Book Review: Orianne Smith, ‘Romantic Women Writers, Revolution, and Prophecy: Rebellious Daughters, 1789-1826’

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My review of Orianne Smith’s Romantic Women Writers, Revolution and Prophecy: Rebellious Daughters, 1789-1826, is featured in the latest issue of the Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies (37:4), pp. 557-558. Access it here (login required).



#AcWriMo 2014

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For many academics, the most challenging aspect of the writing process is just that: the writing. Between the mountain of books that are always left to read, the fear of not living up to the material which you are discussing, and the various other engagements we all have, writing can be an intimidating and daunting process.

Thanks to the thriving online community of academics however, I know this is something in which I am not alone. As we become more comfortable with discussing issues of anxiety, mental health, and the huge amounts of work expected within academia, it seems that we are simultaneously becoming more comfortable with discussing their practical effects and manifestations, in this case, how such pressures can inhibit or even prohibit writing. At the same time, members of this online community are collaborating to find possible solutions to these problems. One of these solutions is #AcWriMo, or Academic Writing Month. Inspired by #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), AcWriMo was established by Charlotte Frost of PhD2Published, with a view to encouraging participants to establish better (and less stress-inducing) writing patterns for their future academic research. Coming from the ‘little and often’ school of thought, AcWriMo is motivated by the belief that writing every day will not only make you a more productive academic, but a better writer in the long run.

For those of you who are new to AcWriMo, the guidelines are as follows:

1. Decide on a goal – This might take the form of hours to be spent writing or a number of words to be written per day/week, or could more generally be a list of the projects that you wish to complete during AcWriMo.

2. Declare it – AcWriMo is an inherently social undertaking, which takes advantage of a variety of social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, in order to create a community of engaged and supportive academics. It is to this audience to whom you declare your AcWriMo goals, providing accountability for either meeting (or not meeting) them. The best way to do this is to sign up on the AcWriMo spreadsheet, which includes spaces for your name, twitter handle, goals, plan, achievements and a daily progress log.

3. Draft a strategy – Deciding how and when you are going to write is crucial to succeeding during AcWriMo. Personally, I prefer long, clear spaces of time in which to write unimpeded, which, thanks to the administrative and pedagogical demands of academia, often means that writing gets pushed to the bottom of the to do list. However, one of my AcWriMo goals for this year is to learn to write whenever I have a free moment, even if what I come to write isn’t a perfectly polished piece of prose by the end of it – what matters is that I’m writing every day. One of the great things about AcWriMo is that it actively encourages its participants to be experimental – to write outside of your normal habits and timeframes, and using new techniques to do so. My favourite productivity hacks that I’ve discovered in previous AcWriMos have been the famous Pomodoro Technique, and PhD2Published’s own PhDometer2, a downloadable application which tracks and marks your writing progress.

4. Discuss progress on twitter – As well as declaring your goals publicly at the beginning of the month, regular updates via twitter will help to keep you accountable, whilst at the same time letting you know how everyone else is getting along. Use the #AcWriMo hashtag to find updates from fellow participants and to publicise your own progress.

5. Don’t slack off – This seems relatively obvious, given that this is a month dedicated towards making you as productive as possible, but it’s an important point to remember throughout the month. With marking, teaching prep, and various applications to get done this month, it’s tempting to think that you’ll just write tomorrow. However, the whole point of the exercise is to highlight that there’s NEVER going to be a good time to write, but if you’re committed to even a small amount every day, it will soon mount up, even when working on all of those other, similarly pressing, projects.

6. Declare your results – Announce your results at the end of the month. As the guidelines state on PhD2Published, we’re all human and will have varying levels of success during the month, but knowing what didn’t work is as important as knowing what did.

In the spirit of things, at the end of the month I’ll publish another post on here discussing my AcWriMo 2014 experience, including my goals and whether I met them, the methods I used during it, and what I’ll be taking forward into 2015. Good luck writing!

Podcasts from Emotional Objects Conference

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For those of you who are interested in forms of emotional material culture, the podcasts from the Emotional Objects: Touching Emotions in History conference are now online. Listen to the podcasts, which include my paper ‘Life Shall Triumph over Death’: the souvenir as memorial and mourning device at A la Ronde‘, here.

Conference | Travel and the Country House

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Travel and the Country House Conference featured on


Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 8.56.07 PMFrom the conference programme:

Travel and the Country House: Places, Cultures, and Practices
University of Northampton, 15–16 September 2014

Registration due by 31 August 2014

Keynote speakers: Roey Sweet (University of Leicester) and Margot Finn (University College London)

Travel has long played a vital role in shaping the country house, opening up horizons and exposing both house and owner to a variety of external influences. Travel impacted upon values, tastes, material culture and money, and helped to articulate the flow of ideas, information, goods and capital. The importance of the Grand Tour and Empire to the country house has long been recognised, but domestic tourism and travel for more mundane purposes—to visit family or friends, engage in political life or go to town—were also significant. In this conference, we wish to explore a wide range of travel experiences and consider how these impacted on the country house. How were…

