Update on the Database of Victorian Periodical Poetry
Posted by Alison Chapman
We’ve currently got 3,102 poems in the database and 1, 094 poets. Thanks to the sharp coding skills of UVic’s HCMC (and specifically of Stewart Arneil), images of many of the poems appear in the search results now (we’ll be adding more poems in the next couple of months). These show the full page context of the periodical poem and any illustration. The search function has also been enhanced to offer a wide permutation of search terms: a keyword “simple” search (that operates much like a “google” search of the database); or searching (by one or a combination of) periodical title, author, poem title, gender of poet, date range, unsigned/anonymous poems, nationality of poet, translator, original language, and illustrator.
Poets whose information has been recently updated include a wide range of names, from occasional poets (who were often reader-contributors of the periodical, as found in the “Brown Owl” section of Atalanta), prolific periodical poets who are largely unknown to us today (e.g. Edward Capern’s contributions to Good Words), co-authors (such as Menella Bute Smedley and her sister Elizabeth Anna Hart), pseudonymous poets (“By a Railway Surfaceman” is a compelling example), and more canonical Victorian poets (including Sydney Dobell, Charles [Tennyson] Turner William Morris, Edith Nesbit, Augusta Webster, and Rosamund Marriott Watson). While the biographical information for many periodical poets can be uncovered (the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, the Orlando Project, and Catherine W. Reilly’s bibliographies have been some of the essential tools for this detective work), there are poets about whom little will probably ever be known. In particular, those who published with initials (a common practice in periodical poetry publishing) are tricky to identify, and there are many, many of them (A. D., A. E. G., A. H. J., A. F., A. B. H., A. L., A. M. ‘K, A. M. ‘L……..and these are just some examples from those poets whose initials begin with “A”). That being said, if you do know anything about any of the authors unidentified in the database, I should be very glad to hear from you!
Searching for the identities of poets aside, a more important aspect of the range of poets represented in the Database — which currently aims to offer only a representative sample of the periodicals that published poetry in the Victorian period — is what it tells us about the culture of Victorian poetry, about what was popularly consumed, about changing trends in poetry publishing, and about shifts in the kinds of poetry illustration. For example, currently the Database has 857 poems known to be by women and 1,191 known to be by men. While this number (and probably also the ratio) will change as we gather more information, the Database will make possible quantitative data about Victorian poetry, and make accessible the poetry and illustrations themselves.
The Update on the Database of Victorian Periodical Poetry by Alison Chapman, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.