Lag Fever: Flash Culture, the Moon’s Late Minions and Gentlemen of the Shade in Colonial Australia
A/Prof. Clara Tuite (University of Melbourne)
Wednesday 25 July 2018
Humanities Institute of Ireland (UCD)
LAG FEVER. A term of ridicule applied to men who being under sentence of transportation, pretend illness, to avoid being sent from the gaol to the hulks.
Francis Grose, Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811)
This talk engages the rich social, linguistic and aesthetic repertoire of the flash (originally a cant language of thieves and convicts), taking the convict phenomenon of “lag fever” as my starting point, in order to complicate the idea of colonial belatedness. My discussion encompasses the flash lexicons of Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811) and the New and Comprehensive Vocabulary of the Flash Language (1819) that accompanied the convict Memoirs of James Hardy Vaux, as well as the popular Romanticism of Pierce Egan’s Life in London (1820), in order to explore Regency flash — simultaneously classical and new — as an example of the transformative capacity of the lag, a retroactive celebration of the disjunctive and anachronistic powers of quoting and recirculating in a new time and place.
I focus this discussion through a consideration of how the flash mediates a range of masculine social identities in Regency London and colonial Australia. Tracing the Byron-D’Orsay dandy type inaugurated in Regency Mayfair — that iconic silhouette of modern urban masculinity — alongside other identities such as swell, flash man, and wild colonial, my talk connects genealogies of masculine style and self-fashioning, and print-visual form, with the social arenas of fashionability, respectability, exile, convictism and settler culture, across Britain, Ireland, Europe and Australia. As well as Vaux, my colonial protagonists include William Romaine Govett and Thomas Griffiths Wainewright.
My exploration of the interpenetration of flash cultures in colonial Australia and Regency London — across print culture, visual media and social processes — hopes to throw new light on the liminal yet transformative Regency cultures of scandalous celebrity, exile and convictism.
Clara Tuite teaches at the University of Melbourne, where she is a member of the Research Unit in Enlightenment, Romanticism and Contemporary Culture. Her most recent book Lord Byron and Scandalous Celebrity (Cambridge University Press, 2015) was awarded the Elma Dangerfield Prize. Current projects include a study of trans-European literary Romanticism and the media of romantic love, and, with Gillian Russell, a project on Regency Romanticism in Ireland, Britain and Australia, entitled “Flash Regency,” supported by the Australian Research Council.
For any enquiries please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. The conference is generously supported by the Humanities Institute and UCD College of Arts and Humanities.