Taking into account the popularity and variety of the genre, this collaborative volume considers a wide range of English Romantic autobiographical writers and modes, including working-class autobiography, the familiar essay, and the staged presence. In the wake of Rousseau's Confessions, autobiography became an increasingly popular as well as a literary mode of writing. By the early nineteenth century, this hybrid and metamorphic genre is found everywhere in English letters, in prose and poetry by men and women of all classes. As such, it resists attempts to provide a coherent historical account or establish a neat theoretical paradigm. The contributors to Romantic Autobiography in England embrace the challenge, focusing not only on major writers such as William Wordsworth, De Quincey, and Mary Shelley, but on more recent additions to the canon such as Mary Robinson, Dorothy Wordsworth, and Mary Hays. There are also essays on the scandalous Memoirs of Mrs. Billington and on Joseph Severn's autobiographical scripting of himself as "the friend of Keats." The result is an exploratory and provisional mapping of the field, provocative rather than exhaustive, intended to inspire future scholarship and teaching.
Eugene Stelzig is Distinguished Teaching Professor of English at SUNY-Geneseo, USA
'Covering an exhilarating range of subjects, from canonical figures such as Mary Wollstonecraft and Thomas De Quincey to the less prominent such as Mary Hays, Joseph Severn, and the opera singer Mrs. Billington, this collection poses fascinating questions about autobiography in the Romantic Period. Taken together, these theoretically provocative essays return us to familiar texts from new angles, and introduce us to others.' Peter J. Manning, Stony Brook University, USA ’Eugene Stelzig's introduction to this collection of essays testifies to the irreducible messiness of the object of inquiry... The essays in this collection are consistently fresh and original in their treatments of an extraordinary range of forms of autobiographical practice.’ NBOL-19 ’One finds something exhilarating in virtually every take in this collection... Well arranged and accessible, these well-written explorations of unique, strategic self-invention reveal how memory, diffidence, trust, shame, guilt, and bravado all live within the imperative to write about one's selfhood. Stelzig (SUNY, Geneseo) provides an authoritative introduction... Recommended.’ Choice ’...offer[s] a rich menu of reflections on a wide range of autobiographical writing. ... [Stelzig] has curated a thought-provoking and often very engaging collection of essays.’ Review of English Studies '... [this book] provides insight into the Romantics’ complex relation with the public sphere, and their simultaneous efforts to control it whilst seeking to avoid being constrained by it in return... this collection forms a highly valuable addition to the literature on the genre.' History