The Foundling Museum, WSG’s kind host for this year’s seminar series, is putting on an exhibition that WSG followers can really get behind. It falls a little bit outside WSG’s time period, but it is about the nineteenth-century idea of the “Fallen Woman” and the real Victorian women who gave up their babies to the Foundling Hospital.
To complete the exhibition, the Foundling is seeking £23,000 from the public. It has an Art Happens fundraising page on the Art Fund website, where interested parties can donate, and learn more about the project. It is already 65% funded at the time of this blog post, which indicates the degree of interest in the project so far.
Following on from Julie Peakman’s new biography of the Georgian courtesan Peg Plunkett, WSG would also like to highlight WSG member (and WSG’s chief Twitterer) Sara Read’s new book Maids, Wives and Widows: Exploring Early Modern Women’s Lives 1540-1740, which came out in May. It is available from Pen & Sword books, and for a limited time is only £15.99 (rrp £19.99). Maids, Wives and Widows explores the everyday lives of early modern women, from menstruation, childbirth, and bodily care, to employment, literature, and food and drink.
Last month long-term WSG member Jane Mears, a former teacher and a PhD student at King’s College London, died after a long and quietly fought battle with cancer. WSG members Angela Escott and Elizabeth Eger attended Jane’s funeral at the Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in Hayes, Middlesex, on behalf of all members of the group. It was a very moving occasion and Angela and Elizabeth met many of Jane’s friends.
Jane was a regular attendee of WSG seminars in London. She never allowed her illness to get in the way of a good conversation and her curiosity and warmth will be much missed. Jane was studying the family of the radical William Cobbett (1763-1835), especially his wife Anne, about whom not nearly enough is known. She had conducted extensive archive work and it is hoped that her research will be published in some form, especially the article she was working on before her death.
Long-time WSG member Julie Peakman’s latest book is out this month! Peg Plunkett: Memoirs of a Whore is published by Quercus and is available from all good bookshops and online for £20. Peg tells the story of one of the Georgian era’s most famous courtesans, based on her memoirs which caused a scandal when published in 1795, and Julie’s own extensive research.
Julie is a well-known historian of eighteenth-century culture and an expert in the history of sexuality. An Honorary Fellow of Birkbeck College, University of London, her previous books Lascivious Bodies (2004) and The Pleasure’s All Mine (2013), have both been critical and popular successes.
WSG member Miriam Al Jamil has written a round-up of our recent Annual Workshop, this year titled What is the place of Aphra Behn in Restoration Culture, at which Professor Elaine Hobby and Claire Bowditch gave a keynote talk on this important playwright, translator, and spy for Charles II…
“The annual workshop this year had Aphra Behn as its theme, and her significance was amply demonstrated by the variety of presentations made by attendees.
Elaine Hobby began the day by introducing the 8-volume Cambridge Edition of the Writings of Aphra Behn which is currently in progress. She pointed out the huge advances made in Behn scholarship since Janet Todd’s edition of the 1990s, highlighting the recent interest in attribution and translation studies. Assisted by Claire Bowditch, we explored possible literary and cultural allusions in example texts such as The False Count(1681). Comparisons of printed editions of Behn’s work prompted questions about authorial interventions and their motivations, and the practicalities of corrections made by printers. Elaine outlined the advantages which computerised textual analysis can offer debate concerning attribution, so that forms of expression can be collated to clarify any judgement. Her insights into the complexities of editing such a large and varied literary production were intriguing and much appreciated.
The variety of connections that can be found in Behn’s work was reflected in the topics covered in the presentations in the afternoon. We considered the participation of women in the creation of the Mostyn Library and the objectification of book and women alike in the correspondence of Thomas Mostyn; the achievements of significant female publishers such as Mrs. S.C. Hall; Lady Anne Halkett’s MS autobiography; along with issues such as the bitter rivalry between Delarivier Manley and Richard Steele. We learned that Behn like Anne Finch was from the Wye area in Kent, and we read Finch’s poem referencing her sister poet. We heard about the difficulties of finding details about the dances which were part of Restoration plays.
If the discussions of the day are any indication, there is a wealth of interest in Behn and the women writers who succeeded her, so there is great cause for optimism and anticipation of new discoveries to come.”
Thanks to the organisers and all the contributors to the workshop for making this year’s event such a success, and to Miriam for taking the time to give us her thoughts.