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BARS Blog

News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

Archive for May 2019

Stephen Copley Research Report: Katie Snow at the Gillray Collection

For more information on how to apply for a BARS Stephen Copley Research Award, visit the BARS website.

Stephen Copley Research Report by Katie Snow

House of Lords Library: The Gillray Collection

This May, I visited the Parliamentary Archives in Westminster, London. Thanks to the generous support of BARS, I was able to undertake some key research for my PhD thesis, which explores representations of the breast in eighteenth-century visual satire. As a massive satirical print enthusiast, I’ve had my eye on the House of Lords Gillray collection for a while. Bequeathed to the library in 1899, this beautiful compilation of caricatures belonged to Sir William Augustus Fraser (1826-1898). Excitingly, some of the prints within the eleven volumes do not appear in the British Museum’s catalogue of prints and drawings – the go-to source for scholars of visual satire. The House of Lords Gillray collection is precious, and I’m grateful to the library for granting me access.

The intention of my PhD project is to progress understanding of the way in which ideological narratives of femininity, and especially motherhood, were (and still are), forged around the breast. Previous scholarship has overlooked the significance of the breast within visual satire, and my research seeks to rectify that. As expected, a lot of the prints within the eleven volumes feature bared breasts, and I collected numerous new sources. Viewing the satires in person also allowed me to notice previously missed details within familiar digitised prints. For example, a mother with an infant to her breast appears in the top left hand corner of Gillray’s famed Shakespeare Sacrificed;-or-The Offering to Avarice(1789) – an important feature that’s passed me by until now.

 

James Gillray, Shakespeare Sacrificed; – or – The Offering to Avarice, published by Hannah Humphrey, 1789

 

Detail of Shakespeare Sacrificed 

 

The image depicts a woman seated upon a cloud, cradling an infant. Her right breast is exposed, and the baby grasps her left nipple as she glances down. Two other figures huddle close, and the baby either urinates or passes wind into the disgusted face of the figure in blue. Every detail included in a satirical prints is significant, and I’m looking forward to digging deeper into the social, political and cultural inferences behind this representation.

Fraser was a meticulous collector, and his (huge and very heavy) volumes are almost perfectly preserved. Pasted upon blue paper with gold gilding, the prints are vivid in colour. The hobbyist habits of Fraser are interesting; he arranged his prints chronologically, inserted markers to indicate the prints that he was unable to secure, and most often devoted a double page to each print, presumably to prevent the colours rubbing off on each other. There are also occasions where Fraser has pasted in a black and white copy of a print and later added its colour equivalent, as below. This implies a preference for coloured satires, and/or for the latest version/all versions of a single print.

 

James Gillray, National Discourse. Published by Hannah Humphrey, 1780.

 

One of the highlights of the visit was the stunning print below. The Installation Supper (1788) unfolded like a concertina and stretched across the room, eliciting low whistles of appreciation from fellow reading room comrades. Depicting a dinner party given by the Knights of Bath on the 19 May 1788, The Installation-Suppercaricatures key social and political players including the Prince of Wales, Edmund Burke, and Maria Fitzherbert.[1]

 

James Gillray, The Installation-Supper, as given at the Pantheon, by the Knights of the Bath on the 26th of May, 1788. Published by S. W. Fores, 1788

 

Detail from print. The British Museum, BM Satires 7330.

 

Additionally, I was able to spend some of my time in London at the British Library. Here, I found sources for an upcoming chapter about the breast and discourses of social corruption, damage and disorder.

I would like to extend my gratitude to BARS for the generous Stephen Copley bursary, which supported an inspiring and productive visit to London. Further thanks are owed to the archival staff at the Parliamentary archives and the House of Lords librarians, who were most helpful, knowledgeable and kind.

[1] Further details of the guests within the print can be found in Mary Dorothy George’s description of the piece for the British Museum Catalogue. Mary Dorothy George, ‘Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum’, VI, 1938.

2019 BARS First Book Prize Shortlist Announced

The judges for the 2019 BARS First Book prize, chaired by Professor Claire Connolly, are delighted to announce a shortlist of four exceptional books, drawn from a strong list of initial submissions:

Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors!

The winner of the prize will be announced at BARS’ 16th International Conference, ‘Romantic Facts and Fantasies’, at the University of Nottingham in late July.

‘Romantic Facts and Fantasies: Culture and Heritage of the Romantic Age, c. 1780-1840’ Exhibition Opening

‘Romantic Facts and Fantasies: Culture and Heritage of the Romantic Age, c. 1780-1840’ Exhibition Opening

by Amy Wilcockson 

After months of hard work and sifting through the plentiful archives of Manuscripts and Special Collections at the University of Nottingham, Thursday 9 May 2019 saw the private view and official opening of the ‘Romantic Facts and Fantasies: Culture and Heritage of the Romantic Age, c. 1780-1840’ exhibition.

All image credits to Manuscripts and Special Collections, University of Nottingham

The exhibition centres on key themes including science, travel, industry, communication and exploration in the Romantic period, alongside focusing on a number of authors, poets and key figures irrevocably linked with the East Midlands.

As part of the team co-curating this exhibition, it was astounding to see all the pieces of the jigsaw, so to speak, put together. From October 2018, the exhibition has been conceptualised, items chosen for inclusion, and then board texts, case backs and captions written, and then of course, loan items sourced from a variety of locations including Newstead Abbey and Derby Museums. To see it all in one place, and open to the public was an amazing feeling. The private view invited members of the BARS Executive Committee, local news outlets, University of Nottingham and other institutions’ staff and students, and enjoyed a large turnout, with over one hundred people hearing Professor Jeremy Gregory, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Arts, and Professor Lynda Pratt, one of the exhibition’s academic leads, officially open ‘Romantic Facts and Fantasies’ to the public.

