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Women's Literary Networks and Romanticism"A Tribe of Authoresses"$

Andrew O. Winckles and Angela Rehbein

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781786940605

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781786940605.001.0001

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Modelling Mary Russell Mitford’s Networks

Modelling Mary Russell Mitford’s Networks

The Digital Mitford as Collaborative Database

Chapter:
(p.137) Chapter Six Modelling Mary Russell Mitford’s Networks
Source:
Women's Literary Networks and Romanticism
Author(s):

Elisa Beshero-Bondar

Kellie Donovan-Condron

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781786940605.003.0006

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter features the Digital Mitford Archive’s work to construct a scholarly edition as a digital database. The chapter presents a view of the once popular and prolific Mary Russell Mitford as a writing node in a network of people and publications that shaped nineteenth-century literary and theatrical genres. The first half of the chapter applies distant reading methods to construct a model of Mitford’s correspondence network from extant records of over 2,000 letters held in public and private collections on both sides of the Atlantic. The chapter further investigates networks of reference within Mitford’s letters and writings from the 1820s encoded thus far in the Digital Mitford Archive, to explore which people and fictional characters Mitford discussed the most in years of career-defining productivity. The network analyses serve to highlight Mitford’s close relationships with male correspondents and her strong interest in female characters in the literature of her moment.

Keywords:   Mary Russell Mitford, correspondence, letters, network analysis, distant reading, scholarly edition, digital edition, database, literary biography, life writing

In assigning to Mary Russell Mitford a place in English Literature, I am fortunate in having the support of a critical public – of at least three generations of readers living in the last century and a half. Did the public verdict belong only to the author’s life-time, I should, obviously, lack the support which now, I happily possess but – and here I make a personally bold prophecy – I believe that she will keep the place she has gained.2

So begins an undated, penciled draft of a ‘Lecture on Mary Russell Mitford’s Place in Literature’ archived at the Reading Central Library. The writer identified himself in the upper left corner of the page as ‘W. J. Roberts’, evidently William James Roberts, the author of an early biography of Mitford published in 1913,3 but the ‘century and a half’ phrase suggests a much later date for the lecture, likely associating it with planned events in Mitford’s home near Reading, England commemorating the centenary of Mitford’s death in 1955. Reading Central Library, the public library of Reading, houses the vast majority of Mitford’s papers together with documents associated with archivists and scholars who worked to organize those papers following her death, and it documents other writings from Roberts dated through the 1950s. This public library makes thousands of Mitford’s papers far more readily available for viewing and photographing than we typically expect for an archive of the (p.138) papers of a significant English author from a past century.4 However, Roberts’ confident assertion about ‘the place she has gained’ seems oddly misplaced today given Mitford’s general absence from, or at best minor position in, twentieth-century anthologies of nineteenth-century British literature, through which critical readers could reasonably be expected to learn about her now. His point about ‘the support of a critical public’ highlights an ironic distinction between critical readers within versus outside the academic institution of ‘English literature’ that was forming in England and North America in Roberts’ day. If the importance Roberts places on ‘the support of a critical public’ seems so strikingly out of tune with the values shaping curricula in English in the 1950s, it was nevertheless very much in tune with the cultivation of a reading public in the nineteenth century, a cultivation of readers that seems everywhere evident in Mitford’s personal and published writings.

Mary Russell Mitford (1787–1855) had a reputation in her lifetime for writing wonderfully witty letters and prose fiction that sounded like her letters. She was successful in publishing her work like her famous contemporary Jane Austen, and in having her plays performed on the London stage like her predecessor Joanna Baillie. She was long-lived and wrote retrospectively like William Wordsworth, and she became a household name in the nineteenth-century English-speaking world as the author of trend-setting idyllic fiction for her famous and much-beloved multi-volume series of prose sketches, Our Village. However, the ‘forgetting’ of Mitford in the canon-forming decisions that shaped the institution of English and its literary periods in the early twentieth century has meant that she was nearly lost from literary anthologies, so that her reputation became fragmented, and she came to remembered as a secondary support player to major authors. She would not be ‘remembered’ again in the way Roberts describes without the support of a critical scholarly community until after the 1980s. Now in an era of recovery and reassessment, scholarship on Mitford has been steadily increasing, so that if she does not yet have the status that Roberts assumed she had in the 1950s, she is nevertheless beginning to be recognized in diverse quarters by Romanticists and Victorianists as a path-breaking professional woman of letters – whether for her poetry and staged drama5 or for her prose fiction and its popularity across (p.139) the British empire.6 Scholarship on Mitford has begun to investigate how and to what extent her romance poetry and drama anticipated work by Lord Byron on the same subjects,7 and has taken a pronounced textual turn to examine ways in which publications in periodicals and books materially altered the substance of her work.8 Her correspondence, particularly with other women, has begun to draw scholarly attention for what it reveals about women’s social networks and the professionalization of women’s reading and writing of literature in the nineteenth century.9 This recent scholarship on Mitford has begun to illuminate not only the writer but also much of the world of London theater production in the 1820s and ’30s, and it has helped to investigate the material forms that represented literary success in the book and periodical markets starting at that time, too. The fact that Mitford’s voluminous correspondence survives in numbers we estimate in the two thousands makes her a compelling study for scholars interested in the exchange of ideas circulating among networks of intellectual women and men in nineteenth-century British intellectual culture.

Though her range of influence seems comparable to that of Wordsworth, Austen, Baillie, and Hemans, there is not yet a modern scholarly edition to represent Mitford’s works and letters. The effort began when the Digital Mitford (p.140) project formed in 2013 to launch a scholarly archive as the most effective way to make her writings available and searchable for access to scholars and general readers, and most significantly, to make cross-referencing available to help explore the intersections among the multiple literary forms in which she wrote. These intersections will be of interest to scholars of nineteenth-century literary genres, since Mitford was successfully experimenting with prose idylls at the same time that she was negotiating to have her plays performed in London’s Royal Theatres. Without the benefit of a scholarly edition encompassing her collected works, Romanticists have tended to know of Mitford mainly through the plays and early poems, while Victorianists are more often familiar with the prose writing rather than the poetry and drama. Building the archive should bridge the institutional divides that have fragmented Mitford’s reputation and improve our view of the venues and conditions of nineteenth-century publication and performance.

Digital Mitford: The Mary Russell Mitford Archive announces itself as an ‘archive’ of Mitford’s writings, but as the content of this chapter reflects, it is also a growing network of linked data, a digital database from which we can extract and study information we are collecting about people and texts of the nineteenth century. ‘Archive’ is surely the more conventional and expected term, suggesting comprehensive storage and preservation as well as a gateway for access to a large corpus of texts, but the term is incomplete when considering the information architecture we are developing. For much the same reason, Ed Folsom and Kenneth M. Price have each discussed the digital Walt Whitman Archive as something more complex and expansive than an ‘archive’, and Price deploys the term ‘database’ to reflect not only the informational linkages throughout their project XML files, but also the prolific linkages of names and contexts throughout Whitman’s writings.10 Like many digital archives, our collective project deploys the standard XML encoding language of the Text Encoding Initiative, or TEI, to represent Mitford’s writings and ultimately to build a database of them – recognizing, like the Whitman team, that our constructions are limited and qualified by human contexts and decisions, our author’s as well as our own.11 Mitford appears to have shared with Whitman an inclusive tendency to incorporate (p.141) evidence of her wide reading into her writings – especially evident in her letters. That inclusive tendency makes for a richly diverse store of information on the nineteenth-century Anglophone literary world. In a likewise inclusive spirit, we hope that our most important contribution to nineteenth-century studies in the very long term will be a searchable database of heterogeneous materials, containing manuscript images and TEI markup of Mitford’s more than 2,000 known letters paired with her literary texts published over a long and successful career. Through our editing of Mitford, we aim not only to provide to scholars, students, and general readers a freely accessible and helpfully annotated reading interface of her work, but also to make available hitherto unknown data about publishers of periodicals, theatre managers and actors, poets, artists, as well as politicians and educators – an extensive network bonded by mutual influence and support. Unusual intersections are coming to light from our coding of Mitford’s letters, her journal, and Our Village, demonstrating, for example, that Mitford discusses Jane Austen in the same documents with Lord Byron, William Macready, Gilbert White, and Walter Scott. In light of her prolific discussion of writers, performers, and public figures, studying Mitford using ‘distant reading’ methods through network visualizations and graphs helps to show how her writings intersect with the familiar grounds of our knowledge – and in such visualization efforts we also expose our encoding decisions and reflect on the limits of what they can show us.12

Developing this chapter gives us an opportunity to share an inside view of the Digital Mitford as a database and reflect on the perspective we have gained in the first years of our team’s work beyond what is yet visible on the project website at the time of this writing. We begin by discussing the social network that has formed around the Mitford project itself, to discuss our project’s methods and priorities. We then survey what information we have gathered about Mitford’s network of correspondents over the course of her life, to highlight her most frequent correspondents and mark the importance of specific mentors and friends, including her father, Sir William Elford, and Thomas Noon Talfourd, in helping to support her early publication efforts. (p.142) We note a marked importance of a small number of male correspondents in the first half of Mitford’s life, followed by a diversification of her social network as her reputation as a writer and playwright grows. Further, we observe that as Mitford’s range of social contacts increases, so does her network of female correspondents, and particularly important among these are the authors Barbara Hofland and Elizabeth Barrett. Following the survey of known correspondents, we turn to the encoding work that our team has completed so far, work that spans a ‘test bed’ period of 1818 to 1825, a pivotal timespan in which Mitford worked simultaneously on the sketches that would become Our Village and the plays that would establish her reputation in the London theatres. As of 30 June 2016, the corpus of TEI-encoded texts in the Digital Mitford’s XML database consisted of 103 files, 75 of which were ready for querying. The 75 encoded files represent letters, prefacing material from Our Village and her plays, as well as a portion of her journal of 1819–23. We have queried our XML database of this material to extract references to people, fictional characters, and published works that are co-cited (or referenced together) in the same files in order to analyze the way Mitford associated proper names in her writings: which persons and texts were most frequently discussed.

As Price observes, databases are founded upon arguments, and the construction of systems networking information ‘is not neutral, nor should it be’ (par. 21). We constructed our database upon the argument that Mitford’s writings help to illuminate networks of influential people and publications in the nineteenth century English-speaking world. A central matter of interest to this volume and to the Mitford project is the composition of literary women’s social networks in the Romantic era, but while to a certain extent our encoding of Mitford’s writings helps to illuminate a network of women, what is more strikingly evident is a network of more men than women involved in Mitford’s literary life for prolonged periods. By analyzing our database of all known letters to and from Mitford, we discovered a striking pattern: the database records far more letters to men than to women, at least until the second half of Mitford’s life after the successful launch of her literary career. In our editing of Mitford’s writings thus far from the years 1818 to 1825, we have identified references to proper names of people, fictional characters, and publications, which gives us an opportunity to study the most frequently mentioned names and titles. Here, too, we found that Mitford wrote primarily about men and productions by men, though the ratio of her references of female to male literary characters is more roughly proportional.

In the network of Mitford’s correspondents, we note the striking importance of particular male figures and that the person receiving the majority of her letters shifts over time. First, Mitford’s primary correspondent is her father, to be replaced by Sir William Elford, and then Thomas Noon Talfourd, until Elizabeth Barrett becomes her most intense and prolonged (p.143) correspondent in the 1840s, and later William Cox Bennett in the last years of her life. The evident importance of male recipients of Mitford’s letters does not indicate that Mitford wrote to women rarely. Indeed, there is a wide array of female correspondents over the course of her life, but our database of archived, known, or referenced letters records comparatively fewer known letters to these correspondents. We want to emphasize that our database is necessarily incomplete, and we speculate that the archives holding the majority of Mitford’s correspondence may have selected more of her letters to men for preservation, although a more extensive, as yet undocumented correspondence almost certainly exists. At this point, based on the collections we have identified, the Digital Mitford archive particularly highlights the wit and eloquence of educated female–male friendship in the nineteenth century in letters bristling with literary references. It is evident that her long-lasting friendship with Sir William Elford was especially important to Mitford to confide her ideas about prominent writers like Walter Scott, Lord Byron, and Thomas Love Peacock. Her friendship with Thomas Noon Talfourd, the same ‘Serjeant Talfourd’ to whom Charles Dickens dedicated Pickwick Papers for introducing a Parliament bill in 1837 to extend the term of copyright, reflects a professionally beneficial relationship beginning around 1820.13 Talfourd, who was a Reading native himself and seven years younger than Mitford, encouraged her idea to write for the London Royal Theatres to support her family after her father’s financial ruin in 1820, and as William Allan Coles has documented, Talfourd was instrumental in helping Mitford to secure publishing opportunities in The Lady’s Magazine and The New Monthly Magazine while he himself was publishing in these journals, and he advised her in defense of her financial interests.14 Yet her (p.144) early connection with Barbara Hofland (a prolific writer of schoolbooks for children), her long-running correspondence with Emily Jephson (the grandniece of the eighteenth-century Irish dramatist Robert Jephson), and her correspondence with local and hitherto unidentified female friends, such as the Webb sisters (whose father brewed beer in Wokingham), help to document a social experience in which consuming and producing literature evidently occupied much of Mitford’s daily life and mattered to her diverse array of female correspondents, including those definitely outside the pale of high society.

By the 1830s and ’40s as Mitford gained popularity, newer writers sought her guidance as an experienced professional writer and editor to help them publish their work, even though her writing barely earned sufficient funds to support her aging parents and herself and she received disbursements from the Literary Fund in her late years. Should we, like W. J. Roberts, interpret her career as one of great literary success with the Anglophone reading public, or rather consider it a torment of agonizing financial distress whose tremendous effort brought only paltry rewards?15 Both assessments are apt but incomplete. In this chapter, we provide an alternative view of Mitford as a highly active writing node in a network of people and publications that shaped the literary and theatrical genres of the nineteenth century. Early twentieth-century biographers of Mitford, Roberts as well as Vera Watson, interpreted her literary productivity as a regretful matter – as if her father failed her and betrayed her high society expectations of settled marriage and financial security through life by gambling away their mother’s money16 – but the documentary record suggests a more complicated and interesting story of professionalization supported from a young age, and though pressured by economic necessity, also fueled by prodigious daily reading and writing in the self-actualization of a woman of letters. What we see of Mitford’s energetic reading and writing resonates with Gilles Deleuze’s and Felix Guattari’s theories of networked (p.145) energies feeding rhizomatic social formations; more than an individual who achieved success or failure for herself, she is an energized consumer, producer, and connector who helped to generate what Roberts understood as a ‘critical public’.17 One of the benefits of textual scholarship on Mitford may then be to help disclose the social networks of which she was a part. In the following sections, we share our visualizations of Mitford’s network of correspondents as it changed over the course of her life, and we observe significant nodes of interest to whom Mitford directed the most of her writings. We then turn to the cross-section of writings that we have encoded in the project thus far, representing her writings from 1818 to ’25, to analyze her references to other people and her referencing of literary and artistic titles, characters, and subjects in order to illuminate the prolific and always-connected Mary Russell Mitford at a pivotal moment within her social webs.

