Archive for ‘Editorial’

22/01/2023

So where were we? (Part 4)

To resume:

All of my reviewing threads are absurd, but some are more absurd than others.

In this I include Authors In Depth, not least because the writers who end up being recruited tend to be those whose oeuvres would, on their own, make a ridiculously complicated project—let alone all of them at once.

Be that as it may.

So far my progress in this area looks like this:

Mary Elizabeth Braddon:

The Trail Of The Serpent (1860)
The Octoroon; or, The Lily Of Louisiana (1859 / 1861)
The Black Band; or, The Mysteries Of Midnight (1861 – 1862)
Lady Lisle (1862)
The Captain Of The Vulture (1862)
Ralph The Bailiff, And Other Tales (1862 / 1869)

E. D. E. N. Southworth:

Retribution; or, The Vale Of Shadows (1850)
The Deserted Wife (1850)
The Mother-In-Law; or, The Isle Of Rays (1851)
Vivia; or, The Secret Of Power (1857)

Frances Trollope:

The Refugee In America (1832)
Hargrave; or, The Adventures Of A Man Of Fashion (1843)

Mrs (Mary) Meeke:

Count St. Blancard; or, The Prejudiced Judge (1795)
The Abbey Of Clugny (1796)
Palmira And Ermance (1797)
Ellesmere (1799)

“Gabrielli” (Elizabeth Meeke):

The Mysterious Wife (1797)
The Sicilian (1798)

Margaret Minifie and Susannah Minifie Gunning:

The Histories Of Lady Frances S—, And Lady Caroline S— (1763)
Family Pictures (1764)
The Picture (1766)
Barford Abbey (1768)

So which of these threads do I intend to continue with?

Don’t be silly: none of them.

Instead I’ve read the second and final novel by someone even more obscure than these ladies—by which means I can fool myself that I have at last ticked something off the list…

 

27/10/2022

So where were we? (Part 3)

Well, this is a cheat, or at least the softest option—since of all the sub-sections of this blog, my examination of the roots of Australian fiction has travelled the least distance. However—

My posts in this area have chiefly addressed the arguments surrounding the various definitions of “first” – provenance vs publication – while we have also taken a look at a random piece of poetry, the earliest piece of fictional writing of any kind to be published here.

So far, our Australian bibliography looks like this—

The Beauty Of The British Alps (1825): written and published in England by Mary Leman Grimstone before the author’s journey to Tasmania; not strictly part of this series
The Van Diemen’s Land Warriors, or The Heroes Of Cornwall (1827): an anonymous poem satirising the failure of the Tasmanian authorities to deal with the local bushranger problem
Louisa Egerton; or, Castle Herbert (1829): written partially on shipboard and completed in Hobart by Mary Leman Grimstone, but sent to England for publication; set in England
The Hermit In Van Diemen’s Land (1829): a collection of satirical sketches by Henry Savery, lampooning prominent Hobart citizens, which appeared in the Colonial Times before being published in book form
Quintus Servinton (1830 – 1831): by Henry Savery, the first novel written, published and (mostly) set in Australia

But as we all know, I can never take a step forward without taking one back; and there is another work from 1830 that I need to take a look at before we can actually make some progress.

It’s an odd work, written in England by an Englishwoman who never set foot in Australia, and dealing predominantly (although not always overtly) with English problems; but it is mostly set in Australia, and was certainly the first such piece of writing to be aimed at an audience that we would today call “young adult”.

Next up, then—

Alfred Dudley; or, The Australian Settlers by Sarah Porter.

Beyond that, we take a leap into the unknown. There are plenty of non-fiction works out there, particularly travel diaries and memoirs, and a surprising amount of poetry; but the dogma is that very little Australian fiction of any description was written over the next decade and a half. My next efforts here will be focused upon trying to determine whether that is true.

 

 

13/09/2022

So where were we? (Part 2)

I’m going to keep this brief (Huzzah! they cried), because the points that most need making are best made in a different context.

Instead, I just want to remind everyone – myself included – of where we had got up to with the Chronobibliography.

We did examine two short fictions, James Smythies’ Leandro; or, The Lucky Rescue and Peter Belon’s The Reviv’d Fugitive, both of which dealt – more or less – with the consequences of the issuing of the Edict of Fontainebleau in 1685.

However, most exasperatingly, we also had to deal with a resurgence of political writing, most of which hashed over the iniquities of the Stuarts yet again, while a much smaller proportion dealt with the legitimacy of William and Mary’s claim to the throne, or tried unavailingly to attack Louis XIV using the same tactics that had been so successful against James.

