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Romantic value and the literary marketplace : Wordsworth, Scott, Shelley and Landon in the Keepsake, 1829 Ferreira, Laila Mary


“Romantic Value and the Literary Marketplace: Wordsworth, Scott, Shelley and Landon in the Keepsake, 1829” is an investigation of mediations of value in the Romantic literary marketplace. I focus on the Keepsake (1828-1855), the most commercially successful and longest running of the nineteenth-century gift-books and annuals. I approach the annual as embodying the flux and intersection of traditional, commercial and aesthetic ideas of value at a time when, according to some, they were well on their way to being established as separate categories. I look in particular at the writings five now canonical Romantic era writers published in the Keepsake: William Wordsworth’s five poems; Walter Scott’s five prose pieces and one play; Mary Shelley’s fifteen short stories as well the original pieces that she contributed on behalf of Percy Shelley; and Letitia Elizabeth Landon’s twelve poems and two short stories. I look at why each writer was drawn, often several times and over many years to the Keepsake as a publication venue. My overall thesis is that these writers engaged with the Keepsake’s refinements of the annual form as an intervention into new forms of virtual sociability made available in the literary marketplace. The literal and virtual exchanges of emotion and sensation facilitated by the Keepsake allowed readers to vicariously experience a variety of values as they were embodied within the Keepsake’s stories, poems and art and by the form of the Keepsake itself. This experience provided the raw materials for writers’ reassessment of definitions and practices of value. I trace how these four writers used the Keepsake to mediate their experiments with aesthetics and commerce, reading and writing in the production of ideas of value that could be mobilized into the future. That the Keepsake offers multiple case studies of Romantic value as a dynamic idea in a state of flux opens interpretive possibilities for a rethinking of how value was understood and practiced in the era, including how ideas of value and forms of writing and print inflected one another.

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