Ouida’s Pascarèl (1873): an Encounter with Italy 3

Corinne title page of 1st edition
Corinne title page of 1st edition
consuelo 1842 title page 2
consuelo 1842 title page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 This and the previous two blog posts were originally published as  “The origins of Ouida’s Pascarèl (1873): the  combination novel, myths of the female artist and the commerce of art.” In: Anglistica Pisana. 6.1 (2009) Edizioni ETS, Pisa, Italy, pp. 77-85. ISBN 9788846725967. Please see the first post on the purely visual additions. 

Corinne, as is well known, was “one of the most important documents in the growth of the English Romantic image of Italy” and the favourite guidebook to Italy of the first half of the nineteenth century.[1] Following the pioneering efforts of Ellen Moers in the 1970s, more recent work has reminded us that it offered a way for women to discuss aesthetic matters not only by generating a new myth of a woman artist, but also by providing a transgeneric model in which novel, tourist guide, autobiography and aesthetic tract all intersect.[2] Sand’s Consuelo has been less studied until recently, but was equally influential, offering an alternative model for the female artist as the divinely inspired “sophia” as opposed to the self-expressing, “political sybil” of Corinne.[3] Like the de Staël, Consuelo offers a nationally hybrid, displaced, orphan heroine with traits derived not only from Sand herself but also from Sand’s friend, the operatic diva Pauline Viardot-Garcia; in terms of genre, it is as hybrid as Corinne, mixing gothic, political, religious and aesthetic tract with silver fork (the guide-book element, while present, is much less visible than in Corinne).

Pascarèl follows these texts not only in its transgeneric nature but also in plot elements. Ouida teases us by seeding expectations of Consuelo early on. The donzellina’s singing, references to the opera suggest Sand’s heroine just as ’Ino’s Venetian origins, physical appearance, relationship to the heroine, the way he appears substantially at the beginning, appears to be forgotten by the plot but then returns towards the end as the catalyst for the eventually union of the lovers, links him to Consuelo’s childhood love Anzoleto. Just as Consuelo has an aged and embittered music teacher in Porpora, so does the donzellina in Ambrogio Rufi.

At the point where the heroine recognises Pascarèl, however Corinne is introduced. Just as de Staël’s Lord Nelvil falls in love with a Corinne idolised by the people and learns her name when it is shouted by them, so the donzellina learns the potency of Pascarèl’s name when it is acclaimed by the crowd. Both of course, figure the artist’s ideal audience, but Ouida reverses de Staël’s gendering by making a man’s name allow the heroine to speak. If later Pascarèl speaks in his own voice, he can do so only when he has lost the donzellina: she does not bestow identity upon him. The donzellina may abandon her singing like Consuelo, but unlike in the Sand, the role of artist is decisively taken over by Pascarèl. In place of de Staël’s female improvisatrice who lectures her beloved but rather stupid Lord Nelvil and takes him on a tour of Rome and Naples, Ouida offers a male improvisatore who lectures his beloved donzellina and takes her on a tour of places the English had “discovered” in northern Italy in the 1820s and after. Corinne is masculinized as Pascarel. Insofar as Pascarèl takes on board conventional paradigms of Gothic Italy,[4] then, it does not seek to reconfigure them to present Italy as a figure for a proto-feminist lost matria as Barrett Browning had done. Instead, Ouida energetically puts the lost father at the centre: twenty years older than the heroine, there is never any question that Pascarèl is caringly paternal, the antithesis of the heroine’s (and Ouida’s) biological father.

If Ouida’s Corinne is rewritten as Pascarel then, Consuelo is the donzellina. Consuelo is a female Orpheus who leads her beloved out of the caverns (literal and metaphorical) of his solipsistic madness so that he may be reborn (eventually) as a member of a Saint-Simonian secret society. This is the donzellina’s function: she enables Pascarel to achieve his rightful place in society as social activist.

The national hybridity of the heroine refers to both Consuelo and Corinne. Pamela Gilbert remarked that “racial /cultural hybridity both grants [Ouida’s heroines] more freedom to act, and dooms them as tragic characters for whom no narrative is ultimately possible in the normative social world into which other characters must be integrated”.[5] This is as true of Corinne as it is of those heroines of Ouida that Pamela Gilbert discusses (Folle Farine and Cigarette of Under Two Flags). De Staël indeed was pessimistic about women’s place in the arts, commenting in an essay that the position of the woman genius was ineluctably that of an exile to society.[6] But in mass-market narrative and at the other end of the cultural continuum, Elizabeth Barrett Browning with her decidedly restricted-market Aurora Leigh, a tragic outcome for hybrid women was by no means the only option.[7] Likewise, the donzellina ends her story in the embrace of her beloved and “the paradise of LOVE” (Pascarèl, III: 356).

Essential to this journey towards paradise is, however, the abandonment of the self for both hero and heroine. Pascarèl has to give up the Bohemian life he loves in favour of dedicating his art and his life to social improvement. Having witnessed such selflessness, the donzellina also gives up her new-found wealth and wilfully reduces herself to being “nothing”. While the text emphasises that he has nothing while she is nothing, a balance between them rich in ethical questions for feminism (Pascarèl, III: 349, 354), the real point is that both abandon their possessions and desires to become selfless. Now while de Staël had believed that it was the duty of women to be selfless, for Sand self-sacrifice was a duty for both sexes. She had ended La comtesse de Rudolstadt (1845), the continuation to Consuelo, with the heroine, having given up singing and joined her husband’s secret society in a paradise garden, an analogue of Ouida’s “City of Lilies”. But importantly, in the Sand, the heroine’s beloved Albert has sacrificed everything as well. Pascarèl has in the end preferred Sand’s call for both men and women to give up personal ambitions – Satan’s poisoned arrow ‑ and instead perform their “duty” (Pascarel’s last point in his political speech), It is only then that they truly enter the terrestrial paradise of Florence (an echo of the Comtesse de Rudolstadt finale in a paradise garden).

 

Pascarel, Chapman and Hall 1873, vol 3 p. 355
Pascarel, Chapman and Hall 1873, vol 3 p. 355
pascale chapman and hall 1873 vol 3 p. 356
Pascarel, Chapman and Hall 1873, vol 3 p. 356

 

This seems a disingenuous conclusion, that the gorgeous envoi (like Sand’s precursor) seeks to conceal: after all, it is Pascarèl who ends as the public social actor and the donzellina merely his support. If one is also reminded of the similar situation at the end of Pascarèl’s contemporary, Middlemarch, Ouida’s regendering of Corinne needs to be seen in a different and specific commercial context. When Corinne was presented as a metonym for Italy it was playing into the Gothic vogue for presenting women in this way. By the early 1870s, however, Italy had came to be figured in Britain as a gentlemanly military hero of the Garibaldi mould.[8] Ouida’s combination and partial regendering of two key female kunstlerromanen can be viewed, thus, as an attempt to meet the demands of the early 1870s British culture industry. She was also, of course, publishing the story in an Italian periodical where political articles were generated by the pens of men. But Ouida’s masculine image of an Italian unity achieved through male artists is contradicted both by the donzellina’s narration of most of the novel and by Ouida’s own signature upon it. In the end, women mediate and so control both the narrative and its politics in a very marked way. What is interesting is that the Nuova Antologia seems to have felt threatened by this, removing the most flagrant declaration of female agency over the narrative act by deleting the entirety of the last section of chapter 2, where the donzellina so shockingly bursts through as a speaking subject in her own right. Its very amputation seems a sign that it was aware that while men may be shown as the public faces of art, women were contesting that. This is tension that Ouida does not explore until Ariadne four years later

That Pascarèl is only the first of several novels to discuss the nature and role of art suggests that its composition made Ouida conscious of problems that she needed to work through. The promotion of nationalist politics she regards as a duty here, like her gendering of the artist, did not remain unchallenged, indeed. In a diary entry for 29 April 1887, Lady Paget would write that Ouida now hated Italy ‑ “which seems extraordinary after Pascarèl and Ariadne”. [9] In 1878, Ouida had started to write protest material for the Whitehall Review and, the following year, a stream of letters to the Times. By the time of A Village Commune (1881), she was denouncing the modern Italian state so ferociously that, along with her letters to the Times, it caused her to be banished from the Italian royal court. While deplored as inaccurate in some quarters, Ruskin recommended it as ‘photographic’ in its veracity. It was immediately translated into Italian – unauthorised –with a preface declaring it so important that all Italians should read it.[10] By this stage, the woman artist for Ouida was a social activist. She had herself become a Pascarèl. If in the result of her first encounter with Italy she did not yet pursue her politics with as little recourse to economic self-interest as she later would, we nonetheless see there how, paradoxically,  the exploitation of commercial combination opened up the possibility for the first time.

