Tag Archives: victorian culture

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.”

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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: 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)

Exhibition: Tennyson’s Women

Special Collections and Archives‘ latest exhibition, Tennyson’s Women, compares changing artistic approaches to illustrating the works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892).

It examines the visual depiction of female characters in the context of the Victorian medieval revival. Forgotten female illustrators, such as Eleanor Brickdale, Florence Harrison and Katherine Cameron, feature alongside more famous works by Gustave Doré, J. E. Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.


Mae arddangosfa ddiweddaraf Casgliadau Arbennig ac ArchifauMerched Tennyson, yn cymharu dulliau artistig newidiol i ddarlunio gwaith yr Arglwydd Tennyson (1809-1892).

Mae’n archwilio darluniad gweledol cymeriadau benywaidd yng nghyd-destun yr adfywiad canoloesol Fictoraidd. Mae darlunwyr benywaidd angof, gan gynnwys Eleanor Brickdale, Florence Harrison, Katherine Cameron a Violet Fane yn cael eu portreadu ochr yn ochr â gwaith mwy enwog gan Gustave Doré, J. E. Millais a Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Lady of Shalott / Y Feinir o Sialót

The Lady of Shalott inspired numerous artists, who were drawn to the story of a woman who commits a specifically visual crime by looking directly through a window. The illuminated manuscript represents the Lady of Shalott happily at work on her tapestry as she weaves the objects seen in the mirror’s reflections.


Bu’r Feinir o Sialót yn ysbrydoliaeth i nifer o ddarlunwyr a gafodd eu denu gan hanes menyw sy’n cyflawni trosedd weledol amlwg wrth edrych drwy ffenestr. Mae’r llawysgrif wedi’i oleuo yn cynrychioli Boneddiges Shalott yn fodlon ei byd yn gweithio ar dapestri wrth iddi blethu’r nwyddau sydd i’w gweld yn y drych.

She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lady of Shalott, illuminated by Gilbert Pownall (c. 1910).

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lady of Shalott, illuminated by Gilbert Pownall (c. 1910).

Most illustrations, however, focus on the moment of the curse when the Lady of Shalott leaves the loom and looks through the window at Lancelot.


Mae’r rhan fwyaf o ddarluniau, fodd bynnag, yn canolbwyntio ar olygfa’r felltith pan fo’r Feinir o Sialót yn gadael yr ystafell gan edrych drwy’r ffenestr ar Lawnslot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-flower bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume:
She look’d down to Camelot.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Tennyson’s Dream of fair women and other poems, illustrated by Florence Harrison.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Tennyson’s Dream of fair women and other poems, illustrated by Florence Harrison. London: Blackie, c. 1923. Image reproduced with the kind permission of the Florence Susan Harrison Estate.

This moment is represented with dramatic force in William Holman Hunt’s illustration where the Lady of Shalott is tangled in the threads of the tapestry, her hair flying wildly across the picture. Tennyson objected to Hunt’s addition of these features, because they were not present in the text.


Dangosir yr olygfa hon gyda chryn rymuster yn narlun William Holman Hunt o’r Feinir o Sialót yn sownd yng nghlymau’r tapestri, a’i gwallt yn chwifio’n wyllt ar draws y llun. Nid oedd Tennyson yn cymeradwyo’r ychwanegiadau hyn gan nad oeddent yn y testun gwreiddiol.

Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
‘The curse is come upon me,’ cried
The Lady of Shalott.’

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Some poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson, illustrated by W. Holman Hunt et al.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Some poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson, illustrated by W. Holman Hunt et al. London: Freemantle & Co., 1901.

Florence Harrison and Dante Gabriel Rossetti show the dead Lady of Shalott floating into Camelot, with Rossetti’s Lancelot bending down in the cramped few inches of the wood engraving to stare at her ‘lovely face’.


Darlunia Florence Harrison a Dante Gabriel Rossetti’r olygfa pan fo Boneddiges Shalott yn arnofio i Gamelot, gyda Lawnslot yn narlun Rosetti’n
plygu ar ddarn tila o bren i weld ‘ei hwyneb prydferth’.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden wall and gallery,
A pale, pale corpse she floated by,
Deadcold, between the houses high,
Dead into tower’d Camelot.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Guinevere and other poems, illustrated by Florence Harrison.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Guinevere and other poems, illustrated by Florence Harrison. London: Blackie, 1912. Image reproduced with the kind permission of the Florence Susan Harrison Estate.

Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
To the planked wharfage came:
Below the stern they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Poems, illustrated by Rossetti etc.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Poems, illustrated by Rossetti etc. London: E. Moxon, 1860.

Elaine

Elaine, the ‘lily maid of Astolat’, became an iconic figure for artists. Tennyson’s poem inscribes Elaine as a specifically Victorian heroine, who wilts away when her love for Lancelot is unrequited.


Daeth Elaine, y ‘forwyn lili o Astolat’, yn ffigwr eiconig ar gyfer arlunwyr. Mae cerdd Tennyson yn cyflwyno Elaine fel arwres Fictoraidd yn benodol, sy’n cilio i’r cysgodion pan ddywed Lawnslot nad yw’n ei charu.

 So in her tower alone the maiden sat […]
Death, like a friend’s voice from a distant field
Approaching thro’ the darkness, call’d; the owls
Wailing had power upon her, and she mixt
Her fancies with the sallow-rifted glooms
Of evening, and the moanings of the wind.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Selections from Tennyson's Idylls of the King, [illuminated by Sir Richard R. Holmes?].

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Selections from Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, [illuminated by Sir Richard R. Holmes, London, 1862?]

