Nature, Politics, and the Arts: Essays on Romantic Culture for Carl Woodring 1611495415, 9781611495416

This interdisciplinary book honors Columbia professor and New York intellectual Carl Woodring. Chapters on Romantic and

355 77 6MB

English Pages 350 [375] Year 2015

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD FILE

Polecaj historie

Nature, Politics, and the Arts: Essays on Romantic Culture for Carl Woodring
 1611495415, 9781611495416

Table of contents :
Contents
List of Illustrations
Photospread
Introduction
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Selected Bibliography of Carl R. Woodring
Index
About the Contributors

Citation preview

NATURE, POLITICS, AND THE ARTS

NATURE, POLITICS, AND THE ARTS Essays on Romantic Culture for Carl Woodring

Edited by Hermione de Almeida

UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE PRESS Newark

Published by University of Delaware Press Copublished by The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc. 4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706 www.rowman.com Unit A, Whitacre Mews, 26-34 Stannary Street, London SE11 4AB Copyright © 2015 by University of Delaware Press All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Nature, politics, and the arts : essays on romantic culture for Carl Woodring / edited by Hermione de Almeida. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-61149-540-9 (cloth : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-1-61149-541-6 (electronic) 1. Literature—Study and teaching (Secondary)—United States. 2. Woodring, Carl, 1919-2009. I. De Almeida, Hermione, 1950- editor. PN70.N38 2015 807'.1173—dc23 2014041369 ™

The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992. Printed in the United States of America

Carl Woodring, 1994. Photograph by Carol Kyros Walker

CONTENTS

List of Illustrations

ix

Introduction

1

1 The Eroica in Its Artistic Context: Willibrord Joseph Mähler’s Portrait of Beethoven, John Clubbe

7

Thomas Cole and the Wild American Sublime, George H. Gilpin

37

“To go down, bound”: William Hone and the Materiality of Print Culture, Steven E. Jones

63

Dark Humor, Cartoon Strips, and Other Raw Material for Don Juan, Hermione de Almeida

83

2

3

4

5 Prying into the Melon: The Marriage of Private with Public in the Regency Era, Robert L. Patten

121

6 Did Tom Jones Ever Go to Xanadu?: Two Meditations on A Life and Practice as a Historical Critic, Elizabeth Kowaleski Wallace

149

7 American Wilderness, Carl Woodring

167

vii

viii

Contents

8 Exhibition of Five English Romantic Poets in a Museum in Florence, Carol Kyros Walker

181

9 George Romney’s Shipwrecks, Morton D. Paley

203

10

11

12

13

“My distressful pilgrimage”: Byron’s Marginalia to Foscolo’s Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis, Jonathan Gross

225

Between Two Fires: Henry Adams and the Temperature of History, Martin Meisel

249

Afterwords for Carl Woodring, Nina Auerback, G. Thomas Tanselle, William Theodore de Bary, Donald H. Reiman, Anne K. Mellor, Carl Dawson, Marsha Manns, Regina Hewitt, Robert M. Ryan, William Carl Gilpin

265

Almost Nobody: A Chronicle, Carl Woodring

299

Selected Bibliography of Carl R. Woodring Compiled by Ben P. Robertson

337

Index

343

About the Contributors

353

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Frontispiece: Carl Woodring, 1994. Photograph by Carol Kyros Walker.

PLATES Plate 1.1. Johan Heinrich Wilhelm Tishbein, Goethe in the Roman Campagna, 1786. Plate 1.2. Willibrord Joseph Mähler, Portrait of Beethoven with Lyre, c. 1804. Plate 2.1. Thomas Cole, Lake with Dead Trees, Catskill, 1825. Plate 2.2. Thomas Cole, Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, 1827–1828. Plate 4.1. Abraham James, Martial Law in Jamaica, 1802. Plate 4.2. Abraham James, Johnny New-come in the Island of Jamaica, 1803.

ix

x

List of Illustrations

FIGURES Fig. 2.1. Thomas Cole, Evening in the White Mountains, c. 1827.

41

Fig. 2.2. Thomas Cole, Falls of Kaaterskill, 1826.

43

Fig. 2.3. Thomas Cole, Daniel Boone at His Cabin at Great Osage Lake, 1826.

48

Fig. 2.4. Thomas Cole, Landscape Composition: St. John in the Wilderness, 1827.

53

Fig. 2.5. Thomas Cole, The Garden of Eden, 1828.

55

Fig. 3.1. George Cruikshank, VICTORY OF PETERLOO (Detail), 1821.

64

Fig. 3.2. William Hone, A SLAP AT SLOP AND THE BRIDGE STREET GANG, 1821.

65

Fig. 3.3. George Cruikshank, THE FINE OLD SUBSCRIPTION VESSEL, the REGENT’S BOMB (Detail), 1821.

70

Fig. 3.4. George Cruikshank, A NONDESCRIPT (Detail), 1821.

74

Fig. 3.5. “The Paw” Tax Stamp (Detail), 1821.

78

Fig. 4.1. Abraham James, Segar Smoking Society in Jamaica, 1802.

89

Fig. 4.2. Abraham James, A Grand Jamaica Ball! or, the Creolean Hop . . . in Spanish Town, 1802.

90

Fig. 4.3. JF, West India Luxury!!, 1808.

93

Fig. 4.4. JF, Johnny Newcome in Love in the West Indies, 1808.

93

Fig. 4.5. William Elmes, Adventures of Johnny Newcome, Plate 1, 1812.

97

List of Illustrations

xi

Fig. 4.6. Thomas Rowlandson, Johnny Newcome Going to Lay in Stock, 1815.

103

Fig. 4.7. Thomas Rowlandson, Poor Johnny on the Sick List, 1815.

105

Fig. 4.8. Thomas Rowlandson, Presenting the Trophies, 1815.

108

Fig. 5.1. Robert Cruikshank, Paul Pry at Widow C—’s, February 1826.

126

Fig. 5.2. John Lewis Marks, Stout as Ever!!!, c. December 1825.

127

Fig. 5.3. Paul Pry [Robert Cruikshank], A Frolic at the Melon Shop in Piccadilly, June 1826.

132

Fig. 5.4. Mr Snooks [Robert Cruikshank], The Ripe Melon!!— and Musty Pumpkin!!, July 1827.

135

Fig. 5.5. [William Heath?], Feasting. During. Pleasure [1827?].

136

Fig. 5.6. Robert Cruikshank, The Honey Moon and The Man in the Moon, July 1827.

139

Fig. 5.7. Robert Cruikshank, A Sketch at St. Albans or Shaving the New Maid Dutchess!!!, June 1827.

140

Fig. 5.8. John Phillips, One of the Graces Making a Man; or, Frankenstein Outdone, July 1827.

141

Fig. 9.1. George Romney, The Lapland Witch Watching a Shipwreck in a Storm, 1775–1780.

204

Fig. 9.2. Benjamin Smith. Engraving after George Romney. Shakespeare. Tempest. Act 1. Scene 1, 1797.

209

Fig. 9.3. George Romney, William Hayley as Prospero and Emma Hamilton as Miranda in The Tempest, c. 1786–1790.

210

Fig. 9.4. William Blake, Engraving, Sketch of a Shipwreck after Romney, 1809.

215

PLATE 1.1. Johan Heinrich Wilhelm Tishbein, Goethe in the Roman Campagna, 1786. Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt.

PLATE 2.1. Thomas Cole, Lake with Dead Trees, Catskill, 1825. Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College

PLATE 1.2. Willibrord Joseph Mähler, Portrait of Beethoven with Lyre, c. 1804. Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien, Vienna.

PLATE 2.2. Thomas Cole, Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, 1827–1828. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

PLATE 4.2. Abraham James, Johnny New-come in the Island of Jamaica, 1803. The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

PLATE 4.1. Abraham James, Martial Law in Jamaica, 1802. The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

INTRODUCTION H E R M IONE DE A LMEI DA

T

his is a collection of original essays on nineteenth-century art and culture, with special emphasis on literary Romanticism and visual art, written by scholars in the field and organized in honor of the late Carl Woodring (1914–2009). Two unpublished works by Woodring, a lecture on American art and the first chapter of his unpublished autobiography, join with ten interdisciplinary and intellectually provocative essays by his colleagues and students whose own research paths were nurtured and marked by his work. Brief and meditative comments by additional scholars, grouped together in a multiple-voiced commentary on Woodring’s intellectual and personal significance, complete the collection. Together, the essays and comments provide a unified and coherent presentation on the intellectual freight of Woodring’s scholarship and its instructional value as a fertile, living legacy for future studies in Romantic, Victorian, and nineteenth-century art and culture. A selected list of Carl Woodring’s publications would include his early books on William and Mary Howitt, Victorian Samplers (1952), on William Wordsworth (1965), on Virginia Woolf (1966), and on Politics in the Poetry of Coleridge (1961). Politics in English Romantic Poetry (1970) was his most influential work of the 1970s, and it garnered Columbia University’s Van Amringe Award and the Christian Gauss Award from Phi Beta Kappa. Decades of textual scholarship, which began with an edition of Prose of the Romantic Period (1961), culminated in 1990 with his two-volume meticulously annotated edition of Table Talk in the Princeton/Bollingen Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Essays on Blake, Byron, Coleridge, Keats, Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt, Lamb, and Wordsworth, but also on Emily Brontë, Dickens, Hopkins, W. H. Mallock, Franz Kafka, and Swift’s “Drapier” persona, along with essays on the profession, English studies, publishing 1

2

Introduction

history, literary theory, and visual art, filled in between the major works. A seminal essay, “Nature and Art in the Nineteenth Century” (PMLA, 1977), set forth new avenues for interdisciplinary study of the century. In time, these ideas found expansion and depth in a monumental study of artistic, scientific, political, and cultural transformations in nineteenth-century Britain, Nature into Art (1989). Publications like his Columbia History of British Poetry (1995) and Literature: An Embattled Profession (1999) appeared to engage with history and register concern for the profession’s community of scholars. Two books, on Romantic sciences and on revolutionary-era British caricatures, research interests that Woodring shared with his mentor and friend, Marjorie Hope Nicolson, and lectured on but never published, require mention for their bequest of ideas for subsequent (and future) scholarship by his students. During his forty-year professional service first at the University of Wisconsin (1948–61) and then at Columbia University (1961–88), where he held the George Edward Woodberry Professorship, led several National Endowment for the Humanities seminars, and served periodically as chair of English and of the Society of Fellows, Woodring directed over one hundred Ph.D. dissertations. When these students in later professional careers needed advice on their research or a reader for their draft manuscripts, Woodring obliged because, as he said at a Columbia English meeting, doctoral students were advisees “forever.” Many of his doctoral advisees now teach at colleges and universities and serve at non-profit educational organizations across the United States and abroad; they publish scholarly and creative works and have distinguished records of their own. In this they form part of a larger network of humanistic inquiry and influence bearing Woodring’s hallmark in the profession; they interconnect with his influential advisory role at university presses and professional groups—the National Humanities Center, the Modern Language Association, the Keats-Shelley Association, the Byron Society, the Guggenheim and McArthur Foundations, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In a 1980 profile, Nina Auerbach described Woodring—with his “wide-ranging national,” yet “modestly worn, professional power”—as a public intellectual. As much could be said of the quiet and laconic manner with which he wrote and taught students and colleagues about the fruits of his research. In 1982, Leslie Marchand was succinct on Woodring’s extraordinary range of knowledge and his “Coleridgean mind”: “Carl’s greatest contribution to his field is his quiet and unpretentious knowledge of everything.” Our book of essays in his honor is a reminder of the enduring vitality of his presence in English studies.

Introduction

3

Individual essays in this collection, each with its particular method of inquiry and connection to the specific scholar’s published record, nevertheless range widely and are seemingly discrete in the topics they address: Beethoven, Blake, Byron, Castlereagh, Coleridge, George and Robert Cruikshank, Foscolo, George III, Henry Adams, Keats, Napoleon, Thomas Cole, George Romney, Rowlandson, Shelley, Toussiant L’Ouverture, W. J. Mähler, Wellington, and Wordsworth. Topics covered by the essays include portraiture and revolutionary self-fashioning, artistic and political transatlantic influences, landscape art and caricature prints, mock-heroic graphics and illustrated picaresque verse, the American sublime in art and the quiet sublime in literature, the Caribbean slave trade and British Jamaica, verbal and visual social satire and the politics of gender, textual revelations and chaos theory, history and the laws of thermodynamics, Peninsula Wars and Lapland Witches, a museum of memory in Florence and an energetic exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. John Clubbe opens the volume with an essay on Mähler’s 1804–1805 portrait of Beethoven as a complex evocation of the cultural period and the self-fashioning of composer and artist, and of the revolutionary subject of the Eroica symphony. George Gilpin writes of Thomas Cole as a kindred spirit of William Blake, whose poetical approach to landscape art of the wilderness destabilizes prevailing European notions of the sublime to create a distinctly revolutionary and American concept of the sublime. “Parody is politics,” Woodring said in 1970 as he described how useful the study of public prints and other satiric ephemeras in periodicals could be because these were artistic and sub-literary signposts, and indices, to the culture and politics of the Revolutionary period. The three essays that follow prove in diverse ways the continuing fruitfulness of this advice: Steven Jones evokes George Cruikshank’s illustrations for William Hone’s mock newspaper of 1821 to describe the fluidities and materialities of print culture after Peterloo; my essay, located in the period between the Parliamentary debates on slavery and the Napoleonic wars, describes the anonymous Johnny Newcome satiric graphics and illustrated verse on British Caribbean plantations and wartime military conduct as unusual raw materials for Byron’s Don Juan; Robert Patten’s essay on satiric depictions of Harriet Mellon Coutts— an actress turned wealthy heiress in the aftermath of the 1825–1826 British banking crisis—integrates private, social, cultural, and financial concerns to remind us that graphical satire can resonate with equal truthfulness whether it expresses dark political energy or the light-headed glee of Robert Cruikshank’s social parody.

4

Introduction

Elizabeth Kowaleski Wallace takes us on a whimsical tour of life as a historical critic trained by Woodring and prepared, thereby, for all later forms of critical reading—for intellectual movement between periods and through historical linearities, and beyond traditional assumptions and contending ideas; her example is an exhibition of cultural heritage where past and present are conjoined by instinct and imagination in a New York museum. Carol Kyros Walker then takes us as literary tourists on a walk through an imaginary museum in Florence filled with ephemeral pictures and memories of the five English Romantic poets; using her professional photographer’s eye and staging design sense, Walker frames an exhibition of verbal portraits in a recollected region only partly familiar—rather like the experience of Columbia lectures by and museum walks with Carl Woodring. “American Wilderness,” a lecture with slides prepared and delivered by Woodring at art museums in the 1990s, continues the multiplicity of approach and discipline of earlier essays in the collection: readers will appreciate the spoken quality, quiet humor, tight compression of thought, and topical diffusion of Woodring’s prose as he describes the wilderness in nineteenth-century American landscape art and literature to notice the ambiguous use of the trope of the vanishing Indian as an inevitability in contemporary social postures lamenting the loss of wilderness. For Woodring, the sublimity of the American landscape is to be found in the quietude and silence portrayed though the painters’ truthful and Romantic experiments with light. Morton Paley extends the discussion of landscape art and literature with his essay on shipwreck scenes by the portrait artist George Romney, three of which survive as drawings including one by Blake; their recovery here matters to the history of Romantic portraiture and to Romney’s late sense of revolutionary freedom and imaginative escape though the creation of images of shipwrecks and Lapland Witches inspired by mythological literature and Shakespearean drama. Jonathan Gross’s essay on Byron’s marginal commentaries on Foscolo’s 1802 novel, Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis, and its deliberately fragmented account of Italy’s disastrous encounter with Napoleon at the start of the Peninsular Wars, is an intriguing inquiry into the poet’s self-understanding manifest in the two sets of marginalia from readings (in 1813 and in 1820) of Foscolo’s novel. Martin Meisel’s essay on Henry Adams as a “Romantic out of his time” who sought image and analogy for his plight “in the physical sciences of his century” rounds out the multidisciplinary nature of the collection with an inclusion of the disciplines of philosophy and science. With a focus on Adams’s autobiographical

Introduction

5

chapter on “Chaos” and the image of Mont Blanc as anarchic and purposeless force, Meisel invokes the language and the laws (of energy and entropy) of contemporary physics to describe Adams’s “Dynamic Theory of History.” Reading Meisel we are reminded, first, of Coleridge’s theory of life as the movement between active and latent forces or polarities; we then recognize that Meisel’s remarkable essay is both a homage to Woodring as a Coleridge scholar and a dialogue with Woodring’s Coleridgean meditations on nineteenth-century science in Nature into Art. In this collection on Nature, Politics, and the Arts the ten individually generated scholarly essays group themselves in disciplinary and topical categories as if they have been written in collaboration so as to mirror the categories that structure Woodring’s interdisciplinary but integrated intellectual life. Categories for the essays would include: literature and visual art (Clubbe, Gilpin, Paley, Jones, de Almeida, Wallace, Walker), politics and culture ( Jones, de Almeida, Clubbe, Patten, Gross), gender and literary history (Wallace, Patten), contemporary criticism and the philosophy of science (Meisel, Gross, Wallace), history and transatlantic culture (Gilpin, Meisel, de Almeida). Scholars and colleagues sharing personal “afterwords” on Woodring’s legacy for English studies and their profession (Auerbach, Tanselle, de Bary, Reiman, Mellor, Dawson, Manns, Hewitt, Ryan, and Gilpin) also evoke the interconnected categories of Woodring’s broad interests. The dedication page of Nature into Art reads: “To students at Columbia and Wisconsin who taught me”—a characteristic expression of generosity that embarrasses with riches undeserved. The inscription could be ascribed to self-effacing graciousness—or to the truth that we are all Woodring’s students. Implicitly invoked in the statement is a characteristic teaching principle Woodring had with regard to critical research in literature and the humanities: there is no single approach in intellectual inquiry and no hierarchy of method; all approaches must serve, first, to open up the given subject to greater intrinsic clarity and larger mysteries; much as the artwork as a subject was boundless so also should the intellectual inquiry with which it is addressed be open-ended; real humanistic inquiry never stops, it begets further inquiry that endures in continuity as a useful community resource for future scholars. The essays and comments in this collection respond to the challenges of Woodring’s professing principle. They face forward. In dialogues with the multi-faceted published work, and in joint retrospection on the intellectual ferment generated in diverse forums by his example, they celebrate Woodring’s intellectual legacy for their generation. More important, they also illustrate and advance the ways in which this is a living

6

Introduction

legacy that can, in the future, engender more original research and dialogue on nineteenth-century culture and art. A chapter taken from the start of Woodring’s startlingly honest unpublished autobiography, Almost Nobody: A Chronicle, finishes this volume—and subtly changes the dialogue of the essays that precede it. “East Texas, 1919– 1936” begins with childhood in Terrell, Texas, and the modest belief “that the interchangeability of color and lack of color in small town 1920s is a valid memory”; it quickly evolves into a deliberately Wordsworthian retrospection on an era of imminent change in American history—before oil booms, world war, and desegregation—all simultaneously viewed through the triple lenses of communal but monocular Terrell, the young boy who lived within it, and the worldly but ironic and truthful intellectual self. The chapter concludes with the “dream of being somebody, a writer who illustrated his own works” left “voiceless” and without image. Houston, Rice, Harvard, and World War beckon. We are left with an echo from Woodring’s lecture on the American wilderness: “Wordsworth has given me a special interest in the quiet sublime, the sublime of silence. God is in the whirlwind, but He is also the still small voice.” A late comment from Almost Nobody surprises with the quiet energy of a conviction never lost: “Truth exists largely in the medium of experience, as important to every field of study as it is in the courts of justice.”

1 THE EROICA IN ITS ARTISTIC CONTEXT Willibrord Joseph Mähler’s Portrait of Beethoven J OH N C L U BB E

I find that there are never too many points of view from which to take in a work of art, and Beethoven’s works present aspects numerous enough and varied enough to call for examination from all sides. —Romain Rolland1 Toutes la distinction des conditions, nuance si essentielle dans le bonheur d’aujourd’hui, est presque dans la manière de porter des vêtements. —Stendhal2

P

ortraits of himself interested Beethoven intensely. Although that by Joseph Karl Stieler is the most reproduced portrait of the composer, that by Willibrord Joseph Mähler possesses equal, perhaps still greater, significance in interpreting Beethoven’s intent in his music. Whereas Stieler depicts a determined Beethoven in the process of writing his Missa Solemnis, Mähler presents him in a pastoral landscape during the time he worked on his Eroica symphony. Portraits of Beethoven can tell us much about his appearance, his attire, his expression, his values, even his music. Those created in Vienna during the decade influenced by the French Revolution also indicate something about his early response to Napoleon. At a social gathering in the

7

8

Chapter 1

1790s in the palace of Prince Lichnowsky, his first Viennese patron, Lisette von Bernhard observed Beethoven in the company of Haydn and Salieri. The two older composers, carefully dressed in formal attire, with silk stockings, shoes with silver buckles, satin breeches, powdered wigs in place, are sitting on a couch, relaxed, conversing; off to one side, Beethoven stands apart, silent. This new man from the other side of the Rhine, the French side, appears without a wig, his hair cut short in the fashion known as à la Titus. He is dressed in the informal Rhenish style: that is, French-influenced, in effect, a Jacobin style.3 The scene described suggests that the two generations are linked, yet also remain separate: whereas Salieri and Haydn had shaped their careers before the French Revolution, that of Beethoven, a man steeped in the ideals of the Revolution, has just begun. The Revolution stood between the generations as it stood between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.4 Just as a sonic divide separates the symphonies of Haydn and Mozart from Beethoven’s Eroica, his Third Symphony, so an equally great chasm separates how Haydn and Salieri (and Mozart) presented themselves and how Beethoven did. Beethoven, in short, clothed himself as a man of the new order. As Tim Blanning observes, “across Europe, music lovers could see that Beethoven’s appearance matched his compositions—passionate, indomitable, exciting, untamed, above all original.”5

BEETHOVEN AND PORTRAITS Beethoven liked portraits, particularly of composers. He apparently surrounded himself with them. In the journal (Tagebuch) he kept between 1812 and 1818 he wrote, “Portraits of Handel, Bach, Gluck, Mozart, Haydn in my room. They can promote my capacity for endurance.”6 The passage, though undated, seems to have been written in 1814–1815, a period during which Beethoven felt uncertain about the future direction of his creativity. It also reminds us that he had a greater interest in art and art objects than most scholars give him credit for. In 1801 Beethoven on behalf of his Bonn friend Franz Wegeler visited the studio of Vienna’s leading artist, Heinrich Friedrich Füger. Wegeler had asked him to secure for him one of Füger’s history paintings, which he did. Beethoven would have also seen in Füger’s studio his portraits and figure sketches. Moreover, he would have encountered works of art in the mansions of several of his wealthy patrons, notably Count Moritz von Fries.7 We know Beethoven learned about ancient Greece and Rome from German translations of such writers

The Eroica in Its Artistic Context

9

as Livy and Plutarch, but viewing the popular history paintings and sketches of painters like Füger as well as busts of classical figures by Füger’s close colleague in the art academy, the sculptor Franz Anton Zauner, presumably helped form his conception of antiquity. These works also helped shape his perspectives on contemporary politics. And they significantly influenced the portrait Mähler did of him. Enter Lucius Junius Brutus, the hero who had unseated the Tarquin dynasty, founded the Roman republic, and become its first consul. A statuette of this individual long stood on Beethoven’s work desk.8 The Eroica, Ferdinand Ries tells us, was inspired by “the greatest Roman consuls,” and who greater for Beethoven than the elder Brutus?9 In the early 1790s revival in Paris of Voltaire’s drama Brutus, the actor Talma, having initially drawn the minor part of Proculus, soon took on the role of Brutus’s errant son, Titus. For it he abandoned the elaborate costume characteristic of French classical drama for the simple costume evident in Roman sculptures. Instead of the traditional wig, he adopted to the amazement of audiences a short, quasi-disheveled chevelure like that seen on busts of Titus. Talma’s appearance caused a sensation. Upon stage, remarked Madame Vestris, the actor, with his closely cropped chevelure and simple costume, looked like an antique statue. Talma played Titus intermittently from 1791 to 1799, and his hairstyle, which quickly became known as à la Titus or à la Tite, became widely popular among the freethinking young.10 “In a French Revolution,” comments Robert C. Solomon, “fashion is inevitably of great importance.”11 His wit hints at a great truth. Never had fashion held more meaning than in these years. How one dressed became hugely important. Individuals defined who they were by what they wore or what others told them to wear. Early in 1789, while aristocrats cavorted in their finery, the Third Estate, representing the vast majority of the French population, “was ordered to wear plain suits of black cloth, black stockings, a plain muslin cravat.”12 The Revolution that soon ensued upset long-established sartorial traditions. The execution of Louis XVI in January 1793 led to the triumph of the sansculottes (i.e., men who wore trousers instead of the now old-fashioned breeches) and overall to more simple attire on the part of the revolutionaries.13 To those in other lands the new attire sent conflicting signals regarding the visual representation of one’s self. In Beethoven’s first Vienna years casual onlookers might have considered him something of a dandy. While still a musician in the pay of the Elector of Cologne, in effect a high-level servant, he dressed accordingly: “green coat, green knee breeches, white silk stockings, three-cornered hat, and sword with silver knot.”14 He took dancing lessons, kept a horse, spent

