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The Royal Literary Fund and the Perils of Authorship

David Williams (1738-1816) by John Francis Rigaud  © Royal Literary Fund

When: Fri 9 May 2014, 10.30-17.45

Where: Conference Centre, British Library

Price: £15 / £10 concessions

Book now for 09 May 2014

The dissenting minister, philosopher and educationalist David Williams founded the Royal Literary Fund in 1790 in order ‘to withdraw those apprehensions of extreme poverty, and those desponding views of futurity, which lead Genius and Talent from the path of Virtue’, which in practice meant providing confidential financial aid to struggling writers. More than 3,600 writers applied to the Fund prior to 1939, including luminaries such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Clare, Leigh Hunt, Joseph Conrad, Bram Stoker, James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence and Dorothy Richardson, but also hundreds of less familiar figures. 

The stories of their difficulties, as preserved in the Fund’s archive, stand testament to the enduring difficulties of making a living by the pen in the period between the French Revolution and the end of the First World War. At this symposium, four noted scholars will each bring their particular expertise to bear on the Fund’s records, exploring the perils of authorship in the long 19th century from a range of perspectives:

Professor Jon Mee, University of York – ‘General science, Political Disquisitions, and the Belle Lettres’: The First Decade of the Literary Fund
Dr Jennie Batchelor, University of Kent – UnRomantic Authorship: The Case of Women in the Royal Literary Fund Archive (1790-1830)
Professor Josephine McDonagh, King’s College London – Forms and Rituals of Giving and Receiving at the Royal Literary Fund
Professor Max Saunders, King’s College London – Fund of Stories: Modernism, Life Writing and the RLF

The symposium will also feature an introduction to the Royal Literary Fund Archive by Dr Matthew Sangster and a roundtable discussion to close the proceedings.

The fee is £15 (or £10 for concessions) and includes tea breaks, lunch, a wine reception after the conclusion of the conference, and entry to the subsequent evening event, ‘The Royal Literary Fund and the Struggling Author’, hosted by Sir Ronald Harwood; this will take place between 18.30 and 19.30.

This symposium is a collaboration between the British Library, the Royal Literary Fund, and the Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies, University of York

Generously supported by the Royal Literary Fund