Author Archives: Alison Harvey

Guest post: A coalition satire: an address of thanks to the broad-bottoms (1745)

This guest post comes from Dr Mark Truesdale, who completed his PhD in English Literature at Cardiff University in 2016. His thesis provides the first detailed, critical study of the fifteenth-century King and Commoner tradition, and traces its post-medieval influence in ballads and drama from the sixteenth-century to the eighteenth-century. Mark is currently volunteering with Special Collections, assisting with cataloguing early modern books and reporting findings to the English Short Title Catalogue.


An Address of Thanks to the Broad-Bottoms, for the Good Things they have done, and the Evil Things they have not done, Since their Elevation’ (1745) is a curious eighteenth-century satirical pamphlet in Cardiff University’s Rare Book Collection that is about politics rather than bottoms (alas). But it feels surprisingly modern and pertinent in its message, full of biting comments against untrustworthy and greedy politicians who immediately abandon their principles and pledges for a seat in a coalition government.

Title page

Amid the televised scenes of the 2017 general election and its result of a hung parliament was the sight of a highly despondent Nick Clegg. Clegg, the former deputy Prime Minister, had lost his Sheffield seat to a first-time Labour candidate (who was reportedly so surprised by his victory that he had to rush to a supermarket in the middle of the night to purchase a new suit). As Liberal Democrat leader in 2010, Clegg had entered into a coalition government with the Conservatives, only to be accused by many of selling his principles and abandoning his electoral promises in exchange for power. His subsequent dramatic fall from public opinion starkly shows the potential dangers of entering such political coalitions and pacts, especially as a ‘junior partner’ with little real sway.

This coalition trade-off of principles for power is also the focus of ‘An Address of Thanks to the Broad Bottoms’, an anonymous fifty-two page pamphlet which shows that public anger over untrustworthy politicians and a lack of respect for those in authority is certainly nothing new. The work opens with a wonderfully lurid engraving by William Hogarth that shows Tory politicians, with exceptionally large and flabby bottoms, defecating onto several donkeys lurking anxiously below. The donkeys are symbolically burdened with labelled loads, ranging from ‘Land Tax’, the infamous ‘Black Act’, and ‘Lottery annuities’ (an anxious topic since the South Sea Bubble caused economic collapse in the 1720s), or goods such as ‘Malt’, ‘Salt’, ‘Wine’, ‘Candles’, and of course ‘Tea’. The main thrust of the work is an angry critique of the Tory ministers who had joined Henry Pelham’s 1744 ‘broad-bottomed’ coalition government and allegedly abandoned their own opposition principles in exchange for wealth and honours.

The pamphlet is divided into three distinct parts. The first is a pointed musing on the evils of ‘ingratitude’, criticising those who ‘do not return the Benefits they have reciev’d, if it ’tis in their power to do so’ (p. 3) – alluding to the ‘Broad-Bottom’ Tory ministers who had failed to fulfil their election pledges and aid their supporters after gaining coalition positions of power. The writer uses fables by Pliny and Aulus Gellius to claim that even animals display gratitude, thereby concluding that politicians who display a lack of gratitude for their supporters are ‘worse than Brutes’, while those who go further by ‘returning Evil for Good […] out-do their Brute Fellow-Creatures in Acts the most shocking and repugnant to Nature’ (p. 5). The writer proceeds to accuse the Tory ministers of putting their ‘private Self-interest’ over ‘Public Self-interest’ by allowing themselves to be used as puppets by those they had previously opposed:

for a Place or Pension that supplies his Luxury, he shall be a Puppet, to move up and down just as he is order’d by him who directs the Show from behind the Curtain […] The Live Puppet may move sometimes to please the gaping Spectators, but he sha’n’t open his Mouth. (pp. 7-8)

Detail from p. 7 of 'An Address of Thanks to the Broad-Bottoms'

The author builds on this image of a mute puppet to muse on the dire consequences of the opposition effectively silencing itself. He claims that such hypocritical ministers have betrayed ‘their Country’ and thrown ‘the People into despair, by depriving them of the Means of a legal and Seasonable Opposition’ (p. 8). In short, the Tories have undermined the democratic process, selling off their voice to allow the rule of an unchecked and unchallenged power.

The pamphlet’s second part is an eighteen page ‘John Bull’ allegory. John Bull is a national personification of England, or Britain more generally, who became a patriotic emblem during the Napoleonic Wars. But he was originally created in 1712 as a bumbling figure of ridicule by the Scottish satirist John Arbuthnot in pamphlets scornfully mocking England’s European conflicts, presenting the War of the Spanish Succession as a ludicrous ‘law suit’ between John Bull (England), Lewis Baboon (Louis XIV), and Lord Strutt (Philip of Anjou).

John Bull taking a luncheon, by James Gillray

John Bull taking a luncheon: – or – British cooks, cramming old grumble-gizzard, with bonne-chére, by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey, 24 October 1798. NPG D12661. © National Portrait Gallery, London

‘An Address to the Broad-Bottoms’ directly refers to Arbuthnot’s allegories and presents its tale as a continuation. Here, John Bull’s ‘manor’ stands in for England and its ‘tenants’ for the country’s people, while the politicians are given ludicrous pseudonyms: e.g. Robert Walpole becomes ‘Bob Bronze’ while Henry Pelham is called ‘Hall Stiff’. The Tories who joined Pelham’s coalition are unflatteringly referred to as the ‘Broad-Bottoms’ throughout. Continuing in much the same vein as the first part, the author tells of the rise of the Broad-Bottoms, who ‘set out, seemingly at least, on excellent Principles, which endeared them to most of the Tenants’ (pp. 17-18). However, after Bob Bronze’s fall:

Several […] of the Broad-Bottoms forced themselves into John Bull’s Service; where they were no sooner warm, than they forgot their Party, the Tenants, the Manor, their Professions, their Honour, every thing but pleasing their Employer, and filling their own Pockets. (p. 19)

The rest of the tale proceeds to give a condensed history of the Broad-Bottoms, with mocking allusions to the actions of various Tory ministers.

