Academic journal article Studies in Romanticism

An Illegitimate Legacy: Essays in Romantic Theater History in Memory of Jane Moody

Academic journal article Studies in Romanticism

An Illegitimate Legacy: Essays in Romantic Theater History in Memory of Jane Moody

Article excerpt

Introduction

I FIRST MET JANE MOODY IN LOS ANGELES IN THE EARLY 1990S, ON ONE OF what would become many of her visits to Southern California, where she was drawn by the rich theater history collections at the Huntington Library in San Marino. We had been put in touch by Marilyn Butler, and Jane would later tell a story that had escaped my memory. It seems I was late arriving to the coffee shop where we agreed to meet, and everything she knew about me in advance--an acquaintance of Marilyn Butler, living in Pasadena, working at the Huntington Library, and writing about Cobbett's Rural Rides--had her tentatively approaching men over the age of sixty-five to see if they might be Kevin Gilmartin. While the story always ended with her pleasant surprise at finding that I was not yet in my declining years, there was too just a hint of mischief and a sidelong glance, as if to ask, "really, Kevin, Cobbett's Rural Rides ...?" What I do remember from that day was an intense and demanding conversation--Jane was always efficient--about the politics of legitimacy in early nineteenth-century Britain. She was keen to learn what she could from my work on radical journalism, but it became disconcertingly clear to me over the course of a long coffee break that she knew as much as I did about the late Napoleonic and postwar era radical reform movement in which "legitimacy" became a fiercely contested political term. The development of London's minor theaters provided the institutional framework for her first book, Illegitimate Theatre in London, 1770--1840, and for much of her subsequent research and writing, but legitimacy and illegitimacy were terms that Jane developed through a dazzling range of formal, aesthetic, performative, institutional, cultural, social, and political registers. She was a truly multidisciplinary scholar in part because she could not help but think in kaleidoscopic ways. A theater historian first--and for many of us trained in Romanticism in the 1980s and 1990s, that was something new to reckon with--but an accomplished social and cultural historian as well, and a sensitive literary critic capable of working effortlessly across three distinct eras, the long eighteenth century, Romanticism, and the Victorian period.

There were other conversations in Southern California in the years to come, but it was only later, when we became colleagues in the Department of English and the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies (CECS) at the University of York, that I learned just how little of Jane Moody was encompassed even in her remarkable scholarly range. Although I arrived as she was guiding the English department through the demanding final stages of the British government's "Research Assessment Exercise," with a sure administrative hand that would be practiced again when she became founding director of the university's Humanities Research Centre, Jane found time to introduce me to department colleagues and staff and to everything that was worth knowing about the city of York. And all of it opened out upon one or another dimension of her own life--a life lived with characteristic energy and generosity, and invariably knit together by personal connections that I was invited to join. The flat she found for me was available to sublet because a friend had just moved out to become the first resident curator of Shandy Hall, so with the sublet came a trip to Shandy Hall and a personal guided tour; I learned that the best way to see the massive York Minster cathedral on more intimate terms was at night, for Evensong, when it turned out Jane would be performing with the choir; I found that the riches of the Minster library were more readily accessed, and many hours saved, with a few select introductions from Jane; and dinners at her home in Upper Price Street were a chance to gather with university colleagues while also being introduced to local writers, artists, and artisans. Jane appeared to be on a first name basis with most of the city of York. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.