10

Chapter 1

(we are told) the greater part of his money on clothes.15 When released from the Elector’s service in 1794, his appearance changed. He responded to the liberal views of late Enlightenment intellectuals like Baron Gottfried van Swieten, to whom he dedicated his First Symphony, and Joseph von Sonnenfels, the friend of Mozart to whom Beethoven would dedicate his Piano Sonata in D major, Opus 28. Revolutionary thoughts increasingly occupied his mind, further stimulated in 1798 when he became acquainted with the violinist Rudolph Kreutzer and met other members of the retinue around the new French ambassador, and proud advocate of the Revolution that had taken place in his country, General Jean Baptiste Bernadotte. Another “original” in appearance was Bernadotte’s overarching rival, Napoleon Bonaparte. Busts of General Bonaparte made before the Italian campaign of 1796 show the young general with long, unkempt hair tied behind. That would soon change. Stimulated by Talma’s portrayal, hair cut à la Titus enjoyed a tremendous vogue during the Revolution’s first decade. After General Bonaparte’s triumphant return to France late in 1797, artists depicted him with hair closely cropped, à la Titus. Canova, in marble busts of Napoleon, so modeled his hair, with curls cut short, to complement the calm yet defiant look. The Titus mode had a long life. Having revolutionized male fashion in Paris, the new style spread across France like wildfire, then across Europe. It became a style that comes and goes, and in many parts of the world it is still very much with us. Hair at this time often served to indicate a person’s political views. Believers in republics often had their hair cut short, and hair so cut implied allegiance to new ways, new ideas, told those present that the individual before them represented a new generation, even a new world in the making. Napoleon himself, we have seen, had quickly adopted the new style. Beethoven would adopt it no less quickly. In the early 1790s his hair, like Napoleon’s, had been longer and looser, tied in a knot behind his head. Now, aware of Napoleon’s altered appearance, he too favored the new mode. With hair à la Titus, without powder, and pantaloons having replaced knee breeches, Beethoven responded sartorially to the fresh new winds from France. Well before 1801, when the young Carl Czerny observed him, Beethoven sported a shock of “jet-black hair, cut à la Titus.”16 Short-haired (increasingly uncombed) and wigless, often informally attired, he remained to the end. Portraits done in the 1790s of leading European figures often seem to depict a race of superheroes. In earlier epochs, portraits had celebrated military and political leaders as exemplars of valor and endeavor. Thanks to Enlightenment ideas, artists, many influenced by Lavater’s magisterial

The Eroica in Its Artistic Context

11

four-volume treatise Essays on Physiognomy (1775–1778), now tended to portray the great and famous of the day with new insight.17 Lavater’s basic tenet was that we could interpret human character through the physiognomic characteristics of a person’s face. Although many serious artists still aspired to paint historical subjects and scenes, often of the great of antiquity, thanks to Lavater’s influence portraiture began to rise in esteem in relation to history painting. Viewers, in light of his revelatory physiognomic descriptions, now scanned portraits of contemporaries for revealing character traits. Behold, men in positions of power were now portrayed with even more elevated features in their portraits than before!18 People expected good portraitists to render not only a likeness but to express a point of view. Within this perspective, among eighteenth-century paintings and sculptures dedicated to statesmen, Houdon’s and Stuart’s lofty renderings of Washington, and David’s and Canova’s of Napoleon, stand out. Notions of portraiture were thus changing, and not only because of Lavater’s writings. The Sturm und Drang of the 1770s had influenced the field of art (and music) as well as literature. Anton Graff, working in Dresden in that decade, developed a new mode of portraiture. Breaking with the stately representation and typical narrative embellishment of the time, Graff sought to capture the essence of a person’s being—to make a portrait into a kind of “mirror of the soul.” The situation regarding portraits of this era seems both fortunate and unfortunate: fortunate in that the portraits we have allow us to interpret an individual; unfortunate in that they often contradict each other as well as verbal descriptions or evocations.19 Chateaubriand comments perceptively about how renderings of the already legendary Napoleon—David’s “Napoleon crossing the Alps” aboard a rearing stallion, among others—overwhelm in their sheer power more prosaic renderings of his workaday self: “This fantastic hero will remain the real person; the other portraits will disappear.”20 The painted portraits of Beethoven, no less than those of Napoleon (or of that other famous contemporary, Byron), often differ greatly. Artists interpreted their features not only as they did appear but also as the subject being painted wished them to appear. Their efforts often leave us uncertain how the individual in question actually looked. The living face is always changing, but the painted face, if well and carefully done, should attempt to capture an individual’s essence. Yet portraits, however misleading as likenesses, can have within themselves tremendous power to affect those who look at them. In 1827, when fourteen-year-old Richard Wagner first heard Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, he characterized its effect on him as “indescribable.” But what excited him as much or more than the

12

Chapter 1

music itself was “the added impact of Beethoven’s physiognomy, as shown by lithographs of the time, as well as the knowledge of his deafness and his solitary and withdrawn life. There soon arose in me an image of the highest supernal originality, beyond comparison with anything.”21

PORTRAITS OF BEETHOVEN Portraits of Beethoven are fairly numerous. It is worth asking why. Only one authentic portrait of Bach has come down to us, and in it he looks decidedly stolid. It offers no hint of the good natured, fun-loving soul that also is Bach. The difficulty we have in visualizing Bach is not the least reason why he seems so much more remote to us than composers who came after him.22 Whereas Mozart, of whom there are only a few portraits, lies in an unmarked grave, his burial unattended by family or friends, an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people followed Beethoven’s funeral cortege. Unlike Mozart, Beethoven had become a cultural icon. As Tim Blanning reminds us, “he was the first musician to become the center of a cult, a legend in his own lifetime.”23 His admirers, responsive to the extraordinary dynamism of his music, wanted to know what their hero looked like. Thus arose a market for portraits of Beethoven, portraits that publishers reproduced endlessly first as engravings and, later, as the technique evolved, in lithographs. Contemporaries wanted to know more about Beethoven than that he composed and played music. They examined his behavior, his way of life, even his clothes. His being as well as his music revealed him a man apart from Viennese society. He was also a man who did not lack courage. In his music as in Mähler’s depiction of him, Beethoven offers us numerous clues to decode his intended meaning or meanings. Some clues are capable of diverse interpretation, others remain ambiguous, still others remain unfathomed or lost to posterity. The quest for understanding continues, but the Mähler portrait affords us evidence of what Beethoven hoped to accomplish in the imperfect world in which he lived and in which he created the Eroica. As he tells us in the Tagebuch, the thought of portraits of the great musicians of the past strengthened his resolve to write the music he knew churned within him. For a German edition of his still illuminating biography of Goethe, Emil Ludwig began each chapter by interpreting the poet’s mind and creativity at the time by studying a contemporaneous portrait of him.24 A chapter on Beethoven in 1790s Vienna might take up Lisette von Bernhard’s verbal portrait, with which we began, where she depicts Salieri and

The Eroica in Its Artistic Context

13

Haydn sitting, conversing together, while Beethoven stands apart, silent.25 Skip a decade, and we contemplate Mähler’s Beethoven. We may ask of it: what does it tell us about the composer’s intent during the years of frenzied creativity that produced the Eroica and Leonore, the Triple Concerto, the Waldstein and Appassionata sonatas? By bringing the meaning of these compositions into clearer focus, the Mähler portrait confirms that the French Revolution exerted a lasting impact upon him. It also complements and deepens our understanding both of Beethoven’s revolutionary purpose and of his revolutionary music. Interpreting Beethoven’s portraits poses a continuing challenge. Clearly the composer at most stages of his career cut a striking, even unusual figure. He lived in the last generation before photography came upon the scene in 1839. We thus depend for evidence of his appearance on oil portraits, pastels, sculptures, miniatures, engravings, as well as the life mask done in 1812. He had piercing eyes and a penetrating gaze. The eyes, small and deeply set under a massive forehead, were most likely brown but deep blue remains a possibility (portraits depict them variously). His skin was darkish, with some evidence of smallpox (then an almost universal malady) on his cheeks. He spoke with a strong Rhenish accent, having grown up using the dialect of his homeland, one very different from that of Vienna. No one in his adopted city would have taken him for a native. Such was the man who created music of a kind not heard before. Beethoven portraits sometimes resemble those of Napoleon. Both men were compact, solidly built, with large heads and an intense look; both were lean in youth, heavier as they aged.26 Comparing Beethoven’s build to Napoleon’s in maturity, A. A. Stumpff described him as big-boned, with a short neck and broad-shoulders. The two men, he thought, also shared certain similarities of character.27 Neat and trim in early maturity, Beethoven as he aged grew increasingly indifferent to his appearance, as well as more difficult to deal with as a person. Cherubini, offended by his rough ways, thought Beethoven an “unlicked bear”; Goethe, put off by the composer’s brusque candor, spoke of his “totally undisciplined personality.”28 As Beethoven pushed his way through the narrow, often crowded streets of the Austrian capital, he sang and hummed the melodies that overran his brain. Youngsters sometimes heckled this man of unusual attire and odd habits, but overall his presence seems to have bemused the Viennese.29 To discover how Beethoven conceived himself during the time he composed the Eroica, we shall examine closely Willibrord Joseph Mähler’s portrait of 1804–1805. Not only does it supply evidence that Beethoven thought of

14

Chapter 1

himself as a revolutionary, it supports my argument that in the Eroica he actively advocates revolution. If we knew nothing from other sources about Beethoven’s political views during these years, this portrait alone could tell us much about them. But to elucidate Mähler’s portrait, we turn first to the best known representation of Goethe, that by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein.

TISCHBEIN’S PORTRAIT OF GOETHE Rome in the later decades of the eighteenth century exerted a tremendous hold upon artists and literary figures. They were attracted to the Eternal City less as the center of the Catholic world than as the cradle of Renaissance art and classical culture. In his 1787 portrait of Goethe, Tischbein (1751–1829) alludes to the wide range of Goethe’s interests by posing the poet as he surveys the antiquities scattered about the Roman campagna. The Enlightenment cult of genius had increasingly embraced thinkers and exceptional persons in the arts as figures worthy of celebration, and Tischbein, influenced by his friend Lavater, was among the many artists who now sought to interpret character through facial features. In this painting Tischbein depicts the seemingly relaxed author of the Italienische Reise (plate 1.1). At that time in his late thirties, Goethe was aware his Wanderjahre would soon end. Tischbein presents him in nearly half-profile; a wide-brimmed hat surrounds his head as a kind of secular nimbus. The author of the youthful 1772 essay “Von deutscher Baukunst” (On German Architecture) had just completed his drama Iphigenie in Tauris, itself influenced by Euripides’ treatment of the subject. This life-sized, hero-worshipping likeness presents Goethe as the towering “Dichterfürst” (Prince of Poets) of his era. Portraying a man in a landscape as a subject of sensibility was still new. The idea derived from the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, particularly the fifth of his Reveries of a Solitary Wanderer. The recumbent poet Tischbein portrays evokes antique sculpture. Wrapped in a cream-colored traveling cloak that recalls the togas of antiquity, his bearing relaxed yet noble—he gazes pensively upon the desolate yet historically rich scene before him. The writings of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, particularly his Reflections on the Imitation of Greek Art in Painting and Sculpture (1755) and the History of Ancient Art (1764), which celebrated the concept of “noble simplicity and calm grandeur” (“edle Einfalt und stille Grösse”), had enthralled

The Eroica in Its Artistic Context

15

a generation and greatly influenced Goethe’s conception of the ancient world. Winckelmann and others regarded studying ancient models “as a means of penetrating the eternally valid truths which were thought to underlie the superficial diversities of the visible world.”30 Via Winckelmann, Goethe seeks to comprehend the ruins before him in their archaeological, artistic, and literary manifestations. He sits on a fallen obelisk on which we can make out Egyptian hieroglyphics. Within his range of vision are Roman ionic capitals, the ruins of a Roman aqueduct, and in the distance the tomb of Cecilia Metella on the Via Appia Antiqua. Tischbein even inserts a relief depicting a scene from Goethe’s Iphigenie.31 Contemplating Mähler’s portrait of Beethoven in relation to Tischbein’s of Goethe, we sense that we see before us a new kind of hero portrayed in a new way. Goethe’s “is the face of man who has full control of his faculties, who is ripe for action, or thought; it is an image of a man in his prime.”32 The same might well be said of Mähler’s Beethoven. Like Tischbein, he had studied in Dresden with Anton Graff, and like Graff he too sought to capture the essence of the man before him. But what action or thoughts preoccupied Beethoven at this time and what story did Mähler wish to tell in his painting?

BEETHOVEN COLLABORATES WITH MÄHLER The fascinating, indeed revelatory, portrait of Beethoven that Mähler created in 1804–1805 is the major iconographic representation of the composer at the time of the Eroica symphony and his opera Leonore, later to be renamed Fidelio (plate 1.2). As in the earlier collaboration twenty years before between Tischbein and Goethe, artist and poet knew each other quite well.33 Mähler’s portrait has much to tell us about how Beethoven wished to present himself. Understanding what they intended to accomplish together should convince us that the composer viewed his new symphony essentially as a hymn to revolution, a revolution in music certainly, but one accompanied by a revolution in the nature of society and in greater freedom for humanity. Mähler (1778–1860) was born in Ehrenbreitstein, a village below the looming rock cliff that lies across the Rhine from Coblenz, upriver from Bonn. Ehrenbreitstein is also, perhaps significantly for Beethoven, the birthplace of his beloved mother, Maria Magdalena Keverich. Not long after Mähler arrived in Vienna in the autumn of 1803, Stephan von Breuning, his and Beethoven’s mutual friend, took him to Baden, a spa town south of

16

Chapter 1

Vienna, to visit the composer.34 After they had conversed a while, Breuning tells us, Beethoven played the Eroica’s first movement on the piano, “then continued, without a pause, a free fantasia for two hours.”35 Beethoven did not play for everyone, as members of Vienna’s aristocracy had discovered to their regret and annoyance, so we may assume that from the start artist and composer felt comfortable with each other. Mähler immediately fell into the category of what we might term Beethoven’s “Bonn friends,” that is, friends from the Rhineland, true friends, as opposed to “Viennese friends,” who were (the composer implied) fickle and unreliable.36 The friendship early established lasted the lifetime of both. Mähler clearly drew inspiration for his portrait from Leopold Radoux’s oil portrait of Beethoven’s beloved grandfather. His Bonn friend Franz Wegeler had in 1800 sent Beethoven, at his request, the portrait of his grandfather. Despite frequent changes of residence and the apparent disorder that prevailed in them, that portrait, along with this portrait by Mähler, went wherever he did.37 He came to treasure the two portraits equally. They are at one in Beethoven’s emotional response to two other artifacts he cherished and kept on his work desk: the sheet with three sayings on it culled from ancient Egyptian lore, and the nearby statuette of Lucius Junius Brutus, the heroic Roman, Beethoven’s idol. As with the two favored artifacts, he always kept both portraits visible before him. Mähler’s portrait like Tischbein’s also draws on history painting as well as portraiture. To capture the “Beethoven” the composer had in mind it needed both. It has an important story to tell, one that has since been lost to posterity. With strict censorship prevailing in Hapsburg Austria, Beethoven, along with many of his contemporaries, had to choose his words carefully. At a time when the police closely watched words and deeds, many utilized dress to proclaim “public opposition.”38 Much had to be left unsaid. Sometimes a portrait can offer clues about a person or reveal his thoughts better than can words. Like Tischbein’s Goethe, Mähler’s interpretation of Beethoven falls within the long tradition of the self-contained portrait, in which the likeness is meant not only to depict the subject but to inform us about his beliefs and interests. Art historians as well as Beethoven scholars have subjected Mähler’s Beethoven to intense analysis, but major aspects of it remain almost totally unexplored: chiefly, its importance as a key to understanding Beethoven’s political thinking at this time.39 As Goethe had experienced a “new birth” in Rome, so Beethoven, a decade after arriving in Vienna, had chosen for his music a “new path.” The portrait outlines that path. We may not always fathom meanings in Beethoven’s music, but we err if we assume they do not exist. That music can be understood as Beethoven’s

The Eroica in Its Artistic Context

17

response to Goethe’s insistence in his writings upon Tätigkeit, or activity.40 Music was Beethoven’s “activity,” his Tätigkeit, and he expressed his emotions and thoughts in it far better than he could in words. So, I shall argue, does the Mähler portrait. By the time the artist painted it the composer had achieved considerable recognition. The portrait reveals Beethoven’s mindset as he brought the Eroica to completion and worked on Fidelio. When Mähler painted him, Beethoven was in his mid-thirties, a little less advanced in his life’s journey than Goethe when Tischbein portrayed him in Rome. Tischbein envisaged an iconic portrait, one depicting the artist as well as the poet (Goethe still clung to fading hopes of becoming a painter). By surveying Goethe’s interests in the classical world, the artist achieved from the outset, as Goethe himself noted, a unity.41 Mähler also aspired to create an iconic portrait, in which pose, expression, gesture, and not least the landscape in which Beethoven is placed, all serve to illumine the man, his achievement, his values, even his hopes for the future. Alessandra Comini, to whose magisterial study of Beethoven’s iconography all students of the composer owe a debt, believes the conception behind the portrait, however we interpret it, to be solely Mähler’s. “The idea of placing the creator of the Eroica in the world of nature with the hint that he not only communed with but commanded the elements” was, she claims, Mähler’s own.42 For her the portrait’s implied message can only be the work of the artist, an artist, in this case, sympathetic to Beethoven and his response to nature. Owen Jander, in a later study, disagrees. He interprets the Mähler portrait with regard to thinking prevalent in Beethoven’s day about the “historical portrait” (historisches Porträt), that is, a portrait that recounts a story about the sitter. He insists that it “was Beethoven who master-minded the elaborate plan in this portrait.” “The narrative plan of any “historisches Porträt,” claims Jander, “was always the invention of the sitter.”43 Though my interpretation of the portrait draws upon the work of both scholars, I find Jander’s perspective on this point more convincing than Comini’s. Mähler’s Beethoven, along with the surrounding landscape, unquestionably reveals a collaboration between artist and composer, but it seems more likely that it was Beethoven, not Mähler, who determined the composition.

INTERPRETING THE MÄHLER PORTRAIT Artists in the eighteenth century often depicted significant individuals sitting with the weight placed on one leg (usually the right, as in the Beethoven portrait) and with the left used chiefly for balance.44 This formulaic

18

Chapter 1

pose Jander relates to the grands hommes of French neo-classical sculpture. Mähler has elongated Beethoven’s body and face and made him especially lean and youthful looking. Like several other artists at this time, among them Christian Hornemann in his 1802 miniature, Mähler portrays Beethoven with his hair à la Tite. This emphasizes Beethoven’s youthful look as well as conveys his political sympathies. Though seated, he seems about to spring forth. The pose suggests intense energy. In his left hand Beethoven holds a lyre-guitar, an instrument then popular, and one presumably used by Apollo, the ancient Greek divinity chiefly associated with music.45 Comini regards the instrument as an “Apollonian reflection” of Beethoven.46 Beethoven was of average height for his day and broad-shouldered, his head massive, but his appearance was in no way Apollonian. Few contemporaries regarded him thus, and neither, in my view, did Mähler in his portrayal. Nor is Beethoven’s music usually thought to be Apollonian. Beethoven was knowledgeable about Greek history and mythology. More than with Apollo, he associated himself and his music with the dark, unbridled, passionate side of Greek myth, in short, with Dionysus—or, to call the god by his Roman name, Bacchus. Given the over-the-top exuberance of many of his compositions, particularly their incandescent finales, Mähler’s pose conveys Bacchic energy rather than Apollonian calm.47 The lyre-guitar, even the temple in the left background overlooking the meadow, along with the trees on either side of the seated figure, imply for Comini that the painting is a pastoral allegory. That the 1808 Pastorale Symphony lay on the near horizon might seem to lend her interpretation further support. But did Beethoven intend the painting’s primary message to be “pastoral”? Beethoven extends his right arm over what seems to be a pastoral landscape, “palm outward,” writes Comini, “in response to music heard and to be written down for the future.”48 His regard serious and confident, the composer invites us to enter the landscape in which he sits. The outstretched right hand does indeed beckon, but to whom and for what purpose?49 Peter Schleuning speaks of it as a Triumphatorengeste, a gesture of triumph made by the great of antiquity.50 Mähler, who had ample opportunity to observe Beethoven’s hands while he played the piano the afternoon Ries introduced him to the composer, commented, “the right [hand] is extended, as if, in a moment of musical enthusiasm, he was beating time.”51 Certainly the gesture implies energy, movement, purpose. Beethoven, who felt he expressed himself best through music, not words, was in 1804 putting finishing touches on the Eroica. Fidelio was well advanced, and sketches for the Fifth Symphony already existed as did thoughts for a Sixth.

The Eroica in Its Artistic Context

19

He intended the Eroica to be a revolutionary statement. So it was, and so is Mähler’s portrait. Key details in the Mähler portrait Beethoven suggested or, more likely, insisted on would include the pose in which he is depicted (he appears in motion), his facial expression (utterly serious, but engaging and personable) and, providing crucial clues to the painting’s intent, the landscape in which he is placed. The portrait is truly a kind of allegory, but one more political than pastoral. Jander insists that complex personal correspondences between the Fourth piano concerto and the Orpheus legend lurk in the painting’s every detail. Such correspondences may be there, but other meanings are there too, and they fundamentally alter previous interpretations of the Mähler portrait. It is, in my view, a representation of Beethoven as revolutionary, and the setting in which Mähler has placed him resonates with revolutionary symbolism. If we seek further evidence that Beethoven in these years harbored revolutionary feelings, we need only study carefully the landscape in which the artist has placed the composer.

MÄHLER’S LANDSCAPE When first seeing the Mähler portrait we tend to focus primarily on the face, less so on the pose, least of all on the landscape.52 But the setting in which the artist placed Beethoven, when we look at it more closely, gains interest. The domed circular columned structure (Rundtempel) on the extreme left is a Greek tholos. Mähler refers to it as a “temple of Apollo,” and so we may consider it. Its descendants are the vestal temples in Rome and Tivoli, and, centuries later, such structures as the Temple of Love on the grounds of Versailles.53 In the classical era such temples might have held a statue of Apollo or another divinity; in modern times, the statue is often absent. If a statue resides within Mähler’s tholos, it is not visible. But even if the temple is (as Mähler claims) dedicated to Apollo, it is less (as Comini claims) an “Apollonian reflection” of Beethoven and more a visual symbol of the antiquity Beethoven revered all his life. Apollo symbolizes light, clarity, creativity. His temple here stands for the courageous integrity dedicated to republican virtues exemplified by the heroic figures of antiquity such as Lucius Junius Brutus whom Beethoven greatly revered and kept constantly in mind. Temples also had for Beethoven another dimension. In a letter to Wegeler a few years before the composer “guarantees that the new temple

20

Chapter 1

of sacred friendship which you will erect on these qualities will stand firmly and forever, and that no misfortune, no tempest will be able to shake its foundations.”54 In such temples gather a band of like-minded brothers in friendship as well as in solidarity of belief and purpose. Beethoven invokes such an ideal in the persons of Florestan and Don Fernando in Fidelio. In Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell, a drama Beethoven admired (and one exactly contemporaneous with Mähler’s portrait), the Swiss rebels unite in a similar bond of brotherhood dedicated to freedom. In the emotional summit of his Ninth Symphony Beethoven declares that, in time to come, all peoples shall be brothers united in a vision of hope. The tholos, then, in the revolutionary scheme that Beethoven and Mähler together wished to impart, must be considered a key element. In turn, we need to place it within the context of what is surely the most unusual and revealing (and least discussed) element in the landscape adjoining the temple: the two trees standing by themselves in the meadow. Beethoven’s extended arm crosses in front of both trees. Although Jander spends much space identifying the bushes in the left foreground, he says nothing about the trees.55 Their vaguely triangular shape indicate they are conifers, that is, evergreens.56 Trees and temple, even the lush foreground vegetation, give each other mutual support, and we sense that they are all in some way related to the upraised arm. The light, coming mostly from the painting’s left (as the shadows reveal), falls on Beethoven’s face as well as upon the two trees. His facial expression—determined, serious, uncompromising—indicates he may be trying to protect the trees. We can interpret the gesture as that of a noble or an emperor. Beethoven thought himself noble by nature and achievement, sometimes even as an emperor, an emperor of music. Such a visage is not one to suffer fools gladly. But his gesture also implies that he has a message to impart. Why are the trees there? And why are there two? We begin with the first question. Landscape design in Beethoven’s day had become a much-debated subject, and the best-known landscape manuals drew upon newly formed aesthetic concepts of how the natural scene might be shaped and arranged. Even though trees formed an integral part of early nineteenth-century landscape design, no contemporary landscape architect would have planted two conifers in the midst of an otherwise empty, relatively flat meadow. Most manuals in Britain and elsewhere drew inspiration from Capability Brown’s work in “improving” country estates. They advocated positioning trees in clumps with undulating greensward in-between, as we see in landscapes by Constable, or if a tree were spectacular or in some way unusual, isolating it in the landscape, as in paintings

The Eroica in Its Artistic Context

21

by Caspar David Friedrich. In Beethoven’s time a vogue for English “gardens” swept across Europe. With their lawns, their undulating “S” curves or “lines of beauty,” their meandering streams, their picturesquely situated bridges, their carefully sited classical monuments, such landscapes reflected the aesthetic concepts of the picturesque and the beautiful. They gradually supplanted the formal geometrical gardens favored by wealthy aristocrats and absolute monarchs and princes during the ancien régime in France, and imitated in Holland, the German states, and other European countries. Trees, then, were considered as design elements in an overall—and carefully planned—idealized garden landscape. They rarely stood by themselves, and if they were found in a landscape, they were not usually conifers. Isolating two conifers in a meadow, as Mähler does, was extremely unlikely. Admittedly, few would see Beethoven’s portrait during his lifetime, but connoisseurs familiar with contemporary landscape esthetics would have considered the artist’s depiction of the isolated trees lacking in good taste. Some later commentators have held similar views. Well aware of how portraits could help shape the public’s understanding of what he intended to achieve through his music, Beethoven in effect had the Mähler portrait “speak” for him. With the help of his new artist friend, he deliberately staged a political allegory. Instead of being a decorative element in a pastoral landscape, the two trees are a symbol of another kind, as meaningful a symbol as we shall find in Beethoven iconography. They hold even greater significance than the tholos. Beethoven beckons us into a revolutionary landscape. It is a realm where freedom reigns. The two trees are Trees of Liberty.

