Trees in Nineteenth-Century English Fiction : The Silvicultural Novel book cover
1st Edition

Trees in Nineteenth-Century English Fiction
The Silvicultural Novel

ISBN 9780367369040
Published March 29, 2021 by Routledge
232 Pages 25 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This is a book about a longstanding network of writers and writings that celebrate the aesthetic, socio-political, scientific, ecological, geographical, and historical value of trees and tree spaces in the landscape; and it is a study of the effect of this tree-writing upon the novel form in the long nineteenth century.

Trees in Nineteenth-Century English Fiction: The Silvicultural Novel identifies the picturesque thinker William Gilpin as a significant influence in this literary and environmental tradition. Remarks on Forest Scenery (1791) is formed by Gilpin’s own observations of trees, forests, and his New Forest home specifically; but it is also the product of tree-stories collected from ‘travellers and historians’ that came before him. This study tracks the impact of this accumulating arboreal discourse upon nineteenth-century environmental writers such as John Claudius Loudon, Jacob George Strutt, William Howitt, and Mary Roberts, and its influence on varied dialogues surrounding natural history, agriculture, landscaping, deforestation, and public health. Building upon this concept of an ongoing silvicultural discussion, the monograph examines how novelists in the realist mode engage with this discourse and use their understanding of arboreal space and its cultural worth in order to transform their own fictional environments. Through their novelistic framing of single trees, clumps, forests, ancient woodlands, and man-made plantations, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Thomas Hardy feature as authors of particular interest. Collectively, in their environmental representations, these novelists engage with a broad range of silvicultural conversation in their writing of space at the beginning, middle, and end of the nineteenth century.

This book will be of great interest to students, researchers, and academics working in the environmental humanities, long nineteenth-century literature, nature writing and environmental literature, environmental history, ecocriticism, and literature and science scholarship.

Table of Contents


Chapter One

A Silvicultural Tradition

Single Trees and Remarkable Specimens

From Clumps to Forests: Trees in Combination

Gilpin and the New Forest

A Changing Woodscape: Preservation and Planting into the Nineteenth Century

Chapter Two

Arboreal Boundaries and Silvicultural ‘Improvement’ in the Literary Landscapes of Jane Austen

Silvicultural Dynamism: Arboreal Conversations and Characterisations

Trees, Improvement, and Maintaining Arboreal Boundaries

Chapter Three

The Presence and Absence of Trees in the Writings of Elizabeth Gaskell

The Topographies of Trees in Libbie Marsh’s Three Eras and Ruth

‘delicious air’ and the Green Belt in North and South

Chapter Four

Reading Ancient Trees and Arboreal Strata in The Woodlanders

Arboreal Accumulation and the ‘Billy Wilkins’ Tree

Reading Stratigraphical Woodscapes: The Intersection of Aesthetics and Geology

Chapter Five

‘Such is the Vale of Blackmoor’: Navigating Trees, Memory, and Prospect in Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Topographical Perambulation and the Arboreal Margin

Accumulating Prospects and Retrospective Reflection, Tess as Active Spectator


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Anna Burton is an early career researcher and teaching fellow at the University of Liverpool. Her research interests include long nineteenth-century literature, natural history, nature writing, and the afterlives of the ‘Picturesque’.