Victorian Literature and Nonlinear Style
Simon Reader




EVENTUALLY MY OWN NOTES HAD TO BECOME A BOOK—an irony, since the whole point was the value notes have without becoming one. I wrote it believing that there are many people who enjoy reading and writing them for reasons other than collecting data, transmitting information, or working toward a finished product. They buy slick index cards, fill their desk drawers with pristine blank books, fill those books with handwriting, cover their walls in Post-Its, all to chase what Roland Barthes calls the “drive, physical pleasure taken in Noting Down.”1 The critical motivation for the study came from my sense that students and instructors of literature have a limited vocabulary for speaking about what notes do aesthetically. We unfold deft and elegant readings of the free indirect style of Emma or the sprung rhythm of “The Wreck of the Deutschland,” but the mainstream of the discipline is not equipped with intricate ways of describing notes and notebooks as literary art. Just to the side of the weighty novels and luminous poems that fill our syllabuses lies a messier world of paper we generally ignore. As a student of Victorian literature, my attention often drifted away from monumental fictions and toward the unpublished materials of famous writers, where I found an errant thrill in seeing their language in disarray. This book encourages us to do more of this drifting in order to defamiliarize these texts and our readings of them. I advance a simple argument: the writer’s notebook encloses a genre equal in importance to the novel, poem, drama, or essay. I call this notework, and the chapters that follow present notes alongside, but in contradistinction to, these more familiar genres. I aim to pluralize what we count as form and style and at the same time offer a nineteenth-century counterpoint to the kinds of fragmented reading and writing we do online today.

This book builds on and honors the work of those editors who invest countless hours transcribing handwritten materials and tracking references so that readers such as myself can access them. Those labors also depend on archives and special collections that invest large sums acquiring such materials and working to preserve them. These endeavors intersect with the international traffic of private collectors and auction houses, where famous notebooks can sell for enormous sums. In 1994, for instance, Bill Gates purchased Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester (a 72-page manuscript) for 30.8 million dollars at auction.<2 More recently, a notebook belonging to the twentieth-century mathematician Alan Turing, and which contains entries on notable mathematicians and also a tantalizing “hidden dream journal,” sold for a more modest 850 thousand dollars.3 Yet despite the great value placed on notebooks and similar materials by institutions and individual buyers, something about the contemporary nature of literary study holds them at bay.

In our field, the appreciation for polished totalities runs deep, perhaps most famously in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s definition of “the sense of Beauty” as that which “subsists in simultaneous intuition of the relation of parts, each to each, and of all to a whole.”4 This continues through the work of the New Critics, who in the words of Cleanth Brooks focus on “the problem of unity—the kind of whole which the literary work forms or fails to form, and the relation of the various parts to each other in building up this whole.”5 While Coleridge arguably savored the formal energy of loose and unconnected writings at different moments in his life, Brooks and other like-minded critics consistently relegated the text surrounding or preceding works of literature to the sidelines as they undertook to reveal the intricate harmonies and paradoxes of poems and fictions. The accounts of organic literary form offered by Coleridge and the New Criticism have been challenged in more ways than I can list here, but their opponents often focus on breaking the halo of the literary and the aesthetic rather than widening it to encompass the kinds of supposed dross Brooks and others thought beneath their regard. I believe that our twenty-first-century moment urges us to develop a wider-reaching formalism, and that by generating such an account we can better understand the way in which contemporary textual technologies organize and disorganize our attention.

Notes are not read as much as they are used. Scholars invite them to the table for certain conversations, for example to supply information about where or when a writer landed on a particular idea, or what books they consulted, or to tell us about their state of mind at a given point in time. But we leave them out of other discussions, for example about affect, networks, description, queerness, debates on different kinds of reading, and form—all topics that they can push in different directions and which I pursue in what follows. It would be senseless to deny that notes are pressed into service in other genres (again, I hope this book is an example), but I wish to consider how they can play a leading role in our thoughts, following Ann Laura Stoler’s influential call for scholars to turn from the “archive-as-source to archive-as-subject.”6 This book intercepts notes before they are (or are not) reworked in other genres, in order to pose new questions: What if we read notes as ends in themselves? What if we looked upon them as doing work other than producing finished books? What would come into view, paradoxically, if we let them be more opaque, more distinctive, rather than an inchoate version of something we already know how to look for?

