Kindred Brutes: Animals in Romantic Period Writing by Dr Christine Kenyon Jones

Exploring the significance of animals in Romantic-period writing, this new study shows how in this period they were seen as both newly different from humankind (subjects in their own right, rather than simply humanity’s tools or adjuncts) and also as newly similar, with the ability to feel and perhaps to think like human beings. Approaches to animals are reviewed in a wide range of the period’s literary work (in particular, that of Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Southey, Clare and Blake). Poetry and other literary work are discussed in relation to discourses about animals in various contemporary cultural contexts, including children’s books, parliamentary debates, vegetarian theses, encyclopaedias and early theories about evolution. 

The study introduces animals to the discussions about ecocriticism and environmentalism in Romantic-period writing by complicating the concept of ‘Nature’, and it also contributes to the debates about politics and the body in this period. It demonstrates the rich variety of thinking about animals in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, and it challenges the exclusion of literary writing from some recent multi-disciplinary debates about animals, by exploring the literary roots of many metaphors about and attitudes to animals in our current thinking. Kindred Brutes constitutes a genuinely original and substantial contribution both to Romantic-period writing and to general debates about animals and the body.

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Dear Mr Murray Letters to a Gentleman Publisher selected and edited by David McClay

Published 20th October 2018

The publishing house of John Murray was founded in Fleet Street in 1768 and remained a family firm over seven generations. A celebration of John Murray Publishers 250th anniversary this year, Dear Mr Murray is a collection of letters from the Publisher’s archive that make up some of literature’s most significant moments, including:

• Jane Austen complaining about the printing delay of a specially bound copy of Emma she wants to dedicate to the Prince Regent. • George Bernard Shaw responding to John Murray’s rejection of Man and Superman. • A literary adviser who recommends publication of Darwin’s observations on pigeons rather than On the Origin of Species. • William Makepeace Thackeray apologising for his bad behaviour at a dinner. • Adrian Conan Doyle challenging Harold Nicolson to a duel; Nicolson was purported to have insulted Arthur Conan Doyle in a review. • Lord Byron furious with John Murray for being duped by his former girlfriend – Lady Caroline Lamb – who forged his signature to obtain a miniature Byron had intended for his mistress.

Despite the incredible number of letters that were retained by the Murray family, some failed to arrive, others were delayed and some barely survived, but longevity added to the reputation and fame of John Murray and a correspondent in Canada who addressed his letter merely to ‘John Murray, The World-wide famous Book & Publishing House, London, England’ as early as 1932 could be confident that his letter would arrive.

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Sprung From Divine Insanity: The Harmonious Madness of Byron, Keats and Shelley by Andrew Keanie

Byron, Keats and Shelley wrote some of the most expressive and incisive poetry we have known, but they were held in contempt by placemen and pundits. The poets saw the dominating social and political conditions of modern times making a ghost of the good life.

In Andrew Keanie’s exploration of the legacy of the later Romantics, we see the full challenge posed by Byron, Keats and Shelley to the rigid and life-denying orthodoxies underpinning an unjust world where words are bled to powerlessness and looked straight through by tyrants and their messengers as easily as non-existent ghosts.

The poets’ work was nothing less than an inspiring refusal to accept the prevailing wrongness of their world. Rather than being ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ themselves, the Romantics were pressurised into poetry by the madness, badness and dangerousness of the world in which they found themselves. It is a legacy, Andrew Keanie vividly demonstrates, which resonates down to the present day.

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Byron and the Sea-Green Isle by Nicky Gayle

This study of Byron’s last complete long poem, the comparatively neglected The Island, is the first to devote a whole book to the examination, contextualization and motivation of both the poetry and its poet. It is much more than just a monograph, however; aside from biographical considerations, it illumines aspects of study that embrace feminism, racial politics and social considerations in relation to Polynesian island society, all of which are contrasted with the loose anarchy of an eighteenth century group of British mutineers.

Two historical contexts – the infamous 1789 mutiny on the Bounty and Byron’s life in the year that led up to the poem’s composition – serve as an extended prelude to a deep analysis of the major symbols and characters in the poem.

Its main chapters range beyond The Island, conducting a literary conversation with Shakespeare, Pope, 18th-century writers of memoirs and nautical sea history, classical authors and even Chinese poets, as well as other Romantic poets. Consideration is given to aspects of racial and feminist theory in relation to the poem’s extraordinary central female character; in particular there is a focus on her promotion of the poem’s happy ending, one that is quite unique in Byron’s oeuvre.

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Return of the Gift, poems by Michael O’Neill

Michael O’Neill’s Return of the Gift is a volume about what is given and what is lost.

Writing unsentimentally and with insight about powerful subjects such as the death of his mother, caring for his father, and his own recent diagnosis of cancer, the poet speaks of and to his personal and historical life and also explores themes of elegy and friendship. Memories are woven vividly throughout a thematically varied yet coherent collection, in which a witty and moving pleasure in living and language is always to the fore.

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Essays on Byron in Honour of Dr Peter Cochran, Breaking the Mould, edited by Malcolm Kelsall, Peter Graham, & Mirka Horová

Byron wrote that he was “born for opposition”. This collection of essays takes Byron at his word and explores ways in which he challenged received opinion in his lifetime. The essays also challenge commonplace attitudes in criticism of Byron today. In this, the volume honours the remarkable range of work of the late Dr Peter Cochran.

The matters covered here are Byron’s poetics, his ideology, and the principles and practice of editing his texts. In all, this book gathers original contributions from sixteen international scholars and friends of Peter Cochran.

The accessible, engaging style makes their work suitable for all readers of Byron, as well as undergraduates and professional academics.

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Byron and Italy, edited by Alan Rawes & Diego Saglia

Byron in Italy – Venetian debauchery, Roman sight-seeing, revolution, horse-riding and swimming, sword-brandishing and pistol-shooting, the poet’s ‘last attachment’ – forms part of the fabric of Romantic mythology. Yet Byron’s time in Italy was crucial to his development as a writer, to Italy’s sense of itself as a nation, to Europe’s perceptions of national identity and to the evolution of Romanticism across Europe. In this volume, Byron scholars from Britain, Europe and beyond re-assess the topic of ‘Byron and Italy’ in all its richness and complexity. They consider Byron’s relationship to Italian literature, people, geography, art, religion and politics, and discuss his navigations between British and Italian identities.

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