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Clandestine Marriage

Botany and Romantic Culture

Theresa M. Kelley

Publication Year: 2012

Romanticism was a cultural and intellectual movement characterized by discovery, revolution, and the poetic as well as by the philosophical relationship between people and nature. Botany sits at the intersection where romantic scientific and literary discourses meet. Clandestine Marriage explores the meaning and methods of how plants were represented and reproduced in scientific, literary, artistic, and material cultures of the period. Theresa M. Kelley synthesizes romantic debates about taxonomy and morphology, the contemporary interest in books and magazines devoted to plant study and images, and writings by such authors as Mary Wollstonecraft and Anna Letitia Barbauld. Color illustrations of flower paintings from the time bring her argument and the romantics' passion for plants to life. In addition to exploring botanic thought and practice in the context of British romanticism, Kelley also looks to the German philosophical traditions of Kant, Hegel, and Goethe and to Charles Darwin’s reflections on orchids and plant pollination. Her interdisciplinary approach allows a deeper understanding of a time when exploration of the natural world was a culture-wide enchantment.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Cover, Title Page, Copyright

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List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

My work on the book has received generous support, beginning with fellowships from the University of Texas at Austin, the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center. At the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the Marjorie and Lorin Tiefenthaler Fund, the English Department, the...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xi

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-16

Writing in 1700 about Darien, the site of an early and soon abandoned Scottish colony in Panama, the botanist James Wallace insisted on a confusion that narratives of imperial conquest and taxonomic mastery rarely specify, except as a prompt to greater efforts to create a taxonomic home and name for those plants that seem...

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2. Botanical Matters

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pp. 17-51

Published after three centuries of European exploration and taxonomic activity around the globe, Henri Baillon’s exhaustive classification of the Euphorbia, a large plant family with many exotic species and genera, offers the extraordinary admission, quoted above, that “it is the struggle . . . against infinite nature.” Precisely...

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3. Botany’s Publics and Privates

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pp. 52-89

In January 1814, the month and year in which Wordsworth and others wrote poems of thanksgiving for Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, someone who signed himself as Botanicus sent to an unidentified correspondent a copy of a letter addressed to Josephine, whom Botanicus rather unnecessarily describes as the “ex Empress” of...

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4. Botanizing Women

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pp. 90-125

Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues’s sixteenth-century drawing titled “A Young Daughter of the Picts” and J. J. Grandville’s mid-nineteenth-century caricatures of women as flowers convey in snapshot a long iconographic tradition that personified women as flowering plants and becomes, at the far end of this tradition, the logic behind the...

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5. Clare’s Commonable Plants

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pp. 126-158

For John Clare in the 1820s and Richard Mabey writing 150 years later, thinking about plants means, as Mabey puts it in the second of these passages, “beating the bounds” to mark how plants are distinctive in themselves and in habitat. Mabey’s recognition that he made, rather than found, his sense of place in the Chilterns...

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INTERLUDE ONE: Mala’s Garden: A Caribbean Interlude

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pp. 159-161

Set on a Caribbean island modeled on Trinidad, sometime near the end of the colonial era, Shani Mootoo’s novel Cereus Blooms at Night, quoted above, imagines a Caribbean garden where the taxonomic names used to classify exotic plants for European readers have become oddly redundant. Mala Ramchandin is a descendant...

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6. Reading Matter and Paint

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pp. 162-209

In these lines from “Design of a Treatise on the Plants of India,” Sir William Jones declared what Indian and English readers in Calcutta and those back in England and on the Continent knew to be the case: the British who botanized in India did so for imperial gain, both scientific and economic. This bifurcation appears...

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INTERLUDE TWO: A Romantic Garden: Shelley on Vitality and Decay

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pp. 210-215

Two poems Percy Shelley wrote near the end of his life, The Sensitive-Plant (1820) and the unfinished Triumph of Life (1822), dramatize the embodied life and death of plants. I use the phrase embodied life to refer to material forms of life without claiming that those forms can be separated from mechanical or nonvital processes...

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7. Restless Romantic Plants and Philosophers

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pp. 216-245

Read against each other, the above quotations—two from Hegel, one from Goethe— bristle with differences that separate Goethe’s view of plant nature from Hegel’s claim that it must be subordinated to Spirit. Although the two writers are hardly the only ones in the romantic era to consider the nature of plant nature, their...

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8. Conclusion

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pp. 246-262

Richard Mabey’s reminiscence in Nature Cure of plant hunting with friends in the Cévennes in southwestern France begins here and then returns, in echoing folds of seductive prose, to the impulse to identify and name orchids—species of the Orchis genus—as though in naming them one might for a moment fix identities...


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pp. 263-297


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pp. 299-323


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pp. 325-342

E-ISBN-13: 9781421407609
E-ISBN-10: 1421407604
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421405179
Print-ISBN-10: 1421405172

Page Count: 392
Illustrations: 49 color illus.
Publication Year: 2012