Culture

Figure 1: Post Office regulations for the Penny Post, January 7, 1840

Susan Donovan, “How the Post Office and Postal Products Shaped Mid-Nineteenth-Century Letter-Writing”

In an age of electronic communication it is easy to forget the vital role that letter-writing played in people’s everyday lives in the nineteenth century. Critical attention has tended to focus more on the communicative function of letters than on what is often considered as the more mundane material aspects of letter exchange such as the postal service or the type of stationery used. This article explores the impact of mid-century postal reforms, improved transportation and new postal products on the letter-writing practice and epistolary relationships of Arthur Hugh Clough. My reasons for making Clough the central case study of this piece are two-fold: firstly, because of the large body of correspondence that exists between him and his American literary friends over the period of the mid-nineteenth century (c.1847-1861); and secondly, Clough’s interest in, and innovative use of the epistolary form in his poetry. The article underlines the significance of the postal revolution for Clough’s life and work, which can hardly be overstated. The greatly improved transatlantic mail service enabled him to keep in regular contact with his closest friends and publishers and to send them, over a period of several years, all the revisions and additions to his most important work: Amours de Voyage, published for the first time in the US in 1858; his acclaimed translation of Plutarch’s Lives (1859) and the definitive edition of his collected poems, published posthumously in the USA in 1862. The article also highlights instances where material circumstances—the curtailment of the transatlantic mail service, or lost and delayed letters—had an adverse effect on Clough’s correspondence and on his publishing projects. On this point, I draw parallels with Clough’s epistolary poetry—most notably Amours de Voyage—whose form and plot clearly illustrate the importance he attached to the medium of correspondence. The article also demonstrates Clough’s awareness of the role played by postal products in the construction of an “epistolary self”—another aspect of materiality that is reflected in his creative work. Clough is the central figure of this study but I have widened the focus in some places to include some apposite quotations from the Brownings’ correspondence and Carlyle’s letters to demonstrate the far-reaching effects of the material aspects of letter-writing on the correspondence culture of the time.

Figure 5: A diagram of the worm’s alimentary canal from Charles Darwin's _Worms_, 18.

Anna Henchman, “Charles Darwin’s Final Book on Earthworms, 1881”

This article focuses on the publication of Darwin’s final book (1881) in the context of Darwin’s larger attempts to resist the habitual anthropocentrism of human beings. It begins with Darwin’s discussion of animal cognition and the senses of worms. It concludes with his emphasis on the significant effects worm digestion has on the landscape and the fertility of the earth. The article links Darwin’s Worms Edwin Abbott’s 1884 novella Flatland, arguing that both texts are engaged in dismantling human perceptions that stem from possessing a highly visual brain, and that both throw doubt on the belief that a single objective world exists independent of particular observers.

Denae Dyck and Marjorie Stone,  “The ‘Sensation’ of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Poems before Congress (1860):  Events, Politics, Reception”

Denae Dyck and Marjorie Stone, “The ‘Sensation’ of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Poems before Congress (1860): Events, Politics, Reception”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Poems before Congress paradoxically addresses a political event that never took place: a meeting of European powers to discuss the “Italian question” planned for January of 1860. Nevertheless, the collection addresses several momentous historical developments, including the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859, the intervention of Napoleon III of France in the Italian struggle, and the international conflict his intervention precipitated. Indeed, the book’s publication and the sensation it created in themselves constitute a plurality of events, since the collection appeared under differing titles in England and America and encountered differing responses in each country. Contrary to the still dominant critical view that the volume was almost universally denounced, its reception was shaped by diverse locations, shifting chronological contexts, and conflicting political affiliations. Close analysis of the reviews underscores the importance of these wider contexts, which influence what otherwise appear to be primarily literary or aesthetic judgements. At the same time, analysis of varying responses to not only “A Curse for a Nation” but also “Napoleon III in Italy” and other poems in the volume demonstrates a number of recurring points of contention. These include the collection’s title, the politics of interventions across national borders, English liberalism, the nature of democracy, cosmopolitanism versus nationalism, women writers in relation to politics, poetic form, and, most of all, EBB’s representation of Napoleon III—the issue that is front and centre in most of the 1860s reviews and that shaped, in turn, reactions to all the rest.

Edouard Manet - Berthe Morisot au soulier rose

Elizabeth Berkowitz, “The 1910 ‘Manet and the Post – Impressionists’ Exhibition: Importance and Critical Issues”

“The 1910 ‘Manet and the Post-Impressionists’ Exhibition: Importance and Critical Issues” summarizes both the key historical aspects of the 1910 “Manet and the Post-Impressionists” exhibition, and the historiographic disputes that have arisen in relation to it. This article addresses the degree to which the term and art historical category “Post-Impressionism,” coined for this exhibition, represents a critical construction, rather than a genuine stylistic demarcation. In addition, this article counters the scholarly misperception that the vitriolic response to the 1910 exhibition was a product of British cultural ignorance of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century continental Modern art.