The final part of the pamphlet consists of a sardonic thank-you note addressed to those Tories. The author first sets down a lengthy list of the policies the Tories have reneged on, before demonstrating his own ‘gratitude’ by sarcastically thanking them for the many things they have not done:

And if you have done little for us, ’tis not impossible but you might have averted much Evil from us. ’Tis possible you might have prevented a Tax upon big Bellies, and Excise upon Urine […] And it is currently talk’d that you secretly oppos’d a Scheme […] for laying a Tax upon Honesty. I don’t wonder you should obstruct a Tax that would affect yourselves more than any People in the Kingdom. (pp. 41-42)

The author bitterly ends the pamphlet by emphasising that the Tory ministers’ perceived gains are woefully short-term in comparison with the long-term damage they have committed against their own cause:

Gentlemen, […] you have lost the People, without gaining the Court […] If you have as yet any Bowels for your Country, you can’t but reflect […] what an irreparable Injury you have done her by your late conduct […] All our future woes then, of Right, are to be plac’d at your Account; and therefore, such Thanks as you deserve, you have from me, who represent the Millions you have deceived. (pp. 51-52)

‘An Address of Thanks to the Broad-Bottoms’ seems remarkably pertinent as we enter a further period of uncertainty and coalitions, with a sceptical public and plummeting trust in perceivably self-interested politicians, who are besieged by unflattering media portrayals. It is often said that a day is a long time in politics. But sometimes, it seems that little really changes at all.

Guest post: Observations on Edward Thomas’ manuscript poems

This guest post comes from Rachel Carney, writer and blogger at http://www.createdtoread.com.


What I love about archives is the fact that they provide an opportunity to discover things you’d never see for yourself in the printed copies of a writers’ work. As we celebrate the centenary of the poet Edward Thomas, who lived and fought during the First World War, it is an incredible privilege to be able to see his personal handwritten letters and notebooks – to read the poems written in his own hand, and to see the very pages on which he wrote.

You can see some of these in a new online exhibition, featuring highlights from the world’s largest collection of Edward Thomas papers. Special Collections and Archives will also host an onsite exhibition, launching tomorrow on 19th April, the first day of the Edward Thomas 100 conference.

The following manuscripts of Thomas’ poems were all written in 1916, the last year of his life.

The Trumpet, by Edward Thomas.

The Trumpet, by Edward Thomas. Original manuscript draft in pencil, sent to Eleanor Farjeon.

On first glance, ‘The Trumpet’, written by Thomas in September 1916, seems to be a rousing call to arms, but on closer examination, there is much more to this simple poem than you might think. To begin with, as his biographer Matthew Hollis explains, “he did his best to conceal that it was a poem at all”. It was written whilst Thomas was based at the Royal Artillery Barracks in Trowbridge, and he was afraid, it seems, to let on to his fellow soldiers that he was actually a poet.

We wouldn’t necessarily know this unless we had the original manuscript, which he sent in a letter addressed to his friend Eleanor Farjeon, in which he admitted what he’d done: “You see I have written it with only capitals to mark the lines” because “people are all around me and I don’t want them to know”.

The poem itself is full of ambiguity and irony. Hollis describes it thus: “the form, strident, galloping, heroic… but the content suggesting other tones – the dark stars that failed to illuminate the earth below, the hounding of dreams…” Edward Thomas had always been against the war and the fervent nationalism that it inspired, and it had taken him a long time to make the momentous decision to enlist, and fight for his country. Of all his poems, just a handful refer directly to the war itself, and they are different in style to those of his contemporaries, such as Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and Rupert Brooke.

Earlier that same month Edward Thomas wrote ‘Gone, gone again’, later titled ‘Blenheim Oranges‘. This is a bleak, depressing verse which focuses on the relentless march of time, as apples continue to “fall grubby from the trees” and the war continues to “turn young men to dung”.

Blenheim Oranges by Edward Thomas. Original manuscript draft in ink.

Blenheim Oranges by Edward Thomas. Original manuscript draft in ink.

 

We also hold the original manuscript of ‘As the team’s head brass’, a poem written earlier in 1916, which refers obliquely to the war. In Hollis’s biography, he describes how the poem was deeply significant for Thomas, mirroring his own decision to seek a commission on the Western Front. It pivots around the central phrase: ‘…Everything / Would have been different. For it would have been / Another world.’ These lines, and the fallen elm tree on which the speaker sits, highlight the fact that war changes everything, however remotely removed one might feel from the situation.

As the teams head brass by Edward Thomas.

As the teams head brass by Edward Thomas. Original manuscript draft in ink, sent to Eleanor Farjeon.

It is fascinating to compare these manuscripts, and see that Thomas’s handwriting varied widely. We can also see his corrections, and observe the editing process in action.

If you visit the exhibition you’ll be able to see some of them for yourself, or come along to our poetry performance event on Friday, where items from the archive will be on display.

 

Edward Thomas 100: Exhibition launch

Edward Thomas (1878-1917)

Edward Thomas (1878-1917)

A frustrated writer, suffocated by family life, and crippled by depression and self-doubt, Edward Thomas (1878-1917) found his personal and literary salvation as a soldier in the First World War.

​In 2017, Cardiff University, holder of the world’s largest archive of Edward Thomas’ letters, diaries, notebooks, poems, photographs, and personal belongings, will host a major centenary conference and exhibition celebrating his life and work.

Our online exhibition is now live. An onsite, public exhibition, based in Special Collections and Archives, will launch on 19th April, the first day of the Edward Thomas 100 conference, and will be in place over the summer.

The exhibition features many highlights from the archives: intimate letters to Helen Thomas and Gordon Bottomley, poetry drafts, nature diaries, family photographs, as well as previously unheard archive recordings of family and friends, interviewed by Cardiff University’s Professor R. George Thomas in 1967. Find out more about both the archive and the exhibition in this Wales Arts Review podcast with Prof. Katie Gramich and archivist Alison Harvey.

Other Edward Thomas events taking place in Cardiff this month include a creative writing workshop and open mic poetry night. This year’s Frome Festival will feature Edward Thomas themed talks, walks, and even a cricket match! BBC Radio 4 will be broadcasting In Pursuit of Edward Thomas, a programme by biographer Mathew Hollis, and a radio adaptation of Nick Dear’s play, The Dark Earth and the Light Sky.

A Century of Poetry: National Poetry Writing Month #NaPoWriMo)

National Poetry Writing Month (aka #NaPoWriMo) begins today! We’ll be providing poetry prompts throughout April, to encourage writers everywhere to write one poem each day in response to the work of Edward Thomas, a poet who fought in the First World War and died exactly 100 years ago, in April 1917, at the Battle of Arras.

We’re incredibly fortunate to hold a collection of material relating to Edward Thomas, including original manuscripts of some of his poems, letters, photos and notebooks. We’ll be launching an exhibition of some of these items later in April, but if you aren’t able to get to Cardiff, you can follow us on Twitter or Facebook to receive the daily prompts and find out more about Thomas’s eventful life.

Anyone can take part in National Poetry Writing Month, and you can keep your poems to yourself or post them online for others to see. It doesn’t matter where you live, and it doesn’t matter whether you’ve ever written a poem before – the point is to be inspired and to write something every day.

Here’s our first prompt: the first two stanzas of ‘Adlestrop’, one of Edward Thomas’s most famous poems, written in 1915:

Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name

Thomas’s poems are full of ‘names’ – of places, birds, trees, people, herbs…

Write a list of names that mean something to you, for example:

  • Names of places you’ve lived
  • Names of people you know

Circle the names that stand out and write a poem using them as a starting point.

