- General Materials
Five books are featured in the general materials section. The first is a collection whose methodological investment in animal studies has a heuristic potential that extends beyond the work of those poets discussed in two of the volume's subsequent essays. The second is an anthology of occasional Scottish verse originally published in two newspapers for "the people" in and around Dundee. The three monographs reviewed here investigate the discourse of republicanism expressed through poetic figurations of soul, the always-already racialized figure of the Poetess, and the variety of counterintuitive lyric responses to modernity employed by aesthetic poets.
Building on prior work—in critical theory, most notably Jacques Derrida's "The Animal That Therefore I Am" (2002); history, including Harriet Ritvo's The Animal Estate (1987) and Moira Ferguson's Animal Advocacy and Englishwomen, 1780–1900 (1997); and literary studies, in the form of Tess Coslett's Talking Animals in British Children's Fiction, 1786–1914 (2006) and Gina Dorré's Victorian Fiction and the Cult of the Horse (2006)—and seeking to emulate the effect of Deborah Denenholz Morse and Martin A. Danahay's influential Victorian Animal Dreams (2007), Laurence W. Mazzeno and Ronald D. Morrison have edited Animals in Victorian Literature and Culture (Palgrave, 2017). In their introduction, Mazzeno and Morrison provide a cogent overview of the origins and current state of animal studies as both a general field and a methodology adopted by an increasing number of Victorian scholars. Readers of Victorian poetry will be especially interested in two of the twelve essays that follow. Chapter 10, John Miller's "Creatures on the 'Night-Side of Nature': James Thomson's Melancholy Ethics," investigates the "disproportionate interest in predatory and abject creatures in Thomson's writing" (p. 191). Appropriately assigning pride of place to The City of Dreadful Night (1874), Miller ranges widely through Thomson's other poetry and essays, as well as early biographies of the troubled author, to reconstruct both the "horizontalizing force to Thomson's counter-anthropocenic discourse of species" and "the organic flow between human and nonhuman [that] is central to the idea [End Page 331] of sympathy that Thomson's writing consistently returns to" (pp. 199, 205). Next in the collection is chapter 11, "'Come Buy, Come Buy!': Christina Rossetti and the Victorian Animal Market," by Jed Mayer, for whom three wombats—one encountered by William Michael and Christina Rossetti at the London Zoo, one owned and called "Top" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and one featured in line 75 of Christina Rossetti's most famous poem—serve as a collective point of entry into the complex interplay of spectatorship, desire, prostitution, and the exotic animal trade within "Goblin Market." According to Mayer, the "zoomorphic imagery of Rossetti's poem juxtaposes predator with prey, the wild with the domestic, to create a kind of fairy tale bestiary in which the sexes are divided along species lines" (p. 222).
Animals both literal and figurative also appear within the poems chosen by Kirstie Blair for inclusion within The Poets of the People's Journal: Newspaper Poetry in Victorian Scotland (Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 2016). For instance, "Kale Wurms" (pp. 52–53) and "A Tale of a Whale" (pp. 84–86) render, the former in mock-heroic couplets and the latter via a singular end rhyme (appropriately, āl, as in "whale"), their respective encounters with larval Lepidoptera and a stranded Cetacean; "The Trappit Mouse" (pp. 189–90) recalls Robert Burns in its shift from actual Rodentia to a "hunted, hung'red human mouse"; while "The Dogs of War" waxes more metaphoric in its dismay after the 1880 general election. As Blair notes in her introduction, the full text of newspapers such as the Dundee, Perth and Forfar People's Journal, as well as its companion miscellany the People's Friend, are increasingly available online. In our ever-more-digitized environment, the success of a print anthology of 104 poems from the former and fourteen poems from the latter in giving "a sense of the concerns of Scottish and British regional newspaper verse more broadly, while retaining a tight focus that enables careful contextualization of the poems in relation to...