Why Clough? Why COVE?

By Alex Anderson, Dino Franco Felluga, Alyssa Fernandez, Gwénaël Jouin, Matt Morgenstern, Allyn Pearson, Emily Pearson, Marybeth Perdomo, Stacey Smythe, Ayla Wilder, and Monica Wolfe

When, in 1858, Arthur Clough titled his verse novel Amours de Voyage, he appeared to be advertising his work as one about love and travel, thus playing into the popularity of Byronic romances and the growing tourist industry. His verse-novel would seem to be offering us a common nineteenth-century narrative that extends from the work of Ann Radcliffe at the end of the eighteenth century to that of E. M. Forster at the end of the nineteenth: buttoned-up Brits travel to Italy where they learn how to love, without completely giving up their Britishness (without, that is, getting too carried away by their emotions, as they witnessed Italians doing). What the reader actually finds upon reading Amours de Voyage, however, is a rumination on the possibility of action, with a questioning of the “assujettissement” of any act (Clough’s term from Amours de Voyage 1.30). The relation between act and subjectivity concerns Clough on the level of both personal and world history; every act at once subjugates you (assujettissement) and defines your identity, makes you “subject” (sujet), subject to class identity or gender identity or nationalist identity. Clough eschews any hope of a heroic narrative on either the personal or historical level, thus working against the expectations of both verse and the novel—either side of the hybrid form that is Clough’s verse-novel. Clough’s work has had a difficult time gaining traction with readers, both then and now, partly because Clough is working against the grain of his readers’ expectations. Set against the backdrop of the failed European revolutions of 1848 and 1849, he offers us also a failed romance that refuses both the expected marital closure of the Victorian novel and any poetic addresses to “lyric Love” or the “magic in the ruined battlement” that made Lord Byron’s narratives so popular earlier in the century.[1]

The title of this editorial introduction alludes to a 2003 article by Vanessa Ryan, “Why Clough? Why Now?” In our edition, we follow through on one of her arguments, that “recent work on Clough is just one of the many signs that Victorian studies is moving toward a new formalism that is incorporating the interests of historicism and cultural studies” (511). We too aim in our edition to pay close attention to both the formalist and cultural-historical elements of Clough’s work but we seek to do so by making the most of the new tools made available to us at COVE, as explained further in the next sections of this introduction:

  1. we return to and explain the significance of the poem’s original 1858 publication in the American journal, The Atlantic Monthly, and provide in our annotations the most significant textual variants from future editions of Clough’s poem (“witnesses” to the source text);
  2. we set the work in its historical context by explicating the events of both Clough’s own personal history and the 1849 Roman Republic, aided by a COVE timeline of significant events;
  3. we explain the significance of the many cultural references in the poem while creating an accompanying gallery of Victorian-era photographs of Rome by Robert MacPherson;
  4. we make clear the importance of the many locales mentioned in this tale about touristic travel by incorporating the COVE mapping tool; and
  5. we address the surprising departures from dactylic hexameter meter throughout the work by incorporating and analyzing an oral performance of the poem made by The Online Stage in 2017 (including audio recordings that help readers hear significant variations in the meter).

 Our hope is that this wealth of paratextual material will help readers appreciate this fascinating and idiosyncratic text, thus preparing the ground for future editorial work, be it on Clough or any edition that makes use of COVE tools.


1. Textual Witnesses

The original publication of Amours de Voyage appeared in the Atlantic Monthly over four serial installments in 1858 and is the only copy of Amours published during Clough’s lifetime. While many previous editions of Amours de Voyage have based their texts upon an 1862 collection of Clough’s poetry in book form, we have chosen to use the first publication of the work as primary textual witness. Our use of this American periodical version of the text highlights the transatlantic nature of Clough’s literary world as he lived, published, and traveled between Europe and the U.S. (which we further demonstrate in the COVE timeline for this edition). The posthumous 1862 twin editions—one American and one British—present a revision of the original work. Clough’s friend and editor Charles Eliot Norton and wife Blanche Mary Shore Smith attempted to combine Clough’s manuscripts with what Clough scholar Frederick Mulhauser refers to as “contradictory and unclear” (vi) instructions and notes for revision. Because of the confusion surrounding the editorial changes made in these later editions, this edition uses the textual witness that is likely closest to Clough’s original intended presentation of the work, at least as he saw it in 1858. This edition is annotated, however, to show the major additions of lines and stanzas that were added in the 1862 collections.


