Massimilian Demata and Duncan Wu, eds. British Romanticism and the “Edinburgh Review”. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002. ISBN: 0333963490. Price: £50.Kim Wheatley, ed. Romantic Periodicals and Print Culture. London: Frank Cass, 2003. ISBN: 0714684376. Price: £24.99.[Notice]

  • Nikki Hessell

…plus d’informations

  • Nikki Hessell
    Massey University, New Zealand

A limitation in Romantic print culture studies is that the world of periodical publication is largely mapped and analysed with the conventional literary compass points in mind. We are interested, for the most part, in the involvement of canonical authors in the world of the press and we refer to all the familiar touchstones: we cite Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s views on the press, we read Hazlitt and Hunt to uncover Romantic-era journalism, we hold up Jeffrey’s review of Thalaba as an important moment in periodical history. Such an approach is understandable, given that most scholars in this field are from literary studies and are consequently more interested in the points where the canon and the press intersect than those where they do not. But it is nevertheless a limited and limiting way of viewing the Romantic period’s vast output of print artefacts and it is not surprising that two of the most influential and persuasive books in the field, Jon Klancher’s The Making of English Reading Audiences and Kevin Gilmartin’s Print Politics, gained their reputations and stimulated debate by attempting a much broader and less literary survey of the scene. When periodicals and other publications are mined for their references to literary heavy-weights, it begs the question whether we are actually getting a clearer view of print culture in the Romantic era or simply collecting a scrapbook of canonical memorabilia. The title of Romantic Periodicals and Print Culture, edited by Kim Wheatley, suggests that the volume will tackle the question of the press in the Romantic era without much reference to the literary scene. As Wheatley rightly points out in the introduction, “[w]hat Jerome McGann has labeled the ‘Romantic ideology’ stands for everything that periodical writing does not. It elevates, among other things, inspired (and solitary) authorship over routine (and collaborative) composition; self-exploration or an ahistorical aestheticism over immersion in commodity culture; and immortal fame over transient publicity” (2). And yet the essays in this volume, while sometimes expertly connecting Romantic literature to the press more generally, do not often address writing that is routine or collaborative or transient. Adriana Craciun’s fascinating analysis of Mary Robinson’s “Metropolis” essays, for example, argues for the importance of this series by showing that it was not transient but instead a possible influence on Wordsworth and a piece often reprinted and plagiarised long after its author had died. Most of the pieces in this volume either focus upon a member of the expanded Romantic canon or cite such authors as key voices in broader debates about the press. There are notable exceptions; Bonnie J. Gunzenhauser’s essay on Cobbett’s Two-Penny Trash, Lisa Niles’s exploration of Blackwood’s and the single man, and Nanora Sweet’s overview of the New Monthly Magazine in the 1820s all provide instructive readings of the tone and climate of some prominent periodicals. But the other essays in the book, while compelling as works of individual scholarship, seem to belong to another, hypothetical volume, perhaps titled Romanticism and the Periodical Press or Romantic Literature and Print Culture. Their clear literary and canonical focus seems out of place in a collection whose title suggests that it will engage principally with the press in the Romantic era. Gunzenhauser raises a key point when she notes that “[b]y positioning the Two-Penny Trash as an agent in its own right, Cobbett establishes the periodical, rather than himself, as the central identifiable force in the ongoing discursive war against corruption” (94). The idea that reviews, magazines, periodicals and newspapers ought to be the focus of discussion, with canonical authors and literary links fading into …