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On Epistolarity (and Materiality)

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In the midst of several archival visits and reviewing the primary literature for my thesis, these last few weeks have been absorbed by meditations upon the epistolary form. As eighteenth century-ists and historians, we are well accustomed to working with collections of familial letters, yet our reflections upon them (myself included) are more often than not limited to their elucidating potential for our own topics of enquiry. Nevertheless, it is crucial to remember that letter-writing is and was a discrete literary form as well as a physical and material object, embroiled in narratives of transportation, gift culture and subsequent conservation by the recipient. Accordingly, I was particularly struck by the considered approach adopted by Temma Berg’s work on “The Lydia Clerke Collection”, a series of letters addressed to, but predominantly not written by, Lady Lydia Clerke. Berg published the letters in her 2006 book, The Lives and Letters of an Eighteenth-Century Circle of Acquaintance, a text which is remarkable for its sensitive and innovative approach to its material. Berg’s follow-up article ‘Truly Yours: Arranging a Letter Collection’ (Eighteenth-Century Life, 35:1 (Winter, 2011), pp. 29-50) describes in detail the reasons for Berg’s relatively radical editorial decisions – including the text’s lack of footnotes and decision to group individual series of letters in the form of novels, with titles such as ‘The History of Lydia Clerke, Written by Others‘.

What I found particularly striking were Berg’s thoughts upon wanting to preserve the original order in which she had found the letters when collating her source material:

“Ideally, to preserve the arbitrariness of their sequence, I would have liked to publish the Lydia Clerke letters as I found them: a sheaf of letters stacked in a box and arranged alphabetically by sender, so that readers would have the pleasures and frustrations of organising letters to their own satisfaction (as I had). But would I be able to find a publisher who would agree to published my book as letters in a box?” (Berg, 2011, p. 38)

Though ultimately Berg decided upon a traditional book format to ‘stress the novelistic qualities of the letters’, I find Berg’s attention to the materiality of her sources vastly compelling. Berg’s desire to preserve the trace of the archival hand, and to reproduce the experience of holding, shuffling through, and reading the letters first-hand, only emphasises how important the material qualities of these objects should be to our readings of them today, not only as literary sources for contemporary correspondence on an array of topics, but as the physical objects of a shared relationship between two or more people.

Whilst visiting the Denbighshire Record Office two weeks ago, I was looking through the correspondence between Sarah Ponsonby and her close friend and neighbour Mrs. Parker of Sweeney Hall, when I noticed that the so-called ‘Ladies of Llangollen’ used specially commissioned seals which read ‘Plas Newydd’, the name of their cottage in which they enacted their remarkable form of rural retirement.


Letter from Sarah Ponsonby to Mrs. Parker. DD/LL, Denbighshire Record Office, Ruthin.

It struck me that the the seal was essential to the whole performance of the letter – which employed nomenclature and labelling as a means by which to designate the letter as part of what Nicole Reynolds has called the ‘cottage industry‘ of Plas Newydd, a thriving network of material, social and intellectual production. However, if I had only paid attention to the contents of the letter, the nitty gritty job of deciding whether its contents told me anything ‘useful’, I may not have even noticed the seal’s existence, and as such, my whole reading of the object would have been different.

Such meditations are obviously limited by the nature of cultural history, which can require us, magpie-like, to pluck as many corroborating resources as we can find from relevant source material. Furthermore, my own background as an art historian predisposes me towards the material and the visual, more so than contemporaries in related historical disciplines. Nevertheless, I feel increased attention to the intersections between epistolarity and materiality can only shed light upon a genre of primary material upon which we rely so heavily, yet seem to use and understand in only a few senses.


Programme for the Travel and the Country House Conference

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View towards the fireplace in the Chinese Room at Erddig, Wrexham, Wales

Chinoiserie Room, Erdigg House (Image via National Trust)

The preliminary programme for the upcoming conference, Travel and the country house: places, cultures and practices has just been released. I will be speaking about ‘Domestic tourism, the country house, and the making of respectability in the travel journals of Caroline Lybbe Powys’, in the second session of the second day. This research is taken from a chapter of my doctoral thesis which situates Powys’s analyses of material objects in relation to country house visiting and domestic tourism.

Please contact for further details and booking.

Travel and the country house: places, cultures and practices 

Northampton, 15-16th September 2014-06-20

Draft Programme

Monday 15th September
10.00-10.40 Registration and coffee

10.40-10.45 Welcome and introduction

10.45-11.45 Keynote: ‘The Italian Grand Tour and the 18th century country house’, Roey Sweet (University
of Leicester)

11.45-13.00 Session 1: The practicalities and pleasures of travel

‘Visiting London for business and pleasure in the years 1599-1623: on the road (and the
Thames) with William Cavendish, 1st. Earl of Cavendish’ – Peter Edwards (Independent

‘Travelling for Pleasure – carriages and the country house’ – Lizzy Jamieson  (Independent Scholar)

‘Wintering in the “shires”: Foxhunting and travel’ – Mandy de Belin (University of

