The Pennsylvania State University’s copy of the James Gooden Diaries, held in PSU’s Eberly Family Special Collections Library, provides a unique look at the daily life, social concerns, and reading habits of a middle class, middle-aged British man of the Romantic era. The diaries are in fact three volumes of The Student’s Journal, printed in multiple editions for Taylor and Hessey of Fleetstreet. The Journal’s stated purpose in its introduction is to “contain a brief account of every day’s studies for the space of one year,” and was used by Gooden from 1816-1819 to record his attempts to teach himself classical Greek and Latin, reinforce his understanding of German, and otherwise engage with some of the better-known works of his day. In each of the three volumes, Gooden recorded what he read on any given day, short reactions to or commentary on the content of each work, and occasional stray notes, including an account of his visits with Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
The three-volume collection of the James Gooden Diaries, held in PSU’s Eberly Family Special Collections Library.
The Romantic Circles’s entry on Gooden describes him as a “merchant in the Portugal and Brazil trade with literary and antiquarian tastes,” who at one time lent Robert Southey some books to aid in the research of Southey’s History of Brazil. His diaries reveal that his true passion, however, lay with the German language and literature. He studied there as a young man and visited throughout his life, travelling across the country in 1818 (which he writes about in the third volume’s appendix). The diaries themselves show him to be a relatively erudite but amateur scholar, operating on the periphery of what would become the canonical circle of first generation Romantic poets.
Though the journal is designed for use by younger readers, Gooden—forty two years old at its commencement—is inspired to recreate the studies of Joseph Scalinger as recorded by Edward Gibbon in Memoirs of the Life of Edward Gibbon. In his Memoirs, Gibbon describes his own pursuit of a largely classical education in Greek and Latin. Gibbon’s program of study emulates the then-legendary story of Scalinger’s autodidactic pursuits, who, at the age of eighteen, began a course on Classical Greek but, determining he should learn it from the ground up, locked himself in his room for twenty one days until he had translated the entire Iliad. Gooden, in a seeming classicist fit of ‘genius-envy,’ resolved to attempt Gibbon’s course; the diaries begin as a record of this attempt, but his reading and study habits stray widely during the four year course of the diaries.
This form of diary-keeping in fact represents an extension of the shifting commonplace book tradition of Romantic-era Britain. By the time of Gooden’s attempt, commonplace books had been replaced in the classroom by the anthology. However, as the anthology moved in, the commonplace book moved out and into the home in a more diary-like form. Gooden’s diaries, beyond providing an intriguing look into his own life and dealings, reflect this shift towards personalized commonplace bookkeeping as a supplement to more stringent forms of formal education. Gooden’s journal provides insight into how attitudes towards education were changing in the Romantic period, and how these attitudes in turn rapidly altered given approaches to reading and reflection.
Throughout the diaries, his reactions to works range from polite recognition of their humanistic value to annoyance with their contents to self-recrimination as he finds himself falling behind GIbbon’s program of study. The introduction of the Student’s Journal charge owners to record “no anecdotes, no arguments; but the simple facts of what Books have been read or consulted, what Letters, Comments, Dissertations, or original Pieces have been written.” It is a charge Gooden often forgets as he rambles on about certain works and events at great length, including several pages spent in an effusive reaction to Coleridge. At all times he maintains the mien of the bourgeois gentleman merchant, even when recounting his troubles with gout and indigestion, their curatives, or when describing—in painfully polite detail—his run-ins with fellow merchant George Sandeman.
The Digital Gooden Diaries Project
The Digital Gooden Diaries Project has three main goals:
- to create a fully edited and annotated version of the diaries;
- to leverage digital humanities tools in the creation of a dynamic and highly searchable digital edition;
- to openly publish the diaries.
The diaries are edited with the lightest touch possible. Original spellings, however idiosyncratic, are preserved to highlight the as yet rocky nature of ‘standardized’ English in the British Romantic period. Gooden’s writing more often than not reflects modern forms of English, but regular misspellings and individualistic uses of punctuation characterize the diaries, and Gooden’s own mind, in ways that a heavier editorial hand might obscure. Conversely, the digital edition will be exhaustively annotated throughout, both to provide context for the numerous names of individuals, places, and texts that are mentioned, and to provide explanations for moments when Gooden’s entries might confuse or otherwise mislead students.
The edited and annotated text will be converted into TEI-compliant XML code. XML (eXtensible Markup Language) offers a standardized markup language that will ensure the digitized text of the diaries is adaptable across platforms and convertible to other recognizable forms (HTML, for one). TEI (the Text Encoding Initiative) is the international standard for the digital representation of texts, and includes a number of sound guidelines to ensure the representation of the content of the texts accommodates conventional humanities research methods.