Before offering answers to those questions, I also wish to distinguish the arguments of this book not only from the prevailing tendency to overlook notes in literary studies, but also from the specialized practices of bibliography and textual criticism as they are often practiced today. Alongside the mainstream focus on finished, published texts, there has been in the last several decades a prolific expansion of textual and bibliographic criticism. As I have already mentioned, there are highly skilled scholars who pay carefully, methodically detailed attention to manuscripts. For notes to become useful as clarifications of an author’s personal life, or as the X-rays of a creative process, the current consensus requires robust and thorough critical editions, and such editions do of course make frequent appearances in the pages of this book. Yet as we shall see, these editions from the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries displace a previous moment in which Victorian notebooks might be published in excerpted or redacted selections, in the midst of modernist publication practices.

For example, one of the very first publications of New Directions, famed publisher of the poets William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore, was Selections from the Note-Books of Gerard Manley Hopkins, which staged those notes as imagistic poetry avant la lettre, for example: “Moonlight hanging or dropping on treetops like blue cobweb.”7 Charles Darwin’s granddaughter, the naturalist Nora Barlow, used selections from Darwin’s Beagle notebooks in a free manner that emphasized their aesthetic qualities, yet only as a hook to the “main event” of her edition of Charles Darwin’s Diary of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle.8 Rather than ignoring these incomplete selections and early editions, this book makes equal use of them for the different editorial consciousness they bring to light, and to show that a marginalized but important aesthetics of the note connects the writers in this book, their earliest editors, and the kinds of reading I suggest we do. Charting a new course between a mere lack of interest, on the one hand, and a documentary exhaustiveness, on the other, Notework aims to highlight their formal pleasures and availability to interpretation.

By teasing out the formal characteristics of notes we gain a new account of style. I use the term nonlinear style to refer to the expressions of notework. The chapters that follow present manifestations of it in the writings of six Victorians, all of whom collect and value seemingly insignificant and unordered observations. Their notebooks act as what I call shelters of inconsequence, structures that enable the accrual of writings about minor or fleeting things that do not necessarily yield a subsequent genre beyond themselves. Yet they nevertheless add up, albeit in a counterintuitive way: through the incremental collection of documents, these note-takers generate heaps of what we might now call personal data. Taking collections as implicit visions of collectives, I explore how these textual spaces reflect desires and fantasies of social relation. Each chapter poses questions about our affective entanglements with information and our self-documented lives. For then as now, people extended themselves into the world through script, constructing records of their observations, thoughts, and experiences.

This book presents episodes in the lives of what Suzanne Briet calls “homo documentator,” a species whose members practice the “cultural technique” of rendering themselves and their objects of interest in documentary form, whether it be the announcement of a birth, the discovery of a star, or the arrival of an antelope at a zoo.9 This will take us from Darwin gleefully scribbling down his impressions of a starlit sky on the HMS Beagle in 1831 to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence nearly a hundred years later, where Vernon Lee (Violet Paget) records her body quivering in front of works of art in real time. We will see Oscar Wilde distilling philosophy in lapidary theses to prepare for his Greats examinations at Oxford, where he initiates quixotic connections between vastly different thinkers, and Gerard Manley Hopkins describing dynamic interactions between natural forces such as sunset clouds and Alpine waterfalls. George Gissing will find solace in the most useless details of everyday life, while Samuel Butler styles himself as a professional but private note-taker attempting to renounce the world of print capitalism in favor of a textual life to come.

These studies are experiments in a strange kind of intimacy. I have found Victorian notes to be records of something deeply personal and yet at the same time distinct from biographical information. For one thing, reading materials in or close to the hands of these canonical figures involves getting close to their bodies and how they carried them. The most striking example of this would be Vernon Lee, who lists the “palpitations” of her body as she stands before works of art in Italian museums and galleries. Examples also crop up in less expected places. For many years, Darwin kept his notebooks with him at all times, as Janet Browne informs us: “Wherever Darwin went, one of these books went too, ready for catching elusive thoughts, for making notes in libraries, or recording useful conversations after a good evening’s talk. He surreptitiously worked on them during boring scientific meetings. Out they came in the carriage going home.”10 Like printed books, these bear the traces of the hands and pockets that carried them, covered in the fingerprints of their users and bent in different directions. The form blurs the boundaries we usually wish to keep between an author’s life, their works, and ourselves. We will often feel their inchoate, exuberant, excessive thoughts, following the skips and jumps of their handwriting.

