Posts Tagged ‘Nineteenth Century’

Vampiric Delights

2 March 2010

By Christina Morin

I began to emerge last week from the enervating fug of research funding applications that has literally engulfed me since early December. Physically, I escaped relatively unscathed; mentally and intellectually, however, I was reduced to a fraction of my former self. In terms of my long abandoned leisure reading, I knew now was not the time to embark on War and Peace. So, instead, I picked up a collection of short stories I’d been meaning to read for a while, The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre (Oxford UP, 1997). An assortment of Gothic short stories published in a variety of British magazines during the first half of the nineteenth century, Tales of the Macabre definitely suited my inert post-funding-application despondency and lack of attention. Short enough to read in a bus journey to town, and dark enough to satisfy the most pessimistic, recession-obsessed mind, the tales in this collection are definitive examples of the Gothic short story tradition in Britain during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. These short stories often merged with, or later became, full blown novels, suggesting the fluidity of borders during the Romantic period between genres such as the ‘novel’ and the ‘short story’, while also highlighting the continued, cross-generic appeal of the Gothic mode. Polidori’s ‘The Vampyre’ (1819), originally published in the New Monthly magazine, for instance, was penned alongside Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and, in ‘introduc[ing] the vampire into English fiction’, as the editors, Robert Morrison and Chris Baldick argue, undoubtedly influenced countless novels and short stories to come, including Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) and Stoker’s Dracula (1897). Read More

A glimpse of the Wicked Earl

16 February 2010

Contributed by Patrick Maume

When historians discuss whether nineteenth-century Irish landlords were really ‘bad’, William Sydney Clements, third earl of Leitrim (1806-78, succeeded 1854, shot 2 April 1878) is a leading exhibit for the prosecution.   His management of his Leitrim and Donegal estates was authoritarian; he was disliked even by police and Dublin Castle officials, with whom he constantly quarrelled; relatives called him insane.  It is widely believed that he coerced tenants’ daughters sexually by threatening evictions; his killers are Donegal folk-heroes.

Not all aspects of this portrayal are universally accepted, but Virtues Of A Wicked Earl, Dr. Anthony Malcomson’s recent biography, is a daring attempt at rehabilitation.   Malcomson argues that Leitrim was an efficient rationaliser of an indebted and mismanaged estate, and the image of Leitrim as sexual predator was fabricated by tenant and nationalist enemies. Leitrim’s relatives’ accusations of insanity derive from a will dispute; clashes with police derived from old-fashioned belief that local administration should be controlled by landlords rather than state officials.

This interpretation is certain to be contested; the dry wit Malcomson celebrates as one of Leitrim’s attractive characteristics was described by contemporary critics as having a sadistic edge.   This post, however, offers to fill a little gap in Dr. Malcomson’s portrait. Read More

All about my mother

2 February 2010

By Juliana Adelman

I know that in the professional era of history, we are correctly reluctant to allow our personal lives to enter into the history that we write.  Nevertheless, there are very personal reasons that we choose our topics.  Of course, twists and turns on the career ladder (read: need to find job doing some kind of history, any kind) tend to have important effects.  But when we have the chance, we all come back to the topics that we love.  And why do we love them?  I thought I’d get the ball rolling on what I hope might become a discussion or a dialogue by sharing some thoughts on how I ended up doing what it is that I do.  As the title suggests, I blame my mother. Read More

Worshipping at the ‘cathedral of modern commerce’: going shopping in the nineteenth century

15 December 2009

Contributed by Niamh Cullen

As Christmas approaches and Grafton Street gets more and more crowded each Saturday and Sunday, it seems like a good time to examine the history of one of our most popular modern pastimes: shopping.  It is only in more recent decades that most people have enough disposable income to shop for pleasure rather than necessity.  However, Grafton Street was already becoming the playground of the rich and fashionable in the nineteenth century when two new department stores opened their doors there: Switzers in 1838 and Brown Thomas in 1849. Switzers began as a fairly modest enterprise, but had more than doubled its size by 1860, occupying much of the site of the present-day Brown Thomas. John Switzer soon had a rival on the opposite side of the street when Hugh Brown and James Thomas opened their fashionable premises in 1849. By the 1850s, Brown Thomas was fast becoming Dublin’s most fashionable shopping destination.

However, it was in Paris that the department store as a ‘cathedral of modern commerce’ as Emile Zola described it, was born. Read More

A couple more favourites…

12 August 2009

Contributed by Christina Morin.

Eighteenth-century novel

Last month Christina Morin gave us her recommendations for the eighteenth-century novel. Here are a few additions to her favourite novels from history:

A couple more suggestions for these long (rainy!) summer days:  Regina Maria Roche, The Children of the Abbey (1796): Copies of Roche’s fantastically convoluted Gothic novel are few and far between, but if you have access to a good research library, you’re in luck. Otherwise, a quick trawl on the internet will turn up quite a few late-nineteenth century editions from America – a find in and of itself! Once you have the novel in your hands, I can guarantee that you won’t want to let go of it, as this ‘amazingly durable’ novel – as Ian Campbell Ross has called it – is a fascinating combination of the Gothic and the national/regional more commonly associated with Edgeworth, Sydney Owenson, and Charles Robert Maturin. Read More