2. Historical Context

Many critical biographies of Clough address the so-called “myth of Clough.” This myth perhaps first started to take its current form after Clough’s death at the age of 42 when his posthumous legacy was shaped by the editorial interventions of his wife, Blanche, and Matthew Arnold’s infamous elegy, “Thyrsis.” In her edition of Clough’s work, Blanche discusses “a certain slowness of movement” that hindered his writing (qtd. in Markovits 451). Although Blanche and Arnold differ in their assessments of the cause of Clough’s trouble, both depict him as somehow failing to achieve his full potential and promise.

Many scholars have since viewed Clough’s literary legacy through the specter of the work he did not produce, rather than the work he did. In her seminal biography, Arthur Hugh Clough: The Uncommitted Mind (1962), Katherine Chorley positions the myth of Clough at the center of his legacy. Chorley seeks explanations to the question of how a brilliant man whose promise was “regarded as so certain by his Oxford contemporaries” could end up leaving “no mark at all in the world of affairs, and drifting into pedestrian, bread-winning work altogether inadequate to his intellectual powers” while also leaving “very little mark in the world of letters” (1). More recently, Stefanie Markovits has argued that the idea of Clough’s unfulfilled promise “gained such a strong hold on the Victorian critical imagination because of this myth’s relationship to what [she] call[s] the crisis of action” in Clough’s poetry, especially in Amours de Voyage. As Markovits argues, this crisis is anything but a failure (447). Instead, Clough’s crisis of action is designed to break down distinctions between genres; in Amours de Voyage, for example, “the novel, the lyric, and the epic—and the different attitudes toward action for which they stand—collide” (Markovitz 478).

As much as our edition is aware of the presence of this “myth” in Clough’s legacy, our edition’s biographical materials do not aim to recapitulate the questions surrounding Clough’s legacy previously explored by other scholars. Rather, our biography provides a general introduction to Clough’s life and is designed to be read in concert with the edition’s other paratextual essays, which offer novel readings of Amours de Voyage as both a historical and literary artifact. In addition to these critical readings, biographical elements are interspersed across our edition’s multiple resources. COVE’s networked materials (encompassing timeline items, geolocations, hyperlinks, and textual annotations) allow for this multifaceted exploration of Amours de Voyage through a biographical lens.

This edition also explains the historical background of Amours de Voyage, which is set during the revolutions of 1848. It presents the origins, highlights the main patterns, and analyzes the geographical, political, and intellectual outcomes of these revolutions. The historical survey underlines the situation faced by Italy during the Risorgimento, thus helping readers navigate through the numerous references to the revolutions that permeate Amours de Voyage. Our annotations discuss significant Italian figures who either supported or opposed the revolutions; detail the events Clough mentions; elucidate the interaction of Italy with conservative countries such as Austria and France, or neutral countries such as England and Switzerland; explain political theories; and clarify any references to world history that could help guide readers’ understanding of Amours de Voyage. Building on the works of renowned historians such as Patrick Boucheron, Kurt Weyland, John Merriman, Volker Sellin, and Paul Ginsborg, our paratextual essay, “Arthur Clough’s Amours de Voyage and the Revolutions of 1848,” summarizes and explains the different stages of the European revolutions of 1848. While this essay addresses the different manifestations of these revolutions on the continent, it primarily focuses on Italy.

We believe twenty-first century readers may find Amours de Voyage historically relevant for at least three reasons: 1) through the example of characters dealing with a revolution, Clough represents and analyzes how an individual interacts with an uncertain and unstable time. The conflicts, doubts, disillusions, and disappointments experienced by characters exemplify, perhaps explain, the difficulties people still face today when they are confronted with insurrections, social injustice, and dictatorship. Clough’s verse-novel also shows how individuals can deal with the uncertainties of living in a historical moment. 2) Claude’s paradoxical conception of time may invite readers to question their own understanding of time; we can thus appreciate the properly avant-garde nature of some of Clough’s ideas. 3) Because of its lack of closure, Amours de Voyage does not give readers a clear and reassuring answer to the questions it raises. Clough’s verse-novel forces readers to redefine their relationship with history, with the world, and, perhaps, with themselves.


