Category Archives: 19th Century

Serial Forms

By Clare Pettitt, Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture at King’s College London

The 5th of June 1846 was a boiling hot day. It was so hot that Elizabeth Barrett, soon to become Elizabeth Barrett Browning, ‘could do nothing but lie on the sofa and drink lemonade and read Monte Cristo’. She wrote to Robert Browning that she had started ‘“Le Comte de Monte Cristo,” the new book by Dumas, (observe how I waste my time . . .) & really he amuses me . . . six volumes I am glad to see.’ She was not alone: Dumas’s newspaper novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, was everywhere that year. It was running in various languages in serial magazines and abridged in the cheap penny papers across Europe and America. Ralph Waldo Emerson remembered “falling back” on long serial novels by Dumas and Dickens on his voyage to Europe from America in 1847. Dickens’s new novel Dombey and Son was coming out between October 1846 and April 1848 and was eagerly consumed by the literate and semi-literate alike. In the 1840s, then, the print serial had begun to cross languages, countries, classes, and genders. The form was creating new international readerships and a new rhythm of reading.

Alexandre Dumas photographed in 1855 by Nadar. His proto-revolutionary The Count of Monte Cristo showed how seriality could be put to revolutionary use and proved remarkably prophetic.

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Lockdown Reading Recommendations from the English Department

Six members of the King’s English Department have pulled together a list of the books, poems, and writing that have been inspiring them during lockdown.

This post was originally posted on Between the Acts, a space for writing by students of the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, and shared via the Offer Holder Hub by Ellen Englefield and Hannah Hungerford.

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Erasing History? Colston in Bristol

by Brian Murray, Senior Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature, King’s College London

The toppling of the statue of slave trader and MP Edward Colston during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Bristol on 7th June has led to a predictable wave of outrage at the ‘erasure of history’. But what kinds of history might a statue be said to embody or project? The Colston statue was 125 years old. But it is also an idealised late-Victorian representation of seventeenth-century subject (unveiled 174 years after Colston’s death). What did Colston mean to Bristolians in 1895? Contemporary reports of the statue’s erection in the Bristol Mercury – accessed via the British Library Newspapers database – offer a glimpse of the new monument at its first unveiling.
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Exploring the Institutionalisation of Archaeology

by Abbey Ellis and Subha Robert William

The discipline of archaeology was born in the museum. In the words of Andrew Christenson, “museums were really the first professional homes for archaeology.” Indeed, museums in the mid-nineteenth century played an important role in the institutionalisation of archaeology, forming an essential stepping stone to the discipline we know today. The historical and contemporary intersections between archaeology, museums and collections provide ample scope for research and debate, as the relationship between archaeology and museums has been much altered over time through changing displays, practices, and museum politics.

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Lightning Flashes and Electric Dashes: American Telegraphic Literature

by Harriet Thompson, PhD candidate in the English department at King’s College London. 

William John Johnston’s Lightning Flashes and Electric Dashes is a volume of late nineteenth-century American fiction comprised of ‘contributions from the pens of all the prominent writers in the ranks of telegraphic literature’. Johnston was himself a telegraph operator, as well as a publisher, and editor of the profession’s leading trade journal ‘The Operator’. He published a number of notable works of telegraphic literature by women telegraphers, including Ella Cheever Thayer’s novel Wired Love and short fictional works by Lida Churchill and Josie Schofield.

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