Dear friends and readers,
Herewith a 2nd report on the EC/ASECS conference held 12-14 November at West Chester University, Pa, with the broad topic of networks. I ended my 1st report with the lecture after the Friday business lunch (Sondra Jung’s talk on the chapbooks adapted from, and 18th to early 19th century history of illustrations for Richardson’s Pamela). There was a great variety in approach (from close-reading of a poem to wide-ranging discussions of archives), and kinds of topics (from building a park and landscape to writing an poignant epistolary novel whose places are mapped).
My love of Samuel Johnson’s writing and interest in life-writing about him led me to choose “Samuel Johnson’s 18th century social and intertextual networks,” chaired by Anthony W. Lee, for the first Friday afternoon session (1:30-2:45 pm). I arrived late to William Coulter’s paper on Johnson’s “Lives of Dryden and Pope.” Prof Coulter suggested that Dryden aimed at making Homer easy to read, available while Pope was seeking intense respect for his finished polished (elegant) text. Dryden had cast his fate in the theater, then turned to journalism and at the last, translation. By contrast, Pope began with pastorals, translations of Pope’s earliest idyllic texts, moved to his translations from Homer. This is traditional, non-commercial (seemingly). Dryden was involved, while Pope existed at a distance from day-to-day raw politics. Prof Coulter felt that despite Johnson’s acerbic comments on Dryden’s career moves, he preferred Dryden’s poetry to Pope’s. In Christine Jackson-Holberg’s “Munich: Quixotic Encounters: James Elphinston and Charlotte Lennox and Johnson,” she showed an interplay of texts. Elphinston, still known for his attempt to establish a system of phonetic spelling, was an irascible man of undeviating rectitude who translated Johnson’s epigraphs; he was hypercritical and reviewed Lennox’s translations and editions of French writers’ correspondence in ways that infuriated her.
Although Johnson promoted Lennox’s work, he remained loyal to Elphinston for the sake of their friendship. Anthony Lee discussed “the Johnsonian poems of Arthur Murphy.”
Arthur Murphy (1777) by Nathaniel Dance
Prof Lee quoted Arthur Sherbo on the value of Murphy’s lives, essays, verse, and translations and argued that there is strong intrinsic poetic merit in Murphy’s 1760 “Poetical Epistle to Samuel Johnson” where Murphy responded to an attack on him by Thomas Franklin who translated Sophocles’ tragedies. Murphy’s poem is about himself, uses Pope, Boileau and the dialogic form to defend and demonstrate Murphy’s writing characteristics. Prof Lee quoted from and close-read Murphy’s poem.
For the second afternoon session I chose “Research in Progress” chaired by Jim May. Peter Briggs discussed John Dunton’s “Puzzling self-representations: Hidden in Plain Sight.”
One of John Dunton’s publications: The Night-Walker
In 1691 Dunton commenced publication of his Athenian Mercury, which was immensely popular; but he published other texts. In his oeuvre in general Dunton anticipated Tristram Shandy in his various zany voyages through space, time, including through his local neighborhood. Dunton had married Elizbeth Annesley and as long as she was alive, they stayed solvent, but not long after her death in 1696, the business collapsed.
Jack Fruchtman Jr discussed how Sophie de Condorcet and her work, especially “Letters on Sympathy” helped foster the development of moral and revolutionary sentiment.
Sophie argued people possess an innate moral sensibility which enables them to do “the right thing.” She disagreed with Adam Smith on the force and centrality of sympathy. the goal of education is to develop virtue, talent, enlightened values. She agrees with Rousseau that civilization has done more harm than good; she develops thought out of Locke: if a man already rich cultivates his wealth further, is he obliged to share his excess, she would say yes. In 1792 Condorcet called a national convention and was elected but soon after as a Girondist was expelled, and persecuted; she visited him, corresponded with him using a secret code. She saw that the revolution had gone all wrong, and tried to understand how and why. She rejected cold rationality and was appalled by Robespierre’s cults and processions.
In her “Making Do; Public History, Local Archives and Atlantic Print Works,” Emily Kugler told us about her exploratory adventures in fascinatingly diverse archives researching women migrants, servants, those sold into slavery, and those who published their writing. As her career took her from San Diego to Brown University, she attempted to follow women around the UK empire, to capture their everyday experiences. Emily was part of a Middle Passage project whose main focus was West Hampshire, and she helped build a website which enabled her team to better understand the people shaped by imperialism. She researched Mary Prince (an especial interest),
Susannah Moodie, Elizabeth Freeman, Catherine Sedgewick.
