“It is equally true of books as of their authors,” wrote Barbauld in 1805, “that one generation passeth away, and another cometh” (Selections I.i). Yet though Romantic-era authors did, within a very short period of time, pass away—Austen in 1817, Keats in 1821, Shelley in 1822, Byron in 1824, Barbauld herself in 1825, Blake in 1827, and Coleridge in 1834—their books did not “passeth away” as swiftly as Barbauld predicted. For just as Barbauld, in her Selections from the Spectator, Guardian, Tatler, attempted to preserve works of the past century for readers of the new, so too did those who survived the authors of the Romantic generation—above all their family members, who sought to promote the reputation and, with it, the sales of their loved one’s writing. Family members were uniquely situated to participate in biographical and editorial work, given their access to unpublished material, ownership of existing copyrights, and unique knowledge of their subjects. Their efforts and strategies shaped conceptions of individual Romantic authors and of Romanticism itself for much of the nineteenth century, an influence that continues to be felt.
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