Academic journal article
By Childers, Joseph W.
Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 , Vol. 38, No. 4
Finally, it is time to write. For months I have been reading and taking notes, trying to refamiliarize myself with arguments about works that lie on the periphery of my own sub-sub-specializations; introducing myself to new readings of texts and new interpretations of literary lives; and, certainly, especially enjoying those books that intersect with my own interests. I have read books by friends, by acquaintances, by complete strangers, and by those whom I have never met but whose work I have admired and used. I have tried to remain open minded, receptive, and of good cheer as the books continued to arrive day after day, week after week, stacking up in my office, my home, my automobile. Even now as I begin to put electronic impulse to hard drive early in May, they are still arriving. With this inundation has come a number of bibliographic tasks that have tested my organizational aptitude. Keeping track of so many books was only the beginning (though by no means the least) of my difficulties. I have experimented with all manner of sorting and categorizing these editions, collections, and monographs, trying to come up with a useful, sensible, and at least ostensibly unifying method for presenting their breadth and variety. A number of the books I have received have been editions of one kind or another, and if for no other reason than for their sheer numbers, they deserve some attention. I am not a textual scholar, however, and my ability to assess a volume's worth on that basis, as readers will learn, is limited. Instead my standards run toward the pragmatic. It is not at all clear to me that we need another teaching edition of say, Jane Eyre or Barchester Towers, while it seems a good thing that we can now buy relatively inexpensive, but quite serviceable, paperback editions of J. Sheridan Le Fanu's Checkmate or Charlotte Dacre's Zofloya; or, The Moor or Fanny Trollope's Three Cousins.
Of course not all books that were received are mentioned in this essay; time and space simply would not allow it. Consequently, "approaches to teaching" books, concordances or collections of excerpts, or books that, whatever their titles might indicate, are only tangentially concerned with the Romantic, Regency, or Victorian periods have been omitted from discussion. And small comfort though it may be, they do appear in the bibliography at the end of this essay. I should point out that the organization of this review varies a bit from my predecessors' inasmuch as I have tried to categorize books by type as well as by period. I have used the two major periods, Romantic and Victorian, to indicate the time frame of works' subject areas, and I have also used subdivisions such as "cultural studies" and "works about single authors" in order to help my readers find information more quickly. I by no means wish to imply that readers of this essay will not hang breathlessly on its every word, but this is the age of electronic retrieval, after all, and I would not want to cause unnecessary reference bottlenecks. Finally, I want to comment on the personal and professional danger that attends the task of writing this review. I know quite well that it is impossible to please all the people all the time. Flying in the face of every precept of persuasive writing, I offer at the outset my sincerest apologies to those whose arguments I have cruelly subjected to the Procrustean imperatives of the review-essay form. And of course, I did not find all the books to be wonderful. Yet, on the whole, I found this to be an enjoyable, if sometimes maddening experience, and I am excited about the amount of excellent work that is being done in so many corners of nineteenth-century studies.
EDITIONS AND LETTERS
A number of editions of nineteenth-century texts have been published in the last several months, many of them quite good as scholarly sources, others useful in making previously difficult-to-attain texts available and relatively affordable. …