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‘STC 2018’: The Friends of Coleridge Biennial Summer Conference – report by Justin Shepherd

Even without the astonishing, almost North African, heat and light of the first three days, there were some obvious strengths of Jesus as a venue. The accommodation was all of a high standard, the support staff were numerous and very professional, the food good and, in the evenings, excellent. More importantly, the auditoriums were all one would expect from a major institution of learning, and the bar and terrace encouraged the collegiate atmosphere for which this conference is renowned. The only major downside was the need to have parallel panels as a result of the numbers attending in combination with the shortening of the conference to keep costs down.

Some eighty delegates attended, more than a third of whom were from overseas. Europe was well represented, including delegates from Germany, Switzerland, Hungary and Spain. Numerous old friends and new faces came over from North America, with Asia and Australasia also making significant contributions. I would like to thank them all for the, sometimes, very considerable effort they made to be there. In a conference of this size every single delegate makes an important contribution to the atmosphere and has the opportunity to talk to anyone and everyone.
More than sixty academic papers were delivered, along with two substantial keynote papers. There was a poetry reading, given by two distinguished and long standing Friends, Peter Larkin and Greg Leadbetter; a formal awarding at a wine reception of the first John Beer Bursary to Kurtis Hessell, a young American scholar from Colerado; a presentation on behalf of the Coleridge Memorial Trust given by members of the Coleridge family, and several outings, including a punt trip and one to the Fitzwilliam Museum for a private viewing of some of the Blake books in the Geoffrey Keynes collection.

The parallel panels meant that no one person, however conscientious, could have attended more than about a third of the papers, so it would be invidious to try summarise or characterise the entire academic programme. However, the programming was very skilfully managed, so that preoccupations and subjects were generally grouped together to enhance coherence. Even when the titles of papers in the same panel seemed remote from each other, it was fascinating to note how often there was a productive juxtaposition of topics and ideas; serendipity can sometimes be more stimulating and suggestive than planning.

What is the state of Coleridge studies at the present time? A glance at the programme will enable some sense of the wide range of approaches. There were, as always, a good number of very well researched papers exploring the scientific, theological or intellectual contexts. The opening paper by Anya Taylor, which introduced ecological poetry into the mix, seemed to set up vibrations which reverberated off and on throughout the rest of the conference. There were a few studies of individual poems, some with a focus on prosody and form. Perhaps for the first time, there were papers which explored Coleridge’s letters as literary artifacts in themselves rather than merely as evidence. This led to a consideration of the performative nature of the letters, of the epistolary verse, and, later, of the literary and philosophical lectures. Charles Mahoney’s keynote on the ‘Lectures on Shakespeare’ focused on this aspect, while once more reminding us of how very difficult it remains, in spite of the Bollingen edition, to lay one’s hands on all of Coleridge’s Shakespeare criticism, which can be found in the most surprising places. His forthcoming edition will be welcomed by scholars as well as students.

The Lamb Society generously supported this year’s conference and there was an excellent Lamb panel devoted to Coleridge’s old friend, which looked well beyond the familiar Elian essays. Other contemporary writers and figures also featured, with Alan Vardy’s keynote John Beer memorial Lecture devoted to Thomas De Quincey’s preoccupation with memory and time. As always, there were some fascinating ‘left field’ contributions, just to make the rest of us feel a bit pedestrian and parochial. These included, to take but two, a translation of Christabel into Hebrew by Lilach Bornstein and a Marxist reading of Wordsworth’s and Southey’s poems featuring Native American and Peruvian Indians by Valentina Aparicio, who comes from Chile.

For me, the opportunity to examine at very close quarters and at leisure Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell in a beautiful copy, along with other illuminated books in the seclusion of a private room at the Fitzwilliam was a highlight. Perhaps this visit to a building just over the wall from the William Stone building at Peterhouse, where John Beer did so much of his work on Blake as well as on Coleridge, can in retrospect be seen as a further tribute to the great scholar and critic who was being commemorated at this conference.

On arrival at Jesus, one was struck by how the courts were all scorched brown by drought, with the exception of a single one, lovingly watered to maintain an emerald green, and mown in concentric circles to set off a contemporary sculpture of a prancing horse in the middle. The sun shone unfailingly each of the following three days with temperatures reaching above thirty degrees. But, as we left on Thursday, it was pouring with rain and the pavements were covered with puddles. One needed to come down to earth after the intensity and exhilaration of this highly successful and well organised conference.

