Val Derbyshire


Val Derbyshire

MA English Literature, University of Sheffield (with Distinction), BA English Literature, University of Sheffield (First Class honours)


Professor Jacqueline M Labbe, De Montfort University & Professor Angela Wright

Research interests

Romanticism, Eighteenth-Century Literature, Visual Artistry



Title of PhD Project: Visual Artistry in the Works of Charlotte Smith (1749-1806): As a writer, Smith takes her readers on a global journey covering diverse locations. However, my research has revealed that places in Smith’s novels do not appear as real locations. Rather they are rooted in an aestheticisation of the novel. With this in view, the research question focuses upon art and visual culture of the period and the modality of the aestheticisation that Smith utilises in her writing. Smith had connections with several artists of the day. The thesis will explore the connections between these artists and Smith’s own literary artistry.

Research Group

  • Member of the Sheffield Hallam University Space and Place Group, since May 2016. This group interrogates the concepts of both ‘space’ and ‘place’ utilising a variety of contrasting methodological approaches and aims.
  • Member of the Gender History Group, University of Sheffield, since September 2015.
  • Founding member of the Unexpected Reading Group Widening Participation Project (

Professional Associations

I am a member of British Association for Romantic Studies (BARS) and the British Society for Eighteenth Century Studies (BSECS)


‘Home Soon’; University of Sheffield Booker Prize Short Story Competition Winner, featured in Route 57, Spring 2015

‘“Remembering the Dead”: A Critical Reading of Amanda Merrit’s Poem “After the Death of your Husband”’ in The Narrator, online peer-reviewed journal from the University of York, Vol. 2, No. 3( published 29th January 2016

‘“Merlin as Ubiquitous Experience”: A Critical Reading of Karl O’Hanlon’s Poem, “Brocéliande”’ in The Narrator, online peer-reviewed journal from the University of York, Vol. 2, No. 3 ( published 29th January 2016

‘“The Space Between”: Art and the Artist in Mary Linskill’sThe Haven Under the Hill (1886), Issue 9 (“Boundaries”) of Track Changes, University of Sheffield School of English peer-reviewed journal (

Booklet in graphic novel format entitled ‘Why Read Harlequin Mills & Boon Romances?’ to accompany a lecture to be held in the Spiegeltent at the forthcoming University of Sheffield’s Festival of the Mind, September 2016.

‘Review: The Shifter’s Choice’ in Revenant: Studies in Transformation, online peer-reviewed journal, Issue 2, published December 2016 (

‘How to Learn about Love from Mills & Boon Novels’, published on The Conversation academic website, 7th February 2017. ( This article was then subsequently published in the i newspaper on 12th February 2017.

‘Beauty and the Beast was Originally a Feminist Fable disguised as Marriage Guidance’, published on The Conversation academic website, 17th March 2017 ( This article had a reach of 10k plus readers.

Collaborative authorship with Professor Jacqueline M. Labbe & Professor Elizabeth A. Dolan, ‘Placing Charlotte Smith: Canon, Genre, History, Nation, Globe Conference’ in The Female Spectator, publication of Chawton House Library, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2017, pp. 8-9

‘Pot Nostalgia’, short story, published in FEAST academic and creative journal, Third Edition, 5th June 2017,

Completed critical entries for The Cambridge Companion to the Eighteenth-Century Novel, edited by Professor April London, University of Ottawa (forthcoming, 2018) for the following novels Elizabeth Gunning (later Plunkett): The Orphans of Snowdon (1797), Lord Fitzhenry (1794) and The Foresters (1796); Elizabeth Meeke: The Mysterious Wife. A Novel (1797); Joseph Moser, Moral Tales (1797); Agnes Musgrave, Edmund of the Forest. An Historical Novel (1797); Mary Pilkington: Edward Barnard; Or, Merit Exalted; Containing the History of the Edgerton Family (1797); and Ann Howell, Rosa de Montmorien (1787). Honorarium of £50 paid for these entries by Cambridge University Press.

