Professor Matthew Bevis

My first book — The Art of Eloquence: Byron, Dickens, Tennyson, Joyce (OUP, 2007) — considered relations between political oratory and literary craft. I've edited a collection of essays on William Empson — Some Versions of Empson (OUP, 2007) — and a few years back I wrote Comedy: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2012), which explored comedy both as a literary genre and as a range of non-literary impulses and events (pantomime, circus, stand-up acts, caricatures, and other funny business).

Much of my recent work has focused on poetry: in 2012 I gave the British Academy Chatterton Lecture on 'Edward Lear's Lines of Flight'; I've edited The Oxford Handbook of Victorian Poetry (2013); and I've written a couple of articles on poetic rhythm — ‘Poetry by Numbers’ (on natural and metrical numbers, forthcoming in Raritan) and ‘Byron’s Feet’ (anatomical and prosodic varieties). Other publications include a short book on Byron, an essay on 'T. S. Eliot Among the Comedians', and a co-edited book with James Williams on Edward Lear and The Play of Poetry. My most recent essays include 'Unknowing Lyric', published in Poetry (it can be read here, and I am interviewed by the editors of Poetry here), and 'It Wants to Go to Bed With Us', published in Harper's.

I'm currently finishing a book entitled Wordsworth's Fun. Forthcoming work includes an essay on 'Charles Lamb . . . Seriously' for Thinking Through Style, eds. Marcus Waithe and Michael Hurley (OUP, 2016) and two books: Knowing Edward Lear (for OUP) and On Wonder (for Harvard UP).

At Keble, Erica McAlpine and I run The Salutation and Cat Reading Group. I convene the Poets at Keble series, and the Adam Phillips seminar on The Poet's Essay.

I have appeared on Radio 3's The Essay programme, and I write for The London Review of Books and Harper's (essays on Edward Thomas, Treasure Island and its adaptations, cockneys and nineteenth-century London, William Hazlitt, Robert Frost, Lewis Carroll, Elizabeth Bishop, Stevie Smith, Thomas De Quincey, and John Ashbery). A sample of my recent work for the LRB — a short video-essay on Stevie Smith — is available here


I teach subjects and authors across the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

Undergraduate: Paper 1 (Introduction to English Language and Literature); Nineteenth-Century Literature (1830-1910); Paper 6 (1760-1830), plus various special topics ('The Character of Comedy' and 'The Literary Essay') and dissertation supervision.

Graduate: MSt in English, 1700-1830 and MSt in English, 1830-1914.

In the last 10 years or so, I have supervised / co-supervised / examined PhD dissertations on a range of subjects, including:

  • Poetic Address in C. H. Sisson, W. S. Graham and Geoffrey Hill
  • Byron and Epistolary Poetics
  • Joyce and Nonsense
  • Thom Gunn and The Occasions of Poetry
  • Victorian War Poetry
  • The Metrical Fingerprint in Twentieth-Century Poetry
  • John Clare and the Poetics of Health
  • Kipling and Yeats – A Comparative Biography
  • Milton After Eliot (Lowell, Empson, and Hill)
  • Forms of Textual Excess in Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge and De Quincey
  • The Tiny, The Miniature, and The Small in Modern American Poetry


Books / Edited Collections / Editions

Crotchet Castle [for The Cambridge Edition of Thomas Love Peacock], co-ed. with Freya Johnston (Cambridge UP, 2016), pp. 328 + cxxi

Edward Lear and The Play of Poetry, co-ed. with James Williams (Oxford UP, 2016), pp. 381

The Oxford Handbook of Victorian Poetry, ed. (OUP, 2013; pbk 2016), pp. 912

Life Lessons In Byron (Pan Macmillan, 2013), pp. 120

Comedy: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2012), pp. 150

The Art of Eloquence: Byron, Dickens, Tennyson, Joyce (Oxford UP, 2007; paperback 2010), pp. 302

Some Versions of Empson, ed. (Oxford UP, 2007), pp. 376

Lives of Victorian Literary Figures: Tennyson, ed. (Pickering & Chatto, 2003), pp. 504


Articles in Books

‘Introduction’ [co-written with James Williams], and ‘Falling for Edward Lear’, in Edward Lear and The Play of Poetry, co-ed. with James Williams (Oxford UP, 2016), 1-15 & 134-61

‘At Work With Victorian Poetry’, in The Oxford Handbook of Victorian Poetry (Oxford UP, 2013), 1-16

