Elizabeth Oldfather responds to Jacob Henry Leveton
How wonderful to read an art historian’s reaction to the visual materials Newman provides, which are invaluable in creating a concrete mental locus for his conceptual claims about tavern culture. I wholeheartedly echo Leveton’s call for more work in this vein. Newman’s book already provides a bibliography of past studies centering sites that range from the bookshop to the beau monde (32), as well as a chapter building on Christina Parolin’s work on the linked “radical spaces” of Newgate Prison and the Crown and Anchor. Still, it is fascinating how Newman’s spatially-oriented work so naturally invites us to wander not only as time-traveling tourists, but also into potential research connections. Where Leveton’s thoughts wandered from tavern to factory, I wondered how Newman’s project might link with research I’ve been encountering recently on the Transatlantic networks and “spaces” of enslavement and abolition. Given the association of certain taverns with radical politics, and the shared circles of radical political writers and abolitionists, there surely must be a great deal to tease out here; I even found a direct tavern connection in J.R. Oldfield’s Transatlantic Abolitionism in the Age of Revolution: the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, which began in a meeting of Quaker activists at the Rising Sun Tavern in Philadelphia (15). London abolitionist societies, however, do not seem to have met at taverns – might this indicate a difference between American and British tavern culture, or is the Philadelphia event an outlier? Connections and questions like these make me wish for some kind of conceptual mega-map of Romantic social spaces, perhaps a digital project, that would let us not only deep-dive into one space and its cultures, but also reveal the linking figures, the literal spatial proximities, and the who-dined-with-whom’s. (Let’s not get into questions of who would host such a map, especially considering the image rights issues.) Even if this act of mega-mapping has to remain the province of imagination, though, The Romantic Tavern offers a salutary reminder of the limitations of purely text-bound approaches to the study of literary culture.
Back to Forum