A radical novelist in eighteenth-century England: Robert Bage on poverty, slavery and women
Let’s not pretend getting awarded with a research degree is easy. Nobody I have spoken to has claimed it is. For me it was a struggle, working part-time, but then, after years of writing and times of despair, my thesis took shape. Others who have been down this road know you have to write more than the prescribed length and reject up to two-thirds. Hopefully it’s the right two thirds!
I’ve finished my thesis on the eighteenth-century novelist and campaigner, Robert Bage, who died in 1801, aged 71. My work involved the meticulous consultation of new local material I discovered at Stafford Record Office. It was a discovery that gave the impetus needed to turn my thesis into a worthwhile study. I gambled on producing a biography and literary criticism of an author who was popular in his day, but who time had neglected and weaving the two strands together was a challenge. All researchers question whether their approach is right, and I was no exception. My supervisors, Malcolm Dick (History) and Sebastian Mitchell (Literature) were as concerned as I was until things started to take shape. When I felt like giving up, they explained that nearly all research students go through similar phases. Everybody’s journey is personal. Everybody is going to encounter some kind of problem, and these problems will be different. If you find it a struggle – persevere. You will be glad you did. I have now been awarded my degree, the two examiners were very complimentary and I am now seeking publication of my work.