Elaine’s position in a tower, embroidering a ‘case of silk’ for Lancelot’s shield (which is pictured here by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale), and her final journey down the river towards Camelot, links her thematically and iconographically with Tennyson’s other medieval heroine, the Lady of Shalott.


Mae sefyllfa Elaine yn y tŵr wrth iddi addurno ‘câs o sidan’ ar gyfer tarian Lawnslot (sydd yn y llun hwn gan Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale), ynghyd â’i thaith olaf i lawr yr afon tua Chamelot, yn ei cysylltu’n thematig ac yn eiconig ag arwres ganoloesol arall Tennyson, sef y Feinir o Sialót.

Then fearing rust or soilure fashioned for it
A case of silk, and braided thereupon
All the devices blazoned on the shield
In their own tinct, and added, of her wit,
A border fantasy of branch and flower.

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

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King, illustrated by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1911.

Illustrators of the period focused on the haunting image of Elaine on her death bed/boat as she carries a lily in her right hand and a love letter to Lancelot in her left (this scene is the frontispiece for Doré’s illustrated edition).


Canolbwyntiodd darlunwyr y cyfnod ar y ddelwedd arswydus o Elaine ar ei gwely angau a hithau’n gafael mewn lili yn ei llaw dde a llythyr cariad i Lawnslot yn ei llaw chwith (y ddelwedd hon sydd ar glawr fersiwn darluniadol Doré).

So those two brethren from the chariot took
And on the black decks laid her in her bed.

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

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King, illustrated by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1911.

So those two brethren. . .
. . . kissed her quiet brows, and saying to her
“Sister, farewell for ever,” and again
“Farewell, sweet sister,” parted all in tears.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Elaine, illustrated by Gustave Doré.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Elaine, illustrated by Gustave Doré. London: Edward Moxon, 1867.

Oared by the dumb, went upward with the flood–
In her right hand the lily, in her left
The letter… for she did not seem as dead,
But fast asleep, and lay as though she smiled.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Elaine, illustrated by Gustave Doré.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Elaine, illustrated by Gustave Doré. London: Edward Moxon, 1867.

Enid

Unlike the iconic episodes that tend to be favoured in artistic representations of Elaine and the Lady of Shalott, illustrations of Enid are more diverse and represent different narrative moments, from the newly-wed Geraint’s admiration of his wife (seen in the first of Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale’s illustrations here), to her wearing her shabbiest dress and accompanying Geraint on a quest to prove his prowess, convinced as he is of Enid’s infidelity (a moment that is also represented by Brickdale).


Yn wahanol i’r golygfeydd eiconig a gaiff eu dylunio gan amlaf o Elaine a’r Feinir o Sialót, mae darluniau o Enid yn tueddu i fod yn fwy amrywiol wrth iddynt gynrychioli gwahanol naratifau, o edmygedd ei gŵr newydd, Geraint, at ei wraig (y cyntaf o ddarluniau Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale yma) i’r darlun ohoni wedi’i gwisgo’n flêr yng nghwmni Geraint wrth iddo geisio dangos ei gryfder yn wyneb anffyddlondeb ei wraig (a gaiff hefyd ei ddarlunio gan Brickdale).

And as the light of Heaven varies, now
At sunrise, now at sunset, now by night
With moon and trembling stars, so loved Geraint
To make her beauty vary day by day,
In crimsons and in purples and in gems.

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

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King, illustrated by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1911.

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

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King, illustrated by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1911

Brickdale’s images provide a stunning example of Victorian medievalism and suggest her debt to Pre-Raphaelite illustrations. Brickdale seems to delight in the possibilities of this form, her interest in colour carrying through to designs she made after the First World War for stained-glass windows in York Minster.


Mae darluniau Brickdale yn enghraifft arbennig o ganoloesedd Oes Fictoria ac maent yn dangos mor fawr yw ei dyled i ddarluniau Cyn-Raffaëlaidd. Ymddengys i Brickdale fod wrth ei bodd â’r arddull hwn, gyda’i diddordeb mewn lliwiau’n gyson drwy gydol ei chreadigaethau ar ôl y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf ar gyfer ffenestri gwydr lliw Cadeirlan Efrog.

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

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King, illustrated by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1911.

Colour book illustrations of this quality were still relatively rare in the period and are a counterpoint to the earlier black and white illustrations of Gustave Doré.


Roedd darluniau lliw o’r fath safon yn dal yn gymharol brin yn y cyfnod hwn, ac maent yn wrthbwynt i ddarluniau du a gwyn blaenorol Gustave Doré.

This heard Geraint, and grasping at his sword,
(It lay beside him in the hollow shield),
Made but a single bound, and with a sweep of it
The russet-bearded head rolled on the floor.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Enid, illustrated by Gustave Doré. London: Edward Moxon, 1867

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Enid, illustrated by Gustave Doré. London: Edward Moxon, 1867

Guinevere / Gwenfair

Guinevere, the wife of King Arthur, who commits adultery with Lancelot, is recast in these illustrations as the ‘fallen woman’ familiar from literature and painting of the period. The images revel in the illicit love affair, with Edmund J. Sullivan’s relatively chaste illustration of the ‘boyhood of the year’ giving way to the passion displayed in the images designed by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale and Florence Harrison.


Caiff Gwenfair, gwraig y Brenin Arthur sy’n godinebu â Lawnslot, ei hail-bortreadu yn y darluniau fel ‘y ddynes odinebus’ sy’n gyfarwydd mewn llenyddiaeth a darluniau o’r cyfnod. Mae’r darluniau’n gorfoleddu ym mhechod y gyfathrach, ac mae darluniau cymharol bur Edmund J. Sullivan o ‘fachgendod y flwyddyn’ yn llai amlwg na chreadigaethau Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale a Florence Harrison.

