Exhibition: Wales in the Romantic Imagination

Our latest exhibition is held in collaboration with Romantic Imprints: the 14th International Conference of the British Association for Romantic Studies, Cardiff University, 16-19 July 2015. The exhibition will run until September.

Thomas Pennant (1726-1798)

“… he’s the best traveller I ever read; he observes more things than anyone else does.” – Samuel Johnson on Thomas Pennant

Thomas Pennant was a natural historian, antiquarian and prolific travel writer, principally known for his accounts of travelling on foot and horseback through Wales and Scotland in the late 18th century, exploring remote parts previously unknown to many. His naturally gregarious disposition encouraged local inhabitants to speak freely of their habits, customs and superstitions, all of which he documented in as much detail as the route and its scenery. A great believer in the ability of a picture to tell a thousand words, his works were heavily illustrated with engravings, initially sketched by his servant Moses Griffith, who travelled with him.

Tour in Wales, MDCCLXXIII
Thomas Pennant 1726-1798.
1778

pennant_castle dynas bran

 

Journey to Snowdon
Thomas Pennant 1726-1798.
1781

Journey from Chester to London
Thomas Pennant 1726-1798.
1782

Tour in Wales. Vol. II
Thomas Pennant 1726-1798.
1784

Tourism and the Wye Valley

The Wye Valley can be considered the birthplace of British tourism, and
British Romanticism, indeed, if one takes a cue from Wordsworth’s seminal poem ‘Tintern Abbey’. William Gilpin’s Observations on the River Wye (1782), the first British illustrated tour guide, is largely responsible for this. Gilpin popularised the concept of taking boat tours down the Wye Valley, to view its romantic sites and picturesque landscape. Viewing the valley from boats gave rise to ‘picturesque tourism’, which focused on an appreciation of scenery rather than just history or architecture.

Gilpin’s book was an instant commercial success, and brought many visitors, including artists, writers and poets to the Wye Valley. Both familiar and unknown, the Wye Valley formed a meeting place of two nations and four counties, an uncanny and unstable border territory shifting with the river’s movements, a place of exile for political radicals, and a subject for many of the period’s most celebrated writers.

Three essays: I. On picturesque: beauty; II. On picturesque; travel; III.
On the art of sketching landscape. Gilpin’s personal copy of the original holograph manuscript, together with nine original drawing in watercolour, tint, pen, ink and pencil by the author. From the archive of Cyril Brett, Professor of English (1921-36) at University College Cardiff.
William Gilpin 1724-1804.
1792

wye_mss

 

Observations on the River Wye : and several parts of South Wales, &c. relative chiefly to picturesque beauty; made in the summer of the year 1770.
William Gilpin 1724-1804.
1792

wye_gilpin

 

Excursion down the Wye from Ross to Monmouth : including historical and descriptive accounts of Wilton and Goodrich castles, also of Court Field, the nursery of King Henry the Fifth; New Wear, and every other object in the voyage.
Charles Heath 1761-1831.
1796

Picturesque views on the river Wye : from its source at Plinlimmon Hill, to its junction with the Severn below Chepstow: with observations on the public buildings, and other works of art, in its vicinity.
Samuel Ireland -1800.
1797

Tour of the River Wye and its vicinity : enriched with two engravings.
George Sael 1760 or 1761-1799
1798

wye_sael

 

Banks of Wye : a poem. In four books
Robert Bloomfield 1766-1823.
1811

Leigh’s guide to Wales & Monmouthshire : containing observations on the mode of travelling, plans of various tours, sketches of the manners and customs, notices of historical events, a description of every remarkable place, and a minute account of the Wye.
Samuel Leigh
1831

Hints to pedestrians : or, how to enjoy a three weeks’ ramble through North and South Wales and along the banks of the Wye / by a Pedestrian.
1837

Topographical Wales

Special Collections and Archives is home to the substantial personal library of the 19th century antiquarian Enoch Salisbury. A native of Flintshire, he was a businessman, politician and privately, a book-collector with a personal mission to collect every book on the subject of Wales, or in Welsh. His eventual bankruptcy led to the collection of some 13,000 volumes being purchased at auction in 1886 by the first incarnation of Cardiff University: the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire.

Salisbury had a particular interest in Welsh topography and antiquities, and tended to buy two copies of illustrated volumes with plates. One would be placed in the library, and the other would have the plates removed, and inserted into dedicated scrapbooks. He also purchased individual prints, sketches and paintings for inclusion. Salisbury kept a dedicated scrapbook for each Welsh county, featuring hundreds of illustrations of its landscape and architecture.