Digital Mitford: A Collaborative Project

A central goal of the Digital Mitford’s encoding and data collection is to illuminate the networks of writers, artists, publishers, and theater professionals who contributed to Mitford’s writings. Meeting that goal necessitates an interdisciplinary project team that, itself, functions as a network. In addition to the team’s specialists in various aspects and genres of nineteenth-century British literature – the Romantic and Victorian eras, women writers, epic poetry, drama, novels, theory, aesthetics, transatlantic writing – Digital Mitford also draws on members’ expertise in book history, bibliography, scholarly editing and data visualization, sociolinguistics, and ethnography. We are primarily professors and graduate students, and we have also involved our undergraduate students at the University of Pittsburgh, SUNY Potsdam, and UCLA in the Digital Mitford project. Our shared interests in Mitford and in digital humanities have connected us professionally as a meta-network surveying Mitford’s own network.

The Digital Mitford’s founding editors faced a daunting task of deciding how to organize Mitford’s extensive oeuvre. Her years of writing for publication span from 1810 to 1854, from her first volume of Miscellaneous Poems to her self-collected volume of Dramatic Works published a year before her death. Throughout her life, Mitford wrote more than 2,500 letters to perhaps 175 distinct recipients, with the earliest known letter dating from 1798. Her literary work encompasses several genres, including lyric and romance poetry, staged historical tragedies, dramatic scenes and fictional sketches published in (p.146) periodicals and annual anthologies, and the prose fiction idylls that became her best-known work, Our Village.18 Determining an appropriate cross-section for our first phase of work was the team’s first collaborative decision. As the Digital Mitford team discussed where to begin, we considered but rejected a concentration on only one genre at a time. We also rejected proceeding in strict chronological order from the very earliest writings we could find. Instead, we chose to begin with the works produced in the span of years that appeared to represent the moment when Mitford began writing and producing the prose sketches and plays that established her reputation as a celebrated author. We began with a plan to encode all of Mitford’s writings from between the years 1818 to 1825 that we could locate, a span that saw her remarkably intense productivity in multiple genres: her first historical tragedies performed on the London stage together with prose fiction published first in serial and then collected in the first editions of Our Village.

The challenge of accessing Mitford’s texts comprised a significant element of the team’s deliberation. Her letters are spread among more than three dozen collections, mostly in libraries, in England and the United States. Many of Mitford’s letters remain entirely unpublished, while many more are excerpted in collections by A. G. K. L’Estrange and Henry Chorley. Perhaps her best-known literary correspondence documents her long friendship with Elizabeth Barrett, and that correspondence is searchable on The Browning’s Correspondence site, though only Barrett’s letters to Mitford are thoroughly represented, while Mitford’s to Barrett are excerpted, with some corrections to dates, from the L’Estrange volumes.19 A. G. K. L’Estrange’s late nineteenth-century editions of Mitford’s correspondence in The Life of Mary Russell Mitford: Related in a Selection of Letters From Her To Her Friends (1870) and The Friendships of Mary Russell Mitford as recorded in Letters from Her Literary Correspondents (1882) represent the only published volumes that we have of Mitford’s letters that purport to be a comprehensive edition of Mitford’s correspondence. These were supplemented by Henry Chorley’s edition of a second series of Letters of Mary Russell Mitford in 1872, containing letters missing in the 1870 L’Estrange volumes.20 The ‘L’Estrange’ edition was (p.147) actually begun by Mitford’s childhood friend and literary executor William Harness and completed by Harness’s clerical understudy L’Estrange after Harness’s death. Though the L’Estrange edition (which perhaps ought to be called the ‘Harness edition’) has long been the gateway for most scholars seeking ready access to Mitford’s letters, the edition is unreliable by today’s scholarly standards since it was produced to appeal to the popularity of authors’ letters in the nineteenth century and further compromised by the demands of its publishers to limit the edition to three octavo volumes.21 Faced with these pressures, Harness and L’Estrange frequently condensed and compressed Mitford’s correspondence, and they often spliced pieces of multiple letters together as if they were one letter. Further, Harness and L’Estrange made edits to conceal sensitive material in the letters about people then still living. Thus the transcriptions of Mitford’s letters, particularly dates, are often unreliable in the L’Estrange as well as the Chorley volumes, emphasizing the need for the Digital Mitford editors to present her original letters as preserved in manuscript.

Most of Mitford’s literary works, like her letters, are difficult to find in print today. While copies of Our Village remain available through used book sales, most of Mitford’s work has long been out of print. Mitford’s near-exclusion from contemporary anthologies of writing from this period is perhaps exacerbated by the difficulty over whether to classify Mitford as a Romantic- or Victorian-era writer, effectively obscuring the full arc of her career in literary scholarship. While Mitford herself would not have applied the post hoc labels of ‘Romantic’ or ‘Victorian’ to her writing, this periodization is common in scholarship about the nineteenth century. As Digital Mitford founding editor and bibliographer Lisa Wilson has determined, Mitford’s work appears in just three anthologies of the Romantic era, the most recent of which, Women’s Writing, 1778–1838: An Anthology (2001), edited by Fiona Robertson, is no longer in print.22 Jerome McGann includes one of Mitford’s early poems in The (p.148) New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse (1993, 1st edn.),23 and an additional two items – a letter dated 3 April 1815 which mentions Jane Austen, and ‘Our Village’, the opening story as published in the first series of Our Village (1824) – appear in Women Romantics 1785–1832: Writing in Prose (1996), edited by Jennifer Breen.24 Samantha Webb, another Digital Mitford founding editor, makes a similar observation about anthologies of Victorian literature, pointing out Mitford’s absence from anthologies by the most prominent contemporary publishers, Longman, Norton, and Broadview. Webb notes that an older anthology, Prose by Victorian Women: An Anthology (1995), edited by Andrea Broomfield and Sally Mitchell, includes the ‘Introduction’, as well as two stories, ‘Rosedale’ and ‘The Wood’ which first appeared in magazines before being collected in Our Village.25 Mitford’s longer work fares even more poorly in the modern literary marketplace. Her narrative poems, including Christina, the Maid of the South Seas (1811) (a romance poem inventing a daughter of Fletcher Christian on Pitcairn’s Island) and Narrative Poems on the Female Character (1813), are too long to be excerpted effectively, while collections of Romantic-Era dramas concentrate on Mitford’s more-famous contemporaries like Joanna Baillie. Thus, despite Mitford’s popularity in her own time, most of her work has been unavailable for students of nineteenth-century British literature, and while her prose sketches for Our Village have been part of a long-running critical discussion regarding her role in inventing of the Victorian idyll,26 her poetry and dramas of the 1820s have largely gone unnoticed until (p.149) the 1990s, when Romanticists, especially Catherine Addison and Diego Saglia, began turning serious scholarly attention to them.27

Faced with these considerations, the Digital Mitford editors selected a time period when Mitford’s career was simultaneously in flux and documented in detail. At our first editors’ workshop in 2013, the team’s overlapping interests in the period from 1818 to 1825 guided our decision to select all of Mitford’s writings from these years as our ‘test bed’ of texts to begin editing, on which we would create the foundation of a fully comprehensive edition of her work. Our argument has been that to best represent Mitford’s diverse writings in multiple genres, we should not consider them in isolation from each other but rather in context, the better to illuminate areas of intersection previously unknown to scholarship on nineteenth-century literature. During the time covered by our test bed, Mitford had moved from poetry to drama and was building her professional network by seeking both advice on her drafts and placement for her final products. This period was also compelling because Elisa Beshero-Bondar and Gregory Bondar had previously photographed one of the largest repositories of Mitford’s letters, the collection at Reading Central Library, whose librarians granted Digital Mitford permission to work from and display our photographs on our website. The combination of materials in Mitford’s writings from 1818 to 1825 – dramas, prose sketches, and letters – gives us opportunities to work back and forth between Mitford’s documentation of her composition, publication, and dramatic staging processes and the final versions of those texts, to produce genetic editions attentive to texts in transition and shaped by social interactions. In addition, the test bed period of 1818 to 1825 affords us opportunities to develop new scholarship on the less-often studied later years of the Romantic era, to examine how Mitford’s historical tragedies developed in the same years as the sketches that came to be published as Our Village, which has until now been studied in isolation (p.150) from her dramas and poetry. Perhaps most significantly, the test bed period we selected represents a period of productivity that appears to have established Mitford’s reputation both as a writer of prose fiction and as a dramatist, and our work with her letters yields new opportunities investigate how her correspondence network contributed to her rising reputation.

Digital Mitford’s annual editors’ workshop is the hub of our ongoing collaboration. The editors have taken on assignments covering four plays – Julian, A Tragedy in Five Acts (1823); Foscari, a Tragedy (1826); Rienzi, A Tragedy in Five Acts (1828); and the unpublished Charles I as well as early editions of Our Village and letters throughout this period. We are transcribing Mitford’s letters from manuscript and hand-coding each text in the test bed to identify names, places, titles of and characters in Mitford’s and other authors’ works, as well as other items of interest. The workshops are held as face-to-face meetings over three to four days on the University of Pittsburgh, Greensburg campus and accessible by voice-over IP to those editors who cannot attend in person, and they provide an opportunity for editors to discuss and amend project practices, set plans, and cross-edit each other’s work before it is posted in the project’s XML database and transformed into HTML on the project’s website at http://digitalmitford.org.

The team also discusses iterations of editorial practice at each workshop. From the outset of working with Mitford’s letters, we had to decide the degree to which we would preserve her orthography. After vigorous discussion, we agreed that we are not attempting to generate exact reproductions of Mitford’s physical letters, so we are not preserving, for example, her use of an equal sign when hyphenating a word at the end of a line. On the other hand, we are keeping her particular spelling choices, as well as aspects of her letters such as deletions, insertions, cross-writing, and other alterations to the words on the page, as these represent her evolving ideas and attention to precise language. In another example, our markup expanded as a result of early conversations about the letters and Our Village, which began to reveal that flowers and gardening are a substantial topic in her writing; we subsequently began work to identify botanical references in the archive. Several editors have taught or are teaching courses (notably at UCLA, University of Oregon, and SUNY Potsdam) in which undergraduate and graduate students code letters as well as some of Mitford’s earlier occasional poetry, and their methodologies inform the Digital Mitford team’s practice, documentation, and protocols.

(p.151) Surveying Mitford’s Network of Correspondents: A Distant View

We apply network analysis methods to survey a body of material that, as noted above, is challenging to access both for its sheer volume and its transatlantic distribution. Indeed, no scholar or team has so far encompassed Mitford’s entire epistolary record, though past scholars of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries established the foundation of the project we are now building with the benefit of computational support.28 Our use of network analysis addresses this void by generating both a bird’s-eye view of Mitford’s entire correspondence network and narrower views of specific groups of years. Through computational methods we can detect patterns in Mitford’s letter-writing hitherto outside the purview of scholarship. Our analysis pinpoints the shifts in Mitford’s efforts to publish her work, as the number of letters she sends to well-connected men shifts according to their ability to help her. We also note when her network reached its greatest extent in the 1830s, when she wrote the most letters overall to the greatest number of distinct recipients. Her network subsequently contracts, with a larger number of letters going to fewer people. Correlating the waxing and waning of Mitford’s letter-writing with her writing, editing, and publishing activities yields insight into the vagaries of publishing faced by women writers in these decades.

The Digital Mitford team has been tracking and recording all known archived or referenced letters to and from Mary Russell Mitford in a database designed and maintained by Gregory Bondar. The database records letters cataloged in library archives as well as any mentioned letters in other correspondence or documentation, and it holds each known letter’s date and recipient, current location and provenance details, and a unique identifier for reference throughout our project. Elisa Beshero-Bondar reviewed and extracted this data for analysis in June 2016 and, together with Kellie Donovan-Condron, generated the network visualizations and bar graphs that appear here to help us complete a ‘distant reading’ of Mitford’s social network over the course of her life. We generated the bar graphs from raw counts of letters in the database, and we have presented them in five-year increments, together with a network graph for each decade of Mitford’s correspondence.29 These network graphs illustrate the development and distribution of Mitford’s personal and professional contacts over six decades in the first half of the nineteenth century, (p.152) and illuminate particular individuals most important to Mitford and perhaps especially helpful to her publishing and staging her work: first her father, George Mitford, then Sir William Elford, and later Thomas Noon Talfourd, who appear as three of the most prominent names in large print on the graph. We have placed special attention on what we expect to be the pivotal point of Mitford’s professional career, our test bed period of 1818 to 1825.

The network graph below (Figure 6.1) is a visualization of Mitford’s entire correspondence network over her life, including anyone to whom she had written a single letter.

This graph encodes multiple layers of information. Each letter’s author and recipient is a dot, or ‘node’. The lines connecting nodes are called ‘edges’, and they represent letters shared between the nodes. The gradient of edge lines from light to dark in this visualization serves to accentuate the transitional test bed period of letters composed between 1819 and 1825. The light grey edges represent Mitford’s earlier or later letters, from 1798 to 1818 and from 1826 until 1855, when she composed her last known letter, the day before her death on January 10, 1855. The dark grey edges represent our test bed period, 1819 to 1825. While each letter creates a unique edge, we have ‘bundled’ the edges for clearer presentation, so that the edge lines that appear heavy or thick represent multiple letters between nodes.

