The golden age of the literary review is celebrated in a collaborative exhibition opening this weekend (2 April) between the National Library of Scotland and Abbotsford, the historic home of Sir Walter Scott.
It tells the fascinating story of Scott's engagement and interaction with some of the greatest names in early 19th century literature — Mary Shelley, Jane Austen and Lord Byron.
'Rave reviewer: Scott on "Frankenstein", "Emma" and "Childe Harold"' explains the influential role Scott had as a reviewer of other authors' works — and also of his own writing. In 1816, Scott anonymously reviewed his own 'Tales of my landlord', resulting in the harshest review he ever received.
The early 19th century was a golden age for criticism and reviews, often with many more people reading literary reviews than the original works themselves. The exhibition, which runs at Abbotsford until November, brings together important manuscripts and books many of which are able to be seen together for the first time.
Highlight exhibition items include Scott's copy of 'Frankenstein', one of only 500 first edition copies printed. Visitors will also be able to see original documents in the hand of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron and Sir Walter.
David McClay, Curator of the John Murray Archive at the National Library of Scotland said: 'The National Library of Scotland is delighted with this opportunity to bring some of the rare and unique national treasures to the home of Sir Walter Scott. The story they tell about Scott and the reviewing culture of his time is fascinating, not least because it involves some of the greatest literary geniuses of all time.'
Kirsty Archer-Thompson, Collections and Interpretation Manager for the Abbotsford Trust commented: 'We are delighted to be collaborating with the National Library of Scotland to tell this fascinating story about a community of readers and writers shaping the present, and indeed future, impact of what we now consider to be classic works of literature. Novels such as 'Frankenstein' did not fare well with reviewing community as a whole and Scott's acknowledgement of Shelley's genius ran very much against the grain. This exhibition is a wonderful platform to show that Scott was just as capable of looking to the future as he was to the past.'
The exhibition will be on display in the historic house from 2 April 2016 and run until the end of the season on November 2016. Entry is included as part of the admission ticket to the house.
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31 March 2016