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William Gilbert - Further Information

Last updated: 4 Nov 2015 .



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.
(My thanks to Kathy Callaway for spotting the Anderson Galleries catalogue).

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.


Thanks to Sue Thomas and Kathy Callaway for input.

 Paul Cheshire


Brief Bibliography of Works on Gilbert


Modern Studies

Cheshire, Paul, 'William Gilbert's Date of Birth' (www.williamgilbert.com)
A dispute with a rival  astrologer in the Conjuror's Magazine is used to establish Gilbert's date of birth available here.

---------- 'The Hermetic Geography of William Gilbert', Romanticism 9.1 (2003) pp 82-93.
Primarily 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, but waking up halfway through to how Gilbert's view of Africa could be linked to his background as son of an Antigua slave plantation owner. (Available online: The Hermetic Geography of William Gilbert - Edinburgh University Press)


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


Coleman, Deirdre, Romantic Colonisation and British Anti-Slavery (Cambridge UP, 2005)
A good contextual summarisation 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.
Much valuable bibliography and good on Gilbert's influence on the romantic poets, but the article loses focus when it drifts off into a history of theosophy that has little to do with Gilbert or his period.


Oxford Dictionary of National Biography - Richard Garnett, ‘Gilbert, William (1763?–c.1825)’, rev. S. C. Bushell, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2009 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/10706 , accessed 18 Jan 2009]
The updated 2009 online version covers all recent discoveries and gives a good balanced account. I have been unable to trace the unpublished Robert Southey 1824 letter to W. Sidney Walker cited as a source of information, but I suspect that 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'.
A 1999 conference paper, available here. A groundbreaking study 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.


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.