3. Cultural References

Of the manifest and manifold benefits afforded by digital platforms in general, and COVE Studio, in particular, perhaps the most significant is the ability to annotate precisely at the point of reference. With traditional journal publications, bound codices, and the majority of electronic documents, the inclusion of footnotes, endnotes, and appendices—which are intended to further explicate the text, but nonetheless stand apart from it—force the reader to either toggle between the text and its supplemental material, or, worse still, disregard it. While never wholly divorced from the narrative they are designed to serve, they are never fully integrated. This disconnection is especially problematic where the marriage of image and text is concerned. Oftentimes plates and figures are relegated to the end of the narrative and/or are clumped together in a manner that may be convenient for the printer, but not so for the reader. When visual elements are added at the appropriate time and place, they can disrupt the flow of the text, distracting rather than illustrating. COVE not only allows for the option of a nearly simultaneous experience of reading the text along with its attendant annotations, but also for the decoupling of the narrative from its auxiliary material, when dessired. The reader’s experience is, then, one of their own design, tailored to the specific needs and wants of the individual.

Photographs in particular allow for engagement with the text in a way that transcends the limitations of one’s own age. The one-hundred and fifty-year-old sepia-toned images—produced in photography’s nascency and employing, primarily but not exclusively, the collodio-albumin technique—accompanying the annotations of select passages in Amours de Voyage provide the reader with the opportunity to visually “voyage” to a place which still exists and which may be familiar, but at a time that is otherwise inaccessible. In concert, image and text work to transport the reader to a geography and generation not their own in a way that either alone cannot. While not altogether “truthful”—subject to both pre- and post-processing manipulation—photographs are, nonetheless, the nearest facsimile to a past reality the present is able to access. 

The images of Rome, its environs, and the museum pieces supplied both in the annotations themselves, as well as in the gallery, are all the work of Robert Turnbull MacPherson with the exception of the  photographs of: the Monaldini Case Map of Rome—produced by the publishing house of Venanzio Monaldini in 1843; the Ludovisi “Galatian Suicide”—taken by James Anderson, the  British-born sculpture cum photographer and contemporary of, and rival to MacPherson who settled in Rome in 1838; and a room of the Uffizi Galleries—the work of the Fratelli Alinari,  the photography studio founded in Florence in 1852 by brothers Leopoldo, Giuseppe, and Romualdo Alinari. 


4. Mapping

Amours de Voyage is all about travel and specific locations throughout the text. Whether we navigate through fictional or nonfictional universes, maps are useful mechanisms for imaginative thinking, spatialization, and visualization. Maps are used as tools for growing power and for conquest, for revealing countries’ borders and borders to be crossed, but maps are also “way[s] to experience landscape through memory and imagination” (Gladwin 161). Maps, too, can be analytical tools readers use to dissect texts in unique ways, particularly by bringing to light “relations that would otherwise remain hidden” (Warodell 31). In this project, we illustrate how mapping can be used as a tool for demystifying movement. The map also defines the space within which the text operates. By mapping Amours de Voyage, we seek to highlight key locations within the text to assist the reader in their geographical conceptualization of the novel and the Grand Tour. Through the map, we provide key spatial and historical context that will help readers contextualize the characters’ travels throughout Amours de Voyage; we are also thus creating a transferable resource that will be of use to future generations of scholars following COVE’s principle of “open assembly” (whereby individual elements in a timeline, map or gallery can be added to future custom resources created by others). The mapping elements in COVE are linked to the timeline feature, the gallery feature, and to the annotations in Amours de Voyage.


5. Prosody and Sound

COVE’s open-access editions promote scholarly as well as public interest in both canonical and non-canonical texts. What’s more, through its incorporation of multimodal tools, COVE encourages multisensory ways of reading and engaging with those texts. In order to expand beyond the two-dimensionality of black text on a white page, which tends to be read silently and internally, our project explores senses beyond sight. Similar to the gallery, timeline, and map features, COVE’s ability to include audio clips in textual annotations provides yet another innovative way for readers to experience the world of Amours de Voyage more fully. A multisensory attention to Clough’s prosody and narrative voice, specifically, can change the way readers hear and interpret Clough’s work. In order to demonstrate how a professional audio recording of the text can expose these elements and nuance readers’ understandings of Clough’s characters and themes, several annotations throughout our edition include audio clips from The Online Stage’s 2017 production of Amours de Voyage.[2] We have attached The Online Stage’s recording of each canto to its respective heading so that readers who are deaf and hard of hearing, in particular, may listen to the text being read by professional voice actors instead of by speech synthesizers used in most text-to-speech systems. In addition to these recordings, we have embedded shorter clips throughout the cantos in order to emphasize the prosody, narrative voice, character development, and interpretative possibilities presented by specific lines. The inclusion of these clips is intended to support The Online Stage’s commitment to creating “high quality productions of classic dramatic works in audio format” (“Welcome”) and to speculate how future adaptations of Amours de Voyage can further explore the interpretative possibilities of Clough’s project (or of any critical edition that wishes to explore prosody and recitation).



