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Our final C19 session of this Semester features Dr. Amy Culley (Lincoln) talking to us on ‘Narratives of Ageing in the Life Writing of Mary Berry’ (no, not that one).


The session will take place next Thursday, the 30th November, in room MB3202. The paper will begin at 5.15pm, with refreshments from 5pm.


Please find Amy’s abstract and bio below.


See you there!


Old Maid


‘A journal of my feelings, mind & Body’

Narratives of Ageing in the Life Writing of Mary Berry (1763-1852)


This paper provides new perspectives on old age, gender, and sociability in the early nineteenth century through discussion of a rich variety of life writing texts by historian, biographer, and editor, Mary Berry. In her manuscript journal, Berry narrates her experience of the life course from her twenties until her death at the age of eighty-nine in a self-conscious and intimate commentary on ageing as a single woman. She mixes chronological, personal, cultural, and physical definitions of ageing, and addresses themes of the body, memory, reading, writing, faith and friendship. Yet a comparison of her manuscript with the posthumously published printed work of 1865 reveals how Berry’s reflections on old age were radically reshaped for a Victorian readership. Beyond the journal, Berry’s correspondence within a network of older male and female letter-writers provides insight into intragenerational relationships and highlights the significance of age for studies of friendship in this period. The theme also manifests in her biographical works, in which her depictions of older female figures do not treat old age as an epilogue to a life (as is typical of the biographical tradition) but rather develop the critical reflections on the pleasures and perils of ageing expressed in her journal. In recent years there has been a growing critical recognition of Berry, beyond her image as the youthful friend and editor of Horace Walpole, and her life and work have featured in studies of literary salons, travel writing, the theatre, historical writing, and women’s literary networks. Reading Berry’s life writing through the lens of ageing contributes to this work of recovery and reveals her as an acute reporter on her travels through late life.


Amy Culley is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Lincoln. She is the author of British Women’s Life Writing, 1760–1840: Friendship, Community, and Collaboration (Palgrave, 2014), co-editor with Anna Fitzer of Editing Women’s Writing, 1670-1840 (Routledge, 2017), co-editor with Daniel Cook of Women’s Life Writing, 1700–1850: Gender, Genre and Authorship (Palgrave, 2012), and editor of Women’s Court and Society Memoirs, volumes 1–4 (Pickering & Chatto, 2009). She is currently researching narratives of ageing and old age in women’s life writing of the early nineteenth century, supported by a BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grant.

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