TREES OF LIBERTY And what, we may ask, are Trees of Liberty? In the aftermath of the insurrections of 1789–1790, those among the population in France and elsewhere who mostly lived in towns and villages and who believed in the ideals of the French Revolution planted Trees of Liberty. After electing municipal officials sympathetic to the Revolution, citizens often placed a Tree of Liberty in the town square. These elections usually occurred in May. The “Trees of May,” as they were sometimes called, served at once as a symbol of insurrection and a symbol of faith in a new future.57 For example, French revolutionaries, viewing Benjamin Franklin as a hero of their revolution as well as of that in America, planted in his honor a Tree of Liberty in the quartier of Paris in which he had lived.58 Soon “Trees of

22

Chapter 1

May” became a veritable institution across France. And the Trees sprouted not just on French soil. By 1792 the arbre de Mai had become an arbre de liberté or, in Germany, a Freiheitsbaum. People danced around them while singing revolutionary songs such as “Ça ira” and “La Marseillaise.” A new symbol had emerged in the public consciousness. Patriots could not always plant a living tree. Often time and circumstances permitted them no more than a former tree with the branches stripped, in effect, a tall, straight pole. Such trees feature prominently in contemporary prints and paintings. Usually the tree sported decorations; citizens wrapped brightly colored cloth around the tree trunk. They also hung red, white, and blue, though sometimes green, ribbons from the branches. As revolutionary ideas took hold, the custom of planting and decorating Trees of Liberty spread to French-occupied northern Italy, Switzerland, the Rhineland, and elsewhere. Men and women of the Revolution regarded Trees of Liberty as symbols that would survive them, symbols of the spirit of liberty and the rights of man that would inspire generations to come. Perched at the top of a Tree of Liberty might well be a Liberty cap, the distinctive Phrygian bonnet, a kind of woolen stocking cap, copied from the Phrygian cap worn by liberated slaves in Greece and Rome.59 Proudly worn by Jacobin revolutionaries, the Phrygian cap was usually, but not always, red, the color of revolution. For professed revolutionaries cockades were also virtually mandatory. Not to wear one entailed risks. A patriot might pin a cockade (cocarde in French, Kokarde in German) to a bonnet, or dress or belt, or wear it in a buttonhole. Red and tricolor cockades were popular. Green also. Camille Desmoulins, a leading revolutionary, urging his comrades to arms, cried out, “Cockades, green ones—the colour of Hope!”60 In sum, people planted Trees of Liberty, or Freiheitsbäume, as symbols of a collective emotion of freedom and of faith, faith in republics, that new and often startling form of government, and faith in the ideas behind them. Amazingly, a republic had since 1792 occupied the former realm of the deposed Bourbon dynasty. Both the Trees of Liberty and the ideals they symbolized had now spread rapidly across the Rhine and beyond. The Trees bade farewell to the old world. As evergreens, they signaled the birth of a new. On May 15, 1796, the day after the French army had entered Milan in triumph, Napoleon rode over to the Serbelloni Palace, where he had made his headquarters, and “planted in front of it a Tree of Liberty.” “Our only quarrel,” he assured the assembled populace, “is with the tyrants who enslaved you.”61 Wherever in northern Italy French armies passed through,

The Eroica in Its Artistic Context

23

they set up republics on the French model and planted Trees of Liberty in public places. In the marketplace in Savignano the Saxon traveler, Johann Gottfried Seume, noted in 1802 that some people still wore hats topped with a Kokarde, and some did not. He himself, however, though a rebellious soul, did not sport one. When he asked a well-dressed individual where the nearest inn was, the man, presumably a republican, looked him over before replying politely, “andate al diavolo!”62 In the Valois, part of French-speaking southern Switzerland, the policies of the autocratic government of German-speaking Berne had led the inhabitants to revolt. Trees of Liberty rose up everywhere. When French revolutionary armies invaded other areas of the Swiss confederation, Trees of Liberty appeared there as well. In fact, they may have been more popular in Switzerland than anywhere else. The local inhabitants often associated them with Wilhelm Tell, the late thirteenth-century hunter whose legendary deeds of heroism in resisting the arbitrary tyranny of the Austrian governor Gessler had gained him lasting fame. Schiller knew well the significance of Trees of Liberty. In his drama Wilhelm Tell (1804), set in the thirteenth century, he has Gessler place a hat atop a pole (a former tree) in the center of Altdorf, a town in Switzerland’s central Vierwaldstättersee (Lake of the Four Forest Cantons) region. The hat signified the Emperor’s rule, and Gessler insists his Swiss subjects in passing bow before it. The pole and hat serve as a kind of negative analogue to the Tree of Liberty and the Phrygian bonnet of Jacobin fame. Five hundred years after Tell, partisans of revolution in Switzerland often capped Trees of Liberty with a “chapeau de Tell,” that is, a hat like Tell’s, a hunter’s cap, somewhat like a Phrygian bonnet and equally a symbol of freedom achieved under duress.63 Tell’s exploits reverberated beyond Swiss borders to inspire the French insurgents of 1789.64 In revolutionary iconography Tell often stood hand in hand with the stoic Roman, Lucius Junius Brutus. Trees of Liberty, familiar to Beethoven in the years immediately after the Revolution, entered his mind again in 1809 when he sought, unsuccessfully, the commission to set to music Schiller’s drama about the origins of Swiss freedom. By 1804–1805 everyone alive knew what Trees of Liberty symbolized. Revolutionary partisans planted them as far away as Haiti. “You can cut down the tree of liberty, but it will grow again,” Toussaint L’Ouverture announced in 1802 after Napoleon’s troops had suppressed the slave rebellion he had led in his native land and placed him under arrest. In hostile Britain Trees of Liberty were much talked about, but not planted. Satirical prints caricatured them and, more often still, those who attempted to live by the values they represented. In even more hostile Austria partisans of the Revolution, several

24

Chapter 1

of them well-known figures, erected a Tree of Liberty in 1794 in a valley outside Vienna and danced around it. They underwent severe punishment.65 Yet Toussaint L’Ouverture had a point. The notion that the Trees symbolized freedom had far-reaching resonance. The Trees lived on in memory, if no longer in actuality. In 1818, with absolutism again triumphant across Europe, Byron in Canto IV of his Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage alludes to Freedom’s tree that “hath lost its blossoms, and the rind, / Chopp’d by the axe, looks rough and little worth. / But the sap lasts—and still the seed we find / Sown deep, even in the bosom of the North” (4: 98). That bosom was England. The “withered trunk” of the “Tree of Freedom,” he writes later in the canto, “puts forth a leaf” and will bloom again (4: 114). A century and more later, Trees of Liberty make an appearance in Alice Goodman’s libretto for John Adams’ 1987 opera Nixon in China. Even before the decisive battle of Valmy on September 20, 1792, several Rhineland cities had come under French control. Freiheitsbäume now sprouted across Beethoven’s Rhineland in at least fifty locales.66 Trees decorated with Kokardes soon followed.67 In 1794 a Tree of Liberty appeared in the Marktplatz of Bonn.68 Although Beethoven had departed his native city in November 1792, he may well have come upon them elsewhere on his way to Vienna. But to return to the trees in Mähler’s portrait—how do we know they are Trees of Liberty? They are not decorated poles, as were many of the original Trees of Liberty, small and perhaps spindly when planted in the 1790s. Instead, a decade later, they are full-grown, healthy conifers. Most conifers grow fast. Even after winter’s onset, they retain their old needles as well as produce new ones. Trees of Liberty could no more be allowed to be planted in Austrian domains than in Britain. For Mähler to depict them in art as they appeared in the 1790s—that is, in their decorated, anorexic form—would have been foolhardy. The large, healthy Trees he painted have survived, a decade and more after their predecessors, and their fulsome appearance appears to bode well for the future hopes of liberty. In a landscape overlooked by a Greek temple, they symbolize the classically inspired ideals of the Revolution. They also serve as arboreal reminders of Plutarch’s self-sacrificing heroes of old, foremost among them Lucius Junius Brutus, heroes who from their tombs exhorted those then alive to similar sacrifices in resisting tyranny. The Trees in Mähler’s painting are fulfilling their destiny. They imply that the idea of revolution continues, and that Beethoven’s music proclaims it. In 1804–1805, the time of the Eroica and Leonore, Beethoven continued to maintain his faith in political liberty. Not everyone had similar resolve. After the incredible outburst of revolutionary energy a decade before in Paris

The Eroica in Its Artistic Context

25

and elsewhere, many now felt that Europe had lost its way. The Trees of Liberty in Mähler’s portrait tell us, however, that Liberty still lives and that the Promised Land of freedom lies within reach. “Let me lead you to it,” Beethoven’s body language seems to say. He urges viewers to enter this Land. His music stimulates listeners with receptive ears to harken to its revolutionary message. Consider Mähler’s portrait, if you will, as a visual complement to the Eroica and Fidelio, even to Johann Gottfried Seume’s Spaziergang nach Syrakus (1803), a contemporary commentary on the state of Europe that Beethoven admired and annotated. Usually the inhabitants in European towns and villages only planted one Tree of Liberty. In Mähler’s portrait, however, we see two. Why two, we may ask, and what—or whom—might this duality represent? If we look closely, we see that the Trees are linked, even interlocked, one slightly in front of the other. What did Beethoven, by having them placed so, intend? Their positioning may offer us clues to his purpose. Let me present several hypotheses. Might one Tree represent Beethoven himself, who in much of his music celebrates liberty? And might the other represent the painter of the portrait, his new artist friend Mähler? Their relationship began promisingly and proved long lasting. Beethoven generally felt more comfortable with those who shared his political values than with those who did not. It seems likely that Mähler, his fellow Rhinelander and eventual lifelong friend, held similar republican, even revolutionary ideals. That is one possibility. But another candidate, even likelier, may be a man whom Beethoven had long pondered and whose career he followed closely, namely, Napoleon Bonaparte. He had written the Eroica with First Consul Bonaparte in mind, and he had intended to name as well as dedicate to him his newest and until now greatest work. In 1818, having written eight symphonies in all, he would proclaim the Eroica his favorite symphony, and it may well have remained his favorite. Preceding its composition, Napoleon Bonaparte had achieved a reputation as a brilliant military strategist, one who appeared to champion freedom. He was also recognized by many, at least until 1804, as an enlightened political leader who had restored order and prosperity to his country. Liberals across Europe assessed developments in their own lands by progress in France. To many, the First Consul still seemed the best, indeed virtually the only, hope to effect lasting change in a Europe ruled by long-powerful dynasties of kings and emperors. By linking the two Trees of Liberty Beethoven may wish to indicate his solidarity with Napoleon. He liked to think that Napoleon shared his belief that a future era of freedom lay in mankind’s destiny. Napoleon is omnipresent in the Eroica but not its true subject, which is revolution. Whereas Beethoven’s response to Napoleon fluctuated widely

26

Chapter 1

over the years, his faith or belief in the Revolution and its potential for improving the future of mankind remained fairly constant. Napoleon had taken part in a great revolutionary movement, one that could and did change the world. In that movement Beethoven viewed himself as a partner. Here he and Napoleon stand together, joint Trees of Liberty, joint beacons of freedom, Beethoven through his music, Napoleon through his statecraft and—so Beethoven must have hoped—as ardent as he in support of liberty. Still another tree in Mähler’s portrait requires our attention. On the right, behind Beethoven’s back, looms a large gnarled hardwood, most likely an oak, as its size, form of branches, and leaves indicate. In art a fallen or devastated tree often stands as a symbol of mortality, our own or that in nature. Such is the “dramatic blasted tree motif” of which Comini speaks.69 Mähler’s oak is clearly dying. Jander observes that it resembles similar isolated trees, usually oaks, seen in sketches and paintings by Caspar David Friedrich.70 Such a tree, he points out, was typical of painters trained in Dresden, where Mähler as well as Friedrich had studied.71 But dead or dying trees also represent a frequent motif in earlier European landscape painting, for example, in works by the seventeenth-century Dutch artist, Jacob van Ruysdael, where they symbolizes the passing of time, the mortality of generations.72 I suggest that Mähler’s oak has a role other than being part of what appears to be merely a pastoral landscape. Even though much larger than the Trees of Liberty, Mähler’s oak has little life left. In contrast to the mature Trees of Liberty and to the vigorous plant life in the left foreground, it is already dead at the top. It thus represents a past that has no future, at least in a world capable of being enlightened. Louis XVI, the French monarch, the main European symbol of absolutism, had been guillotined in January 1793. His death appeared to give a last gasp to absolutism in France.73 Though in 1804 monarchies still ruled most of Europe, Beethoven hoped the future lay not with them but with a world the Trees of Liberty anticipated. In contrast to the dying oak, the Trees of Liberty behind Beethoven’s arm appear radiantly healthy and green, the color of hope, the color of many revolutionary cocardes. Whereas the Tree of Absolutism has only limited life remaining, the Trees of Liberty—symbolizing Beethoven’s revolutionary fervor—still have ahead of them an impressive longevity. Beethoven has his back to the Tree of Absolutism. In effect, his pose indicates his disregard for what it represents. As he urges viewers to explore the revolutionary terrain in which thrive the two Trees of Liberty, his dark blue cloak has fallen off his shoulders.74 A sliver of bright red lining is exposed. The “redlined coat,” Comini observes, “twines around his lower torso like a classical garment.”75 And so it does. But that red lining—it catches our eye.

The Eroica in Its Artistic Context

27

Why is it there—and why red? True, it does serve to demarcate the dark cloak from the dark tree. But if Mähler had not painted the lining red, would we even notice it. Probably not. And why, we may ask, place a splash of red next to a Tree symbolizing Absolutism? As mentioned earlier, the clothing one wore indicated both one’s position in society and political standpoint. No less important was the color of the clothing. It is of key significance in Mähler’s portrait, as it would be in Joseph Karl Stieler’s later likeness of Beethoven. As in the Stieler as well as in the portrait of his grandfather sent to him by Wegeler, red, white, and blue dominate.76 Mähler’s choice of colors, not discussed by either Comini or Jander, thus offers yet another set of clues regarding Beethoven’s purpose in this portrait. Red, white, and blue played an important role in the French Revolution.77 Inevitably, red became the revolutionaries’ color of choice. “The colors of Paris, red and blue,” Simon Schama tells us, “became the colors of the uniform of its citizen soldiers.” Red represents “the blood to be shed for freedom”; blue, “the celestial constitution that would be its eventually blessing.” Since the tricolor—reputedly designed by the Marquis de Lafayette— was conceived while Louis XVI still lived, white (intended to symbolize the purity of the Bourbon monarchy and the unity between Paris and the monarchy) was squeezed-in between the blue and the red.78 Patriots could also claim white as a classical, republican color.79 Thus the French revolutionaries adopted red, white, and blue, signifying freedom, for their Tricolor. And as the flag waves in the breeze, people notice most the color furthest from the pole, the “red” of revolution.80 The intense dash of red in Beethoven’s cloak is deliberate. If we accept the complex allegorical reading of Mähler’s portrait advocated here, the “red” may well be there to ignite the moribund Tree of Absolutism. The tree will die in time of natural causes, that is certain, but did Beethoven wish to hasten its demise by igniting it himself? The red lining adorns the posterior of a man whose correspondence reeks of improprieties and who liked (and did not disdain using) scatological witticisms. We are being offered a visual pun, and a subtly clever one. By having the coat lining so positioned, Beethoven expresses his contempt for (what he hoped was) dying absolutism. The portrait, in sum, appears to represent a proper bourgeois male in formal attire in a bucolic landscape, but in what we might denominate its subtext it actually presents a revolutionary in a landscape saturated with revolution. Careful examination of a portrait, particularly when the subject joins forces with the artist, can reveal much about the person portrayed that we might not otherwise divine. It may well confirm what we may have

28

Chapter 1

suspected; if we persevere in our study, we may learn things we did not know before. Paintings, like other artistic endeavors, often have considerable intelligence behind them and concealed meanings within, meanings sometimes hidden in plain view, meanings that our distance in time makes difficult for us to understand and decode. My purpose in offering this detailed reading of Mähler’s portrait has been to illuminate Beethoven’s thinking at the time of the Eroica. No detail in Mähler’s portrait, full of the most subtle symbolism, is accidental. Though we rightly value the portrait as a depiction of Beethoven’s appearance in early maturity, it thus becomes, upon closer study, far more than that. Like the music it complements, the painting tells us that Beethoven wished to express in visual as well as in musical terms the message of freedom and liberation that the Eroica so magnificently conveys. The Beethoven of the Mähler portrait beckons us to listen to this music carefully. Admittedly, it would be highly unlikely that for a man of Beethoven’s genius only one source or influence brought into being a work as complex as the Eroica. Still, much of the music he wrote during this period of his life expresses his belief in revolution—intended here as an umbrella term, one that embraces radical change not only in raising music to new heights but also change in political systems and the nature of society. Europeans near the end of the eighteenth century had rightly sensed that life was getting better. That it might get better still utopian thinkers such as Baron d’Holbach, Nicolas de Condorcet, François-Noël Babeuf, Henri de Saint-Simon, and Charles Fourier happily predicted. Johann Gottlieb Fichte in his Addresses to the German Nation (1808) advocated a national renewal through the deeds of great men. Though Beethoven’s music tells of Promethean and Napoleonic striving, for both Prometheus and Napoleon were in themselves revolutionaries, most of all it projects his own utopian hopes.

NOTES 1. Romain Rolland, Beethoven the Creator, trans. Ernest Newman (New York: Harper, 1929), 123. 2. Histoire de la peinture en Italie (1817): “Every distinction among social conditions, a nuance so essential for happiness today, lies virtually in the way one wears clothing.” 3. Klaus Martin Kopitz and Rainer Cadenbach, Beethoven aus der Sicht seiner Zeitgenossen, 2 vols. (Munchen: G. Henle Verlag, 2009), 1: 60. The editors date the incident

The Eroica in Its Artistic Context

29

described to 1796–1800. Their account of Lisette von Bernhard’s observation of Beethoven, which I have paraphrased here, reads in German: “Dort sah sie auch Haydn und Salieri, die damals sehr berühmt waren, während man von Beethoven immer noch nichts Rechtes wisse wollte. ‘Ich errinere mich noch genau,’ schloss sie, ‘wie sowohl Haydn als Salieri in dem kleinen Musikzimmer an der einen Seite auf dem Sopha sassen, beide stets auf das sorfältigste nach der ältern Mode gekleidet, mit Haarbeutel, Schuhen und Seidenstrümpfen, während Beethoven auch hier in der freieren überrheinischen Mode, ja fast nachlässig gekleidet, zu kommen pflegte.’” 4. Whereas this study focuses on the relationship to the Eroica of the portrait done of Beethoven by Willibrord Joseph Mähler, a related essay takes up Johann Gottfried Seume’s Spaziergang nach Syrakus (1803), a book contemporary with the Eroica, whose perspectives on life, art, and politics appear close to Beethoven’s own. Seume brilliantly captures the dreariness of Viennese public life, and his sober perspective on Napoleon may also have modified Beethoven’s then more positive response. Both essays assess the composer’s revolutionary thinking at this time. 5.Tim Blanning, The Triumph of Music:The Rise of Composers, Musicians and Their Art (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008), 39. 6. Beethoven’s Tagebuch, cited from Maynard Solomon, Beethoven Essays (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), no. 43, 258. Solomon doubts that Beethoven actually had these portraits in his study, but with engravings of famous people being relatively inexpensive there’s no reason to think he did not. Beethoven’s interest in these figures indicates that he had seen engravings of them, liked them, and very much wanted to have them around him. That they were not among his belongings after his death means little. The auction of Beethoven’s estate (Alessandra Comini tells us) did not take place until eight months after his death, and his lodging during that time was left relatively unguarded. Anton Schindler committed serious pilfering, and others as well had access to his apartment (Comini, The Changing Image of Beethoven: A Study in Mythmaking [New York: Rizzoli, 1987], 45). 7. Discussed in my chapter, “The Eroica in Its Literary Context: Johann Gottfried Seume’s Spaziergang nach Syrakus,” in Beethoven:The Relentless Revolutionary (New York: Norton, forthcoming). An earlier version appeared in Beethoven Journal (2014). 8. I explore the significance of Lucius Junius Brutus in Beethoven’s intellectual imagination in “The Mask of Beethoven: Brutus, Revolution, and the Egyptian Mysteries,” in The Beethoven Journal 25.1 (Summer 2010): 4–15. 9. Ferdinand Ries, Beethoven Remembered:The Biographical Notes of Franz Wegeler and Ferdinand Ries (Arlington,VA: Great Ocean Publishers, 1987), 68. 10. Robert L. Herbert, David, Voltaire, Brutus and the French Revolution: An Essay in Art and Politics (New York:Viking, 1972), 72–78. 11. Robert G. Solomon, History and Human Nature (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979), 95. 12. Aileen Ribeiro, The Art of Dress: Fashion in England and France 1750 to 1820 (New Haven, CT:Yale University Press, 1995), 83.

30

Chapter 1

13. For changes in attire brought about by the Revolution, see Philip Mansel, Dressed to Rule: Royal and Court Costume from Louis XIV to Elizabeth II (New Haven, CT:Yale University Press, 2005), 72–86. 14. Max Graf, Composer and Critic: Two Hundred Years of Music Criticism (1946; New York: Norton, 1971), 167. 15.W. J.Turner, Beethoven:The Search for Reality (New York: George H. Doran, 1927), 36. Beethoven soon forgot he had a horse and may never have ridden it. 16. Carl Czerny, “Recollections from my Life,” Musical Quarterly 42.3 (July 1956): 306. In German in Kopitz and Cadenbach, Beethoven aus der Sicht seiner Zeitgenossen, 1: 203. Hans Gal observes that Beethoven was among the first to discard the pigtail of rococo fashion consciously and with conviction (Franz Schubert and the Essence of Melody [New York: Crescendo, 1977], 32). 17. Lavater’s ideas were further disseminated in the many later editions and abridgments of his treatise. 18. Bernt von Heiseler, Schiller, trans. John Bednall (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1962), 29. 19. Alfred Einstein, Greatness in Music, trans. César Saerchinger (1941; London: Da Capo, 1971), 17. My Byron, Sully, and the Power of Portraiture (Aldershot and Burlington: Ashgate, 2005) explores multiple meanings in a recently discovered portrait of Byron by the major American artist Thomas Sully. 20. “Ce héro fantastique restera le personnage réel; les autres portraits disparaîtrat”: FrançoisRené de Chateaubriand, Mémoires d’outre-tombe, ed. Maurice Levaillant and George Moulinier, 2 vols. (Paris: Gallimard, 1951), 1:1008. My translation. 21. Richard Wagner, My Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 30. See also Comini, The Changing Image of Beethoven, 253, 294. Wagner, who viewed himself as Beethoven’s heir, came to own three portraits of Beethoven. He liked best the grim-visaged interpretation by Ferdinand Waldmüller. 22. I draw here on the discussion in Blanning, Triumph of Music, 30–45, especially 34. 23. Tim Blanning, The Romantic Revolution: A History (New York: Modern Library, 2011), 94–95. 24. Emil Ludwig, Goethe: Geschichte eines Menschen, 2 vols. (Berlin: Ernst Rowohlt, 1926). 25. For Frau von Bernhard’s description, see Kopitz and Cadenbach, Beethoven in der Sicht seiner Zeitgenossen, 1: 60. See also the enlightening discussion of evolving images of Beethoven in Jean and Brigitte Massin, “Beethoven et la Révolution Française,” in L’Arc, no. 40, Musique de tous les temps 53 (1970), 3–14, especially 11–13. 26. Napoleon was 1 meter 68 centimeters in height, Beethoven about the same. The average height for adult men in France between 1800 and 1820 was a little over 1 meter 64 centimeters (approximately 5 feet 4 inches). Napoleon was not short for his time. Nor was Beethoven. 27. Kopitz and Cadenbach, Beethoven auf der Sicht seiner Zeitgenossen, 2: 969. 28. Cherubini: “un ours mal léché”: Peter Clive, Beethoven and His World: A Biographical Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 71. Goethe: “eine ganz ungebändigte

The Eroica in Its Artistic Context

31

Persönlichkeit”: Kopitz and Cadenbach, 1: 359 (letter to Carl Friedrich Zelter, September 2, 1812). 29. On the evolution of Beethoven’s appearance, the standard if imperfect work remains Theodore von Frimmel, Beethovens äussere Erscheinung (München: bei Georg Muller, 1905). Wilfrid Mellers offers a perceptive interpretation of the contradictions inherent in Beethoven’s being and appearance in his Beethoven and the Voice of God (London: Faber & Faber, 1984), 20–21. 30. Hugh Honour, cited from his essay “Neo-Classicism” in The Age of Neo-Classicism, exhibition catalog published by the Arts Council of Great Britain, (London,1972), xxiii. Honour quotes Sir Joshua Reynolds on ancient sculptors who “being indefatigable in the school of nature, have left models of perfect form behind them, which an artist would prefer as extremely beautiful, who has spent his whole life in that single contemplation”(xxii–xxiv). 31. I draw here on the brief essay by Ellen Spickernagel, “Goethe in der römischen Campagna,” in Museum: Städelsches Kunstinstitut Städtische Galerie Frankfurt am Main (Braunschweig: Westermann, 1983), 73–75, and, even more, on the recent and excellent Goethe und Tischbein in Rom. Bilder und Texte, ed. Petra Maisak (Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 2004). 32. John Armstrong, Love, Life, Goethe (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006), 180. 33. Goethe speaks of his friendship with the artist in his Italian Journey, ed. Thomas  P. Saine and Jeffrey L. Sammons, trans. Robert R. Heitner (New York: Suhrkamp Publishers, 1989), 113. 34. Alexander W. Thayer, Beethoven’s American biographer, met Mähler in old age and persuaded him to tell the story of his initial encounter with Beethoven; Thayer’s Life of Beethoven, ed. Elliot Forbes, 2 vols. (1964; Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967), 1: 336–37. Comini, The Changing Face of Beethoven, supplies further details (34–35). 35. Thayer, 1: 337; Comini, The Changing Face of Beethoven, 34. 36. Beethoven Carl Amenda, 1 July [1801]. “You [that is, Amenda] are no Viennese friend, no, you are one of those such as my native soil is wont to produce” (The Letters of Beethoven, ed. Emily Anderson, 3 vols. [New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1961] 1:63; in German in Beethoven, Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, ed. Sieghard Brandenburg, 7 vols. [Munchen: G. Henle Verlag, 1996–98], 1:67. 37. Comini, The Changing Face of Beethoven, 35, 37–38. Beethoven held the Mähler portrait of 1804-1805 in special esteem. He did not allow anyone to borrow it without good reason. Interaction between Beethoven and Mähler continued. The artist later made copies of this portrait. Upon Beethoven’s death, the original passed to his nephew Karl. It is now owned by the City Museum of the City of Vienna. A copy not by Mähler, belonging to Alexander Thayer, is ensconced in the Music Division of the New York Public Library. The unknown copier fudges a number of important details in the original (Owen Jander, Beethoven Forum [Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000], 8, 60; Jander, “Let Your Deafness No Longer Be a Secret—Even in Art:

