stop other firms from pirating their work and re-selling it. In this respect, new steam technology didn’t magically make nineteenth-century globalization more profitable, even for English capitalists. In fact, steam “worked against the interests of British publishers in the United States,” and even “provided a new transatlantic shipping option that was more affordable to unauthorized reprinters” (p. 250).
Paradoxically, the steam ships working against the Chambers’ interests in North America worked for them home in Scotland. They relied on steam transport for profits even though new railways were faster. Fyfe explains this apparent contradiction by writing that “the new transport technology offered a service – extreme speed – that Chambers needed only occasionally” (p. 258). On this point as with others, Fyfe succeeds in demonstrating that the evolution of nineteenth-century technology didn’t create the same causes and effects everywhere it emerged. Instead, individuals like William Chambers mixed and matched new and old technology to fit the changing demands of different markets.
Through her careful attention to such puzzles Fyfe ultimately succeeds in championing one of the constants throughout: William Chambers himself, who “managed to develop a successful business model for a product that was philanthropically motivated but also genuinely in demand from consumers” (p. 261). Indeed, with his profit motive ultimately rooted in enlightened paternalism, William’s liberalism embodies the best of nineteenth-century market champions.
It is perhaps for future scholarship, then, to explain the true value of all those carefully budgeted words. Was all that "general knowledge" really so important for readers to know? More crucially, too, to what extent did the Chambers’ sales depend on readers simply paying to feel educated for a penny or two?
LaGuardia Community College