Halsway

Report by Greg Leadbetter on The Coleridge Autumn Study Weekend 2018

The Coleridge Autumn Study Weekend 2018, Halsway Manor, Crowcombe, Somerset

‘Coleridge and the Making of Poetry’:

Taking on the role of Director of the Coleridge Autumn Study Weekend for the first time this year, I became all the more conscious of the genius of its form, which has thrived under the stewardship of the outgoing Director, Peter Larkin, and which I have enjoyed as a participant (and sometime speaker) every year but one since 2006: a weekend in Coleridge’s West Country, with a programme of outstanding speakers curated around a theme drawn from his endlessly fascinating life and work. I felt the hint of a new responsibility.

Just as it’s the guests that make a good party, though, the Weekend has a life of its own, which I was delighted to see in full flow from the outset as we welcomed friends old and new, from all over Britain, together with the Netherlands and Ireland, to Halsway Manor. Halsway itself was splendid as ever – all the more so for the enhancements carried out through its recent grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Throughout the Weekend, we were well looked after: the staff at Halsway were helpful and attentive, and we were very well fed and watered.

Poetry (‘poiêsis = making’, as he reminds one correspondent) is fundamental to Coleridge’s achievements as a writer and thinker – as well as my own concerns – and I wanted to reflect this in my first Weekend as Director. The new beginning also gave me the chance to try a few new things within the winning format of the Weekend that I’ve described, with a fresh mix of lectures, seminars, conversations, readings and performances.

Joseph Phelan gave an excellent opening lecture on ‘Coleridge and the Music of Verse’, which enthused and invigorated its audience and set the ideal tone for the rest of the Weekend. Expanding upon elements in his book The Music of Verse: Metrical Experiment in Nineteenth-Century Poetry (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), he described how the development of the analogy with music in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century prosody – together with a host of productive misapprehensions concerning metre, not least in relation to the Classical hexameter – enabled radical thinking to emerge in English poetry from its engagement with differing metrical traditions. In this, as so often, Coleridge was a pioneer.

After questions, the time felt right to recognise the publication of Coleridge and Music, a new contribution to Coleridge studies by Petrus de Jong, who also presented a gift copy to our first speaker, in acknowledgement of a fine lecture!

The next morning saw the first of two seminars given by Jim Mays on the theme of ‘A Poet Making’. Jim’s standing as a world authority on Coleridge is well known to scholars, and these seminars gave participants a special opportunity to spend time in the company of Jim’s knowledge, sensitivity and insight. Each seminar focused in depth on a famous Coleridge poem: first, Dejection: An Ode, and on Sunday morning The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. These drew on his book Coleridge’s Anicent Mariner (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) and his forthcoming book on Dejection: An Ode (also Palgrave Macmillan). As ever, Jim’s remarks illuminated each poem in fresh ways, while remaining responsive and open, providing a hospitable atmosphere for the questions, discussion and comment that followed, which the seminar format encouraged.

As well as continuing to bring readers and thinkers from beyond the academy together with leading scholars, one of my aims as Director will be to forge stronger connections between the study of Coleridge and contemporary literary and cultural life. It was a huge pleasure, then, this year to welcome the poet Rachael Boast for a session in conversation with me about her longstanding interest in Coleridge and its relation to her own work – about which she spoke beautifully – after which Rachael gave a spellbinding reading of a selection of poems from across her published collections and beyond, which she chose in particular because of their connection to Coleridge.

Similarly, it was wonderful to hear the world-renowned composer Howard Skempton, in the final session of the Weekend, speak about his brilliant and beguiling setting of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (NMC, 2017). The room was rapt as we listened to the piece, which had been written with the outstanding qualities of Roderick Williams’s baritone in mind: a decision more than justified by Williams’s solo performance on the recording. The connection between poetry and music with which the Weekend had begun was suggestively and memorably reaffirmed.

Besides our speakers, the Quantock Hills played their part in the Weekend on Saturday afternoon, with Peter Larkin leading walkers onto the hills directly from Halsway Manor, which could not be more conveniently situated for an exploration of the landscape Coleridge knew so well. The warm weather held as Peter expertly navigated the combes, we sighted deer on the hillsides, and we carried on the conversation in ideal conditions – while non-walkers were free to explore the Manor, Nether Stowey or indeed anywhere else of their choosing in the area.