This visualization is also a ‘directed’ graph, indicating who sent a letter to whom. The edge lines are drawn from an author node and terminate with an arrowhead pointing to the recipient node. Those nodes and their name labels are sized so that the largest are those that we have recorded in our database as having received the most letters. Mitford herself is, perhaps surprisingly, a large node here because we have recorded many letters (especially from Thomas Noon Talfourd, Elizabeth Barrett, and John Ruskin) directed to her even though our archive is primarily concentrating on letters written by her to others. In producing network diagrams from the Mitford archive, Mitford is at the center of an ‘ego-network’, a series of connections made primarily through her, but our database records as many letters to Mitford as we can find, so that she is not the sole sender of the letters, though as of 2016, 74 per cent of the letters in our database are written by her and 26 per cent by others. The network diagram indicates who wrote letters to Mitford and indicates correspondence between other people who mention Mitford, such as between her parents, George and Mary Mitford.

This bird’s-eye view illustrates the vital link between Mitford’s correspondence and her literary career. Many of her letters to her father appear early in her network, in light grey, as he functions as her literary agent and seeks opportunities for publishing her poetry. In this period, she also writes to William Elford, a long-time friend of her father’s, seeking his advice and assistance in placing her work. As Mitford moves into writing dramas (p.153)

Modelling Mary Russell Mitford’s NetworksThe Digital Mitford as Collaborative Database

Figure 6.1: Full correspondence network, 1798–1855

(p.154) and prose, the darker grey edges increase between Mitford and Elford and decrease between father and daughter. Mitford connectes with Thomas Noon Talfourd in this period, as well. Significantly, Mitford begins or intensifies her connections with other literary women while her own career is on the rise, as the cluster of dark edges between Mitford such women as Emily Jephson and Barbara Hofland indicate. At the height of her reputation and influence, as seen in the medium grey edges, Mitford is in contact with a significant number of female authors, both well-known (Elizabeth Barrett) and relatively unknown (Henrietta Harrison). The exponential growth of Mitford’s network after 1825 points to her assiduous efforts to support and promote the work a cadre of women.

As interesting as this full view of Mitford’s correspondence network is, however, it illustrates only the larger patterns of the letters she wrote and received across her life. To better see how the network changed requires filtering the graph to view only the connections made in smaller units of time. To that end, we filtered the network graph to display the network as it changes decade by decade over Mitford’s life, and we produced bar graphs representing the quantities of Mitford’s letters directed to each recipient in intervals of five years.

Represented in Figure 6.2 and Table 6.1, Mitford’s earliest letters are to and from her parents at their home in Reading while she is at school in London from 1798 to 1802. Although the current location of these letters is unknown, Harness and L’Estrange describe them as ‘entirely on domestic subjects’, such as Mitford’s lessons at school, her opinions about people whom she met, and gossip from home (Life, 1: pp. 14–19).

Table 6.1: Letters to Specific Recipients, 1798–1810

Distinct Recipients

Count

Mitford, George

48

Russell, Mary

22

Elford, William

6

Mitford, Mary Russell

4

Herbert, Hon. William

1

Pratt, Samuel Jackson

1

Total

82

Our record of Mitford’s letters appears to stop when she returns from school (L’Estrange, Life, 1: p. 28), and her correspondence picks up again in 1806. From 1806 until 1810, when Mitford’s first volume, Poems, is published, Mitford increasingly asks for her father’s intervention on behalf of her own

(p.155)

Modelling Mary Russell Mitford’s NetworksThe Digital Mitford as Collaborative Database

Figure 6.2: First letters, 1798–1810

(p.156) literary work and that of her friends.30 This helps to account for the significantly larger number of letters to him than to anyone else during these years. Elford’s role as Mitford’s some-time literary agent and long-term friend also begins in this early period.

An early letter in this period, dated May 24, 1806, contains Mitford’s admiration for a politician’s oratory, ‘Poem on Mr. Whitbread’. Although Mitford claims that she is ‘not satisfied’ with the lines, she nevertheless asks her father’s opinion and wants to know by return post what ‘[he has] done with them’, implying that she hopes her father will take further action to circulate the poem despite her request that he ‘return them to [her] immediately’. Similarly, in a letter to her father dated 7 June 1808, Mitford notes that his friend Sir William Elford has requested copies of her poems. Savvy enough to wish to avoid ‘try[ing] his patience’, Mitford directs her father to ‘[a]ssure [Elford] of [her] gratitude’ and promises to send copies of the poems which her father had not previously shared with his friend. Mitford relies increasingly on her father as a kind of literary agent at large. L’Estrange describes a series of letters to George Mitford in February 1809, in which his daughter asks him to intervene to help the fortunes of a poem by Fanny Rowden, her school tutor, which had been poorly reviewed in the Edinburgh Review (Life, 1: pp. 68–72). While Mitford does not specify how his intervention will help Rowden’s poem, she clearly believes it will. At the same time, Mitford is sending her father her own work, with directions that he ‘do anything [he] like[s]’ with her enclosed verses ‘To the Memory of Sir John Moore’, ‘except sending them to the “Star”’ (L’Estrange, Life, 1: 69–70). By 1810, Mitford expresses her wishes more directly, suggesting in a January letter two versions of the title for her book of poems then in production, as well as potential patrons to whom to dedicate the volume.31 Dr. Mitford continues to promote Poems after its publication, as when Mitford asks that he convey her thanks to Samuel Jackson Pratt for his ‘kind approbation of [her] trifling volume’.32

George Mitford’s role as Mitford’s agent continues as she publishes a second, expanded edition of Poems (1811), Christina, Maid of the South Seas (1811), Watlington Hill, a Poem (1812), and British as well as American printings of Narrative Poems on the Female Character in the Various Relations of Human Life (1813) – a string of successes which doubles the number of letters Mitford writes to her father, as shown in Table 6.2. (p.157)

Table 6.2: Letters to Specific Recipients, 1811–14

Distinct Recipients

Count

Mitford, George

95

Elford, William

45

Russell, Mary

12

Davenport, Richard Alfred

6

Taylor, John

2

Mitford, Mary Russell

2

Editor

1

Total

163

George Mitford’s circulation of his daughter’s poems expands both her network and her writing at this time. He has shown the poem on John Moore to Richard Alfred Davenport, who then writes to Mitford directly. As she tells her father in a letter dated 22 March 1811, Davenport chides Mitford for her ‘gross injustice to the Spaniards’ in the poem, which in turn spurs her to ‘writ[e] a poem upon a Spanish subject, though [she] may do them more injustice by [her] friendship than [her] enmity’. She pledges to write to Davenport when her epic poem Christina, then in production, is published.

However, even as George Mitford remains his daughter’s most significant professional correspondent, William Elford’s connection to Mitford is growing at an even faster rate, multiplying more than seven-fold since their first exchange. According to Harness and L’Estrange, Mitford had first met Elford in London in 1810 (L’Estrange, Life, 1: p. 104), and from the beginning, the two deliberately cultivated each other’s friendship through letters. In her May 26, 1810 letter to Elford, Mitford asks for a sample of his poetry, while in her next, she sends him one of her poems which she had revised according to his advice and pledges to dedicate an upcoming long poem, Christina, the Maid of the South Seas, to him. Throughout 1811 to 1814, Mitford keeps Elford apprised of her progress on various compositions and discusses contemporary and past authors with him.

Although the network graph in Figure 6.3, representing 1811 to 1820, shows George Mitford and Elford as roughly equivalent in the quantities of their correspondence with Mitford, Tables 6.2 and 6.3 show what is really happening, that Elford gradually replaces George Mitford as Mitford’s dominant correspondent in the second half of the decade. This is a period when Mitford’s writing career slows following the publication of her early poetry.

While Mitford does not appear to be seeking Elford’s advice or assistance for her own work, her letters to him continue to brim with discussion of (p.158)

Modelling Mary Russell Mitford’s NetworksThe Digital Mitford as Collaborative Database

Figure 6.3: 1811–1820

(p.159)

Table 6.3: Letters to Specific Recipients, 1815–20

Distinct Recipients

Count

Distinct Recipients

Count

Elford, William

86

unknown or N/A

3

Webb, Mary

30

Webb, Jane & Mary

2

Hofland, Barbara

21

Dickinson, Mrs.

1

Haydon, Benjamin Robert

12

Davenport, Richard Alfred

1

Mitford, George

10

Haydon, Frank Scott

1

Russell, Mary

8

Webb, Jane

1

Powell, Mrs.

2

Mitford, Robert Osbaldeston

1

Total

179

authors including Austen, Byron, Coleridge, Edgeworth, Amelia Opie, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and Barbara Hofland, the last a mainstay of Mitford’s network until her death in 1844. The Mitford-Elford friendship seems to have been stimulated by keeping up lengthy, sustained, and witty banter, and occasionally reflects on the very writing of their letters. On 25 November 1812, Elford writes, ‘Pray never refrain from writing much because you want time and inclination to read over what you have written. I would a thousand times rather see what falls from your pen naturally and spontaneously (that is in a letter) than the most polished and beautiful composition that ever went to the press; and so would you, I doubt not, from your correspondents’ (L’Estrange, Friendships, 1: pp. 91–2. Emphasis Elford’s). For her part, Mitford appears to have confided in and laughed with Elford on paper in a way that she might not have been able to do with others. In a letter of 12 January 1818 archived at Reading Central Library and transcribed by Digital Mitford editor Amy Colombo, Mitford writes to Elford:

I have first been writing two prim letters to two prim ladies for whom I do not care three pins nor they for me – people with whom I have not an idea in common, nor an acquaintance, but who had heard as they were pleased to say that I wrote ‘an exceeding good letter’ – I thank them! & availing themselves of having happened to meet me last week & having known Mama twenty years ago in Hampshire wrote to enquire after her & to request, forsooth! the pleasure of my correspondence. A great pleasure truly! If ever letters were cold-givers such are mine – Rain & snow & fogs & damp air all in one. – For see, my dear Sir William – that after such a job it was absolutely necessary that I should write to you – that I should supple my fingers & thaw my ideas at your warm fire – & yawn & stretch & pity & bemoan myself to my hearts content. You always (p.160) let me come to you for comfort in all my troubles & this is one of the worst. Nobody can be so awkward as I am at those sort of letters – I would give the world for that comfortable amplifying style which goes on so quietly ‘hoping’ & ‘trusting’ & ‘fearing’ & ‘wishing’ & proses about ‘sweet infants’ & ‘dear Invalids’ & ‘happy convalescence’ – turning & twisting about like a hare before the dogs – with as many words as a City Orator & as few ideas as the board he bethumps. I would give the world for this sort of prosing & mine happens to be different – I write as bad perhaps but in another way – However I will answer for it I have got quit of these correspondences I have happily ridded myself of my reputation as that & please the fates I will so demean myself as never to run the risk of having it said that I write ‘an exceeding good letter’ again.

We present a photofacsimile of the manuscript leaf transcribed here in Figure 6.4. The intimacy and suggestion of eroticism in this letter might well cause us to wonder about the nature of Mitford’s and Elford’s relationship, and apparently it did raise a question from Barbara Hofland in 1819. Elford’s first wife, Mary Davies Elford, had died in 1807 and he would marry the widow Elizabeth Hall Walrond on 5 July 1821. Despite his being old enough to be Mitford’s father and his having daughters about Mitford’s age, it was perhaps the widowed and eligible position of Elford that caused Mitford’s friend Barbara Hofland to speculate openly with her about Mitford’s marriage prospects with her favorite correspondent. Mitford’s reply, recorded by Chorley, presents a strong statement on the subject of marriage:

I shall not marry Sir W. Elford, for which there is a remarkably good reason, the aforementioned Sir William having no sort of desire to marry me; neither shall I ever marry anybody. I know myself well enough to be sure that if any man were silly enough to wish such a thing, and I silly enough to say ‘yes’, yet a timely fit of wisdom (caprice some might call it) would come upon me, and I should run away from the church door.

(Letters, 1: p. 47)

If the relationship between these two seems a challenge to others to classify, it never seems to have disturbed them and their long conversational letters may also have represented a safe zone for Mitford to test her ideas, including her ideas about gender: Sir William comments in a letter of 18 June 1812:

You talk of curiosity and women being related. I won’t allow more curiosity to women than to men, and you only want to establish the fact in order to display the female character. Curiosity is only another name for a thirst of knowledge. ’Tis indeed applied opprobriously (p.161)

Modelling Mary Russell Mitford’s NetworksThe Digital Mitford as Collaborative Database

Figure 6.4: Part of the first leaf of Mitford’s letter to Sir William Elford of 12 January 1818.

by wicked men when coupled with the female character, but very improperly certainly, especially as to the occasion which gave rise to your observation.

(L’Estrange, Friendships, 1: p. 87)

Around this time, Mitford would have been working on her Narrative Poems of the Female Character, and Elford seems to be challenging her notions much as indeed their friendship challenges conventional views of male–female friendship in the nineteenth century.

The correspondence network expands slowly in the closing years of the decade, as Mitford begins writing to a wider circle of neighbors and acquaintances, including a deepening friendship with Hofland and a new correspondence with the painter Benjamin Robert Haydon. Mitford’s first letter to Hofland, October 4, 1817, includes a sonnet written at Hofland’s request (Chorley, Letters, 1: p. 27). With the addition of Hofland, Mitford’s network acquires the first glimmer of the intricate support system for women writers that it would later (p.162) become. Mitford’s letters to Hofland contain deeply personal moments as she airs her literary frustrations to another woman in the profession, including details she does not share with Elford. In a letter dated 21 February 1819, Mitford tells Hofland about her ‘blank verse comedy in three acts’ that ‘sickened [her] of writing’ because her publisher, Mr. Arnold, had insisted on three rounds of revisions which led her to ‘cut up [her] ten-syllable lines into songs to please him’ and ‘turned [her] comedy into an opera’. Mitford declares that she ‘gave it up in a quiet sulky sort of passion, and [has] never written a line for publication since’ (Chorley, Letters, 1: p. 44). In contrast, Mitford’s letters to Haydon are formal for quite some time, addressing him as ‘My Dear Sir’, on 12 January and 13 February 1819 (L’Estrange, Life, 2: pp. 51, 53). Although a year later, on 1 May 1820, they are close enough for Haydon to give Mitford one of his studies, her thank you note continues to call him ‘sir’.33 It is not until the fall of that year that Mitford softens her address to ‘My Dear Mr. Haydon’, and speaks warmly of his straightened circumstances due to the vagaries of his ‘cold, proud, selfish, “patrons”’ (L’Estrange, Life, 2: p. 108). While many of Mitford’s letters are quite similar – for example, those to Elford and Hofland discuss art and literary works as well as local happenings and Mitford’s travels to London – her letters to Haydon are an important reminder that Mitford’s multi-faceted network includes both intimates and mere acquaintances, and relationships that blend the personal and the professional.