Then, in the boyhood of the year,
Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere
Rode thro’ the coverts of the deer,
With blissful treble ringing clear.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, A dream of fair women & other poems, illustrated by Edmund J. Sullivan.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, A dream of fair women & other poems, illustrated by Edmund J. Sullivan. London: Grant Richards, 1900.

The similar poses in these two images suggest that Harrison might have been influenced by Brickdale’s image, although the motif of the embracing couple is common in mid-nineteenth-century book illustration.


Mae’r tebygrwydd yn y ddau ddarlun yn awgrymu i Harrison gael ei dylanwadu gan ddarlun Brickdale, er i’r motiff o gofleidio rhwng cariadon fod yn gyffredin mewn darluniau llyfrau yn y bedwaredd ganrif ar bymtheg.

It was their last hour,
A madness of farewells.

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

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King, illustrated by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1911.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Guinevere and other poems, illustrated by Florence Harrison.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Guinevere and other poems, illustrated by Florence Harrison. London: Blackie, 1912. Image reproduced with the kind permission of the Florence Susan Harrison Estate.

The illustrations of the penitent Guinevere are equally striking, with Harrison’s heroine wringing her hands in despair.


Mae darluniau o edifeirwch Gwenfair yr un mor drawiadol, gydag arwres Harrison yn griddfan â’i dwylo mewn anobaith.

We needs must love the highest when we see it.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Guinevere and other poems, illustrated by Florence Harrison.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Guinevere and other poems, illustrated by Florence Harrison. London: Blackie, 1923. Image reproduced with the kind permission of the Florence Susan Harrison Estate.

Gustave Doré’s Guinevere is literally fallen, lying prostrate at Arthur’s feet like the adulterous wife in Augustus Leopold Egg’s painting ‘Past and Present’ (1858; Tate Gallery, London).


Mae Gwenfair wedi syrthio’n llythrennol fel y ddynes odinebus yn narlun Gustave Doré, ac mae’n gorwedd yn swrth wrth draed Arthur fel y gwna’r wraig odinebus yn narlun Augustus Leopold Egg, Past and Present (1858; Galeri Tate, Llundain).

He paus’s, and in the pause she crept an inch
Nearer, and laid her hands about his feet.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Guinevere, illustrated by Gustave Doré.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Guinevere, illustrated by Gustave Doré. London: Edward Moxon, 1867.

Vivien

The ‘wily Vivien’, who seduces Merlin into telling her a charm that enables her to imprison him in an oak tree, provides rich opportunities for book illustrators.


Mae’r ‘Vivien gyfrwys’, sy’n hudo Myrddin i roi gwybod iddi am swyn y mae hi’n ei ddefnyddio i’w garcharu mewn derwen, yn cynnig cyfleoedd euraidd i ddarlunwyr llyfrau.

‘It is not worth the keeping: let it go:
But shall it? answer, darling, answer, no.
And trust me not at all or all in all.
O Master, do ye love my tender rhyme?’

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Selections from Tennyson's Idylls of the King, [illuminated by Sir Richard R. Holmes?]

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Selections from Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, [illuminated by Sir Richard R. Holmes, London, 1862?]

Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale’s seductress plays with Merlin’s beard as he places his hand upon his brow, aware of the doom that is about to befall him.


Mae Vivien fel y’i darlunir gan Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale yn anwesu barf Myrddin wrth iddo gyffwrdd ei ael, yn llwyr ymwybodol o’r anffawd sydd ar fin ei daro.

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

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King, illustrated by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1911.

Brickdale depicts another, less obvious, scene in her illustration of a Queen who has been ‘charmed’ by her husband so that no other man can see her (apart from a male viewer of this illustration, of course). It is this magic charm that is passed on to Merlin and, by him, to Vivien.


Mae Brickdale yn darlunio golygfa arall, llai amlwg, yn ei darlun o Frenhines sydd wedi’i ‘swyno‘ gan ei gŵr fel na all unrhyw ddyn arall ei gweld (heblaw dyn sy’n edrych ar y darlun, wrth reswm). Y swyn hon a gaiff ei phasio i Fyrddin, a chanddo ef i Vivien.

And so by force they dragged him to the King.
And then he taught the King to charm the Queen
In such-wise, that no man could see her more,
Nor saw she save the King, who wrought the charm.

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

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King, illustrated by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1911.

Gustave Doré’s atmospheric black and white plates point to the climax of the story as Vivien follows Merlin into the wild wood and seduces him under an oak tree, the snake-like roots of which creep around the couple.


Mae’r platiau du a gwyn, llawn awyrgylch gan Gustave Doré yn cyfeirio at uchafbwynt yr hanes wrth i Vivien ddilyn Myrddin i’r goedwig wyllt a’i hudo o dan dderwen, â’i wreiddiau megis nadroedd yn llercian o amgylch y ddau.

And then she followed Merlin all the way,
Even to the wild woods of Broceliande.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Vivien, illustrated by Gustave Doré.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Vivien, illustrated by Gustave Doré. London: Edward Moxon, 1867.

Before an oak, so hollow, huge and old
It looked a tower of ivied masonwork,
At Merlin’s feet the wily Vivien lay.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Vivien, illustrated by Gustave Doré.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Vivien, illustrated by Gustave Doré. London: Edward Moxon, 1867.

The final scene here shows the broken oak tree, which has been struck by lightning, and the equally broken Merlin, who has ‘told her all the
charm’.


Mae’r olygfa olaf hon yn dangos y dderwen wedi torri, wedi’i tharo gan fellten, a Myrddin yntau wedi torri wedi iddo ‘ddweud y swyn wrthi’.

