Timothy Webb on “Reading Aloud in the Shelley Circle” ( 2015)

This is a great article published in “Publishing, Editing, and Reception”, a collection of essays in honour of the eminent Romantics scholar Donald H. Reiman. This article “Reading Aloud in the Shelley Circle” by Timothy Webb should be quoted widely to all those who say how can you read out aloud to older kids. Reading out aloud is only meant for babies and early learners. Well the Shelleys read out to each other. Mary Shelley read often to women only groups. According to Webb,  Jane Austen and  Dorothy Wordsworth, via their surviving correspondence, show that it was not uncommon for women to exert some kind of independence by reading aloud.

Even Shelley’s first wife, Harriet Westbrook, a compulsive reader was fond of reading aloud, at least according to Thomas Jefferson Hogg in The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley ( as quoted by Webb in his article):

She was fond of reading aloud; and she read remakably well, very correctly, and with a clear, distinct, agreeable voice, and often emphatically. She was never weary of this exercise, never fatigued; she never ceased of her own accord, and left off reading only on some interruption. She has read to me for hours and hours; whenever we were alone together, she took up a book and began to read, or more commonly read aloud from the work, whatever it might be, which she was reading to herself. If anybody entered the room she ceased to read aloud, but recommenced the moment he retired. 

It is absolutely delightful to discover this aspect about the Shelleys reading habits.

Edson, Michael (ed.) Publishing, Editing, and Reception: Essays in Honor of Donald H. Reiman University of Delaware Press, Maryland, 2015. Hb. pp. 280 

3 November 2018 

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