If you live nearby, come along to our poetry performance event on 21st April, supported by Literature Wales, which includes an Edward Thomas themed open mic.

There is also an Edward Thomas conference taking place later this month, organised by the School of English Communication and Philosophy.

Guest post: The birthday book: tracing an absent presence

This guest post comes from Lauren O’Hagan, PhD candidate in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy, who is researching early 20th century book inscriptions and reading practices in Great Britain.


 

Like most investigatory projects, it started with a serendipitous encounter. I was using the Janet Powney collection in Special Collections and Archives back in January 2016 as part of my PhD project on Edwardian book inscriptions, when I came across a real gem: a beautiful dark brown cloth pocket book published by Thomas Nelson and Sons in 1879 and entitled The Birthday Record – A Daily Remembrancer. As I opened the book, I came across page after page of fascinating inscriptions, through which the owner had documented key moments in his life, leaving a visible trace of an absent presence that echoes through to modern day.

The birthday book was a Victorian invention, which came about in the 1860s as a result of popular interest in graphology and a burgeoning culture of celebrity. It represented a shift in printed discourse towards a rhetoric of personalisation and intimacy. Seen as a status symbol for the increasingly literate population, the birthday book was used typically by middle-class young men and women or working-class ‘new readers’ that aspired to pure and elevated taste. As such, it was available in multiple formats to suit a range of budgets: from octodecimos with embossed cloth and gilt edges (1s 6d) to morocco-bound octavos with ivory rims and clasp (21s). The birthday book was advertised as the perfect gift for a loved one; thus, great attention was paid to its aesthetic appeal. Publishers masked their commercial motive through the use of content that was linked to the moral education and self-improvement promoted in advice manuals of the time. They targeted buyers who were seen as older guardians or mentors, such as parents or elder siblings. By 1899 over 270 types of birthday book had been published. While many were secular in nature and drew upon canonical figures, such as Tennyson, Shakespeare and Longfellow, religious publishers added culturally legitimating moral messages from sacred authorities to the popular autograph format.

 

The Birthday Record in Special Collections falls into the religious category. As its preface states:

“This little volume is intended, as the title shows, to be used as a daily scripture textbook; and also to contain a record, on the blank pages, of birthdays, or days on which friends  desire to be specially remembered and prayed for. The same pages may be employed to note down personal anniversaries, days of joys and sorrow, trials and deliverances. (…) The plan adopted by the editor had been to choose for each day a verse containing some precept or exhortation to duty, direct or implied, with others of corresponding prayer or pious resolution. This arrangement, it is believed, will offer profitable associations with special anniversaries, and also tests for self-examination on their annual return” (iii-iv).

The Birthday Record was given to Richard J. Keen by his sisters on January 14th 1881 for his 19th birthday. Sitting on the cusp between upper-working class and lower-middle class, Richard was the characteristic target of a birthday book at this time. Richard was born in 1862 in Pimlico, London, and lived with his mother and father (a coachman for Baron de Worms, a Conservative politician) and three sisters (Harriet, Alice and Caroline) in a two-bedroom house in Eaton Square. The inscriptions within the book show that Richard engaged with it actively throughout his entire life. Through the collection of signatures, the birthday book acted as a tool for social networking. In religious birthday books, this social function was particularly enhanced, as the combination of holy text and handwritten names reinforced the owner’s desire to pray for their family and friends. By combining secular trends for autograph-collecting with devotional practices, the religious birthday book became an integral part of Victorian faith.

However, in Richard’s book, this does not appear to be the case. All entries are written solely by the owner, suggesting that limited engagement took place between recording information and practising religion. Furthermore, the opposition of printed scriptural texts and contemporary autographs is respected, as pages with religious texts are kept clean and unannotated. This reflects an acceptance of the hierarchical division between the two aspects of the book, which bestows it with new introspective, subjective and solipsistic purposes. From the mere fact of simply containing the holy word, the religious birthday book required more respect and obedience from its users than its secular counterpart. This meant that there were restricted opportunities for self-expression, which can be seen in The Birthday Record, as most entries consist solely of a name and date. The handwriting in all examples is deliberate and self-consciously neat, and throughout the book, no examples of spelling mistakes or crossing-outs are present. On the few occasions when entries have been written in the wrong section, a very small and indiscreet mark is noted next to them rather than risk defacing the book. The book contains just two variations in format: newspaper clippings and a feather. Two newspaper clippings recording the death of Richard’s father in 1886 are glued onto December 3rd, while a white bird’s feather on which To Mrs Whitty is written is enclosed loosely within the leaves of the book.

 

When I first looked through The Birthday Record, I wrongly assumed that Richard was the sole proprietor. However, I was left with a mystery on my hands when census records revealed that Richard died a bachelor in 1904, yet the book continues to be used up until 1953. Piecing together the other entries, it became apparent that the book was passed down to his youngest sister, Caroline, who would continue to update it until her death in 1942. Caroline was born in 1864 and married Thomas James Whitty, a policeman, in 1888. They lived in Thorrington, Essex, and had four children together, of which only three survived – Violet, Henrietta Amy and Doris Evelyn. After Caroline’s death, the book is only updated twice more on November 2nd 1950 and 27th April 1953, marking the births of Colin Hayes and Nigel Hayes respectively. Although the third owner cannot be traced due to the fact that census records are only released after a one-hundred-year closure period, it is possible that the book was passed down to one of Caroline’s children upon her death.

The various entries in the book can be classified into nine distinct categories:

  • Birthday: 127 examples
  • Death: 26 examples
  • Marriage: 17 examples
  • Starting/ending a job: 8 examples
  • Outbreak/end of war: 6 examples
  • Funeral: 3 examples
  • Christening: 1 example
  • Wedding anniversary: 1 example
  • Coronation: 1 example

This indicates that while the book was still being used predominantly for its established function of recording birthdays, both Richard and Caroline appropriated it to record other information. Using the birthday book to memorialise the dead, commemorate marriages and mark important global events shows the owners’ awareness of a web of connection between themselves and the wider reading context, and the movement of the birthday book between public and private domains. By turning the book into a record of individual and familial identity, it offers a variation on the tradition of using Bible endpapers to record such information.