The abolitionist movement was transnational, and included women with literary ambitions: Eleanor Eldridge, Frances Green, Phyllis Wheatley; she discovered networks of widows, women having trouble obtaining their legacies or property, arising from issues of class, race. She wanted to locate the voices of such women
Wayne Hanley told us of his experiences researching archives in Paris one summer. His focus was Michael Ney, who rose to be one of the French Marshalls under Napoleon, and first Prof Hanley narrated Ney’s life and execution.
He then described the libraries he worked in, some of the difficulties modern procedures using the Net create. he went over problems of access, of permission, what can happen in the case of private family papers. Which reading room is the most comfortable, which archive set up most efficiently, which building most redolent of the century.
Leah Thomas discussed Hannah Forster’s 1797 American epistolary novel, The Coquette. Peter Sanford, a libertine male seduces Eliza Wharton, a flirtatious young woman; he has no intention of marrying her (as beneath him), marries someone else while as his mistress she is gradually isolated; she becomes pregnant, gives birth, and dies shortly thereafter; no one attempts to go to her to help her. Leah’s title included the phrase “Circumscribed Communities:” what she showed was the correspondences of the letters are situated in places along postal routes in New England. Leah showed how the postal routes improved over time, how many more places were included, how much more frequent the letters. If you map (draw graphs) and work out the percentage of letters between particular correspondents, you can gauge the importance of the place a character writes from and how it relates to other places in the story. Looking at the story from the perspective of who sent what, where and how many letters, you learn about the boundaries of the groups,and how Eliza’s community fails her. Only two of the letters have a day indicated — they are on a climactic final Tuesday. The novel is not long, it’s a sad affecting story, and is still read.
In “The Prince Franz Network: International Contacts in the Building of the Worlitz Palace and Park,” John Heins, himself a research librarian in the National Gallery of Art, took us on a journey through the life, friends and acquaintances of Leopold Friedrich Franz Anhalt-Dessau (1740-1817) as he built, developed and improved his extraordinary house, gardens and landscape in Germany. Franz had wanted to marry a woman for love, and retire from public life, but had been prevented and fulfilled himself through this building Prof Heins provided thumbnail portraits of all the people along the way: including Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmansdorff (1736-1800), the great art critic Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-68) with whom Franz spent and studied 13 years (the correspondence between these two men was destroyed by Leopold because Wincklemann was homosexual); Charles-Louis Clerisseau, a French draftsman (1721-1820); Bartolomeo Cavaceppi (1716-1799); Nelson and emma Lady Hamilton at Naples; Goethe (8 times) who said “the Gods allowed this prince to create a dream.” We learned of English and Italian influence; the specifics of their particular values, of agricultural and building techniques, how many years the building took, where he traveled to (Naples to see Vesuvius and Pompeii) and how long. It seems a huge number of people lived on his property whose fate he controlled. So there were multiple complex relationships behind this architectural masterpiece.
Theodore (Ted) Braun told us about a little corner and one aspect of Voltaire’s vast correspondence. Voltaire wrote untold numbers of letters of which over 10,000 have been preserved; there are over 70 volumes. By the time Voltaire was aged 40 to 44 he had produced a number of tragedies, written and published Le Henriade, Zaire and other tales, his philosophical letters, the Letters on England, to Newton; then two imprisonments in the Bastille led to Voltaire’s exile from France. Few critics have wanted to discuss how Voltaire was an envious man who prevaricated against his rivals to slander them. Among those he attacked was Jean-Jacques Lefranc, Marquis de Pomignan; Ted told of how Voltaire had never seen or read Pompignan’s play, Didon, and yet wrote a blistering critique of it. Ted then turned to Voltaire’s continual health problems: Voltaire’s letters are filled with a dread of coming death; he half mocks himself but he also thinks he is dying; and there are many ironic and metaphoric passages about his dying (piece by piece) and (great) suffering; he wrote his own epitaph at age 42.
There were a number of questions about Worlitz, Franz, and the people John Heins had discussed. People asked about the post office in the US and the maps Leah had used. I asked what was Voltaire’s illnesa and Ted said we don’t know.
It was then time for the first coffee break and some continental breakfast (juice, rolls, cakes, and fresh fruit too).
Jean Raoux, “A young woman reading a letter”