What was strikingly missing, though our wander through this material took us pretty much to the end of 1691, was any reference to the Battle of the Boyne. This may have been, as I suggested re: the appendix of Nathaniel Crouch’s revised The Secret History Of The Last Four Monarchs Of Great Britain, because though James himself had scarpered, the war between the Irish and the English forces led by William was still in progress at that time, and would end only with the signing of the Treaty of Limerick in October 1691.

Furthermore, and rather curiously given the preponderance of political writing to date, not only is there no sign of a belated effort to deal with the Battle of the Boyne subsequently, but political writing overall seems almost to vanish from the annals of popular literature from this point.

Oh, sure: Nathaniel Crouch rehashed The Secret History… not once but twice more, catching us up on “the happy revolution, and the accession of Their present Majesties” and “the later reign of James the Second, from the time of his abdication of England, to this present Novemb. 1693”; while some anonymous sadist also decided that we had to hear the story of the Sham Prince one more time; but other than this, a cautious glance forward reveals a fairly steady diet of fiction from this point onwards…at least until the ascension of Anne.

I think another Huzzah! might be in order.

And in fact—I’ve already made a start on 1692, reading one particular work of fiction that to my mind represents a critical watershed in the development of the English novel…

03/09/2022

So where were we?

Yes. Well. We needn’t get into all that.

This past interruption – I think, all things considered, we might call it an interregnum – was punctuated with various failed attempts on my part to get things moving again which, though they produced nothing of substance, did result in a handful of unfinished posts and a scary number of books read but not reviewed (most of which, heaven help me, I’m probably going to have to re-read, in order to remember what I wanted to say).

As a way of tackling all this, and to try and avoid paralysing myself again through overabundance of competing material, what I’m going to do is write a series of short posts reminding us all, myself not least, of where things were up to in each sub-section of this blog and what I was trying to achieve—which hopefully will pave the way for me to move onto the next relevant work.

I won’t make any promises about anything, though. I’ve learned the folly of that.

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02/08/2021

A waddling megalosaurus

London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill…
—Charles Dickens, Bleak House

Yup. That’s what I feel like, all right.

Granting that I feel like an elephantine lizard most of the time.

Thanks, Charlie.

So where were we?

Between my last post and now I’ve managed to accumulate about a dozen unreviewed reads; but instead of addressing any of them, I thought I might take a look at something else which I ended up reading unplanned—and while it was still fresh in my mind.

Radical idea, I know…

 

15/01/2021

…girds loins…

.

{…girding noises…}

.

 

09/02/2020

I really don’t have the time or the energy for this; but—

Anyone out there know the best way to conduct a Wikipedia war?

Anyone feel like conducting one on my behalf?

Some time ago now I raised the matter of the “discovery” of the existence of Elizabeth Meeke, and the contention that she was the Minerva Press author “Mrs Meeke”, whose first name until then was generally given as “Mary”.

Following up on this, I was able to prove to my own satisfaction at least that Elizabeth Meeke and Mary Meeke were two different people; that in order to avoid having two Mrs Meeke-s on their roster, the Minerva Press allowed Mary Meeke to go on writing as “Mrs Meeke”, while compelling Elizabeth Meeke to use the pseudonym “Gabrielli”.

And how I proved this was by doing something I’m quite sure no-one else has bothered to do: I read their novels.

Having at last made some strides towards getting this blog back on track, this morning I went looking for a copy of Ellesmere, a novel from 1799 by Mary Meeke, for my next entry in Authors In Depth.

You can imagine my horror when I discovered that the Elizabeth Meeke theory had been allowed to run rampant in the interim, with webpages and entries previously dealing with Mary Meeke having been altered to credit Elizabeth with all the novels and other works produced by both women.

The last thing I need is a fight of this nature, but I don’t feel I can just let it pass, either. My impulse is to add at least a contending paragraph at the Wikipedia page given over to Elizabeth Meeke, but I haven’t the slightest idea—not just of the best way to go about it, but how to go about it at all.

Help!

31/12/2019

Happier new year?

So I’m sitting here making resolutions.

Aren’t you astonished?

Looking back, I’m frankly appalled at what I didn’t get to this year—in particular my failure to add a single Chronobibliography post; though to be honest, I hadn’t realised it was so long since I had (and am in something of a panic over the evaporation of the intervening time).