As censuses were only carried out every ten years, the birthday book is an essential resource for investigating the years in between. The Birthday Record, for example, can be used to trace Richard’s professional career. Despite not receiving the birthday book until 1881, on March 17th Richard writes, “Went to Montreal Oaks 1877.” Montreal Oaks was a stately home in Sevenoaks, Kent, owned by the Honourable Hugh Amherst. Richard’s first job at 15 years old was working there as a footman. We know from the birthday book that he left in April 1st 1881 and shortly after, moved to Belsay Castle in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne where he continued to work as a footman from May 27th 1881 to March 11th 1884 for Sir Arthur Edward Middleton, M.P., 7th Baronet. Just over a year later on May 9th 1885, Richard obtained a new job as a butler for Lady Dashwood of West Wycombe Park in Buckinghamshire, where he remained until April 1st 1886. On October 5th of the same year, he entered into the services of Robert Porter Wilson at Cumberland Terrace in St. Pancras. By the 1891 census, Richard is still working as a butler in Cumberland Terrace, but this time for the coal magnate John Lambert. Various entries in the birthday book suggest that Richard kept in touch with many of his previous employers. He marks Amherst’s wedding on January 2nd 1896, as well as the birthday (April 26th) and death (February 13th 1904) of Wilson – the latter being the last scribal act that Richard was to carry out before his own death later the same year. The fact that Richard’s father worked as a coachman for a Baron for twenty-six years may explain how Richard ended up working for so many noblemen and women across England.

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Throughout the book, Richard also marks a series of significant world events that take place during his lifetime. This is something that his sister, Caroline, continues to do once the book is passed down to her. Richard indicates the death of Queen Victoria on January 2nd 1901 and the proclamation of peace in South Africa on June 1st 1902. Caroline marks the date and time of the death of Edward VII (May 6th 11:45pm 1910), the proclamation of King George V (May 9th 1910), England’s declaration of war against Germany (August 4th 1914), the armistice (11:30am, November 11th 1918), the proclamation of peace (July 5th 1919), peace celebrations and victory march through London of allied troops (July 19th 1919), death (11.55pm, June 21st 1936) and burial (June 28th 1936) of King George V, and the declaration of war against Germany (September 3rd 1939). The entries also give a sense of Caroline’s feelings towards the monarchy, as she expresses affection through such entries as “our beloved King George.”

 

The recurrence of certain surnames throughout the book can also reveal information about Richard and Caroline’s social networks. For example, with 32 individual entries, Whitty is the surname that most frequently occurs throughout the book. While this is to be expected given that Caroline married into the Whitty family, census records indicate that their younger sister, Alice, also married a Whitty – George, the brother of Caroline’s husband, Thomas James. The frequency of entries and terms of endearment made relating to Alice and her four children (Gertrude Carrie Alice, Winifred Lottie, Ida Gwendoline and Reginald George Hedworth) suggest a close relationship between Richard and his elder sister. Other surnames to frequently occur throughout the book are Owen (12 entries), Keen (9 entries), Lord (8 entries) and Hall (4 entries). Census records show that Caroline’s daughter, Violet, married Wilfred Owen, whereas Richard’s eldest sister, Harriet, married Thomas Hall, whose cousins were Lords. There are 62 other surnames that occur just once or twice throughout the birthday book, which demonstrates the wide social circle of family, friends and acquaintances that both Richard and Caroline had.

This little birthday book is just one of the thousands of incredible resources in Special Collections. If you haven’t yet viewed the Janet Powney collection, I urge you all to take a look now. It is in the foyer in large glass cabinets, and boasts striking colourful spines characteristic of the prize books of the late 19th and early 20th century. Maybe serendipity will shine upon you too. As Qwerty states in Lemony Snicket’s When Did You See Her Last?, “With a library it is easier to hope for serendipity than to look for a precise answer.”

Edward Thomas 100: celebrating a poetic legacy in April 2017

Photos from the archive.

Photos from the archive.
(c) Edward Thomas Estate

One of our most fascinating collections relates to the life and work of a poet – Edward Thomas, who was killed in action during the First World War, exactly one hundred years ago, in April 1917.

Edward Thomas made a living writing travel books and critical reviews. It was a combination of his friendship with the American poet, Robert Frost, and the outbreak of the First World War, which led to him beginning to write poetry in 1914, until his tragic death just a short time later, on the Western Front.

In 2017, Cardiff University, holder of the world’s largest archive of Edward Thomas’ letters, diaries, notebooks, poems, photographs, and personal belongings, will host a major centenary conference and exhibition celebrating his life and work, as well as a series of poetry events, supported by Literature Wales. A creative writing workshop on 8th April will be followed by a unique poetry performance evening on 21st April. We’ll also be taking part in #NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) by providing daily poetry prompts, to encourage as many people as possible to be inspired by his writing, and to write their own poems in response.

Letters to Edward from Robert Frost.

Letters to Edward from Robert Frost.
(c) Edward Thomas Estate

Edward Thomas 100: A Creative Writing Workshop

Saturday 8th April

3-5pm

Venue: Special Collections and Archives, Arts and Social Studies Library, Colum Road, Cardiff, CF10 3EU.

Free entry, but places are limited so please book by emailing Rachel at CarneyR2@cardiff.ac.uk

Edward Thomas' pocket watch

Edward Thomas’ pocket watch.
(c) Edward Thomas Estate

The Edward Thomas archive is an incredible collection of material and objects relating to his life and work, including original manuscripts of some of his poems, as well as letters, notebooks, articles and objects, such as the watch which he was wearing when he died (it is thought that the force of the blast actually stopped the mechanism at the time of his death).

You will have a unique opportunity to view items from the collection and be inspired to write your own work in response. There will also be a chance to read work produced during the workshop at our performance event on 21st April, and we will publish some of the best pieces written by workshop participants on our blog.

Read more about the workshop tutor:

Bryan Marshall is a Cardiff based poet and fiction writer. He has won first prize and publication in The Word Hut and Darker Times. He’s also had work published in Thief magazine, Postcard Poems, Prose Magazine, and The Ghastling. He regularly performs at spoken word events in Cardiff.

This workshop is free to attend, but places are limited so please book by emailing Rachel at CarneyR2@cardiff.ac.uk


Yes. I Remember Adlestrop: Celebrating the Influence of Edward Thomas on Contemporary Poetry

Friday 21st April

7.30pm (doors open from 7pm)

Venue: Little Man Coffee Company, Ivor House, Bridge Street, Cardiff, CF10 2EE.

Free entry

Edward Thomas has influenced the work of numerous writers, from Robert Frost, Thomas Hardy and W.H. Auden, to Philip Larkin, Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. This event will celebrate the influence of his work on contemporary poetry.

Edward with his son Merfyn, 1900.

Edward with his son Merfyn, 1900.
(c) Edward Thomas Estate

Lucy Newlyn (from Oxford), Jonathan Edwards (from South Wales) and Glyn Edwards (from North Wales), will read their own poems and talk about the influence of Edward Thomas on their work. Local writers will also share poems written specially for the occasion, and there will be an open mic on the same theme.