The 1820s, comprising most of the Digital Mitford test bed, see a significant expansion of Mitford’s network as illustrated in Figure 6.5 and Tables 6.4 and 6.5. By comparison with the 179 letters she wrote to 14 individuals between 1815 and 1819, Mitford wrote 257 letters to 19 people between 1821 and 1825, and 150 to 34 people between 1826 and 1830. The numbers reflect a shift in Mitford’s correspondence: she seems to have written more letters per person before 1825 than after that point, when her correspondents increase significantly as her professional network expands.

In the early 1820s, Mitford increases her correspondence while working on the tragedies Foscari, Rienzi, Charles I, and the stories of Our Village. As much as she depends on Thomas Noon Talfourd, writing to him at least once per month and typically two or three times per month throughout the turbulent composition and revision period of Foscari, she also comes to depend on others, including Hofland, Emily Jephson, and William Harness, asking for each of their suggestions for new writing projects in various genres. On 19 April 1821, Mitford asks Hofland if she or her husband could ‘furnish [Mitford], from history, or fiction, or imagination, with a high, ample, magnificent plot, something middle-aged and Italian’, and on 8 June, she thanks Hofland for ‘giving [her] the aid of that which is most precious – thought and time’ (p.163)

Modelling Mary Russell Mitford’s NetworksThe Digital Mitford as Collaborative Database

Figure 6.5: 1821–1830

(p.164)

Table 6.4: Letters to Specific Recipients, 1821–25

Distinct Recipients

Count

Distinct Recipients

Count

Talfourd, Thomas Noon

104

unknown

3

Haydon, Benjamin Robert

50

Mitford, George

3

Elford, William

32

Kemble, Charles

2

Mitford, Mary Russell

13

Benyon, Richard

1

Hofland, Barbara

12

Stovin, Mrs. M.

1

Harness, William

9

Valpy, Abraham F.

1

Jephson, Emily E.

7

Hamilton, S.

1

Colman, George, Jr.

6

Stephenson, Miss

1

Wrangham, Francis

6

Webb, Mary

1

Macready, William C.

4

Total

257

(Chorley, Letters, 1: pp. 105–7). She continues to request plot suggestions throughout the year, as revisions to and rejections of Foscari, together with the unexpected embarrassment of Lord Byron’s publication of The Two Foscari late in 1821, leave Mitford casting about for new ideas. After many frustrations over rewriting parts to suit the rival actors Macready and Charles Kemble, Mitford’s Foscari would finally be performed at Covent Garden in 1826. Disappointed in her efforts with the theaters, her letters in the mid-1820s contain many pleas for guidance in more profitable modes of writing. In July 1824, she asks Harness about the feasibility of her writing a novel (L’Estrange, Life, 2: p. 185), a question she repeats to Jephson in August. Notably, Mitford details her circumstances in far more personal detail when writing to Jephson. Mitford shares that Rienzi is slated for performance in the next season, but notes that this is ‘a matter strictly confidential’ as Macready ‘talks of bringing it out as if written by a man, to avoid the great annoyance of newspapers, etc., so unpleasant to a female writer’. Mitford is looking for a new project while she is ‘writ[ing] as usual for magazines’. She has been urged to write a novel ‘by almost everyone who has read [her] little volume’, but she is ‘half afraid’ of the genre. Instead, she is ‘more inclined to try a second volume of “Our Village”, for which there are plenty of materials close at hand’. She asks Jephson, ‘What do you advise?’ (L’Estrange, Life, 2: p. 187). As she had earlier with Hofland, Mitford seems to offer her women correspondents opportunities to alter her plots, inviting them to brainstorm collaboratively.

The expansion of Mitford’s network in the early 1820s is not only so that she can solicit advice. As she had earlier importuned her father on behalf of Miss (p.165)

Table 6.5: Letters to Specific Recipients, 1826–30

Distinct Recipients

Count

Distinct Recipients

Count

Harness, William

23

Ricketts, Miss

1

Talfourd, Thomas Noon

18

Shoberl, Frederic

1

Elford, William

18

Davenport, Richard Alfred

1

Jephson, Emily E.

18

Colman, George, Jr.

1

Haydon, Benjamin Robert

11

Lord Chamberlain

1

Mitford, George

9

Bentley, Richard

1

Wrangham, Francis

7

Roscoe, T.

1

Hofland, Barbara

6

Hodgkinson, Mrs.

1

Mitford, Mary Russell

4

Ackermann, Rudolph

1

Russell, Mary

4

Jerrold, Douglas

1

Lucas, John

3

Cooper, John

1

Colburn, Henry

3

Young, Charles Mayne

1

unknown

3

Hemans, Felicia

1

Hall, Anna Maria Fielding

2

Kemble, Charles

1

Sedgwick, Catharine Maria

2

Dickinson, Mrs.

1

Hofland, Mr.

1

Dyce, Rev. Alexander

1

Sidmouth, Lady

1

Valpy, Abraham

1

Total

150

Rowden, Mitford is now sometimes acting on her own behalf and that of her friends. Some of her single letters are for this sort of professional activity. She sends her poem praising the prominent Englefield House to its owner, Richard Benyon in June 1822,34 and she sends Hamilton a story for Lady’s Magazine on 9 April 1823, while describing another that she is composing about the North of Hampshire, which she mentions ‘because perhaps on account of the subject [he] might like to keep room for it’.35 Most significantly, Mitford tells Hofland on 14 June 1822 that her article on Hofland’s ‘Tales of the Manor’ is appearing in that week’s Museum, and adds that she ‘shall try to make [her] way in other quarters’ (Chorley, Letters, 1: p. 118). Here, Mitford is leveraging her experience with magazine publishing to attract notice to her friend’s story, effectively taking on the role of literary agent which she had needed earlier in her own career.

(p.166) With the success of her plays and Our Village, Mitford’s correspondence grows exponentially. She writes about the same number of letters in the late 1820s as she has earlier in the decade, but to nearly double as many recipients. Table 6.5 captures the state of flux of Mitford’s network. Jephson, for example, becomes a much closer confidante, as evidenced by the more than double number of letters to her. Harness becomes instrumental in Mitford’s network, receiving more letters than anyone else. Countering these increased frequencies, three of Mitford’s most significant recipients, Elford, Hofland and Talfourd, appear to receive far fewer letters in these years. Elford’s decline in centrality in Mitford’s network takes another precipitous drop from 50 letters earlier in the decade to 18 in its latter half. At the same time, Hofland appears to receive half as many letters are previously, and Talfourd two-thirds fewer. However, the content of the letters indicates that both Holfand and Talfourd remain Mitford’s close friends. She eagerly anticipates the publication of Hofland’s ‘Moderation’ in a letter from 25 May 1825 and ‘Beatrice’ from one from 24 September 1829. The September 1829 letter also contains Mitford’s reassurances that they are ‘too dear friends to stand on [that] kind of ceremony’ in which one must wait for a letter from the other before writing again (Chorley, Letters, 1: pp. 130, 137–8). Despite their apparently less-frequent exchanges, Mitford also continues to confide in Hofland, outlining in her 25 May 1825 letter her plans for a novel ‘as like Miss Austen’ after she finishes writing Charles I, describing her irritation over not being paid in a timely fashion in 20 September 1826, and detailing how her and her mother’s health concerns caused her to be unable to write in 13 March 1829 (Chorley, Letters, 1: pp. 129, 131–3, 135). Talfourd, too, remains in Mitford’s inner circle despite receiving fewer letters from her. In an undated letter apparently from 1828, Mitford opens by calling Talfourd her ‘always best and kindest friend’, and refers to her lingering uncertainty about Macready’s treatment of her play Rienzi, ‘his criticism goes near to prove that he has forgotten the play, which is undoubtedly too much condensed’. She tells him that she is weighing whether to write a novel – again referring to Jane Austen – or to ‘take [his] advice as to Magazine writing’.36 These letters to Hofland and Talfourd suggest that Mitford’s frustrations with getting her plays staged leads to a kind of holding pattern in the late 1820s while she determines which genre to attempt next.

The doubling of Mitford’s network in the second half of the 1820s is due to 16 new correspondents in this period, nearly all of whom are related to her literary career. The largest number of these is connected with various aspects of the theater, including actors (Charles Young and Charles Kemble), the Licensor of new plays who refused to sanction Charles I (George Colman, Jr.), and an up-and-coming dramatist (Douglas Jerrold). She also writes to publisher Rudolph Ackerman and editor Thomas Roscoe, the latter of whom published Mitford’s (p.167) story ‘The Two Magpies’ in his volume The Juvenile Keepsake in 1830.37 Anna Maria Hall and Felicia Hemans join Mitford’s growing circle of female writers at this time. The breadth of her contacts in all aspects of publishing reinforces Mitford’s position as a significant literary figure of her day, while her letters’ contents emphasize the significant extent to which men controlled the industry and thus, controlled which women’s voices reached a wider audience. Mitford’s ongoing efforts to recruit women writers to contribute to annual collections of short stories goes beyond the self-interest of ensuring that the editor had enough material to go to press. Her letters to these new correspondents reflect a strong interest in promoting their writing and sharing leads and ideas – and we see the expansion of a co-operative network of literary women.

The 1830s bring even more letter-recipients into Mitford’s sphere, with nearly two dozen new people joining her ongoing communications, as shown in Figure 6.6 and Tables 6.6 and 6.7.

Table 6.6: Letters to Specific Recipients, 1831–35

Distinct Recipients

Count

Distinct Recipients

Count

Talfourd, Thomas Noon

20

Morton, Thomas

1

Jephson, Emily E.

18

Weirdon, Miss

1

Mitford, George

16

Smith & Elder, Messrs.

1

Elford, William

13

Trollope, Frances Milton

1

Harness, William

7

Pringle, Thomas

1

Bentley, Richard

7

Hughes Senior, Jane Elizabeth

1

Devonshire, Duke of

5

Burke, J.

1

Glenny, George

3

Berkshire Chronicle

1

Mitford, Mary Russell

3

Hayward, Abraham

1

unknown

2

Richards, J.

1

Hall, Anna Maria Fielding

2

Bentley, Samuel

1

Greene, John Hooke

2

Yates, Mrs.

1

Shoberl, Frederic

2

Hanmer, Mrs.

1

Redding, Cyrus

2

Phillips, Henry

1

Merry, Mrs.

2

Sedgwick, Theodore

1

Colman, George, Jr.

1

Bennett, Octavian

1

Total

121

(p.168)

Modelling Mary Russell Mitford’s NetworksThe Digital Mitford as Collaborative Database

Figure 6.6: 1831–1840

(p.169) As with the new correspondents of 1826 to 1830, many of the new letter-recipients of 1831–5 are involved in writing and publishing. Samuel and Richard Bentley, Frederic Shoberl, Henry Colburn, Cyrus Redding, Thomas Pringle, and Messrs. Smith & Elder edit and publish various works of Mitford’s in collections and magazines during this phase of her career, while the Duke of Devonshire confirmed George Colman’s earlier rejection of Charles I (L’Estrange, Life 2: p. 313). Writers with whom Mitford began correspondence include Abraham Hayward, Thomas Morton, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, and Frances Milton Trollope. Mitford’s exchange with Trollope is especially interesting, as it points to Mitford’s status as a crucial voice for other women. On 21 May 1831, Trollope writes to Mitford from New York, before returning home to England after living in the United States for four years. Trollope requests that Mitford write a letter of introduction to her publishers, to smooth the way for Trollope’s arrival. She writes, ‘I am well aware that it is difficult to bring a first effort to the light, but I think your powerful name will help me much’ (L’Estrange, Friendships 1: p. 163). In a follow up letter of 16 September 1831, Trollope thanks Mitford for the ‘very kind manner’ with which she had complied with Trollope’s request and informs her of her manuscript’s favorable reception with the publisher and reviewer (L’Estrange, Friendships 1: p. 164). Whittaker does, in fact, go on to publish Trollope’s Domestic Manners of the Americans in 1832. This example of Mitford using her network to assist the careers other women is particularly powerful, as Trollope would go on to be quite successful, publishing additional travelogues and novels throughout the next two decades.

The late 1830s continues the prolific and spreading network of Mitford’s correspondence, with 249 recorded letters to 42 distinct recipients, represented in Table 6.7. Of these, Mitford herself was the recipient of 87 letters, 82 of them written by Elizabeth Barrett. The momentous year that marked the beginning of Mitford’s famous mentoring friendship with Elizabeth Barrett was 1836. According to Melinda Creech’s posting on the Baylor University Armstrong Browning Library and Museum blog, ‘EBB corresponded with Miss Mitford for nearly two decades and wrote more letters to her than to any other person’.38 The Mitford-Barrett correspondence is well documented in Meredith Raymond and Mary Rose Sullivan’s edition of 1983, The letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Mary Russell Mitford, 1836–1854 and in The Browning’s Correspondence: An Online Edition (browningscorrespondence.com), which provides helpful date corrections for letters misdated in L’Estrange’s edition of Mitford’s letters though only excerpts (p.170) of those letters as published in the L’Estrange volume. We have a far better record of Barrett’s letters sent to Mitford than vice versa, and through the years of their correspondence, which lasted until Mitford’s death in 1855, it seems as if they corresponded regularly multiple times per month. Although sometimes we have a record of only one letter from Mitford to Barrett per month, given the nature of her correspondence with close friends like Hofland, Emily Jephson, and Elford, we expect there are more letters from Mitford to Barrett to be located. A sample of Mitford’s writing to Elizabeth Barrett in a letter L’Estrange dates 29 December 1844 illuminates something of Mitford’s mentorship in suggesting topics of her younger friend for narrative poetry, as well as her abiding interest in Napoleon:

I am enchanted to find that you mean to write narrative poetry, and narrative poetry of real life. We must talk over subjects and stories. I still wonder that Napoleon does not inspire you. Oh, what a man! I would have given a limb to have been in the place of Madame Rechard or Madame de Montholon, or even of one of the Miss Balcombs – ay, or to have been concealed somewhere just to have heard him conversing and dictating, but rather conversing. After all, his prophecies are realized. He is the glory of France. Louis Philippe would hardly have sat on the throne so long had he not called in the memory of its idol to fix him in the love of the nation.