I don’t read notebooks as confessionals or to sequence dates, but rather as imprints of style. I follow Marielle Macé and other theorists of style in considering it as a phenomenon of pattern, movement, and a way of being that exists apart from the mere facts of a life.11 Style is the shape or rhythm of lived existence. Indeed, despite its often singular and uniquely personal qualities, it may actually help a person refuse to be understood according to biographical narratives. It can facilitate disappearance, offering a way of giving up the conventional routines of selfhood in order to claim new territory outside sanctioned parameters for personality. Style therefore traffics with the socially inconsequential. In this sense, I draw inspiration from D. A. Miller’s conception of style as “the utopia of those with almost no place to go.” It may include “spending an inordinate amount of time on a trifle” or an effort to evaporate the self into a “sterling insignificance.” As Miller goes on to say, this kind of marginality must be understood as separate from the kind that society imposes upon the most vulnerable people living within it. Style by contrast represents what he calls a “deliberately embraced project,” namely the “activist materialization of insignificance.”12 The people in this study are all deliberately stylish outliers, each in their own way.

Readers may find some of their scrappy work off-putting, or simply difficult to square with our habitual ways of approaching the Victorians. Many of the quotations that I analyze in these chapters are not just unfamiliar but unpolished, littered with invented punctuation or wild syntax. They can often sound more like Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons than the decorous prose of realism, and in fact all the figures featured here have at one time or another been thought of as anticipating a modernist aesthetic future. Here is Darwin, for instance, making a record of listening to a choir: “I grant that the thrill, which runs throug every fibre, when one behold the last rays of & & or grand chorus are utterly inexplicable.”13 Or here is Hopkins on the aurora borealis: “At night northern lights beautiful, but colourless near the horizon in permanent birch-bark downward streaks but shooting in streamers across the zenith and higher sky like breath misting and then being cut off from very sensitive glass.”14 I think of this disarming strangeness as an aesthetic virtue and a pleasurable feature, one that we more readily associate with avant-garde experiments by writers in other literary periods. Part of why I have devoted so much attention to these writings is that they provide another way to loosen up the Victorians, as it were, revealing that some of them already express themselves in the style of “the spasmodic, the obscure, the fragmentary, the failure” that Virginia Woolf would associate with the modernists who sought to reject their predecessors.15 To read their notes is to put these groups in closer company, and to show what twists the nineteenth century gives to their shared formal knots.

Victorians are generally known not for celebrating fragmented and errant forms, but rather for systematic thinking and long, sequential works of science and fiction. Some were downright suspicious of note-taking in particular. To take a paradigmatic example, George Eliot’s characterization of Edward Casaubon of Middlemarch cautions her readers (and, implicitly, herself) against taking aimless notes without a plan to integrate and synthesize them. Middlemarch figuratively seals off his notes from our consideration. Readers do not get to see inside Casaubon’s books, and receive only mocking, secondhand reports of their contents. They amount to nothing but a heap of documents indexing “erratic mythical fragments” and the “tossed ruins of the world.” From Ladislaw’s perspective, Casaubon’s notes seem like nothing more than “helpless embryos,” examples of a “long incubation producing no chick.”16 Through this representation of Casaubon, Eliot stamps note-taking for its own sake with the mark of sterility, uselessness, error, and death. If Casaubon’s notes, queerly sterile as they are, have no future, the novel assures us that Eliot’s own prolific note-taking does, and the proof is the novel itself. (For all we know, however, Casaubon’s notes may be more interesting than Dorothea or Ladislaw acknowledge.) Of course, with the benefit of access to the massive research endeavors that supported Eliot’s novel-writing made available by editions of the Quarry for Middlemarch, the separate Middlemarch Notebooks, and Daniel Deronda Notebooks, these somewhat sad portrayals of Casaubon’s notes failing to crystallize publicly seem to reflect Eliot’s own fear of going to seed.

