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Gamer, Michael, Journal Article. "‘Unpacking Harriet Newell’s Library’ (co-authored with Katrina O’Loughlin)," Studies in Romanticism, Volume 60, issue 4., 2021, pp. 419-33.


Although she remains relatively unknown to literary historians today, Harriet Atwood Newell was one of the Romantic era’s best-selling authors. Going through more than eighty editions in the United States and United Kingdom between 1814 and 1840, her Memoirs (Boston, 1814; London, 1816) effectively established a genre, the missionary memoir, as well as cementing a place for women within that emerging movement. Within this special issue of Studies in Romanticism on "Romantic Women and Their Books," she exists as a particularly compelling case of a woman mediated almost entirely by networks of print and coming to us as a single book: heavily produced, and not of her own making. 


Long before she took up missionary work, however, Newell wrote in the established secular traditions of familiar correspondence and journal keeping. What would it mean, then, to reread Harriet Newell not as a saint to the missionary cause but as a Romantic subject? To consider the Memoirs as the record of a voracious reader building a vocabulary for her own ambitions and vocation? Newell’s habits of allusion extend well outside the standard texts of early nineteenth-century evangelical writing to include Robert Blair, William Cowper, Oliver Goldsmith, Ossian, Elizabeth Singer Rowe, Jane Taylor, Henry Kirke White, Helen Maria Williams, and Edward Young. In Kirke White especially, Newell finds a model of familiar yet religious writing, and one that emboldens her own patterns of quotation and allusion. These patterns, we argue, present an underacknowledged dimension within romantic writing, one associated with radical Protestantism and highly attractive to readers. Consideration of her wider influences also brings into focus another literary tradition that Newell had also begun to engage in her own work at the time of her death: travel writing.