Living as an Author in the Romantic Period: Remuneration, Recognition and Self-Fashioning

Matthew Sangster

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The early nineteenth century was a transitional period for conceptions of authorship, which was not yet established as a solid profession or seen as the special province of the inspired genius. Authors therefore focused their ambitions on various different objectives, some seeking primarily to achieve the difficult goal of earning a living by publishing, some pursuing critical acclaim, others looking to access influential networks and a few attempting to redefine and reify conceptions of authorship. Achieving any of these ends was usually contingent on social connections, which dominated and validated the tightly-networked literary milieu.

After an introduction giving an overview of the ways in which authors and authorship were apprehended in the period, the thesis examines the financial and social aspects of building a career as an author, considering in three chapters the publishing industry contexts in which writers worked, the struggles faced by those who sought to prosper by the pen, and the methods employed by those exceptional figures who managed to achieve significant successes through literary labours. The fourth chapter focuses on the politicised reviewing culture of the period, looking at the ways in which ambitious quarterly critics sought to propagate political, professional and institutional authority through defining and censuring literary authors. The fifth chapter examines the networks in which authors were embedded and valued, paying particular attention to issues of publicity and privacy and to reciprocal processes of self-definition. The thesis concludes by briefly examining the ways in which the canonical Romantic poets’ responses to the environment depicted in the rest of the thesis paved the way for kinds of enduring success which eluded many of the authors with whom they competed for popularity and plaudits during the 1800s and the 1810s.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Hawley, Judith, Supervisor
  • Greenaway, Vicky, Advisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Jan 2013
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012

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