"Not drowning but waving: the preservation of Annie Bonus' 'River-Reeds' (1866)"

Merchant, P. (2017) "Not drowning but waving: the preservation of Annie Bonus' 'River-Reeds' (1866)". In: Sixth International Conference on Literary Juvenilia, 5th-8th July, 2018, St John's College, Durham.

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Abstract of paper delivered on 7.7.18

Annie Bonus’s River-Reeds are the poems of a Victorian teenager, preserved after more than 150 years by the fact of their having appeared in print. They did so anonymously, in 1866; but the publishers, Joseph Masters, were well aware of the author’s identity. She had been on their books since her 1863 début, with Beatrice: A Tale of the Early Christians. They would not have been surprised by her apparent turn in River-Reeds to nature-writing as a vehicle for devotion: “I have always from childhood entertained a great fancy for finding parables in Nature. It has ever been my special delight to frame for myself stories and allegories out of the voiceless things around me, and to discover in the silent insensate life of flower, stream, or sea, lively images of the mysteries of God’s spiritual kingdom.”

Annie Bonus went on to become, as Anna Kingsford, one of the leading lights in the British Spiritualist movement. The celebrity resulting from that, and the interest which those whom it reached then came to feel in tracing Kingsford’s visionary leanings back to her juvenile poetry, further boosted the survival prospects of River-Reeds. The poems themselves may seem pallid in comparison with what was being simultaneously produced, not only in the same area of London but within sight of Bonus’s house, by Gerard Manley Hopkins (who was also first published in 1863). Hopkins’s bold new poetic departures were beyond the Bonus revealed in River-Reeds: a writer still very much bound and beholden to the Brownings and to Tennyson. However, my paper will argue that this harnessing of other poets’ power did not preclude significant imaginative creation on the part of Bonus herself. Furthermore, she is rehearsing in River-Reeds some of the strategies, stances and positions which would subsequently define her as an adult author.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English Literature > PR3991 19th century (1770-1900)
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Humanities
Depositing User: Dr Peter Merchant
Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2018 09:26
Last Modified: 18 Jul 2018 16:17
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/17443

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00