For Merlin, overtalked and overworn,
Had yielded, told her all the charm, and slept.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Vivien, illustrated by Gustave Doré.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Vivien, illustrated by Gustave Doré. London: Edward Moxon, 1867.

Mariana

There are two Marianas represented here: the first is from a poem published by Tennyson in 1830, which takes as its source the figure of Mariana from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, who waits for her lover to return. The second, ‘Mariana in the South’, published in 1832, tells of a female living in a state of extreme loneliness. The illustrations suggest the extent to which Mariana is inevitably bound up in the cultural moment in which she is pictured.

John Everett Millais’ heroine buries her face in her hands in a pose that Millais used in other illustrations.


Caiff dwy Fariana eu darlunio: y gyntaf wedi’i seilio ar ddelwedd mewn cerdd a gyfansoddodd Tennyson ym 1830, sy’n delweddu Mariana fel y’i disgrifir yn nrama Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, yn disgwyl i’w chariad ddychwelyd. Yr ail yw ‘Mariana yn y De’, a gyhoeddwyd ym 1832, sy’n adrodd hanes menyw’n byw mewn unigedd dirfawr. Mae’r darluniau’n cyfleu’r modd y mae Mariana’n anorfod yn gaeth i’r diwylliant y gwelwn hi ynddo.

Mae arwres John Everett Millais yn claddu ei hwyneb yn ei dwylo mewn modd y defnyddiodd Millais yn ei ddarluniau eraill.

“My life is dreary,
He cometh not,” she said;
She said, “I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!”

Alfred Lord Tennyson, ‘Mariana’, in Poems, illustrated by J. E. Millais.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, ‘Mariana’, in Poems, illustrated by J. E. Millais. London: E. Moxon, 1857.

Lamb’s Mariana looks like a quintessential Victorian heroine as she meekly holds back a curtain and peers out of the window.


Mae Mariana fel y’i darlunir gan Lamb yn edrych fel arwres Fictoraidd bwysig wrth iddi dynnu’r llen ac edrych drwy’r ffenestr.

With blackest moss the flower-plots
Were thickly crusted, one and all:
The rusted nails fell from the knots
That held the pear to the gable-wall.
The broken sheds look’d sad and strange:
Unlifted was the clinking latch.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Mariana, with etchings by Mary Montgomerie Lamb (Violet Fane).

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Mariana, with etchings by Mary Montgomerie Lamb (Violet Fane). Worthing: O. Breads, 1863.

Sullivan’s Mariana, however, is an altogether more powerful and frustrated figure, who languishes in her fashionable fin de siècle dress.


Mariana fel y’i darlunir gan Sullivan, fodd bynnag, yn ymddangos fel dynes sy’n fwy pwerus ond rhwystredig ar y cyfan wrth iddi ymfalchïo’n ei ffrog fin de siècle.

“My life is dreary,
He cometh not,” she said;
She said, “I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!”

Alfred Lord Tennyson, A dream of fair women & other poems, illustrated by Edmund J. Sullivan.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, A dream of fair women & other poems, illustrated by Edmund J. Sullivan. London: Grant Richards, 1900.

The explicitly religious overtones of ‘Mariana in the South’ in which Mariana prays to the Virgin Mary, is represented in the fervor of Rossetti’s heroine, who passionately kisses Christ’s feet, and Sullivan’s Mariana, who prays so ardently that we can see the throbbing veins in her hand.


Mae’r dylanwadau crefyddol amlwg ar ‘Mariana yn y De’, â Mariana’n gweddïo i’r Forwyn Fair, i’w gweld yn drawiadol yn arwres Rossetti, wrth iddi gusanu traed Crist, ac yn yr un modd Mariana fel y’i darlunir gan Sullivan, wrth iddi weddïo mor galed hyd nes y gwelwn y gwythiennau yn curo yn ei dwylo.

And on the liquid mirror glow’d
The clear perfection of her face.
‘Is this the form,’ she made her moan,
‘That won his praises night and morn?’
And ‘Ah,’ she said, ‘but I wake alone,
I sleep forgotten, I wake forlorn.’

Alfred Lord Tennyson, ‘Mariana in the South’ in Poems, illustrated by D. G. Rossetti.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, ‘Mariana in the South’ in Poems, illustrated by D. G. Rossetti. London : E. Moxon, 1859.

Till all the crimson changed, and past
Into deep orange o’er the sea,
Low on her knees herself she cast,
Before Our Lady murmur’d she:
Complaining, ‘Mother, give me grace
To help me of my weary load.’

Alfred Lord Tennyson, ‘Mariana in the South’, in A dream of fair women & other poems, illustrated by Edmund J. Sullivan.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, ‘Mariana in the South’, in A dream of fair women & other poems, illustrated by Edmund J. Sullivan. London: Grant Richards, 1900.

The exhibition is open to all, and will run until December 2016.


Mae’r arddangosfa yn agored i bawb, a bydd yn para tan fis Rhagfyr 2016.

Exhibition: Illustrating Shakespeare

Guest-curated by final year PhD student Michael John Goodman, Illustrating Shakespeare focuses on the visual representation of six of Shakespeare’s most engaging heroes and villains. Read more about the background to the exhibition, and Michael’s wider research on Shakespeare illustration, in our interview. The exhibition will be on display in Special Collections and Archives until 6 May 2016.


Richard III

Richard the Duke of Gloucester: hunchbacked, ‘deformed, unfinished,’ beguiles and appals the audience with his desire to ‘prove a villain’. One of the most psychologically complex characters to be realised on the stage, Richard is a performer, an actor, confiding in the audience his darkest intentions: manipulating them into sympathising with him, as he manipulates the characters on the stage into carrying out his instructions, including murder.