Pascarel, Tauchnitz, 1873 frontispiece and title page
Pascarel, Tauchnitz, 1873 frontispiece and title page

 


[1] Kenneth Churchill, Italy and English Literature 1764-1930, London: Macmillan, 1980, p. 24.

[2] Ellen Moers, Literary Women (The Women’s Press, 1976), pp. 173-210. On Corinne’s hybridity, see Maddalena Pennachia Punzi, Il mito do Corinne: Viaggio in Italia e genio femminile in Anna Jameson, Margaret Fuller and George Eliot, Roma: Carocci, 2001, p. 11.

[3] On this binarism, see Linda M. Lewis, Germaine de Staël, George Sand, and the Victorian Woman Artist, University of Missouri Press, 2003. For a useful related analysis of the female kunstlerroman, see Kari Lokke, Tracing Women’s Romanticism: Gender, History and Transcendence (Routledge, 2004).

[4] Churchill, op. cit., p. 66.

[5] Pamela Gilbert, ‘Ouida and the other New Woman’, Victorian Women Writers and the Woman Question, ed. Nicola Diane Thompson (CUP, 1999), pp. 170-188, p. 173.

[6] See Punzi, op. cit., pp. 16-17.

[7] For key role quadroon women play in mass-market fiction of the 1850s, see Andrew King, The London Journal: Periodicals, Production and Gender (Ashgate, 2004), pp. 203-4.

[8]“Liberty, Equality and Sorority: women’s representations of the Unification of Italy”, Unfolding the South: Nineteenth-century British Women Writers and Artists in Italy, ed. Alison Chapman and Jane Stabler (Manchester University Press, 2003), pp.110-136; Maura O’Connor, The Romance of Italy and the English Imagination (Macmillan, 1998), ch. 5.

[9] Walburga, Lady Paget, The Linings of Life, (Hurst and Blackett, 1928), 2 vols, II, p. 426.

[10] Ruskin, Art of England, 1883, quoted in Lee, op. cit., p. 110. Un Comune rurale in Italia. Racconto di Ouida, trans. by Sofia Fortini-Santarelli (G. Barbera, 1881). This precedes the better-known version by Isabella Ada Spinelli, Il tiranno del villaggio : Delizie dell’Italia rigenerata (Tip. Degli Artigianelli, 1890), based on an earlier French translation, Le Tyran du village, moeurs de l’Italie régénérée, trans by Victor Derély (A. Mame et fils), 1886.

Ouida’s Pascarèl (1873): an Encounter with Italy 2

Frontispiece to 1873 Tauchnitz edition of Pascarel
Frontispiece to 1873 Tauchnitz edition of Pascarel

The previous and the following blog posts were originally published as  “The origins of Ouida’s Pascarèl (1873): the  combination novel, myths of the female artist and the commerce of art.” In: Anglistica Pisana. 6.1 (2009) Edizioni ETS, Pisa, Italy, pp. 77-85. ISBN 9788846725967. Please see the first post on the purely visual additions. This post mainly concerns the plot of the novel.

Pascarèl opens with a third-person description of Carnival in Verona, a place familiar to all the novel’s expected readership through Romeo and Juliet, as the narrator points out (as so many commercial novels do, this one flatters us with what we already know). The heroine and principal narrator is Speronella, usually called the “donzellina”. She is the illegitimate daughter of a male English aristocrat (who abandons her when she is a child) and a female Italian opera singer who dies when the donzellina a little later. She has as a playfellow, ’Ino, a youth with a “pretty, curly, golden, Venetian head” (p.11).The plot begins with the donzellina, now fifteen, needing money to buy bread for her and her sole remaining guardian, an old nurse. What can she do but sing? ’Ino discourages her from singing in the opera, but suggests singing in the street instead. He plays the lute and she sings to the acclamation of an assembled crowd, a shower of coins, and the gift of a ring with a mysterious stone engraved with a pictures of the Fates. Soon after she hears the crowd cry “Pascarèl!” but instead of following the cry, she tries to run back to her nurse to give her money. She finds it hard to run laden with coins and

She sank down upon a flight of steps, her skirts glided from her hands, her treasures rolled to the ground and were scattered. She sobbed as if her heart would break.

‘That is ungrateful to the people, cara mia,’ said [’Ino] softly, ‘Is it that stone with the Fates that has chilled you?

 ‘Nay she is right,’ said a voice above them. ‘Count art by gold, and it fetters the feet it once winged.’

(Pascarèl, I: 22-3)

The voice belongs to the donor of the ring, but he disappears too quickly to be questioned. She realises suddenly that donor is Pascarèl and, immediately and shockingly, in the final paragraphs of chapter 2, the narrative voice becomes first-person, spotlighting in an extreme manner the very act of the story’s narration. The heroine has, through recognising the hero, been enabled to speak in her own voice. In the following six chapters she gives us her history. Returning to the opening time frame in chapter 9 but retaining her narrative voice, the donzellina reaches home. The nurse refuses money made in a shameful way on the streets and dies of starvation in the night, whereupon the donzellina goes in search of her father.

illus from Pascarel opp p. 163
Firenze Panorama: photo from Pascerel opp.p. 163

In Florence, she is found and taken up by Pascarèl. He turns out to be a wandering actor and improvisatore. They slowly fall in love in a curious process which comprises her listening to him rhapsodising over the virtues and beauties of Italy while they tour the towns and villages with his acting troupe. They exercise their art for money – only enough to live ‑ and for their own pleasure. This structure allows for poetic vignettes of specific places and edenic descriptions of natural phenomena which gratuitously interrupt the plot in the same way as the hero’s monologues. Pascarèl is thus able to combine guidebook with improvisations on politics and aesthetics, together with novel and (for those who know) autobiography.

PIsa Panorama dalla Torre della Cittadella, photo opp. p. 310
PIsa Panorama dalla Torre della Cittadella, photo opp. p. 310

When the heroine discovers that her beloved has been having an affair with a woman he had claimed was his sister, she flees back to Florence. She is eventually found and acknowledged by her father, who is now fabulously wealthy. Pascarèl, meanwhile, in despair at losing the donzellina, learns the importance of selfless political commitment, goes to fight in the Italian war of independence and returns a hero. To narrate Pascarèl’s adventures the novel finally allows him to speak in his own voice, rather than have it relayed through the donzellina’s consciousness. He has at last, it seems, discovered his own social role and identity. In his adventures he encounters ’Ino, who has developed a talent for drawing, and becomes his patron. ’Ino meets the donzellina in Florence and brings news of her to Pascarèl, having  also informed the donzellina about Pascarèl. She now gives up her new-found wealth and goes to find him, encountering him making a political speech in favour of Italian unification. He begins with a story of how St Michael created the Italian people from a “sunbeam …a mask of velvet, a poniard of steel, the chords of a lute, the heart of a child, the sigh of a poet, the kiss of a lover, a rose out of paradise, and a silver string from an angel’s lyre”, blessed with the smile of God (Pascarèl, III, p. 341). But then Satan in envy fired a poisoned arrow into the heart of this creation:

“Some call this barbed shaft Cruelty; some Superstition; some Ignorance; some Priestcraft; maybe its poison is drawn from all four; be it how it may, it is the duty of all Italians to pluck hard at the arrow of hell, so that the smile of God alone shall remain with their children’s children.

“Yonder in the plains we have done much ; the rest will lie with you, the Freed Nation.”

(Pascarèl, vol. III, p. 342)
 

Pascarèl goes on to urge his audience to think of Italy as a unified nation with a glorious history. “We are Italians,” he concludes with enormous dramatic effect. “Great as the heritage is, so great the duty likewise.” (Pascarèl, vol. III, p. 347).

The donzellina, like the audience, is overcome. Whereas before she had been critical or at most delighted by Pascarel’s power of story-telling, now she “worships” it, not in the uncomprehending way Folle-Farine had adored the art of her sculptor, but because she recognises the great social purpose to which it is being put. Of course, hero and heroine end united in bliss.

It will be evident from the foregoing summary that the narrative progresses from a commercial version of art, where the donzellina is forced to sing for bread, through an enraptured erotic art which is a aesthetic celebration of beauty, to one dedicated to social utility, a view of art consonant with what Diana Maltz has called “missionary aesthetics”.[1] For all that one may decry Pascarèl’s rhetorical commonplaces and sentimental allegory, his political intention is unambiguous.