One of the main benefits of encoding the diaries using the above methods is that the digital edition, once published, will be highly searchable (beyond what a simple Ctrl+F might net). For instance, data on texts mentioned in the diaries could be aggregated in a way that would allow for a comprehensive picture of Gooden’s own educational priorities based on how often a text is mentioned, in what context, and in what section(s) of the diaries. Digital methods such as these could also be used to aggregate and investigate a kind of network of learning and culture that would have been common in middle-class Romantic Britain.
An example of a diary entry alongside its XML representation. The TEI-compliant <persName> and <placeName> elements in the code denote names of people and places that will be searchable and aggregatable via a number of software suites. Image of diary scanned and provided by PSU Special Collection Library staff.
The digital edition will be formulated so that students will be able to use digital tools and software to theorize and reach their own conclusions on what intellectual pursuits and subjects middle-class individuals like Gooden might have prioritized during the period or, perhaps more importantly, what works, authors, and intellectual concerns are conspicuously missing from Gooden’s account.
In conjunction with the PSU Library’s Open Publishing Department, The Digital Gooden Diaries Project will openly publish a digital edition of all three volumes of the diaries. Free access to the diaries will ensure the edition is readily available for use in the classroom as a valuable artifact for contextualizing the historical period of British Romanticism. Additionally, and in alignment with major theoretical approaches to open scholarship, all materials related to the construction of the digital edition—including the original XML files used to generate the edition, the governing editorial principles and practices, etc.—will be published alongside the diaries, allowing students and scholars to investigate, and even challenge, the methods and overall approach of the project in its construction of a digital scholarly edition of the diaries.
The first volume of the diaries is expected to be published in either spring or fall of 2022, depending on COVID-related delays. For the project’s current landing page and for all project-related updates, please visit https://sites.psu.edu/dpleblanc/james-gooden-diaries/.
David LeBlanc is a third-year Ph.D. student in the English Department at The Pennsylvania State University. His research investigates poetry’s role in establishing aesthetic trends that either reinforce or rewrite conceptualizations of nature and human agency in the Anthropocene, particularly those that critiqued the Enlightenment concept of the free-autonomous-subject. His work utilizes Digital Humanities methods, and he was a graduate assistant for the Digital Beaumont & Fletcher (1647) Project where he encoded and helped edit, in conjunction with Claire M. L. Bourne’s undergraduate class Shakespeare’s Contemporaries, the Fletcher and Massinger play The Sea Voyage.
Thanks to David and the PSU Library Staff for permission to use images.
 John Clare also kept a copy of Taylor and Hessey’s Student’s Journal in 1824, though admittedly, Clare’s contains more of an artist’s flourish, including a drawing of “a tombstone inscribed with the names of Chatterton, Keats and Bloomfield.” Bate, Jonathan. John Clare: A Biography. 1st ed. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003, p. 269.
 “At the English Benedictine Monastery in Saxony,” per the Administrative History note appended to PSU’s catalogue entry for the diaries.
 The difference in age between Gooden and Scalinger at the start of their studies becomes a point of contention for Gooden: “I had read Gibbon’s remarks on Scalinger’s accomplishment of this task & hoped at least not to be far behind the former – but alas! I had not consider [sic] the difference between my age and his . . .” Gooden, James. James Gooden Diaries. Vol. II, p. 54.
 Pattison, Mark, and Henry Nettleship. Essays by the Late Mark Pattison, Sometime Rector of Lincoln College. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1889, vol. I, p. 137.
 Jillian M. Hess describes this historical shift and its significance for the role of the author (specifically Coleridge) in altering the form and practices associated with commonplace books in “Coleridge’s Fly-Catchers: Adapting Commonplace-Book Form.” Journal of the History of Ideas, Volume 73, Number 3, July 2012, pp. 463-483.
 “. . . a Stomach incipiently charged with acidity unfitted me almost for everything . . .” Gooden, James. James Gooden Diaries. Vol. III, p. 116.
 “A teaspoonful of epsom Salts, magnesia & ginger taken before breakfast suffices in general to carry off a vitiated, black Bile and prevents the congestion & concentration of acidity . . .” Gooden, James. James Gooden Diaries. Vol. III, pp. 116-17.
 “I can account but imperfectly to myself for the dissensions at the Counting House, as no complete & thorough explanation has ever taken place between Mr. S & myself. On his return from Spain however I experienced from him a more than usual asperity in censuring the proceedings of the House as well during his absence, as in the daily occurrences . . .” Gooden, James. James Gooden Diaries. Vol. III, p. 120.
 For instance, Gooden is at times liberal in his use of commas and, at other times, runs on without marking any conventional pauses. At times he also deploys his own system of colons and semicolons that is difficult to codify.
 Laurent Romary of the Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique recently gave an excellent talk on the notion of “Open Science,” a rapidly expanding theoretical field that stresses not only open access to scholarly end-products, but open access to the materials that helped frame and create the very processes that lead to end-products. Romary, Laurent (2020). The TEI Guidelines: Born to be Open. Edited by Maria Wiederänders. Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage (ACDH-CH). [Video]. https://youtu.be/hV-wtGlx8I8.