Dr Carly Watson

My research interests encompass late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century poetry and print culture, the history of books and manuscripts, and digital humanities. I am particularly interested in the place of poetry in the literary marketplace of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I am also interested in what books and manuscripts can tell us not just about the history of literature but also about the development of society, culture, technology, and trade.

I am completing my first monograph, Miscellanies, Poetry, and Authorship, 1680-1800, to be published by Palgrave Macmillan. This is an investigation of the miscellany form and its impact on the writing, publishing, and reading of poetry in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Scholarship on miscellanies has flourished in recent years, buoyed by the creation of innovative digital resources such as the Digital Miscellanies Index (https://dmi.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/) and Verse Miscellanies Online (http://versemiscellaniesonline.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/). My book has arisen from my work as the postdoctoral researcher and project manager for the second phase of work on the Digital Miscellanies Index (2014-17), a phase that transformed its search interface and extended its chronological range by one and a half centuries. I used the enhanced dataset of the Digital Miscellanies Index to uncover hitherto unrecognised trends in the publication of poetry in miscellanies and provide new answers to challenging questions about the function of miscellanies in literary culture. As well as being informed by the latest digital scholarship, my book promotes a new understanding of the miscellany form itself that challenges modern author-centric definitions. I argue that by reinstating the more expansive definition of the form current in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries we can better understand the importance of the miscellany as a platform for poets and poetry in the period.

I am keen to enable wider audiences to engage with eighteenth-century culture in creative and informative ways. I am working with Cherryburn, the birthplace of the pioneering engraver and naturalist Thomas Bewick (1753-1828), now looked after by the National Trust, to design and run printing workshops for members of the public interested in learning more about Bewick's art and the history of printing. The workshops will run in the spring of 2020. They are generously funded and supported by the Novel Impressions network, led by Dr Helen Williams (Northumbria University). For more information about the network, visit https://novelimpressions.home.blog/.


Miscellanies, Poetry, and Authorship, 1680-1800 (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming)

‘From Restorer to Editor: The Evolution of Lewis Theobald’s Textual Critical Practice’, The Library: The Transactions of the Bibliographical Society, 20 (2019), 147–71

‘Verse Miscellanies in the Eighteenth Century’, Oxford Handbooks Online (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016) DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199935338.013.114

‘Private Theatricals in the Harcourt Family Papers’, Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film, 38 (2011), 14-25

‘The Harcourt Papers: Collecting Manuscript Poetry in the Eighteenth Century’, Bodleian Library Record, 23 (2010), 214-29

I teach graduate courses on bibliography, book history, and scholarly editing. In particular, I deliver the B Course for students taking the M.St. in English (1700-1830). This course explores how books were made in the eighteenth century and the Romantic era - a pivotal period of industrial expansion and innovation - and how the material forms of texts interact with and shape their meanings. I work with English Faculty librarians to bring eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century books into the classroom so that students can examine them closely and develop their research skills. I also teach an optional course, Issues in Editing, which is open to all M.St. students working on literature post-1500. This course is aimed at students who are interested in making a new edition of a text or evaluating an existing edition (or editions) for the B Course assessment.

I have given lectures for undergraduates preparing for FHS Paper 4 (Literature in English 1660-1760). One of my lectures, a short introduction to the production of literature in manuscript and print in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, is available online as a podcast here: https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/series/faculty-english-introductions.

I studied English Language and Literature as an undergraduate at Christ Church, Oxford, where I was awarded a college scholarship. In 2010, having moved to Balliol College, I gained my M.St. in English (1550-1780) with a Distinction. I was also awarded the Balliol-Bodley Scholarship, which enabled me to undertake research into a collection of manuscript poems written and preserved by members of the aristocratic Harcourt family in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This work was the basis of my first article, ‘The Harcourt Papers: Collecting Manuscript Poetry in the Eighteenth Century’, published in the Bodleian Library Record in 2010.

I received my PhD from the University of Birmingham in 2014 for a study of a remarkable collection of books donated to Winchester College in the eighteenth century. My thesis brought to light a forgotten eighteenth-century bibliophile, Alexander Thistlethwayte, and provided new insights into the social and cultural worlds of book collecting in the period. It also included case studies of some of the unique items in Thistlethwayte’s collection, such as a copy of James VI and I’s earliest publication with additions and annotations by contemporary readers. These case studies offered new ways of understanding the processes that shaped readers’ encounters with literature in the past. One such case study looked at a rare portion of eighteenth-century printer’s copy in Thistlethwayte’s collection as part of a reassessment of the work of the Shakespearean scholar Lewis Theobald (1688-1744). I revised and expanded this chapter into an article, ‘From Restorer to Editor: The Evolution of Lewis Theobald’s Textual Critical Practice’, which was published in The Library in the summer of 2019.