The event will also include a pop-up exhibition, featuring highlights from the Edward Thomas archive.

More about the poets:

Professor Lucy Newlyn is both an academic and a poet, having lectured at Oxford University since 1984, where she is now an Emeritus Fellow of St Edmund Hall. Her first poetry collection Ginnel was published by Oxford Poets/Carcanet in 2005, and a second collection, Earth’s Almanac, was published by Enitharmon Press in 2015. She has been literary editor of the Oxford Magazine since 2011. She has a longstanding interest in the work of Edward Thomas, and has co-edited Branch-lines: Edward Thomas and Contemporary Poetry and published other work related to his prose and poetry.

Edward and Helen Thomas.

Edward and Helen Thomas.
(c) Edward Thomas Estate

Jonathan Edwards’ first collection, My Family and Other Superheroes (Seren, 2014) received the Costa Poetry Award and the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award. It was shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. He works as a teacher and the poems of Edward Thomas, rich in their treatment of people, nature and time, are among his favourite to teach.

Glyn Edwards has been Writer in Residence at a number of literature festivals including the ‘Poem for October’ project at the Dylan Thomas Boathouse.  He has had work published in the Wales Arts Review, The Lonely Crowd, The Lampeter Review and a variety of other publications. His debut poetry collection, ‘Conversations’, will be published in 2018, and will include poems written in response to Edward Thomas and Robert Frost.

Please share our events on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @CUSpecialColls for regular poetry prompts throughout April.

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Exhibition review: Tennyson’s Women

This guest post comes from Lauren Evetts, Literature MA student in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy.


Tennyson, Tennyson…. Where to begin?! I had just finished the taught element of a module about King Arthur in the 19th and 20th centuries and I had been particularly struck with Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, the beautiful retelling of Malory’s complete Arthurian legend in poetry form. My assessment was approaching and I really wanted to write a comparison piece, however I was struggling to find an appropriate text to compare it with. Hence my question – where on earth do I begin? I had this amazing, powerful tome of poetry but no approach, no methodology… I was pretty stuck.

All I can say is: Thank goodness for the people down in Special Collections! I thought I’d look for some inspiration amongst the collections and archives and maybe have a chat with the archivists to see what I could find. So I was incredibly pleased when I opened the double doors and right in front of me was an entire exhibition on the very text I wanted to write about! I was absolutely stunned.

Tennyson's Women exhibition at Special Collections and Archives, Arts and Social Studies Library, on until March 2017.

Tennyson’s Women exhibition at Special Collections and Archives, Arts and Social Studies Library, on until March 2017.

There in the glass cabinets were beautiful illustrations which accompanied Tennyson’s Idylls at the time of each publication. Gorgeous sketches, wood engravings, plates and paintings by Sir Richard Holmes, Gustave Doré, Edmund J. Sullivan, Florence Harrison, Mary Montgomerie Lamb, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rosetti instantly appealed to the artist in me. I had no idea that such renowned illustrators were involved in decorating Tennyson’s work, and each one with a different perspective on the same scenes. The artist who really grabbed my attention, however, was Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale, who produced 28 watercolour illustrations to accompany the 1911 edition of the Idylls. Her compassionate and complex portrayal of Tennyson’s women allowed me to gain a completely different stance on the characters and I knew, in that instant, that I had finally found a powerful comparison piece for my essay.

One image which particularly stood out to me was the depiction of Elaine being placed on her death bed.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King, illustrated by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale.

‘So there two brethren from the chariot took / And on the blank decks laid her in her bed’. Alfred Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King, illustrated by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1911.

Shunned by Lancelot after her repeated declarations of love, Tennyson’s Elaine chose to die rather than live with her unrequited feelings and asked her brothers, after her death, to deck her out like Lancelot’s beloved Queen Guinevere, put a letter for the knight in her hand, place her in a barge and let her float in it past the castle for all to see. Poor, young, naïve Elaine, who could only gain power over her circumstances in death! However, Fortescue-Brickdale’s illustration told rather a different tale.

The first thing I noticed was that Elaine has been positioned quite differently to the way she instructed her brothers to do so in the poem. Her gold covering is drawn right up to her chest, so that we are unable to see if she is dressed in the ‘rich’ clothing she desired, ‘like the Queen’, and her letter to Lancelot is completely hidden – if it is there at all! Furthermore, her face is pale and drawn – typical of a corpse, I suppose, but not smiling as in the text, and definitely not reminiscent of the ‘Fairy Queen’ which the courtly onlookers describe her as when she passes by. So Elaine is not powerful in death, after all. Her letter will go undelivered and she is unable to communicate her final message to the court. She is not sleeping the restful sleep of someone who has completed her final mission, but merely a powerless, young girl who died too young.

In these ways I could see that Fortescue-Brickdale felt that Elaine completely lacked autonomy over both her life and her death. She was dependent on men for her happiness in life and dependent on them to carry out her wishes in death. Although the changes in her illustration are fairly subtle, Fortescue-Brickdale’s depiction invites the viewer to feel Elaine’s helplessness and reliance on a patriarchal system. I found similar motifs in her other artwork and was able to write an argument on the female artist’s sympathy for Arthurian women. Now to wait for the results!

I strongly suggest asking for help from Special Collections and Archives if you’re ever stuck on what to write. In my experience, being able to view the original artwork accompanying Tennyson’s poetry was amazing, and visiting the exhibition really fascinated my inner geek. If you’re not stuck, I suggest going for a visit anyway – there are always incredible exhibitions, the staff are very helpful and know all sorts about all sorts of things. And who doesn’t love a bit of extra help?

Edition fever: Charles Knight’s illustrated Shakespeare

Reading Andrew Prescott’s excellent blog post on 19th century Shakespeare editions, ‘Why every copy of a book is different’, inspired me to find out more about our extra-illustrated set of Charles Knight’s Pictorial edition of the works of Shakspere (1839-43).

Special Collections' extra-illustrated set of Charles Knight's Pictorial Shakspere, enlarged from 7 to 15 volumes with the addition of almost 1,500 engravings.

Special Collections’ extra-illustrated set of Charles Knight’s Pictorial Shakspere, enlarged from 8 to 15 volumes with the addition of almost 1,500 engravings.

Knight’s edition was originally issued in 56 monthly parts between 1838-43, and simultaneously, as material became available, released in 8 bound volumes between 1839-43, (7 volumes of plays, with a biographical volume authored by Knight). This ambitious illustrated edition was a product of the Victorian cult of Shakespeare, prevalent among all social classes, as well as emerging technologies which made the mass-production of affordable, wood-engraved books possible for the first time.

Knight was acutely aware of the power of illustrated works to attract and educate new readers. His previous projects, the Penny Magazine (1832-45), and the 27-volume Penny Cyclopaedia (1833-44) contained hundreds of cheap woodcuts. He went on to produce ‘pictorial editions’ of the Bible, a history of England, and a Book of Common Prayer.