The illustrations presented here of Richard range from the familiar depiction of him as hunchbacked King (the Dalziel frontispiece, illustrated by John Gilbert), an attempt at historical accuracy (the aquatint portrait) through to three images that illustrate events taken from Richard’s nightmare before the Battle of Bosworth’s field. In one powerful depiction, a terrified Richard is confronted by the Ghost of Lady Anne. By way of contrast, the illustration of Richard by Johann Joseph Zoffany, whilst technically more accomplished, loses much of the visceral horror that is apparent in the image with Lady Anne: Richard here is securely lying in bed and this is very clearly a dream, with the threat of physical or psychological violence neutered.

The final image of this sequence is taken from the famous Hogarth painting, which sees Richard awakening from the nightmare, holding his hand aloft as if to defend himself from the viewer/audience who he has worked so hard to charm for the duration of the play. But, like the ghosts, the audience has begun to turn on him. Zoffany presents Richard in the last moments upon the battlefield before he is slain, crying, notoriously, ‘A horse! A horse! My Kingdom for a horse!’

Richard Knight 1

Frontispiece, Richard III. Engraved by the Dalziel Brothers after John Gilbert.

Richard III. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. IV, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, frontispiece.


Richard Knight 2

Aquatint portrait of Richard III. Artist unknown.

Richard III. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. IV, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 238.


Richard III’s nightmare. Artist unknown.

Ghost of Lady Anne: Richard, thy wife, that wretched Anne thy wife,
That never slept a quiet hour with thee,
Now fills thy sleep with perturbations
To-morrow in the battle think on me,
And fall thy edgeless sword: despair, and die!

Richard III. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. IV, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 251.


Richard Knight 4

‘Garrick in the character of Richard III’. Engraved by E. J. Portbury, after William Hogarth.

Richard III. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. IV, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 309.


Richard Dowden 1

‘König Richard III ~ King Richard III’. Engraved by Johann Tobias Bauer after August Friedrich Pecht.

Richard III. In Edward Dowden, Shakespeare scenes and characters: a series of illustrations. London: Macmillan and Co., 1876, facing p. 49.


Richard Knight 5

‘Garrick as Richard the Third’. Engraved by Henry Edward Dawe after Johann Joseph Zoffany.

King Richard: I think, there be six Richmonds in the field;
Five have I slain today, instead of him: —
A Horse! a horse! my Kingdom for a horse!

Richard III. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. IV, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 311


Lady Macbeth

Here, we can examine variations on the same scene presented by different artists. The images of Lady Macbeth by John Gilbert, George Henry Harlowe and Alfred Edward Chalon are all taken from the first time Lady Macbeth appears on stage in Act I Scene V, after she has read Macbeth’s letter that informs her of the witches’ prophecy that Macbeth will become King. In all three images she is presented as being rather masculine, a direct visual correspondence to her line ‘Come, you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here’. In the image by Harlowe, of the actress Sarah Siddons playing the role, the pattern on her dress even looks like a sword. This is Lady Macbeth as a warrior.

The final two images are taken from Act V Scene I or, as it has become popularly know: the sleepwalking scene. Consumed by guilt, a somnambulant Lady Macbeth confesses to the crimes she has committed throughout the play and attempts to wash the imaginary blood from her hands: ‘Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!’ Harlowe’s image, here, contrasts remarkably with his first. Lady Macbeth is no longer warrior-like, she is dressed in white and is greatly reduced in stature, looking vulnerable and, even, holy. It is the last we shall see of Lady Macbeth in the play, she will die off-stage by ‘self and violent hands’. Or, rather, suicide.

Lady Gilbert 1

Lady Macbeth holding Macbeth’s letter. Engraved by the Brothers Dalziel after John Gilbert.

Lady Macbeth: Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be
What thou art promis’d: — yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full of the milk of human kindness

Macbeth. In Howard Staunton (ed.), Works of Shakespeare, vol. 3. London: George Routledge & Sons, 1866, p. 478.


‘Mrs. Siddons in the character of Lady Macbeth, Act I, Scene V’. Engraved by Charles Rolls after George Henry Harlowe (1830)

Macbeth. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: tragedies, vol. VI, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. viii.


Lady Macbeth in Act 1, Scene 5. Engraved by Henry Cook after Alfred Edward Chalon.

Macbeth. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: tragedies, vol. VI, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 26.


Lady Knight 3

‘Mrs. Siddons’ [as Lady Macbeth]. Engraved by Robert Cooper after George Henry Harlowe (1822).

Macbeth. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: tragedies, vol. VI, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 52.


‘Lady Macbeth, walking in her sleep’ [Act 5, Scene 1]. Engraved by Charles Taylor after Robert Smirke.

Lady Macbeth:  Out! Damned spot; out, I say!

Macbeth. Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: tragedies, vol. VI, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 52.


Falstaff

Sir John Falstaff is one of Shakespeare’s most popular and enduring comic characters. Described by Samuel Taylor Coleridge as a man of ‘complete moral depravity,’ but also possessing a ‘first-rate wit’ and ‘talent’, Falstaff appears in both parts of Henry IV and also, in what could be described as the Renaissance Stage equivalent of a sitcom spinoff, The Merry Wives of Windsor, where Falstaff decides to woo two married women in a fool-hardy attempt to make money.

It is the two parts of Henry IV and the powerful narrative arc that Falstaff participates in with the future King Henry V, Prince Hal, that mark Falstaff out as a character who possesses a depth more associated with Shakespeare’s tragic heroes rather than his other comic characters. When Hal succeeds to the throne at the end of Henry IV Part II, he rejects his old friend Falstaff, telling him in an electrifying piece of theatre that, ‘I know thee not old man: fall to thy prayers’.