This image is thought to be the earliest known depiction of Hafod, Aberystwyth, painted by a visitor who captured the building process, recording the phasing of this important house. It is complemented by a copy of Cumberland’s guidebook and plan of the estate, together with an engraving of the completed Hafod.

 

Hafod, Aberyswyth, Ceredigion
Signed S. Walker
Circa 1784-5
Watercolour on card
142mm by 95mm
Salisbury Cardiganshire Volume

An attempt to describe Hafod: and the neighbouring scenes about the bridge over the Funack, commonly called the Devil’s Bridge, in the county of Cardigan: an ancient seat belonging to Thomas Johnes, Esq. Member for the County of Radnor
George Cumberland 1754-1848
1796

These watercolours show places in the Vale of Clwyd associated with
Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784).

salis_bachygraig

 

Monument erected by Colonel John Myddleton on the banks of the River Ystrad to commemorate the visit of Dr. Samuel Johnson in 1774 to Gwaenynog Hall, near Denbigh
Unknown artist
Circa 1810
Watercolour on paper
228mm by 140mm
Salisbury Denbighshire Volume

Distant view of a house titled as Bach-y-Graig, Tremeirchion, Denbighshire
Unknown artist
Circa 1830
Watercolour on paper
268mm by 203mm
Salisbury Denbighshire Volume

Called Bach-y-Graig, Tremeirchion, Denbighshire
Unknown artist
Circa 1830
Watercolour on paper
235mm by 143mm
Salisbury Denbighshire Volume

Both pencil sketches are by the artist Julia Mann, who visited South Wales during December 1831. On the left, Oxwich Castle, a Tudor courtyard house, was built by the Mansel family during the sixteenth-century. Their tenancy was short-lived, as the house became a romantic ruin during the 18th century, and a popular destination on the picturesque tourist trail. Manorbier Castle, on the right, was part of this circuit, claiming fame as being the birthplace of Gerald of Wales. The castle survived intact until the Civil War when it was slighted, afterwards becoming derelict.

salis_mann

 

Oxwich Castle, Oxwich Bay, Glamorganshire
Attributed to Julia Mann
Dated December 1831
Pencil on card
245mm by 176mm
Salisbury Glamorganshire Volume

Manorbier Castle, from North Pembrokeshire
Signed Julia Mann
Dated December 1831
Pencil on card
243mm by 176mm
Salisbury Pembrokeshire Volume

Welsh Romantic Medievalism and the Arthur myth

In 1816, the republication of two rival editions of Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, out of print since 1634, reawakened interest in Arthur and the medieval romances. Wales was inextricably linked with the Arthur myth; the earliest references to King Arthur come from Wales and its medieval literature, such as the Annales Cambriae, the Black Book of Carmarthen, the Book of Taliesin, and of course, the Mabinogion, in the Red Book of Hergest. The Arthur myth created a touchstone of Celtic nationalism in Cornwall and Wales which resonates to this day.

The London printer, Williams Stansby (1572-1638) produced this edition of Malory’s work based on the earlier editions by Wynken de Worde and William Caxton. Stansby’s text appeared in 1634, just before the outbreak of the English Civil War. It remained the only available edition for nearly two hundred years until the revival of interest in Arthurian literature in the 19th century.

Most ancient and famous history of the renowned prince Arthur King of Britaine : Wherein is declared his life and death, with all his glorious battailes against the Saxons, Saracens and pagans […] also, all the noble acts, and heroicke deeds of his valiant knights of the Round Table.
Sir Thomas Malory, active 15th century.
1634

arthur_1634

 

This three volume edition of Malory, edited by the antiquary, Joseph Haslewood, is one of two new editions that appeared in 1816, both based on Stansby’s edition of Caxton. The appearance of these editions heralded the revival of interest in the Arthurian story.

Mort d’Arthur : the most ancient and famous history of the renowned Prince Arthur and the knights of the Round Table / by Sir Thos. Malory.
Sir Thomas Malory, active 15th century.
1816

In Thomas Heywood’s 1641 edition of Merlin’s Prophecies, the sage is depicted as a hermit sitting under a tree rather than the powerful sorcerer of modern iconography. However he is still surrounded by images from his mythic history such as the two dragons whose epic fight provided Wales with its flag and with an enduring symbol of national identity.