Utilizing COVE’s hypertextual capabilities presents exciting opportunities not only for nineteenth-century scholars but also for digital humanities (DH) scholars. Until recently, DH has been defined as what Yifeng Sun and Dechao Li aptly summarize as “the compilation, digitization, and visualization of ample amounts of archival works” (640, emphasis added). The need to build on (or perhaps evolve from) the visual elements of DH has already been recognized by a variety of scholars. For instance, Sari Altschuler and David Weimer contend that “[the digital humanities] have inadvertently exacerbated a tendency to privilege sight as the sense through which knowledge is accessible” (74, emphasis added). “Having succeeded wonderfully in making the invisible visible,” they continue, “the digital humanities must now add new dimensions” (74). This critical edition of Amours de Voyage attempts to answer Altschuler and Weimer’s call to action by embracing such “new dimensions.”

 Continuing to push the sensory boundaries of DH offers more opportunities for textual accessibility and reader-audience inclusion than have previously been possible in most traditional learning communities. Multimodal critical editions like ours can not only provide reader-audiences with different entry points into the text but also enable and encourage them to more fully experience the text. We hope that our project will inspire similar endeavors surrounding other less canonical texts, resulting in more open-access and multimodal editions. Additionally, we hope that these editions will reinvigorate scholarly conversations among students and instructors and will renew public interest in literature. 


Works Cited

Altschuler, Sari, and David Weimer. “Texturing the Digital Humanities: A Manifesto.” PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, vol. 135, no. 1, 2020, pp. 74-91, doi: 10.1632/pmla.2020.135.1.74. Accessed 27 Feb. 2021.

Clough, Arthur Hugh. Amours de Voyage. Narrated by Peter Tucker et al., The Online Stage, 2017. Internet Archive, archive.org/details/amoursdevoyage_clough_TOS_201706/amours_1_clough_TOS.mp3.

Chorley, Katharine. Arthur Hugh Clough: The Uncommitted Mind. Clarendon Press, 1962.

Gladwin, Derek. “The Literary Cartographic Impulse: Imagined Island Topographies in Ireland and Newfoundland.” The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, vol. 38, no. 1/2, 2014, pp. 158-83.

Markovits, Stefanie. “Arthur Hugh Clough, Amours de Voyage, and the Victorian Crisis of Action.” Nineteenth-Century Literature, vol. 55, no. 4, Mar. 2001, pp. 445-78. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1525/ncl.2001.55.4.445. Accessed 28 Apr. 2021.

Mulhauser, Frederick. “Preface.” The Poems of Arthur Hugh Clough. Edited by Frederick Mulhauser, 2nd ed., Clarendon Press, 1974.

Ryan, Vanessa Lyndal. “Why Clough? Why Now?” Victorian Poetry, vol 41., no. 4, 2003, pp. 504-12.

Sun, Yifeng, and Dechao Li. “Digital Humanities Approaches to Literary Translation.” Comparative Literature Studies, vol. 57, no. 4, 2020, pp. 640-654. Project MUSE, doi: 10.5325/complitstudies.57.4.0640. Accessed 9 Mar. 2021.

Warodell, Johan Adam. “The Writer at Work: Hand-Drawn Maps in Conrad’s Manuscripts.” Conradiana, vol. 48, no. 1, 2016, pp. 25-46. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/cnd.2016.0002. Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.

“Welcome to The Online Stage.” The Online Stage, onlinestage.org/#:~:text=The%20Online%20Stage%20is%20a,dramatic%20works%20in%20audio%20format. Accessed 16 Feb. 2021



[1] Instead, Clough’s Claude claims to “hate” Childe Harold at 1.196. The quotation, “magic in the ruined battlement” is from Childe Harold IV. “Lyric Love” is an allusion to Robert Browning’s The Ring and the Book, another verse-novel that interrogates both the lyric and narrative conventions of nineteenth-century literature. To be clear, Byron was himself highly critical of history, traditional forms of subjectivity, and lyric Love; Clough is clearly also influenced by his famous predecessor in the genre of poetic travel narrative.

[2] As of May 2021, The Online Stage’s production of Amours is the only publicly available audio recording of the text.