This paper addresses the absence of gift-annual poetry from critical accounts of the transition from Romantic to Victorian aesthetics. The close analysis of a number of gift-annual poems demonstrates that they are fundamental to our understanding of the literary history of the early-nineteenth century. It argues that gift-annual poetry extends the characteristic self-reflexivity of Romantic poetry to the technological moment of the 1820s and to questions of value raised by the materiality of books in the commercial marketplace. By scrutinising the aesthetic interventions and experiments of gift-annual poems, the paper argues that they are self-consciously engaging with the accelerated mechanical reproduction and the increased circulation of literary books for profit in a capitalist marketplace.
Dr. Clara Dawson is Lecturer in Victorian Literature at the University of Manchester. Her research focuses on poetry and poetic form across the long-nineteenth century. She has published a two-volume edition, Critical Heritage: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, anthologising periodical reviews of her poetry and is currently working on a monograph titled Poetry and Popularity in the Victorian Era.