He rejected the approach made by Nicholas Rowe, in the first illustrated Shakespeare edition, Rowe’s works of Mr. William Shakespear (1709), in which copper engravings depict key scenes within their theatrical setting, complete with stage sets and contemporary costume.

Illustration from Nicholas Rowe's 1709 edition, showing a scene from Hamlet in its theatrical context (typically featuring a draped curtain, and actors in contemporary eighteenth century dress).

Illustration from Nicholas Rowe’s 1709 edition, showing a scene from Hamlet in its theatrical context (typically featuring a draped curtain, and actors in contemporary eighteenth century dress).

Instead, he desired to depict with historical accuracy:

‘the Realities upon which the imagination of the poet must have rested…the localities of the various scenes, whether English or foreign; the portraits of the real personages of the historical plays; the objects of natural history, so constantly occurring; accurate costume in all its rich variety,’ (Knight, 2:284).

Considering his background in encyclopedias and miscellanies, it is perhaps not surprising that he sought to surround the literary works with images of real locations, and real persons, ‘which imparted a character of truthfulness to many scenes, which upon the stage had in general been merely fanciful creations’.

Extract from Knight's 'introductory notices' to Romeo and Juliet, which places the play in its historic context.

Extract from Knight’s ‘introductory notices’ to Romeo and Juliet, which places the play in its historic context.

Compared to earlier editions by Nicholas Rowe and John Boydell, which featured expensive and laboriously-produced copper engravings, Knight capitalised on the economy of wood engraving, a quick and affordable technique perfected by Thomas Bewick (1753-1828), which allowed text and image to be printed simultaneously.

Knight’s printer, William Clowes and Sons, operated the largest printing works in the world at that time, and in 1843, owned 24 steam-driven printing presses, reducing mass-printing costs even further (Weedon, p. 158).

Steamprinting machine used by The Illustrated London News, 2 Dec 1843.

Steam-printing machine used by The Illustrated London News, 2 Dec 1843.

Boydell’s 1802 edition cost £42, compared to just £7 7s. for Knight’s some 40 years later. Knight’s edition was cheaper, but not yet within the reach of the working-class mass market. He continued to make edits and alterations, which saw a proliferation of new Shakespeare editions hit the market:

• Library edition (1842-4) in 12 volumes at £6
• Cabinet edition (1843-4) in 11 duodecimo volumes at £1 7s. 6d.
• A single volume edition of 1,084 pages (1845) at £1 1s.
• Standard edition (1846) in 7 volumes at £4
• National edition (1851-2) in 8 volumes at £3

These were followed by a Students’ edition (1857), and finally, dispensing with Knight’s extensive notes and essays, a single volume People’s edition (1864) for 2 shillings, or if bought as a serial, just:

‘two plays for one penny! … Sixty-four well-printed double-column pages containing Hamlet and Othello complete, for one penny, is really a wonder, even in this cheap-printing age… our greatest poet [is] thus brought within the reach of all, in a style fit for any home and illustrated with two woodcuts, but unencumbered with the ‘readings’ and ‘notes’, which only puzzle readers and too often interfere with the full enjoyment of Shakespeare’s immortal works’. (Birmingham Daily Post, 18 April 1864, p. 5).

A bibliographic tangle it may be, but the proliferation of editions is testament to the enduring popularity of the work, and the breadth of the potential market for illustrated Shakespeare.

Title page of Charles Knight's Pictorial edition of the works of Shakspere.

Title page of Charles Knight’s Pictorial edition of the works of Shakspere.

Special Collections and Archives’ set of Knight’s Pictorial edition of the works of Shakspere has every appearance of being a first edition, though this is difficult to verify conclusively without comparison with others. New digital databases such as the Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive have vast potential to aid researchers in comparing editions and tracing source texts. Our copy is undated, re-bound, and most remarkably, has been extended to almost twice its original length by the inclusion of 1,495 additional engraved plates, and 26 original drawings by William Harvey (1796-1866).

Nicholas Harvey's original sketch for the Comedy of Errors frontispiece, bound in opposite the final engraving.

Nicholas Harvey’s original sketch for the Comedy of Errors frontispiece, bound in opposite the final engraving.

A pupil of Thomas Bewick, Harvey was employed to create a series of frontispieces, ‘which, embodying the realities of costume and other accessaries [sic], would have enough of an imaginative character to render them pleasing,’ (Knight, 2:284). His original drawings in pencil and ink, with a brown wash to indicate desired areas of shading, have been bound into the work alongside his engraved frontispieces.

One of the 1,495 extra illustrations added to our Knight edition. The same Hamlet scene as depicted Rowe's edition, this rendering features the same Regency dress and set design that Knight rejected in favour of historical accuracy.

One of the 1,495 extra illustrations added to our Knight edition. The same Hamlet scene as depicted Rowe’s edition, this rendering features the same Regency dress and set design that Knight rejected in favour of historical accuracy.

The work now stretches to 15 volumes rather than the original 8, and to what would surely be Knight’s dismay, contains many of the ‘artistic’ theatrical scenes from 18th and early 19th century editions, of which he disapproved so strongly, as well as illustrations from rival mid-19th century wood-engraved Shakespeare editions.

In the first volume, a bookseller’s catalogue listing is pasted onto the front free endpaper, with the price given as £35.label

An inscription records, ‘I give this book to my dear son Trevor / 22 April 1889, John C. Bigham’.

Inscription from John Charles Bigham (1840-1929) to his son Trevor (1876-1954).

Inscription from John Charles Bigham (1840-1929) to his son Trevor (1876-1954).

The son of a merchant, John Charles Bigham (1840-1929) trained as a barrister and rose quickly through the ranks to join the Queen’s Bench. In 1912, he was appointed commissioner to inquire into the sinking of the RMS Titanic, and was created the first Viscount Mersey in 1916. His third son, Trevor, to whom the book is inscribed, became Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (the second-in-command of London’s Metropolitan Police Service) in 1931.

Bookplate of John Charles Bigham (1840-1929)

Bookplate of John Charles Bigham (1840-1929)

Each Knight volume contains a bookplate belonging to John Charles Bigham, dated 1897. The pasted bookseller’s record suggests that neither Trevor Bigham nor his father were responsible for constructing this densely extra-illustrated work, and we may never know who was. Prescott writes ‘each copy of a book bears the imprint in different ways of its previous owners and can act as an archive of the owners’ interests, enthusiasms and preoccupations as much as their personal papers’. There could be few better examples of this than this handsome work, more scrapbook than book, and all the more fascinating for researchers as a result.

