You can listen to Episode 7 of the WPHP Monthly Mercury, "1816 and 2020: The Years Without Summers", on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and other podcast apps, available via Buzzsprout.

This double episode of the WPHP Monthly Mercury is part of Romanticism on the Net’s special issue, “Romanticism, Interrupted.” The script has been peer-reviewed.


We are fast approaching the end of this (incredibly long) year. 2020 has been a year of climate crisis, of political upheaval, of a global pandemic; on a smaller scale, it has been a year of working from home, of finding new ways of forming community, and of learning how to function in a world that looks drastically different from years past.

In this peer-reviewed double episode of the WPHP Monthly Mercury, hosts Kandice Sharren and Kate Moffatt put 2020 and its many catastrophes into conversation with 1816, known as “the Year Without a Summer,” the unusually cold year during which Mary Shelley began to pen Frankenstein. More generally, 1816 was, like 2020, a year of catastrophes, marked by riots, political upheaval, and typhus and cholera epidemics set against a change in the weather that we now know was caused by the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia. This episode uses the WPHP to explore what other works exist about those years beyond what might be called the “1816 canon”—think Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, John Polidori. Looking at Elizabeth Heyrick’s Exposition of one principal cause of the national distress, Helen Maria Williams’s Letters on the events which have passed in France since the Restoration in 1815, Charlotte Caroline Richardson’s Harvest, Jane Waldie Watts’s Sketches descriptive of Italy in the years 1816 and 1817, and Frances Jane Carey’s Journal of a Tour in France in the years 1816 and 1817, we examine how women writers acknowledge global background catastrophe, what they can tell us about the voices we hear and the voices we do not, and how our own experiences this year have shaped our readings of their works.

Including reflection pieces of the hosts’ own experiences of 2020, as well as considerations of how the year’s seemingly-endless disasters have had far-reaching and severe consequences whose effects have been distributed unevenly across gender, class, race, and geography, Episode 7: “1816 and 2020: The Years Without Summers” considers the intersection of print, production, and processing in both 1816 and 2020.



Produced by: Kandice Sharren, Kate Moffatt, and Michelle Levy

Mixed and mastered by: Alexander Kennard

Music by: Ignatius Sancho, “Sweetest Bard”, A Collection of New Songs (1769) from, and played by Kandice Sharren


WPHP Records Referenced

Watts, Jane Waldie (person, author)
Sketches Descriptive of Italy (title)
Shelley, Mary (person, author)
Frankenstein (title)
Heyrick, Elizabeth (person, author)
Exposition of one principal cause of the national distress (title)
Jane Carey, Frances (person, author)
Journal of a tour in France (title)
Williams, Helen Maria (person, author)
Letters on the events which have passed in France Since the Restoration in 1815 (title)
Richardson, Charlotte Caroline (person, author)
Harvest, a poem (title)
Shelley, Percy Bysshe (person, author)
Byron, George Gordon (person, author)
Wordsworth, William (person, author)
Hunt, James Henry Leigh (person, author)
Political Writing (genre)
William Darton, Joseph Harvey, and Samuel Darton (firm, publisher/bookseller)
Baldwin, C. Cradock, and W. Joy (firm, publisher/bookseller)
Immediate, Not Gradual, Abolition (title)
Elizabeth Heyrick, Mother of Immediatism (spotlight)
Travel Writing (genre)
Spence, Elizabeth Isabella (person, author)
Letters from the North Highlands, During the Summer 1816 (title)
John Taylor and James Augustus Hessey (firm, publisher/bookseller)
John Murray II (firm, publisher)
Poetry (genre) 
Austen, Jane (person, author)
Persuasion (title)
The Last Man (title)
Emma (title)
Northanger Abbey (title)
Thomas Egerton (firm, publisher/bookseller)


Works Cited

"LITERARY NOTICE." The Lady's Monthly Museum, vol. VII, 1 March 1818, p. 168. Nineteenth Century UK Periodicals, Accessed 8 Dec. 2020.

Albree, Joe, and Scott H. Brown. "'A Valuable Monument of Mathematical Genius”: The Ladies’ Diary (1704–1840)." Historia Mathematica, vol. 36, no. 1, February 2009, pp. 10–47. 

