Monday 24 September 2012

Free eBooks for Romanticists

This might not be the most fashionable thing to say in academic circles, but I love my Kindle. Not only is it hugely convenient for travel (much smaller and lighter than a nineteenth-century tome when you're out and about) but it also means that you never unexpectedly run out of things to read. Many a time have I been stuck at Didcot Parkway station on a cold winter's night waiting for my delayed connection, only to finish my print book and so have no option but to read a coffee-stained copy of Metro cover to cover. Three times. With a Kindle, such scenarios are, thankfully, a thing of the past.

The other great thing about Kindles is that you can get some pretty obscure stuff for them. Take Mary Shelley's novel The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck. There is no affordable print copy of this book available; the cheapest you'll get it for is around £20 for a print-on-demand facsimile of the first edition. On the Kindle, however, you can buy Mary Shelley's collected works for the very affordable sum of £1.28. Even better, some books for the Kindle are completely free! There are disadvantages to using these versions, of course. With free books, it's often not clear which edition you're getting (the 1818 or 1831 Frankenstein, for example), and there are no notes, but this is comparable with any cheap print edition such as those produced by Wordsworth Classics or Penguin Popular Classics.

Although these free editions are no good for serious academic purposes, they're great if you're just after a good read for a journey. I've listed below a selection of some of the best free Romantic-period eBooks available from Amazon for Kindle. Even if you don't have a Kindle, you can download the app for Android phone/tablet, iPad, iPhone, PC, or Mac for free. All the titles I've listed are hyperlinked, so they'll take you straight to the relevant page ready for downloading.

A word of warning: I've downloaded a fair few of these free editions myself, and while I've never had any problems with novels, I've found that poetry is often poorly formatted. Sometimes lines are missing or line breaks are incorrect; at other times, line breaks aren't indicated at all, which makes the poetry virtually unreadable. For this reason, I've only listed prose below. Enjoy!

Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Emma, Persuasion, Lady Susan

Fanny Burney

William Cobbett
Rural Rides, Cottage Economy

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Biographia Literaria

Thomas De Quincey
Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, The English Mail-Coach and Joan of Arc, Miscellaneous Essays, Biographical Essays

William Godwin
Caleb Williams Or Things as They Are, Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman

William Hazlitt
Table Talk: Essays on Men and Manners, Characters of Shakespeare's Plays, The Spirit of the Age, Lectures on the English Poets, Liber Amoris

James Hogg
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

Matthew Lewis
The Monk

Thomas Love Peacock
Nightmare Abbey, Headlong Hall, Crotchet Castle, Gryll Grange

Ann Radcliffe
The Mysteries of Udolpho, A Sicilian Romance

Clara Reeve
The Old English Baron

Mary Shelley
Frankenstein, The Last Man, Mathilda, Proserpine and Midas

Mary Wollstonecraft
Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Letters on Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, Maria, Or the Wrongs of Woman, Mary: A Fiction

Monday 17 September 2012

New web resources for Romanticists

I've recently discovered two great new web resources for Romanticists: the Great Writers Inspire project from the University of Oxford and the Romantic Heirs network.

Stephen Duck (1705-1756): An early 'peasant poet'
Great Writers Inspire
The Great Writers Inspire blog covers English Literature from Beowulf to the present day, and aims to offer a 'substantial collection of literary themed learning resources available for global reuse'. It is completely free to use, and offers materials which will be of interest to students, teachers, and non-specialists alike. The site features a range of resources, including video podcasts and transcriptions of lectures from world-leading specialists, essays, eBooks, and pictures, and can be explored by author or by theme.

Of particular interest to Romanticists are sections on Jane Austen, William Blake, and Eighteenth-century labouring-class writing. There is so much to explore on the site, but real highlights include a video/audio podcast of Kathryn Sutherland talking about Austen's manuscripts, an essay by Kate O'Connor about 'The Anonymous Jane Austen', a video/audio introduction to Blake's poetry, painting, and engraving by David Fallon, and a pdf transcript of a lecture about Blake and London by Peter Ackroyd.

Also of interest is a video/audio lecture on Stephen Duck by Jennifer Batt; Duck was an early 'peasant poet', and is essential reading for anyone interested in later, Romantic labouring-class poetry. The selection of eBooks available on the site really is fantastic; there are far too many of interest to list here, so it's well worth taking the time to have a look through and see what's on offer.

Romantic Heirs
The recently-created Romantic Heirs network is an exciting new project edited by Fern Merrills and Liam Firth from the University of Sheffield. The site is primarily designed for postgraduate research students and early career researchers interested in the many legacies and receptions of Romanticism, although the editors also welcome submissions and suggestions from those at all stages of education. As the project develops, the site will include videos, papers, podcasts, blogs, and teaching materials, as well as calls for papers and conference announcements, and so should prove to be really useful for anyone with an interest in this area.

Romantic Heirs is currently looking for postgraduates and early career researchers to submit blog posts on all things Romantic; a post should be around 250-800 words and could be a review, a short paper, a report on public engagement activities, a diary piece, or a poem or piece of prose. The editors particularly welcome posts written in a style that is accessible to audiences outside of academia. See the Romantic Heirs website for more details.

Thursday 6 September 2012

Byron's copy of 'Frankenstein' discovered

There has been some exciting news for the world of Romanticism announced today: Lord Byron's personal copy of Frankenstein, inscribed by Mary Shelley, has been discovered hidden away in a family library. The book had remained, untouched, on a top shelf in the library of Lord Jay for fifty years, and was only found when his grandson was sorting through some political papers and happened to come across it.

The inscription, which reads 'To Lord Byron from the author', was verified as being in Mary Shelley's hand by Richard Ovenden of Oxford's Bodleian Library, and the book will now be auctioned. It is expected to fetch £400,000. The volume will be on public display at Peter Harrington's premises (100 Fulham Road, Chelsea) for one week from Wednesday 26 September 2012 along with a selection of contemporary literary artefacts. Let's hope that this treasure is purchased by a research library rather than falling into the hands of a private collector.

For the full news story, please see the Huffington Post.