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Palgrave Macmillan

Melancholy and Literary Biography, 1640-1816

ISBN 9781137271099
Publication Date June 2013
Formats Ebook (PDF) Ebook (EPUB) Hardcover 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

This book offers an original account of the development of literary biography in the long eighteenth century and reveals different ways in which biographers probed the inner life through writers' melancholy. The first half tracks the unstable status of melancholy in biographical writing from Walton to Johnson in the context of changing medical and theological understanding of the condition.

The second half focuses on biographical experimentation of the 1790s. Two case studies, Godwin's Memoirs of Wollstonecraft and Currie's Life of Burns, are examples of a significant if short-lived genre: philosophical biography. The dispassionate exploration of melancholy in these new secular biographies renders obsolete older notions of the 'dignity' of biography. Anxieties about the increasingly intrusive nature of the genre intensify over Hayley's Life of Cowper, coming to a head in 1816 with Wordsworth's impassioned critique of literary biography and the scandal caused by Cowper's posthumously published conversion narrative Adelphi.

Jane Darcy teaches English at University College London, UK, where she held a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Introduction
PART I: JOHNSON, MELANCHOLY AND EARLY LITERARY BIOGRAPHY, 1640-1791
1. Early Literary Biographies: Walton's Donne to Sprat's Cowley

2. Johnson, Melancholy and Biography
3. Eighteenth-century Melancholy: Boswell and Cheyne, The English Malady
PART II: MELANCHOLY AND BIOGRAPHICAL EXPERIMENTATION AROUND 1800
4. Philosophical Biography (1): Godwin's Memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft
5. Philosophical Biography (2): Currie's Life of Burns
6. Religious Melancholy: Hayley's Life of Cowper
Conclusion
Notes

Bibliography








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