(L’Estrange, Life, p. 189)

Mitford’s interest in Napoleonic subjects and epical narrative poetry persisted long after she had produced her own poems and historical tragedies on Napoleonic topics or topics of revolution and civil war for the stage (Julian, Foscari, Rienzi, Charles I), and her interest in the conversation of the emperor with women or as overheard by women seems striking here as a subtle hint for a topic of a new poem. Though we have not identified Madame Rechard, the other women mentioned here interacted with Napoleon during his exile on the isle of Elba, before his Hundred Days return to power in 1815, followed by his decisive defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. Barrett seems to have interested herself more in current events as the topic of poetry, though as Elizabeth Barrett Browning she would publish, in 1860, a volume titled Napoleon III in Italy and Other Poems, with the title poem directly addressing the then-current emperor of the Second French Empire.

We have been representing filtered views of the network graph of Mitford’s correspondents to help document the expansion of the network in these decades. After 1840 and even in the last five years of her life (between 1850 and 1855) new correspondents emerge, but others fade or are no longer recorded. The most significant of those absent in the 1840s are her father and Sir William Elford, both of whom died in the mid-1830s. We document Mitford (p.171)

Table 6.7: Letters to Specific Recipients, 1836–40

Distinct Recipients

Count

Distinct Recipients

Count

Mitford, Mary Russell

87

Dacre, Lady

1

Talfourd, Thomas Noon

31

Howitt, Mrs. M.

1

Barrett, Elizabeth

15

Joy, Miss

1

Jephson, Emily E.

13

Dawson, Mr.

1

Mitford, George

12

Marshall, Miss

1

Anderdon, Lucy Olivia Hobart

12

Croft, Dowager Lady

1

Harrison, Henrietta

11

Bogue, David

1

Harness, William

11

Williams, Miss

1

Sedgwick, Theodore

11

Gulson, Mrs.

1

Devonshire, Duke of

4

Holland, Mrs.

1

Tilt, Charles

3

Boyne, D.

1

unknown

3

Kenyon, John

1

Martin, Albinus

3

Reeve, Henry

1

Bennett, Octavian

2

Moulton-Barrett, Arabella

1

Elford, William

2

Hayward, Abraham

1

Hofland, Barbara

2

Jerrold, Douglas

1

Horne, Richard Henry

2

Lucas, John

1

Trollope, Frances Milton

1

Moulton-Barrett, Henrietta

1

Lockhart, Miss

1

Yates, Miss

1

Dickinson, Mrs.

1

Lovejoy, George

1

Gandy, Edward

1

Cockburne, Mrs.

1

Total

249

as receiving 322 letters between 1841 and 1845, 316 of them from Elizabeth Barrett, leaving us a record of only 162 letters from Mitford in these years.

Was there a decline in her letter writing, or is the record simply incomplete? We suspect the latter. In all of our network graphs, the nodes are arranged by ‘out-degree’, or the numbers of letters sent by a particular individual. In Figure 6.7, those with the highest total out-degree in the entire network are Mitford (1,766 recorded letters to others), Barrett (479 to Mitford), John Ruskin (13 to Mitford), and Talfourd (9 to Mitford), and the network graph arranges the nodes so that those with the highest out-degree are stacked at the bottom and at the far right. The cluster of people at the top left who (p.172)

Modelling Mary Russell Mitford’s NetworksThe Digital Mitford as Collaborative Database

Figure 6.7: 1841–1850

(p.173)

Table 6.8: Letters to Specific Recipients, 1841–5

Distinct Recipients

Count

Distinct Recipients

Count

Mitford, Mary Russell

322

Buckingham, J.

2

Barrett, Elizabeth

44

Lucas, John

2

Anderdon, Lucy Olivia Hobart

26

Mitford, Robert Osbaldeston

2

Harrison, Henrietta

22

Bennett, William Cox

1

Jephson, Emily E.

15

Hughes Senior, Jane Elizabeth

1

Lovejoy, George

8

Literary Fund

1

Talfourd, Thomas Noon

6

Devonshire, Duke of

1

Martin, Albinus

6

Robinson, Henry Crabb

1

Norton, Andrews

5

Cary, Mrs.

1

Horne, Richard Henry

5

Kenyon, John

1

Harness, William

3

Walker, Mrs.

1

Chorley, Henry Fothergill

2

Kirkby, James

1

Blewitt, Octavian

2

Anderdon, Mrs. Maria

1

unknown

2

Total

484

form a full circle in the complete network share the same out-degree of zero, meaning we currently have not recorded any letters from them to Mitford or to anyone else in the network. This helps to account for the distinct shape of our graph. The ‘circle’ of nodes on the left reflects a diversity of correspondents with whom Mitford had sometimes extensive contact but which shifted over time. Of these first Barbara Hofland and later Emily Jephson stand out as important long-range correspondents, and we have not yet traced very much of their correspondence with Mitford at the time of this writing beyond the selections printed by L’Estrange and Chorley.39 It is important to note also that apparent rare or ‘one-off’ correspondents may only appear to be ‘shallow’ relationships: our archival records are necessarily incomplete. For example, though Table 6.8 shows that William Harness appears to receive only three letters from Mitford, we are aware that he knew both Mitford and Lord Byron (p.174) when they were all young, and he played an extremely important role in the preservation of Mitford’s correspondence as her chosen literary executor. Her full correspondence with Harness is evidently missing as yet from our database, or perhaps the explanation is Harness’s own habits of correspondence, as she wrote in a letter to Mrs. Acton Tindale of 4 September 1847, referring to Harness: ‘I know my man – the very best friend that lives in the world, and one of the worst possible correspondents’ (Chorley, Letters, 2: p. 16).

William Cox Bennett’s substantial and as yet to our knowledge completely unpublished correspondence with Mitford appears to begin in the mid-1840s, as represented in Table 6.9. Bennett was one of a number of ‘next generation’ writers to seek out Mitford in the 1830s and ’40s, including Barrett as well as some from the U.S.: Catherine Maria Sedgwick and Nathaniel Hawthorne. We also have correspondence documented with the Literary Fund, reflecting Mitford’s sometimes pressing financial interests. She was successful and well-known but had difficulty earning enough money to support herself by writing, just as she had had difficulty supporting herself and her parents by her pen while they were alive.

Table 6.9: Letters to Specific Recipients, 1846–50

Distinct Recipients

Count

Distinct Recipients

Count

Bennett, William Cox

62

Smith, Dora

2

Mitford, Mary Russell

53

Hughes, John

2

Ouvry, Mrs. Jane

22

Jameson, Anna Brownell

1

Anderdon, Lucy Olivia Hobart

20

Rigsby, R.

1

Harrison, Henrietta

16

Shoberl, Mrs. F.

1

Boner, Charles

12

Lovejoy, Miss M.

1

Lovejoy, George

11

Bentley, Richard

1

Barrett, Elizabeth

7

Bennett, W. L.

1

unknown

6

Dyce, Rev. Alexander

1

Fields, James Thomas

6

Moulton-Barrett, Edward

1

Haydon, Mary

5

Russell, Miss

1

Horne, Richard Henry

5

Pearson, Hugh

1

Jephson, Emily E.

4

Lovejoy, Patty

1

Jennings, Agnes

3

Hughes, Mrs.

1

Cockburn, Mrs.

2

Anderdon, Emma M.

1

Total

251

(p.175) The network graph in Figure 6.8 suggests a reduction in the number of correspondents in the last five years of Mitford’s life, but the quantity of letters persists as usual: a recorded 382 letters from Mitford exist from this period, and new correspondents appear as well, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, to help complete the circle in the upper left of the graph. This is the period when J. T. Fields, the Boston publisher, and John Ruskin, the philosopher, were writing to Mitford, an index of her significance to influential writers and thinkers on both sides of the Atlantic in mid-century. Something of the transatlantic literary network is apparent in Mitford’s frequent references to J. T. Fields as her friend in several letters to Jephson: Fields had visited her in Three Mile Cross and brought her news of Hawthorne, which she relayed to her friends. Jephson, for her part, copied this part of Mitford’s letter to her friend Digby Starkey in a letter of her own, illuminating something of the quotable significance of a letter from Mitford in these last years of her life. Of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mitford wrote,

Magnificently beautiful, and gifted, as you see, and educated at the same college, and with the same advantages as Longfellow, he was, three or four years ago, without vice or extravagance on his part, literally starving. My friend, Mr. Fields, heard of it (he is a partner in the great publishing house in America), and being a man of fine taste, as well as fine feeling, and having seen some of Hawthorne’s magazine articles, he went to him and said, ‘I have such a faith in you that, if you will give me a book, I will print two thousand five hundred copies, run all risks, and allow you twenty-five percent’. The poor author demurred; he had begun a tale which was to form one of a volume of short stories, and showed him neither more nor less than the ‘Scarlet Letter’. My friend, Mr. Fields, himself a poet said at once, ‘This must not be one of a volume of short stories; it must be a fully developed tale[’], and accordingly Mr. Hawthorne took his advice, and is now in comfort and affluence.

(L’Estrange, Friendships, 2: pp. 180–1)

As Table 6.10 shows, Mitford remained as prolific a letter writer as ever up until the end of her life. In these last five years she was working on her collections of her own works and her reflections back on her career in drama. While her writings in these last five years take a retrospective turn, evidence of her awareness that her writings might one day be collected is apparent from much earlier stages, from the time of her youthful correspondence with Sir William Elford. And to the end, Mitford appears to have been reading as much as ever, taking a continuing interest in new writers and new literary productions – very much an active node in her literary networks to the last. (p.176)

Modelling Mary Russell Mitford’s NetworksThe Digital Mitford as Collaborative Database

Figure 6.8: 1851–1855

(p.177)

Table 6.10: Letters to Specific Recipients, 1851–5

Distinct Recipients

Count

Distinct Recipients

Count

Bennett, William Cox

101

Anderdon, Lucy Olivia Hobart

4

Bennoch, Francis

59

Lucas, John

4

Mitford, Mary Russell

57

Hawthorne, Nathaniel

4

Fields, James Thomas

29

Chorley, Henry Fothergill

4

Harrison, Henrietta

27

Starkey, Digby

3

Pearson, Hugh

22

Barrett, Elizabeth

3

Ouvry, Mrs. Jane

19

Hughes, John

2

Russell, Miss

13

Parsons, Thomas William

2

Goldsmid, Anna Maria

12

Hughes Senior, Jane Elizabeth

1

Hoare, Mary Anne

11

de Goodrich, Miss

1

Harness, William

11

Trollope, Frances Milton

1

Bentley, Richard

10

Robinson, Henry Crabb

1

Jennings, Agnes

9

Tuckermann, Henry T.

1

Jephson, Emily E.

9

Stoddard, Richard Henry

1

Boner, Charles

8

Brightwell, Cecilia Lucy

1

unknown

8

Dean, Mr.

1

Total

439

The ‘Test Bed’: A Close-Up Investigation of 1819–25 and a Sample Letter

The networks and data represented in the previous section all come from our database of information about Mitford’s correspondence. We now turn to investigate the network of information about people and publications from within the writings by Mitford that we have been encoding in the project so far, concentrating on a short and transformative series of years in Mitford’s life. We began our project with editing a first cluster of letters written between 1819 and 1825, together with Mitford’s introduction to her self-collected Dramatic Works (1854), her plays Julian, Rienzi, and Charles I, and the first edition of her sketches in Our Village (1824). We added the late 1854 work because Mitford’s introduction helps to serve as an introduction to the people to whom and about whom she was writing as she involved herself with the theater world of the 1820s.

A letter from Mary Russell Mitford to Mary Webb of 10 January 1819, transcribed and annotated by Digital Mitford editor Lisa Wilson, illustrates (p.178) what has been missing from our distant reading survey and published records of Mitford’s letters. Our distant reading marked out particular correspondents who stood out as recipients of the most letters over long stretches of time. The letter we discuss here was never published before in the previous editions of Mitford’s letters, not even in part. The letter is part of an unbound collection of loose leaf manuscripts archived at the Reading Central Library, and is one of a series of letters written between 1815 and 1822 to Mary and Eliza Webb, daughters of a local brewer in Wokingham who were evidently close friends with the Mitfords at this time. Though Mary and Eliza Webb do not appear to be part of Mitford’s publication network, Mitford’s letters to them suggest she was either sharing her reading with them or guiding their reading. The letter we excerpt below demonstrates the quantities of reading material that Mitford regularly consumed and on which she expected her correspondents to be conversant. The Webb letters are also full of social details of gatherings, in this case a ball and extended visit with mutual friends, the Dickinsons. At the ball Mitford was snubbed for being ‘Blue-ish’, which generates from her a lively and entertaining satire of the snubber, perhaps in imitation of Thomas Love Peacock, whose work she has lately been reading:

I take it for granted, my dear Friend, that Eliza gave you all the particulars of the Ball – We wanted you very much indeed – which was a proof that the ball was worth going to. It had indeed great elegance, great sociability, a delightful host, an enchanting hostess – & above all it had Mr. Crowther. This man kept me alive & lifelich (as old Chaucer says) all the evening. Oh my dear Mary I would give a great deal that you could see him – You have never seen anything like him – never unless you have seen a wasp in a Solar Microscope (an insect turned into a monster) – or unless you can imagine a Brobdingnagian Hourglass – but neither wasp nor hourglass are small enough in the waist for this Dandy – this Exquisite – I have all my life had a great respect for the mechanical inventions of this age, but nothing that I have ever seen has given me such an idea of the power of machinery – not your Father’s melting machine – not the Portsmouth Blockhouses – not the new Mint – as that wonderful effort of mechanism by which those ribs are endued in those stays. I do think he must have had one or two ribs broken on each side to make them lie closer. The compression would be incredible without some such expedient. But I am unjust in talking so much of the stays when it is the Altogether that is so perfect. Trowsers, Coat, handkerchief, shirt collar, head inside & out, all were in exact keeping – all belonged to those inimitable stays & could not have belonged to any thing else. I never took such a fancy to any thing in my Life – I have seen nothing at all equal to it – Since Liston in Lord Grizzel – It (p.179) was quite the charm of the evening to me at least, such a charm as a top is to a schoolboy – or a hoop – or as my grave cat Selim is to my frisky puppy Miranda. I am sorry to say the admiration was by no means mutual. The Dandy was an ungrateful Dandy – & [Gap: 1 word, reason: illegible.] away at the sound of my voice just as Mossy (begging Mossy’s pardon for the comparison) flies off at the sight of our dog-hating cook. He told a discreet friend who told me that he had an ‘idea’ (a very bold assertion by the bye) ‘an idea that I was Blueish’. – Mr. Dandy Good Night – Thank you for a great deal of the best thing in the world – a great deal of laughter.