As always, there were reasons…or excuses; and as always, I’m wrapping up the old year by making all sorts of plans for the new. I’m painfully conscious it’s as much a matter of discipline as anything else. Whether my good intentions amount to anything remains to be seen, but I do have a plan for reading and blogging that will hopefully result in more frequent and more regular updates.

Anyway— I’m particularly grateful to those of you who have stuck it out through my laziness and disorganisation. As you may have noticed*, I’ve bought you a little present: a site upgrade that ought to eliminate any advertising. If you’re going to have the patience and generosity to keep visiting, you certainly shouldn’t be punished for it.

(*At least, I hope it’s noticeable. As administrator I generally don’t see what you see, so feedback on this point would be very welcome.)

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08/06/2019

I bet it’s not as much fun as it sounds…

Ahem.

Evidently Benjamin Disraeli’s third novel, The Young Duke, fits the general parameters of the silver-fork novel; it has accordingly been added to my provisional reading-list for the genre. However, The Young Duke was published in 1831, four years after Vivian Grey—and therefore after the silver-fork novel had become “a thing”. It will be interesting to compare the approaches of these two novels to their subject matter…

…or perhaps I should say, if and when I can compare them.

Having wrapped up Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, I rewarded myself by starting my hunt for a copy of Benjamin Disraeli’s Vivian Grey, considered the first English response to Goethe’s Bildungsroman and a silver-fork progenitor work.

This proved unexpectedly difficult, due (in the first instance) to a combination of the novel’s publishing history and the idiosyncrasies of the cataloguing system recently adopted by our major libraries: because the book was initially published anonymously and then later reissued as by “the Earl of Beaconsfield”, it doesn’t always come up if you search for it as by Benjamin Disraeli.

But that was, or soon became, a relatively minor speed-bump. A more immediate obstacle was the surprising discovery that neither of the usual suspects (i.e. Penguin and the Oxford University Press) had ever issued an edition of Vivian Grey; that except for an expensive, limited-edition reissue by Pickering & Chatto of “The Early Novels Of Benjamin Disraeli” in 2004, there has not been a hard-copy, English-language edition of the book since 1968; and that the edition before that was from 1934 (in the US) and 1927 (in the UK). There are, of course, ebook and print-on-demand editions around, but I prefer to avoid those if I can.

Well. Okay. It turned out there was a copy of 1968 edition available for interlibrary loan, and inexpensive ones of the 1927 edition online. But while I was pondering that, a far more insidious issue raised its head: the incompatibility of these single-volume releases with the fact that Vivian Grey was originally published in five volumes, two of them in 1826 and the other three in 1827.

And my ugly suspicions were correct: when Vivian Grey stopped being by “Anonymous” and was reissued as by “the Earl of Beaconsfield”, it was also cut to pieces – “severely expurgated”, to use one academic’s description – and (I gather) lost a lot of its fun in the process. The much-shortened 1853 edition is now considered the standard text.

This, of course, shall not stand…

It seems that my academic library holds the five-volume version in its Rare Books section; and while this is theoretically tempting, trying to get it not only read, but written up, in-library is too impracticable even for me.

Fortunately some online library collections do hold scans of the original edition; and while reading a five-volume novel online isn’t exactly appealing, this finally seems like the most sensible way of tackling Vivian Grey.

Meanwhile—a separate issue altogether is the simultaneous discovery that while Vivian Grey and Bulwer-Lytton’s Pelham represent the English reaction to Wilhelm Meister, and certainly did significantly inspire the development of the silver-fork novel proper, there are a couple of other works that also played an important part in the latter, and which pre-date both of these better-known books.

One of them, indeed, may also have been an influence upon these two—as we may judge from its title alone: Robert Plumer Ward’s Tremaine; or, The Man Of Refinement, published in 1825.

And before that we find something that is not strictly a novel at all, but nevertheless appears to warrant a place in this timeline: Theodore Hook’s Sayings And Doings; or, Sketches From Life, from 1824. Published in three volumes, these were a collection of short stories – “tales” – intended to illustrate particular maxims…and, it seems, offer not-infrequently malicious portraits of public figures, including most of Hook’s acquaintances. These proved so popular that the perpetually debt-ridden Hook continued to write them, eventually producing two more “series” of tales that eventually filled nine volumes.

I haven’t looked into the availability of these yet. I’ve been too busy slamming my forehead against my keyboard…

 

09/05/2019

Moving on…

Yes, well. We needn’t get into all that.