32

Chapter 1

Self-Portraiture and the Third Movement of the C-Minor Symphony,” in Beethoven’s “Orpheus” Concerto: The Fourth Piano Concerto in Its Cultural Context (Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press, 2009), 174n26]. In 1815, Mähler painted a second portrait of Beethoven. It is a somber rendering in which the composer, his hopes disappointed by the Congress of Vienna, looks directly at the viewer. As the energetic bearing of the 1804–1805 portrait reflects a more optimistic time, Beethoven’s resigned look reveals the more pessimistic outlook of these years. 38. Mansel, Dressed to Rule, 81. 39. Along with several earlier essays, Owen Jander in his recent study Beethoven’s “Orpheus” Concerto adds considerably to our knowledge of the Mähler portrait. 40. Goethe would return to this concept in the second part of his Faust. 41. Goethe, Italian Journey, 114. 42. Comini, The Changing Face of Beethoven, 35. 43. Jander, Beethoven’s “Orpheus” Concerto, 152. The author gives many instances of historical portraits, both painted and sculpted. 44. Ibid., 152–60 (with many illustrations), 181. 45. Ibid., 171. 46. Comini, The Changing Face of Beethoven, 35. 47. See the famously controversial “letter” from Bettina von Arnim to Goethe in which she claims that Beethoven told her “that music is the highest manifestation of all wisdom and philosophy, it is the wine, that inspires us to new procreation, and I am the Bacchus who presses this wonderful wine for human beings and makes them spiritually intoxicated” (“dass Musik höhere Offenbarung ist als alle Weisheit und Philosophie, die ist der Wein, der zu neuen Erzeugungen begeistert, und ich bin der Bacchus, der für die Menschen diesen herrlichen Wein keltert und sie geistestrunken macht”) cited from Goethes Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde, ed. Waldemar Oehlke (Frankfurt am Main: Insel Taschenbuch, 1984), 382. Though the letter itself appears to be a fabrication, its contents may be substantially true. My translation. 48. Comini, The Changing Face of Beethoven, 35. 49. Jander, “Let Your Deafness No Longer Be a Secret,” 25–70, especially 56, 60–70. Surprisingly, Jander subsequently interpreted the raised hand as indicating that Beethoven contemplated suicide (Beethoven’s “Orpheus” Concerto, 176). 50. Peter Schleuning with Martin Geck, “Geschrieben auf Bonaparte.” Beethovens “Eroica”: Revolution, Reaktion, Rezeption (Reinbeck bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1989), 96. 51. Thayer, Beethoven, 1:337. 52. Good reproductions of the Mähler portrait are hard to find in books about Beethoven. Jander considers the best to be in Beethoven: A Documentary Study, compiled by H. R. Robbins Landon (New York: Macmillan, 1970), 183. I have also found helpful the reproduction in the catalog of the Beethoven exhibition, Die Flamme Lodert: Beethoven Ausstellung der Stadt Wien, May 26 to August 30, 1970, held at the Rathaus-Volkshalle,Vienna. 53. Circular temples also appear on estates designed in the English picturesque style such as Stourhead and in urban parks across Europe. There are examples in America,

The Eroica in Its Artistic Context

33

including a lovely tholos in Cincinnati’s Mount Storm Park. For a reproduction of that temple, see John Clubbe, Cincinnati Observed: Architecture and History (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1992), 315. 54. Anderson, Letters of Beethoven, 1:22; Beethoven, Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe (which dates it circa 1795), 19. 55. Jander has identified “the plant that Mähler has painted with meticulous care in the lower left-hand corner as the polygonum bistorta” (Beethoven’s “Orpheus” Concerto, 169).This may be, but “in Vienna the drawing of foliage,”Tim Blanning observes, “was taught not from life, but from paper leaves cut and glued together by the professors” (The Romantic Revolution, 13). Jander finds the gradually receding color of the foreground bush and the plant’s red berries “an ingenious Sinnbild [emblem] commenting on Beethoven’s gradual loss of hearing” (Beethoven’s “Orpheus” Concerto, 170). I am doubtful. 56. Jander, Beethoven’s “Orpheus” Concerto, 176.The shape is right for conifers. Jander assumes the “strange light in the distance” is Hades, but it seems to me more like the glow of the rising (or setting) sun. 57. “Trees of May” had a long history as an image of solidarity. For a visual depiction of two May trees, see Salomon van Ruisdael’s painting, “Feast under the Maypole” (Fest unter dem Maibaum) of 1655, in Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum. It depicts peasants, bourgeois, and aristocrats making merry together.The trees themselves are tall and thin, with some foliage on top, each encircled by a wreath. In 1848, that year of a later revolution, the Marseillaise officially acquired a new stanza, one first sung, it seems, in 1790 (François Noel Roy Le De Sainte-Croix, Le Chant de guerre pour l’armée du Rhin ou La Marseillaise [Strasbourg: Hagemann, 1880], 17). 58. Benjamin Franklin, Un Américan a Paris (1776–1785) (Paris: Musée Carnavalet, 2007–2008), 223. Exhibition catalog. 59. Fully leafed Trees of Liberty appear to be rare, but one of the few that I have come across crowns the hilltop in a watercolor of 1790 reproduced in color in Dorinda Outram, Panorama of the Enlightenment (Los Angeles: Getty Museum, 2006), 279. A watercolor of a Tree of Liberty on the French frontier, topped by a Phrygian cap and with ribbons floating in the wind, was sketched by no less a personage than Goethe. A plaque on the tree bears the inscription, “PASSANS CETTE TERRE EST LIBRE” (PASSERSBY, THIS LAND IS FREE) (ibid., 289). 60. Simon Schama recounts the incident in Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution (New York: Knopf, 1989), 382. For other relevant details about cockades, see Caroline Moorhead, Dancing to the Precipice: Lucie de la Tour du Pin and the French Revolution (London: Chatto & Windus, 2009), 99, 120, 132, 242. 61. Cited from Alan Palmer, Napoleon & Marie Louise: The Emperor’s Second Wife (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2001), 29–30. 62. “Go to the devil!”: Seume, Spaziergang nach Syrakus, edited and commented by Albert Meier (München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1994), 75. First published in 1803. 63. Quel Tell?, ed. Lilly Stunzi et. al. (Lausanne: Payot, 1973), 187.

34

Chapter 1

64. Ibid., 7–8. On Tell’s afterfame, see also Fritz Ernst, Wilhelm Tell als Freiheitssymbol Europas (1936; Zürich: Schweizer Verlaghaus, 1979), 102–3, and bibliographical references under “Freiheitsbäume” on 130. 65. C. A. Maccartney, The Hapsburg Empire, 1790–1918 (New York: Macmillan, 1969), 157. 66. For the towns and cities involved, see Uwe Martin, et al., Deutschland und die französische Revolution 1789/1989 (Stuttgart: Edition Cantz, 1989), 155. On this page also appears an engraving of the tree planted in Mainz, for several years the leading revolutionary outpost in the Rhineland. Pikes, also topped by Phrygian caps, are planted alongside. Engravings of Freiheitsbäume in Rastatt, Mannheim, Köln, Bonn, Speyer, Siegen, and Zweibrücken, as well as in Basel, are reproduced on 264, 266–67; other references to the trees are on 146, 156, 158, 180. 67. After counterrevolutionaries destroyed the Freiheitsbaum planted by German Jacobins in Mainz on November 3, 1792, the local Jacobins riposted by replacing it on the following January 3 with another tree. A plaque on it stated, “Paix aux peoples— Guerre au Tyrans” (Peace to the people—war to the tyrants). See Deutschland und die französische Revolution, 155. The illustration of the January 1793 tree shows the tree topped with a red Phrygian cap, here called a Jacobin’s cap (Jakobinermütze). 68. Beethoven zwischen Revolution und Restauration, ed. Helga Lühning and Sieghard Brandenburg (Bonn: Beethoven-Haus, 1989), 47; Edith Ennen and Dietrich Höroldt, Vom Römerkastell zur Bundeshaupstadt: Kleine Geschichte der Stadt Bonn (1967; Bonn: Stollfuss Verlag, 1976), 164–65. Bonn’s tree was a spruce (Fichte). This tree, or its successors, stood on the Markplatz for some years. See pp. 169–71 of Ennen and Höroldt for discussion of various celebrations associated with it during the French occupation. For example, in December 1797 when the news reached Bonn of the treaty of Campo Formio in which Napoleon imposed harsh terms upon a defeated Austria, it was again decorated. 69. Comini, The Changing Face of Beethoven, 35. For her, the Mähler portrait has a “charming if awkward balance--with its attributes of temple, lyre, outdoor setting, and dramatic blasted tree motif--of conventional `old-fashioned’ neoclassicism and the new Romanticism” (ibid., 38). Such a reading makes the case pictorially but evades consideration of the painting’s political references--and their significance. 70. Jander, “Let Your Deafness No Longer Be a Secret,” 60, 63. 71. Jander, Beethoven’s “Orpheus” Concerto, 177. 72. For example, the fallen beech tree in the foreground of Ruysdael’s “River Landscape with a Castle on a High Cliff ” (Cincinnati Art Museum). Reproduced in The Collections of the Cincinnati Art Museum (Cincinnati: Cincinnati Art Museum, 2000), 186. 73. In 1819–1820, while Joseph Karl Stieler painted Beethoven’s portrait, the Bourbons again ruled France, prompting one of Beethoven’s circle of friends to express the general opinion: “Die Bourbons sind überall auf dem Hund. Ein Baum der keine Früchte trägt, verdient ausgehauen und ins Feuer geworfen zu werden” (The Bourbons can all go to

The Eroica in Its Artistic Context

35

the dogs. A tree which bears no fruit deserves to be cut down and thrown into the fire) in Ludwig van Beethoven’s Konversationshefte, ed. Karl-Heinz Kohler, Grita Herre, and others, 11 vols. (Leipzig:VEB Deutsche Verlag fur Musik, 1972–2001), 1:393. The reference here encompasses Ferdinand VII of Spain as well as Louis XVIII of France, both Bourbon monarchs. 74. Peter Schleuning speaks of it as a Konsulmantel, that is a cloak in the style of Napoleon’s formal attire as First Consul (Schleuning and Geck, “Geschrieben auf Bonaparte,” 96). He wore the blue and white uniform of a colonel of the Grenadiers à pied when reviewing his guard on every tenth day of the still prevailing revolutionary calendar (Mansel, Dressed to Rule, 80). 75. Comini, The Changing Face of Beethoven, 35. For Jander, “Beethoven is clearly alluding to those lurking thoughts of suicide that he had confessed two years earlier in the Heiligenstadt Testament” (Beethoven’s “Orpheus” Concerto, 173). The coat, Jander believes, correlates to the Radoux portrait in which “the dark cape slipping from the elder Ludwig van Beethoven’s shoulder speaks of this man’s divestment from the disaster of his marriage” with an alcoholic wife. See also his article in “Let Your Deafness No Longer Be a Secret,” 67. I find both suppositions difficult to credit. 76. Frequently reproduced, e.g., in Christian Wasselin, Beethoven: Les plus beaux manuscrits (Paris: Éditions de la Martinière, 2009), 17. 77. Among pioneer aesthetic rebels, it may have been the revolutionists who first capitalized on the symbolism of clothes—and of color—as they had that of hair styles. When Thomas Carlyle described the influence of dress on mental bearing in his Sartor Resartus of 1834, he surveyed the previous half-century. The costume chosen by Goethe’s early hero, Werther—blue coat, yellow breeches, and top boots—was that which he wore when, disappointed in his love of another man’s betrothed and frustrated by what Goethe in his Sorrows of Young Werther called “dull, spiritless citizen life,” he killed himself. In the decades following, people regarded such a costume as a symbol of incipient disaster. As late as the mid-1870s, Brahms, worried that critics of his Piano Quartet in C minor would mete out a similar fate to him, jokingly offered to have himself photographed in Werther’s famous costume. Brahms’ appropriately somber quartet is sometimes even called the “Werther” (Jan Swafford, Johannes Brahms [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999], 139–40). 78. Schama, Citizens, 387. Until Louis’s failed attempt to escape in June 1792, many revolutionaries had envisaged a constitutional monarchy in which the king served the people. 79. Ribeiro, The Art of Dress, 86, 89. 80. Only gradually, however, did the three colors come to symbolize in France Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité. Though the first usage of the terms together is unknown, Liberté and Egalité were there from the beginning. Their conjunction with “Fraternity”—the term we often associate with Beethoven—came later. Beethoven stumbled over “Equality.” The concept often did not please him at all, except as a status before the law. “It is said vox populi, vox dei,” he once commented; “I never believed it” (Thayer,

36

Chapter 1

Beethoven, 1046).Though Beethoven did not consider his servants as equals, he wanted his music to reach all classes of society. Over the decades in Europe Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité gradually evolved into a kind of secular religion. A good history of these terms is found in Mona Ozouf ’s essay, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” in Realms of Memory:The Construction of the French Past, Volume III: Symbols, ed. Pierre Nora, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 77–114, especially 78–85. Over a century later, many of the world’s emerging nations have imitated the Revolutionary flag of France. Red, white, and blue also constitute the colors of the flag of the United States.

2 THOMAS COLE AND THE WILD AMERICAN SUBLIME G E OR G E H . G I LP I N

The arrangement of the rocks is artificial: the rock falling against another on the opposite side of the deep ravine, is finely rendered, but strike the eye as something forced, & not ordinarily seen in nature. . . . The rock teetering on its pivot is scarcely balanced enough. The spectator looks for it falling. —Robert Gilmor, patron, to Thomas Cole, artist, December 18271

T

homas Cole (1801–1848) was self-educated in the art and literature of his time and, like his intellectual counterpart in England, William Blake, possessed an imagination free of the shackles of cultural and artistic convention. While his American contemporaries at the beginning of the nineteenth century, many trained at the Royal Academy in London, were either still committed to the modes of landscape painting derived from the European tradition established in the seventeenth century by Claude Lorraine (1600–82) with his neo-classical pastoral scenes portraying an Arcadian “golden age” and by Salvator Rosa (1615–73) with his stark wastelands of bare crags and broken trees inhabited by bandits and hermits, or else painted conventional scenes in the English picturesque tradition prescribed by William Gilpin (1724–1804), Cole could look at the prospect of the New World around him in a spontaneous and original way. He could view America in the alternative tradition of English explorer-artists of the generation before him who in their world travels during the late eighteenth century began to discover and paint landscapes that did not conform to established European conventions and taste. To the discomfort of Royal Academy colleagues and London critics, William Hodges 37

38

Chapter 2

(1744–1797) enhanced the aesthetics of landscape painting by expanding its scenic subjects to sublime settings that he discovered beyond traditional European ones. Based on en plein air sketches, Hodges created paintings and engravings of real, intensely colored “Arcadias” inhabited by living “noble savages” in the exotic, tropical places where he traveled, the South Pacific islands as official artist on the second voyage of Captain Cook, and India as a professional landscape artist patronized by Governor General Warren Hastings. What Hodges saw and painted abroad was new to the European eye, and it expanded the mid eighteenth-century definition of characteristics to look for in sublime scenery that would inspire awe and wonder in the spectator. After encountering unexpected and novel sights in strange lands, Hodges looked for scenes to paint that possessed a quality of what he termed “singularity” which he associated with the sublime. Of an Indian prospect, he says “the appearance . . . formed a scene highly gratifying to the mind, entirely new to a European, of singular variety, and even sublime,” and he selects views that provide the unexpected experience: “The appearance of this part of the country is very singular, having immense masses of stone piled one on another; from the interstices of which are very large timber trees growing out, in some places overshadowing the whole of the rocks: the trees are of various kinds.”2 Following Hodges’s lead, Thomas Daniell (1749–1840) accompanied by his nephew William (1769–1837) traveled throughout India from 1786 to 1793 and upon their return to London created from their sketches oil paintings for exhibition and six portfolios of aquatints, Oriental Scenery (1795–1808). Thomas Daniell often expresses the idea of a sublime “singularity” to be found in the Indian prospect, and he chooses, like Hodges, artistic sites for the visually captivating effect that occurs when artifacts of varying ages and from different cultures are found together and where the artist can identify an unusual or unexpected feature in a composition to focus and distinguish an otherwise homogenous scene. When Daniell was elected to the Royal Academy in 1797, he described the Indian subject of his “Diploma” painting, Hindoo Temples at Bindrabund, as “beautiful and singular,” and “singularity” was the distinguishing compositional characteristic of the sites that Daniell selected for Oriental Scenery, especially later volumes like Antiquities of India and Twenty-Four Landscapes, engraved and published between 1799 and 1808. Concerning his choice of some of the scenes, Daniell writes, “the Author hopes that the singularity . . . will be a sufficient apology for introducing them here.” Publication of the later volumes of Oriental Scenery coincided with the period when Daniell’s friend, J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851), the most

Thomas Cole and the Wild American Sublime

39

celebrated English artist of the day, conceived his plan for Liber Studiorum and in 1807 began to create a series of portfolios containing engravings intended to be a guide to techniques and effects for art students.3 Turner acknowledged the artistic influence of Thomas Daniel and the idea of “singularity” on his conception when he said that he wanted Liber Studiorum “engraved like Mr. Daniell’s” and that Oriental Scenery “had succeeded in increasing our enjoyment by bringing scenes to our fireside, too distant to visit, and too singular to be imagined.”4 The plates were intended to demonstrate to apprentice artists how they might compose scenes and use the gradations of technique to convey different feelings and atmospheres for five categories, “Historic,” “Marine,” “Architecture,” “Pastoral,” and an undefined type of “Pastoral” enigmatically marked simply “EP.” Each of the plates designated “EP” contain an element that is distinctly out-ofplace or alien (or even so ridiculous as to make the point) in a conventional neoclassical setting; for instance, “Drawing of the Clyde” depicts a group of classical nymphs sunning themselves beside a waterfall on the Scottish river. In two plates, details that viewers might recognize as being borrowed directly from Oriental Scenery, a turbaned Hindu worshipping at a Brahmin tree-shrine and a bare-chested man bathing at a water tank, are incorporated into the middle of highly conventional Arcadian settings like those of Claude.5 Turner’s “EP” has been read, variously, to mean “Elegant,” “Elevated,” or “Epic Pastoral,” but, keeping in mind its relationship to Oriental Scenery and to Daniell’s idea of “singularity,” it designated compositions with an unusually “Enhanced,” or “Exotic,” element. Hodges, Daniell, and Turner set the precedent for Thomas Cole to break away from the conventions of European neo-classical and picturesque landscape traditions and to paint American views in his own way. The influence of their innovative landscapes is evident in the early paintings of Cole—those that initially brought him recognition and patronage in New York. Cole’s paintings of sites along the Hudson River, especially in the Catskill mountain region, derived their detailed clarity and brilliant color from being based on sketches created not in a studio but directly at a site in the open air, the en plein air approach to landscape first employed by Hodges and the Daniells in their travels.6 Many of Cole’s paintings are set in the autumn season when the colors of the New England foliage are most various and vivid; the intensity of bright colors in some views make them seem as exotic as Hodges’s tropical ones. And the painter looked for the element of “singularity” described by Hodges and Daniell and exemplified in Turner’s selection of subjects for his “EP” plates. On Cole’s first trip into the Catskills, he noted in his journal the “very singular effect” of the

40

Chapter 2

isolated, stricken, eerie scene that he depicted in his 1825 Lake with Dead Trees (Catskill), with trees stripped bare and resembling human stick figures engaged in a dance macabre mirrored in the lake7 (plate 2.1). The scene is made more dramatic to the spectator by the presence of a pair of startled buck deer in the foreground in sudden motion as they become aware of the presence of an intruder into the isolation and silence of their world. Because of the arresting originality of its design, the painting was one of the first to draw attention to Cole’s work in New York. William Hodges had been fascinated by unusual rock formations and “accidental caves,” commenting on the “singular excavations” that were “produced by the giving way and tumbling down of mountainous masses.”8 And the first time Cole visited what would be one of his favorite Catskill sites, Kaaterskill Falls, he commented on its “possessing a singular feature in the vast arched cave that extends beneath and behind the cataract.”9 The perspective—unusual for its ingenuity—of Cole’s first painting of the site, Kaaterskill Falls (1826), is contrived to emphasize its singularity: the upper falls is viewed from behind, looking outward from within the cave, the rocky arched entrance of which frames the top of the picture.10 In other paintings, there are terrifying crags and fractured peaks—often with rocks balanced precariously on them. Cole sketches the formation of granite ledges in the White Mountains that when seen in profile create the wellknown “Old Man of the Mountain,” and in his paintings the “faces” of protruding cliffs and rock outcroppings sometimes suggest human ones.11 In a journal note on “the character of trees,” Cole comments on his fascination with anthropomorphic natural imagery: Treading the mosses of the forest, my attention has often been attracted by the appearance of action and expression in surrounding objects, especially of trees. I have often been led to reflect upon the fine effects they produce, and to look into the causes. They spring from some resemblance to the human form. . . . There is an expression of affection in intertwining branches,—of despondency in the dropping willow. . . . Expose them to adversity and agitations, and a thousand original characters start forth, battling for existence or supremacy. On the mountain summit, trees grasp the crags with their gnarled roots, and struggle with the elements with wild contortions.12

Dead and broken trees with storm ravaged branches were such a signature motif of Cole—and prolifically present in paintings throughout his career— that when he died his friend Asher Durand emphasized this motif in the foreground of his memorial painting, Kindred Spirits (1849), which showed

Thomas Cole and the Wild American Sublime

41

the painter with his friend, the nature poet William Cullen Bryant, overlooking a composite landscape of two of Cole’s favorite sites, Kaaterskill Falls and the Catskill Clove. An 1827 painting, Evening in the White Mountains, provides an inventory of Cole’s singular effects (figure 2.1). As in many of Cole’s landscapes, the sky is darkening; a storm consisting of swirling dark clouds and mist is advancing across a mountain pass. The season is autumn, and the colors of the foliage of a tree at the center of the composition are still brilliantly lit, the gloom of the nearing storm not yet reaching it. In contrast, a bush below it, still catching the light in the middle foreground, is ravaged and bare of leaves. The view into the valley is framed on the left by the tall trunk of a storm-damaged tree broken off at the top and on the right by a tree bare of any leaves. A pair of large boulders, similar to each other in both having tops that are unusually pointed, still catch the fading light in the foreground, and their shape is repeated in the sharp peaks of the mountains that rise in the background. The drama of the storm advancing through

FIGURE 2.1. Thomas Cole, Evening in the White Mountains, c. 1827. The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.