Further reading:

  • Knight, Charles, Passages of a working life during half a century, with a prelude of early reminiscences. London: Bradbury & Evans, 1864.
  • Weedon, Alexis, Victorian publishing: the economics of book production for a mass market, 1836-1916. Aldershot: Ashgate, c2003: 158.
  • Young, Alan R., ‘Charles Knight and the nineteenth-century market for Shakespeare’, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, vol. 103, no. 1 (March 2009), pp. 19-41.

Guest post: The Rees Family and the Cardiff Eisteddfod

This guest post comes from Vicky Shirley, a third-year PhD student in the School of English, Communication, and Philosophy. Her thesis examines the reception and re-writing of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae in England, Scotland, and Wales. She is currently preparing an article for publication on the reception of Geoffrey of Monmouth by Welsh and English antiquarians in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the Salisbury Library in Special Collections has been integral to her research. The Salisbury Library contains a number of classic works of Welsh medievalism, such as the The Cambrian Register and Myrvyrian Archaiology of Wales. Special Collections also holds several microfilms of manuscripts belonging to the eighteenth-century antiquarian Lewis Morris, who thought that the Brut y Tysilio was the original Welsh source of Geoffrey’s Historia Regum Britanniae, and the reception of his theory is the subject of her article.


My research for my article has recently led me to Rice Rees’ Essay on the Welsh Saints, or the Primitive Christians, which was published in 1836. Rice Rees (1804-39) was a cleric and scholar, and his essay was the winning entry in one of the essay competitions at the Gwent and Dyfed Royal Eisteddfod, which was held in Cardiff in 1834. Rice Rees’ uncle, William Jenkins Rees (1772-1855), was instrumental in re-introducing the Eisteddfod to Wales in the nineteenth century. The Gwyneddigion Society had tried to revive the annual Eisteddfod in the late eighteenth century, but they only ran between 1789 and 1794 in Bala, St. Asaph, Llanrwst, Denbigh, and Dollgellau respectively. In October 1818, several Welsh clerics antiquarians, including W. J. Rees, met in Montgomeryshire, and proposed to establish provincial societies for the study of Welsh literature in in Dyfed, Gwynedd, Gwent, and Powys. These societies were responsible for hosting eisteddfodau in their provinces, and the first one was held at Carmarthen in 1819. W. J. Rees also helped to re-establish The Honourable Society of the Cymmrodorion, and the second society (1820-43) oversaw the activities of the local Cambrian Societies.

William Jenkins Rees (1772-1855)

William Jenkins Rees (1772-1855)

The Gwent and Dyfed Royal Eisteddfod was held on 20th-22nd August 1834 at Cardiff Castle, by the invitation of John Crichton-Stuart, the 2nd Marquess of Bute. The young Princess Victoria and the Duchess of Kent were invited to the Eisteddfod, and several Welsh literati were also present at the event, including Lady Charlotte Guest and Taliesin Williams, the son of Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg), who won the Bardic Chair that year. In his opening speech, the Marquess remarked that:

[t]he Eisteddfodau shew a character of good-will and harmony and kindness, joining together all persons of Celtic origin, in one bond of social attachment and literary enjoyment. They are meetings in which we are desirous to shew our forefathers; to recall to memory the history of former days; and to shew the regard that we ever cherish to our departed ancestry.[1]

Lady Charlotte Guest includes a short account of the Cardiff Eisteddfod in her journal. She did not the Marquess’ opening speech in very high regard – she preferred the oratory of William Price instead, and he eventually became one of the judges. A transcript of both speeches was included in the report of the Gwent and Royal Eisteddfod, which was printed by The Glamorgan, Monmouth and Brecon Gazette and Merthyr Guardian.

eisteddfod

In his essay, Rees provides an ‘ecclesiastical history of the Britons, from the introduction of Christianity, or more especially from the termination of Roman power in Britain, to the end of the seventh century’.[2] The scope of Rees’ narrative is similar to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae, which describes the history of Britain from its foundation by Brutus of Troy to the death of Cadwalladr, the last king of the Britons in 682. The two narratives correspond with each other as they use similar sources, including a variety of ancient Welsh poems, triads, and genealogies. These texts were being steadily recovered in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as scholars and antiquarians began to publish many works of Welsh literature for the first time.

cardiffeisteddfod

Despite the similarities between his essay and the Historia regum Britanniae, Rees was sceptical of Geoffrey. Like many scholars and historians, Rees thought Geoffrey was a translator, who added his own fabulous inventions to his work. In particular, Rees attacks Geoffrey for his inaccuracy, and in a section on Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, he remarks that:

Geoffrey of Monmouth states that Dewi, archbishop of Caerleon, died in the monastery which he had founded at Menevia, where he was honourably buried by order of Maelgwn Gwynedd. This event is recorded by Geoffrey as if it happened soon after the death of Arthur, who died A.D. 542. According to the computations of Archbishop Usher, St. David died A.D. 544, aged eighty two […] But it must be allowed that the dates quotes by Usher are very uncertain, and depend upon the authority of writers who lived many centuries after the events which they record. The older generations, and the names of contemporaries, rend it necessary to place the birth of David about twenty years later than it is fixed by Usher; and his life may be protracted to any period short of A. D. 566. [3]

The death of Arthur and David is one of the few dates that are mentioned in the Historia regum Britanniae, and so this point of contention is one of the few examples where Rees could directly challenge Geoffrey’s authority and undermine his chronology. Rees’ estimation that Saint David died in 566 is a little unreliable, as it is now generally accepted that he died in 589. Nevertheless, his comparison of sources is typical of the method many historians – medieval and modern – used to try and disprove the events recorded in Geoffrey’s Historia.

My interest in the Rees family began in September 2012, when I was an undergraduate research assistant on a Cardiff Undergraduates Research Opportunities Program project, which involved cataloguing provenance and marginalia in the Cardiff Rare Books collection (1660-1700). During this project, I found a number of books which were owned by different members of the Rees family. The Rees family library once had over 7,000 books, many of which were donated to the Cardiff Public Library, before they were acquired by Special Collections in 2010. My current research has given me a better understanding about how important the Rees family were to medieval scholarship and antiquarian activities in Wales during the nineteenth century. 

