- Forget Me Not: The Rise of the British Literary Annual, 1823–1835by Katherine D. Harris
Literary annuals—luxuriously bound volumes of engravings, short fiction, poetry, and essays by a range of well-known and anonymous authors—were published for the yearly holiday market beginning in 1822. Though their popularity waned by mid-century and they were later derided by such arbiters of taste as Middlemarch's Tertius Lydgate (1871–72), they also had tremendous cultural influence, as critics have increasingly demonstrated over the past few decades: literary annuals circulated engravings on an unprecedented scale; they granted authors such as Alfred Tennyson, Felicia Hemans, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, and Walter Scott audiences and incomes; and they created editorial and publishing opportunities for many others. Katherine D. Harris's longstanding, extensive work on the British literary annual includes her hypertextual archive of Rudolf Ackermann's groundbreaking Forget Me Not, (found at http://www.orgs.miamioh.edu/anthologies/FMN/Index.htm), which copied and catalogued important aspects of these still under-studied volumes, allowing viewers to examine engravings, tables of contents, and author or title indices alongside contemporary reviews. Her recent monograph, Forget Me Not: The Rise of the British Literary Annual, 1823–1835, which draws on the same body of work, shares its generous approach. Most of its sixty-three figures hail from the Katherine D. Harris Collection. The considerable reproduction of engravings, presentation plates, title pages, front boards, slipcases, bindings, and tables of contents from the annuals make this book a rich repository for those wishing to familiarize themselves with this once widely admired genre. Appendices of British and American titles, contributors, editors and publishers, and full texts of cited materials contribute to making Harris's Forget Me Nota central critical resource for scholars of this period.
The volume's wide coverage is one of its many strengths. Harris approaches the annuals from "an integrated theoretical stance of bibliography (the science of books) and textual criticism (the theory of books)," offering her readers insights about the physical, material object as well as analysis of its written content (7). The study includes effective discussions of the annuals' visual components, publication history, and prefatory materials. Chapter 7, which makes a case for the feminization of literary annuals, considers such diverse elements as their bindings (the red watered silk of the Keepsake"producing [End Page 316]a textual object … from materials normally used for a woman's skirt" ); Charles Lamb's "'shock[ing]'" poem "The Gypsy Malison," excised by editor Thomas Hood from the 1829 Gemin favor of a more "sympathetic" and conventional prose replacement (234, 235); and, in the 1827 Friendship's Offering, the conflicting ways that two poets, Hemans and James Bird, rendered a single engraving titled "The Brigand" (251–54). Harris's comparative work, whether within or across individual volumes, is frequently compelling. Part of chapter 1, on Ackermann, traces a tale, Mimili, from its original publication in a German magazine, to its author's subsequent publication of an annual pocket-book Vergissmeinnicht( Forget Me Not) named after the heroine's flower, to Ackermann's own annual Forget Me Notand its inclusion of a "translated, condensed" version of the same story (50). In chapter 2, which largely examines genre considerations, Harris explores similarities in visual presentation and written content between a Forget Me Notand a French volume, Hommage aux Dames, to note the ways in which these titles "seem to have been in communication, jumping geographical boundaries with mimicked format and more" (103). She also considers Spanish-language versions and translations of British annuals. The thoroughness with which Harris situates literary annuals in their broader nineteenth-century publishing world is both impressive and informative.
The book's broad scope, however, also contributes to some of its limitations. The absence of clear through-lines results in part from the variety of topics this volume brings together, but it is also a function of ineffective organization which hinders the chapter-level development of sustained arguments and...