The life of Merlin, sirnamed Ambrosius: his prophesies, and predictions interpreted, and their truth made good by our English annalls: being a chronographicall history of all the kings, and memorable passages of this kingdome, from Brute to the reigne of our royall soveraigne King Charles.
Thomas Heywood approximately 1574-1641
1641

arthur_merlin

 

This later edition of Merlin’s Prophecies from 1812 was printed at Carmarthen. By then the city was firmly associated with the figure of Merlin, and the place name was interpreted as ‘Caer Myrddin’ or Merlin’s town.

The life of Merlin, surnamed Ambrosius: his prophecies and predictions interpreted, and their truth made good by our English annals: being a chronographical history of all the kings and memorable passages of this kingdom, from Brute to the reign of King Charles.
Thomas Heywood approximately 1574-1641
1812

Arthur’s Stone, Cefn Bryn, the Gower, is the site of a Neolithic burial tomb. According to legend, Arthur threw this large stone and it landed in this spot. The tradition reflects the reputation of Arthur as a giant and a folk hero, rather than a courtly medieval king.

Illustration of Arthur’s Stone (Maen Ceti).
Glamorgan scrapbook, Salisbury archive

This Welsh translation of Merlin’s prophecies derives ultimately from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Latin work, Historia regum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain). Merlin is taken before King Vortigirn (Brenin Gwrtheyrn) to explain the mystery of the falling tower.

Dwy gan o brophwydoliaethau Myrddin : a gymmerwyd allan o “Lyfr y daroganau”. Hefyd, hanes, o’r modd y daeth Myrddin i fod yn adnabyddus i’r brenin Gwrtheyrn, mab-y’nghyfraith Hengyst.
1810

Special editions

Special Collections and Archives holds a number of notable editions related to Romantic Studies. These include:

• A green leather folio edition of Felicia Hemans’ Welsh Melodies:

Selection of Welsh melodies : with symphonies and accompaniments / by John Parry; and characteristic words by Mrs. Hemans.
John Parry Bardd Alaw, 1776-1851; Felicia Hemans 1793-1835
1822

special_hemans

 

• A signed copy of Edmund Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry into the Sublime, inscribed to Arthur Onslow, Speaker of the House of Commons from 1728-1761:

Philosophical enquiry into the origin of our ideas of the sublime and beautiful.
Edmund Burke 1729-1797
1759

• A first edition of Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa:

Clarissa; or, the history of a young lady. Comprehending the most important concerns of private life. And particularly shewing the distresses that may attend the misconduct both of parents and children, in relation to marriage.
Samuel Richardson
1748

special_clarissa

 

• Examples of gothic novels from the Minerva Press:

Ellen, countess ospecial_ellenf Castle Howel : a novel.
Bennett, Mrs. (Anna Maria), -1808
1794

The Stranger : or, Llewellyn family ; a Cambrian tale.
A. Robert Evans
1798

Secret avengers ; or the rock of Glotzden: romance in four volumes / by Anne of
Swansea.
Julia Ann Hatton 1764-1838
1815

Gwelygordd; or, The child of sin. A tale of Welsh origin.
Charles Lucas 1769-1854
1820

Iolo Morganwg (1747-1826)

Edward Williams (1747-1826) remains better known by his bardic name, Iolo Morganwg, whose romantic image of Wales and its past greatly influenced Wales’ national identity. A prolific poet, radical and polymath, his interests ranged from druidism, folklore, antiquities, architecture, agriculture, geology, language and dialect. Following his death it was discovered that many of his collected manuscripts, which featured evidence of druidic practices in Wales, and observations on mystical and metaphysical philosophy, were in fact his own forgeries. The Salisbury Library in Special Collections and Archives holds a number of books formerly owned by Iolo Morganwg, annotated in his own hand.

The Historie of Cambria, now called Wales
David Powell 1552?-1598
1584
Inscribed by Iolo Morganwg to his daughter: “Ann Matthews Williams, Her Book’. The copy is heavily annotated throughout in various contemporary and later hands, including Iolo Morganwg’s.

iolo_signature

 

Awdyl ar dymhorau y vlwyzyn.
Richard Powell 1769-1795
1793

Cywydd y Drindod.
David Richards Dafydd Ionawr, 1751-1827
1793

iolo_poem

 

Halsing, neu gan newydd ar ddydd Natalic.
John Williams 1728-1806
1781

Cyflafan y beirdd : awdl.
Robert Williams Robert ap Gwilym Ddu, 1766-1850
[1793?]

iolo_mss insert

One response to “Exhibition: Wales in the Romantic Imagination

  1. Reblogged this on BARS 2015: Romantic Imprints and commented:
    Please do read Alison Harvey’s excellent post on the exhibition that she’s arranged for BARS 2015, entitled ‘Wales in the Romantic Imagination’.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s