How romantic were writers of the Romantic age? What can literary men and women of the period teach us about courtship, marriage, sex and love? Can they tell us how to be a good husband or a good wife? Or offer examples of how not to be? And what of same-sex partnerships? In the week of St Valentine’s Day, husband-and-wife team, Professor John Strachan (Romantic scholar and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at Bath Spa University) and Dr Jane Moore (Reader in Romanticism at Cardiff University), discuss these questions, and others, with reference to writers of the Romantic age.
- John will represent the views of the male poets, including Byron, Coleridge, Wordsworth and Shelley.
- On the distaff side, Jane will focus on writers including Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft as well as the poets, Felicia Hemans, ‘L.E.L.’ (Letitia Elizabeth Landon) and Mary Lamb.
- As usual, there will be plenty of time for plenty of discussion about the issues raised after the presentations.
- The evening will finish with a drinks and snacks reception.
Join us on 8 February 2016, in Lecture Theatre 0.36 in the John Percival Building. The event will start at 5.15pm and will be followed by refreshments, as usual.
Stepmothers at Law in the Long Eighteenth Century
Tim Stretton, St Mary’s University, Nova Scotia
Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professor, Cardiff University
A Leverhulme Lecture supported by the Cardiff Romanticism and Eighteenth-Century Seminar (CRECS) and the School of History, Archaeology and Religion (SHARE)
Monday 29 February 2016, 5.15pm
Room 2.01, John Percival Building, Cardiff University
CRECS is delighted to host a public lecture from Tim Stretton, Professor of History at St Mary’s University, Nova Scotia. Come along on Monday 29 February to hear about his current research on the cultural image and legal status of the stepmother in Britain over the long eighteenth century—a topic that will appeal to all historians and literary scholars interested in intersections between law, gender, and kinship. In Tim’s own words:
The focus of my research is the legal position of married women in the English past, tracing the Common Law idea of ‘coverture’ over many centuries, prior to the dismantling of most of its effects between the 1870s and 1925. Under coverture, most of a wife’s legal autonomy was ‘covered’ by her husband’s, so that she could not independently hold or enjoy property, and without his permission she could not enter into contracts, take part in lawsuits or write a will. This curtailing of a married woman’s legal independence was more severe than under any other comparable legal regime in Europe. And yet in practice a number of women managed to wield power, use equitable devices such as trusts to maintain control of property, and make use of legal exceptions to evade coverture’s worst effects.
Against this backdrop of harsh rules and a more flexible reality, the figure of the stepmother provides an interesting case study for examining female autonomy, male fears, and the cultural (as well as legal and economic) effects of law.
In this paper I will reflect on some of the practical problems stepmothers faced; the fears that they raised in heirs and other family members (seen in the curious English rule excluding ‘half bloods’ from inheriting from their ‘full blood’ siblings) and some of the undercurrents that might help explain (or complicate) broad changes in attitudes to stepmothers over time.
As ever, the lecture will be followed by an opportunity to ask the speaker questions and engage in debate, and also by a wine reception. We hope you can make it!
For more details, please email Dr Sophie Coulombeau (email@example.com).