The passage illustrates how Mitford incorporates literary references into life events, so that Chaucer and Swift and the pantomime play Tom Thumb (featuring the actor John Liston as Lord Grizzel) combine to lend force to Mitford’s satire of Mr. Crowther’s artifice. The paragraph functions as the forceful retort of a woman of letters reveling in her very learning. Following the ball Mitford engaged directly in social literary activities with her hosts, the Dickinsons. Her description of listening to a recitation of Dante in English and Italian simultaneously illustrates her own taste and skill, as she must copy out and partially translate a section which she finds especially delightful. Mitford’s letter shows how literary texts – and their imperfect copies – circulate among various reading and listening audiences in the nineteenth century.

In the evening we had a good deal of literature, English & Italian. Mr. Dickinson read me some fine Translations from Dante &c – with one of which I was so charmed as to beg a Copy – to my sorrow. The copy was graciously granted on condition that I would transcribe it for the Author – to which polite request I of course acceded, quite forgetting that my accomplished friend wrote a fine rapid crabbed learned-looking hand which might pass for Greek or Persian or Arabic just as well as for English. So that I have been obliged to copy this translation – half from recollection – half from guess – & half from the original Italian. (Eliza who is so great an Arithmetician must tell you how I can be divided into three halves by any but an Irish method of Calculation) I have however done it at last & some time or other I will read it you. It is the celebrated Episode of Count Ugolino in Dante’s Inferno.

After this account of a literary social engagement, we see Mitford at her most densely allusive, surveying and opining on her latest reading. The titles of published, exhibited, and performed works of art and literature that Mitford references together within the same paragraph of a letter help to document what Mitford was reading and viewing and how she circulated writings in (p.180) her social network – here, what she has been reading since she returned home from her visit to the Dickinsons. Besides all six volumes of Edmund Burke’s writings, she has been reading Henry Bradshaw Fearon’s Sketches of America: A Narrative of a Journey of Five Thousand Miles through the Eastern and Western States of America (1817) as well as Peacock’s Nightmare Abbey (1818), and relates these to other works she has read. Mitford calls Fearon’s Sketches of America ‘an antidote to the poison’ of Morris Birkbeck’s Notes on a Journey in America and Letters from Illinois, which as Lisa Wilson observes in her gloss, were ‘much-read works, which presented a utopian, anti-clerical, and anti-aristocratic vision of American settlement’ that likely encouraged emigration from Europe to the North American prairies. The ease and assurance with which Mitford recommends Peacock and Fearon while mentioning other works as inferior points to her role as an arbiter of literary taste within her network.

Ever since I have been at home as quiet as a mouse – reading all day long. First of all I have read 6 Volumes of Burke – of which I will have the compassion not to talk at present – you don’t want to hear about old pamphlets, old speeches & old American Wars – Then for the second time Mr. Fearon’s very clever bran [sic] new book about America. I don’t know any thing more agreeable than to have one’s preconceived notions of a place or people confined by a good citable authority – a matter of fact authority who brings one in a tangible shape good reasons for old prejudices. This is the pleasure Mr. Fearon has given me. I always defended America & the Americans (all but Franklin & Washington) without very well knowing why – except that in that fair & fresh & beautiful world with every thing to inspire & incite them to excellence in Art & Nature – they had done nothing & they were nothing. Mr. Fearon has now added positive to these negative proofs & has fairly set them forth as the most boasting, vainglorious, ignorant, trumpery, second-hand, pawnbrokers-shop – sort of people that ever crept on the face of the earth. His book is invaluable & an antidote to the poison of Mr. Birkbeck’s beautifully written but most deceitful works – an antidote the more powerful & the more certain as coming from a friend to liberty & an admirer of the republican form of Government. I think you would like these Sketches of America – & I am sure you would like a book which I have just finished – Nightmare Abbey. By far the best of Mr. Peacock’s works – worth all his prose & all his poetry Melincourt & Rhododaphne included – Never was a more cheerful & amicable piece of persiflage – full of laughing raillerie & smiling philosophy – Notwithstanding the gloomy title Nightmare Abbey is the most sunshiny book I have met with this many a day. It is a very clever attack upon mystical metaphysics & misanthropical poetry (Deuce take Mr. Peacock (p.181) for putting me to hard words!) and knocks them both completely down in the persons of my poor dear Friend Mr. Coleridge (alias Mr. Flosky) & Lord Byron – not only knocks them down but dances on them being down, as his unruly subjects did on poor Sancho in the Island of Barataria. Nothing was ever better managed than the way in which Mr. Peacock contrives to put divers stanzas of Childe Harolde done into prose, into the Mouth of Mr. Cypress, the Lord Byron of the story. The book has another great merit. It is short.

Mitford’s referencing of texts and authors presumes a high level of literary recognition on the part of Miss Webb, whom she apparently expects to be familiar with all the names, titles, and fictional references here. We have noted that this expectation is frequent in Mitford’s long letters to her close friends, the Webb sisters, Sir William Elford, and Thomas Noon Talfourd in particular. Coding Mitford’s detailed allusiveness to literary works opens up possibilities for studies of reception history, canon-formation, and the forming of public taste: Which authors and texts does she mention most frequently in her writings? Which ones is she reading at the same time (here, Fearon and Peacock), and which does she associate in relation or comparison to each other, as she associates Fearon’s and Birkbeck’s writings on America, and Peacock’s Nightmare Abbey in comparison to his other novels, or in context with Byron’s Childe Harold? Since Mitford often writes in her letters of what she has just been reading, the Digital Mitford editors include detailed markup in TEI XML code to track her references to the texts that she discusses with her correspondents. Here is a sample of the XML markup, featuring the portion of the passage about Nightmare Abbey:

I think you would like these <title ref="#Sketches_of_

America">Sketches of America</title>—& I am sure

you would like a book which I have just finished—<title

ref="#NightmareAbbey">Nightmare Abbey</title>. By far <pb

n="5"/> the best of <persName ref="#Peacock_TL">Mr. Peacock</

persName>’s works—worth all his prose & all his poetry

<title ref="#Melincourt">Melincourt</title> & <title

ref="#Rhododaphne">Rhododaphne</title> included—Never

was a more cheerful & amicable piece of persiflage—full of

laughing raillerie & smiling philosophy—Notwithstanding the

gloomy title <title ref="#NightmareAbbey">Nightmare Abbey</

title> is the most sunshiny book I have met with this many a day.

It is a very clever attack upon mystical metaphysics & misan-

thropical poetry (Deuce take <persName ref="#Peacock_TL">Mr.

Peacock</persName> for putting me to hard words!) and knocks

them both completely down in the persons of my poor dear Friend

(p.182) <persName ref="#Coleridge_ST">Mr. Coleridge</persName> (<del

rend="squiggles" quantity="1" unit="chars"><unclear/></del> alias

<persName ref="#Flosky">Mr. Flosky</persName> & <persName

ref="#Byron">Lord Byron</persName>—not only knocks them

down but dances on them being down, as his unruly subjects did on

poor <persName ref="#Sancho_Panza">Sancho</persName> in the

<placeName ref="#Island_Barataria">Island of Barataria</placeName>.

The angle-bracketed text represents XML tags, which are set in the passage to surround each proper name and title, both real and fictional. Other tags mark the structure of the document (<pb> for page break, for example) and record events in the writing of the manuscript (<del> for a deletion, with the attribute rend=‘squiggles’ indicating the curly loops Mitford applied to delete this passage). The markup adds editorial description and points to glosses we have written in a separate file we call our site index, which contains lists of named entities, people, places, fictional characters, and texts, among others. The tag <title ref=‘#NightmareAbbey’> points to a bibliographic entry in our site index file that reads:

<bibl xml:id="NightmareAbbey">

<title>Nightmare Abbey</title>

<author ref="#Peacock_TL">Thomas Love Peacock</author>

<publisher>T. Hookham, Jr.</publisher>

<publisher>Baldwin, Craddock & Joy</publisher>

<pubPlace ref="#London_city">London</pubPlace>

<date when="1818">1818</date>

<note resp="#lmw">First edition published anonymously as “by

the Author of Headlong Hall.”</note>

</bibl>

When we publish the edited letters on the Digital Mitford website, readers can mouse-over a name and retrieve information from the site index in a pop-up window. The full text of the current letter we are discussing is viewable in HTML from http://digitalmitford.org/getLetterText.php?uri=1819-01-10-MaryWebb.xml, or by choosing the year 1819 in our reading interface at digitalmitford.org/lettersInterface.html and selecting the letter dated ‘1819 January 10’. The marked-up names serve another function as well, in making it possible for us to follow how frequently a given name or text is mentioned in multiple letters, and what other names and texts are mentioned together in context with it. We might be curious to see how often Mitford references Peacock’s Nightmare Abbey in the same paragraph of a letter with Fearon’s Sketches of America, which apparently she did on at least one other occasion, in (p.183) a letter to Barbara Hofland of 3 February 1819, not yet edited by the Mitford team but published in Chorley’s edition. There she echoes the letter we feature here in a way which seems characteristic. That is, when she recommends books for one correspondent’s attention, she frequently does so in much the same terms to another. In the letter to Hofland, Mitford wrote, ‘Have you read Fearon’s ‘America?’ You should. It would give you the pleasure it gave me. … Then I have been laughing at ‘Nightmare Abbey,’ the pleasantest of Mr. Peacock’s works, whether in verse or prose, ‘Rhodo-daphne’ and ‘Melincourt’ included,’ and even proceeds to reference the identical passage of Don Quixote in comparison with Peacock’s satire of Coleridge (Chorley, Letters, 1: pp. 41–2).

From such corresponding citations, we begin to see a network of co-referencing or co-citation emerging. That is, we can trace a network in which multiple letters share references of Peacock together with Fearon. This is a micro-example of the patterns which distant reading brings to the fore, highlighting that two seemingly unrelated texts are, in fact, connected through Mitford’s reading habits and discussion in her letters. If distant reading identifies the creation and spread of literary taste against a backdrop of widespread reading, close reading analyzes how that taste functions. Given the vehemence with which Mitford delivers her opinion about Americans in multiple letters, we can see her repeated discussion of Fearon’s text as a kind of evangelizing, perhaps to inoculate her correspondents against the pernicious influence of Birkbeck’s deceitfully optimistic view of America. Examples such as this occur throughout the Digital Mitford’s co-citation network.

Networks of Co-Citation in Mitford’s Writings

The following network graphs and analyses are based on 75 edited TEI files ready for querying in our project, 70 letters plus about half of her journal from 1819 to ’23, her prefatory material in Charles I, her introduction to the Dramatic Works, and the preface and opening sketches Our Village. Keeping in mind that there are probably many of Mitford’s letters which scholars have not yet located and that Digital Mitford is in the early stages of transcribing and coding her works, including those letters in the L’Estrange and Chorley editions, the following visualizations introduce a cluster of interests that link Mitford’s dramatic and prose production of the 1820s. To produce these networks, we worked with the structured hierarchy of TEI encoding to separate out the metadata – information about the letters’ encoding, archival location, paper medium, etc. – to isolate the portions of files that represented Mitford’s writing to an audience. We used XQuery40 to ‘drill down’ to the letters’ body (p.184) paragraphs, as well as the entries encoded thus far in Mitford’s journal of 1819 to 1823 and her prefatory material to Our Village and the Dramatic Works. We specifically eliminated references to proper names contained in scholarly annotations by our own editors so that we could see who and what Mitford referenced directly, not what we think she might have been referencing or who or what might be relevant.

By giving us a glimpse of the people, fictional characters, and publications that Mitford wrote about most frequently in some association with each other, the network graphs below help to visualize the atmosphere in which Mitford thought and wrote, creating a snapshot of the unstated ephemera of daily life.

In studying ‘co-citation’ or ‘co-occurrence’ as a network of information, it is important not to overstate or assume ‘direction’. In a directed network like the one of Mitford’s correspondents discussed earlier in this chapter, we know who was writing to whom and when they wrote, and directionality clearly moves from writer to recipient. By contrast, the networks of Mitford’s references to names and literature are undirected, meaning that they are based simply on the co-presence of named entities together in the same files. If a cluster of persons or texts appears frequently in multiple texts, we begin to see a pattern of strong connectivity emerging without being precisely sure of the cause. In her letters, Mitford frequently writes about more than one book or article she has been reading, and often she enquires about her correspondent’s view of a particular novel by Scott or publication by Lord Byron. When a particular name appears frequently with many other names, that name has many ‘edges’, or connections to other nodes; the number of connections a node has to others is called its degree in network analysis. In the following graphs, we highlight the nodes with high degree by making them and their font labels larger to indicate the likelihood that they are especially significant. ‘Distant reading’ applied to networks of co-citation brings to light interesting patterns in a corpus of data too large for one scholar to distill on his or her own and illuminates possible areas for study with the fine-grain detail of close analysis.

One such area of interest for this volume on Romantic-era women’s social networks is the question of the relative proportion of women to men that Mitford wrote about, considering her references to people and fictional characters. When we began this project, the Digital Mitford team expected to see a network mostly of women, and we were surprised to discover quite the opposite. Many of Mitford’s most durable correspondents were men, and most of the real people as well as fictional characters and archetypes she mentions represent themselves as male. Figure 6.9 is a holistic co-occurrence graph that highlights the three kinds of ‘people’ we are tracing throughout Mitford’s writings that we have encoded so far, and distinguishes them by sex with color codes. (p.185)

Modelling Mary Russell Mitford’s NetworksThe Digital Mitford as Collaborative Database

Figure 6.9: Co-citation network: What kind of “people” are mentioned together in Mitford’s writings?

(p.186) The sizes of the three circles show that Mitford referenced a far larger variety of historical persons than of fictional characters from literary texts or of mythical archetypes. This network is very large, with close to 700 nodes and thousands of edge connections, so we cannot see the names of individual nodes, but it is already clear that there is a preponderance of male references in each of the three categories. To gain a clearer view of whether there is relatively greater emphasis on males in one particular grouping, we filtered the graph to show the historical persons and then the fictional personae separately. Figure 6.10 represents a distribution by known gender association of the historical individuals mentioned in Mitford’s writings thus far, including her own and her friends’ pets, who were as important to Mitford as the people she knew.