Eliot’s biases may have inflected our studies more than we care to admit. More than one critic perceives in Casaubon an anxiety about the scholarly pitfall of research without end.17 The metaphor that Eliot uses to label her most famous notebook, a quarry, immediately suggests mining and raw materials hewn from elsewhere to be used in a new building. For the nineteenth-century collector of information, then, the novel presented a most felicitous destination for blocks of data taken from various sources. Indeed, the novel is so ascendant in discussions of the period that it is difficult to catch textual glimmers of the kind I wish to put in view. It is thus in contrast with the feats of other genres that notework comes to light. Familiar works, including novels, appear in these pages: On the Origin of Species, Gissing’s New Grub Street, Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Hopkins’s “Spelt from Sibyl’s Leaves,” and diverse essays by Vernon Lee. Yet I reverse the formal priority in my approach to these, treating the author’s notes as primary while still considering the achievements of these other works. In other words, the form of the notes becomes essential to understanding the content of the novels, poems, and essays, rather than the other way around.

My readings of the traditional genres featured here reveal the surprisingly intense emotions these authors feel about collecting and processing information. Even as they try to bring coherence to their “raw materials,” each author imagines a space for what exceeds or subverts the structures and systems that do such work: Darwin’s useless organs float peacefully in the midst of the evolutionary struggles described in the Origin; Dorian Gray’s “novel without a plot” ironically contributes to his own narrative of hedonistic annihilation; Harold Biffen’s “Mr Bailey Grocer” contains nothing but undramatic and useless notations about the everyday life of a produce vendor. Many of Hopkins’s poems coalesce against the backdrop of kaleidoscopic documentation that we find in his notes, a plenitude that shrinks as his lyrics surrender personal information to an omniscient God charged with the task of synthesizing it. In multiple cases we see the potentials and powers of the note resituated by the more familiar genres, without their vibrant aimlessness disappearing altogether.

Notes court sterility. When Eliot describes Casaubon’s “long incubation producing no chick,” she marks notes as the queer element in a system of organic textual growth, shamefully unproductive when it does not graduate through proper stages of textual Bildung. This configuration of textual production frames our everyday ways of understanding an author’s textual life, but also persists in more elaborate critical methods. Genetic criticism, practiced by Dirk Van Hulle, Jed Deppman, Daniel Ferrer, and others, reinforces this model when it aims to explain “the genesis of the literary work” in a way that “accepts a teleological model of textuality.”18 By insisting on evaluating notes in terms of the telos of other genres, we lose out on the kinds of feelings, activities, and insights they may engender apart from their conscription in a narrative of development that must inevitably produce a socially accessible object. In a moment, I’ll explain how these bio-teleological metaphors underlying accounts of formal emergence could stand to be refined precisely in light of the Darwinian information, the terms of which provide an ample account of the roles that minor and secondary forms play in the world.

In resisting an account of composition that prioritizes familiar genres, however, I wish neither to overstate nor understate the utopian aspects of note-taking. Its difference from other genres does not betoken a radical politics that will free us from the confines of those genres. I take seriously Anne-Lise François’s account of how post-Enlightenment thinkers, in their rush to recover and promote anything branded “minor, nugatory, unworthy, insignificant, unreal,” can “elevate the infinitesimal to the status of an impossible and absolute ideal, making the release from heroic, goal-oriented energies conditional on a call to permanent vigilance and ever-readiness.”19 These chapters do emphasize and celebrate the pleasures of nonlinear style, its intellectual and sensuous play. However, they do not approach it as a boundless or chaotic energy that somehow promises our salvation. I wish to show instead that many of the subversive and utopian meanings that critics associate with fragmentary and nonlinear forms are themselves formal features of the genre of notework. By elucidating these as form, rather than formlessness, we can better understand the way they can be articulated, explored, defined, and, perhaps most importantly, exploited.