Carey, Frances Jane. Journal of a tour in France, in the Years 1816 and 1817. By Frances Jane Carey. Taylor and Hessey, 1823, <>. Accessed 25 November 2020.

Clémentine, Clémence X., and Associates from the Infinite Girl Gang. “Against the Couple Form.” Lies vol. 1, 2012, pp. 45–54, <>. Accessed 25 November 2020.

Colbert, Benjamin. British Women’s Travel Writing, 1780–1840. University of Wolverhampton, 2014–2020, <>. Accessed 25 November 2020. 

Colbert, Benjamin. "British Women’s Travel Writing, 1780–1840: Bibliographical Reflections." Women’s Writing, vol. 24, no. 2, Apr. 2017, pp. 151–69. 

Dale, Amelia. “‘Out of Season’: The Narrative Ecology of Persuasion.” Romantic Climates: Literature and Science in an Age of Catastrophe, edited by Anne Collett and Olivia Murphy. Palgrave Macmillan, 2019, pp. 70–95.

Foucault, Michel. “Right of Death and Power over Life.” Literary Theory, An Anthology, edited byJulie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 3rd ed., John Wiley and Sons, 2017, pp. 778–91.

Harley, Alexis. “Domesticating Climate: Scale and the Meteorology of Luke Howard. Romantic Climates: Literature and Science in an Age of Catastrophe, edited by Anne Collett and Olivia Murphy.  Palgrave Macmillan, 2019, pp. 17–31.

Heringman, Noah. Romantic Rocks, Aesthetic Geology. Cornell UP, 2004.

Heyrick, Elizabeth. Exposition of One Principal Cause of the National Distress, particularly in manufacturing districts: with some suggestions for its removal. London: Darton, Harvey, and Darton, 1817. Google Books,  <>. Accessed 25 November 2020. 

Higgins, David. British Romanticism, Climate Change, and the Anthropocene Writing Tambora. Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

Jackson, J. R. de J. "Richardson, Charlotte Caroline (1796–1854), poet and novelist." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford UP, Accessed 26 Nov. 2020.

Moffatt, Kate, and Kandice Sharren. “Black Women and Female Abolitionists in Print.” Romanticism on the Net, no. 74–75, 2020–2021. RoN, <>.

Murphy, Olivia. “Romantic Climates: A Change in the Weather.” Romantic Climates: Literature and Science in an Age of Catastrophe, edited by Anne Collett and Olivia Murphy. Palgrave Macmillan, 2019, pp. 1–16.

Richardson, Charlotte Caroline. Harvest, a poem in two parts, with other poetical pieces. London: Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, 1818. HathiTrust Digital Library, <>. 

Smith, Ali. Spring. Hamish Hamilton, 2019.

Smith, Ali. Summer. Hamish Hamilton, 2020.

Smith, Zadie. Intimations: Six Essays. Penguin, 2020.

Southwell, Mary Elizabeth. A Short Journal of a Tour, Made through Part of France, Switzerland, and the Banks of the Rhine, to Spa, Antwerp, Ghent, &., by Lady de Clifford, in the Months of May, June, July and August, in 1817. London: F. H. Wall, 1837. Google Books, <>.

Spence, Elizabeth. Letters from the North Highlands, During the Summer 1816. By Elizabeth Isabella Spence, author of "A Caledonian Excursion," &c. &c. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees Orme, and Brown, 1817. Google Books, <>.

Washington, Chris. Romantic revelations: visions of post-apocalyptic life and hope in the Anthropocene. U of Toronto P, 2019.

Watts, Jane Waldie. Sketches Descriptive of Italy in the years 1816 and 1817 with a brief account of travels in various parts of France and Switzerland in the same year. In four volumes. London: John Murray, 1820. Google Books, <>.

Williams, Helen Maria. Letters on the Events which have passed in France since 1815. London: Baldwin, Cradock and Joy, 1819. Google Books, <>. 

Womble, David A. P. “What Climate Did to Consent, 1748–1818.” English Literary History, vol. 87, no. 2, 2020, pp. 491–517. 

Wood, Gillen D’Arcy. Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World. Princeton UP, 2014.


This podcast draws on research supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.



S1E7_1816 and 2020_ The Years Without Summers_Blog PDF.pdf
S1E7_1816 and 2020_ The Years Without Summers_Transcript PDF.pdf