Reading Gladstone reading Dante
Marginal annotation as private commentary
in Dante beyond influence
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The first chapter focuses on William E. Gladstone, four-time British Prime Minister and a central figure in the political and cultural history of Victorian Britain. Gladstone chronicled his lifelong private study of Dante in the daily entries of his diaries, pursuing it through reading, annotating and book-collecting as well as literary tourism and encounters with Italian and European scholars in the field. Using the large corpus of marginalia and reading lists found in his personal diaries, papers, and books, the chapter historicizes Gladstone’s reading practices, and illustrates how his personal path frequently corresponded with the one traced by the major trends of nineteenth-century scholarly practices and provide a concrete representation of the hermeneutic process through which Gladstone turned Dante’s Commedia into an object of serious, self-disciplined study. The diaries map the development of Gladstone’s reading habits and the simultaneous construction of Dantean knowledge from a chronological perspective, thus charting the growth of his interest from the primary text to secondary critical sources over a sixty-year period. The chapter illuminates the progressive refinement of Gladstone’s scholarly approach through the comparative close textual and material study of the marginalia recorded in three distinct copies of the Commedia: two nineteenth-century editions, and Cary’s English translation, bringing forth the creative and critical dialogue Gladstone had established with Dante throughout his life.

Dante beyond influence

Rethinking reception in Victorian literary culture

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