Figures of the Imagination: Fiction and Song in Britain, 1790–1850, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Figures of the Imagination

Fiction and Song in Britain, 1790–1850, 1st Edition

By Roger Hansford


300 pages | 45 B/W Illus.

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This new study of the intersection of romance novels with vocal music records a society on the cusp of modernisation, with a printing industry emerging to serve people’s growing appetites for entertainment amidst their changing views of religion and the occult. No mere diversion, fiction was integral to musical culture and together both art forms reveal key intellectual currents that circulated in the early nineteenth-century British home and were shared by many consumers. Roger Hansford explores relationships between music produced in the early 1800s for domestic consumption and the fictional genre of romance, offering a new view of romanticism in British print culture. He surveys romance novels by Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis, Sir Walter Scott, James Hogg, Edward Bulwer and Charles Kingsley in the period 1790–1850, interrogating the ways that music served to create mood and atmosphere, enlivened social scenes and contributed to plot developments. He explores the connections between musical scenes in romance fiction and the domestic song literature, treating both types of source and their intersection as examples of material culture. Hansford’s intersectional reading revolves around a series of imaginative figures – including the minstrel, fairies, mermaids, ghosts, and witches, and Christians engaged both in virtue and vice – the identities of which remained consistent as influence passed between the art forms. While romance authors quoted song lyrics and included musical descriptions and characters, their novels recorded and modelled the performance of songs by the middle and upper classes, influencing the work of composers and the actions of performers who read romance fiction.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Music and Romance in the Early Nineteenth Century

1 ‘Raise the Song and Strike the Harp’: Minstrelsy, Balladeering, and Romance Fiction, 1790–1830

2 ‘This Horrible Stave They Howl’: The Supernatural in Fiction and Song, 1790–1830

3 ‘Angels Round thy Throne are Hymning’: Christian Virtue in Fiction and Song, 1790–1830

4 ‘Her Voice is Hovering o’er my Soul’: Siren Singers and Received Intersections in Fiction and Song, 1830–1850

Conclusion: Figures of the Imagination: the Intersection of Fiction and Song, 1790–1850

About the Author


Roger Hansford

Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom

Learn more about Roger Hansford >>

Roger Hansford holds a PhD in Musicology from the University of Southampton. He has taught on university music history courses and delivered research papers at conferences throughout the UK. His current research interests revolve around nineteenth-century romanticism, particularly music in nineteenth-century Britain and its cultural contexts.

About the Series

Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain

So much of our ‘common’ knowledge of music in nineteenth-century Britain is bound up with received ideas. This series disputes their validity through research critically reassessing our perceptions of the period. Volumes in the series cover wide-ranging areas such as composers and composition; conductors, management and entrepreneurship; performers and performing; music criticism and the press; concert venues and promoters; church music and music theology; repertoire, genre, analysis and theory; instruments and technology; music education and pedagogy; publishing, printing and book selling; reception, historiography and biography; women and music; masculinity and music; gender and sexuality; domestic music-making; empire, orientalism and exoticism; and music in literature, poetry, theatre and dance.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General
MUSIC / History & Criticism