This seeming political commitment is, however, constructed along commercial lines with the tried and tested formulae of a “combination novel”. Pascarèl has clear relations to several works, including Tricotrin (1869) which prefigures it by presenting as the central characters a waif heroine and an older male wandering genius who refuses to be fettered by convention. The most flagged up source is, however, William Morris’s closet verse drama Love is Enough which provides an epigraph and quotations right at the beginning of the novel and then right at the end. It is difficult to see how Morris’s poem could have informed the whole work, however. Love is Enough appeared in November 1872, while Pascarèl was published in just the February of the following year. The donzellina and Pascarèl may be like the emperor and empress in Morris’s frame narrative in that war separates them and love conquers all, but the dating does not permit more than a superficial deployment of the poem by Ouida. She may have been inspired to quote Morris’s poem at the proof stage, recognising its fit with her novel, but she cannot have known it well enough for it to act as a palimpsest. Rather, I believe the most significant models are two picaresque female kunstlerromanen, both key documents for generating the mythology of the women artist in the early nineteenth century, Madame de Staël’s Corinne and George Sand’s Consuelo.[2]


[1] Diana Maltz, British Aestheticism and the Urban Working Classes, 1870-1900: Beauty for the People, Palgrave, 2005.

[2] A reviewer of the French version (Pascarel, roman imité de l’Anglais, avec l’autorisation de l’auteur, trans. by J. Giraudin (Coulomnier, 1878), reviewed in Polybiblion, Revue Bibliographique Universelle, January 1879, 2nd series, vol. 9, pp. 18-20) remarked en passant on Pascarèl’s connection with Consuelo, but its link with Corinne has remained unobserved to my knowledge.

Ouida’s Pascarèl (1873): an Encounter with Italy 1

The following three blog posts were originally published as  “The origins of Ouida’s Pascarèl (1873): the  combination novel, myths of the female artist and the commerce of art.” In: Anglistica Pisana. 6.1 (2009) Edizioni ETS, Pisa, Italy, pp. 77-85. ISBN 9788846725967.

Since that volume is out of print, I reproduce it her with the kind permission of Giovanni Campolo of Edizioni ETS.

I have added my translations of passages in Italian and also a few images not in the original version from a beautiful version of the 1873 2 volume Tauchnitz  edition. This is bound in white paper with red and gold stampings, illustrated with actual photographs  cut and pasted onto appropriate additional pages. My copy (of only volume 1) has been bound by Giulio Giannini whose business was at the Piazza Pitti in Florence. They are still one of the foremost book binders in Florence (see http://www.giuliogiannini.com/). The date is not given, though there is a dated owner’s signature on the inside – S.M. Schieffelin, 1890. I have also added a few images from the Nuova Antologia,  and, in later  posts, from editions of Corinne and Consuelo  Apart from those visual additions and a bit of colour in the text to help orientate the reader on the screen,  the text is the same as published. 

bound version of 1873 Tauchnitz edition of Pascarel
bound version of 1873 Tauchnitz edition of Pascarel

In musing over the villas of Florence in her Scenes and Memories (Smith, Elder, 1912), Ouida’s friend Walburga, Lady Paget finally comes to the Villa Farinola, where Ouida lived between 1874 and 1888.

 Ouida was certainly a genius; she had a power of language, a love of nature, and, above all, a flair for couleur locale almost unequalled. If you consider that she wrote Pascarel when she had been but three weeks in Italy, you must confess that the achievement is second only to Byron’s lines on the Dying Gladiator, after having seen it for the first time. (pp. 321-2).

Two of Ouida’s biographers go so far as to take the travels and feelings of Pascarel’s heroine as a straightforward transcription of Ouida’s own. [1] This article queries Lady Paget’s hyperbole and asks what Ouida’s first encounter with Italy actually meant. I suggest that it was a new audience and new source material that led her to compose what the Athenaeum recognised as a fresh development in her oeuvre “far in advance of [her] earlier novels”[2]

Soon after its publication in triple-decker form by Chapman & Hall in early 1873, Pascarèl was brought out in a single volume by Lippincott’s in America and in two-volume form by Tauchnitz in Leipzig (Ouida had had a business relationship with these firms since 1865 and 1867 respectively). Such transnational distribution is to be expected for a writer best known for her part in forwarding the popular culture industry: there is nothing new here.

pascarel in nuova antologia
Pascarello, in Nuova Antologia April 1873, vol 22, p. 812

What was novel for Ouida was that Pascarèl was quickly translated into Italian and serialised in the Nuova Antologia.[3] This latter had been started in 1866 by Francesco Protonotari to mark the spiritual and cultural life of the newly emergent Italian nation now that the capital was in Florence. It promoted a new form of writing

con un immediato senso della realtà attuale, con una scioltezza vivace che attraessero il pubblico alla lettura e rendessero possible la trattazione chiara e piacevole di qualsiasi argomento.[4]

[with an immediate sense of current reality, with a lively fluency which would attract the public to reading and render possible the clear and pleasing treatment of every kind of theme]

One of its many interesting features is the role of the woman writer in it: its Indice per autori shows how women were, on the whole, confined to contributing fiction, suggesting a strongly gendered vision of writing in which women had to be contained. As a fiction writer, Ouida fitted in.

But it is also significant that Protonotari must have understood Pascarèl to fit his nationalist agenda and its popular and “immediate sense of current reality”. The nature of Ouida’s arrangements with Protonotari are not clear, though given the speed with which the translation appeared, one can imagine that she had been negotiating with him for some time. It is probable therefore she wrote the novel with one eye on the Italian market and the other on her established Anglophone one. Perhaps Protonotari had urged her to address the issue of national unity early on in the novel’s composition, or she herself realised what its readers wanted. Either would explain why she changed direction and started to think about the social utility of her art. What is clear is that Ouida, for the first time, was understood to have written a novel suitable for a periodical with a specific social programme: Pascarèl is a novel with a political and social agenda.

I want to fit Pascarèl into a story of Ouida’s overall literary development that queries the usual riches to rags narrative of a pathetic grotesque. During her time in Italy Ouida gradually turned towards non-fictional interventions in high-status British and American periodicals. After 1899, however, Ouida published very little at all, though she continued to write politically opinionated letters to her acquaintances along with a handful of political poems. A few of the latter appeared in The Times; others, considered too libellous for print, remained in manuscript form, circulating only amongst her network of correspondents. The poems – when they have been mentioned at all – have uniformly been taken as examples of how little Ouida knew of real political process.[5] Whatever their degree of political sophistication, they demonstrate Ouida’s commitment, at this last stage of her writing career, to art as a political intervention beyond economic exchange. Believing in the paternalist idea that genius had very definite duties to society, Ouida now was using poetry and correspondence, both public and private, as the least commercially profitable modes of writing in order to make political statements, locating her art beyond exchange value into pure, if necessarily limited, utility.

Ouida’s aesthetic trajectory to this point was not straightforward or linear. Yet her move from the purely commercial can be located best in a handful of works from the 1870s set in Italy. Central to all of them is the status of art and artists: Signa (1875), In a Winter City (1876), Ariadne (1877) and Friendship (1878) all deal with the relation of various arts to the market and, more generally, the place and function of art in society. Pascarèl (1873) initiates this series.

In Ouida’s work from the 1860s, the idea that “art” and “genius” might have an ethical or social role had been portrayed as ridiculous. The odd reference to them in Under Two Flags (1866) reduces their social utility to the teaching of etiquette for profit or the making of figurines in imitation of one’s fellows to supplement a meagre income, a metonym for commercial stories that follow formulae already tested in the market. Art is commercially imitative and combinatory. Folle-Farine (1871) portrays the artist as so egotistical as to be heedless of the sacrifices made for him:

He was not cruel. To animals he was humane, to women gentle, to men serene; but his art was before all things with him, and with humanity he had little sympathy. (Folle-Farine, Chatto and Windus reissue, 1883, p. 219).

What the artwork and the artist do is not clear except bring financial reward and fame. The eponymous heroine sells her body so that her beloved sculptor can become famous, but she views what he does in the haziest terms:

This art, which could call life from the dry wastes of wood and paper, and shed perpetual light where all was darkness, was ever to her an alchemy incomprehensible, immeasurable; a thing not to be criticised or questioned, but adored in all its inscrutable and majestic mystery. (Folle-Farine, p. 298).

