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2004-2005 Visiting Fellows

Alison Chapman
University of Glasgow, UK

The award of a Friends of Princeton University Library Research Grant enabled me to visit Special Collections at the Firestone Library for two weeks in June 2004, to complete my research on the activities of the nineteenth-century poet, illustrator, journalist and translator Theodosia Garrow Trollope (c. 1820-1865). The Parrish Collection, in the Firestone Library, must be one of the most extensive and impressive archives for the Victorianist. The Trollope files in the collection are a vital record of the work and lives of all the Trollope family, and this generous award enabled me to consult the largest collection of unpublished material relating to Theodosia.

Theodosia Garrow Trollope is a little-known figure, despite her connection to one of nineteenth-century Britain's most productive literary family, but her work deserves to be much more fully known and admired. My interest in her relates to her residence in Florence in the mid-nineteenth-century, when she was part of a lively expatriate network that gave support to the political movement for Italian unification, the Risorgimento. I am completing a year's sabbatical, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Board, to finish a book on the circle of Victorian women poets in Florence who supported the Risorgimento, most famously of course Elizabeth Barrett Browning. But there were many other women poets in Florence too, who were known to Barrett Browning, and whose work has an important political and literary relationship with hers, women such as Eliza Ogilvy, Isabella Blagden, Elizabeth Kinney, and Sophia May Eckley. Theodosia is one of the most prominent and colourful of these women. She had known Barrett B rowning in Torquay, before she moved to Italy and married the brother of Antony Trollope, Thomas Adolphus. My research focuses on the salon hosted by Theosodia in the Villino Trollope, and its relationship to Barrett Browning's writing and activities in Casa Guidi.

The material in the Parrish Collection has deepened and enriched my knowledge of Theodosia's literary activities and friendships with other women writers in the expatriate community, as well as giving me an insight into the function and importance of her salon. The Collection includes poetry manuscripts, including a copy of the unpublished 'Magnetismo d'Amore', which shows her facility in writing an Italian stornello; watercolours and drawings of society and court figures, suggesting the relationship between her community and her art; illustrations for a projected volume of Canzoni Popolari Toscani, which indicates the importance to her of popular songs and rural life (something she also addressed in her journalism), as well as the way translation figures in her oeuvre as a politicised trope for mediation between difference; obituaries from the Italian newspapers that evince her importance to the Risorgimento and her link between the British and Italian pro-Risorgimento campaigners; and early letters to Theodosia from the Countess of Blessington and Walter Savage Landor, relating to her album poems, which suggest that they groomed her before the move to Italy as the quintessential 'English Poetess' of sentiment and sensibility. In addition, the Parrish Collection holds letters to and from Thomas Adolphus that provide information on her literary activities, as well as her own letters to the editor of the Athenaeum that prove her literary standing as a valued foreign correspondent. Other material, such as letters written by her mother in law, the prolific novelist Fanny Trollope, and letters from Isa Blagden, place Theodosia at the centre of Florence expatriate life, and give more details about her relationship with Casa Guidi, the home of the Brownings.

Access to this wealth of material has led to a reassessment of Theodosia's work and she now takes a more prominent place in my book. The generic range of her writing, and her power as an illustrator, surprised me, and has informed my attempt to map the activities of the expatriate community and also made me see that community as a network organised around centres of power, one of which is the salon at the Villino Trollope (usually described biographically as merely a hotbed of gossip). My understanding of this network, and its relation to women's political poetics, owes a huge debt to the generosity of the Friends of Princeton University.


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