42

Chapter 2

the wilderness is enhanced by the presence of a frightened deer under the broken tree on the left and of a bird sitting on an upper branch of the bare tree on the right that has not yet taken flight; another bird is already flying away. With its pairing and contrasting of elements of the landscape, Cole’s design of the whole composition creates an effect of remarkable symmetry against the initial expectation of chaos that a viewer might conventionally have in seeing a representation of the approach of a storm in the wilderness. Just as Hodges and the Daniells had extended the scope of landscape painting beyond the conventional subjects of European neo-classicism and British picturesque—and included native figures from the places they traveled in place of conventional Arcadian ones who represented an ideal and antique “golden age”—so too does Cole extend the strategy to the American wilderness. Cole probably first became fascinated by American Indians—unique aboriginals like Hodges’s Pacific islanders—as an art student in Philadelphia when he visited Charles Willson Peale’s museum and saw the costumes and artifacts collected by Lewis and Clark on their 1804–1806 western expedition displayed there.13 In Cole’s compositions Indians are not the focus or subject but rather they are figures blended and integrated into large views of the wild, as if they are a natural aspect of the setting. By Cole’s time Native Americans were no longer recognizably present in New England. Their appearance in his paintings hence provides the kind of singular or “exotic” element used by Turner to provoke viewers, giving a legendary aura to the landscape and stimulating thoughts of “noble savages” who once populated a wild and Edenic America. Indian figures began to appear in Cole’s paintings in the cultural moment created by the popularity of his New York friend and neighbor James Fenimore Cooper’s series of historical romances that became known as the “Leatherstocking Tales.” The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757, was published in 1826, the same year that Cole first incorporated Native American figures in his compositions. Falls of Kaaterskill includes a warrior leaning on his bow posed on a ledge as if to guide the viewer’s attention to what the painter found to be the “singular feature” of the site, the arched cave behind the falls (figure 2.2). The figure seen at some distance is diminutive and provides a sense of scale that enhances the sublimity of the prospect, and, for the reader of Cooper, the warrior might readily be associated with Uncas, the titular hero of the novel. Indian figures become a recurrent motif in Cole’s landscapes, and they are usually solitary warriors. But, in 1830, he depicts a Native American couple viewing Niagara Falls from the overlook known as “Table Rock”; this depiction may well represent an artist’s joke because by then Niagara Falls was already a popular wedding and

Thomas Cole and the Wild American Sublime

43

FIGURE 2.2. Thomas Cole, Falls of Kaaterskill, 1826. The Warner Collection of Gulf States Paper Corporation, Alabama.

honeymoon destination for New Englanders. (Frederic Church extended the joke when, as Cole’s student in 1844, he copied an engraving of the painting and showed Table Rock crowded with Native American tourists.) In Cole’s paintings, Indian figures appear as benign presences that are aspects of the wilderness, initially unnoticed and sometimes almost invisible as their colorful dress harmonizes with and often blends into the natural setting. In The Clove, Catskills (1827), a solitary Indian figure stands on a

44

Chapter 2

bluff looking out over mountains resplendent with autumn colors; in his dark colored clothing, he visually blends into the background and is literally one with the wilderness. While this Indian figure is placed at the focal center of the composition, another enhancing—singular—element in the right foreground of the scene is more obvious: gnarled roots intertwined in bare crags that suggest two human faces observing the scene, a strategy of natural spectators that Cole would employ in later paintings. To the viewer who has been trained by the European aesthetic conventions of the age to expect classical subjects in landscapes or pleasing picturesque scenes, the inclusion of Native American figures—in place of the traditional Arcadian figures of neoclassical views—is startling, and this disturbance of expectation, which evokes a sense of “singularity,” enhances the viewer’s experience. The Indian figures provoke thought beyond the picturesque interest of the landscape subject itself; indeed, the disturbing and mysterious disjunction created by their presence enhances the viewer’s response to the scene to the point of providing a sublime experience.14 These singular elements in Cole’s compositions were the artist’s way of emphasizing the wildness of America, an idea he explained in his “Essay on American Scenery”: “A very few generations have passed away since this vast tract of the American continent, now the United States, rested in the shadow of primeval forests, whose gloom was peopled by savage beasts, and scarcely less savage men; or lay in those wide grassy plains called prairies . . . perhaps the most impressive, characteristic of American scenery is its wildness.” Consequently, Cole’s landscapes transport the viewer into an ahistorical, pre-colonized native time or to a frontier world that has either disappeared or moved much farther west; the viewer knows he is encountering an idealized past in which civilization has either not yet intruded or has reached only an initial stage of progress. Daniel Huntington (1816–1906), a friend who painted Cole’s portrait, recognized the artist’s rejection of the conventional English picturesque tradition and defined the singularity of his friend’s landscapes: He studied to embody whatever was characteristic of the singular grandness and wildness of mountain, lake and forest, in the American wilderness. He rejected, at this time, all that was conventional, all the usual methods of the picturesque, everything that looked like cultivation, or the hand of art softening the rudiments of uncontaminated nature. He would scarcely admit into his productions the hut of the adventurer, or the lonely fisherman; but preferred the Indian canoe, or the savage himself stealthily moving among fallen trees, or the deer fearlessly drinking the waters of the lake.15

Thomas Cole and the Wild American Sublime

45

The sublimity created by the aesthetics of singularity was not just in the eye of the beholder but in the intellectual and moral effects created in the mind as well. Richard Wilson (1714–1782), known as “the English Claude,” began an effort in the 1760s to give landscape painting the same intellectual significance as the two most respected eighteenth-century genres, history (or heroic) painting and portraiture. He exhibited works in which landscape was presented not just for the scene it pictured but as a setting with literary associations that conveyed moral ideas. (Cole said that the only oil painting that he copied during his first visit to England in 1829 was one by Wilson.) Wilson’s student Hodges continued the argument for the creation of didactic landscape paintings that would rival the dignity and noble purpose—and critical status—of history paintings; he complained that while landscape painting might offer the opportunity for “the most exact similitude, the happiest composition, and pencilling governed by the hand of Truth,” nevertheless, “there seemed very rarely to me any moral purpose in the mind of the artist.”16 By Cole’s time, the intellectual and moral aspect of landscape painting had become identified with poetry, and works were described as “poetical” in their rivalry with those with historical, or heroic, subjects.17 Cole’s friend Cooper, at the time of the artist’s death in 1848, commented, “I know of no painter whose works manifest such high poetic feeling as those of Cole. . . . It is quite a new thing to see landscape painting raised to the level of the heroic in historical composition; but it is constantly to be traced in the works of Cole.”18 Frederic Church, writing in remembrance of his teacher, said, “I believe him to be the best landscape painter that ever lived— . . . in profound poetic feeling he was far beyond Turner and equal to Claude and vastly superior to Claude in knowledge.”19 For Church and Cooper, the expression of “poetic feeling” was the highest achievement of an artist, the term having been defined for them not only by the example of Cole but also for their generation by John Ruskin, the most influential British critic of the time, who, with the example of the prolific J. M. W. Turner always in mind, stated in the third volume of Modern Painters: “Painting is properly to be opposed to speaking or writing, but not to poetry. Both painting and speaking are methods of expression. Poetry is the employment of either for the noblest purposes.”20 Cole’s very approach to painting could be described as “poetical.” As his friend and biographer Louis Noble remarked, his works “are poems, ranging from the sonnet and song to the ballad and romance, and so on to the epic.”21 Part of Cole’s creative process in conceptualizing pictorial imagery was composing poems of his own, and in doing so he followed the example of contemporaries like Washington Allston in America and Turner

46

Chapter 2

in England. In his poetry, as well as his prose, Cole frequently refers or alludes to the Romantic poets of his generation—especially Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Byron, but also Keats, Hemans, and Shelley, as well as the antecedents in literary mythmaking that influenced them, Milton, Bunyan, and, of course, the Bible. The painter’s favorite poet, Wordsworth, had eschewed literary and metropolitan London to live in Grasmere in the rural and remote Lake District, and from the time Cole moved to New York in 1825 to pursue his career, the Hudson River Valley became his Lake District and the mountainous farming village of Catskill his Grasmere. Cole, during his trip to England in 1829, paid homage to Wordsworth’s sense of place by visiting the Lake District and sketching some of the poet’s favorite sites, and he exhibited an oil painting, View of Lake Windermere, England, at the National Academy of Design exhibition in 1830. Appropriate for an artist steeped intellectually in the heritage of contemporary English poets, Cole, beginning in 1833 shortly after his return from Europe, created a seasonal studio in one of the outbuildings on a Catskill farm called “Cedar Grove.” Visiting the farm in 1834, he wrote, O Cedar Grove! Whene’er I think to part From thine all peaceful shades my aching heart Is like to his who leaves some blessed shore A weeping exile ne’er to see it more.22

Cedar Grove Farm became for the painter a retreat away from the distracting professional and social demands of New York City, a creative bower where the artist could paint and compose and a place that he celebrated poetically in the conventional pastoral and spiritual terms of Romantic odes: A holy calm pervades The rural earth—where men Assemble there is turmoil; but these shades Are unto me a solemn sacred place, Where Envy—malice—pride can never come Or coming, quickly all the demon race Languish and die—the wildwood is their tomb—23

At the farm Cole met Maria Bartow, a niece of the owners, who became his wife in 1836. After their marriage, Cole moved permanently from New York to the village of Catskill to live at Cedar Grove as a farmer-artist surrounded—as Wordsworth was at Grasmere—by favorite landscape subjects,

Thomas Cole and the Wild American Sublime

47

Kaaterskill Falls, The Clove, Catskill Creek, and wild mountain vistas. Appropriate to the place, what became known as Cole’s “Storehouse Studio” was fashioned out of space on the second floor of a carriage house on the farm (Cole later designed and built a separate studio building). The paintings Cole created at Cedar Grove Farm offered a rich array of Romantic myth and themes. Steeped in the Romantic philosophy of Wordsworth and Coleridge like his contemporaries Emerson at Concord and Thoreau at Walden, Cole at Catskill came to believe that the contemplation of divinely created natural sublimity through reading poems or seeing paintings could provide a spiritual and transcendent experience, an imaginative and prophetic moment of vision that looked beyond human time and history and offered a glimpse of immortality. In his “Essay on American Scenery,” Cole effused: Poetry and Painting sublime . . . purify thought, by grasping the past, the present, and the future—they give the mind a foretaste of its immortality and thus prepare it for performing an exalted part amid the realities of life. And rural nature is full of the same quickening spirit—it is, in fact, the exhaustless mine from which the poet and the painter have brought such wondrous treasures—and unfailing fountain of intellectual enjoyment, where all may drink, and be awakened to a deeper feeling of the roots of genius, and a keener perception of the beauty of our existence.

The kind of contemplation required to achieve such vision is clearly revealed by Cole’s description of his own mode of work as an artist: My desire & endeavour is always to get the objects of nature, sky, rocks, trees, &c as strongly impressed on my mind as possible & by looking intently on an object for twenty minutes I can go to my room & paint it with much more truth, than I could if I employed several hours on the spot. By this means I become more intimately acquainted with the characteristics of the spirit of Nature than I could otherwise do & think that a vivid picture of any object in the mind’s eye is worth a hundred finished sketches made on the spot. . . . And by my method I learn better what Nature is & painting ought to be—get the philosophy of Nature & Art—whereas a finished sketch may be done without obtaining either one or the other—and is in great measure a mere mechanical operation.24

Hence, in his definition of the sublime and his description of his own artist’s search to find and express it, Cole conjoined Wordsworth’s “intimations of immortality” and Coleridge’s “secondary imagination” into his own definition of the creative discovery of the soul through the contemplation of nature.25

48

Chapter 2

Cole’s first painting on an American national theme, Daniel Boone at His Cabin at Great Osage Lake (1826), is a portrait of a man contemplating nature, and it provides an early example of Cole’s complex adaptation and integration of literary sources to create a “poetical” composition (figure 2.3). Boone in the 1770s had fought Indian wars on what was then the American frontier west of the Allegheny Mountains and had lead pioneers through the Cumberland Gap to settle Kentucky, and his adventures, both real and legendary, had made him a national hero. Cole felt a particularly personal association with Boone and his folklore because the frontiersman had been a living legend in the Ohio River Valley where Cole had lived as a youth and began his career. More recently, Boone, who died at age eighty-five in 1820, had been the model for the character of the frontiersman Natty Bumppo in Cooper’s series of “Leatherstocking Tales.” Cole’s

FIGURE 2.3. Thomas Cole, Daniel Boone at His Cabin at Great Osage Lake, 1826. Mead Art Museum, Amherst College.

Thomas Cole and the Wild American Sublime

49

portrait of Daniel Boone incorporates Cooper’s initial description of Natty Bumppo in The Prairie (1827), the second “Leatherstocking Tale,” composed about the same time that the artist completed his painting. Bumppo, identified only as “the trapper” in this novel, is introduced in old age and identified as a founder of Kentucky who, as Boone did, is seeking to move further west to lands in the Louisiana Purchase to escape encroaching civilization and to recover a wilderness existence: Thousands of the elders, of what were then called the New-States, . . . were to be seen leading long files of descendents, born and reared in the forests of Ohio and Kentucky, deeper into the land, in quest of that which might be termed, without the aid of poetry, their natural and more congenial atmosphere. The distinguished and resolute forester, who first penetrated the wilds of the latter state, was of the number. This adventurous and venerable patriarch was now making his last remove . . . seeking for the renewal of enjoyments which were rendered worthless in his eyes, when trammelled by the forms of human institutions.26

Cooper’s description evokes Byron’s 1823 image of Boone as poetical pioneer in Canto VIII of Don Juan (stanzas 60–67).27 Byron suddenly interrupts a narrative devoted to the killing and horrors of European warfare to introduce a contrasting pastoral interlude, “To deem the woods shall be our home at last” (8: 60), focused on Boone in the American wilderness: Of the great names which in our faces stare, The General Boon, back-woodsman of Kentucky, Was happiest amongst mortals any where; For killing nothing but a bear or buck. (8: 61)

The poet represents Boone not as a frontier hero of the “Byronic” cast, but, rather, in terms of the tranquil pastoral worlds of reclusive wanderers and innocents in nature usually found in the poems of Wordsworth. Byron describes Boone as a figure of solitude who “shrank from men even of his nation” and “Enjoyed the lonely, vigorous, harmless days, / Of his old age in wilds of deepest maze” as “an active hermit; even in age the child / Of Nature” (8: 61, 63). And Byron’s Boone, like the children of nature depicted in Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads (1798), lives in the liberating world of “Green Woods” found in Shakespearean romances surrounded by “A sylvan tribe of children of the chase / Whose young, unwaken’d world was ever new” in the “free-born forest” that “kept them free, / And fresh as is a torrent or a tree” (8: 65).

50

Chapter 2

On a list of possible subjects to paint, Cole includes “Daniel Boone looking from the eminence over the vast forest & seeing the Ohio for the first time.” But Cole’s actual portrait of the legendary Boone, despite the heroic possibilities of the subject’s life, remarkably lacks drama and confutes the popular myths; following Cooper and Byron’s lead, it takes an unexpectedly understated literary approach to its subject.28 The painting commemorates the explorer and frontiersman not in the melodramatic moment of excited discovery but, rather, pictures him in retirement sitting comfortably alone, his dog beside him, in front of a crude log cabin home and contemplating the tranquil wilderness around him. Visual references tie Cole’s representation of Boone to Cooper’s protagonist: Boone holds a flintlock “long rifle” like the one that Bumppo always carries in his role as the “deerslayer,” and the hunting association is reinforced by the still bleeding carcass of a slain buck beside the hunter’s seat. Boone’s dress is Indian in appearance—moccasins on his feet, leather pants, woolen coat, bright red shawl—that remind us of Bumppo who was raised among Native Americans and dressed in their fashion. (Indeed, a preliminary sketch for the painting suggests that Cole drew a seated Indian figure and merely put Boone’s face on it.) 29 A faithful companion hound, like Bumppo’s dog Hector, is by Boone’s side. Without the title’s identification of Boone as the subject, the viewer might well assume that the painting is another illustration by Cole of Cooper’s novels. The title of the painting identifies the setting where Boone had moved to retire in 1799 as “Great Osage Lake,” but the actual site was not in Kentucky (some accounts erroneously add “Kentucky” to the title of the painting) and not on a lake but on a creek—Femme Osage Creek—in a wild area across the Missouri River controlled at the time by Spain before it was acquired by the United States as part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Boone is pictured alone, even though he retired westward with his wife and children, and the log cabin by which he sits resembles not the substantial two-story limestone house in which he died in Missouri but rather a far more primitive and crude trapper’s house suitable for his fictional counterpart Bumppo. Boone appears like Byron’s “active hermit,” but there is no “sylvan tribe of children” present as imagined by the poet.30 Typical of Cole’s compositions in which human figures are usually subsidiary to nature, Boone and his homestead are only a part of the left foreground of an expansive landscape scene that depicts storm ravaged trees in the foreground, a lake darkened by an overcast sky in middle ground, and mountains with ragged cliffs in the background, scenery more typical in appearance to Cole’s rugged New England than the gently rolling hills

Thomas Cole and the Wild American Sublime

51

amid the salt licks of Missouri. The portrait of Boone, like Cooper’s novel, parallels Byron’s sense of ultimate home, “To deem the woods shall be our home at last,” and the frontiersman appears as a kind of prophet of the “holy calm” to be found in the American New World. The inactive pose of the legendary man of action Boone, initially so unexpected to the viewer, embodies the spiritual experience of the wilderness that Cole later defined when he wrote in his “Essay on American Scenery” that “those scenes of solitude . . . affect the mind with a more deep toned emotion than aught which the hand of man has touched. Amid them the consequent associations are of God the creator—they are his undefiled work, and the mind is cast into the contemplation of eternal things.” The figure of Boone as frontier philosopher prefigures the artist’s own search for a contemplative and spiritual pastoral life in which to create. When Cole’s success as an artist in New York was assured, the painter became more ambitious and turned away from doing identifiable wilderness scenes. Expressing a radical and prophetic spirit like that of William Blake, he commented in 1826, “If the imagination is shackled, and nothing is described but what we see, seldom will anything truly great be produced either in Poetry or Painting.”31 Cole then began an ongoing search for sources on which to base allegorical and moral works of landscape—what he termed a “higher style of landscape.”32 Following the example of contemporaries like Turner and John Martin (1789–1854), he undertook complex allegorical paintings on literary and Biblical subjects as a way of expressing his sensibility to the evidence found in wild scenery that reveals either the prelapsarian beauty and power of divine Creation or the tragic effect of the Fall on nature and mankind. Cole’s perspective is ironic in expressing his underlying pessimistic Christian belief that the natural world, even with its often wondrous beauty, is still a fallen place; as he says in his “Essay on American Scenery,” “We are still in Eden; the wall that shuts us out of the garden is our own ignorance and folly.” From the beginning of his career, this view inspires some of his most singular and sublime landscapes—depicted in recurrent and predominate motifs of incipient storms, blasted, broken, and dead trees, and terrifying crags and fractured peaks. Having already used The Prairie as a source, Cole as he looked for subjects for his “higher style” again found inspiration in his friend Cooper’s “Leatherstocking Tales.” The novelist, like the painter, liked to depict a wild natural world, and he created extravagant wilderness settings as backgrounds to the melodrama of his plots. Consequently, Cole’s literary landscapes of 1826–1827 present symbolic settings to illustrate the violence enacted in the final scenes of Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, and

52

Chapter 2

a painting derived from these, Indian Sacrifice. In composing them, Cole greatly reduces the scale of the human scenes in order to focus the viewer’s attention on his imagined settings consisting of gothic capriccios of a wilderness comprised of bleak mountain-tops, ominous boulders, frightening pinnacles, and precariously balanced rocks. 33 From his philosophical and aesthetic ponderings, Cole, in 1827, creates an ironic pendant to his portrayal of Boone of about the same size and with a title that calls attention to his creative experimentation and speculation, Landscape Composition: St. John in the Wilderness (figure 2.4). In contrast to the calm scene of Daniel Boone, the painting centers on a melodramatic scene of the prophet in action vigorously preaching to a motley and restless crowd while confronted by a Roman soldier with a spear in hand. The conflict with authority is enhanced by St. John’s pose as a Christ figure with arms outstretched, a cruciform shape that is echoed by a spindly wooden cross behind him. The Landscape Composition is set in a dark wilderness of bare cliffs, deep ravines, stark mountains, and smoke-like clouds; it is a nightmare presented in the Old World chiaroscuro style of Salvator Rosa that suggests Cole’s imagined vision of hell as a natural world gone dead, too inert to respond to inspiration and prophecy. Yet, above the gloomy ravine a cathedral-like pinnacle of stone points upward to a clear, blue sky with a purple mountain visible in the background. Below, the prophet stands atop a huge skull-like rock protruding from a mountainside; crevasses and fractures in the singular “face” of the cliff suggest the features of a human one looking down on the dark valley below. The cold indifference of nature suggested by the human profile of the great rock is reinforced by other highlighted areas of the composition where only blank, barren faces of stone cliffs are illuminated. In contrast to the portrait of Daniel Boone meditating in the American wilderness, the painting of St. John presents the sublime horror of a landscape of desolation in which the prophet is appealing to heaven above from the dark wilderness of a fallen world. The identification of motifs in the Landscape Composition with the Fall becomes more explicit in Expulsion from the Garden of Eden (1827–1828), the first of two ambitious paired paintings on the fall of man and nature (plate 2.2). The painting is based on a composite of scenes initially derived from mezzotint illustrations for Milton’s Paradise Lost (1824–1827) by John Martin. Its moral focus, adapted from Martin’s “Adam and Eve Driven out of Paradise,” is the cringing figures of Adam and Eve being driven forth from Paradise amid a tornadic thunderstorm of swirling clouds and rain. The top of the crude stone archway through which they have fled resembles the pinnacle rock above St. John in the wilderness. Glaring light from

FIGURE 2.4. Thomas Cole, Landscape Composition: St. John in the Wilderness, 1827. Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford.

54

Chapter 2

Eden shines through the archway into the dark wasteland world of treacherous rocky paths and distant bare peaks where Adam and Eve wander. Cole expands the scope of the scene to enhance its sublimity, both terrible and beautiful, and its tragic irony: “I have introduced the more terrible objects of nature, and have endeavored to heighten the effect by giving a glimpse of the Garden of Eden in its tranquility,” he said.34 Adam and Eve’s world is one of darkness and death in which predators from earth and sky, a wolf and a vulture, contend for the carcass of dead stag, and their path crosses a rocky arched bridge over an abyss like one over the underworld of Chaos inhabited by Satan and his progeny in another of Martin’s illustrations. The progeny of the Fall, Sin, and Death, may well be present in the right foreground of Cole’s composition in the form of two giant heads that appear as anthropomorphic forms made up of shapes carved in the face of the cliff encrusted with dead foliage that seem to be watching Adam and Eve in their plight; the forms are similar to the “spectators” that appear in the foreground of The Clove, Catskills, done the same year, and the skull profile on which St. John preaches. Cole’s usual motif of broken, storm battered trees, most notably a withered palm, dominate the left foreground, and Cole adds details to his view of the fallen world derived from his interest in catastrophic vulcanistic and diluvium geologic theories of the creation of the earth: a volcano in full eruption, the raging waters of a cataract, and a violent thunderstorm.35 Adam and Eve’s mark has been “set”—like the Biblical one on Cain—on their dark world in the form of their silhouettes etched like a petroglyph into the cliff above them.36 As the background for his composition, Cole adds an extensive view of the Paradise—and the “tranquility”—that Adam and Eve have lost based on various prints by Martin that depict Eden as a sunny and bright place with luxuriant plants, tall trees, a pair of peacefully grazing deer, and a quiet pond with a pair of swans on it that looks like the manicured park of an eighteenth-century country estate designed by Capability Brown (a couple of small palms, the “exotics” which were often included in eighteenth-century landscape design, are also present). Also, as in earlier works by the artist as well as John Martin’s large apocalyptic compositions, Cole’s human figures are so diminished in size in relation to the scope of the scene that the ironic sublimity of a landscape that combines images of natural horror and violence with the beauty of the lost paradise dominates the presentation. In contrast to Expulsion from the Garden of Eden—with its borrowings from Martin, Cole executed a highly imaginative companion piece, The Garden of Eden (1828), a painting that would establish significant motifs for his later allegorical work (figure 2.5). The idea for the design of the

Thomas Cole and the Wild American Sublime

55

FIGURE 2.5. Thomas Cole, The Garden of Eden, 1828. Amon Carter Museum, Ft. Worth.

composition was Martin’s mezzotint, “Adam and Eve, The Morning Prayer,” but Cole does not present Paradise, as in his source, as an English garden, but, rather, conceives of it as a New World wilderness, a singular exotic landscape that has origins in his own experience of first seeing the tropical landscape of the Caribbean. In 1819 the young artist found an opportunity to sail with a friend through the Caribbean to the West Indies volcanic island of St. Eustatia. On this trip, he experienced first-hand the paradisiacal beauty of tropical scenery for which he would later find use in his allegorical works. His biographer Noble described Cole’s experience in St. Eustatia of seeing “fields of flowery luxuriance, groves of dark and glistening green made the spaces between the sea-shore and the distant slopes look to his enamored eyes like Paradise: a glory sat on the rugged peaks after the sun went down in the shining waves.”37 Cole in his design, following that of Martin, places Adam and Eve in the left middle ground at a distance from the viewer, but he adopts the visual strategy of diminishing their presence in the overall scene even more with the result that they are inconspicuous.38 Moreover, Cole takes the remarkable further step of removing altogether the usual melodramatic moral context of traditional views of the Garden of Eden: the fall is not imminent; Adam and

56

Chapter 2

Eve, quite simply, enjoy the luxuriant beauty of their tropical paradise at sunrise. Separated from its dramatic companion showing Adam and Eve’s expulsion, the subject of this painting thus becomes a celebration of the sublime beauty of an Eden conceived as the epitome of ideal nature. As the artist says of the painting, “I have endeavoured to conceive a happy spot wherein all the beautiful objects of nature were concentred.”39 When Cole describes his conception in a euphoric litany of landscape details, Adam and Even seem to be a small part of the “happy” scene, perhaps even an afterthought: The Garden of Eden is the subject—The scene as it exists in my mind’s eye is very beautiful. . . . there are in it lofty distant Mountains, a calm expansive lake, wooded bays, rocky promontories—a solitary island, undulating grounds, a meandering river, cascades, gentle lawns, groups of noble trees of various kinds, umbrageous recesses, a crystall rill with bed of brilliant marble, golden sands, pebbles of every dye—banks of beauteous flowers, fruits, harmless and graceful animals & c & c. . . . I must say that our first parents must not be forgotten they are on the flowery threshold of their bower, watching the glorious sun, rise from his eastern couch.40

In the completed painting, Cole’s ideal place turns out to be blatantly tropical: it has palms and banana trees, swirling vines on huge old-growth trees, exotic plumed birds, swinging monkeys, richly hued bromeliads, roses, lilies, and brightly colored mineral rocks in the stream with the jewel-like shapes of precious stones. And dislocated from the focus of the composition in the distance on the left side of the middle ground appear Adam and Eve, naked, merely details in Eden: they are looking and pointing with hands upraised as if in worship of the luxuriant beauty of Nature that surrounds them. Theirs is not the pose of humility and kneeling prayer for morning orisons specified by Martin’s mezzotint (Paradise Lost, Book, V, 138–45); rather, it is a pose celebrating Paradise at daybreak as described by Milton at the beginning of Book Five. A couple of small palms appear amid the English trees above Adam and Eve in Martin’s mezzotint, but in Cole’s tropical Eden a great palm tree overhangs the couple to mark their distinctly tropical world.41 The background complements their tropical New World with a great snowcapped, cloud-laden mountain and a dynamic waterfall, a composite landscape perhaps derived from Alexander von Humboldt’s Cordilleras views of quiescent Cayambe Volcano and of the waterfall at Tequendama.42 Only by reference to Cole’s companion but earlier painting of the expulsion can be found hints of the eventual fall

Thomas Cole and the Wild American Sublime

57

in his Garden of Eden. The palm above Adam and Eve may suggest the storm-ravaged one in the fallen world, and the quiescent mountain and waterfall of Eden would be transformed into the erupting volcano above the fleeing pair and the threatening cascade beneath them as the fall of humanity transforms tranquil Paradise into turbulent Creation. By combining visual inspiration from Martin’s mezzotints and literary inspiration, from Milton and the Bible in Expulsion from the Garden of Eden and Garden of Eden, Cole succeeded in creating moral landscapes of the “higher style” that he desired. His achievement marked the completion the first period of his development as an artist, and in seeking new inspiration he went abroad from 1829 to 1831. During a grand tour to England, France, and Italy, Cole met Turner, Martin, Constable, and other artists, and he acquired a vast knowledge of European painting. The main benefits for Cole, who made the tour in mid-career, were to find some attractive new subjects and strategies for landscapes and to become even more ambitious in thinking about epic allegorical efforts. After his return to America his most original projects were always in some sense “poetical” in their origins and singular in their execution; he borrowed ideas from both art and literature and developed imagery for his paintings by first composing his own poems. The epic sequences of paintings that Cole undertook were not only moral but prophetic, allegorical visions—like William Blake’s “prophetic books”—intended to awaken his audience. Seeing Turner’s paintings, Rise of the Carthaginian Empire (1815) and its pendant, Decline of the Carthaginian Empire (1817), in London and visiting the ruins of empire around Rome reminded the artist of the weary fatalism and irony about history expressed by Byron’s persona in Canto IV of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, all of which influenced Cole when he undertook his ambitious epic series, The Course of Empire (1834–1836). Cole paints the series at a particularly appropriate historical moment for an American artist to consider the history of empires, the sixtieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. His sequence of five paintings—The Savage State, The Arcadian or Pastoral State, The Consummation of Empire, Destruction, Desolation—expresses the same understanding of human “progress” as that of Romantic satirists like Byron and Blake, as well as the historian Edward Gibbon, who all believed that after the Fall and expulsion from Eden human endeavor and civilized progress is always flawed and that societies will always rise and fall. “The philosophy of my subject,” as Cole says, “is drawn from the history of the past, wherein we see how nations have risen from the savage state to that of power and glory, and then fallen, and become extinct.”43 For his last completed epic, The Voyage of Life (1839–1840), Cole relied directly

58

Chapter 2

on Romantic poetry for inspiration and metaphor. By reading poems like Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” and Shelley’s “Witch of Atlas,” Cole discovered how to employ the Neoplatonic metaphor of the cycle of the soul to structure everyman’s journey through life not as a linear pilgrimage (like John Bunyan narrates in Pilgrim’s Progress) but as a temporal one that could be visualized in a series of four allegorical paintings, Childhood, Youth, Manhood, and Old Age.44 The painter later composed a poem, “The Voyage of Life,” explicating the imagery of his series.45 Cole died suddenly in 1848 without completing The Cross and the World, an even more ambitious allegorical series inspired by literature. An obvious evolution from the Voyage of Life, the series was to have been an extended meditation on Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, and, again, Cole visualized imagery for his paintings by composing a poem, “Life’s Pilgrimage.” 46 For a landscape painter so often praised in his time for being “poetical,” it is appropriate that a poem remains the final expression of the artist’s imaginative vision.