Tricotrin, the artist hero of Ouida’s next novel, ensures “Art” is kept as his “handmaiden” not his “mistress” by choosing a wandering life of minstrelsy (Tricotrin, 1871, I, p.64). Art generates “treasure” for its possessors (II, p. 357), offers delights both spiritual and sensuous, but is also a place where the artist can “vent” his emotion (I, p. 248), a quiet remove from the tumult of the world, a “tuft of rushes” (II, p. 380). Such “expressive” art is beyond price, of course. There may be a faint echo of Shelley’s notion of the poet – “A statesman rules ay, for a lifetime; but it is only the poet whose sceptre stretches over generations unborn.” (II, p. 438) – but this seems just another aphorism of the kind that Ouida frequently puts in the mouths of conversationally combative characters. Described in utterly conventional ways, the role of art is never seriously debated in Tricotrin. Art is a source of firstly income and secondarily glory in these early works, mirroring Ouida’s own position as a worker in the commercial culture industry.

That Pascarèl was written to sell like its predecessors is beyond doubt. Ouida was not yet at the stage where she was a producer of a pure art for society’s sake. However, it is also the case that, along with her new politically-conscious Italian market, the established sales-generating technique Pascarèl employed – its reworking of well-known narratives in the fashion of a “combination novel”[6] ‑ that opened the way for a more thorough-going questioning of the role of art in society than Ouida had previously essayed.


[1] Yvonne ffrench, Ouida: A Study in Ostentation (Cobden-Sanderson, 1938), p. 81 and Monica Stirling, The Fine and the Wicked: the Life and Times of Ouida, (Gollancz, 1957), pp. 47-8.

[2] Athenaeum, no 2370, March 29 1873, p. 405.

[3] trans. as Pascarello, in Nuova Antologia 1873 April – September, vol 22, fasc. 4, pp. 812-861; vol. 23, pp. 101-147; 400-456; 588-635; 817-881; vol. 24, pp. 61-117. No translater is given.

[4] Indice per autori e per materie della Nuova Antologia dal 1866-1930, a cura di Ludovico Barbieri, La Nuova Antologia, Roma, 1934: xii.

[5] See Elisabeth Lee, Ouida: a Memoir, Fischer Unwin, 1914, pp. 183-5; Eileen Bigland, Ouida, The Passionate Victorian (Jarrold’s, 1950), p. 236. See also ffrench, , op. cit., pp. 159-60 and Stirling, , op. cit., p. 204.

[6] A coinage of Mary Braddon’s in her 1863 serial The Doctor’s Wife: “The combination novel enables a young author to present his public with all the brightest flowers of fiction neatly arranged into every variety of garland. I’m doing a combination novel now – the Heart of Midlothian and the Wandering Jew…” (quoted from Andrew King and John Plunkett, Victorian Print Media (OUP, 2005), p. 310).

John Dicks, Publisher, and “Dicks’ English Library of Standard Works”

My thanks to Louis James for the gift some time ago of six volumes (bound as 3) plus 10 monthly numbers of Dicks’ English Library of Standard Works and, in anticipation, to Anne Humpherys’ ongoing research on Dicks and reprinting, to which this post is intended as a small contribution.

To both these remarkable scholars this post is dedicated.

advert of Dicks' various reprint series from Dicks English Library March 1884
advert for Dicks various reprint series from Dicks English Library March 1884

As William St Claire has assertively reminded us on more than one occasion, the bibliophile connoisseur’s fetishisation of the “original” – the first – edition of texts has often occluded how reprints are actually more valuable in telling us about the cultural penetration of texts. The first edition is always to some extent “experimental” on the market. The publisher may have a good idea of who it will sell to and how how many copies will be shifted but the risk remains that he (for Victorian publishers were overwhelmingly male) may be wrong. Reprint editions still carry this risk of course, but to a lesser extent: the publisher already knows that the first edition or, indeed, the many previous editions, have sold and how quickly, and may even have evidence about who bought it, how the critics understood it, and so on. To that extent the risk is less. But reprints can also be aimed at radically different markets, as when Ouida is repackaged and sold in 6d form at the end of the century. The launch of a text in a new market may meet with considerable success, or it may not, so we cannot say with absolute conviction that reprinting involves less risk than first printing.

dicks standard plays
List of Dicks Standard Plays, c. 1884

Anecdotally, one of the best selling series of reprints of the latter part of the nineteenth century comprised a periodical entitled Dick’s English Library of Standard Works. This was issued from one of the most successful London publishing houses of cheap fiction, John Dicks, on which there is almost no work at all outside an excellent volume privately published in 2006 by a descendant of the founder (Guy Dicks, The John Dicks Press, Lulu.com). Nonetheless, Dicks is certainly well known as a name not only to students of Victorian popular reading, to whom Bow Bells (1862-1897), Reynolds’s Weekly Newspaper (1850-1967) and Reynolds’s Miscellany (1846-1869) along with Reynolds’s Mysteries of the Court of London  (1849-1856) are all familiar, but also students of the Victorian theatre, for without the over 1,000 “Dicks Standard Plays” (published at a penny each between 1864 and 1907), many theatrical pieces would not be available to us at all.

John Thomas Dicks was born in 1818 and entered the London printing trade aged 14 or 15 “in a very humble capacity” (says the Bookseller in its obituary of Dicks, 3 March 1881). Around 1841 he became “assistant to P. T. Thomas, the Chinese scholar, who at that time was carrying on the business of publisher, printer and stereotyper to the trade on Warwick Square”. In the mid 1840s he started to be associated with  G. W. M. Reynolds and in 1863 seems to have amassed sufficient capital to set up as a printer and publisher at 313, Strand, London, where he entered into formal partnership with Reynolds.  After Reynolds died in 1879, Dicks bought his name and copyrights from his heirs for a very considerable annuity.

A major part of Dicks’ business, however,  already comprised reprinting which he organised into several  series, including “Dicks’ Complete Shakespeare,” and of course “Dicks’ Standard Plays” (see the first illustration in this post).

A measure of Dicks’s commercial acumen is suggested by  his death (in 1881) at his villa in Menton, a resort in the south of France where the European and Russian nobility kept their winter villas. Dicks also had a large house, the Lindens (which no longer survives except in the name of a post-war housing estate), in the exclusive west London suburb of Grove Park, Chiswick (the location was not accidental, for not only does the nearby railway station go to Waterloo, from where Dicks could cross the river easily to his office, but census data reveal that his wife was born in Hammersmith, the next suburb east of Chiswick). His estate, valued at “under £50,000” – a very considerable sum –  was left to his widow Maria Louisa and his sons Henry and John (see Ancestry.com. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010).  Clearly, cheap publishing and reprinting could be a very profitable business indeed.

The indefatigable journalist, gossip and bon viveur George Sala has an amusing anecdote at Dick’s expense, however, suggestive of how despite almost all authors’ interest in money, financial and cultural capitals might be inversely proportional to one another. It’s part of a longer story about his encounter at Nice with a “Captain Cashless”  –“ middle-aged, good-looking, well-preserved…  spent most of his money before he came of age; lived for several years on the credit of his credit; is a widower and spent every penny of his wife’s fortune” (Life and Adventures of George Augustus Sala, volume 2: 293). The Captain cannot understand where Sala gets his money from, but Sala feels he might

sala life and adventures vol 2 294
Sala, Life and Adventures, Cassell, 1895, vol 2: 294

Sala lets us know that he can just toss off this profitable magic, turning the lead of his scribbling pencil into financial gold he can spend (and no doubt dispend) in Monte Carlo with his friend the glamorous rake. His methods of income generation and expenditure here seem to mirror one another in their low “real” value: both are fun, light, silly, worthless entertainments; good times, easily come by, easily left; in all Victorian senses, “fast”. In an analogue of the bibliophile connoisseur’s dismissal of the reprint as repetition, Sala dismisses his tales as the result of iterable alchemical formulae or repeated tricks of prestidigitation he has learned in the trade. Yet besides their illustration of the distance between cultural and financial capitals, such stories by their very comedy can hide from us the very serious business sense that lies behind them. It’s not that the fun is deceitful – on the contrary, without it there would be no commercial success – but that it is only one side of the coin.

dicks english novels Reynolds the seamstress

Dicks English Novels no 102: Reynolds, The Seamstress

 Turning now more specifically to the reprinting side of Dicks’s business, in the 1870s  a series of 6d volume-form reprints under the generic title “Dicks’ English Novels,” began to be published: they cost 6d and seem to have started as reset versions of novels originally serialised in Bow Bells. They also recycled the original illustrations. Many other novels were soon added, including, after the copyrights had been secured, works by G.W.M. Reynolds (see the image on the right for an example). In the end almost 200 titles were published in this series (more of which below). It was so successful a second series was begin in 1894.

