The Nineteenth-Century Research Group

Promoting an interdisciplinary approach to the nineteenth century at the University of Lincoln

Author: Owen Clayton (page 1 of 10)

4.15pm (4.30 start) Tuesday 12th January 2021, Matthew Bayly on ’Rabbits, Wheat and Laudanum: Agricultural and social change on the Lincoln Heath, c.1815-1850’

Apologies that the C19 Research Group did not hold a session last Semester. Despite our name, this was not because we were busy researching a COVID-19 vaccine.


However, we do have two sessions lined up for Semester B, both of which will take place online for obvious reasons. The first will take place at 4.15pm (4.30pm start) on Tuesday 12th January 2021, when Matthew Bayly will talk to us on ‘Rabbits, Wheat and Laudanum: Agricultural and social change on the Lincoln Heath, c.1815-1850’. If you would like to attend, please email and ask for the meeting link. All are welcome.


Please find an abstract and biography below. We hope to see lots of you there!


All best,


Owen, Alice, Pietro and Annise.



‘Rabbits, Wheat and Laudanum: Agricultural and social change on the Lincoln Heath, c.1815-1850’


A visitor to the Lincoln Heath in 1800 would have been presented with an agricultural landscape dominated by sheep and rabbit warrens; in contrast, by the mid-nineteenth century, the area typified Victorian ‘high farming’, characterised by mixed-agrarian wheat production. Such a change was at its most intense in the decades after 1815 and went far beyond agricultural practice, influencing such things as demography; the built environment; employment structures; social interactions; and the political-cultural landscape of the Lincoln Heath. Indeed, it can be argued that the period 1815 to 1850 was instrumental in defining the socio-economic expression of many areas of rural Lincolnshire until the mid-twentieth century. This paper will explore the development and impact of such changes within ten parishes in the Lincoln Heath, utilising three lenses to do so: rabbits, wheat and laudanum.



Matthew Bayly is a Senior English for Academic Purposes Tutor at the University of Lincoln and currently completing a PhD in History at Nottingham Trent University with a thesis titled ‘The Human Ecology of Need on the Lincoln Heath, c.1790-1850.’ His current research pivots around nineteenth century social history, with a specific interest in the English Poor Laws, the history of welfare and the politics of the parish.

4pm Weds 5th Feb, Dr. Jonathon Shears on Hangovers (MB2204)

Our first session of 2020 is a topic to which surely no-one in the nineteenth-century group can relate: hangovers. More specifically, Dr. Jonathon Shears from Keele University will be talking to us on ‘Penitents and Egotists: Hangover Literature of the Long Nineteenth Century’.


The session takes place in MB2204 (Minerva Building, 2nd Floor). Refreshments are at 4pm and the paper is due to start at 4.15pm. All are welcome. Please find Jon’s abstract and biography below:




While research into the hangover is now a subfield of medicine and psychology, the topic has rarely featured in the field of drinking studies in the humanities, which has preferred to focus on drinking cultures and customs, particularly male and female sociability. Yet, hangover literature has much to tell us about the ways in which drinking is governed not only by physiology but also ‘cultural beliefs and social practices’ of the sort that Jonathan Herring has identified as central to understanding the representation of alcohol. In this paper, I will explore the presence of the hangover in literature of the long nineteenth century, considering what it tells us about the relationship between an individual and their environment, the politics of controlling alcohol consumption and the complex ways in which alcohol affects our perception of body and mind.




Jonathon Shears is Senior Lecturer in English at Keele University. He has recently completed work on a monograph on the hangover in literature (published by Liverpool University Press in March 2020). He has also published books on Milton and the Romantics, Lord Byron, The Great Exhibition and Victorian bric-à-brac. He was Editor of The Byron Journal from 2012-2019. He is currently editing the Oxford Handbook of Lord Byron.

Weds 4th Dec, Dr. Renée Ward on ‘The Earliest Beowulf for Victorian Children’

Our final C19 of 2019 features Dr. Renée Ward talking on ‘The Earliest Beowulf for Victorian Children: E. L. Hervey’s “The Fight with the Ogre”’. The session will take place on Weds 4th Dec in MB3201. Refreshments will be served from 4pm, with the paper due to start at 4.15pm.


This talk introduces to modern audiences the short story “Roderic’s Tale: The Fight with the Ogre,” by Eleanora Louisa (Montagu) Hervey (1811-1903), a forgotten but prolific and well-known children’s writer in the nineteenth century. This previously unrecognized and unexamined tale, which appears in Hervey’s volume The Children of the Pear-Garden (1878), may, in fact, be the earliest known adaptation in English for children of the Old English poem Beowulf, as it predates more widely recognized early adaptations. Hervey’s story, “The Fight with the Ogre”, speaks directly to the nineteenth century’s heightened fascination with and concern for heritage, history, and empire, transforming its source into an highly condensed narrative, one which effaces much of the original’s material that grapples with questions of humanity, identity, and otherness (racial, behavioural, and religious). It ignores narratorial digressions (genealogies and contextual tales); eliminates the final battle between Beowulf and the dragon; and employs a heavily Christianized tone. Presented as an entry in an ornamental gift book, the story includes an illustration of Grendel as far more human than the original poem or Hervey’s adaptation suggest. Additionally, the story-telling framework positions the male child as the precursor to the adult patriarchal head and provides instruction on how he should rule himself and his household.