Falstaff is not just a simple comic foil, then, and in his ‘What is honour?’ speech that he delivers at the end of Henry V Part I, he poses a question that in the context of the History Plays is analogous to Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be?’ In the epilogue of Henry IV Part II, Shakespeare reassures us that he will ‘continue the story, with Sir John in it’. But it was not to be. For whatever reason, Sir John did not appear in Henry V:  his death occurs off-stage and is only reported to us by Mistress Quickly. Had Shakespeare killed off his fat Knight because his popular comic character was becoming bigger than the story he was trying to tell?

Falstaff Irving 1

‘Falstaff and his friends’. Painted by Charles Leslie.

Merry wives of Windsor. In Henry Irving and Frank A. Marshall (eds.), Works of William Shakespeare, vol. VI. London: Gresham Publishing Company, 1888, frontispiece.


Falstaff. Engraved by George Noble after Robert Smirke.

King Henry IV, Part 1. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. III, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 188.


Falstaff in Act 2 Scene 4. Engraved by Charles Heath after Robert Smirke (1825).

King Henry IV, Part 1. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. III, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 190.


Portrait of Falstaff. Artist and engraver unknown.

King Henry IV, Part 1. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. III, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 206.


Falstaff in Act 4, Scene 2. Engraved by Richard Rhodes after John Thurston (1813).

Falstaff: No eye hath seen such scarecrows. I’ll not march through Coventry with them, that’s flat.

King Henry IV, Part 1. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. III, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 214.


Falstaff. Illustrated by Kenny Meadows.

Falstaff: Methinks you prescribe to yourself very preposterously.

Merry wives of Windsor. In Barry Cornwall (ed.), Complete works of Shakespeare, vol. I. London: London Printing and Publishing Company Limited, c. 1858, p. 89.


Rosalind

‘From the east to western Inde, / No jewel is like Rosalind’. Whilst Orlando’s verse praising his love is comically turgid, it is, nevertheless a neat summation of Rosalind’s position in English Literature. There is, simply, no other character like her. Or him. For Rosalind spends most of the play dressed as a shepherd named Ganymede, and has consequently given gender theorists much material to work with.

Why, for example, when Rosalind safely escapes her uncle’s court for the Forest of Arden, does she remain as Ganymede? And what about the problem of the epilogue? Is the actor playing Rosalind meant to remain ‘in character’ or is that mask meant to drop? Confusing matters even further is when we remember that only boys and men were allowed to perform on the Elizabethan stage. In this context, then, the boy actor playing Rosalind is effectively a boy acting as a girl who is acting as a boy in order to make a young man fall in love with her (or him)?

The fluidity of gender is one of the major characteristics of Shakespeare’s comedy and it reaches its most satisfying realisation in As You Like It through the character of Rosalind, whom Harold Bloom has described as being the first modern lover.

Rosalind Dowden 1

‘Wie es euch gefällt ~ As you like it’. Engraved by Johann Bankel after Friedrich Schwoerer.

As you like it. In Edward Dowden, Shakespeare scenes and characters: a series of illustrations. London: Macmillan and Co., 1876, facing p. 138.


Rosalind Knight 1

Frontispiece, As you like it. Engraved by the Dalziel Brothers after John Gilbert.

As you like it. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: comedies, vol. II, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 192.


Rosalind Knight 2

Rosalind gives Orlando her necklace, Act 1 Scene 2. Engraved by William Leney after John Downman.

As you like it. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: comedies, vol. II, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 216.


Rosalind Meadows 1

Rosalind in Act 4, Scene 3. Illustrated by Kenny Meadows.

Celia: Why, how now, Ganymede! Sweet Ganymede! [Rosalind faints.
Oliver: Many will swoon when they do look on blood.
Celia: There is more in it. — Cousin! Ganymede!

As you like it. In Barry Cornwall (ed.), Complete works of Shakespeare, vol. II. London: London Printing and Publishing Company Limited, c. 1858, p. 469.


Rosalind Knight 3

‘The bloody napkin shewn to Rosalind’ [Act 4, Scene 3]. Engraved by Charles Taylor after Thomas Stothard.

As you like it. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: comedies, vol. II, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 249.

 

Hamlet

The scene by Kenny Meadows demonstrates traditional, wood engraved illustration. The technique allowed both word and image to be printed on a single page easily and relatively cheaply. It revolutionised printing in the Victorian period and turned illustrated media into a mass commercialised medium. The Dalziel Brothers, engravers of the Hamlet frontispiece, were one of the largest and most successful firms of Victorian engravers.

Moving on from the Victorian period, we have two compelling images taken from the early part of the twentieth-century. The first two of these are from a wonderful edition, illustrated, or, rather, ‘decorated’ (as the frontispiece says) by John Austen from 1922. The images are fascinating in their own right as visual interpretations of the play, but they also show how the art of Shakespeare illustration was influenced by technology. New photomechanical means of reproduction led to the obsolescence of manual wood engraving, and  aided the smooth, curvilinear designs of art nouveau.


Hamlet in Act 1, Scene 4. Illustrated by Kenny Meadows.

Enter Ghost.
Horatio: Look, my lord, it comes!
Hamlet: Angels and ministers of grace defend us

Hamlet. In Barry Cornwall (ed.), Complete works of Shakespeare, vol. III. London: London Printing and Publishing Company Limited, c. 1858, p. 149.


Hamlet Knight 1

Frontispiece, Hamlet. Engraved by the Dalziel Brothers, after John Gilbert.