After his death, Dicks’s sons developed the reprint with Dicks’ English Library of Standard Works, a periodical consisting entirely of the  serial re-issue of well-known novels. It came out in the usual 3 formats: weekly comprising 16 pages with four illustrations (costing 1/2d); monthly, consisting of the weekly numbers for the month costing 3d, in orange covers comprising mainly adverts; and in volume form of 416 pages plus title page and frontispiece costing 1/6. “Dicks’ English Library” was a quarto – the same size and format as most 1d or 1/2d periodicals such as the London JournalBow Bells or Reynolds’s Miscellany – and was first published on 27 June 1883. It ran for 38 volumes right up to 2 March 1894 whereupon (just as with Dicks’ English Novels”) a new series was started. Percy B. St. John was the editor of the first few volumes (on whom see a subsequent post).

Dicks English Standard Library no1
Dicks English Standard Library no1
dicks standard library title page 1
dicks standard library title page 1

 

dicks standard library vol 1 frontispiece
Dicks Standard Library vol 1 frontispiece

A typical announcement for the periodical can be seen here, justifying its publication not (of course) in commercial terms but in those of Whig public utility  that could have come from the 1830s. (The following is from the Pall Mall Gazette, but similar adverts were placed all over the press)

pall mall gazette 21 June 1881 15 (2)
The Pall Mall Gazette 21 June 1881: 15

Besides the  list of authors above and the more obvious suspects in the world of Victorian popular fiction – G.W.M. Reynolds, Bulwer Lytton, Charles Lever, G.P.R James, Captain Marryat, Paul de Kock and Dumas ‑  also included were Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (and Percy Bysshe’s Zastrozzi, both illustrated by the well-known illustrator Frederick Gilbert – Shelley’s complete “Poetical Works” are published later in the series), Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda, Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Hawthorn’s Scarlet Letter and Godwin’s Caleb Williams. Most intriguing (not least from the point of view of copyright) is the heavy presence of Dickens, including, later on, Dombey and Son as well as numerous individual tales.

The reissue of these texts cannot be taken to be an unalloyed index of popularity amongst the readers of cheap publications. The Dicks firm is clearly aiming at respectability and the aspirational reader keen to build up that sign of cultural capital, a “library” – the page numbers of each weekly and monthly number are incremental, asking the reader to keep them so as to build up the volume. The Shelley poetry may have been suggested by the revival of interest in him amongst the literati with Rossetti’s Moxon edition in 1870: it is a mark of what the public should aspire to rather than of already extant popular demand. Publication in this form is no indication that any particular author was read unless the author’s other works are also issued, and even then business reasons other than consumer demand may have prevailed – for example, copyrights might have been bought as a job lot in advance, and accordingly had to be exploited, or there were vacant pages that had to be filled with works whose copyright had lapsed. One also has to take into account what other works were serialised with, before and after any particular text, for it may be any or all of those that carried the periodical through rather than the particular text one is looking at.

What one also has to do is try to establish the publishing history of a series. Adverts are always useful for this and one on the monthly cover of “Dicks’ English Library” (October 1888) shows that by then 197 titles had been published in the “Dicks’ English Novels” series for example. The missing titles were presumably exhausted, but they can be identified by reference to other adverts elsewhere, either in other publications or earlier in the series (cf. the following with the first image of this post).

dicks english novels advert 1 October 1888
Advert from cover of Dicks’ English Library for Dicks English Novels, 1 October 1888

The history of the Dicks reprinting series has yet to be mapped: even a basic bibliography is lacking. After that is done, one of the many questions that can be answered concerns the relations of synergy between the various publication forms: for example, how far did the English Library reprint works previously available in the volume-form English Novels series? More complex questions can also be addressed, including the implications for the history of the canon, its creation, modification and its reception – if any – of the publishing choices of  this financially rich but status-poor house. The use of a garland of portraits of authors as a frontispiece for “Dicks Standard Library” suggests the prioritisiation of some authors over others: this prioritisation needs to be charted and compared to the number and positioning of authors actually published (a front-page author is lent greater prominence than one whose work starts on a middle page, for example).

These, and many other questions about this most interesting publisher, still await answers, and we look forward to them in due course.

Ouida and the Parergic 2

Guy_Livingstone frontispiece
US cheap reprint of Guy Livingstone by Routledge (1867) for both US and UK markets

Ouida, of course, from when her first story appeared in Bentley’s (she was just 18), had had to write for money. She knew where the power and money lay, and “mythical swelldom” was one place. In 1857 George Lawrence’s Guy Livingstone had appeared. It went through at least 6 editions by the mid-60s (the image is of an 1867 reprint by Routledge who evidently thought it worthwhile to print – and so establish copyright – in the US as well) and started the cult of the “muscular” hero. Even Dickens had to respond to it  (see Nicholas Shrimpton’s excellent article on Lawrence and the “Muscular School” of heroes in Dickens Quarterly, 29: 2). Lawrence himself was given no less than £1,000 for his novels – a very high sum indeed – by his publisher Tinsley, and Tinsley it was who published in volume form Ouida’s first novel, Held in Bondage in 1863, a novel which combined the dashing muscular school with bigamy and sexual deception, themes newly marketable since Lady Audley’s Secret. Ouida though only managed to get £50 from Tinsley for the rights to publish it (though she did manage to negotiate that he should only keep the copyright for a limited period. Tinsley, rather unpleasantly, wrote that he could have got the complete copyright had he driven a hard bargain). Strathmore followed the same publication pattern, though published, after negotiations, by Chapman and Hall who were now to become Ouida’s regular British publishers. She managed to sell them the short-term copyright for just £75.

Even to get these small sums was an effort. Ouida, a half-foreign woman of 20 from Bury St Edmund’s with no real connections, had to work out a way to make money in the cut-throat male world of London publishing. Hers is in a sense “surplus” labour which has to make itself needed: she is an outsider who has to get in. The solution Ouida seems to have arrived at was to  reflect back to power the image of itself it seemed to like. This is where the concept of parergy starts to become useful.

Fig 3 Under Two flags (421x640)There is an oft-repeated story that Ouida used the conversations she heard between men at her Langham gatherings for her now most famous novel, Under Two Flags. But, as Jordan demonstrates in her chapter for Ouida and Victorian Popular Culture, Ouida’s knowledge of military life was derived from reading rather than from conversations with military men. Such textual knowledge is legible from her earliest publications, the short stories she had published in Bentley’s in the early 60s, several of which we can read today as devastatingly critiquing male pomposity exemplified by the soldier (e.g. “Little Grand and the Marchioness”). But they can also be read as simply amusing in their accounts of masculinity. That they concern “mythical swelldom” as opposed to what the male critics regarded as reality is key: Ouida doesn’t get it quite “right” i.e. she presents the men from the outside, exposing men’s little blind spots and tricks of evasion. At this stage, that doesn’t matter: for the critics these deviations – these failures to adhere to the powerful norm – are a laugh, “brilliant nothings”.

By the mid 60s Ouida’s prices had risen slightly. Over 186566 she received £6 per monthly instalment for Under Two Flags in the British Army and Navy Review, a monthly to which she had contributed a series of stories and non-fiction articles on military matters since July 1864. Just as Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret was left incomplete in its first manifestation as a serial in the twopenny weekly Robin GoodfellowUnder Two Flags was unfinished when the British Army and Navy Review folded in June 1866. Bentley had taken over the Review in December 1865 but failed to save it. He later refused to publish the novel in volume format on the advice of his reader Geraldine Jewsbury who concluded that ‘the story would sell but … you would lower the character of your house if you accept it’.  Ouida wrote to another potential publisher, Frederick Chapman, a few months later claiming that the premature termination of the serial had left ‘military men’ waiting ‘with intense impatience’ to read the end. Her sales pitch to Chapman worked, for he published it as a triple-decker in November the following year. The American publisher Lippincott gave her £300 ‘by trade courtesy’ for his one-volume edition, and the continental publisher Tauchnitz brought it out in 1871. Three years later, Ouida was to sell her copyright outright to Chapman for less than £150.

This was to prove a costly mistake for, contrary to what has been claimed, the novel was initially only moderately successful. Its real success came in the 1890s when it sold in enormous numbers in cheap editions: Chatto and Windus, who bought the copyright from Chapman in 1876 as part of their vigorous expansion policy, were to print around 700,000 copies. Ouida got nothing from this. No wonder she was to write to her solictor in November 1884 that “Chatto & Chapman are two rogues who play into each other’s hands to keep down prices like the publisher in ‘Pendennis.’” Men still ruled the publishing industry, as they rule the wider media today.