13.00-14.00 Lunch

14.00-15.45 Session 2: European travel, networks and influences

‘The Grand Tour and Episcopal domesticity: the case of Martin Benson, Bishop of
Gloucester (1735-52)’ – Michael Ashby (University of Cambridge)

‘“Antiquity mad”: the Earl Bishop and the translation of continental style in an Irish context’ – Rebecca Campion (National University of Ireland at Maynooth)

‘Centre and periphery: the world brought to the ironmasters “mansions”‘ – Marie Steinrud
(Stockholm University)

‘The English Rothschild family and their country houses: a distinctive style’ – Nicola

15.45-16.15 Tea & coffee

16.15-18.00 Session 3: Views of England from overseas travellers

‘The English country house as (proto) museum: Dutch travel accounts explored (1677-1750)’ – Hanneke Ronnes (University of Amsterdam)

‘“… enjoying country life to the full – only the English know how to do that!”: Appreciation of the British country house by Hungarian aristocratic travellers’ – Kristof Fatsar (Corvinus University of Budapest)

‘Stourhead: all roads lead to Rome – and back again’– John Harrison (Open University)

‘A Dutch view on the English Country House and landscape garden’ – Helen Bremer
(University of Leiden)

18.30-19.30 Reception

19.30 Dinner Tuesday 16th September

9.30-10.45 Session 4: The mobile house

‘Manors, towns and spas. A household on the move in the late 18th century Sweden’ –
Goran Ulvang (University of Uppsala)

‘The travels of an aristocratic family in the early 19th century: the Braybrookes of Audley
End, Essex’ – Andrew Hann (English Heritage)

‘Moving households – problems, choices and new possibilities facing the country-house
family in the 1820s and 1830s’ – Pamela Sambrook (Independent Scholar)

10.45-11.15 Tea and coffee

11.15-1.00 Session 5: Travel, tourism and guides

‘Domestic tourism, the country house, and the making of respectability in the travel
journals of Caroline Lybbe Powys’ – Freya Gowrley (University of Edinburgh)

‘Country house visiting and improvement at Herriard House in Hampshire, 1794-1821’ –
Nicky Pink (Independent Scholar)

‘Arthur Young’s Tours: architecture, painting, sculpture, and the art of adorning
grounds’ – Caroline Anderson (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

‘The representation of the country house in individual books and guides 1720-1845’ –
Paula Riddy (University of Sussex)

1.00-2.00 Lunch

2.00-3.00 Keynote 2: title: Prof Margot Finn (UCL)

3.00-4.15 Session 6: Looking beyond Europe

‘Travel to the East- and West-Indies and Groningen country house culture in the 18th
Century’ – Yme Kuiper (University of Groningen)

‘Appuldurcombe House and the ‘Museum Worsleyanum’: Sir Richard Worsley’s forgotten
collection’ – Abigail Coppins (Independent Scholar)

‘Diaries, decoration and design: the Courtauld’s travels and the effects on Eltham
Palac’‟ – Annie Kemkaran-Smith (English Heritage)

4.15-4.30 Closing comments and discussion

Conference: Travel and the Country House – Places, Cultures and Practices

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screen-shot-2014-04-30-at-8-56-07-pmI will be presenting a paper entitled ‘Domestic tourism, the country house, and the making of respectability in the travel journals of Caroline Lybbe Powys’ at the upcoming University of Northampton conference, Travel and the Country House: Places, Cultures, and Practices, 15-16 September 2014. I have attached the CFP for reference.

Travel and the Country House: Places, Cultures, and Practices

University of Northampton, 15–16 September 2014

Proposals due by 19 May 2014

Keynote speakers include Roey Sweet (University of Leicester) and Margot Finn (UCL).

Travel has long played a vital role in shaping the country house, opening up horizons and exposing both house and owner to a variety of external influences. Travel impacted upon values, tastes, material culture and money, and helped to articulate the flow of ideas, information, goods and capital. The importance of the Grand Tour and Empire to the country house has long been recognised, but domestic tourism and travel for more mundane purposes—to visit family or friends, engage in political life or go to town—were also significant. In this conference, we wish to explore a wide range of travel experiences and consider how these impacted on the country house. How were travel choices made and how were impacts articulated? How did new influences mesh with existing tastes and goods? What impact did its status as a place to visit have upon the country house? And how do we communicate the importance of travel to those visiting country houses today?

We invite papers on all aspects of travel and the country house, but would especially welcome those which focus on:
• Geographies of travel: the Grand Tour, colonies and empire, and domestic and everyday travel
• The view from abroad: foreign visitors to British country houses
• Royal progresses and prodigy houses
• Travelling for business and pleasure: court and parliament; tours and spas
• Travel and material culture: how different places were brought into the country house through objects
• Travel and taste: the impact of travel on architecture, collecting, design and
• Visiting the country house: receiving guests and staying with friends or family
• The practicalities of travel: stables, coaches and horses; trains, ships and boats; servants and guides; accommodation, meals and sleeping
• Travel and publishing: journals, guidebooks and maps
• Travel as a theme in country house interpretation/presentation today