Seeing the Fruits of My Labor: Writing on the Results of My Literary Annual Archival Research

I am thrilled to be recommencing my fifth dissertation chapter, which is to be submitted Jan. 1st. I’ve already started discussing defense dates with my committee, and knowing I will soon have a firm deadline for my dissertation is both exciting and somewhat terrifying at the same time . . . but mostly exciting. It’s really nice seeing my project come together and begin to form a whole. It’s also really wonderful to anticipate just being done, at least for a while, and having a few weeks to breathe and relax. We’ll see if that break actually happens, but it’s still a lovely thought even if it’s a lie. 🙂

I’ve also had the pleasure of revisiting my literary annual research that I performed last summer as I’ve returned to my chapter on fairy-tale adaptations in the literary annual. One issue I’m dealing with now is that at least half of the literary-annual contributions are published anonymously, so I have no way of knowing whether the author is male or female–not normally problematic but given my project is on proto-feminist women authors, it is a hurdle to overcome. Even some of the named contributors are gender neutral: C. De Lisle and the author of “Absurdities,” for instance. (If anyone can direct me to a real name and/or bio for these nineteenth-century authors, I’d be most appreciative!) 

But in the case of one folktale, I’m really excited with my find: Anna Brownell Jameson’s “Halloran the Pedlar.” I’ve included my intro to my analysis of the story below. It isn’t much yet, but it’s an exciting beginning to an end.

Title Page from the 1828 Bijou

Title Page from the 1828 Bijou

HALLORAN THE PEDLAR:  An Irish Story

Anna Brownell Jameson offers her readers another strong female protagonist in “Halloran the Pedlar: An Irish Story.” Published in the 1828 volume of The Bijou: or Annual of Literature and the Arts, “Halloran the Pedlar” is, despite its title, not about the character of Halloran; instead, the short story features an illiterate Irish peasant as its heroine, namely Cathleen Reilly, whose simple nature disguises a will of steel that is displayed as her control and senses are tested during a trek to Cork to see her husband before he is sent overseas with his troop. In The Bijou, the story is attributed to “the writer of the ‘Diary of an Ennuyée’” rather than to Jameson by name, perhaps because this text became popular after its publication in 1826. Such an attribution (“to the author of”) was not uncommon in the literary annuals, especially in their early years, as publishers and editors at first tried to attract consumers with famous contributors.

Before beginning my analysis of the story, it is relevant to note Anna Brownell Jameson’s personal life. Born in Dublin in 1794, Jameson was largely self-educated,[1] and she became a governess when she was sixteen. It was her position as a governess that sent her to Italy and inspired The Diary of an Ennuyée. Anna married Robert Jameson in 1825, but by 1829, the two were separated and “Anna was making no secret of unhappiness in her marriage” (Thomas n.p). As Clara Thomas explains in her biography, Anna Jameson had proto-feminist leanings: “From the beginning of her writing career Anna Jameson stressed the importance of better education for women. She was a determined, though conservative, early feminist, one of the many in her generation who were increasingly vocal about their rights in law and their needs and opportunities in society” (n.p.). This position on women’s education is evident in “Halloran the Pedlar,” and Jameson’s proto-feminism emerges in the characterization of and focus on the heroine Cathleen. Thomas further notes that with the publication of Visits and Sketches at Home and Abroad in 1834, “For it, as for all her future works, Anna Jameson was now assured of a reading public; she had become an established author” (n.p.). “Halloran the Pedlar” precedes this confirmed success although it follows her first entrance onto the literary scene with The Diary of an Ennuyée, and that book’s success caused Jameson to “became the “lioness” of the hour in London society” (Thomas n.p.).

[1] According to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, “For a time the Murphys could afford a governess, whom Anna remembered as “one of the cleverest women I have ever met.” Before the family moved to London, however, she had gone; henceforth the sisters’ education progressed with Anna in charge” (Thomas n.p.).

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