William Gilbert - Further Reading

Books about Gilbert

Forthcoming 2018

William Gilbert and Esoteric Romanticism:
a Contextual Study and Annotated Edition of The Hurricane.
Paul Cheshire
(Liverpool University Press)
Due 31 May 2018.

 

Modern Studies

Cheshire, Paul. ‘The Hermetic Geography of William Gilbert’, Romanticism 9.1 (2003) pp 82-93.
A study of the metaphysical theory of continents underlying The Hurricane, noting parallels with a 17th century hermetic tract by Michael Maier, and Swedenborg’s writings. (Available online)

----------‘William Gilbert and his Bristol Circle 1788-98’, in English Romantic Writers and the West Country, ed. Nicholas Roe (Palgrave, 2010) 79-98.
Setting Gilbert in the Bristol circle of Coleridge, Southey and Wordsworth.

---------- ‘William Gilbert’s Date of Birth’
A dispute with a rival astrologer in the Conjuror’s Magazine is used to establish Gilbert's date of birth (available here).

---------- William Gilbert: Macrocosmal Astrologer in an Age of Revolution’, Culture & Cosmos 15.2 (2013), 55-63 (link).
An account of Gilbert's astrological writings in the Conjuror's Magazine, 1791-3.

---------- William Gilbert: Son of a Saintly Slave-Owner’, The Coleridge Bulletin NS43, (Summer 2014), 1-13.
How Gilbert's view of Africa in The Hurricane could be linked to his background as son of an Antigua slave plantation owner.

Coleman, Deirdre. Romantic Colonisation and British Anti-Slavery (Cambridge UP, 2005)
A good contextual view of the European attitudes to Africa and Africans. Relevant here is Chapter 2 ‘The “microscope of enthusiasm”: Swedenborgian ideas about Africa’ pp 63-105 which includes a view of The Hurricane from that perspective.

Kaufman, Paul. ‘“The Hurricane” and The Romantic Poets’, English Miscellany 21, (1970), pp. 99-115.
This pioneering study was published before Gilbert's magico-astrological writings had been discovered; Kaufman surveys The Hurricane's influence on the romantic poets, and recognises Gilbert's place within the general history of theosophy.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography - Richard Garnett, ‘Gilbert, William (1763?–c.1825)’, 2004 rev. S. C. Bushell, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; online edn [link]
The updated 2009 online version covers all recent discoveries and gives a good balanced account. The unpublished Robert Southey 1824 letter to W. Sidney Walker cited as a source of information has not been traced (see appeal above), but the biographical notes in the 1824 Retrospective Review  (see below) are based on it, or on another Southey letter written at the same time.

Schuchard, Marsha Keith. ‘Rediscovering William “Hurricane” Gilbert: A lost voice of revolution and madness in the worlds of Blake and the Romantics’ available here.
A ground-breaking study, first presented in 1999, of Gilbert's previously unrecognised links with 1790s millenarians, Freemasons, and Swedenborgians, and possibly William Blake. Although subsequent discoveries have made this article biographically unreliable in places, and some links are not sufficiently substantiated, Schuchard's extensive specialist research ensures that her article provides a vital introduction to the occult underworld that Gilbert inhabited.

Thomas, Sue. ‘Catastrophic History, Cyclonic Wreckage and Repair in William Gilbert’s The Hurricane and Diana McCaulay’s Huracan’, in Tracking the Literature of Tropical Weather: Typhoons, Hurricanes, and Cyclones, ed. Anne Collett et al (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan / Springer Nature, 2017), pp. 227–50. (link to online edn)
This timely addition to William Gilbert scholarship looks at Gilbert’s poem within the genre of Caribbean tropical storm literature. The cataclysmic history of the Caribbean — European invasion, genocide of indigenous people, introduction of enslaved Africans, and the resulting commercial exploitation — is mirrored by the cataclysmic destruction caused by its hurricanes. Thomas detects brilliantly the Caribbean resonances present in Gilbert's poem, which has previously only been studied from a Eurocentric perspective. Thomas’ new perspective shows how the crisis of the poem’s storm mirrors the many contemporary slave revolts, how Gilbert’s ‘genii of the deep’ are drawn from pre-Columbian ‘mythological and theological’ understandings of the ‘experience of disaster’, and how Gilbert’s avenging spirits beneath the ocean, have their counterparts in the Vodoun (voodoo) beliefs introduced to the Caribbean by the enslaved Africans.

Nineteenth-Century Study

‘William Gilbert’s Hurricane’, Retrospective Review 10 (1824), (London: Charles Baldwyn) pp.160-172.
This is the only known literary study of Gilbert and his work from the nineteenth century. Its anonymous author claims to have been provided with information by someone close to the poet. ‘Of its author, William Gilbert, the little we have collected is chiefly from the information obligingly furnished to us by a distinguished literary character, an early friend of the author’s, and by whose occasional notice of the work before us, concurring with a similar testimony from another quarter, our attention was directed to The Hurricane.’ Much of this information appears in the DNB article, and with the coincidence of the year 1824, which is also the date of the lost MS letter from Robert Southey to W. S. Walker, it is highly probable that Southey is the source. Long extracts from Gilbert’s poem are given; the analysis is brief but sympathetic.

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Appeal: Seeking Copy of The Hurricane formerly owned by Richard Garnett

A transcript of the lost 1824 letter from Robert Southey to W Sidney Walker, which is quoted as a source of information for the 1901 DNB article by Richard Garnett (see below), is laid in to the copy of The Hurricane formerly owned by him. It appears in a 1920 New York sale catalogue (Anderson Galleries). Neither the original MS nor any transcript of this letter are currently known. This vital source of information is out there somewhere.

Notes:

Any books or articles containing substantive references to William Gilbert will gladly be added to this list.
Some of the references to external websites below lead to subscriber-only sites.

Acknowledgements:

Thanks to Sue Thomas and Kathy Callaway for input.