Gothic Revival: CRECS Tours Strawberry Hill House, 16 May 2017

Join the Cardiff Romanticism and Eighteenth-Century Seminar (CRECS) on 16 May 2017 for an exciting excursion, as we visit the Gothic Strawberry Hill House in Twickenham, a modern architectural marvel. With its arches and turrets, its elaborate windows and gables, and its bone-white exterior, Strawberry Hill is a bizarre cross between a Gothic castle and a Disney one. Until 1797, it was also the home of the Gothic novelist Horace Walpole.

Constructed in stages between 1749 and 1776, Strawberry Hill has the distinction of being the first house built in the medieval style without using any old materials—a self-conscious work of Gothic fakery. This makes it the perfect match for Walpole, its original architect. Victorian scholar Thomas Macaulay famously called Walpole ‘the most eccentric, the most artificial, the most fastidious, the most capricious, of men’. Walpole was inspired to make multiple, wild renovations to Strawberry Hill during his lifetime, and the house inspired his writing in return: most famously, The Castle of Otranto (1764). Continue reading

Report on Leverhulme Lecture by Tim Stretton: Stepmothers at Law in the Long 18th Century, 29 Feb 2016

CRECS was delighted to welcome Tim Stretton, Professor of History at St Mary’s University, Nova Scotia, for his Leverhulme Lecture on ‘Stepmothers at Law in the Long Eighteenth Century’. The concept of the ‘wicked stepmother’ is one which we cannot help be culturally aware of. Tim’s talk was an opportunity for us to delve into the complexities of family law and how the figure of the step-mother was integrated into such legal practises. Continue reading

Leverhulme Lecture by Tim Stretton: Stepmothers at Law in the Long 18th Century, 29 Feb 2016

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 (coulombeaus@cardiff.ac.uk).

Visiting Speaker, 1 Dec 2015: Jennie Batchelor on The Lady’s Magazine

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.

Abstract

2015.03.batchelorThis 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?

Continue reading

CONFERENCE REPORT: ‘Scandal and sociability: New perspectives on the Burney family’.

On September 1st, Cardiff University hosted the international symposium, ‘Scandal and Sociability: New Perspectives on the Burney Family’. Organizing this event was a high point of my first year in post at Cardiff. For years, I’ve been fascinated with Frances Burney, one of the most successful and influential novelists of the eighteenth century and a central figure in my doctoral research. But ever since I was lucky enough to spend a month in Montreal researching at McGill’s Burney Centre in the second year of my PhD, I’ve also been fascinated with her brilliant, sociable, polymathic and oddly secretive family circle. Between them, the Burneys published dozens of novels, scores of reviews, books on music and naval exploration, and political tracts. They wrote plays, drew popular prints and composed countless pieces of music. They travelled across the world, and knew or corresponded with most British luminaries of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries working in the fields of literature, art, music, politics, botany, exploration, and court and Church circles. Continue reading

Killing the King with Porter … part two.

My last post for the CRECs blog was about my very fun (and sometimes messy) experience of making a short film about the treason trials of the 1790s. I’m very excited to say that the film is now online. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about the history of treason or freedom of speech (a ‘British value’? maybe not …), about the radical firebrand John Thelwall, or just about what happens if you get a bit too breathy near a pot of porter, then do feel free to check it out here.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02msxbt

The film was made as part of my participation in the BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinkers scheme, which aims to support early career academics in bringing their research to a public audience. The films by most of my nine fellow NGTs are also online here. I think they’re all pretty brilliant, but the eighteenth-centuryists and Romanticists among you may especially enjoy Alun Withey (Exeter) on eighteenth-century barber shops, Daisy Hay (Exeter) on Disraeli’s marriage, and Tom Charlton (Stirling) on marginalia.

Report on How to Keep Your (Georgian) Man, 17 Mar 2015

Fifty Shades of CRECSThere 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. Melanie Bigold reading from Fantomina.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

Next event—How to Keep Your (Georgian) Man, 17 Mar 2015

Our next CRECS event turns to the eternal question of sexuality, gender and domesticity (in the eighteenth century). Christian Grey may be the man of the moment (unfortunately), but the Georgians had their own—characteristic, shall we say?—view of romance and sex, which might raise a few eyebrows even today. The literature, drama and art of the eighteenth century offer myriad  views of sexual mores that are as complex and contradictory as our own, ranging from prudence to prurience, from respectability to rakishness.

Women, in particular, found themselves at the heart of a paradox. On the one hand, they were expected to comply with ideologies regarding the correct modes of female behaviour, which was always under scrutiny and strictly regulated. On the other hand, women were objects of unflinching male desire and transgressive passion: the controlling gaze of the father could transform into the illicit voyeurism of the lover. Continue reading