Twilight Histories

Nostalgia and the Victorian Historical Novel


Twilight Histories explores the relationship between nostalgia and the Victorian historical novel, arguing that both responded to the turbulence brought by accelerating modernisation. Nostalgia began as a pathological homesickness, its first victims seventeenth-century soldiers serving abroad. Only gradually did it become the sentimental memory we understand it as today. In a striking parallel to nostalgia’s origin, the historical novel emerged in the tumultuous early-years of the nineteenth century, at a time when the Napoleonic Wars once again set troops on the move, creating a new wave of homesick soldiers. In the historical novels of Gaskell, Thackeray, Dickens, Eliot and Hardy, nostalgia offered a language in which to describe the experience of living through changing times as a homesickness for history.

Twilight Histories has been included in Oxford Bibliographies’ Historical Novel category, where it has been reviewed as “[a]n illuminating study of mid-Victorian novels of the recent past—the period of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.”

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Camilla Cassidy holds a DPhil in nineteenth-century literature from the University of Oxford and teaches Interdisciplinary Humanities in the Faculty of Sustainability at Leuphana University of Lüneburg.
Series editors:
C.C. Barfoot, Leiden University, The Netherlands
Michael Boyden, Uppsala University, Sweden
Theo D'haen, Leiden University, The Netherlands and Leuven University, Belgium
Raphaël Ingelbien, Leuven University, Belgium
Birgit Neumann, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Germany Carmen Birkle, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany
List of Figures

 1 Nostalgia
 1.1 Origins of “Nostalgia” and What Came Before

 1.2 Nostalgia for a Place: Local and Global

 1.3 Nostalgia for a Time

 1.4 Return: Restorative and Reflective Nostalgia

 1.5 Belated Nostalgias

 2 Writing History in Changing Times

 3 The Historical Novel: Nostalgic Fictions in Times of Change
 3.1 The Napoleonic Wars and Historical Fiction

 3.2 History and Biography: Novels of the Recent Past

 3.3 History and Fiction in Historical Fiction

 3.4 Structures of Desire: The Nostalgic Historical Novel

 4 Chapters

1Sylvia’s Lovers and the Press Gang
 1 The Art of Forgetfulness

 2 Homesickness and the Press-Ganged Soldier in Sylvia’s Lovers (1863)
 2.1 Napoleon, Nostalgia, and the Historical Novel

 2.2 Readability and Forgetfulness

 2.3 Leave-Taking

2Thackeray’s Homesick Soldiers
 1 Wavering Heroes and the Middle Way

 2 Walter Scott and Intertextuality

 3 Nostalgia as a ‘Swiss Disease’: Exiles and Homesick Soldiers

 4 Autobiography

 5 Battlefields in Historical Fiction

3George Eliot’s Foregone Conclusions

4Charles Dickens’s Iron Times

5Strangers in Wessex
 1 Belated Nostalgia and Regional Fiction: A Time and a Place

 2 Hardy’s English Peasants
 2.1 The Return of the Native: What Is Doing Well?

 3 Itinerant Workers: Metaphors of Roots, Migrancy and Labour
 3.1 The Mayor of Casterbridge: A Man Must Live Where His Money Is Made

 4 Consuming Nostalgia: A Poeticised Pathology
 4.1 Historical Fictions: Authentic and Inauthentic Pasts

 5 Between History and Memory: The Dorsetshire Labourer and the Homesick Soldier

 1 Why Don’t We Take Nostalgia Seriously Anymore?

 2 Subjectivity and ‘Good’ History

 3 Politics and Ideology

 4 Imagination and Environment

Appendix 1: Images

Appendix 2: Unpublished Mss Transcriptions

Selected Bibliography


This book is intended for advanced undergraduates, postgraduate students, and academic researchers, primarily in the field of Victorian studies. It may have additional interest for readers interested in memory studies and nineteenth-century history.
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