Literary Doodling in the Long Nineteenth Century: The Examples of E. Cotton, G. K. Chesterton, and Max Beerbohm

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Abstract

Although scholars have paid increasing attention to textual marginalia and their role in the consumption and production of texts, they have largely overlooked the phenomenon of doodling and its parallel role in reading and writing. Doodles trouble their accompanying texts; they record inattention, whimsical digression, critique, and sometimes outright hostility toward those texts, revealing the complexity of readerly response and exposing authors’ visions as less unified than they seem. By attending to doodles in manuscripts, notebooks, and published literature, scholars can gain insight into the subconscious and occasionally contradictory forces at play in textual genesis and reception. This article examines doodles and closely related drawings by three author-artists from the long nineteenth century: Max Beerbohm, G. K. Chesterton, and an amateur illustrator named E. Cotton. Their work demonstrates the importance of doodling to their respective authorial enterprises and reveals the (sometimes ambiguous) generic boundaries between doodles and related graphic forms.

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    Title page with manuscript insertion by E. Cotton, in Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862). Shelfmark PR5237.G6 1862 c.4. Christina Georgina Rossetti Collection of Louise and Frederick E. Maser, Special Collections Department.
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    E. Cotton (artist). Imitation of John Everett Millais’s Maude Clare, in Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862), p. 79. Shelfmark PR5237.G6 1862 c.4. Christina Georgina Rossetti Collection of Louise and Frederick E. Maser, Special Collections Department.
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    Engraved proof by Joseph Swain’s workshop of John Everett Millais’s illustration for Christina Rossetti, ‘Maude Clare,’ in Once a Week (5 November 1859), p. 382. Registration number 1911,0517.44. Prints & Drawings Department.
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    E. Cotton (artist). Grangerisation, in Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862), pp. 18-19. Shelfmark PR5237.G6 1862 c.4. Christina Georgina Rossetti Collection of Louise and Frederick E. Maser, Special Collections Department.
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    E. Cotton (artist). Grangerisation, in Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862), p. 44. Shelfmark PR5237.G6 1862 c.4. Christina Georgina Rossetti Collection of Louise and Frederick E. Maser, Special Collections Department.
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    G. K. Chesterton (artist). Penciled doodles on title page of The Debater (September 1891). Shelfmark Chest.247. General Reference Collection.
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    G. K. Chesterton (artist). Penciled doodle on back cover of The Debater (September 1891). Shelfmark Chest.247. General Reference Collection.
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    G. K. Chesterton (artist). Penciled doodles, in The Debater (September 1891), p. 57. Shelfmark Chest.247. General Reference Collection.
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    G. K. Chesterton (artist). Penciled doodles, in The Debater (September 1891), pp. 62-63. Shelfmark Chest.247. General Reference Collection.
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    G. K. Chesterton (artist). Penciled doodles, in The Debater (September 1891), pp. 64-65. Shelfmark Chest.247. General Reference Collection.
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    Max Beerbohm (artist). Grangerised advertisement leaf, in Max Beerbohm, Zuleika Dobson (1911). Shelfmark PR6003.E4 Z4 1911c RHD.
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    Max Beerbohm (artist). Sketches and doodles, in Max Beerbohm, Zuleika Dobson manuscript, no. 187 (ca. 1898). Robert H. Taylor Collection of English and American Literature (RTC01); Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.
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    Max Beerbohm (artist). Sketches and doodles, in Max Beerbohm, Zuleika Dobson manuscript, no. 187 (ca. 1898). Robert H. Taylor Collection of English and American Literature (RTC01); Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.
  • View in gallery
    Max Beerbohm (artist). Sketches and doodles, in Max Beerbohm, Zuleika Dobson manuscript, no. 187 (ca. 1898). Robert H. Taylor Collection of English and American Literature (RTC01); Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.
  • View in gallery
    Max Beerbohm (artist). Sketches and doodles, in Max Beerbohm, Zuleika Dobson manuscript, no. 187 (ca. 1898). Robert H. Taylor Collection of English and American Literature (RTC01); Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.
  • View in gallery
    Max Beerbohm (artist). Sketches and doodles, in Max Beerbohm, Zuleika Dobson manuscript, no. 187 (ca. 1898). Robert H. Taylor Collection of English and American Literature (RTC01); Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.
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