‘Dickens by the Clock’, in Dickens’s Style, ed. Daniel Tyler (Cambridge UP, 2013; paperback 2015), 46-72

‘Byron’s Feet’, in Meter Matters: Verse Cultures of The Long Nineteenth Century, ed. Jason Hall (Ohio UP, 2011), 78-104

‘Tennyson’s Humour’, in Tennyson Among the Poets: Bicentenary Essays, ed. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst and Seamus Perry (Oxford UP, 2009), 231-58

‘Empson in the Round’, in Some Versions of Empson (Oxford UP, 2007), 1-20

‘Fighting Talk: Victorian War Poetry’, in The Oxford Handbook of British and Irish War Poetry, ed. by Tim Kendall (Oxford UP, 2007), 7-33


Articles in Journals, Essays, Reviews, etc.

'Unknowing Lyric', Poetry (March 2017), 575-89

‘The Funny Thing About Trees’, Raritan (Winter 2014), 86-116

‘Eliot Among the Comedians’, Literary Imagination, 16.2 (July 2014), 135-56

Edward Lear’s Lines of Flight’ [2012 British Academy Chatterton Lecture on poetry], Journal of The British Academy, 1 (2013), 31-69

‘Wordsworth’s Folly’, The Wordsworth Circle, 43.3 (Summer 2012), 146-51

‘Wordsworth at Play’, Essays in Criticism, 61.1 (January 2011), 54-78

‘Warring Claims: Victorian Poetry and Conflict’, Les Cahiers Victoriens et Edouardiens, 66 (October 2007), 415-49

‘Joyce’s Love Letters’, in James Joyce Quarterly, 44.2 (2007), 354-57

‘William Empson’, 4000-word entry in The Literary Encyclopedia (2004)

‘Tennyson’s “Roses on the Terrace”: A New Manuscript’, Tennyson Research Bulletin, 8.2 (2003), 118-20

‘Volumes of Noise’, Victorian Literature and Culture, 31.2 (Autumn 2003), 577-91

‘Tennyson, Ireland, and “The Powers of Speech”’, Victorian Poetry, 39 (Fall 2001), 345-64

‘Dickens in Public’, Essays in Criticism, 51 (July 2001), 330-52

‘Temporizing Dickens’, Review of English Studies, 52 (May 2001), 171-91

‘Ruskin, Bright, and the Politics of Eloquence’, Nineteenth-Century Prose, 27.2 (Fall 2000), 177-90

‘Lecturing Ruskin’, Leeds Working Papers in Victorian Studies, 3 (2000), 122-36

‘Tennyson’s Civil Tongue’, Tennyson Research Bulletin, 7.3 (November 1999), 113-25

+ book reviews and review-essays in a range of magazines and journals, including The London Review of Books, Harper’s, Modernism/Modernity, The Byron Journal, Review of English Studies, Modern Language Review, Essays in Criticism, Cambridge Quarterly, Tennyson Research Bulletin, and British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and The Literary Review.

Review-articles / essays for the London Review of Books, Harper's, and other magazines include:

'It Wants to Go to Bed with Us' [on John Ashbery], Harpers (June 2017), 88-74

'Supping on Horrors' [on Thomas De Quincey], Harpers's (October 2016), 85-93

‘What most I love I bite’ [on Stevie Smith] LRB (28 July 2016), 19-21

‘The lighthouse stares back’ [on Elizabeth Bishop] LRB (7 January 2016), 9-10

I can bite anything I want’ [on Lewis Carroll] LRB (16 July 2015), 17-20

'Damn the Respectable' [on Edward Thomas] Literary Review (May 2015)

‘It is still mañana’, [on Robert Frost] LRB (19 February 2015), 21-24

‘Metropolitan Miscreants’ [on nineteenth-century London] LRB 4 July 2013), 32-33

‘Kids Gone Rotten’ [on Treasure Island] LRB (25 October 2012), 26-28

‘Deleecious’ [on William Hazlitt] LRB (6 November 2008), 26-28


In 2007, I was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize

In 2013, I was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship.

In 2016, I was awarded an AHRC Leadership Fellowship.



  • 'It is still mañana', [on Robert Frost]

  • Byron's Feet

  • Poetry by Numbers

  • Edward Lear and the Play of Poetry

  • Falling for Edward Lear

  • More
List of site pages