Figure 6.10 demonstrates two things clearly: 1) in the texts encoded so far, Mitford mentions males more frequently, and 2) the largest nodes on the graph – representing the most popularly mentioned individuals – are mostly male. These largest nodes include George Mitford (Mitford’s father), Shakespeare, John Fletcher, Sir William Elford, William Macready. Two of the males with large degrees are historic playwrights, Shakespeare and Fletcher, which suggests their canonical significance at a moment when Mitford was aiming to succeed with her plays on the London stage. We also know that to succeed on that stage Mitford had to negotiate with William Macready, the actor-manager for whom she developed some of her most outspokenly radical male roles. Macready’s significant presence in this co-citation network is a reflection of how frequently she mentioned him to her correspondents, particularly to Talfourd, in discussing her plays throughout the mid-1820s. This network view suggests the overwhelmingly male-dominated literary tradition and theatrical venues in which Mitford was angling to succeed. Nevertheless, the graph also features the strong presence of particular women of diverse significance: familial, political, and literary. The featured women include Mitford’s mother, the well-read educator Miss James whom Mitford admired, and Lady Madelina Palmer, the wife of a Reading politician and a formidable presence in the local social scene.

This striking pattern is somewhat less extreme but still present in Mitford’s references to fictional and archetypal characters, depicted in Figure 6.11.

The three separate ‘rings’ in Figure 6.11 represent three different networks within Mitford’s writings. We see three separate rings because the network of fictional characters is broken; that is, not all of the writings coded so far discuss all of the fictional characters in common. We organized the female nodes on the left side of each circle and the male nodes on the right. As before, there are more males than females, but the disproportion here of 1.5 to 1 is not as extreme as with the network of historical persons. We do know that female characterization for the stage was an important emphasis in Mitford’s plays and that may be why female characters are more written about than actual women. Mitford based her plays on historical material that featured men as (p.187)

Modelling Mary Russell Mitford’s NetworksThe Digital Mitford as Collaborative Database

Figure 6.10: Co-citation network: Historical persons only, organised by sex

(p.188)

Modelling Mary Russell Mitford’s NetworksThe Digital Mitford as Collaborative Database

Figure 6.11: Co-citation network: Fictional and archetypal characters only, organised by sex

(p.189) key players in state crises, but she created female leads with major public roles in each plot.

Since Mitford wrote about fictionalized historical characters and actual persons all together, we considered that, too, to be a kind of networking of people and imaginary figures. She mentioned only two fictional characters, her Doge Foscari and Senator Donato (both characters in her play Foscari) frequently enough to be included in Figure 6.12, the network of the 32 most connected persons in the Mitford archive so far.41 Besides the two fictional characters, there are eight women and 22 men. The evident importance of the two fictional male characters reflects her preoccupation with the power dynamics between Macready and Charles Kemble, two actor-theater managers who contended for roles in Mitford’s Foscari. We speculate that Mitford did not reference her other characters (including her own invented female characters) as frequently because they did not raise the controversies over performance parts that these two male roles did. Among the historical people in the ‘top 32’ network, Lady Madelina Palmer and Charles Fyshe Palmer are of unexpected interest as figures involved in local Reading politics, people whom Mitford appeared to find disagreeable yet who were highly popular and important in her local community. Frances Rowden was her teacher, with whom she attended plays and lectures in London while in school as a young woman, and Barbara Hofland was an author friend and frequent correspondent. While the mysterious ‘Miss James’ has been difficult for us to trace, Mitford mentioned her in letter after letter as a woman with interests in literary matters whom Mitford evidently knew and wanted to introduce to her correspondents. By far the majority of people in the ‘top 32’ network are connected to literary interests: Mitford’s contemporaries Walter Scott, S. T. Coleridge, Lord Byron, Jane Austen, together with Pope, Dryden, Beaumont, and Fletcher, and Shakespeare from past centuries.

In addition to encoding the names of people and characters, the Digital Mitford team is tagging many other kinds of information: plant and animal species, organizations, fictional and real places, as well as publications and productions of multiple kinds: titled works of art and music, monographs, reference works in Mitford’s time, and serial publications. Given Mitford’s literary interests and the early goals of our archive to illuminate the literary and theatrical worlds the 1820s, we have much to learn from tracking her references to published and performed works. For example, which works was she writing about most frequently during the years when she launched the plays and the first sketches that would become Our Village? How much (p.190)

Modelling Mary Russell Mitford’s NetworksThe Digital Mitford as Collaborative Database

Figure 6.12: Co-citation network: Top 32 most connected people

(p.191)

Modelling Mary Russell Mitford’s NetworksThe Digital Mitford as Collaborative Database

Figure 6.13: Titles of works mentioned together in Mitford’s writings

of Mitford’s personal literary and artistic world does she include, directly or indirectly, in her writing?

Our last graph in Figure 6.13 shows a co-citation network of titles, organized by kind. As with the fictional characters’ network in Figure 6.11, the publication references currently make multiple, broken networks, with a distinct cluster of titles mentioned in one or two letters but appearing nowhere else. But a larger connected network illuminates the 196 distinct titles that Mitford has referenced in the material we have coded so far, and among these, which are emerging that she mentions the most frequently. We have organized these to distinguish periodical titles from literary titles. In the periodicals cluster, the most frequently mentioned serials so far include two that (p.192) we might expect a late-Romantic writer to know well: The Quarterly Review and The London Magazine, but also a local publication, the Reading Mercury, emerges nearly equally in Mitford’s writings. Mitford had written reviews of local theatre productions for the Reading Mercury, and that periodical’s prominence in Figure 6.13 points to a regional literary and artistic marketplace that extended beyond the pull of London. By far the majority of works to which Mitford referred most frequently are plays, whether Mitford’s own, plays by her contemporaries, or those from past centuries.

Conclusion

The Digital Mitford team has begun encoding a large corpus of writings in the hope of opening new areas of inquiry for nineteenth-century scholarship. In presenting visualizations drawn from the team’s collective research so far, we find much in Mitford’s writings to illuminate little known aspects of theater culture and periodical publishing in the 1820s, as well as the ways in which Mitford played an influential part in shaping the literary tastes of her correspondents. Our work has begun to change the map of what we thought we knew about the nineteenth century. The networks also reveal the borders of our knowledge of nineteenth-century people, especially considering intellectual women like Miss James who have gone unmarked in the male-dominated encyclopedic databases like the ODNB. That our networks of publications and fictional personae are currently broken indicates the still formative state of our project. The 75 texts we have encoded so far are but a small fraction of Mitford’s writings. In the next few years we aim to complete work on the test bed of letters, and prepare editions of Mitford’s plays and the sketches of Our Village that track the variant editions of these texts to help model their transformation. We will continue to expand and study the networks of correspondence and co-citation that we have published here as we continue researching the locations of Mitford’s manuscripts, and we hope to prepare dynamic, interactive views of the networks that help guide our site visitors in navigating our archive as a web linking letters and literary texts, and as a database of information about nineteenth-century people, characters, and titles.

Preparing an archive like the Digital Mitford requires building an information architecture that supports the life of a scholarly community and that is accessible to new generations of readers. Such construction requires the care of a dedicated team with a long-range perspective. By prioritizing systematic and transferrable methods of editing and text encoding, and by documenting our work carefully, we hope to engage visitors interested in Mitford as well as new contributors – students, editors, and consultants – who seek learning opportunities in working with manuscripts and learning to represent cultural artifacts in code. Our database of editions may serve to establish the place (p.193) for Mitford that her biographer, W. J. Roberts, was so sure she had earned on the strength of her reading public, and in the process may offer a detailed view of the centrality of reading and writing in the daily life of Mitford’s extensive network.

Bibliography

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Addison, Catherine. ‘Gender and Genre in Mary Russell Mitford’s Christina’. English Studies in Africa: A Journal of the Humanities 41.2 (1998).

Beshero-Bondar, Elisa. ‘Mitford vs. Hemans: Resisting the “Omnipotence of Words” in Dramatic Romance and Romantic Drama’. Literature Compass 10.5 (2013).

—. ‘Romancing the Pacific Isles before Byron: Music, Sex, and Death in Mitford’s Christina’. ELH 76.2 (2009).

—. Women, Epic, and Transition in British Romanticism. Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware Press, 2011.

Booth, Alison. ‘Revisiting the Homes and Haunts of Mary Russell Mitford’. Nineteenth-Century Contexts 30.1 (2008).

Breen, Jennifer. Women Romantics 1785–1832: Writing in Prose. London, Everyman, 1996.

Broomfield, Andrea and Sally Mitchell, eds. Prose by Victorian Women: An Anthology. New York: Routledge, 1996.

The Brownings’ Correspondence: An Online Edition. Wedgestone Press, 2016. Accessed 23 August 2016. http://browningscorrespondence.com.

Burwick, Frederick. Playing to the Crowd: London Popular Theatre, 1780–1830. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Chorley, Henry, ed. Letters of Mary Russell Mitford, second series. 2 vols. London: Richard Bentley and son, 1872.

Coles, William Allan. The Correspondence of Mary Russell Mitford and Thomas Noon Talfourd (1821–1825). Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1956.

—. ‘Magazine and Other Contributions by Mary Russell Mitford and Thomas Noon Talfourd’. Studies in Bibliography 12 (1959).

—. ‘Mary Russell Mitford: the Inauguration of a Literary Career’. Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 40 (September 1957).

Creech, Melinda. ‘Armstrong Browning Library Benefactors Day 2013 Exhibit’. Armstrong Browning Library and Museum. 16 October 2013. Accessed 24 August 2016. http://blogs.baylor.edu/armstrongbrowning/tag/mary-russell-mitford.

Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Edwards, Peter David. Idyllic Realism from Mary Russell Mitford to Hardy. Basing-stoke: Macmillan, 1988.

Folsom, Ed. ‘Database as Genre: The Epic Transformation of Archives’, PMLA 122.5 (2007).

(p.194) Halsey, Katie. ‘“Tell Me of Some Booklings”: Mary Russell Mitford’s Female Literary Networks’, Women’s Writing 18.1 (2011).

Helsinger, Elizabeth K. Rural Scenes and National Representation: Britain, 1815–1850. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997.

Hoagwood, Terence and Kathryn Ledbetter. ‘Colour’d Shadows’: Contexts in Publishing, Printing, and Reading Nineteenth-Century British Women Writers. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

L’Estrange, A. G., ed. The Friendships of Mary Russell Mitford, as Recorded in Letters from her Literary Correspondents. 2 vols. London: Hurst and Blackett, 1882.

—. ed. The Life of Mary Russell Mitford, Related in a Selection from her Letters to her Friends. 3 vols. London: Richard Bentley, 1870.

—. The Literary Life of the Rev. William Harness. London: Hurst and Blackett, 1871.

Lynch, Deidre. ‘Homes and Haunts: Austen’s and Mitford’s English Idylls’, PMLA 115.5 (2000).

McDonagh, Josephine. ‘Rethinking Provincialism in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Fiction: Our Village to Villette’. Victorian Studies 55.3 (2013).

McGann, Jerome J., ed. The New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Mitford, Mary Russell to William Elford, 3 January 1810, Reading Central Library.

—. to George Mitford, 4 April 1810, qB/TU/MIT, Vol. 1, ff. 43, Reading Central Library.

—. to Richard Benyon, June 1822, D/EZ 25, Berkshire Record Office.

—. to S. Hamilton, 9 April 1823, qB/TU/MIT, Vol. 4, ff. 468, Reading Central Library.

—. to Thomas Noon Talfourd, undated/apparently 1828, English MS 665 (R69047), 35, John Rylands Library.

—. ‘The Two Magpies’, The Juvenile Keepsake, ed. Thomas Roscoe. London: Hurst, Chance & Co., 1830.

Moretti, Franco. Graphs, Maps, Trees. London: Verso Books, 2005.

—. Distant Reading. London: Verso Books, 2013.

Morrison, Kevin A. ‘Foregrounding Nationalism: Mary Russell Mitford’s Our Village and the Effects of Publication Context’. European Romantic Review 19.3 (2008).

—. ‘Modulating Narrative Voice: Mary Russell Mitford’s Sketches of Rural Character’. Women’s Writing 22.4 (2015).

Pietropoli, Cecilia. ‘The Tale of the Two Foscaris from the Chronicles to the Historical Drama: Mary Mitford’s Foscari and Lord Byron’s The Two Foscari’, British Romanticism and Italian Literature: Translating, Reviewing, Rewriting, ed. Laura Bandiera and Diego Saglia. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005.

Price, Kenneth M. ‘Edition, Project, Database, Archive, Thematic Research Collection: What’s in a Name?’ Digital Humanities Quarterly 3:3 (2009).

Raisanen, Elizabeth. ‘“Speech / Is Your Fit Weapon”: Mary Russell Mitford’s Rienzi and the Gendering of Speech Acts’, European Romantic Review 22.2 (2011).

(p.195) Roberts, J. W. Mary Russell Mitford: The Tragedy of a Blue Stocking. London: A. Melrose, 1913.

Robertson, Fiona, ed. Women’s Writing 1778–1838: An Anthology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Saglia, Diego. ‘Mediterranean Unrest: 1820s Verse Tragedies and Revolutions in the South’. Romanticism 11.1 (2005).

—. Poetic Castles in Spain: British Romanticism and Figurations of Iberia. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000.

—. ‘Public and Private in Women’s Romantic Poetry: Spaces, Gender, Genre in Mary Russell Mitford’s Blanch’. Women’s Writing 5.3 (1998).

—. ‘When Mitford Met Baillie: Theatre, Sociability and the Networks of Women’s Romantic Drama,’ Women’s Romantic Theatre and Drama: History, Agency, and Performativity, ed. Lilla Maria Crisafulli and Keir Elam. Farnham, England: Ashgate, 2010.

Swartz, Richard G. ‘Wordsworth, Copyright, and the Commodities of Genius’. Modern Philology 89:4 (1992).

Text Encoding Initiative. TEI: Text Encoding Initiative. Accessed 15 June 2016. http://tei-c.org/index.xml.