The term notework is meant to call other words to mind, most obviously artwork, since I treat notes as such throughout. I also employ it in order to gain some conceptual distance from the physical notebook itself. While every text depends upon its material contingencies, this point has been made so strongly in arguments about literature’s relationship with material culture that it can occasionally be difficult to perceive the imaginative and even fantastical dimension of what minor forms are saying textually as well as materially. This project would not have been possible without a large body of scholarship, mainly drawn from book history and the history of science, that continues to expand our understanding of note-taking in its historical contexts through analyses of commonplace books, almanacs, field notes, and weekly planners. Scholars such as Ann Blair, Richard Yeo, William Sherman, Lisa Jardine and Anthony Grafton, David Allan, and others generally describe these as utilities enabling a modern organization of information by individuals in a rapidly growing economy of information from the Early Modern period onward.20 The present argument differs from these, however, in emphasizing textual styles that are palpable in multiple media and that are not necessarily directed to utilitarian outcomes.

For notes ramify over blank books but also on index cards, slips, and digital formats, all of which can be re-mediated through printed transcriptions and online databases. While Darwin’s actual papers lie in state at the University Library in Cambridge, you are more likely to encounter them in the large volume Charles Darwin’s Notebooks, 1836–1844: Geology, Transmutation of Species, Metaphysical Inquiries.21 That volume itself draws on a series of booklets that presented unreconstructed versions of Darwin’s alphabetized notebooks in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Digitization enables the re-transcription of these materials into online text, which appears alongside photographs of the handwritten originals on the Darwin Online website. This is a way of saying that unless otherwise indicated, my use of the word notebook in these pages should be taken as a shorthand for the generic contours I aim to specify as notework, drawing upon these diverse materials as evidence. There is of course a wide array of blank forms, from ledgers and waste-books to day planners, formatted diaries, and graphing books, many of which are being explored in lively ways by others, though statistical details bearing on the manufacture and sales of such objects are extremely difficult to find.22 As for this book, it is not a material history, but a lateral literary criticism that turns a formalist eye upon texts that have been hiding in plain sight.

Consequently, it may seem that I am running fast and loose with the material record, since my focus swerves away from the archival objects with which it is ostensibly concerned and toward the posthumous editions in which these notes have been transcribed, selected, and annotated. While this arises out of necessity (writing a book about notebooks held in distant special collections will often require the use of mediated and edited forms), that very parenthesis is a goad to think of different mediations as evidence of the plural meanings the texts within them offer: the excesses and imperfections of the material record travel more widely and at higher resolutions in the digital age and can be read as a series of variations that make for good reading and good thinking. It’s not news that different editions of texts foreground the value of different things, but my hope is that the argument respects material contingencies while at the same time showing what is possible when we allow for the innovation of concepts that range over the material substrate with a lighter touch.

For it is the very lightness of notework that we should take seriously, even as the word is also meant to suggest labor. Running through the chapters is the notion that what may have seemed like the absence of work in the nineteenth century, a mere drift of imagination and thought, has rapidly and strangely taken on the aspect of concrete work in the twenty-first. What people might have read as a disinterested montage of sundry pieces of information in previous decades today constitutes an important site for the generation of wealth and recirculation of power. Our age demands that we transmit ourselves in documents and that we relinquish these willingly in order to be visible as citizens, a process Ronald Day calls the “transformation of persons and texts into documentary representations within broader-based indexing systems.”23 There are increasing numbers who believe that online citizenship of this kind should be compensated, given that it generates value in the billions of dollars for corporations but leaves users with only vague promises of exposure, the development of personal brands, and “connections.”

The labor undertaken by these nineteenth-century figures takes shape in ways that will seem both familiar and strange. First, they contain observations that seem trivial, fanciful, or of minimal consequence, even and especially to the authors themselves. Notework offers not only an epistemological outlook on the small and seemingly insignificant but also an architecture in which to document—and therefore preserve, however tenuously—fleeting and potentially useless notations. This often looks less like toil and more like errant idleness, what Maurice Blanchot calls désoeuvrement (“worklessness”).24 Notework seems like it’s not work: for Blanchot this characterizes literary activity in general and fragmentary writing in particular. With the possible exception of Vernon Lee, these writers did not expect financial compensation for their note-taking, and in many cases what sponsors their output is external financial support and the leisure time that comes with it. Darwin is a paradigmatic case, since he had the opportunity to circle the globe as a geologist and “gentleman’s companion” for the captain of the HMS Beagle, paradoxically working at something that would be, in his uncle’s words, “useless as regards his profession.”25