Key items on display include Joseph Wright of Derby’s ‘Cottage on Fire’, kindly loaned by Derby Museums, which evinces Wright’s innovative use of light and shadow, and a number of wonderful loans from Newstead Abbey, including Lord Byron’s calling card, and a copy of Thomas Phillips’ famous 1813 portrait of Byron.

Many of Manuscript and Special Collections’ items are on display to the public for the first time and include first and second editions of Lord Byron’s poetry and juvenilia, autograph copies of poetry written by Henry Kirke White, and a selection of letters from Amelia Opie, Robert Southey, Joanna Baillie, Maria Edgeworth, Sir Walter Scott, Mary Howitt and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Richard Arkwright, Derbyshire’s innovator and inventor is heavily featured, and visitors to the exhibition will also view anatomical drawings, scientific equipment and dinosaurs in an exploration of early nineteenth century science.

It is hard to choose a favourite item in the exhibition, and I am torn between a couple of items. The first are two locks of James Thomas Townley Tisdall’s hair, one taken aged four, and one upon his deathbed. As you can imagine, it was quite a surprise when we opened these little bundles and found what was within… Another favourite has to be the beautiful drawing of the ‘Crimson Cliffs’, an odd phenomenon witnessed by early Arctic explorer, Major John Ross and his crew, who initially believed that the red hue of the rock face was due to the droppings of seabirds (this isn’t the case!). ‘Romantic Facts and Fantasies:Culture and Heritage of the Romantic Age, c. 1780-1840’ is full of an array of wonderful curiosities like those featured, and well worth a visit.

Open in the Weston Gallery at the University of Nottingham’s Lakeside Arts Centre, the exhibition is running to coincide with the British Association of Romantic Studies’ 2019 Conference, ‘Romantic Facts and Fantasies’, held at the University of Nottingham in July 2019. The organisational team of the conference are also the co-curators of the exhibition, and we encourage all conference delegates to visit the exhibition and explore the University of Nottingham’s unique and varied manuscript collections on show.

This exhibition has been jointly curated by a team from the School of English (Professor Lynda Pratt, Dr Máire ní Fhlathúin, Johnny Cammish, Colette Davies, Ruby Hawley-Sibbett, Jodie Marley, Amy Wilcockson and Dr Charlotte May) and Manuscripts and Special Collections, University of Nottingham. The exhibition continues until Sunday 25 August, and is open Tuesday-Friday, 11am-4pm, Saturday and Sunday, 12noon-4pm. Admission is free.

 

A series of wider engagement talks, gallery tours and film screenings are also available during the run of the exhibition which include –

Free Lunchtime Talks: Held in the Djanogly Theatre, Lakeside Arts Centre. All talks begin at 1pm and last for approximately one hour. Advance booking is recommended.

Gothic Haunting from the 1790s to the Present – Wednesday 5 June 2019.
The condition of haunting is central to the gothic mode. Dr Matt Green, Associate Professor in the School of English, University of Nottingham, explores haunting and being haunted, discussing creative artists and writers from William Blake to Alan Moore in a survey of texts and narratives of the gothic tradition from its hey-day in the 1790s into the 21stcentury.

Romantic Reputations: Angelic Austen and Beastly Byron? – Tuesday 2 July 2019.
Was Lord Byron really ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’, and was Jane Austen ‘a narrow-gutted spinster’? As two of the most enduringly popular writers of the Romantic period, their lives have been scrutinised and their moral reputations polarised. University of Nottingham PhD Researchers Ruby Hawley-Sibbett and Amy Wilcockson ask whether their lives, loves and works have been misrepresented.

Paupers and Poetry: The Workhouse at Southwell – Friday 26 July 2019. [During the BARS Conference].
The early 19thcentury is often seen as a time of invention, creativity and technology. However, it also saw the development of an institution that shaped the lives of less fortunate members of society for decades to come – the Workhouse. This talk by Dr Charlotte May will focus on the Workhouse at Southwell, Nottinghamshire, whose founder was a close connection of the poet Lord Byron.

Romanticism, Caricature and Politics – Tuesday 20 August.
The years 1780-1840 are sometimes regarded as the ‘golden age of caricature’. In this illustrated talk, Dr Richard Gaunt, Associate Professor in the Department of History, considers the rough, boisterous sensibilities which caricaturists brought to their craft.

 

And:

Gallery Tours: Join the exhibition curators for a guided walk through of the exhibition and learn about the stories behind the items on display.
Weston Gallery, free, advance booking required.
Wednesday 5 June, 2.30-2.30pm
Tuesday 2 July, 2.30-3.30pm

Film Screening of Mary Shelley (2017) – Tuesday 25 June, 7pm.
Running time 2 hours. Held in the Djanogly Theatre. Tickets are £5 (£3 concessions).
A romance based on the relationship of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Elle Fanning) and the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Booth). When the couple leave England with Mary’s step-sister Claire to stay at Lord Byron’s villa near Geneva, Mary is inspired to write one of the most important novels of the nineteenth century, Frankenstein. The film will be introduced by Dr Charlotte May.

Romanticism at The Royal Institution: 7 June 2019

For those in or near London this summer…

 

Join fellow Romantic enthusiasts at The Royal Institution on 7th June for a FREE half-day symposium in association with the London-Paris Romanticism Seminar and the Fordham Romanticism Group, New York. Listen to talks by leading scholars who will restore the forgotten literary history of the Royal Institution and highlight its unique interdisciplinary contribution to British Romantic culture.

The event will conclude with a wine reception to celebrate the launch of Sarah Zimmerman’s new book The Romantic Literary Lecture in Britain (Oxford University Press).

Book here.