‘A Tale of Two Smiths: In Pursuit of the Picturesque in Emmeline, The Orphan of the Castle (1788) by Charlotte Smith’, chapter for an edited collection titled Placing Charlotte Smith, to be published by Lehigh University Press and forthcoming 2018.

Conference Papers

‘A High and Romantic Spirit: Military Men in Charlotte Turner Smith’s Old Manor House’, University of Hull, Military Masculinities in the Long Nineteenth-Century Conference, May 2015

‘You’ve Been Reading Too Many Idiotic Trashy Books!: Why Read Harlequin Mills & Boon Romances?’, presented at the University of Keele, Postgraduate Humanities Research Conference, 9th June 2015

‘Writing Communities: Whitby as a Locus of Writerly Inspiration’, presented at the Concepts of Community Interdisciplinary Conference, Humanities Research Institute, University of Sheffield, 21st& 22nd March 2016.

‘Tea in the Crypt: Exploring the City of the Dead with Mrs. Basil Holmes’, presented at York St. John’s University, Cityscapes Conference, 23rd April 2016.

‘“You’re Never Going to Wake Up Anywhere Except in my Arms”: Reading Romance in Turbulent Times’, presented at the Art/Money/Crisis Interdisciplinary Conference held at the University of Cambridge, 29th& 30th April 2016.

‘In Pursuit of the Picturesque: Places and Spaces within the Works of Charlotte Smith (1749-1806)’, presented at Sheffield Hallam University Spaces & Places Group – Workshop Day, 11th May 2016.

‘In these Modern Times: Reading Harlequin Mills & Boon Romantic Novels as Signs of the Times’, presented at the Representations of Romantic Relationships and the Romance Genre in Contemporary Women’s Writing Conference held at Sheffield Hallam University, 11th June 2016.

‘In Pursuit of the Picturesque: Everywhere and Nowhere within the Works of Charlotte Smith (1749-1806)’, presented at Everywhere and Nowhere: An Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Symposium on Imagined Spaces, University of Nottingham, 20th June 2016.

‘Two Married Women, Numerous Children: Mrs Smith and Me’, presented at the Doctoral Academy Conference, University of Sheffield, 21st June 2016. This conference paper won the Doctoral Academy award for ‘best themed talk’ in the PhD Life category.

‘In Pursuit of the Picturesque: Looking at Smith’s Places with an Artist’s Eye’, presented at the Placing Charlotte Conference held at Chawton House Library, 14/15 October 2016.

‘“Suddenly Rich Men are Hard to Deal with & poor Authors must bear with rich booksellers”: Charlotte Smith’s Love-Hate Relationship with Cadell & Davies’, presented at the British Society for Eighteenth Century Society Annual Conference held at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford, 4th to 6th January 2017.

‘“Soft Transcient Children”: Exploring Grief and Surviving Loss in the Sonnets of Charlotte Smith (1749-1806)’, presented at the Medical Humanities Conference held at the University of Nottingham, 13th April 2017.

‘“On Pirates and Prostitutes”: Charlotte Smith’s Rescue of Manon L’Escautfrom exile on the Margin of the Text’ presented at the Romanticism Takes to the Hills Conference held at Edge Hill University, 29th April 2017.

‘The Phantom Coach: The Longings and Letters of Alicia Maria Greame, A Woman for Sale’ presented at Women, Money and Markets Conference, held at Kings College London, 11th May 2017.

‘“Such is the Moral Beauty of Truth: Visible Virtue in the Works of John Thelwall and Charlotte Smith (1749-1806)’, at the Second International John Thelwall Conference: “John Thelwall: Radical Networks and Cultures of Reform 1780-1820”, held at the University of Derby, 21-23 July 2017.

‘Words and Pictures: Charlotte Smith (1749-1806) and the Works of the Artists of her Day’, delivered to the Women’s Studies Group, 1558-1837 at the Foundling Museum, London, on 25th November 2017.


LIT107, Studying Poetry