Prof. Anthony Mandal - Cupid’s decorous lanthorn at 200

On Thursday 12th October 2017 we had a joint lecture with the Edinburgh University English Department by Prof. Anthony Mandal on Cupid’s decorous lanthorn at 200: The limits of probability and possibility in Austen and Scott. He was introduced by our Chairman, Prof. Peter Garside.

Welcome to this year’s annual Joint Scott Lecture; and once again on behalf of the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club I’d like to acknowledge the input received from firstly our co-sponsors the English Department at the University of Edinburgh and secondly our hosts the Faculty of Advocates for their generosity in providing (among other things) a room and refreshments. All in all it’s hard to think of a more appropriate location for this event, in surrounds which one might say offer a mini-history of Scott’s professional life. On the way here you’ll have passed along the splendid high-arched Parliament Hall, home of the original Scottish Parliament, prior to its being handed over the lawyers after the Union of 1707, and where the senior advocates perambulated in small groups, to avoid being overheard, aped by junior members such as the young Scott eager to give the impression that they too had business. Positioned near the entrance you came through into the library is the statue of a sedentary Scott, by John Greenshields, with ‘Sic Sedebat’ at the foot, ‘Thus [or In this way] he sat’: according to some the most lifelike of the many representations of Scott. One year I recollect the Faculty placing in this room the seat in which Scott did actually sit as a Clerk to the Court of Session: a particularly comfy and somewhat worn-looking green leather armchair, not dissimilar to ones presently here, where some of you are now hopefully also comfortably sitting.

Finally it is a great pleasure to introduce Professor Anthony Mandal as today’s speaker. Anthony and I once worked together in the English Department at Cardiff University, where twenty years ago we were both involved in the foundation of the Centre of Editorial and Intertextual Research (CEIR), which is still thriving, now under his own Directorship. His thesis on Jane Austen was published as a book titled Jane Austen and the Popular Novel: the Determined Author (a double-entendre there with ‘Determined’) in 2007: this being one of the first studies to view Austen’s novels in the context of the 1810s, when they were published, rather than in the 1790s when some of them were first conceived. As such it invited more direct comparison with Scott, whose earlier output of fiction ran in tandem with Austen’s own. Since then Anthony has become a General Editor of the New Edinburgh Edition of the Works of Robert Louis Stevenson, and has also published in 2014 an edition of Mary Brunton’s Self-Control (1811): arguably the first novel published from Scotland to gain recognition on a national British level, and hence a forerunner of Scott’s success. His present work includes a co-authored Palgrave History of Gothic Publishing, and he is also currently on sabbatical leave to write a book on narrative and immersive play.

Comparison between Scott and Austen as novelists is not only relevant today but also timely, in view of the recent bicentenary of Austen’s death, which among other things has led to her image appearing on an English banknote, matching Scott’s much longer tenure on Scottish ones. Anthony’s aim today is to use the bicentennial commemorations of Austen’s death to explore the relationship between genre and gender in both writers’ works, starting with Scott’s famous review of Emma, while also addressing some of both authors’ changing fortunes over the last two centuries as background. 

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