As an opening to our third event, ‘Children of CRECS: Contesting childhood in the Romantic era’, Anthony Mandal declared that he was reminded of the 1984 horror movie Children of the Corn—from this we were immediately aware that this was not to be an evening of children frolicking through fields … Continue reading
The study of childhood has long been crucial to interdisciplinary study of the Romantic period. Historians of the family have pinpointed the eighteenth century as crucial for the emergence of our modern understanding of the concept, from Philippe Ariés’ controversial claim that the very idea of childhood developed in Western Europe only around this time to Lawrence Stone’s equally fiercely contested account of the ‘closed domesticated nuclear family’. These arguments about broad social forces have been accompanied by a surge of critical interest in pioneering educational theory, particularly in the ideas of John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau and their resonance throughout political, scientific and literary discourses. Scores of novelists, poets and essayists absorbed these ideas, and a deep interest in the nature of childhood and education runs throughout the imaginative literature of the Romantic period . Writers such as Anna Barbauld and Maria Edgeworth wrote not only educational treatises but also innovative tales and poetry specifically marketed towards children. Novels by writers including Mary Hays and Walter Scott featured protagonists whose childhood reading fosters tragic flaws later in life. And Romantic poets like Samuel Taylor Coleridge and John Thelwall became deeply preoccupied with the potential of the cradle song to articulate the relationship between domestic, ‘private’ relations and political, ‘public’ concerns. Continue reading
Jennie Batchelor (University of Kent) will be presenting her paper, ‘“The world is a large volume”: The Lady’s Magazine and Romantic Print Culture’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 1 December 2015. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 2.01, and will be followed by a wine reception.
This talk examines the position of the Lady’s Magazine: or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex (1770–1832) in Romantic-era print culture and the scholarship surrounding it. Aside from the periodical’s extraordinary popularity and longevity, a number of ambitious claims have been made for the Lady’s Magazine’s historical and literary importance. Chief amongst these is Edward Copeland’s 1995 claim that the Lady’s Magazine defined women’s engagement with the world in the Romantic period. This argument is as seductive as it is unsubstantiated. Eighteenth-century periodicalists commonly overlook the title, which emerges after the often lamented if somewhat exaggerated demise of the essay-periodical epitomised by The Tatler and The Spectator. Romanticists, meanwhile, have tended to privilege the self-professedly ‘literary’ magazines of the turn of the century, in which writers such as Hazlitt and Scott, well known for their work in other more canonical genres, were involved.
This paper seeks to address this oversight by explicating how the magazine self-consciously and strategically positioned itself in relationship to the wider and highly competitive literary marketplace in which it thrived against the odds. In making these claims, I draw on initial research findings from our two-year Leverhulme-funded Research Project Grant: ‘The Lady’s Magazine (1770–1818): Understanding the Emergence of a Genre’. The project offers a detailed bibliographical, statistical and literary-critical analysis of one of the first recognisably modern magazines for women from its inception in 1770. In its three-pronged book history/literary critical/digital humanities approach, the project, like this talk, aims to answer two main research questions: 1) What made the Lady’s Magazine one of the most popular and enduring titles of its day?; 2) What effects might an understanding of the magazine’s content, production and circulation have upon own conceptions of Romantic-era print culture, a field still struggling fully to emerge from the shadows of canonical figures and genres?
There was an excellent turn out to this hotly awaited addition to the CRECS programme, which set out to explore the (fifty?) shades of grey that existed in eighteenth century attitudes to sex, gender and domesticity.
Participants gathered around the tables in Special Collections and Archives, upon which were scattered extracts from the texts for discussion. First, we heard from Melanie Bigold, introducing Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina; or Love in a Maze (1725). A radical rewrite of the typical ‘persecuted maiden’ tale, Haywood attributes sexual desire, cunning and power to her female protagonist. Our heroine, an upper-class lady from the provinces, newly arrived in London, decides to impersonate a prostitute, upon observing the relaxed, easy conversation they seem able to hold with men. In this guise, she successfully engages the rakish Beauplaisir in conversation, an encounter which ends in her rape. Undefeated, yet concerned for her reputation, she creates a false identity, ‘Fantomina’, and continues to pursue Beauplaisir. He quickly tires of her, and in response to this inconstancy, Fantomina turns once more to her dressing up box. She dons a series of disguises in order to engineer multiple seductions of Beauplaisir, posing as different women. There is no mention of Fantomina’s hope or need for marriage; she is solely motivated by desire, and possibly the power-play and revenge implicit in routinely tricking Beauplaisir into sex. Participants took turns reading sections of Fantomina aloud, to fully immerse themselves in Haywood’s prose style. Continue reading