Darwin is therefore more than simply another case study here, and he appears first in the sequence of chapters because his early journals exemplify this sense of release from useful outcomes while they record more and more precisely the existence and often vibrant activity of nonfunctioning organs. These include, for example, the peacock’s tail, the apparent result of sexual selection, but also the appendix or the mole’s blind eyes, which remain “fluctuating elements” in his system for as long as they do not become particularly useful or harmful. They are nonfunctional but energetic in the production of differences. His theory gives us the unifying principle of natural selection but he also generated utterly new and positive ways of thinking about the nonworking work of minor forms, such as the one that brought his major discoveries into focus: apparently useless organs ungoverned by selection and given to excess. This frequently neglected but essential aspect of his theory has long inspired recuperations that place the focus of interest on precisely those aspects of plant and animal life that have nothing to do with metaphors of struggle but rather with the generation of sheer difference. These recuperations picture Darwin as by turns decadent, vitalist, a lover of playful difference, a value-aloof wanderer, and an inattentive schoolchild.26

Yet while his notebooks have generated substantial interest, shedding light on working methods and the history of science and supplementing the work of literary critics, there has yet to be a book that takes the formal quality of his notes themselves in all their exclamatory drift as a point of departure for literary criticism. It would be impossible to claim a direct line of influence when it comes to notework specifically, since Darwin’s unpublished materials remained so during his lifetime, but nonetheless Gissing, Hopkins, Wilde, Lee, and Butler all read his works and write in the cultural aftermath of the Darwinian revolution. As I hope to prove, the preoccupation with uselessness and inconsequential variation is uncannily reiterated in the works, but most surprisingly in the notes, of these future writers. It is in that context that they gain a new and original warrant for writing in a playful, variable style that needn’t eventuate in socially purposive genres. As I’ll explain in greater detail in a moment, the formalist uptake of Darwin’s theories of inconsequentiality finds expression in these late-nineteenth-century writers, but also persists into the twentieth century and the core of Russian Formalist theory.

To speak of influence and uncanny reiterations is to raise the question of the apparent isolation of the notebook from social functions and readers (at least during the lifetimes of the authors), which might suggest that each one is entirely idiosyncratic, even hermetic. This is partly true, but it is a principle of this book that any collection of notes reflects desires for collectivity. It is a fundamentally plural genre. There is almost never just one note in an otherwise blank book; there are always notes (with, of course, the exception of the many notebooks we have all begun with great expectations only to abandon them the next day). The seeming exemption from work visible in the notes of Darwin and others yields an assembly of information not necessarily organized toward a particular end, but in which conjunctions and harmonies of a different sort can emerge in documentary space. Hopkins, for example, uses his notes to build a network of unsystematic but harmonious links. He works at imagining connections between apparently isolated actors in the world, finding points of integration and fluidity between, for example, the sun and the clouds or the different branches of a tree. Twenty-first-century scholarship tends to consider networks from the top down, for example in Franco Moretti’s influential Graphs, Maps, and Trees or in the many social scientific projects that analyze the massive amounts of data generated on social networks.27 Networking appears here as a highly subjective projection of relations, closer to Patrick Jagoda’s notion of a “network imaginary,” which treats networks as figures and objects invested with fantasy and desire.28

Most of these notes would not appear in public until well into the twentieth century, and some of them still await publication or critical editions. I will have more to say about the loopy temporality of this genre below, but here I wish to emphasize that within the novels, poems, and essays I explore there may appear characters, personae, and forms that experiment with the idea that the kinds of labor outlined here might be staged in public. In spite of the loose chronology of my chapters, they do point to the emergence in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries of the paradoxical figure of the public note-taker, often legible as an alter ego of the author themself. Thus Violet Paget uses her pseudonym of Vernon Lee to distribute her essays, which she recurrently refers to as her notes and sketches. Gissing’s character of Ryecroft in The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft styles himself as a creator of mere notations, and Lord Henry Wotton in Dorian Gray seems at times to speak and behave like a Twitter celebrity. I will examine Lee in particular as a case of a writer who imagines a new form of authorship along these lines, one who forsakes control over the final meaning of her writings and views them as atoms to be scattered in the works of future writers whom she may not live to read.


