Friday, April 27, 2007

my stupid project that I really hate now

After spending a semester with the Bulwer Lyttons, I've discovered that I'm not particularly fond of either of them. In the end I realized that barring a trip to a couple of other libraries – and England – to look at some original documents, there wasn't much point in doing a biography. Based on the sources that I had available, my best guess is that he was abusive and unfaithful, that she was also unfaithful to some degree, and that neither of them cared that much about their children, despite their many protestations to the contrary. Their entire "domestic tragedy," which they played out so publicly, was just a series of sordid attempts to punish and villify each other, in which she was just as mean and vindictive as he was. I really dislike these people.

So, lacking the resources to do a worthwhile biography, I was forced to look for another research topic, which is not a good place to be at the end of the semester. A week before my term paper was due, I was in Victoria's office, talking about the research I had done, and trying to find a way that I could still use some of it to write a paper. One week later, I was back in her office, doing the same thing again, because my second-choice topic hadn't worked out either. I finally turned the paper in, about ten days late and three pages short, and I'm pretty sure I accidentally left the words "title goes here" as the title. I ended up writing about one of Rosina's roman a clef novels, and why she wrote it as a novel of sentiment at a time (1839) when the sentimental novel was well and truly dead. In my paper I talked about how writing a novel of sentiment enabled her to make the characters hyperbolically virtuous or villainous, and made the improbably ending (the villain dies by falling off his horse!) more acceptable. I think it would be closer to the truth to say that she was just an unimaginative writer, and wrote her novels the same way she wrote her autobiography: by imitating the badly-written novels she had read.

The sad thing is, I still think the biography project is worth doing; I just wasn't able do it well in the time that I had. It's even possible that there's a good paper to be written about her novel, although that's harder to imagine. Maybe I’ll come back to it later.

I should say something about the Victorian Special Collections in my university's library, though: they totally rock. I looked for some of Rosina's novels - which my library has - in WorldCat, to see if I could borrow them from someplace that would let me take them home instead of having to read them in the library. It turns out that many of the editions are available in fewer than ten academic libraries in the world, and some were available in only two or three. So, yay Victorian Collection.

Previous posts about my Bulwer Lytton project:

the Bulwer Lyttons and their fictions
Rosina's story
Edward's story
Rosina + Edward = trouble
Edward and Rosina: the conspiracy theory