By the 1890s, then, Ouida’s fiction has migrated downmarket. Interestingly, the penny papers do not treat her with the same attitude as the up-market expensive magazines and newspapers. On the contrary, for them she is “the leading female novelist of England” who has

“no rival in passionate eloquence, and the pathetic, emotional power by which she can change the lowly and the sinning into a glorified humanity, and lift up and ennoble and sanctify even the rudest nature by some one divine gem of supreme manifestation of sacrificial love” (Bow Bells 17 January 1890).

By this time, too, she had herself become comically wicked in that market. Unlike with the negative high-culture reviews of the 1870s and 1880s, this is surely a marketing ploy which positions Ouida as safely transgressive: her eccentricity is part of her scandalous appeal. One can have one’s desires enacted by someone else on the page without ever having to confess them as one’s own. Ouida is contained: once again we don’t have to read her seriously.

London journal extract on Ouida
London Journal 3 September 1898
To return again to parergy.

Parergy is not dismissal de haut en bas by critics who claim to know better – it is not a weapon in cultural warfare that the powerful wield. It is a wheedling weapon of the disempowered, a demand to be heard which knows it will fail, an attempt to participate in power while knowing that the odds are stacked against it. Is this what Ouida does in her early work?

I don’t think Ouida’s imitations of the “Muscular School” fail in an unambiguous way so much as lay that school open to the possibility of ridicule or parody:  they depart from it certainly, exposing its weaknesses and limitations and hidden assumptions. We are never allowed to forget that the hero of Under Two Flags is nicknamed “Beauty” and that he’s much more interested in his horse and his male friend “Angel” than in the heroine Cigarette or the paragon Lady Venetia or the actress he keeps (powerfully objectified as merely “the Zu-Zu” ) or his aristocratic mistress with the absurdly accurate name “Guenevere”. The women Beauty has a relationship with are all part of the appearance of masculinity. Even Beauty’s affair with Lady Guenevere is part of the system of masculine show: everyone knows about it and yet, in that complex game of respectability, at the same time they don’t. In any case, we are shown how this affair adds a potency to Beauty’s allure. How are we to take this exposure of the structuring of masculine power and image? Is it a flattering celebration or a merciless critique?

If the parergic can be found in Ouida it is gendered:  excluded from literary-economic power, she mirrors back those representations of masculinity which generate it, while at the same time departing from them by the acuteness of her vision and anxiety as an outsider.

It is very different from the non-gendered, generic parergy I located in the 1840s. If anything, that kind can still be found in the penny paper reviews of the 1890s – think of the rather strained description of Ouida in Bow Bells, with its anxious determination to dazzle with rhetorical devices (most notably a tricolon) at all costs, or the anecdote in the London Journal which could be funny were its rhythms more bouncily organised, and were it less determined to excuse its subject as distracted.

Whether Ouida’s vision of men is parergic or parodic depends on whether we read it as undermining or supporting that masculinity. I think her version of muscular literary power in her early work walks a tightrope between parergy and parody: can we say with absolute conviction that her early work parergically supports its models while failing to live up to them or parodically undermines them by exaggerating and revealing? It does both, sometimes simultaneously but mainly, I think, it lurches from one to the other from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, page to page. The reader is in any case left uncertain, able to take from it in the end what she or he wants. Indeed, the ability of Ouida’s writing to have it both ways in terms of gender is one of the secrets of its success, and why it gives us such scope to write about this author and gender in what seems a mini-Ouida revival in the teens of the twenty-first century.

Over a hundred years after her death, we have started to find ways of reading Ouida again.

 

Ouida and the Parergic 1.

For perhaps a hundred years the idea that Ouida could ever have a serious relationship with high-status culture would have been laughable. Her contemporary critics thought her merely pretentious: she claims to be part of respectable culture but she can’t manage it, she emulates the high but doesn’t get it right.

lay figure
Artist’s Lay Figure from 1870

When the Saturday Review (12 July 1873) reviews Ouida’s Pascarèl, a novel set in the revolutionary Italy of the 1860s, it begins by announcing that Ouida’s

“chief literary quality is a flux of words and her dominant characteristic audacity. If we analyse her rushing gorgeous sentences, full of sound and colour as they are, we find only some poor, meagre, little thought as the residuum; and even when her phrases are sentimental, the action of her stories too often appeals to a prurient taste. Her ideas are like an artist’s lay figure, the same thing draped up in a dozen different costumes, but always the same thing underneath, and that thing wooden.”

Ouida can’t, according to this witty reviewer,  be bothered to move from the “lay figure” to real people: she remains all pose (as Malcolm Elwin described her in his 1930s book Victorian Wallflowers).

Now when I used  the term defined in a previous post, “parergic,” to refer to a failed emulation of high culture that did not undermine but supported it, I wanted to get away from the value judgement implied by the terms “pretentious” (or words often used in a similar way, like “imitative” or “derivative”) to help us think about what was at stake: what are the violent hierarchies we participate in, unconsciously or otherwise, when we dismiss a writer as laughably pretentious? Sometimes the violence takes place in the field of culture, at other times of class, gender, race, age, disability and so on. Sometimes consumer identity which may be “horizontal” rather than vertical is at issue, whereby for instance, supporters of one successful pop group will deny the validity of another which is, in the field at large, in a very similar cultural position. At all times the issue is tribal status: “we” are better than the failed “them”. My deployment of the term “parergy” was intended to create an analytic  distance from those struggles, to stand outside them insofar as such is possible (that one cannot stand outside entirely doesn’t mean one shouldn’t try).

Now how far can parergy be related to Ouida’s early work?

First to note is  that the critics’ view of Ouida as pretentious only fully emerges after her identity as a woman is revealed. Early comments on her work in periodicals – she had started to contribute to Bentley’s Miscellany in 1859 – suggest that the critics thought “Ouida” a clever gentleman who wrote “brilliant nothings” for pleasure (see e.g. Morning Post 4 February 1862:3). They even thought Ouida  had seen military service. So thorough was the deception that the Standard (8 May 1862: 6) wryly interpreted Ouida’s temporary absence from Bentley’s in May 1862 as a possible sign that the author had decided it was too vulgar to write in such a magazine:

“What has become of him? Has he got a notion that it is plebeian to write, or is he only taking a rest from his arduous labours as the chronicler of mythical swelldom?”

Ouida’s morality – but, more, “discretion” – were issues that some papers took issue with: the The Morning Post (8 May 1865: 2) didn’t like “his” article on duelling for the Army and Navy Review mainly because “he” dared to voice opinions that should have been kept within “his” set.

By 1866 that the name referred to a woman author was already public: The Sporting Gazette of June 23 that year refers to her as “she” confirming The Pall Mall Gazette‘s outing of Ouida as a woman in its review of Strathmore (4 May), in which it had defined her novel as “the hen book to ‘Guy Livingstone'” (on which novel see below) and proceeded to slash it for, exactly, pretention:

The Pall Mall Gazette (London, England), Friday, May 4, 1866  2 review of strathmore Ouida outed cropped
Pall Mall Gazette, 4 May 1866

Soon, Ouida’s real identity becomes more and more public. The Bury and Norwich Post, and Suffolk Herald  (23 October 1866: 4) even relates how “she” had spent her childhood in Bury. The next post will think through more specifically the implications of this for an understanding of the parergic.

 

Parergy and the Beginnings of the Mass Market in the 1840s

 

1st page of The London Journal 1845

One of the key concepts was what I called the parergic after Derrida, though I used the term in a very different way from him. It was an attempt to explain in a serious and non-condescending but at the same time intellectually rigorous way the particular position in the literary market place of texts right at the beginning of the commercial mass-market: what was the relationship of these texts to the more general field? Here in this first post revisiting what seems like a long ago (and indeed I first came up with the idea in the 1990s), is an extract from the original. Later posts will test the concept against other work.

Having provided paragraph-length biographies of several journalists and marked their career paths – they all started aiming for high status and ended writing for money – I came to a conclusion and then sought to explain that conclusion and link it to curious stylistic features characteristic of these texts, features very different from the Edward Lloyd-type serials I had encountered previously which did not seem to care about their status as commodities. The material I was studying from The London Journal seemed worried about being ‘economic literature’ – how did this worry manifest itself exactly?

*****************************

… The London Journal was thus a precipitate out of surplus labour which would prefer the greater symbolic (and at this stage usually economic) capitals of the up-market magazines. The desire for a unified cultural field that I discussed in Chapter 2 is visible here, supported sociologically by the very limited socio-cultural group that writers in general came from (Altick, 1989). In that sense, the impression gained from Vizetelly’s description of the magazine as staffed by ‘failures’ is correct.