CHarles Rickets Costume Design

Wendy S. Williams, “‘So Very Japanny’: The British Reception of The Mikado in 1885”

This article examines the writings of The Mikado producers and opera reviewers in 1885. It shows that the British were eager to create a quaint, picturesque, “authentic” image of Japan, based on familiar art objects, in order to ease national anxiety about a quickly developing country that was difficult to understand.

Photo of Japanese Village by W.S. Gilbert

Wendy S. Williams, “‘Free-and-Easy,’ ‘Japaneasy’: British Perceptions and the 1885 Japanese Village”

This essay examines press reviews and accounts of the Japanese Village in London from newspapers and periodicals in 1885. These show that although writers were fairly confident that they “knew” the Japanese culture, they had only a superficial understanding of it, and they often depicted Japanese people as simple, coarse, and inferior. These writings largely reflect British feelings of superiority, enchantment, and confusion regarding Japan, a quickly progressing country that was not easy to classify.

Figure 1. Portrait of Annie Besant.

Carol Hanbery MacKay, “A Spiritual Materialist Turns Material Spiritualist: Annie Besant Rewrites Her Secularist Years, 1889 and 1891″

Examining the published texts of two lectures delivered by Annie Besant, “Why I Became a Theosophist” (4 and 11 August 1889) and “1875 to 1891: Fragment of Autobiography” (30 August 1891), this entry argues that they constitute a little-known bridge between her Secular and Theosophical years. Written during the interim between Besant’s only two full-length self-accountings, Autobiographical Sketches (1885) and An Autobiography (1893), the lectures provide the grounds for discovering her continuity as a spiritual materialist and a material spiritualist, thereby also bringing to the fore her effort to maintain an ongoing dialogue between science and religion.

Figure 2: First Scottish colony for New Zealand. [Reprinted] Copyright People’s Palace Museum, Glasgow Green [ca 1981]. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. Ref: Eph-C-IMMIGRATION-1839-01. Used with permission. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22730739.

Philip Steer, “On Systematic Colonization and the Culture of Settler Colonialism: Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s A Letter from Sydney (1829)”

In 1829, Edward Gibbon Wakefield published his first statement of a “systematic” theory of settler colonization, A Letter from Sydney: The Principal Town of Australasia. Wakefield offered a novel economic theory of the relationship between population density and successful colonization, hinging on the establishment of a minimum or “sufficient” price on colonial land, and he spent the next few decades at the forefront of efforts to promulgate and profit from it. The theory of systematic colonization was first put into practice in 1836 in the new colony of South Australia, and then more extensively in New Zealand in 1839; in both cases, speculative mania in Britain precipitated the invasion of thousands of settlers, even though the settlements were as yet unmapped. Wakefield’s theories were also at the center of a new imperial imaginary that emerged in Britain by the 1850s, which established Australia and New Zealand as pastoral locations capable of restoring damaged British subjects. In spurring the vast expansion of migration to Australia and New Zealand, contributing to the genocide and dispossession of indigenous populations, and accelerating the destruction of local ecosystems, systematic colonization constitutes one of the most powerful and destructive examples of the ability of Victorian representations to permanently reshape the globe.

Philip Howell, “June 1859/December 1860: The Dog Show and the Dogs’ Home”

Philip Howell, “June 1859/December 1860: The Dog Show and the Dogs’ Home”

In 1862, the Victorian journalist John Hollingshead (1827-1904) noted the comparability and complementarity of the Dog Show and the Dogs’ Home, both recent innovations: the first true dog show was held in June 1859 and the Temporary Home for Lost and Starving Dogs (now the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home) was founded in December 1860. This article considers these innovations as key events in the culture and treatment of companion animals in Britain, and their contribution to the Victorian “invention” of the dog.

Figure 1: cover of the first edition of The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, illustrated by John Lockwood Kipling

Mario Ortiz-Robles, “Animal Acts: 1822, 1835, 1849, 1850, 1854, 1876, 1900″

What does the history of animal rights have to tell us about Victorian Britain – and how do legislative gains, specifically Parliamentary Acts, appear when read in tandem with theatrical performances and literary depictions of animals? This article reads the former category alongside the latter two, paying particular attention to how artistic representations of animals, including Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, blur the lines between human and animal behavior. In doing so, it sheds light on how animals were figured as part of a racialized discourse, using Foucault’s notion of biopower to help frame the complex ways animal rights, and animalism, were portrayed in politics and culture.