Mary Eliza Root Prize

The 2023 prize deadline has passed (30th September 2023)

In memory of his Great-Great-Grandmother, who died in a Hoxton workhouse, Professor John Spiers generously gifted VPFA an annual £100 for five years (2017–2022). With this money, VPFA has sponsored one of our members annually to conduct research at Gladstone’s Library.

The VPFA is pleased to be able to carry on this prize in collaboration with Gladstone’s Library, funding £150 to cover two nights’ accommodation.

Gladstone’s Library is situated in the beautiful and serene village of Hawarden, North Wales, and is Britain’s only residential Prime Ministerial Library. Gladstone, born in 1809, and Prime Minister on four separate occasions, began building his library in 1889. He designed it specifically as a place of study and solitude for scholars, so they could access his substantial book collection, and this remains its primary purpose today.

To further Gladstone’s end, and to celebrate the fantastic work on Victorian popular fiction being generated at the VPFA, the ‘Mary Eliza Root Prize’ offers the winning scholar two nights’ accommodation (complete with breakfast and dinner) for up to three days’ research at Gladstone’s Library.

Conditions of the Prize:

  • The winner must be a fully paid-up member of the Victorian Popular Fiction Association (join the VPFA here).
  • In order to fulfil Gladstone’s Library’s accommodation requirements, the prize must be claimed between December – February of the same year as the application round.
  • The winner will be expected to write a c.1000 word blog post on their research experience for the VPFA within a month of the research being completed. 
  • Any published works based on research undertaken during or resulting from the ‘Mary Eliza Root Prize’ must acknowledge the prize.

Application Process:

Applications should be sent by email to citing the ‘Mary Eliza Root Prize’ in the subject box. Applications should include:

  • A brief CV.
  • A 300 word cover letter detailing how a stay at Gladstone’s Library will aid your own research and contribute to furthering the field of Victorian popular fiction and culture. Please note that the strongest applications will include reference to the resources available at the Library and an indication of how they will benefit the applicant’s research.

The deadline for applications is: 30th September 2023.

Previous Winners of the 'Mary Eliza Root Prize'

2017 – Anne Chapman, King’s College London, for her research into ‘Day of Rest: Structuring Sunday’, which explores the ways in which cultural representations of rest participated in the construction of Sundays in the Victorian imagination.

2018 – Lin Young, Queen’s University, for research on the material imagery of the spirit world for use in two dissertation chapters on objecthood in Wuthering Heights, A Christmas Carol, and Picture of Dorian Gray. You can read all about Lin Young’s Gladstone’s Library experiences here (Link).

2019 – Jon Potter, Birmingham City University, for research on what happens to machine metaphors in cyclopedias and popular fiction if, rather than thinking about particular machines, particular networks, particular texts, we think of the category network as an entity in its own right. You can download Jon Potter’s report on his Gladstone’s Library experience here (Word).

2020 – competition suspended due to Covid-19 and closure of Gladstone’s Library.

2021 – Asma Char, University of Exeter, for research for her upcoming book chapter ‘Debates on Women’s Suffrage in the Arab World and Britain at the Fin de Siécle’, which will appear in the Women in Power book series.

2022 – Adele Guyton, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, for research into the presence of astronomy in popular fiction within popular periodicalsClick here to read Adele Guyton’s 2022 MER Prize Reflection (PDF); alternatively, click here to read Adele’s report on the VPFA website.