Bibliography

Primary Sources

Guest, Lady, Lady Charlotte Guest: Extracts from her Journal, 1833-1852, ed. V. B. Ponsby, Earl of Beesborough (London: Murray, 1950)

Rees, Rice, An Essay on the Welsh Saints, or the Primitive Christians, usually considered to have been the founders of the churches in Wales (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman, printed by William Rees, Llandovery, 1836)

‘Gwent and Royal Eisteddfod and Musical Festival’, The Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette and Merthyr Guardian, Saturday 23rd and 30th August 1834

Secondary Sources

Ellis, Mary, ‘W. J. Rees, 1772-1855: A Portrait, Part I’ Radnorshire Society Transactions 39 (1969): 24-35

___________, ‘W. J. Rees, 1772-1855: A Portrait, Part II’ Radnorshire Society Transactions 40 (1970): 21-8

___________, ‘W. J. Rees, 1772-1855: A Portrait, Part III’ Radnorshire Society Transactions 41 (1971): 76-85

___________, ‘W. J. Rees, 1772-1855: A Portrait, Part IV’ Radnorshire Society Transactions 42 (1972): 55-61

Thomas, J. Lloyd, ‘Eisteddfod Talaith a Chadair Powys (The Powis Provincial Chair Eisteddfod)’, The Montgomeryshire Collections, relating to Montgomeryshire and its borders, 59 1-2 (195-6): 60-81

Online Sources

Lloyd, J. E. ‘Rees, Rice (1804–1839)’, rev. Nilanjana Banerji, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/23287, accessed 2 Sept 2016]

___________, ‘Rees, William Jenkins (1772–1855)’, rev. Beti Jones, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2007 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/23291, accessed 2 Sept 2016]

[1] ‘Gwent and Royal Eisteddfod and Musical Festival’, The Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette and Merthyr Guardian, Saturday 23rd and 30th August 1834, p. 3.

[2] Rice Rees, ‘Preface’, An Essay on the Welsh Saints, or the Primitive Christians, usually considered to have been the founders of the churches in Wales (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman, printed by William Rees, Llandovery, 1836), p. vi.

[3] Rees, An Essay on the Welsh Saints, pp. 200-1

Guest post: Sidney Paget and the Strand Magazine

This guest post comes from Karita Kuusisto, a PhD student at the School of English, Communication and Philosophy at Cardiff University. Her research focuses on the work of the artist and illustrator Sidney Paget and the role of the illustrator in the process of making illustrated periodicals in the late Victorian era. Her research interests include illustration, periodical press and photography in the nineteenth century.

Karita is leading a special session at the 2016 Annual Conference of the British Association of Victorian Studies, where she will showcase the work of the artist and illustrator Sidney Paget (1860-1908), concentrating on his work for the Strand Magazine. The session also gives visitors a chance to examine original copies of the magazine housed in Special Collections and Archives, and explore how the changes in the publication process affected the appearance of the illustrations throughout the years.


Sidney Paget may not be a name that many people recognise, even if they recognise the literary character who he helped to create visually: Sherlock Holmes.

While there is much debate over which illustrator contributed most to the famous detective’s appearance, there can be no doubt that one of the most influential of them all was the rendition that Sidney Paget created for the pages of the Strand Magazine.

Created by George Newnes in 1891, the Strand Magazine is well known for having been a highly entertaining and lavishly illustrated monthly publication. Assigning Paget as the illustrator of the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ stories seems to have happened by (a lucky) mistake. According to Paget’s daughter Winifred Paget, the Strand Magazine’s Art Editor, W. H. J. Boot, had actually intended to hire Sidney Paget’s brother, Walter Paget, for the job. Boot, however, had forgotten Walter Paget’s first name and addressed his letter to “Mr. Paget”, and the letter was subsequently opened by Sidney.

Illustration by Sidney Paget for Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Boscombe Valley Mystery’, published in the Strand Magazine in 1891.

Illustration by Sidney Paget for Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Boscombe Valley Mystery’, published in the Strand Magazine in 1891.

Sidney Paget illustrated the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ stories from their first publication in the Strand Magazine in 1891 until the publication of ‘Final Problem’ in 1893, and resumed as the illustrator of the stories in 1901 for ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ and 1903 for ‘The Return of Sherlock Holmes’.

During the time when ‘Sherlock Holmes’ stories were not published, Paget went on to illustrate many other stories by Arthur Conan Doyle (and others) for the Strand. These included ‘Rodney Stone’, which was first published as a serialized novel in 1896 and later published as an illustrated novel, using Paget’s illustrations.

Illustration by Sidney Paget for Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Rodney Stone’, published in the Strand Magazine in 1896.

Illustration by Sidney Paget for Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Rodney Stone’, published in the Strand Magazine in 1896.

What do we know about Sidney Paget? According to an article published in the Strand Magazine in July 1895, Sidney Paget was ‘born on October 4th 1860, in London, fifth son of the late Robert Paget, vestry clerk of Clerkenwell’, and studied painting in Heatherley’s School of Art. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy at eighteen years of age, ‘and constantly since that time’. In his studio, Paget painted portraits and small pictures, while also illustrating books and illustrated papers, consisting of ‘chiefly war subjects of Egypt and the Soudan.’ According to the Royal Academy records, Paget became a student of the Academy on December 6 1881, at the age of 20, as a painter. At the time, training lasted for six years.

Illustration by Sidney Paget for Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Final Problem’, published in the Strand Magazine in 1893.

Illustration by Sidney Paget for Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Final Problem’, published in the Strand Magazine in 1893.

Paget, being a portrait painter, often included “portraits” of characters from the stories as illustrations. His skill as an illustrator lay in his ability to make the different characters easily recognizable for the reader, something too often lacking in Victorian era illustration.

Paget’s original black-and-white drawings are painterly in their style and use of shading, which does not always translate to the finished illustrations on the Strand Magazine’s pages. This is simply due to the printing process of the illustrations: after Paget had finished the original drawing, both engraver and printer would work on the image as well, leaving their mark on the work. The printing process also affected the amount of detail that could be included in the finished illustration, which Paget would have needed to take into account when producing the drawings.

There is a clear change in the style and the overall look of the finished ‘Sherlock Holmes’ illustrations in the Strand Magazine in the year 1892. According to Alex Werner, this change happened when Paul Naumann became the engraver of the ‘Holmes’ illustrations. It is possible that the Strand Magazine was not satisfied with the quality of the previous illustrations, and wished therefore to change engravers. As the Strand Magazine’s records have been lost, it is quite impossible to know exactly why the change happened. After the changing engravers, the compositions and topics of the illustrations also became more varied, resulting in a more enjoyable reading experience.

Illustration by Sidney Paget for Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Abbey Grange’, published in the Strand Magazine in 1904.

Illustration by Sidney Paget for Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Abbey Grange’, published in the Strand Magazine in 1904.

 

Publications consulted:

Newnes, George ‘Artists of the Strand Magazine’ in Strand Magazine 1895.2.

Paget, Winifred ‘The Artist Who Made Holmes Real’ in A Sherlock Holmes Compendium, ed. Peter Haining (London: W.H. Allen, 1980), pp. 41-45

Werner, Alex, ‘Sherlock Holmes, Sidney Paget and the Strand Magazine’ in Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die, ed. Alex Werner (London: Ebury, 2014)