The longing for the high but exclusion from it that such career paths suggest results in what I term the parergic. This comprises a set of specific textual effects and practices, which, while underpinned by sociological narratives, does not inhere in specific bodies or corpora (a writer, artist, a periodical or even an article may display the parergic or not at various points). It is a system whereby texts are based on originals that are invested with greater symbolic capital and authority. Officially respectful and emulative, the parergic is tinged always with a resentment, caused by exclusion from desired cultural areas, that brings about mutation in what is supposedly emulated. The parergic sometimes raids authority aggressively and seems therefore to attack it, but nonetheless paradoxically buttresses cultural boundaries even in the act of transgressing them. Unlike parody, which always in some sense undermines the authority of its original even while being complicit with it, the parergic fully acknowledges and maintains this authority even when it effaces its model. Unlike straightforward imitation of the high, which depends on large cultural capital to judge its value, the parergic does not use the exclusive codes or high prices that cultural authority wraps itself in to keep out the uninitiated.[1]

The weekly ‘Essays’ furnish typical examples of the parergic in terms of that practice which is ‘style’. Essay L on ‘The English Language’, signed by John Wilson Ross (III: 7-8), begins with the commonplace thesis that ‘the progress of language marks the progress of the human mind’, and swiftly interprets this in a nationalist sense. It continues by placing the ‘rise’ of the English language at the Reformation because then ‘men began to argue’ and to do so ‘they [had to] express themselves with precision’. Thereafter,

Addison was unquestionably the first of our writers who introduced elegance of expression into the composition of English prose. He found the writings of his predecessors disfigured by a loose, inaccurate, and clumsy style. He changed all this, and made himself a model for imitation. In his works we find no forced metaphor – no dragging clause – no harsh cadence, – no abrupt close. He is, also, a happy model for the use of figurative language. They seem to spring spontaneously from the subject: and are never detained till the spirit evaporates or the likeness vanishes. They are just like flashes of lightning in a summer’s night – vivid, transient, lustrous, – unexpected but beautiful, – passing over the prospect with a pleasing brightness, and just vanishing before you catch a sight of all the beauties of the scene they gild. The copious and classic mind of that writer gave our language the greatest degree of elegance and accuracy of which it is susceptible. Since his time fine writing has not improved. Simply, because it cannot be. You cannot give the English language a nicer modification of form, or a greater beauty of feature than Addison gave it. But you can give it more nerve and muscle. And subsequent writers have done so.                                                                                                     (III: 7)

It was Johnson, ‘[t]hat Colossus of English literature’, who provided the muscle. Since his time ‘there has occurred no variation in the style of English prose’ except, possibly, by increased use of the ‘Gothic, whence [English] sprung; and that is a feature in language which our readers will agree with us is more deserving of disgust than admiration, and a variation in style more worthy of punishment than praise’ (III: 8).

The essay’s claims to authority depend largely on the assumption of a common standard throughout the literary field…

London University Magazine 1828-30

Unlike the subjects of my previous two posts, there is virtually nothing written about the  The London University Magazine.

It was intended to be, according to its first article, “a magazine whose principle is to encourage merit, wherever it is to be found, and foster youthful genius, wherever it may have been discovered” (“A Young Head, and, what is better still, a Young Heart”, p. 4). While it claims to have been set up by students of London University for students of that institution, The Marauder, a 24-page publication intended as a monthly critique of the Magazine (but of which only one issue survives), denies that this was the case (p.4). Whether this was true or not, the magazine declared itself to be free of the control of the Council of the University, which in turn gave it leave both to praise the institution and to “record its errors with sorrow”. The Marauder was not the Magazine’s only gadfly: the London University Chronicle was set up in 1830 to attack both it and the professors it lauded. On the other hand, the press in general heaped praise upon it: many favourable reviews, from publications as diverse as the Athenaeum and Bell’s Life in London, were reprinted in the prospectus for volume II (bound in the volume in the library of the University of London at Senate House).

Dating is difficult but reviews of it suggest it ran for 8 numbers September 1829-April 1830. Its was ambitious in its publishers in London, Edinburgh and Dublin: Hurst, Chance & Co (London); Constable & Co. (Edinburgh); Curry Jr & Co (Dublin). Ambition is legible too in its number of pages per issue (c. 144) and price:  7/6.

It had many precedents at Oxford, Cambridge and Dublin, most recently the Oxford Literary Gazette and Classical Foreign Journal (1829) and the Cambridge Snob (later The Gownsman, 1829-30) – see the bibliography at the end for detail of where to locate more about university magazines. Its appearance therefore is a sign of determination that London was to be a fitting alternative to those with an appropriate organ to disseminate the information particular to it: it is, in other words, a sign not of having arrived but of determination to arrive.

Starting off as a predominantly scientific, legal and medical quarterly with emphasis on material clearly thought useful to students (the first volume carried the timetable and prices of lectures, and examination papers for law, medicine, botany and classical languages, with answers for some of them), it announced a wish to continue in the tradition of the quarterlies – not the university magazines – in terms of independent thought, but it also distanced itself from the quarterlies by ostentatiously refusing alliance with any political party. Later, however, its predominant political stance becomes clearer. In the leading article of issue 2, an imaginary Japanese debate over education between a business-man, a priest and a “radical” “votar[y] of common sense, philospher[], follower[] of reason”, the latter decidedly wins (“On the Improvement of Education and the Simplification of Knowledge”). While not explicit, this was a radical Whig trope.

The “Address to the Public” of volume II admits that the magazine has been like the omnibus, a mode of transport introduced in the very year the magazine was launched: the analogy indirectly acknowledged the criticism of its opponents that  in its early days it had taken wrong turnings. To rectify what is now presented as a too specialised focus, “common sense” language will now be employed, “articles of a lighter nature” will be printed as well as what is called the “golden mean” in terms of reviews: somewhere between the lengthy essays of the quarterlies and the brief notices of the magazines. There are also now included reviews of the London theatres, lists of patents granted, share premiums, and even Births, Marriages and Deaths.

Early issues had included a serialised but incomplete translation of Goethe’s Metamorphosis of Plants (1790), but the press (even including The Marauder) delighted most in the two-part essay “The Personal and Poetical Character of Lord Byron”, the two brief series on “The Troubadours” and “The Decline and Fall of Roman Literature”, and the gothic tale “The Eve of Walpurgis”.

Finally, of great interest to print media historians will be “The Secret History of the Connoisseur, an Irish Periodical” by “N.” in volume II, a comic account of the difficulties of setting up and maintaining a periodical in Ireland.

Bibliography

Andrew King, “University Magazines”, Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism (London and Gent: British Library and Academia Press, 2008), pp. 647-8

H. C. Marillier, University Magazines and their Makers (London: H.W. Bell, 1902)

Rosemary T. Vanarsdel and John S. North, “Student Journals” in Victorian Periodicals and Victorian Society, ed. J. Donn Vann & Rosemary T. Vanarsdel, Scolar Press, 1989: 311-331

The Monthly Repository 1806-1837

monthly repository preface vol 1

While the Monthly Repository has been well studied (see the bibliography at the end) – and it occupies a central place in the ncse project – it is nonetheless worthwhile here assembling information here that is not available elsewhere.

Running January 1806 – December 1837, this shilling monthly went through quite a series of publishers:

Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme 1806

Sherwood, Neely and Jones 1810

Sherwood, Jones & Co, 1824

Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, 1825

Monthly Repository Office, 3 Walbrook Buildings, and R. Hunter, St. Paul’s Churchyard, 1827

Monthly Repository Office, 3 Walbrook Buildings, and R. Hunter, St. Paul’s Churchyard; Bell and Bradfute, Edinburgh, G. Hamilton, Edinburgh; Bowles and Dearborn, Boston US, 1828

C. Fox, 67 Paternoster Row; R. Hunter, St. Paul’s Churchyard; Bell and Bradfute, Edinburgh, G. Hamilton, Edinburgh; G.G. Bennis, 55 Rue Neuve St. Augustin, Paris, 1832

C. Fox, 67 Paternoster Row; R. Hunter, St. Paul’s Churchyard; William Tait, Edinburgh; G.G. Bennis, 55 Rue Neuve St. Augustin, Paris; Gray and Bowen, and L. Bowles, Boston, 1833

C. Fox, 67 Paternoster Row; R. Hunter, St. Paul’s Churchyard; William Tait, Edinburgh; G.G. Bennis, 55 Rue Neuve St. Augustin, Paris, 1834

It was more stable in its printers:

C. Stower, 1806

George Smallfield, 1817

William Clowes, 1832

The Monthly Repository is mainly famous today for its volumes from 1832 onwards when, having become completely secular, it carried contributions by noteworthy radical and literary figures such as Harriet and James Martineau and John Stuart Mill. Earlier volumes are however very useful for the student of Dissent and Radicalism.

