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Name: Amy Wilcockson

PhD: English Literature

Thesis Title: ‘A weary heap of good-for-nothing evidence’: A Scholarly Edition of the Selected Letters of the Scottish Romantic Poet, Thomas Campbell (1777-1844). 

Thesis Description:

This thesis will produce the first scholarly edition of the letters of Thomas Campbell, the Scottish Romantic poet. Campbell has been strangely neglected by recent critics of British Romanticism and is absent from key twenty-first century accounts of the period (e.g. Duncan Wu’s Romanticism: An Anthology (2012)). The last full edition of his poems was published in 1907, and the only previous edition of his letters is William Beattie’s Life and Letters of Thomas Campbell (1849), which published a small selection of his correspondence, with texts expurgated according to the conventions of the time.

Yet as the author of the bestselling poem The Pleasures of Hope (1799) and holder of a prominent public office (Rector of Glasgow University), Campbell was a significant figure to his contemporaries. This thesis will tackle his neglect by transcribing original manuscripts in order to edit and annotate his letters, thus revealing new information about his life, works, and networks, and through the completion of two introductory chapters, which will: (i) explore how and why Campbell was forgotten and what recuperating him will add to current knowledge and understanding of British Romanticism and of canon formation; and (ii) demonstrate how his letters, sent to a wide range of correspondents from disparate backgrounds, are key to understanding both Campbell’s own career and involvement in wider Romantic period sociability.

Interest in Romantic correspondence is growing, as is indicated by ongoing major editorial projects (e.g. editions of the Letters of Sir Humphry Davy (2018) and the Collected Letters of Robert Southey (2009-  )), and by the forthcoming essay collection, Romanticism and the Letter, eds. M. Callaghan and A. Howe (2019). This thesis will thus contribute to an increasingly active debate in the field, and also take it in new directions by adding to it the correspondence of a figure eminent in literary and wider public life in his own day, but since overlooked. 

This research will be of significance to, and facilitate new research on Campbell and on key debates on Scottish Romanticism, Romantic social networking, Romantic canon formation, and the importance of the letter as a genre, both in the Romantic and other periods. 

Supervisors and Institution(s): 

Professor Lynda Pratt (University of Nottingham)
Dr Adam Rounce (University of Nottingham)
Dr Louise Curran (University of Birmingham)

Conference Papers:

  • March 2019: ‘Scottish Romanticisms’ - UoN Romanticism, University of Nottingham.
  • April 2019: ‘Thomas Campbell and the “authorless” New Monthly Magazine’ – The 1820s: Innovation and Diffusion conference, University of Glasgow. Bursary received from The Bibliographic Society.
  • July 2019: ‘Romantic Reputations’ – ‘Romantic Facts and Fantasies: Culture and Heritage of the Romantic Age, c. 1780-1840’ exhibition public engagement lecture, Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham.
  • July 2019: ‘A weary heap of good-for-nothing evidence’: The Letters of Thomas Campbell – 'Romantic Facts and Fantasies', British Association for Romantic Studies (BARS) Conference, University of Nottingham. 
  • September 2019: 'Humour in the Letters of Thomas Campbell' – Humour and Satire in British Romanticism, Durham University. 
  • December 2019: 'The 1820s: Thomas Campbell’s "Last" Decade' – Late Romanticism: Past and Present, KU Leuven. 

Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:

  • September 2017 - present: Editor of the D.H. Lawrence Society Newsletter.
  • October 2018 - May 2019: Co-curator of the 'Romantic Facts and Fantasies: Culture and Heritage of the Romantic Age, c. 1780-1840' exhibition, May-August 2019, Weston Gallery at Lakeside Arts Centre, University of Nottingham.
  • October 2018 - July 2019: Co-organiser of British Association of Romantic Studies (BARS) Conference, 25-29th July 2019, University of Nottingham. 
  • October 2018 - September 2019: First Year PGR Representative on the Learning Community Forum, University of Nottingham.
  • March 2019 - April 2019: Research Assistant for Professor Donald Ulin’s collected edition of the letters of Emma Alderson, Writing Home. Duties included proof-reading, transcription and editorial work on the collection. 

  • October 2019 - present: Second Year PGR Representative on the Learning Community Forum, University of Nottingham.

 Research and Publications:
Theatre Reviews:

Blog Posts:

  •  ‘Romantic Facts and Fantasies: Culture and Heritage of the Romantic Age, c. 1780-1840’ Exhibition Opening, for British Association of Romantic Studies blog, May 2019

 Conference Reports:

Scholarships and Prizes:

  • Bibliographic Society Bursary (April 2019).
  • Universities Committee for Scottish Literature (UCSL) – British Association for Romantic Studies (BARS): Scottish Romanticism Research Award winner for 2019 - £300 prize. 

Professional Activities:

  • 2018-present: Co-organiser of UoN Romanticism; a reading group interested in discussing a wide range of writers and texts from the Romantic literary period for PGR, ECR and other researchers.
  • 2019-present: Member of the British Association of Romantic Studies (BARS).
  • 2019-present: Member of the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (BSECS).
  • 2019-present: Member of the Newstead Byron Society. 
  • 2019-present: Member of the Byron Society. 

Other Research Interests:

  • Letters and life-writing, epistolary works and fiction.
  • Canon formation and non-canonical Romantic authors and poets, including women, working class and regional writers.
  • Periodicals, journal culture and magazines of the Romantic period, particularly The New Monthly Magazine and The Metropolitan
  • Scottish Romanticism, including Sir Walter Scott. 
  • George Gordon Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, their lives and their circle. 
  • Literary ‘rebels’, including John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
  • Regional and Nottinghamshire writers, including Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and D.H. Lawrence.
  • Nonsense Poetry, including Edward Lear.


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