Hamlet. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: tragedies, vol. V, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 84.


Hamlet Knight 2

‘Hamlet apostrophising the skull’ [Act 5, Scene 1]. Engraved by John Rogers after Sir Thomas Lawrence.

Hamlet. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: tragedies, vol. V, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 157.


 

 

Frontispiece, Hamlet. Illustrated by John Austen.

William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. London: Selwyn & Blount, 1922, facing p. 9


Hamlet in Act 1, Scene 5. Illustrated by John Austen.

Hamlet: […] Let us go in together;
And still your fingers on your lips, I pray.
The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!

William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. London: Selwyn & Blount, 1922, facing p. 42


Beatrice

Like Benedick, during the course of the Much Ado About Nothing, we also fall in love with Beatrice. She is the most witty and vivacious of all of Shakespeare’s heroines, telling Benedick that ‘I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.’  It is this repartee that she has with Benedick that led the critic Marjorie Garber to describe the play as a forerunner to the screwball Hollywood comedies of the 1930s and 1940s such as The Philadelphia Story and His Girl Friday. Beatrice and Benedick are, in many ways, the Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant of the 1590s.

Beatrice Dowden

‘Viel lärmen un nichts ~ Much ado about nothing’. Engraved by Johann Tobias Bauer after M. Adamo.

Much ado about nothing. In Edward Dowden, Shakespeare scenes and characters: a series of illustrations. London: Macmillan and Co., 1876, facing p. 131.


Beatrice Knight 1

Beatrice eavesdropping on Hero and Ursula. Engraved by John Rogers after Rev. Matthew William Peters.

Much ado about nothing. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: comedies, vol. II, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 94.


Beatrice in Act 5, Scene 4. Illustrated by Kenny Meadows.

Benedick: Soft and fair, friar. — Which is Beatrice?
Beatrice: I answer to that name [Unmasking.
What is your will?

Much ado about nothing. In Barry Cornwall (ed.) Complete works of Shakespeare, vol. I. London: London Printing and Publishing Company Limited, c. 1858, p. 239.


Beatrice Knight 2

Beatrice in Act 3, Scene 1, engraved by Charles Taylor after Robert Smirke.

Beatrice: What fire is in mine ears? Can this be true?
Stand I condemn’d for pride and scorn so much?
Contempt, farewell! And maiden pride, adieu!
No glory lives behind the back of such.
And, Benedick, love on, I will requite thee;
Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand.

Much ado about nothing. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: comedies, vol. II, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 96.


 

Illustrating Shakespeare: Interview with the curator

posterOur latest exhibition, Illustrating Shakespeare, has been guest-curated by final year PhD student Michael John Goodman. The exhibition focuses on the visual representation of six of Shakespeare’s most engaging heroes and villains. Our archivist Alison Harvey interviewed Michael to find out more about the exhibition, and his wider research on illustrated Shakespeare.

A: So what was the thinking behind the exhibition?

M: Well, my PhD research is focused on Victorian Shakespeare illustration and it just seemed like the right time to do the exhibition. I’m coming to the end of my doctoral work now and this year is also the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death so I’m delighted that we can mark the anniversary in this way.

A: Ok, let’s take a step back, then. Why did you want to look at Shakespeare illustration for your PhD?

M: Shakespeare illustration is, basically, an untapped resource of vast research potential. It’s a treasure trove. When I was exploring my potential PhD ideas I couldn’t believe that hardly any work had been done in this field at all. This is amazing for two reasons: the first being that almost everything to do with Shakespeare has been covered many many times previously and, secondly, because the illustrations are hugely important culturally.

A: Why is that, do you think?

M: The images are important culturally, certainly by the time we get to the Victorian period, because these illustrated editions would have been the first encounter with Shakespeare that many readers would have had. They were sold relatively cheaply and were affordable to members of the working classes – a group of people who may not have been able to experience Shakespeare in the London theatre. Their experience of Shakespeare was based on these illustrated pages as opposed to the stage. As such these editions are significant as they played a very significant part in how the Victorians, for example, thought about and constructed Shakespeare.

A: If they are so important, then what can account for the lack of scholarly research in this area?

M: In academia there is a real fear of images. People don’t know how to read them, let alone what to do with them. So when you get a form like illustration that combines both word and image in often highly complex ways, it is easier just not to bother trying to analyse it or think about it. Historically, illustration has been considered as mere decoration, subservient to the words that it is simply embellishing. Illustration does not have the capacity to create meaning in and of itself, we seem to be told through the brevity of work that has been done. Obviously, I am coming at this from an English Literature perspective, but even in disciplines like Art History, the focus is on painting and ‘high art’; illustration isn’t considered ‘serious’ enough. These problems are magnified further when we start working with Shakespeare, because for many people, Shakespeare’s words are considered almost sacred. So we have two situations combining to create a situation where these illustrations have been ignored: the academy’s fetishisation of the word as the sole source of knowledge, and the Shakespeare scholar’s obsession with the written word itself.

A: But surely without the written word, there would be no Shakespeare to study?

M: That’s not quite what I’m saying. What I mean is that Shakespeare’s plays create meanings that aren’t confined to verbal discourse alone. They are plays: by their nature, they rely on an interplay between visual and verbal modes of communication. A vast industry has grown up around Shakespeare scholarship that looks at the most tiniest details of the text to explain what Shakespeare meant. As if having textual validation about Shakespeare’s intentions is a desirable thing to have. It is not. I really do not care what Shakespeare meant, but what I do care about is how, to quote the late Terence Hawkes, we mean by Shakespeare. In short, if a comma in a speech creates meaning, and is worth so much time agonising over, then surely so does placing an illustration next to that speech? And if that is indeed the case (as I suggest it is) then we need to begin to rethink how we consider the Victorians’ relationship with Shakespeare.

