Essays in Romanticism

Gas and Poetry: Humphry Davy in Bristol, 1798–18011

Essays in Romanticism (2019), 26, (2), 131–157.

Abstract

This article examines, in some detail, Humphry Davy’s activities during the two and a half years, from the autumn of 1798 to the spring of 1801, that he worked at Thomas Beddoes’s Medical Pneumatic Institution in Bristol. The loose and ever-changing circle of creative individuals who formed around Beddoes and his Institution involved a formidable array of savants including members of the Watt and Wedgwood families as well as Romantics such as Southey, Coleridge, and Wordsworth. The micro-chronological approach adopted here reveals the importance of print culture and sociability in the production of texts and knowledge, as well as the striking number and variety of projects proposed by the circle that never came to fruition. Nevertheless, those successful projects, such as Davy’s work on nitrous oxide and the second edition of Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads, contributed to making this period one of the key moments in English cultural history.

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Author details

James, Frank A. J. L.