NOTES 1. Quoted by Rebecca Bedell, “Thomas Cole and the Fashionable Science,” Huntington Quarterly 59 (1996): 358–59. Cole’s patron is responding to seeing for the first time the painting Last of the Mohicans: Cora Kneeling at the Feet of Tamenund (1827). 2.William Hodges, Travels in India (London: 1792), 130, 87. For extensive discussion of the evolution of the term “singularity” in relation to the “sublime” in landscape painting, see Hermione de Almeida and George H. Gilpin, Indian Renaissance: British Romantic Art and the Prospect of India (London: Ashgate, 2006). 3. Liber Studiorum was modeled on a book of drawings kept by Claude Lorraine to record his paintings, the Liber Veritatus, that was well-known to artists of the day after Richard Earlom completed an engraved version in three volumes in 1777 (William Daniell, as an apprentice artist, carried a copy to study on his travels in India with his uncle). For a thorough discussion of Liber Studiorum, see Gillian Forrester, Turner’s ‘Drawing Book’: The Liber Studiorum (London: Tate, 1996). 4. Quoted by Thomas Sutton, The Daniells: Artists and Travellers (London: Bodley Head, 1954), 92. 5. For discussion of Turner’s borrowing of these images from Oriental Scenery, see William Chubb, “Minerva Medica and The Tall Tree,” Turner Studies: His Art and Epoch, 1775–1881, 1 (1981): 26–35. 6. Charles Willson Peale, in a sketchbook of watercolors done in 1801, had identified views along the Hudson River as possible landscape subjects, and by the time that Cole moved to New York in 1825 to pursue his career, The Hudson River

Thomas Cole and the Wild American Sublime

59

Portfolio (1821–1825), consisting of twenty hand-colored aquatints in the manner of the English picturesque based on William G. Wall’s watercolors had appeared and been well received. The portfolio initially guided Cole to the Hudson Valley for appropriately picturesque and impressive American landscape subjects. 7. From Cole’s notebook, quoted by Tracie Felker, “First Impressions: Thomas Cole’s Drawings of His 1825 Trip up the Hudson River,” American Art Journal 24 (1992): 76. 8. Hodges, Travels in India, 73. 9. “Essay on American Scenery,” American Monthly Magazine 1 (1836): 1–12.  10. The painting was purchased by the artist John Trumbull in New York; it was one of the first works that Cole sold there. Cole later painted a second version of it for his Hartford patron, Daniel Wadsworth, for his Atheneum. This painting, and others discussed but not shown in this essay, may be viewed on the website, “Explore Thomas Cole” (www.explorethomascole.org). 11. Cole’s personal and artistic interest in geology is well-documented by Bedell, “Thomas Cole and the Fashionable Science,” 348–78. 12. Louis Legrand Noble, The Life and Works of Thomas Cole, ed. Elliot S. Vesell (Hensonville, NY: Black Dome Press, 1997), 41–42. 13. See Charles Colman Sellers, Mr. Peale’s Museum: Charles Willson Peale and the First Popular Museum of Natural Science and Art (New York: W.W. Norton, 1980), especially chapter 6: “The ‘Antique Room’ and the ‘Model Room’ at the Hall held exhibits of archeology and ethnology, relics of the past as remote as Herculaneum and Pompeii and the South American cultures, costumes and artifacts of American Indians, the Pacific, China, East Indies, and Peale’s wax figures of the races” (160). Linda S. Ferber, The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision (New York: Rizzoli, 2009), 122–23, describes how John Trumbull, Cole’s early patron, prepared in 1808 two fourteen foot long paintings of Niagara Falls for a panorama in London that he eventually abandoned; one of the paintings showed an Indian family encamped with a tepee erected on the shore of the falls. While Sir Joshua Reynolds and William Hodges painted portraits of Indian leaders who came to London, two of the most influential historical paintings that included Indian figures were painted by the American Benjamin West, The Death of General Woolf (1770–1771) and Penn’s Treaty with the Indians (1771–1772). For further discussion of the British interest in American Indians, see Stephanie Pratt, American Indians in British Art, 1700–1840 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2005). For further discussion of Indians in American paintings, see Carl Woodring’s lecture, “American Wilderness,” published in this collection of essays. 14. The American reaction to Cole’s inclusion of Indian figures in his landscapes was quite different from the negative reaction in England to William Hodges’s inclusion of native islanders in his idyllic South Pacific views which seemed to viewers to be too unconventional when the paintings were exhibited in London in 1776. See de Almeida and Gilpin, Indian Renaissance, 286–89. 15. Quoted in Noble, Thomas Cole, 57.

60

Chapter 2

16. Quoted in Isabel Combs Stuebe, The Life and Works of William Hodges (New York and London: Garland, 1979), 71. 17. For further discussion, particularly on the influence of Scottish associationist philosophy on the identification of painting with poetry in Cole’s time, see Donald A. Ringe, “Painting as Poem in the Hudson River Aesthetic,” American Quarterly 12 (1960): 71–83. 18. Noble, Thomas Cole, 166. 19. Letter to William Henry Osborn, November 9, 1868, in Frederic Church Archive at Olana State Historic Site, New York. 20. John Ruskin, Modern Painters, Part IV (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1879), 3: 12–13. 21. Quoted by Ringe, “Painting as Poem,” 71. 22. Thomas Cole’s Poetry, ed. Marshall B. Tymn (York, PA: Liberty Cap Books, 1972), 73. 23. “Catskill, November 1, 1834,” in Thomas Cole’s Poetry, 72. 24. Quoted from Cole’s papers by Felker, “First Impressions,” 86. 25. On contemplating nature as a visionary and spiritual experience, see Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798” and “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.” Cole’s description of his own creative process suggests Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s distinction between the primary and secondary imagination in chapter 13 of the Biographia Literaria (1817). 26. James Fenimore Cooper, The Prairie, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea, and Carey, 1827), 1: 4. 27. Lord Byron: The Complete Poetical Works / 5 Don Juan, ed. Jerome J. McGann (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986). 28. “Cole’s List” in Earl A. Powell, Thomas Cole (New York: Abrams, 1990), 137. The kind of scene that Cole originally proposed was painted in 1849 by a New York contemporary, William Ranney (1813–1857), titled Daniel Boone’s First View of Kentucky. Also in contrast to Cole, Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap (1851–1852) by George Caleb Bingham (1811–1879) presents the theme of westward settlement in a quite melodramatic way, one that was disseminated widely by popular engravings and lithographs through the nineteenth century. Bingham shows the frontiersman in the mode of the man of action—and hero of “manifest destiny”—with rifle ready at hand leading, like a latter-day Moses, a procession of settlers on foot and horseback that includes his wife and daughter out of the darkness and confinement of the Cumberland Gap into the light of their own promised land—Kentucky. 29. A study drawn for the portrait in the Mead Art Museum (Amherst College) shows an Indian figure with the ornamentation that Cooper ascribes to Bumppo in The Pioneers, 2 vols. (New York: Charles Wiley, 1823), 1: 8–9. The only portrait from life of Boone in old age was done in Missouri by Chester Harding in 1820. The full length original has been lost, but a stipple engraving based on it was done by James

Thomas Cole and the Wild American Sublime

61

Otto Lewis. The engraving shows Boone standing under a tree leaning on his long rifle with his dog at his feet. See Leah Lipton, “Chester Harding and the Life Portrait of Daniel Boone,” American Art Journal 16 (1984): 5–18, fig. 3. 30. Byron’s reference to a hermit suggests the isolated figures encountered in Salvatore Rosa’s bleak landscapes, and the description of the painting in the Mead Art Museum (Amherst College) Collections Database states: “The figure’s solitary placement recalls old master images of hermit saints; the dramatic landscape suggests the example of Salvator Rosa.” 31. Noble, Thomas Cole, 63. 32. Letter to Robert Gilmor, May 21, 1828. 33. The very “arrangement of the rock” in one of these imagined landscapes, The Last of the Mohicans: Cora Kneeling at the Feet of Tamenund (1827), caused Cole’s patron, Robert Gilmor, an amateur geologist, to criticize it for appearing “artificial” (Bedell, “Thomas Cole and the Fashionable Science,” 358–59). These literary paintings are, in a sense, experiments in the period that leads up to Cole’s depiction of a Biblical wasteland in Landscape Composition: St. John in the Wilderness (1827) and a Miltonic fallen world in The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden (1827–1828). For commentary on the relationship of Cooper’s landscape description to Cole’s paintings, see James F. Beard, “Cooper and his Artistic Contemporaries, New York History 35 (1954): 480–95; and Donald A. Ringle, “James Fenimore Cooper and Thomas Cole: An Analogous Technique,” American Literature 30 (1958): 26–36. 34. Noble, Thomas Cole, 64. 35. A later painting, The Subsiding of the Waters of the Deluge (1829), shows a shore line of barren boulders, broken tree branches, scattered boards, and, off shore, rocky spires. It appears to be just a sublime seascape until the viewer notices in the dark foreground a human skull in the receding waters. This singular element marks the moral center of the composition announced by its title, the horrifying tragedy of human extinction wrought by the Flood. 36. David C. Huntington, “Church’s Niagara: Nature and the Nation’s Type,” Texas Studies in Language and Literature 25 (1983): 115, notes the shadowy mark on the rocks above Adam and Eve. 37. Noble, Thomas Cole, 8. Cole also described tropical scenery that he had seen in a short story, “Emma Moreton, a West Indian Tale,” that he published in the Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post in 1825. See Katherine Emma Manthorne, Tropical Renaissance: North American Artists Exploring Latin America, 1839–1879 (Washington, DC and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989), 15–16. 38. Conventional depictions of the Garden of Eden, which Cole would have known from engraved prints, usually focused on Adam and Even about to eat the apple, either in close view (for example, Lucas Cranach, 1528) or at a distance that allowed a view of the paradise they were about to lose. Jan Bruegel the Elder (1615) places Adam with Eve, who is reaching up just about to pluck the forbidden fruit, in the far background of the composition—almost as if it the event were a trivial detail, like the ironic treatment of Icarus’ plunge in his father’s Landscape with the Fall

62

Chapter 2

of Icarus (1558)—and offers as his focus a peaceable kingdom of diverse birds and animals, a menagerie consisting of the domestic and exotic, the European and the tropical. Ominously, however, most of Bruegel’s animals are paired as if anticipating Noah’s Ark and the coming of the Flood, and the most obvious of the creatures in the foreground is a solitary white horse to be associated with the “pale horse” of Death in Revelations. While some of the birds and animals are exotic, the forest setting of Bruegel’s Eden is conventionally European. 39. Noble, Thomas Cole, 64. 40. Quoted in Manthorne, Tropical Renaissance, 15. 41. See Manthorne, “Latin America as Paradise” in Tropical Renaissance, 10–21. 42. As an art student in Philadelphia, Cole would have seen Alexander von Humboldt’s well-known folio of engraved views of the Andean Cordilleras, Vue des Cordillères et monuments des peuples indigènes de l’Amérique, 2 vols. (Paris, 1810). 43. Quoted by Noble, Thomas Cole, 129. 44. As a result of the translations of Neoplatonic sources by Thomas Taylor (1757–1835), especially Porphyry’s “On Homer’s Cave of the Nymphs,” the idea of portraying the immortal human soul in the form of an Odyssean voyager sailing through the mortal world on the river of life, encountering there trials and suffering, then returning to eternity conceived as an endless ocean seized the imaginations of poets of the period, including Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, and Shelley in Britain and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, and Emily Dickinson in America. See Kathleen Raine, Blake and Tradition, 2 vols. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968), 1: 71. 45. Cole, Poems, 145–60. 46. Ibid., 139.

3 “TO GO DOWN, BOUND” William Hone and the Materiality of Print Culture S T E VE N E . J ONES

C

arl Woodring’s masterful Politics in English Romantic Poetry included six black-and-white illustrations from Romantic period graphical satires, one of which was used on the dust jacket, as well.1 Like his friend and fellow Romanticist David Erdman, Woodring sometimes applied to literary history the methods of social historians, including the study of sub-literary or extra-literary materials: prints, pamphlets, and newspaper editorials and verse.2 The idea was to produce a thicker context for literary works by Blake, Byron, Coleridge, Shelley, even Leigh Hunt or Charles and Mary Lamb, and prints and other so-called ephemera provided rich material for such context. But a side effect was to rescue the prints themselves from the general condescension of literary criticism, while reminding us that literature was part of a broader cultural spectrum, a media landscape that included visual as well as verbal, low and high art forms, with many cases in which those categories overlapped. George Cruikshank’s satirical design for a grisly monument, VICTORY OF PETERLOO (1821), which was featured on the dust jacket of Woodring’s book, had appeared at the head of section 3 of E. P. Thompson’s epochal The Making of the English Working Class, a work of social history that made use of the works of William Blake as well as the songs of the Luddites and other popular materials3 (figure 3.1). The satire was among those that Thompson called “inspired lampoons” (688), produced in an age that he said belonged to Gillray, Rowlandson, Cruikshank, and “scores of other caricaturists” (736). Indeed, Thompson claims, “there was one popular art which, in the years between 1780 and 1830, attained to a peak of complexity and excellence—the political print” 63

64

Chapter 3

FIGURE 3.1. George Cruikshank, VICTORY OF PETERLOO (Detail), 1821.

(736). If for Thompson VICTORY OF PETERLOO is an example of this popular art form at its peak, for Woodring it offered a point of departure for a discussion of Shelley’s and other writers’ responses to the Manchester massacre. But it also reminded students of literature to read Shelley’s poetry within the rich multimedia landscape that not only conveyed but helped to shape the politics of England in 1819. The circulation of social energy evidently flowed in multiple directions and through multiple media, and the force of cultural expression can only be understood through an attention to extra-literary as well as literary channels. The Cruikshank image in question was originally produced for William Hone’s satire, A SLAP AT SLOP AND THE BRIDGE STREET GANG (1821) (figure 3.2). As Woodring’s note to the illustration points out,

FIGURE 3.2. William Hone, A SLAP AT SLOP AND THE BRIDGE STREET GANG, 1821.

66

Chapter 3 The vignette accompanies an “Advertisement” that parodies the appeals for funds to raise monuments to the heroes of Waterloo, such as the monument to Wellington derided in Charles Williams’ caricature “The Ladies Fancy.” The text begins: “A MONUMENT is proposed to be erected in commemoration of the achievements of the MANCHESTER YEOMANRY CAVALRY, on the 16th August, 1819, against THE MANCHESTER MEETING of Petitioners for Redress of Wrongs and Grievances, and Reform in Parliament.” Several of Shelley’s poems sprang from the event. (xiii)

That unassuming sentence at the end of this lapidary annotation suggests a whole approach to literary history, in fact anticipates the new historicism in its suggestive juxtaposition of event and multimedia representations, Peterloo and poems, prints, monuments, and parodies of monuments, all interrelated in complex ways. The note says that the Hone and Cruikshank satire and Shelley’s poems all “sprang from” the same traumatic “event” in Manchester, but it also assumes, by the way, that cartoon satires and Romantic poetry, visual and verbal, sub-literary and literary forms, as well as speeches and demonstrations and government actions, were all part of the cultural mix in the heated atmosphere of England in 1819. Graphical satires remain a way to remind criticism that nineteenth-century print culture was never only about books, or even only about printed materials. It’s a way to find the politics of print (of which English Romantic poetry was just one part) in the diversely mediated forms of material culture. What follows below is a brief example of such mediated forms. I look at a few Cruikshank prints in the contexts in which they were published, including the constraints and affordances of their specific media and formats, as well as political pressures that helped to shape their combinatorial, self-referential aesthetic. Graphical satires of the Romantic period offer valuable artisanal forms that serve as a check on the assumed dominance of the literary. Print culture in the early nineteenth century has to include prints and their life in the world, their production and reception, studied in all their materially diverse formats and forms. (It matters whether we’re looking at a hand-colored copperplate etching printed as a broadside or a half-page woodcut illustration in an octavo pamphlet.) Putting the print back at the center of print culture is one way to view the broader media landscape of the time in context and as context, including how specific political pressures gave rise to form and the formal variations in media that were themselves shaped by contingencies that were political, economic, social, and cultural.

“To go down, bound”

67

So to begin with, take that dust-jacket image again, Cruikshank’s VICTORY OF PETERLOO. What kind of object is it, really, for criticism and analysis? What are we looking at when we look at this “print?” The image of a statue, as statues often do, presents a kind of frozen tableau vivant or “vignette,” as Woodring calls it, exposing the un-heroic attack by the yeomanry on that peaceful assembly of August 16, 1819, the equestrian figure in the imagined monument in the literal position of the riders in Manchester, trampling helpless protesters beneath them, including a beseeching woman with an infant. Its mixed tones—sarcasm and melodramatic sentiment—are jarring, but this is typical for Cruikshank, who—to cite one example—had almost ten years earlier depicted the Regent dancing at a bacchanalian birthday celebration while just outside families kneel and weep at the foot of a scaffold where the bodies of two condemned men are still hanging.4 The Peterloo satire continues verbally in the text of the proposal that was originally printed beneath the image, which makes a broad sarcastic rhetorical distinction between “battle” and “victory”: “for, the multitude was unarmed, and made no resistance to the heroes armed; there was no contest—it was a victory, and has accordingly been celebrated in triumph.” This event, more important in its consequences than the battle of Waterloo, will be recorded on the monument, by simply stating the names of the officers and privates successfully engaged on the one side; and on the other, the names of the persons killed, and of the six hundred maimed and wounded in the attack and pursuit; also the names of the captured, who are still prisoners in his Majesty’s gaols; with the letter of thanks, addressed to the victors, by his Majesty’s Command.

The flattened voice of the advertisement helps to drive the point home, standing in counterpoint to the gothic horror, the silent screams, of the image. The whole satire, like the name Peterloo itself, was prompted by the reported fact that some of the horsemen riding on the crowd were wearing their Waterloo medals. War heroes, monuments, commemoration, repressive government tactics—all are exposed by the satire, its outraged tone signaled by the decorative black-line border of the image with skulls and cross-bones on the depicted plinth and the funereal border around the image as a whole. Actually, even this way of reading the print alongside its accompanying text is ultimately false, or at least radically incomplete. In context, this was not a single print from a copperplate etching, not a stand-alone work of art, which, even though a work of popular and political art, is to be read

68

Chapter 3

as a unified formal composition. It was part of the Hone-Cruikshank collaboration, A SLAP AT SLOP, and we have to return to that larger work in order to contextualize the image. This begins with reading it alongside the text that accompanied it in the original, as I’ve indicated, but this was in the form of a parody of newspaper advertisements in the physical form of a satirical newspaper. Once we begin to look at A SLAP AT SLOP as a whole and in its bibliographical particulars, to take it seriously as a publication, not just as a composition or a piece of ephemera, its combinatorial possibilities begin to multiply in all sorts of interesting ways. A SLAP AT SLOP AND THE BRIDGE STREET GANG was published almost two years after Peterloo, on August 2, 1821, in the form of a folio-sized newspaper. It is a physical, as well as a verbal and visual, parody of The New Times edited by William Hone’s nemesis, John Stoddart. Priced at 1 shilling, it looked like newspapers of the day, given the trend toward a proliferation of advertisements on the front page, here greatly exaggerated for satiric effect, and with more than was common in the way of “cuts”—illustrations printed from woodcut engravings by Cruikshank. There are twenty-six illustrations across the four pages of the mock-newspaper. Its parody of Stoddart’s anti-Jacobin newspaper was the pretext for an attack on the Constitutional Association, the Bridge Street Gang of the title (because it met at 6 New Bridge St.), of which Stoddart was a member. Founded in December 1820, it promoted spying in support of bringing legal prosecutions against perceived radicals, especially among the press. In a July 3, 1821 speech in Parliament, Samuel Whitbread had called the Association “nothing more than an inquisition on the press” and John Thelwall likewise referred to it as “a detestable self-constituted inquisition” (cited in George, 10:238). After the appearance of A SLAP AT SLOP, the Constitutional Association indicted Hone (though for other pamphlets on Queen Caroline), an act that has been seen as “Dr. Slop’s last chance to inflict revenge on his tormentor.”5 The Grand Jury dismissed the indictment. On page two of the parody a page-wide landscape-mode cartoon represents the Association at work in a triptych. From left to right, the gang (1) tortures in a dungeon female figures of Britannia and Liberty, (2) is dressed in Jesuit garb and smashing an iconic printing press, and (3) burns in a bonfire a heap of prints and pamphlets, including several recognizable as Hone’s and Cruikshank’s actual publications. As we have seen, in that very first “advertisement” in the original SLAP on page one, Hone referred to this image in terms of the symbolism of the press—not just as an institution but as a set of material technologies for communication and expression.

“To go down, bound”

69

He called the image a “masterly representation of the BRIDGE-STREET GANG destroying a Free Press, and suspending Liberty, while SLOP is working his Press to distort and TRUTH.” Slop’s “press” is a rack of torture on which he pulls the lever, in contradiction to the lever of the “free” printing press, which allows for the publication of truth. Page four consists of a biographical essay on Stoddart, the “foster-father” of the Association, as Leigh Hunt would soon point out, who had been “extremely virulent in his abuse” of Hone, so could not “complain that he is paid in his own coin” in A SLAP AT SLOP.6 So the parody was a tool for personal satire that was at the same time political. As Woodring observes, for a range of caricaturists and authors, “Gillray, Hone, Blake, and Byron, parody is political” (194). But whereas in his trials Hone had argued that his biblical and liturgical parodies did not target the work that was imitated, in the case of A SLAP AT SLOP, the parody does target Stoddart’s paper—at the level of form as well as in its content—along with the man himself and, for good measure, as Leigh Hunt pointed out, “all sorts of sore places in Church and State” (Examiner, August 5, 1821, 489). In fact, taken in its entirety A SLAP AT SLOP satirizes something even more profoundly structural: the determining interrelation of politics, economics, and the material forms of print culture. Satiric prints like this one, produced in the midst of what would later be labeled the Romantic period, embody a usefully unromantic counter-aesthetic. Instead of a unity of organic form produced from the creative imagination of the individual genius, they reveal a chaotic combination of borrowings and self-references, produced in willing or unwilling collaboration, treating parody as a starting place, imitation with differences magnified for various rhetorical purposes. A SLAP AT SLOP is the perfect example of all of this: it is the verbal-and-visual joint product of Hone and Cruikshank, yes, but also the joint product of Hone’s and Cruikshank’s present reinventions and their earlier works. Cruikshank’s contributions were themselves made from carved woodblocks produced—most likely by the hand of someone else—from the artist’s drawings, designs sometimes also used for or derived from earlier copperplate etchings. Such work puts on display multiple examples of the opportunistic allusiveness, referentiality, and self-referentiality, the combinatorial aesthetic that was common in multimedia prints of the period, the way they “moved freely between [multiple] levels of allusion and signification.”7 Take, for example, the article at the top of the first newspaper page, an advertisement for “THE FINE OLD SUBSCRIPTION VESSEL, the

70

Chapter 3

FIGURE 3.3. George Cruikshank, THE FINE OLD SUBSCRIPTION VESSEL, the REGENT’S BOMB (Detail), 1821.

