Arthur O'Shaughnessy, A Pre-Raphaelite Poet in the British Museum: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Arthur O'Shaughnessy, A Pre-Raphaelite Poet in the British Museum

1st Edition

By Jordan Kistler


200 pages

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Arthur O'Shaughnessy's career as a natural historian in the British Museum, and his consequent preoccupation with the role of work in his life, provides the context with which to reexamine his contributions to Victorian poetry. O'Shaughnessy's engagement with aestheticism, socialism, and Darwinian theory can be traced to his career as a Junior Assistant at the British Museum, and his perception of the burden of having to earn a living outside of art. Making use of extensive archival research, Jordan Kistler demonstrates that far from being merely a minor poet, O'Shaughnessy was at the forefront of later Victorian avant-garde poetry. Her analyses of published and unpublished writings, including correspondence, poetic manuscripts, and scientific notebooks, demonstrate O'Shaughnessy's importance to the cultural milieu of the 1870s, particularly his contributions to English aestheticism, his role in the importation of decadence from France, and his unique position within contemporary debates on science and literature.


"Unjustly neglected for over a century, Arthur O’Shaughnessy is an unusual Pre-Raphaelite poet whose unromantic day job as a taxonomist set him apart from his literary peers. However, as Kistler shows, his writings shed important light on the works of better-known contemporaries such as Rossetti, Morris, and Swinburne. Kistler reclaims and contextualizes his works for a twenty-first-century readership, demonstrating that O’Shaughnessy is a Victorian poet with something significant to say about his own period and modernity. Her book constitutes a valuable contribution to the study of Victorian poetry and extends our knowledge not only of O’Shaughnessy, but of the broader context that gave rise to the Arts and Crafts movement, Aestheticism and Decadence."

- Patricia Pulham, University of Portsmouth, UK

"Kistler does a great job of showing not only that O’Shaughnessy’s poetry is worth further exploration (and appreciation), but also why O’Shaughnessy is significant…"

- Helena Ifill, University of Sheffield in The British Society for Literature and Science

Table of Contents


List of Abbreviations


1 'Dreary Creeds' and 'Sham Wits': O'Shaughnessy's Poetic Representations of Nature and Science

2 'I Carve the Marble of Pure Thought': Work and Art in the Poetry of Arthur O'Shaughnessy

3 'The Purest Parian': The Formalism of Arthur O'Shaughnessy

4 'Those too sanguine singers': Arthur O'Shaughnessy's French Influences

5 'Love's Splendid Lures': Arthur O'Shaughnessy's Medievalism




About the Author

Jordan Kistler is a Teaching Fellow in Victorian Literature at the University of Birmingham, UK. Her work focuses on the often-overlooked Pre-Raphaelite poets of the 1870s.

About the Series

Among the Victorians and Modernists

Among the Victorians and Modernists

This series publishes monographs and essay collections on literature, art, and culture in the context of the diverse aesthetic, political, social, technological, and scientific innovations that arose among the Victorians and Modernists. Viable topics include, but are not limited to, artistic and cultural debates and movements; influential figures and communities; and agitations and developments regarding subjects such as animals, commodification, decadence, degeneracy, democracy, desire, ecology, gender, nationalism, the paranormal, performance, public art, sex, socialism, spiritualities, transnationalism, and the urban. Studies that address continuities between the Victorians and Modernists are welcome. Work on recent responses to the periods such as NeoVictorian novels, graphic novels, and film will also be considered.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Comparative Literature