1. Roland Barthes, The Preparation of the Novel, trans. Kate Briggs (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 97.

2. “The Leonardo da Vinci Codex Hammer,” sale 8030, Christie’s New York (11 November 1994).

3. “Turing, Alan Mathison, 1912–54, Autograph Ms s.” American Book Prices Current, accessed September 30, 2019,

4. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Theory of Life,” Collected Works, Vol. 11: Shorter Works and Fragments (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), 378.

5. Cleanth Brooks, “The Formalist Critics,” The Kenyon Review 13, no. 1 (1951), 72.

6. Ann Laura Stoler, Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), 44.

7. Gerard Manley Hopkins, Selections from the Note-Books of Gerard Manley Hopkins, ed. T. Weiss (Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1945), 5.

8. Charles Darwin, Charles Darwin’s Diary of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, ed. Nora Barlow (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1933).

9. Suzanne Briet, What Is Documentation?, trans. Ronald Day and Laurent Martinet with Hermina G.B. Anghelescu (Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2006), 29.

10. Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: Voyaging (New York: Random House, 2010), 364.

11. Marielle Macé, Styles: critique de nos formes de vie (Paris: Gallimard, 2016), 34.

12. D. A. Miller, Jane Austen, or The Secret of Style (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), 29. 19, 10, 17.

13. Charles Darwin, Charles Darwin’s Notebooks, 1836–1844: Geology, Transmutation, Metaphysical Inquiries, ed. Paul H. Barrett and Peter J. Gautrey, et al. (London: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 599.

14. Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins Volume III: Diaries, Journals, and Notebooks, ed. Leslie Higgins (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 517.

15. Virginia Woolf, Selected Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 54.

16. George Eliot, Middlemarch (Peterborough, Canada: Broadview Editions, 2004), 47, 93.

17. Seth Lerer, Error and the Academic Self (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), 103–74.

18. Jed Deppman, Daniel Ferrer, and Michael Groden, eds., Genetic Criticism: Texts and Avant-textes (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), 2–3.

19. Anne-Lise François, Open Secrets: The Literature of Uncounted Experience (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2008), 25, 64. Anna Kornbluh has recently put this dilemma in different terms, critiquing the “destituent chaos” celebrated by so many contemporary literary critics and seeking to account for how literature and its critics might seek to build rather than dismantle. I wish to thank Kornbluh for allowing me to preview her introduction. Anna Kornbluh, The Order of Forms: Realism, Formalism, and Social Space (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019), 2.

20. Ann Blair, Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011), 63; Richard Yeo, Notebooks, English Virtuosi, and Early Modern Science (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), 71; William Sherman, Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), xv; Lisa Jardine and Anthony Grafton, “‘Studied for Action’: How Gabriel Harvey Read His Livy,” Past and Present 129 (1990), 30–78; David Allan, Commonplace Books and Reading in Georgian England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 3–22.

21. Darwin, Notebooks, 18361844.

22. Linda Hughes, “George Eliot’s ‘Greek Vocabulary’ Notebook as Commodity and Rare Artefact,” Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens 84, Fall (2016). https://journals.openedition .org/cve/2973

23. Ronald Day, Indexing It All: The Subject in the Age of Documentation, Information, and Data (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014), 11.

24. Maurice Blanchot, The Infinite Conversation, trans. Susan Hanson (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 428.

25. Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 109,” http://www.darwinproject.

26. See Elizabeth Grosz, The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution, and the Untimely (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004); Sam See, Queer Natures, Queer Mythologies (New York: Fordham University Press, 2020); Joan Richardson, A Natural History of Pragmatism: The Fact of Feeling from Jonathan Edwards to Gertrude Stein (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

27. Franco Moretti, Graphs, Maps, and Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History (New York: Verso, 2007).

28. Patrick Jagoda, Network Aesthetics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016), 3. See also Lisa Gitelman, “Holding Electronic Networks by the Wrong End,” amodern 2: Network Archaeology (October 2013):