Watson, Vera. Mary Russell Mitford. London: Evans Brothers Limited, 1949.

Notes:

(1) The authors gratefully acknowledge the generous help of Gregory Bondar in crosschecking and correcting our data on Mitford’s correspondents in the database he maintains for the Digital Mitford project as we prepared this chapter.

(2) The draft lecture is catalogued as ‘Reference stock’ in the Local Studies Mitford Collection at Reading Central Library under the very general call number B/TU/MIT.

(3) W. J. Roberts, Mary Russell Mitford: The tragedy of a blue stocking (London: A. Melrose, 1913).

(4) In part this is because there are no family restrictions limiting scholarly access to the papers, but also because the Reading Central librarians have permitted and encouraged our editing team to publish our own photographs of the Mitford manuscripts they hold, due to the lack of a budget for staff photography.

(5) See especially Diego Saglia, ‘Mediterranean Unrest: 1820s Verse Tragedies and Revolutions in the South’, Romanticism 11.1 (2005): pp. 99–113 and ‘When Mitford Met Baillie: Theatre, Sociability and the Networks of Women’s Romantic Drama’, in Women’s Romantic Theatre and Drama: History, Agency, and Performativity, ed. Lilla Maria Crisafulli and Keir Elam (Farnham, England: Ashgate, 2010) pp. 123–45 among other articles by Saglia. See also Elizabeth Raisanen, ‘“Speech / Is Your Fit Weapon”: Mary Russell Mitford’s Rienzi and the Gendering of Speech Acts’, European Romantic Review 22.2 (2011): pp. 209–33; Frederick Burwick, ‘Foscari: Mitford’s Dramaturgy of the Unspoken and Unexplained’, in Playing to the Crowd: London Popular Theatre, 1780–1830 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) pp. 87–100; and Elisa Beshero-Bondar, ‘Mitford vs. Hemans: Resisting the “Omnipotence of Words”, in Dramatic Romance and Romantic Drama’. Literature Compass 10.5 (2013): pp. 407–20.

(6) See especially Deidre Lynch, ‘Homes and Haunts: Austen’s and Mitford’s English Idylls’, PMLA 115.5 (2000): pp. 1103–8; Alison Booth, ‘Revisiting the Homes and Haunts of Mary Russell Mitford’, Nineteenth-Century Contexts 30.1 (2008): pp. 39–65; and Josephine McDonagh. ‘Rethinking Provincialism in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Fiction: Our Village to Villette’, Victorian Studies 55.3 (2013): pp. 399–424.

(7) Cecilia Pietropoli, ‘The Tale of the Two Foscaris from the Chronicles to the Historical Drama; Mary Mitford’s Foscari and Lord Byron’s The Two Foscari’, in British Romanticism and Italian Literature: Translating, Reviewing, Rewriting, ed. Laura Bandiera and Diego Saglia (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005) pp. 209–20; and Elisa Beshero-Bondar, ‘Mary Russell Mitford on Lord Byron’s New and Old World Territories’, in Women, Epic, and Transition in British Romanticism (Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware Press, 2011) pp. 125–68.

(8) Kevin A. Morrison, ‘Foregrounding Nationalism: Mary Russell Mitford’s Our Village and the Effects of Publication Context’, European Romantic Review 19.3 (2008): pp. 275–87 and ‘Modulating Narrative Voice: Mary Russell Mitford’s Sketches of Rural Character’, Women’s Writing 22.4 (2015): pp. 505–24.

(9) Terence Hoagwood and Kathryn Ledbetter, ‘Colour’d Shadows’: Contexts in Publishing, Printing, and Reading Nineteenth-Century British Women Writers (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) pp. 76–93 and Katie Halsey, ‘“Tell Me of Some Booklings”: Mary Russell Mitford’s Female Literary Networks’, Women’s Writing 18.1 (2011): pp. 121–36.

(10) Ed Folsom, ‘Database as Genre: The Epic Transformation of Archives’, PMLA 122:5 (2007): pp. 1571–9; and Kenneth M. Price, ‘Edition, Project, Database, Archive, Thematic Research Collection: What’s in a Name?’ Digital Humanities Quarterly 3:3 (2009): pars. 18–21.

(11) The TEI Consortium is a collective body representing scholars from around the world who maintain and edit its Guidelines. As specified on the TEI website, the Guidelines, first established in 1994, ‘specify encoding methods for machine-readable texts, chiefly in the humanities, social sciences and linguistics’ and are ‘widely used by libraries, museums, publishers, and individual scholars to present texts for online research, teaching, and preservation’. See http://tei-c.org/index.xml. On the human contexts of databases, see Price, ‘Edition’, par. 21.

(12) ‘Distant reading’ involves applying computational processing to large corpora and investigating patterns from far away as an alternative to ‘close reading’, and the two methods can be used together productively: Distant reading can mark out bodies of writing outside traditional canons of literary study and suggest new areas to direct the detailed micro-level analyses of close reading. Franco Moretti introduced the term in Distant Reading, New York: Verso Books, 2013. Moretti was also one of the first to discuss Mary Russell Mitford’s work in the context of Digital Humanities in Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History (New York: Verso, 2005), 38–42.

(13) A stalwart champion of authors, Talfourd’s friendship with and advocacy for William Wordsworth is also featured in Richard G. Swartz, ‘Wordsworth, Copyright, and the Commodities of Genius’, Modern Philology 89:4 (1992) pp. 482–509.

(14) William Allan Coles produced extremely important scholarship on Mitford’s papers and periodical publications in the 1950s in his efforts to document Mitford’s and Talfourd’s friendship. See his ‘Mary Russell Mitford: the Inauguration of a Literary Career’, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 40 (September 1957) pp. 33–46 and ‘Magazine and Other Contributions by Mary Russell Mitford and Thomas Noon Talfourd’, Studies in Bibliography 12 (1959) pp. 219–27. His Harvard University dissertation of 1956, The Correspondence of Mary Russell Mitford and Thomas Noon Talfourd (1821–1825) represents the first scholarly edition of a selection of Mitford’s correspondence to Thomas Noon Talfourd working with papers housed at Harvard University and the John Rylands Library in Manchester. His largely unsung, meticulous scholarly efforts together with those of Francis Needham, the librarian of the Duke of Wellington in the first half of the twentieth century who left many handwritten notes in the Reading Central Library archive documenting local people and places in Mitford’s world laid a strong foundation for the Digital Mitford project for which we are very grateful indeed.

(15) For example, describing the agony of Mitford’s ‘success’ following the acceptances of four of her plays for performances at Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres, and the subsequent delays and quarrels with actors and theatre managers and their evasion of payments owed to her, Coles writes, ‘From the letters emerges an unsurpassed picture of the theatrical conditions under which the old drama finally toppled, and they also remind us that the dark night of the soul is not restricted to the major writer alone’ (‘Inauguration’, p. 36). From Cole’s perspective, coming from Harvard in the 1950s and looking at the very start of Mitford’s literary career, Mitford was not a ‘major writer,’ at least not yet, but her very successes seemed regularly to dash her expectations.

(16) Roberts describes her painstaking efforts in launching her literary career as tragically misdirected effort, ‘all that a worthless father may be shielded and the real cause of the trouble be obscured’ (pp. 282–3), and Vera Watson, too, blames Mitford’s hard work as the fault of her father: ‘He was always there to vitiate her efforts and to make her task doubly difficult’, in Mary Russell Mitford (London: Evans Brothers Limited, 1949) p. 136.

(17) Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987) pp. 3–25, see especially pp. 21–5 on rhizomes forming social networks.

(18) First published separately in The Lady’s Magazine beginning in 1819, Mitford’s prose fiction sketches on rural life were collected in book form in Our Village, which ran to five editions between 1824 and 1832 with each new edition adding to the number of sketches and the number of volumes in the collection.

(19) The Browning’s Correspondence: An Online Edition. Wedgestone Press, 2016. browning-scorrespondence.com. Accessed 23 August 2016.

(20) The Life of Mary Russell Mitford, related in a selection from her letters to her friends, ed. A. G. L’Estrange, 3 vols. (London: Richard Bentley, 1870), hereafter referenced as Life. An American edition in two volumes was produced by Harper Brothers in New York in the same year. Letters of Mary Russell Mitford, second series, ed. Henry Chorley, 2 vols. (London: Richard Bentley and son, 1872). The Friendships of Mary Russell Mitford, as recorded in letters from her literary correspondents, ed. A. G. L’Estrange, 2 vols. (London: Hurst and Blackett, 1882), hereafter referenced as Friendships.

(21) For example, in a letter of 23 March 1868 to L’Estrange, Harness writes ‘We must shorten the early part of Miss Mitford’s life to bring it into proportion with the latter part. This can easily be done by leaving out some of the poetry, and cutting shorter her letters to Sir W. Elford; or rather abridging those epistles into letters’, in A. G. L’Estrange, The Literary Life of the Rev. William Harness (London: Hurst and Blackett, 1871) p. 293. See L’Estrange’s selection of Harness’s letters connected with their preparing the Mitford edition, in which Harness communicates his memories of the Mitford family as well as suggestions to alter her letters: pp. 255–306.

(22) Three sketches from Our Village are anthologized here: the pair ‘Frost’ and ‘Thaw’ and ‘The First Primrose’ in Fiona Robertson, ed., Women’s Writing 1778–1838: An Anthology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001) pp. 392–8.

(23) Mitford’s ‘Song’ with first line ‘The fairest things are those which live’ from her first publication, Poems (1810), appears in Jerome J. McGann, ed., The New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993) p. 293.

(24) Jennifer Breen, Women Romantics 1785–1832: Writing in Prose (London, Everyman, 1996) pp. 200–4, notes 266–7.

(25) The selection of Mitford’s writings, with an introduction to Mitford appears as the opening section of this anthology, still in print and available in digital form: Andrea Broomfield and Sally Mitchell, eds., Prose by Victorian Women: An Anthology (New York: Routledge, 1996) pp. 1–32. According to Samantha Webb in an e-mail message to Kellie Donovan-Condron of 3 June 2016, ‘The Wood’ was originally titled ‘Woodcutting’ in April 1823 Lady’s Magazine and vastly revised for Our Village second series (1826).

(26) Peter David Edwards’ Idyllic Realism from Mary Russell Mitford to Hardy (Basingstoke: Macmillan 1988) launched a long-running discussion of Our Village as defining the terms for idyllic fiction in the Victorian era, and later writers have addressed and responded to Edwards’ claims, gradually giving Mitford increasing attention as a writer responding in complicated ways to the social issues of her region of Berkshire in the 1820s. See especially Elizabeth K. Helsinger who devotes a chapter to contrasting Our Village unfavorably with William Cobbett’s Rural Rides in Rural Scenes and National Representation: Britain, 1815–1850 (Princeton University Press, 1997) pp. 103–40. More recent criticism has responded to limited contextual frames of reference in these early pieces and has tended to critique the Our Village sketches in more detail and with more specific attention to their rendering of local walkable landscapes and to their publishing history from journals to decorative books as a complicating factor in interpreting their politics. See Moretti, Graphs pp. 38–42, which was significant as the first treatment of Mitford’s work in a digital humanities context to attempt a digital mapping of the structure of walks in Our Village. See also Lynch pp. 1103–8; Morrison, ‘Foregrounding’ as well as ‘Modulating’; and McDonagh pp. 399–424.

(27) Preliminary work by Romanticists calling attention to Mitford’s narrative poetry included Catherine Addison, ‘Gender and Genre in Mary Russell Mitford’s Christina’, English Studies in Africa: A Journal of the Humanities 41.2 (1998): pp. 1–21; Diego Saglia, ‘Public and Private in Women’s Romantic Poetry: Spaces, Gender, Genre in Mary Russell Mitford’s Blanch’, Women’s Writing 5.3 (1998): pp. 405–19 and ‘The Spanish Princess as Domestic Heroine: Constance de Castile and Blanch of Aledo’, in his Poetic Castles in Spain: British Romanticism and Figurations of Iberia (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000) pp. 204–25; and Elisa Beshero-Bondar, ‘Romancing the Pacific Isles before Byron: Music, Sex, and Death in Mitford’s Christina’, ELH 76.2 (2009): pp. 277–308. For more Romanticist work on Mitford turning attention to her dramas, see footnote 5 above.

(28) See note 20 above.

(29) We created the network graphs using Cytoscape, an open source software originally designed for biological networks of molecular interaction but adapted for network analysis in humanities and social sciences for its optimized customization of graphics and production of legible plots.

(30) The Digital Mitford database currently contains photos of letters across the arc of Mitford’s life representing the Reading Central Library and the John Rylands Library collections. Our survey of the letters in this section is based on our photofacsimiles as well as excerpts from them as published in L’Estrange’s Life and Henry Chorley’s Letters. See L’Estrange Life 1: pp. 14–28.

(31) Mitford’s letter to Elford of 3 January 1810 in the Reading Central Library.

(32) Mitford’s letter to George Mitford of 4 April 1810 in the Reading Central Library.

(33) L’Estrange identifies the subject as Haydon’s study for the head of St. Peter, Life 2:95.

(34) Letter at the Berkshire Record Office.

(35) Letter at Reading Central Library.

(36) Letter in the John Rylands Library.

(37) Mary Russell Mitford, ‘The Two Magpies’ in The Juvenile Keepsake, ed. Thomas Roscoe (London: Hurst, Chance & Co., 1830) pp. 95–100. Accessed on Google Books 27 July 2016.

(38) Melinda Creech, ‘Armstrong Browning Library Benefactors Day 2013 Exhibit,’ Armstrong Browning Library and Museum, 16 October 2013, https://blogs.baylor.edu/armstrongbrowning/tag/mary-russell-mitford. Accessed 2 October 2017.

(39) As we prepare this chapter for press in September 2016, new data from the Digital Mitford team is expanding our view of Mitford’s female network. In addition to those represented here, we have traced 16 more letters from Mitford to Jephson, as well as 18 letters from Frances Trollope to Mitford, ten letters from Catherine Maria Sedgwick to Mitford, and six from Barbara Hofland.

(40) XQuery is a programming language based on XPath, a syntax for navigating XML-encoded documents, including TEI documents.

(41) We set our filter to show 32 people as a legible sample and because above the threshold of these 32, the nodes were of significantly lower degree. This number appeared to be a good threshold for visualizing the most popularly referenced individuals in Mitford’s writing that we have coded so far.