REGENT’S BOMB” (“—formerly in the Whale trade—new caulked and rigged”) (1821) (figure 3.3). It is an open piece of sedition, like so many others, mocking the Prince of Wales (or, the common pun went, of Whales) for his physique and moral vacuity. The drawing is of the Regent as a ship—his head protruding from the bow like a mere figurehead and his enormous “bomb” (rhymes with “bum”) sticking up as the stern, which has an explicit “bomb” or cannon perched upon it, ornately mounted on a sculpted dragon-like nondescript with an obscene protruding tongue. The verbal jokes approach the obscene as well (“has a commodious poop”) and in the drawing the rigging is made of women’s gowns with petticoats (a flag displays a woman’s cap) and bells of folly hang from the booms. The

“To go down, bound”

71

image is wildly fantastic but the tiny, detailed cannon is drawn from life, from a real monument, in this case, and was a familiar image in contemporary caricatures. Cruikshank had produced other prints satirizing the actual cannon (mortar, bomb) used at Cadiz, then given to the Regent by Spain in 1816 to commemorate Wellington’s victory, mounted as a monument in the Horse Guards Parade on a sculptured base of a winged and long-tailed dragon-like monster. It was too good to pass up, starting with the pun on the Regent’s bomb or, as the title of another satire by Charles William has it, A Representation of the REGENTS tremendous THING ERECTED in the Park (BM 12801). Yet another print by Cruikshank, a broadside produced with Hone in 1816 (BM 12799), was more openly obscene: HONE’S VIEW OF THE REGENT’S BOMB, NOW UNCOVERED, FOR THE GRATIFICATION OF THE PUBLIC, IN ST. JAMES’S PARK, MAJESTICALLY MOUNTED ON A NONDESCRIPT, SUPPOSED TO REPRESENT LEGITIMATE SOVEREIGNTY, and the verse text below the image includes: “What crowds will come from every shore / To gaze on its amazing ‘bore!’ / What swarms of Statesmen, warm and loyal,  / To worship ‘Bomb’ so truly royal!,” and references to ministers kissing it, measuring it, and sticking their nose in “the ‘touch-hole.’” The small woodblock engraving in A SLAP AT SLOP is thus already referential and self-referential, in multiple ways. In it Cruikshank literally visualizes the Regent’s anatomy in the way the punning titles and parodic texts had done. Building on the aesthetic ungainliness of the actual mortar on its monstrous stand, the gigantic scale of the fantasy drawing, which is itself quite small in print, turns the royal person into a Rabelaisian monster. The matter-of-fact text in the advertisement implies by its tone that such things are reported in the Kingdom every day. Another parodic design on the same front page of the newspaper version of A SLAP AT SLOP extends the theme of the absurdity of all monuments (real or imagined) in an unheroic age. A companion piece to the proposed monument to Peterloo and introduced in the same column of descriptive text, is a proposed “Peterloo Medal” to commemorate the same “victory.” Bordered again in the same black-lined skull-and-crossbones motif as the monument, it depicts a soldier dressed as a butcher (with a mask or his face blackened) swinging an axe at a ragged, kneeling protester. This image provides several examples of the allusive borrowings and the general combinatorial aesthetic of prints. The figures in the tableau are directly based on the famous Wedgwood design for an Abolitionist Society image of a kneeling slave and a master with a scourge, captioned “Am I not a man and a brother?” Cruikshank’s repurposed vignette makes

72

Chapter 3

the victim a white worker and implicitly equates wage-slavery with human trafficking. The caption’s question—“Am I not a man and a brother?”—is now answered by the soldier with his axe: “No!—you are a poor weaver.” A mask on the soldier may even suggest a kind of blackface, perhaps a role-reversal; at any rate, the dialogue with the abolitionist image is crucial the satire’s effect. Among other targets, A SLAP AT SLOP satirizes the newspaper as a form, as what we might now call a platform for the publication and reception of news, images, and advertisements (or miscellaneous announcements). This is a key part of what the proposals for monuments and medals satirize—the massacre put on the same footing as ads for boot blacking. Just beneath the image of the Peterloo medal, another separate announcement is set off by a rule: “SOVEREIGNS are now going. BALANCES properly adjusted, to distinguish a good from a bad one,” which obviously puns on “sovereigns” and seditiously implies that common sense might be sufficient to distinguish good from bad value in both kinds of sovereign. The medal and the metal coinage are found together on the front page of Hone and Cruikshank’s mock newspaper, both satiric signs of value destabilized, value revealed as deeply uncertain, the satiric theme reinforced by the arbitrary juxtaposition on the newspaper page, a format that was based on the mechanical processes of daily or weekly publication, the quintessential combinatorial format of nineteenth-century print culture, a form in which text and image, text and paratext are often only divided (as they are here) by that most arbitrary of print-shop conventions, the horizontal rule. Marcus Wood has referred to the “chameleon complexity” with which radical publishers appropriated the press in this era, and has connected this to the “typographic anarchy” of A SLAP AT SLOP, which he connects in turn to the rapid increase in advertising during the first two decades of the nineteenth century.8 The typography, style, and content of the early nineteenth-century newspaper were dominated by the pressures which the stamp tax exerted on space and by the consequent desire to include as large an amount of advertising as possible. . . . By 1820 advertisements, not subscription sales, furnished the largest part of the revenue of daily papers. (Wood, 187)

Hone’s formal parody of The New Times, Wood suggests, was also an economic, anti-capitalist (or at least anti-advertisement) protest. It “resulted from the fact that those newspapers which were surviving and making a

“To go down, bound”

73

profit despite the taxes had come to rely almost entirely on revenue from advertisements” (187). Kevin Gilmartin cautions, however, that parodies like Hone’s satirized advertising as well as appropriating advertising to satirize other targets.9 “The problems of radical print form were never merely formal,” he argues: “[r]epression and crisis made the printed page an arena for a host of social and political contests” (Gilmartin, 99). Yet those contests often played out through the use of formal devices, including “innovations in typography and layout that facilitated inconsecutive (and inattentive) reading of heterogeneous material”—parodied by radicals like Hone in order to satirize and resist the emergent consumerist style (Gilmartin, 88–89). In fact, as John Strachan has shown, Hone was among a group of “radical entrepreneurs” (along with Henry “Orator” Hunt, for example) who were “just as ingenious in their use of advertising as their more apolitical brethren in the capitalist mainstream;” Hone, Strachan says, “readily embraced the art and ethos of advertising,” whatever his satiric aims.10 Besides the very appearance of its front page, so busy with advertisements, A SLAP AT SLOP contains a running theme to which I’ve already alluded: disorganized jumbles, heterogeneous mixtures, monstrous nondescripts, as disturbing signs of the times. Cruikshank’s illustrations are full of grotesque monstrosities. Besides the Regent’s bomb-bearing ship, there is for example the disembodied peg leg of Sir John Sewell, the president of the Constitutional Association, which also shows up as a hangman’s gibbet. And these legs are echoed by the empty dandy’s boots that represent the Regent himself, whether hanging as pendulum, along with the crown, from the “Royal Cuckoo Clock” or in an advertisement for boot blacking—”WARREN’S BLACK-RAT BLACKING”—which alludes to a real ad for Warren’s blacking, drawn by Cruikshank himself, while satirizing another Warren (Charles). Cruikshank had been paid to produce the well known “Cat and the Boot” ad for Warren’s, in which a cat sees its reflection in a shiny, polished jack-boot. Hone’s satire is aimed at the Tory politician who had ambitions to become a judge, so in Cruikshank’s self-parodic image, here, a rat instead of a cat sees his reflection in a boot (associated with the Regent), but the reflection is wearing a judicial wig (BM 14217).11 This theme of monstrosity is depicted in the lower right corner of page one, a headless NONEDESCRIPT that’s all boots (with only a bit of leg attached), oversized crown, mitres, talismanic tailor’s shears, and the usual peacock feathers substituted for the Prince’s signature ostrich plumes (1821) (figure 3.4 here). This is clearly the Regent himself as a monster, like a ridiculous fantasy creature in a pantomime, a medley of accoutrements with no substance. The effect would have been sharper for those who knew (as

74

Chapter 3

FIGURE 3.4. George Cruikshank, A NONDESCRIPT (Detail), 1821.

so many did) the notorious caricature of The Dandy of Sixty, based on the plate beginning “This is the Man,” in Hone and Cruikshank’s The Political House That Jack Built (1819), in which the Regent wears many of the same clothes but has an all-too-recognizable corpulent body. That satire became so dangerously popular, in fact, that Carlton House paid seventy pounds for the copyright and discontinuation of it in 1820.12 The point of the NONDESCRIPT is here driven home at the basic level of the very typography. The accompanying advertisement is all a jumble of scrambled random type, like a pressman’s dummy text set in multiple columns. A literal example of Wood’s “typographic anarchy,” here print itself degenerates into a chaotic mess that is also a mere place-holder, a non-communicative text that bears inarticulate witness to the meaninglessness of legitimate power. One very old traditional etymology of the word satire links it to satura, a mixed feast of every form, the disorder of which is often its own commentary on the monstrosities of a world out of joint. With their combinatorial mixtures of images of various kinds and scales, text (including wildly mixed styles of hand-lettering, as well as type, we should keep in mind), and content that combines immediate topicality with heady fantasy, caricatures were already

“To go down, bound”

75

a popular embodiment of this idea of satura. Hone and Cruikshank just take it to an extreme in the SLAP, the satiric absurdity actually cleaving pretty close to the jumble of many early nineteenth-century newspapers. Following the newspaper form, visual satires on the Regent as a monstrosity occupy spaces near the top left and bottom right of the folio page, diagonally aligned; the image of the disembodied royal legs and crown balances the image of the ship made out of the prince’s body, prone and literally un-dignified. On page two, by contrast, the upright body of John Bull stands over in the top-right column (beneath the header formed by the inquisition satire). He is in tatters, shackled, and has his lips prominently padlocked. The printed title of the article is “Dr. Slop’s Obscenity,” and in it Hone explains that the image is of a Cruikshank print reportedly denounced in a speech by the Attorney General, July 3, 1821, as an “indecent caricature.” But Hone makes it clear that he does not trust the report of The New Times; he says only the paper “makes the officer say” that the agent “went to King’s shop to buy an INDECENT Caricature.” The term, Hone says, is almost always synonymous with “obscene,” a misleading charge, given that this is a political satire. So Hone takes the label as a deliberate smear. The illustration in A SLAP AT SLOP is a reprint in the way of courtroom evidence of the offending satire, so “the public may determine whether it is, or is not OBSCENE. Everyone who looks on it will naturally be astonished at the impudence of the imputation.” The image of the “Free-born Englishman” in the parodic newspaper (BM 14225) is a rhetorically pointed reprint of a satire Cruikshank had published on December 15, 1819 (BM 13287) in immediate response to the Peterloo Massacre (August 16, 1819) and the Six Acts that followed in its wake, in particular the Seditious Meetings Prevention and Blasphemous and Seditious Libel Acts. Cruikshank’s original sarcastic title was A Free-born Englishman! the admiration of the world!!! and the envy of surrounding nations!!!!!. But, as Dorothy George points out, the 1819 print was itself adapted from an earlier Cruikshank print, published April 19, 1813 (BM 12037), which was in turn derived from similar satires from as far back as 1795 (George, 9: 941–42). The early satires included an image stamped by radical Thomas Spence on parodic money in the 1790s.13 The shackled John Bull with padlocked lips was used by Cruikshank for years as a persistent image of violations of the rights of the free-born Englishman, a chain of self-references extending back from A SLAP AT SLOP that works to contextualize the “indecent” insult printed by Stoddart by placing Hone’s reprinting of the image as a response to the history of repression, from the Sedition and

76

Chapter 3

Treason Acts of 1795 to the more recent Six Acts. That larger context would have been available to many in the audience for such cartoons, as a way to judge Stoddart’s report and to understand Hone’s public outrage (and personal animus): Stoddart’s “purpose,” Hone insists, was always “to fix OBSCENITY upon a political caricature,” and thus to deflect its point, which was an attack on the Six Acts as yet another outrage against English freedom. The true obscenity, the article’s title implies, is Dr. Slop’s in attempting this deflection. The defiant rhetorical act of reprinting (and thereby recontextualizing) A Free-born Englishman! is made possible by Hone’s and Cruikshank’s artisanal control of the means of (re)production, their small but influential portion of nineteenth-century print culture. Consider the protean forms the image had taken by 1821, from colored lithograph (BM 13287, attributed to Cruikshank and possibly the earliest completed version of the design), to at least two versions in copperplate etchings, to the woodcut engraving that illustrated A SLAP AT SLOP. Such fecund multiplicity was, from the satirists’ point of view, the positive flipside of the monstrous proliferative mixtures they satirized in the parodic newspaper, a form of palimpsestic “versioning” that often amounted to political and satirical acts. The importance of this versioning—or what we might now call the multi-platform nature of satiric prints—is dramatized by the fact that A SLAP AT SLOP was printed in at least one significant variant form. After Queen Caroline died, August 7, 1821, the newspaper was reset to give the top place in the first column to a black-bordered story about her death and attacking her enemies, especially those who had hounded her in the Tory press. The article was illustrated with a large, black-ink symbolic dagger and remained in all subsequent versions of A SLAP AT SLOP. A notice in the Examiner for August 12, 1821, advertises the new thirteenth (“ENLARGED”) edition of the parodic newspaper including the new article and “additional cut.” Hone claimed in the newspaper version that, by way of “a slight transposition, and keeping the whole closer together,” he had made room for the articles on Queen Caroline’s death, and that “not a single word contained in the former Editions” had been omitted. It had all just been re-set to make room for the new piece, and Hone thereby, characteristically, foregrounds his ability as a pressman to control the means of production. Altering the format in such a timely and expert way demonstrates control, a power over the press as a means of communication, even in the wake of the legal threats posed by the Six Acts and enemies like Stoddart and his Constitutional Society.

“To go down, bound”

77

In fact, the contents of the newspaper version of A SLAP AT SLOP were reprinted almost immediately in different formats—what amounted to different print platforms—first as a separate bound octavo pamphlet in 1822 (for 2s. 6d.), then collected by Hone with his other unsold pamphlet pages in the bound volume, Facetiae and Miscellanies, in 1827, no longer a newspaper, or even a pamphlet, but a book. In this codex form, of necessity, the Cruikshank “cuts are differently arranged,” as Dorothy George says (10: 235), and there are other changes Hone was forced to make, about which he appears self-conscious. In the original first advertisement in the newspaper satire, Hone had proudly declared: The drawings are, as usual, by Mr. GEORGE CRUIKSHANK, whose able pencil has had greater scope here than in a pamphlet; that size would have entirely excluded Dr. Southey’s Vision, the Jack-in-the-Green, and the masterly representation of the BRIDGE-STREET GANG destroying a Free Press, and suspending Liberty, while SLOP is working his Press to distort and torture TRUTH.

This was signed “THE AUTHOR OF THE POLITICAL HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT.” In the reprinted version in Facetiae and Miscellanies, Hone adds a footnote, declaring that, despite the obvious rearranging, Cruikshank’s full-width cuts “are preserved entire in this Edition, those that were too large for the present page being printed to fold in.” The shift from broadsheet image-and-text to bound volume with tipped-in foldouts is worth noting to Hone because he is acutely aware of the social and political significances of material form and format. In 1824, he proudly claimed that his parodic pamphlets with Cruikshank, “[b]y showing what engraving on wood could effect in a popular way, and exciting a taste for art in the more humble ranks of life . . . created a new era in the history of publication.”14 Two years later, Hone went bankrupt and was imprisoned for debt. The publication of Facetiae and Miscellanies was openly a fundraising venture, with Hone using “essentially left-over stock from his publishing business bound together into a single octavo volume,”15 the remainders of his unsold pamphlets, and repacking them with a new introduction. This self-conscious act of gathering and repurposing these pages was clearly fraught with personal and political significance. Rather than demonstrating that material format makes no difference to the satire, the republication in codex form shows on the contrary that, although a general idea of the work is to some degree portable, its resonant

78

Chapter 3

FIGURE 3.5. “The Paw” Tax Stamp (Detail), 1821.

meanings were drastically altered by this change of format. Hone himself called attention to the problem—and shows himself sensitive to the kinds of material subtleties that in our own time have interested book historians and scholars of material texts. Hone’s preface to the reader, first printed in the bound pamphlet of 1822 and thus also present when the pamphlet pages were collected in the 1827 book, highlights the contexts that were lost with the shift from one format to another, even in the initial shift of format, from broadside to pamphlet, in 1822. A SLAP AT SLOP, Hone says, was originally “arranged in the manner, and in every respect in imitation, assumed the appearance of a newspaper, except that the columns were broken by cuts” (the woodcut-engraved prints). He’s quite specific about the paper’s original format: “It was a crown broadside,” and it even included, as he wryly points out, a parodic tax stamp in red ink—which he had called “the Paw” and reprints in the pamphlet, breaking up his own paragraphs in the preface “To the Reader” for the new bound edition (figure 3.5). The small oval image shows a crowned paw with the motto: “He claps his claw on every thing”—”thing” being a possible allusion to Hone’s own nickname for the printing press, as well as a phallic reference he had used before.

“To go down, bound”

79

Like other examples of satiric counterfeiting, including the Spencean token money from the 1790s on which the Free Born Englishman was ultimately based, this stamp gets some of its power from its defiant display of the satirist’s ability to imitate and thus devalue the “official” (printed) objects of authority. The red stamp was a common and telling feature of print culture in the Regency, as Hone’s deliberately reprinted parodic version makes clear. The red-ink tax stamp would have marked the blank sheets before they were used by legitimate, stamped publications. An unstamped radical daily or weekly was printed starting with a literally different material basis, on different paper stock. The stamp was a ready-made symbol, a tiny embodiment of “print” itself, of the act of stamping or pressing meaning and the signs of power that was part of any publication, and thus a loaded sign of the limits of the free press. The means of production for official stamps were carefully controlled, and Hone’s repurposed version of the small red image is a compressed symbolic gesture encapsulating the politics of print that shaped his career as a writer and satirist who was also a pressman. The parodic tax stamp is just one more sign of the importance of material form and of the institutional conditions that enable and constrain that form—the political purpose of the tax, Hone’s own public role in defiance of the oppressive laws against Blasphemous and Seditious Libel, the role of newspapers, licensed and unlicensed, in the political battles of the years just after Waterloo—all of this is invoked in the preface. Hone in effect acknowledges that some of this contextual meaning inevitably falls away with the reprint of the newspaper in book form, which he refers to as a new “edition,” but which exhibits a range of formal and material differences that matter. The preface “TO THE READER” is addressed 45 Ludgate Hill, 1822 (when the pamphlet was first published), and it concludes: Doubtless every one who entered into the design, was satisfied with the original form of the publication; yet the author has been perplexed by numerous applications for an edition of this size. He finds it as difficult to account for want of taste as for it; but it being the fashion for the minority to be polite to the majority, he bends at last to the too general request, and submits THE SLAP, with a broken spirit, to go down, bound, with his other little pieces.

On the face of it, Hone’s submission (“to go down, bound”) is a joke, of course, and one that seems to allude to the images in the original satire of Liberty being bound and tortured. To move from mock-newspaper to octavo pamphlet to bound octavo volume should have been seen as moving

80

Chapter 3

up in the (print) world. But it is a strangely double-edged joke. The irony in Hone’s case is that he really does seem to view this reprinting, however ambivalently, as a kind of comedown and submission to print-culture respectability. A hint of a new era in which the old radicalism has been defused can be heard in the remark about the “fashion for the minority to be polite to the majority.” Hence the need to show off that symbolic parody of the red-ink tax stamp, even in the octavo bound volumes, both pamphlet and the Facetiae and Miscellanies. (The financial issues behind the tax stamp, the costs and profits of publication, and the size and makeup of one’s audience, take on an added significance in light of Hone’s bankruptcy of 1826.) In other words, the joke is serious, and the image of the stamp, which Hone refers to as a “subjoined diagram,” was the perfect encapsulation of the extent to which non-book printing practices still resisted in the 1820s the kind of homogenization of format, paratext, audience, and delivery that many people assume when they speak of print culture. In this way, works like A SLAP AT SLOP, in all their mechanical, inorganic, combinatorial glory, with an aesthetic based on the materialities of available platforms, an aesthetic common to satiric prints in the early nineteenth century, vividly remind us that print culture in the Romantic period was almost always political—and almost never what we think of as romantic.

NOTES 1. Carl Woodring, Politics in English Romantic Poetry (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970). 2. See David V. Erdman, Blake Prophet Against Empire: A Poet’s Interpretation of the History of His Own Times (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977). Both scholars later edited volumes in the Princeton/Bollingen edition of Coleridge’s Collected Works, Table Talk (Woodring) and the political journalism in Essays on His Times (Erdman), that dealt with sub-literary materials and called for immersion in newspapers and other ephemeral publications. 3. E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (New York: Vintage Books, 1966), 450. The folio-sized newspaper page print and details from reproduced in this essay as Figures 3.1–3.5 can be viewed directly on the William Hone Biotext website, at http://honearchive.org, edited by Kyle Grimes. Listed as print numbers 14209, 14207–32, 14208, 14220, and 12037, in the Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum, ed. Mary Dorothy George, 11 vols. (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1870–1954): 9, 10. Prints discussed but not pictured in this essay are referenced by numbers in this catalog and appear parenthetically in the text.

“To go down, bound”

81

4. George Cruikshank, MERRY MAKING ON THE REGENT’S BIRTH DAY, 1812, Library of Congress, at www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003689159/. The Library of Congress collection of satirical prints includes more than 2,000 not in the British Museum, according to Diana Donald, The Age of Caricature: Satirical Prints in the Reign of George III (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996), 199n4. 5. Ben Wilson, The Laughter of Triumph: William Hone and the Fight for the Free Press (London: Faber & Faber, 2005), 385. 6. Leigh Hunt, “The Slap at Slop,” Examiner 709 (August 5, 1821), 489. 7. Diana Donald, The Age of Caricature, 2. Donald is specifically referring to the class-mixing tendencies of the English caricature print, which “was neither an aristocratic preserve nor a branch of folk art like the simple coloured woodcuts of other European countries” (2). 8. Marcus Wood, Radical Satire and Print Culture, 1790–1822 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), 205, 186. 9. Kevin Gilmartin, Print Politics: The Press and Radical Opposition in Early Nineteenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 95. 10. John Strachan, Advertising and Satirical Culture in the Romantic Period (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 66. 11. Ibid., 92–93. 12. Robert L. Patten, George Cruikshank’s Life, Times, and Art, 2 vols. (London: Lutterworth Press, 1992), 1: 164. 13. Ibid., 154–55. 14. William Hone, Aspersions Answered (London, 1824), 49n, cited in Patten, 448n113. 15. Kyle Grimes, ed., William Hone Biotext website: accessed May 21, 2013.

4 DARK HUMOR, CARTOON STRIPS, AND OTHER RAW MATERIAL FOR DON JUAN H E R M IONE DE A LMEI DA

I want a hero; an uncommon want, When every year and month sends forth a new one, Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant, The age discovers he is not the true one. [ July 3, 1818] I wish to hear of the arrival of the two packets— viz—the two Cantos of Donny Johnny. [March 1, 1820] You ask me for the plan of Donny Johnny—I have no plan— I had no plan—but I had or have materials . . . .—Why Man the Soul of such writing in its licence. [August 12, 1819]

D

uring the first two decades of the nineteenth century a group of related graphic satires appeared in London and then circulated in variable ephemeral forms through Britain and her colonies. As public prints, strip cartoons, serial picture narratives with captions and comments, and illustrated verse “progress” stories with commentaries published individually and in newspapers, and then in octavo pamphlet and collected editions, these satiric ephemeras by diverse hands were commonly known—and recognized as connected—by their featured character, a young Briton named Johnny Newcome. Restless, curious, and peripatetic where John Bull was not, appropriately naïve and an only son of a tradesman (a greengrocer, yeoman farmer, shopkeeper, dockhouse keeper), Johnny Newcome

83

84

Chapter 4

characteristically left England and the security of his doting parents and the family trade to travel abroad in search of opportunities and novelties not accessible to him at home. Always, Johnny’s peregrinations were in an extended service to British interests overseas—as a militia recruit, a plantation mercenary, or as an aspiring cadet or ensign keen to partake in the enterprises of Britain’s burgeoning military presence on the Continent, in the West Indies, and in southeast Asia. Johnny Newcome’s novel experiences abroad among other British newcomers during the early century coincided first with the occurrence of slave revolts in the Caribbean, and the ensuring parliamentary debates on Britain’s slave trade, and then with the Napoleonic Wars (from the Peninsular War to the Battle of Waterloo) and the financial hardships in England generated by an economy of warfare and territorial expansion overseas. Sometimes, Johnny Newcome came home. In their earliest form as public prints the Johnny Newcome graphics are now either very rare or lost; those that survive can be found only as discrete and fragile individual items in archival holdings and colonial repositories scattered across the globe. But, as public graphics available by the piece, exhibited in printshop windows, and reproduced in newspapers and broadsides by the radical presses, early Newcome representations were easily accessible and commonly seen: “print shops and [print] portfolios were the Time-Life (including television) of his day,” Carl Woodring said in describing “What Coleridge Thought of Pictures” (1978) and in reminder of his own ongoing study of the ubiquitous nature of graphic satire in periodicals and the ways in which these ephemeral “public prints” (by artists like James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson, and George Cruikshank) and the revolutionary “iconography of the caricaturists often passed into the literary satires of the day including those of Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats.”1 Abraham James, the originating artist of the designs for the public prints and cartoon strips of Johnny Newcome, remains elusive like his drawings; and his personal history finds only passing mention in the military records of the period. From these military lists we can deduce that Abraham James was a Scotsman and that he was born into a family of engravers and typesetters who contracted work with the local printers who were part of a large Scottish enterprise in inexpensive printing, a business which by the later eighteenth century grew exponentially to meet the needs of emerging new publishers in London and Edinburgh (from William Strahan to John McMurray) and the expanding colonial needs of Britain’s military for the publication of maritime maps and illustrated naval narratives, coastal charts and topographical surveys, and manuals for expeditions and engagements

Dark Humor, Cartoon Strips, and Other Raw Material for Don Juan

85

overseas.2 Sometime in the mid-1790s a young Abraham James left Scotland and shipped out to the French West Indies as a member of a private militia band intended for mercenary service among the Creole plantation owners (white European settlers and biracial African-French planters) who maintained their businesses in sugar and coffee through extensive and often replenished slave holdings. The proclamation of 1793–1794 banning slavery in the French colonies by the Revolutionary government left the plantation owners in urgent need of European soldiers to protect them from slaves revolting under the banner of liberty and the (sometimes) new France. James followed the familiar route for young Britons seeking a military career who did not have the resources to purchase a commission: work in militias in the Indies or as an irregular in a private army for a settlement in a “native state,” which usually led to a commission and rank in the regular British army. Travel by aspiring soldiers like James to the Caribbean would have been spurred by news of the expansion of the garrisons in British Jamaica to address the needs of the Maroon Wars (with the largest slave population on the islands, British Jamaica also ranked highest in slave revolts)—and by the overall massive expansion of the British Army in anticipation of wars with France in Europe and further territorial acquisitions overseas.3 Seventeen ninety-eight was an auspicious year for Abraham James: he was in Haiti (Saint-Domingue) at the height of its revolution, he was a new ensign commissioned with the 67th South Hampshire Regiment of Foot garrisoned in Jamaica, he was the father of a newborn biracial son, and he was about to see action in the vanguard of a British invasion of Haiti made ostensibly in support of the anti-abolition plantation owners against the excesses of French liberty on the islands. James found himself fighting Haiti’s Toussaint L’Ouverture and his zonbi army of well-organized freemen and newly self-freed slaves.4 Haiti in 1798 was the richest of the West Indies colonies; it produced, with the help of thousands of African slaves representing approximately one-third of the Atlantic slave trade, about fifty percent of the sugar and coffee consumed in Europe. Britain knew and would know more of Haiti’s riches; the invasion force dispatched from British Jamaica (a colony since 1655) knew initial success but acquired no riches and were soon routed by Toussaint and his fighters, who then declared Haiti to be a free state and satellite of a freer Revolutionary (but soon to be Napoleonic) France. By year’s end Abraham James and fellow soldiers of the 67th Regiment, along with their families, had to be evacuated to British Jamaica. Slave revolts in the Caribbean encouraged sentiments at home and in Parliament against any pending abolition of the slave trade; the ascendancy of Toussaint and independent Haiti, and British

