Visualizing the Worlds of Mary Mitford

How many degrees of separation are there between Mary Russell Mitford, Jane Austen, Lord Byron, and the Shelley circle? Which books, periodicals, and works of art does Mitford write about most often in her letters and literary texts, and which titles does she most frequently discuss together? As we compile an XML database of files, working with Mitford’s correspondence and her published texts, we are constructing network analysis plots based on Mitford’s extensive range of contacts and her wide reading. We have plotted the following networks so far from our test-bed selection of Mitford’s writings from ca. 1819 - 1825:

One of our earliest findings of interest is that Jane Austen is but one degree of separation from Lord Byron in Mitford’s writings.

We begin with a network graph drawn from 70 edited TEI files and our prosopography data, looking at Mitford’s references to her contemporary and regional neighbor, Jane Austen in letters and literary texts coded thus far for our archive, dated between 1819 and 1825. The network plot rendered below takes Jane Austen as its central node, and maps all individuals mentioned in the same files with her. These individuals (circular nodes on the graph) are are considered first neighbors in the network analysis. Our network analysis is larger than this, but we selected this view as a readable plot to illustrate the referentiality of Mitford’s writings to historical people and fictional characters. The lines drawn between the circular nodes, or the edge connections are color-coded to indicate the kinds of writing in which Jane Austen is mentioned in conjunction with another individual. Thus, our plot marks connections made in Mitford’s letters from 1819 to 1825 and her literary texts. Jane Austen is referenced (in the opening sketch, alongside naturalist Gilbert White--another regional neighbor from Selborne, Hampshire) in the first edition of Our Village (1824). Click on the graph to view a zoomable and expandable version.

network graph of people referenced with Jane Austen in 70 texts by Mary Russell Mitford from between 1819 to 1825

The network graph above indicates people most frequently referenced by giving them a larger node size (with the largest circular nodes representing the individuals with the most connections in the network, or the highest degree centrality). The coral-colored edges indicate connections formed in Mitford’s fictional text, Our Village. Deep blue edges represent connections formed in Mitford’s Introduction to her Dramatic Works, a lengthy retrospection written near the end of her life, in which Mitford reflects on many people in the theater and art world of the 1820s in that text. Green edges indicate connections formed by mention within Mitford’s letters, while the red edges show connections made by mutual mention in Mitford’s personal journal of 1819 to 1823. The thickest (most weighted) edges on this graph, as on the preceding, indicate those that are most crucial to holding the network together, or the highest edge-betweenness in the network. These edges connect the nodes mutually referenced in Mitford’s fiction, introduction to the Dramatic Works, and Mitford’s personal writings.

We plotted this graph in Cytoscape, and the full interactive Cytoscape files are available from our project’s Github directory. The following files are available for viewing in Cytoscape:

From 88 pieces of writing by Mitford between ca. 1819 and 1825, a collection of letters and literary texts, we plotted Mitford’s references to titles of published books and periodicals as well as works of art, based on how frequently particular titles are discussed together in the same piece of writing. The network graph below highlights the six texts with the highest degree centrality, that is, the highest number of mentions in connection with other creative productions (books and artwork) in Mitford’s writings. The big ring densely clustered titles are all those mentioned in conjunction with these central six, and helps to illustrate the wide range of Mitford’s reading and frequent writing about what she read. Click on the graph to view a larger version in its own window:

Six Texts Most Frequently Discussed in Mitford’s Writings ca. 1819-1825

To view this plot in Cytoscape, download and open our dynamic session view in the software.

A cautionary note: These networks are preliminary, based on the first 70 - 90 coded XML files with enough data to contribute to the plots. Our coding of Mitford’s works is still progressing, and we will update these plots as our project develops. What you see here, though, are the beginnings of what will be a very detailed set of networks. Eventually hope to make our nodes and edges clickable as a way to lead readers into our archive.

As our editing and coding continues, we look forward to integrating network graphics with maps and diagrams to plot and connect the addresses and locations mentioned Mitford’s correspondence. While Franco Moretti has famously plotted circular structures of the walkable region depicted in Mitford’s Our Village, we plan to extend mapping to plot important places in the Mitford archive, and to Mitford’s use of space and place in her poetry, drama, and fiction. Since Mitford’s correspondence covers a period of transition in the British postal service, we look forward to producing maps and timelines of England’s postal network and penny post system in the first half of the nineteenth-century, which will complement our guide to reading and coding British postmarks.

Maintained by: Elisa E. Beshero-Bondar (eeb4 at Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.This project is built with the <oXygen/> XML Editor and eXist-db: the open-source XML database.Last modified: Fri Feb 15 01:15:17 2019