A: This would be a good time, then, to talk about your big project that you have coming out in the next few months, the Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive?

M: The Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive is an open access database that contains over 3,000 Victorian illustrations of Shakespeare’s plays. As it has a Creative Commons license by attribution, any user will be able to take any of the images and do whatever they like with them. The archive is the practical part of my PhD. The other part is the more traditional thesis aspect that explores how I have gone about setting up this resource in the first place. The archive came about when I was discussing this work with my supervisor, Professor Julia Thomas, and, as I have said, because the illustrations that I found were so rich, compelling and interesting, we decided I should build an archive and share them with the world!

A: And when will you be launching?

image1M: Early summer. Stay tuned.

Michael John Goodman is in his final year of his PhD at Cardiff University’s School of English, Communication and Philosophy. His research focuses on Victorian illustrated editions of Shakespeare and how digital technology is changing our relationship to research and Shakespeare himself. He is the RA on Cardiff University’s brand new Digital Cultures Network and can be contacted at GoodmanMJ@cardiff.ac.uk.

Hidden killers of the Victorian home

corsetTonight’s BBC4 documentary, Hidden Killers of the Victorian Home (10pm) reveals just how many ‘innovative’ domestic products and gadgets harboured deadly poisons and diseases.

Researchers from Modern TV spent several days  in Special Collections and Archives consulting illustrated Victorian periodicals, gathering stills for the documentary. Many useful images, often adverts, were found in Punch, the Illustrated London News, The Graphic, and magazines aimed at the Victorian housewife, such as The Sketch, The Queen, and Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine. Over 1000 images were gathered in the research process.

The documentary explores the presence of arsenic in Victorian wallpaper, lead in toys’ paint, the unsafe use of gas and electricity, and unsterilised babies’ feeding bottles. It also explores the detrimental effect that the introduction of metal eyelets had on corsetry. The eyelets allowed women’s corsets to be pulled even tighter in the indulgence of fashion, causing considerable damage to the back and internal organs, and increased the risk of miscarriage, as many women continued to wear restrictive corsets throughout pregnancy.

Hidden Killers of the Victorian Home is available on iPlayer until 11th April 2013.

“For those who read by the book”: a visit to the Circulating Library

Opening up a copy of La Bruyere’s Characters for cataloguing, I discovered this fascinating label on the front pastedown listing the “Conditions to be observed and consented to by every subscriber, &c. to William & George North’s Circulating Library, Brecknock, (to which this book belongs.)”

The circulating library first appeared  during the 1700s when booksellers began to rent out extra copies of the books they held. Books were still very expensive to buy and few people could afford them, however subscribers to a circulating library could, for a small annual fee, gain access to a wealth of novels, plays, and other popular reading material. The great success of the circulating library was closely linked to the increasing popularity of novels, which proved to be the perfect items for libraries to lend – they were read for enjoyment, rather than as a scholarly pursuit, so they could be read quickly and returned to the library, ensuring a rapid turnover of stock. 

Some libraries also lent books to non-subscribers on a pay-per-book basis; William & George North apparently charged according to format, from four-pence for a pocket-sized duodecimo up to three shillings for a large folio. Subscribers to the library were permitted to borrow one new book for up to three days or any other book for a week, and the Conditions… suggest that heavy fines were imposed on those who kept books too long.

The Scarborough Circulating Library from R. Ackermann’s Poetical Sketches, 1818

While circulating libraries helped to make books accessible to more people at an affordable price, there were still those who frowned upon them. As early as 1728, Robert Woodrow wrote in disgust that “all the villanous, profane, and obscene books and playes printed at London [are] lent out … for an easy price”, and opposition to the circulating library was still so widespread in the 19th century that Mudie’s Select Library  was driven to reassure patrons of its sound moral values by refusing to stock “novels of objectionable character or inferior quality”!

Community Engagement Grant funds Victorian Study Day

Three PhD students from the School of English, Communication and Philosophy have successfully bid for a grant from the Community Engagement Team to organise a Victorian Study Day for local sixth form college students. Laura Foster, Michael Goodman and Helen McKenzie, who are all writing their theses on aspects of Victorian literature and culture, intend to present their specialist research in a format which is relevant, accessible and engaging to a wider audience. Earlier this year, Laura and Helen gained related experience of translating their research visually, when they took part in SCOLAR’s annual Postgraduate Curators programme.

The day will begin with a visit to Special Collections and Archives, where the students will have an opportunity to handle and interact with original 19th century texts. Led by archivist Alison Harvey, the workshop will encourage the students to consider the materiality of print culture and how books were read and produced. The session will focus on texts that have visual impact, such as the Illustrated London News, the collected works of Tennyson, and Victorian children’s literature. This practical session aims to engage and excite students early in the day, and to introduce concepts that will be developed in the afternoon workshops.

Laura, Michael and Helen will each lead a workshop on their subject area, designed to challenge students’ assumptions about reading, texts, and culture, both in the nineteenth century and today. Much of the literature selected for discussion will be informed by the A-level set texts, and students will be encouraged to reinterpret these in light of how they were actually published and read in the 19th century. Workshops will be held in small groups of 10, introducing students to the seminar-style environment of university, and aim to build confidence in discussing ideas with their peers.

Laura, Michael and Helen will be contacting local schools to ask teachers to nominate students to attend the Study Day. To be held in October, sessions will take place in the Council Chambers of Cardiff University’s Main Building, with a visit to Special Collections and Archives.