19CC Research Seminar
Dr James Grande (King’s College London) and Dr Jack Quin (University of Birmingham)
Wednesday 8th March 2023, 5pm-7pm
Dr James Grande (King’s College London), ‘Amelia Opie, Music and Dissent’
Harriet Guest has written, ‘Opie’s was one of the most successful publishing careers of the early nineteenth century’, but until recently Opie had become, in Gary Kelly’s words, ‘almost entirely forgotten and read’. I will suggest that the centrality of music to Opie’s career helps to explain both her contemporary celebrity and subsequent neglect: as the writer of popular ballads and hymns, a celebrated vocal performer, and a novelist whose work was frequently adapted for the stage in the form of opera and melodrama, Opie eludes the established categories of Romantic authorship. The paper will pay particular attention to the way that the changing meanings of music in Opie’s writing relate to her religious and political identity, from her Unitarian education and rational faith in song as a mode of ‘conversation put into sweet sounds’, to her performance of revolutionary anthems in the boulevards of Paris and finally to her conversion to Quakerism and renunciation of both fiction and non-sacred music.
Dr Jack Quin (University of Birmingham), ‘Poets and Public Monuments’
Surveying the statues of various politicians and monarchs in and around the Houses of Parliament in 1932, Virginia Woolf remarked that perhaps ‘the days of the small separate statue are over […] Let us rebuild the world then as a splendid hall; let us give up making statues and inscribing them with impossible virtues.’ In this paper, I will consider 1890s poetry on public statuary alongside the tempestuous debates surrounding these monuments. If public sculpture’s power is predicated on its historical endurance, poems about statues conceive of sculpture as a curiously fluid medium that is non-static, anachronistic, and subject to ageing or material degrading.
Poems by Swinburne, Lionel Johnson, and others set up a rivalry – or paragone – between poetry and sculpture in their claims to permanence. In a period of ‘statumania’ or prolific monument-making at the turn of the century – where statues are typically read as didactic, or as a homogenising force across the expanse of Empire – poets can be seen to frustrate a seamless verisimilitude of man and monument that might provide a simplified legacy of certain statesmen.