'National' Fiction in English Language of the Romantic Period

Recent investigations of the concept of ‘Britishness’, as well as political developments such as Scottish devolution and the establishment of the Welsh assembly, have raised the question of the relationship of the national (Celtic) cultures of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales to the larger British ‘union’.

It is also now acknowledged by literary historians that the novel played a vital part in constructing images of national identity, most notably in the form of the ‘national’ tale, but also in other related sub-genres such as the historical novel and the domestic tale.

These three collections here are compied from our Edition Corvey, the most concentrated collection with English Language Literature, available world-wide for the Romantic Period.


Ireland related Fictions of the Romantic Period:

68 authors / 120 titles

including 34 women writers with 52 titles and 13 anon. published titles,

total approx. 114,500 pages.

The first novels to be described as recognizably ‘Irish’ began to appear in Dublin and London in the late 1790s. During the Romantic Period they had reached significant numbers and helped lay the foundations for the cultural nationalism which was to sweep all before it in the later years of the 19th Century.

Rather than apply strict notions of authorial birth or residency, our titles classify as ‘Irish’ those novels which take Ireland as their theme, or which prominently feature Irish politics, landscape, dialect or characters. Reading these titles makes it possible to see the various ways in which Ireland was produced for and by fiction in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The range of genres and styles will surprise many readers, encompassing as it does national tales, historical romances, Gothic fiction, military adventures, and tales of fashionable life.

Apart from the names of a small number of novels and authors, little is known about the wealth of Irish novels published in the Romantic Period. In spite of this, interest in and criticism of Irish novels has proceeded apace. Recent critical statements about Irish fiction, however, cannot be adequately measured or tested without access to a collection of fiction such as our 120 titles, many of which are rare and were hitherto accessible only by visiting several specialist libraries.

Taken together, the novels featured here will produce a more expansive context in which to read established authors such as Maria Edgeworth, will introduce readers to lesser known cultural figures and genres, and will change our understanding of what ‘Irish’ meant in the all-important years between the passing of the Act of Union and the granting of Catholic Emancipation.


Scotland related Fictions of the Romantic Period

41 authors / 79 titles,

including 17 women writers with 22 titles and 15 titles from anon. writers,

total approx. 62,100 pages.

These titles offer a wide selection of what to contemporary observers was known ‘Scotch’ Novels, characterized not only by its representations of Scottish locations, characters, and speech, but in many cases during its heyday by being produced within Scotland by Scottish authors, printers, and publishers. While the Waverley novels of Sir Walter Scott are deliberately excluded, what remains is far from a residue or assortment of imitations.

On the contrary, readers are likely to be impressed and surprised by the remarkable diversity that is on view. Our collection contains most of the Scottish fictions of John Galt, John Gibson, Lockhart, John Wilson, Ann Radcliffe, Iobel Johnstone and other writers. In addition to Edinburgh, the titles include cover a full range of Scottish locations, from Galloway in the south-west to Aberdeen in the North East, from the Borders to a much-revisited Highlands, and from an agrarian Ettrick Forest to the new industrial world of Paisley and Glasgow.


Wales related Fiction of the Romantic Period

32 authors / 43 titles

including 19 women writers with 19 titles and 8 titles from anon. writers,

total approx. 35,000 pages.

The scholarly interest in the national novel of the Romantic Period has encouraged the rehabilitation of previously unrecognized works by a number of authors, whose fictions relating to Wales address issues of cultural identity and nationhood. Yet even so fiction written by Welsh authors or set in Wales is still conspicuously absent from general surveys of the Romantic-era novel.

The aim of our collection is to address this absence, by providing a representative body of novels which reflects the broad and rich involvement of Wales in fiction of the Romantic Period.

The main criterion in selecting these titles, first published between 1785 and 1831, has been the treatment within the narrative of issues relating to Wales, regardless of the nationality of the author, although a number of the authors included do have Welsh connections, either through birth or residency.

Traditionally, the only works featuring Wales which have attracted critical appraisal have been those few written by such authors as Sir Walter Scott, as written above, here in our collection excluded, and Thomas Love Peacock. Other writers, however, who have made significant contributions to the construction of a Welsh literary canon in English Language are Edward Trevor Anwyl, Anna Maria Bennett, and Anne Hatton, and until their contribution and that of others is recognized our understanding of the positioning of Wales in British Romantic literature will remain incomplete. Sub-genres which feature Wales are as abundant and varied as those to be found generally in Romantic Period fiction.



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