My research has two main branches: medieval and post-medieval. Much of my research on the medieval period concerns the literature and culture of the high to late Middle Ages, with particular emphases on monsters; the romance genre and its cultural contexts; and relationships between English and Continental narratives. My published works to date on medieval romance explore embodiments of liminality and their connections to violence, and investigate how medieval authors use these representations to challenge or reinstate social hegemonies. These interests likewise inform my current book project, The Werewolf in Medieval Romance (under contract with Palgrave Macmillan) and my research on medieval outlaw figures.

4pm 2nd Oct, MB3201 – Gender, Sculpture and the Studio in early Nineteenth-Century Rome

The first session of the Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Research Group will take place at 4pm on Weds 2nd October in MB3201 (Minvera Building).


Dr. Maeve O’Dwyer will be talking to us on ‘Rethinking the Female Gaze: Gender, Sculpture and the Studio in early Nineteenth-Century Rome’. Refreshments will be available from 4pm and the talk will begin at 4.15pm.


Drawing on the British Library’s collection of travel writing by British visitors to Rome, this paper will consider the struggle of the female gaze to emerge from the traditionally male space of art appreciation on the Grand Tour in the early nineteenth century. Interaction with sculpted classical bodies was socially problematic, especially at a time when methods of viewing sculpture changed towards focusing more keenly on the physicality and materiality of the object, and British society began to experience what Dror Wahrman titled ‘gender panic’. Some women, like Pauline Borghese, exploited this potential prurience, deliberately performing as what Chloe Chard would term ‘spectacles’. Others prefaced written accounts of their travels with apologia around their ability to engage with art. In both cases, interacting with artists in the studio allowed them to reframe and rethink their position within the social geography of Rome and the established sociability of the Grand Tour. This paper posits that those women normally constrained by societal norms when viewing the canon of the antique were enabled to diversify and develop their self-fashioning through the space of the artist’s studio.



Dr Maeve O’Dwyer is the Programme Manager for HEAR, the internal programme for achieving HEA recognition at the University of Lincoln. Maeve is an Associate Lecturer in the School of History and Heritage, teaching undergraduates on the Art History and History BA and the History BA. She also offers a technique class, open to all students regardless of level of study or School.

10th April: Dr. Richard Salmon on Walter Besant and Henry James

You are invited to the final paper of the Nineteenth Century Research Group this Wednesday 10th April, 4pm (for a 4.15pm start), in MB1019. Refreshments will be provided. We hope that you’ll be able to join us for our last meeting of the academic year, for the following paper by Dr Richard Salmon (University of Leeds):

Transforming the Art of Fiction:  Walter Besant, Henry James and the Society of Authors 




Founded in 1884 by the novelist and historian Walter Besant (1836-1901), the Incorporated Society of Authors went on to become the most successful and long-lasting professional association organized by and for the benefit of authors in Britain. Established in the belief that collective action was necessary in order to defend authors’ ‘trade interests’ and to express a long-held grievance against exploitative publishers and inadequate laws of copyright, the Society of Authors presents a valuable case-study of the wider transformation of the arts in modern professional society. Though Besant’s influence on the early development of the Society is well-documented, the conception of professional identity which shaped his activity during its first two decades remains under-explored.

This paper considers two distinct, but interrelated, aspects of Besant’s work for the Society of Authors during its early years. Firstly, it examines the various models of professional association and their functions, envisaged by Besant and other leading members of the Society, ranging from the pragmatic to the utopian. How did members of the Society conceive of its role in providing professional services in relation to the wider field of the literary market? Secondly, the paper explores the Society’s professional ethos in relation to the emerging genre of the literary manual – or ‘how to’ guide to professional authorship -, a connection which in 1884 sparked a memorable debate on the ‘art of fiction’ between Besant and his fellow novelist, Henry James. In what ways was this well-known late-Victorian debate on the aesthetic and moral dimensions of the novel shaped by the formation of collective professional identities for authors?


Dr Richard Salmon is a Senior Lecturer in Victorian Literature in the School of English, University of Leeds. He is the author of Henry James and The Culture of Publicity (1997), William Makepeace Thackeray (2005), and The Formation of the Victorian Literary Profession (2013). He has recently edited The Reverberator for the Cambridge Edition of the Complete Fiction of Henry James (2018), and is currently developing a new collaborative project on literary professionalism and the early history of the Society of Authors.

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