Saturday evening saw an excellent performance of ‘Coleridge in Calne’ by Calne residents Tom Morris, Nick Baxter, Karen Baxter and John Boaler – featuring historical accounts, sketches and song that brought alive Coleridge’s time there – which was as entertaining as it was informative, and represents a new connection between the Friends of Coleridge and the town today. My warm thanks to Ian Enters for facilitating and compering the evening with aplomb.

My thanks also go to Maggie Roberts as Weekend Secretary, David Rix as Treasurer, Justin Shepherd for support in the run up to (and during) the Weekend, Terence Sackett for producing the flyer for the Weekend and for support via the Friends of Coleridge website, Peter Larkin for leading the walk, and finally to our speakers and our guests – all of whom played their part in making the Weekend the stimulating, enlightening and convivial celebration of ‘Coleridge and the Making of Poetry’ that it was.

SAVE THE DATE FOR NEXT YEAR’S STUDY WEEKEND!

‘Coleridge and the Natural World’: The Coleridge Autumn Study Weekend 2019 will be held 13-15 September 2019, at Halsway Manor, Crowcombe, Somerset.

News of exciting speakers to follow …

Gregory Leadbetter

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The Wordsworth-Coleridge Association 2019

The Wordsworth-Coleridge Association is sponsoring a lunch and a scholarly session at the Modern Language Association Convention in Chicago, January 3-6, 2019.

Lunch
The lunch will begin with a cash bar at 11:30 a.m., and the main course served about noon on Friday, January 4, at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, 1 West Grand Avenue.
This event is co sponsored by the John Clare Society of North America. The lunch is open to members and non members of the Association and the MLA. All are welcome to attend.
Advance reservations are requested by December 30. Please remit $35 per person, payable by check or credit card through our web page: www.johnclare.org/WCA

Session 469: Romantic Elements: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water
Saturday, January 5, 10:15-11:30 a.m.
Grand Suite 5, Hyatt Regency Chicago

Program arranged by the Wordsworth-Coleridge Association
Presiding: James McKusick, University of Missouri–Kansas City

1. “Romantic Continent-Elements: The Divine Fire from Africa,” Paul Cheshire (independent scholar)
2. “Streaming Wordsworth; or, Romantic Hydrography,” Jacob Risinger, Ohio State University, Columbus
3. “Wordsworth’s Undaunted River Duddon,” Ralph Pite, University of Bristol
4. “Of Ice and Men: American Romantics in Antarctica, 1840,” Gillen D’Arcy Wood, University of Illinois, Urbana

Humphry Davy

Free online course:'Humphry Davy: Laughing gas, literature and the lamp'

Free online course (MOOC) starting 29 October 2018 - Open to all
Produced by Lancaster University and the Royal Institution of Great Britain

The MOOC is intended for anyone with an interest in Humphry Davy, or early-nineteenth-century literature, science, or history. It will explore some of the most significant moments of Davy's life and career, including his childhood in Cornwall, his work at the Medical Pneumatic Institution in Bristol and the Royal Institution in London, his writing of poetry, his invention of his miners' safety lamp, and his European travels. The course will also investigate the relationships that can exist between science and the arts, identify the role that science can play in society, and assess the cultural and political function of science.

The course will start on 29 October 2018, and will run for four weeks. Learners will typically spend three hours per week working through the steps, which will include videos (filmed on location at the Royal Institution), text-based activities and discussion, and quizzes. Learners will be guided at all stages by a specialist team of Educators and Mentors. It's entirely free to participate, and no prior knowledge of Davy is required.

Sign up today at http://www.futurelearn.com/courses/humphry-davy

If you have any questions, please direct them in the first instance to the Lead Educator, Professor Sharon Ruston (s.ruston@lancaster.ac.uk).

Sheet Music Luke Lewis

Musicians! Coleridge song settings

Attached are atmospheric song settings by composer Brian Blyth Daubney for three poems by Hartley Coleridge and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. There is a PDF score for each and mp3 files with the voice part played by a violin.

Hartley Coleridge: Until she smiled on me; Young friend, thou yet art young
Samuel Taylor Coleridge: In a moonlight wilderness

Click here to view the music scores

Click here for the mp3 file

Brian Blyth Daubney was born in 1929 in Lincolnshire. He has been editor, and later chairman, of the British Music Society. Until his retirement in 1982 he was Principal Lecturer in Music at the Simon de Montfort University in Leicester. After retirement he was an Examiner for the London College of Music until 1999. Now, fully retired, he devotes his time to writing music and poetry. Amongst his works are over 200 songs, mainly for voice and piano.

To find out more about the composer  visit his website www.brianblythdaubney.co.uk