It had been founded by the 24-year-old Reverend Robert Aspland who, from a modest background, had converted to Unitarianism four years previously and become the minister at the Gravel Pit Chapel, Hackney. The same year he established the Unitarian Fund of which he was secretary and later founded other periodicals and societies, by means of which he became a leading light in Unitarianism.

Unitarianism can be considered a means by which the industrial managerial class consolidated its identity through cultural and religious means, and the Monthly Repository in its first 21 years functioned as an important method of creating and sustaining a communicative network amongst this class. Typical of Unitarianism, it prioritised reason and toleration over tradition and was one of the first periodicals actively to embrace the new methods of biblical criticism developed in Germany. Poetry in its first two decades was largely devotional, but there is an exceptional amount of translated work, with again the emphasis on German.

The Monthly Repository also embraced Utilitarianism and was active in politics, promoting a radical agenda, which included the education of women. In 1813, a member of Aspland’s congregation introduced the Trinity Bill into Parliament which abolished penalties for refusing to believe in the Trinity: unsurprisingly, this is covered extensively in the volume for that year.

Under Aspland’s editorship there are several areas of especial interest, not least of which is the use of obituaries. These, along with the extensive coverage of Unitarian activities and debating points and the finely engraved portraits that acted as frontispieces, were key to the monthly’s identity. One of the principal commonplaces of attack on Unitarians comprised claims of deathbed recantation: many of the obituaries stressed on the contrary unwavering adherence to, and indeed comfort in, Unitarianism throughout long illness and death. As Ruston points out, the proportion of women whose lives were recorded in this way is high ‑ some 27% ‑ though this is typical of nonconformist journals in general.

A further point — of interest for post-colonial historians — is the coverage of the ‘Calcutta Controversy’ and the space devoted to the Indian Unitarian Rammohun Roy. Even one of the frontispieces is given over to his portrait (1824). Considerable space is devoted to the role of the press, both Indian and British, in this controversy 1823-1824.

After 21 years, Aspland, never having earned anything for his editorial work, ceded the task to William Johnson Fox, a Unitarian famous for his oratorical powers. Fox was also noted as a drama critic, and had written for the Contemporary and Westminster Reviews. He was also moving away from Unitarianism, and, having bought the magazine from Aspland, he transformed the Monthly Repository into a secular periodical: from January 1832 it may be considered wholly so, acting now less as a medium of interchange amongst a commercial and religious network as amongst a radical cultural élite. Its years under Fox are today the most famous and studied, when it was very much concerned with social and political reform, and sophisticated literary criticism. It also carried some fiction and, importantly, gave voice to early feminists (see Robson, 1987).

Every month from July 1834 it also carried an insert consisting of a song for voice and piano that was tied into the relevant issue of the body of the magazine in some way, enabling thus the domestic performance of the magazine.

In June 1836 Fox resigned the editorship to R.H. Horne. A year later, Fox gave the magazine to Leigh Hunt, who, with his son, wrote a very large proportion of it. Although this was Hunt’s tenth editorship, his experience failed to help the magazine make money and under him it died.

Bibliography

Francis E. Minneka, The Dissidence of Dissent: The Monthly Repository 1806-1838, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1944

Ann Robson, ‘The Noble Sphere of Feminism’, Victorian Periodical Review, 20, 1987: 102-7

Walter Graham, English Literary Periodicals, New York: Octagon Books, 1966: 272-3

Alan Ruston, Monthly Repository 1806-1832: Index and Synopses of Obituaries, 1985

Contributions to The Monthly Magazine, Dr. Aitken’s Athenaeum, The Monthly Repository, and the Christian Reformer by the Late Reverend Eliezer Logan, extracted and compiled by his son Richard Logan, London: Woodfall and Kinder, 1856

R. Brook Aspland, Memoir of the Life, Works and Correspondenc of the Reverend Robert Aspland of Hackney, London: Edward T. Whitfield, 1850

The DNCJ of course has an entry (by the indefatigable Matthew Taunton), but the most important resource remains the ncse.

Flowers of Literature 1801-1809

flowers of literature title page

Flowers of Literature for 1801 and 1802 [1803, 1804, 1805, 1806, 1807, 1808, 1809] or, Characteristic Sketches of human nature and Modern Manners. To which is added A General View of Literature during that Period with Notes, Historical, Critical and Explanatory

[from 1803 the following is added] Portraits, and Biographical Sketches

Though described  and extracted in the Cardiff Corvey database (http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/encap/journals/corvey/articles/database/flowers.html) I thought it might be useful to add more information and offer another take on this interesting periodical. Several volumes are available free through Google Books.

The Flowers of Literature was a commercial miscellany composed of extracts from other publications. It is useful to the publishing and literary historian for several reasons: as an indication of the changing tastes of the market; for its general overview of the literary scene (including fluctuations in the trade) in its annual prefaces; for (from 1805) its catalogues raisonnés of recent publications; and as being one of the many productions of Francis William Blagdon (1778-1819). It was published throughout its run by B. Crosby & Co, Stationer’s Court, London, and printed by J. Swan in  Angel St, and had a circulation of around 3,000. Its first two volumes cost the very considerable 11 shillings but thereafter the price was reduced to 6 shillings.

Its target readership – according to the preface of its first volume was (pace the Corvey Index) threefold:

1)       “gens du monde; who are desirous to become, without serious application, conversant with modern literary taste”

2)       “the lovely British fair, whose minds are formed for tenderness… and whose sensitive faculties, when not involved in the vortex of fashionable dissipation, are susceptible of every passion which can dignify human nature”

3) “the noble youth of our country… whom we will gradually and safely introduce to the path of literary studies”

Begun as a joint publication (of around 400 pages long) with the Reverend F. Prevost (about whom virtually nothing is known), after the first two years Blagdon took sole charge. Blagdon, from a humble background, had been taken up by a Dr Willis who taught him French, Italian, Spanish and German. Around the time Flowers first came out, Blagdon was publishing many translations from French and had just brought out, again in collaboration with Prevost, Mooriana, or Select Extracts from the works of Dr. J. Moore, in 3 volumes in 1803. In 1802 he had begun Modern Discoveries, which amounted to eight volumes over two years. In 1805 he published a pamphlet, with the signature of Aristides, condemning the administration of the navy under Earl St. Vincent. As he describes it in the Preface to the volume of Flowers for 1805, the government had changed by the time the pamphlet had come out and he sent the whole of the print-run to the Earl – who prosecuted him for libel. Blagdon went to prison for six months and had to find sureties of £1,000 to keep the peace for three years. Unsurprisingly, this delayed the appearance of Flowers that year.

Other volumes of Flowers also appeared irregularly, especially from 1807 when Blagdon began to devote more energy to his newspaper, the Phoenix (later the Phoenix and Political Register or Blagdon’s Political Register) and to politics.

The preface to the first volume claims that the compilation was begun initially for the private use of the editors: they are careful to distinguish it from the reviews which are “much more confined in their extracts”. Annotations to the selected texts (actually quite rare) are “designed to direct the taste, to explain obscure passages, and to record facts and circumstances not generally, but worthy of being, known”. Extracts in volume 1 are taken from, amongst many others, Mrs Inchbald, Mrs Opie and Scrofani’s Travels in Greece; a few are translated from French (e.g. Le Brun’s Portefeuille politique).

flowers of literature frontispiece

There is a 32-page overview of the state of literature in the first volume: in later ones the overview, called the “Introduction”, is sub-divided into various classes. In these later volumes too are frontispieces comprising portraits of five writers, always four men surrounding a woman in the centre: in 1803 these comprise Darwin, Cowper, Pratt and Colman around Seward. The five writers are then always granted biographies in the early pages of the volume.

While claiming to describe the state of literature in Europe as a whole, in fact the foreign writers referred to are mostly French, sprinkled with a few German. The effect of the contemporary war with France is visible not only in the inclusion of many explicitly patriotic and/or francophobic texts but in their arrangement within the volume: there is usually a concentration of such texts at the end. The 1806 volume, foe instance, concludes with two letters from Josephine to her daughter Fanny (supposedly revealing the “Character of the French Nation, and the present state of its usurper” – a footnote informs the reader that omitted from the translation is a passage where Josephine describes how Napoleon beats her) and a “National Song” attacking Bonaparte (a footnote declares that when the piece was selected it was thought the war would soon be over).