86

Chapter 4

fear of parallel revolution, justified harsh tactics against slave rebels and the imposition of martial law in Jamaica, and the appointment of George Nugent as Commander-in-Chief of Jamaica and British interests in the Caribbean. Abraham James soon found himself engaged in operations against the organized bands of escaped slaves (“maroons”) encamped in the Blue Mountains who regularly challenged British rule after the so-called Maroon Wars. He later served in putting down slave rebellions on the plantations and maintaining martial law in the colony. Promoted to officer and moving between garrison life, the fort at Kingston, and the capital at Spanish Town, James had the range, access, and rank to mix freely among military circles and the white and biracial plantation societies—and to observe firsthand the interconnections that nurtured colonial life. The earliest surviving prints in the Johnny Newcome series date to these experiences of James’s years in Jamaica, overlaid with his encounter with the Haitian revolution. They were probably designed and executed during his furlough at half-pay in London between 1802 and 1805, in the period before he and the 67th Regiment were ordered to India as part of the reorganization and mustering of British troops for the resumption of war against Napoleonic France. Martial Law in Jamaica and Johnny New-come in the Island of Jamaica were published as companion pieces in 1802–1803 by the radical printmaker William Holland of Oxford Street (plates 4.1 and 4.2). Identified in the second plate by his initials and regiment number, James designed the pair of colored multiple-frame cartoon strips as consecutive visual narratives: war and martial law in Jamaica which made possible the peacetime experiences of Johnny New-come and other soldiers in the plantation society of the colony. In twenty-one frames with captions we are told the Odyssean story “taken on the spot” of Johnny’s arrival in the new land of palm trees and blue mountains, energetic and clothed in a mixture of British military and civilian garb, with the stout walking stick and short topper hat identified with the figure of John Bull: he is beset by mosquitoes and, overheated, calls for “Sangaree” (sangria, in a huge goblet carried by a small slave), takes violently ill and curses the country, and is nursed by a biracial house slave with whom he “domesticates”; he recovers his former high spirits and “Creolizes,” participates in the hunt (wearing an officer’s uniform and a planter’s hat), drinks rum and smokes cigars with friends, “plays the Devil” whipping his slave valet Quashie, and dances with a Creole planter’s daughter, before the yellow fever returns. The last set of frames follow Johnny’s “progress” as yellow Jack in extremis, without hope, writing his will, delirious and hallucinating to the astonishment of Quashie and other slaves, mourned by his Calypso slave lover, in a coffin decorated with a

Dark Humor, Cartoon Strips, and Other Raw Material for Don Juan

87

satirist’s owl and skull-and-crossbones, before internment in a mass grave so that his coffin can be reused. A table beside Johnny’s coffin, bearing bottles of rum, sangria, and ineffectual potions, marks the ironies of the African disease—borne by sick captives among the human cargo transported to work the plantations—that waits to infect the European newcomers and English Jacks in the Caribbean islands.5 And, lest we miss the point, a yellow wash—like the ocular mists of yellow fever—is used as the unifying tint for all twenty-one frames of the print. We are referred back to the first print and its captions, Martial Law in Jamaica, which is slyly dedicated “with highest consideration to all whom it may concern”—as it delineates the “dis-eases” of military order as imposed after the “maroon” revolts (plate 4.1). A slouching, fat-bellied Creole planter and English hunting dog observe the British declaration (to drumbeat) of martial law in the first frame. Subsequent frames picture “the Flower of the Isle”: oddly outfitted generals and a mule’s head preparing for defense of their districts; subordinates “qualifying” themselves for the “Arts of War”; a rag-tag militia band of mixed uniforms, with English, French, Spanish, and planter’s hats, all feathered, reporting to a “creolized Adjutant”; a major and captain practicing military postures while a “Lieutenant Coffee,” “assuming l’air militaire,” is groomed by his black house slave (and mistress) and her monkey; an “Ensign Caveat” awaiting the Field Day drums “with slumbering vigilance”; “native” infantry practicing with rifles held upside down; a reconnaissance band called “The Forlorn Hope,” with camp-kettles and kitbags tied to bayonets on their shoulders like so many Dick Whittingtons trudging up a Blue Mountain to fight Maroon Wars; a row of “vigilant defenders” in their undershirts lying in drunken stupor on the barracks floor, rum bottles nearby, with their uniforms hanging high on a clothesline and rifles stacked in a corner. The military uniforms that dress these “flowers” of the isle of Jamaica feature, prominently, the British colors of red and blue—perhaps the better to address the “maroon” mix of the slave islanders. “Maroon” Caribbeans in the final frame, recalling the drum beat of martial law, now form a marching band for peacetime as they slavishly practice playing “the New German Waltz” for the Planter’s Ball. Abraham James’s cartoon strips of colonial Jamaica reflect an influence of the political print satires of James Gillray and the social progress print series of William Hogarth. Their visual-and-verbal episodic narrative and reflective captions recall, at some remove, the satiric homage to Homer and the outsider perspective of mock-heroic pantomimes and comic literature from Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantaguel stories to the unfinished narratives of Lazarillo de Tormes and the mock-epic digressive fictions of

88

Chapter 4

Fielding, Sterne, and Smollett.6 The specific humor of James’s prints, at once also earnest and dark, reaches beyond these examples to the medieval masques and woodcut chapbook illustrations of the dances of death and other grotesque memento mori of stations in the progress of sinners toward purgatorial tortures or hell fires—macabre “progress” series that had also served as a pattern for Hogarth. The Torrid Zone. Or, Blessings of Jamaica (c. 1801) drawn as a preamble to the Johnny New-come prints makes clear their connection to the didactic and prophetic medieval “progress” stories. A Dantesque pattern of three half-circles shows a desiccated, fiendish, and winged figure of a planter holding a bottle of rum and stretching across the plantation roof; interior scenes below show planters at leisure, idle, or engaged in sensual pleasures; below these, the lowest half-circle shows macabre figures in darkness tortured by disease, with the central figure an enormous-bellied yellow scorpion labeled “Yellow Fever” holding an hourglass—the scorpion has flaming ears and the face of a grotesquely ill and angry slave. Beneath the economies of the plantations are those who serve and protect it (new slaves, young soldiers), and these become the immediate victims of Yellow Jack. James’s New-come drawings begin as satiric jokes about rum-soaked newcomers to the Caribbean who travel in search of adventure and profit.7 They then become Swiftian to make bitter prophecy of the ultimate fate of the national profiteers in the trading of slaves, and the imperial places in Europe that dispatched young troops to protect such investments abroad. In London between 1802 and 1804 Abraham James would have had immediate access to news of Haiti from military dispatches, state propaganda against the French, and abolitionist literature: of Napoleon’s signature on a law to maintain slavery in the French West Indies and to return Haiti to the pen; of Charles Leclerc’s invasion of Haiti and duplicitous use of peace talks to seize and transport Toussaint L’Ouverture to a French prison; of Rochambeau’s savage rule after Leclerc and of the massacre and other atrocities wrought by French troops on the slave population of Haiti.8 British propaganda and the imperial lobby in Parliament also broadcast, in patriotic antidote, exemplary stories of an orderly Jamaica, an idyllic island and British colony with obedient slaves and prosperous plantations. In London and awaiting orders for posting overseas, and drawing cartoons published by the radical press, Abraham James found himself to be an inside outsider: he was a military man who could soon find himself fighting for his country against Napoleon’s empire, but his experience suppressing slave revolts in Haiti and Jamaica coupled with his knowledge of plantation life in the Caribbean had made him a committed abolitionist and pitted him

Dark Humor, Cartoon Strips, and Other Raw Material for Don Juan

89

FIGURE 4.1. Abraham James, Segar Smoking Society in Jamaica, 1802. The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

against British imperial policies overseas. The conceptual design for Newcome’s Caribbean found form as a satiric and purportedly civilized underside of the pagan Pacific paradise described by the likes of Captain Cook and Joseph Banks, with the artist’s sympathies placed squarely behind two exploited groups: the slaves transported from Africa and the young soldiers recruited with false images from England. In James’s earnest perspective, both groups were newcomers in an alien land—like the “men without a country . . . too long estranged” from home that Byron describes in The Island (1823)—both bound to forget home and the values of their childhood, both destined, if they survived, to a life of enslaved misery or (for those soldiers who prospered and Creolized) moral corruption.9 Segar Smoking Society in Jamaica (1802) pictures the anodynes of plantation society that await the Johnny New-comes who would join it and happily Creolize (figure 4.1). A large green table laden with half-filled beakers and goblets of blood-red wine or sangria, rum bottles, pineapples and a plate of tropical fruits, and two low-taper lamps, occupies the central foreground of the print. A middle-aged couple smoking cigars sit at the table. Along the periphery of the room, facing a blank wall and shaded windows, is a row of boorish men and bored women, puffing on cigars and clutching large

90

Chapter 4

FIGURE 4.2. Abraham James, A Grand Jamaica Ball! or, the Creolean Hop . . . in Spanish Town, 1802. The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

goblets, many in clothing of the same color as the wine they drink, all in poses casual and strangely unmoving. The men prop both legs high against the wall, the women’s legs which are held high are splayed in sexual availability but without appeal. But for their legs, the figures droop with ennui. A male slave at the left, the only upright figure, stands in attendance, holding a filled wine cup with a rim as wide as his chest. In this scene of British Jamaican Lotus-Eaters, the outsized goblets with wide rims and slender stems reminiscent of the top chamber of an hourglass, recurrent in all of James’s designs, are the focus. The shapes of the wall sconces and table lamps also echo that of the goblets and recall the yellow fever slave’s hourglass in The Torrid Zone. Time is suspended as in any idyll, but it is also truncated and imminently at end as in any medieval depiction of memento mori. Stylized energy and exaggerated social performance, parallel to the luxurious but suspended animation of Segar Smoking, find image in A Grand Jamaica Ball! (1802), a New-come print on an event hosted by the plantations in Spanish Town each December and known as the “Creolean Hop” or “Planter’s Ball”—which James would have attended before he left Jamaica late in 1801 to furlough in London (figure 4.2). The dance floor

Dark Humor, Cartoon Strips, and Other Raw Material for Don Juan

91

of this British Caribbean danse macabre is peopled with social types: young women with chaperons watching eligible young British Army redcoats; younger matrons dancing with attenuated planters; a strutting naval ensign striking a pose for the ladies; Lieutenant Coffee, now a yellow-hued Major with a larger wig, making his case to a wealthy but unappealing planter’s daughter in the foreground; antique-yellow planters (who have survived the fever and endure as Yellow Jacks) and their complacent wives; a rakish old planter and former naval officer posing in dance with a voluptuous woman who beckons with one leg raised very high. A grimacing slave stands between the last couple holding the satirist’s characteristic oversized wine cups. Above the macabre scene of stylized festivity, groups of slaves huddle together, witness to a Creole couple slipping up the stairs to a private box. In the balcony plantation dance attendees are flanked, on the left by a slave string band and on the right by a British military band with trumpets poised and cymbals raised in readiness—as a portly red-coated officer fondles the bare breasts of a planter’s wife. A young man in a blue coat learning against a pillar by the stairs, New-come or the artist himself, watches the Creolean dance of death run its course. In 1805 Abraham James moved with the 67th Regiment to service in India in the wake of Richard Wellesley’s imperious governorship that had been made possible by Arthur Wellesley (the soon-to-be Duke of Wellington) and his brutal campaigns as Commander-in-Chief of the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War and Maratha and Gujerat conquests. No satiric prints by James survive from his life in India, where he remained till his death while rising slowly in the ranks until his retirement in 1823. His oldest son, another Abraham James, became a draughtsman in the printing business, working with the new lithographic presses for the Surveyor-General’s Office in Calcutta, and an independent artists’ workshop in Patna.10 James’s artistic talent found modest outlet in illustrations of military costumes and drill movements for the sepoys and other “native” soldiers of the British empire; one of these illustrated manuals, The Military Costumes of India (1813), paid imitative homage to a 1798 illustrated military instruction book by a Captain David Roberts who in 1814–1815 would, as we will see, adapt the Johnny Newcome print series for an illustrated verse narrative. William Holland kept James’s New-come designs in print after the latter left England. The prints were popular among the publisher’s radical and abolitionist friends, and they remained available for purchase at 5 shillings apiece and on display at Holland’s new location on Cockspur Street. The year 1807 saw passage in Parliament—some twenty years after the abolition movement led by Wilberforce had begun—of the Bill to end

92

Chapter 4

the slave trade. Slavery in the British West Indies continued until 1834 when a Bill for gradual emancipation (made possible by the new policy of replacing slaves with indentured laborers imported from India) was passed. The moral anomalies of continuing slavery in British territories despite the 1807 Bill occasioned a new series of Johnny (unhyphenated) Newcome satiric graphics published by Holland between 1807 and 1808 by a new artist identified in the plates only by the monogram “JF.”11 Equally earnest but more politically charged or focused than the original series by James, sometimes deliberately offensive to squeamish sensibilities, the new Johnny Newcome cartoon strips were reconfigured to shock and thoroughly destabilize prevailing pieties as they depicted British and Indian Johnnies fully Creolized and in residence, as plantation masters, as military heroes of the Maroon Wars now retired to ownership of plantations, and as lesser British officers transitioning to plantation and civilian life. Whether at home or in fashionable plantation society with his English wife and many slaves, or out hunting and in the field with his slave mistresses (and more slaves), JF’s cartoon strips and individual prints depict Newcome living a double and doubling life of gratification, decadence, and inertia.12 Two cartoon strips dated April 1808 and issued as a pair, West India Luxury!! and Johnny Newcome in Love in the West Indies earn special attention (figures 4.3 and 4.4). Luxury, in five captioned frames and a central section of Creole-speak shows Johnny as a middle-age “West India Nabob” wearing a planter’s hat, at ease on a settee in his sitting- room surrounded by attractive young women and children, all biracial; the next frame shows the nabob’s English wife, a picture of “Creolean Patience” with her embroidery on her lap, as she instructs a house slave named Mimbo “tell Quashebah to tell Prue to tell Dido to tell Sue to come and pick up my Needle”—the women are busy so Patience laments that she must wait “two hours” to resume her embroidery; the third frame shows the plantation’s mistress in an upstairs window calling down to Quashebah to “come and take my Head in again”; the last two frames show four male slaves as “a Portable Boot Jack” working to remove Nabob Johnny’s boots, and four biracial women as “One of the Luxuries” washing and grooming the happily indolent Newcome. Johnny has grown up to become (to echo Blake) what he beheld as a young soldier. Johnny in Love, the sequel cartoon in the pair, is in fact a prequel of Newcome’s earlier life and what lies beneath the domestic propriety of his life as a newcomer turned resident nabob of the colony: no longer an aspiring military man and on his way to become a plantation owner, Johnny makes overtures to a “sable Venus” named Mimbo, the daughter of a king in the Congo but now a house slave who

FIGURE 4.3. JF, West India Luxury!!, 1808. Private Collection.

FIGURE 4.4. JF, Johnny Newcome in Love in the West Indies, 1808. The Beineke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

94

Chapter 4

cleans and picks chiggers from Johnny’s feet; he succeeds in his suit with the aid of a slave panderer and, by the fourth frame, has made Mimbo queen of his harem of biracial women; the fifth frame shows Newcome “taking leave of his Ladies and Pickaneenees” before departing “Frying Pan Island, to graze a little in his Native Land”—before, presumably, returning from the Fire Island that is England with his British wife Patience to set up their proper plantation and to lead his double life as a West India Nabob. The last frame of Newcome in Love provides miniature portraits of Johnny’s nine biracial children surnamed Newcome, all bearing given names reflecting memorable characters (but Creolized) of Western “civilization”—Lucretia Diana, Penelope Mimbo, Quaco Dash, Cuffy Cato, Caesar Cudjoe, Helena Quashebah, Aristides Juba, Hector Sammy (who, we are told in a helpful digression, promises “to be the Toussaint of his country”), and Hannibal Pompey Wampo. These are the fruits of Officer Johnny’s labor in peacetime in the colony. The graphic scenes and composite art of Nabob Newcome in love and in luxury are drawn to provoke moral indignation—and to scandalize the prudes who have maintained a deliberate ignorance of well-known social mores in the colonies. The scenes are also and specifically designed to manipulate the absurdities inherent in prevailing fears of miscegenation: an issue stoked to high anxiety in the population at home by the politicians who warned of half-breeds in British colonies becoming revolutionaries like Toussaint, by the imperial theorists like Lord Valentia (George Annesley), Henry Kames, and Paul Rycaut who warned of “Oriental indolence” and enervating degeneracy in the half-breeds and their dangers to British rule and English racial identity, and by the establishment clerics (including some abolitionists) who saw the children of “native” mothers as proof of widespread “pagan” corruption in Britain’s colonies.13 JF’s pictures invoke existing conventions to dare viewers to misread their message by applying their own personal biases and cultural prejudices (applying European standards of beauty to Johnny’s Queen of the Harem, or rating the attractiveness of the harem women according to their lightening skin tones). Graphic satirists of the period regularly evoked the evolutionary patterns of comparative anatomy to caricaturize public figures as devolving humans, worse than animals and lacking in the humanity that purportedly set them above the animal kingdom. Rowlandson in particular among Georgian caricaturists used the example of Johann Caspar Lavater’s physiognomic illustrations for his rogues’ galleries of heads and facial resemblances (which he drew and published piecemeal from 1808 on) to show the degenerating resemblance certain public figures bore to the animals with which they were commonly

Dark Humor, Cartoon Strips, and Other Raw Material for Don Juan

95

compared in the satiric prints of the day—for example, known to be sly or vicious in behavior, Rowlandson’s political animals had devolved below their creatural resemblances: they were sketched as more foxy than foxes, more wolfish then wolves, and un-redeemably ignoble where the actual creatures were not.14 JF makes daring, shocking use of his graphic satire examples in his 1808 scenes of the consequences of Nabob Newcome’s life of “luxury” and “love” in the West Indies. His miniature portraits of the handsome and innocent, but Blakean and biracial, Newcome children reflect in a double mirror what the miscegenists do not want to see in any reflective form, and what the British do not see and cannot conceptualize when they look in their colonial mirror. And, to continue the query of conceptual origins and consequences, we have an 1807 individual print of Johnny Newcome’s reversing story, one taken as he begins his “progress” or transformation from young soldier to slave plantation owner, titled Patent Family Bedstead. In this censored and suppressed print now accessible only in grainy reprint form, JF show the Newcome four-poster bed, each post topped with small pineapples (a contemporary symbol of fertility): a slave woman lies in the bed, tied up and in stocks, besides a seated and smiling Johnny, in his nightshirt, wearing a liberty cap and holding a whip.15 The enigmatic expression on the woman’s face defies simple translation. Public prints and cartoon strips were widely reproduced and commonly available by the turn of the eighteenth century. The practical change from Hogarth-style elaborately wrought pictorial engravings to the quickly executed and sometime colored etchings of Gillray, Rowlandson, and lesser caricaturists including the Newcome artists, allowed for larger editions and self-referential adaptations for diverse forums. Editions of prints on single sheets were run at an initial 500 to 1,500 copies;16 specific prints timed to specific events or political debates could run higher in number, and reproductions of these on thin paper for targeted dissemination at gatherings, expanded the availability of images from initial printings; the adaptation of print images for newspapers and broadsheets, and placement in series on related subjects expanded exponentially the accessibility and public awareness of these otherwise ephemeral depictions. By the late eighteenth century all of the major publishers of high-priced prints had moved their establishments from Fleet Street to the West End: William and Hannah Humphrey were located in the Strand and then on Bond and St. James’s Streets; Samuel Fores was based in Piccadilly; and William Holland moved from Drury Lane in 1782 to 50 Oxford Street, and then late in 1803 to 11 Cockspur Street. Print shops, following the example of Hannah Humphrey’s gallery shop, customarily posted a display of recent work in their

96

Chapter 4

windows and front rooms, which they changed on schedule to encourage business and the ongoing curiosity of passersby—and we have Charles Lamb’s recollections from his days at Christ’s Hospital that these window displays of prints served as the only amusement and education on currents events for poor boys.17 In 1787 William Holland announced the opening of his “Exhibition Rooms” containing what he said was the largest collection of humorous prints and drawings available for view at a modest price of one shilling. Fores, in 1790, followed suit and opened his “Grand Caricature Exhibition” as a satiric print museum. Cast as a low-brow but potentially more entertaining version of the annual Royal Academy exhibitions, as at once historical museum and showcase of current novelties in political prints, Holland’s panoramic print hall especially became an event and place to be attended regularly by viewers high and low, where drawings were purchased singly for country house galleries and private portfolios, or in bulk copies to suppress (as the Prince Regent did) unflattering portraits, and where radicals could view smuggled copies of contemporary French prints. In 1789 Holland has featured among his offerings a large and detailed revolutionary print titled The Downfall of Despotism and a Gillray satire titled French Freedom/British Slavery; these, followed by a rash of prints critical of the Royal Couple (like Gillray’s 1792 Taking Physick—or—the News of Shooting the King of Sweden! featuring George III and Queen Charlotte on privy closets) prompted charges of treason (for importing dangerous prints from Paris) and Crown libel (for scandalous drawings of the King and his ministers), trial, and a prison term in 1793. Holland remained committed to his political views: after leaving prison he was known for his inventory of satiric “West Indian” prints, and he extended his business to cover graphic satires of British practices in all the colonies, including reprints of Gillray’s drawings of “Fishing-Fleet” women seeking husbands in India (like the Sale of English Beauties in the East Indies, 1786). Abraham James’s New-come drawings were published, viewed, and sold from his Oxford Street shop; JF’s Newcome and West Indies designs were issued, viewed, and sold from Cockspur Street. Newcome prints of Johnnies at home and abroad by diverse and less talented hands, derivative in image and settings from Holland’s prints, presumptive of a continuing audience for their series and opportunistic in their political directions (much like the “Boney” series on Napoleon) multiplied in the early decades of the century. Their proliferation and increasing diffusion can be attributed largely to Thomas Tegg and his printing warehouse in Cheapside. After starting out as a profiteer of London book auctions and the sale of remaindered editions, Tegg in 1807 expanded his business

Dark Humor, Cartoon Strips, and Other Raw Material for Don Juan

97

FIGURE 4.5. William Elmes, Adventures of Johnny Newcome, Plate 1, 1812. Private Collection.

in reprints and abridged (and bowdlerized) books to the reissuing of satiric prints and other illustrated ephemeras. As the self-described “broom that swept the booksellers’ warehouses,” Tegg acquired expiring copyrights and worn plates from the West End print makers which he reissued in inexpensive formats along with badly-drawn and colored pirated derivations of the originals; sold at “half-price” or “one hundred percent cheaper,” and decorating the wall of his Caricature Warehouse, these prints were also collected in Tegg’s Caricature Magazine or Hudibrastic Mirror (1807–1814).18 A two-part cartoon strip drawn by Williams Elmes and issued by Tegg, Adventures of Johnny Newcome, dated 1812 but accessible in archives with watermarks from 1819 to 1821, exemplifies the proliferation and mutation downward of the series. Familiar images adapted from Holland’s prints of 1801–1808 show the Newcome character greeted on shore by an outsized crab, yellow scorpion, and green turtle; he is soon ogling “native” beauties, at leisure and tended by slaves, swarmed by mosquitoes, then preaching to and flogging “poor Mungo” (figure 4.5); the second plate (not reproduced here) depicts the “jollity and festive mirth” of Johnny cavorting at the “Negro Ball” (to the music of a slave band) but then courting and marrying a white planter’s English beauty (“Rosa”) of a daughter. Elmes,

98

Chapter 4

better known for his patriotic naval scenes and “Boney” caricatures (his print of Russian Cossacks pursuing and then snuffing out Napoleon with a furry liberty cap was to inspire Cruikshank’s more famous version), was characteristic of the largely amateur artists whom Tegg commissioned to adapt or plagiarize earlier prints like the Newcome series for sale to middling audiences with conservative political views.19 The social and political strands of Tegg’s Newcome prints are barely integrated and strangely cross-eyed or oblivious to their disjunctures: iconic images of slavery and misconduct lifted from Holland’s radical prints are used to depict the “jollity and mirth” of Caribbean island living where the plantation families intermarry to preserve hegemony and racial purity; the slaves provide accompanying music and appear good-natured about their conditions—even “poor Mungo” whipped and exhorted to Christianity seems acquiescent. In this regard Tegg’s commissioned Newcome prints join conservative forces with imperial print draughtsman like Charles Gold and James Moffat, and secondary literary satirists like Charles Churchill and T. J. Mathias, all of whom proferred their racial derogations as “satiric” entertainment to instruct British audiences and advance the empire.20 Tegg’s reprinting of the Newcome cartoon strips was useful in keeping the series in view, but the opportunism of his Newcome adaptations and the politics of his age did little for the continuing artistic value and survival of the series. “By the way . . . a bookseller—a villain—an imposter—in Cheapside— publishes a set of damned things calling them mine . . . saying . . . ‘he paid to me 500 guineas for the copyright!’”21 Byron’s experience of Tegg’s establishment as the latter attempted in 1816 to publish verses purported to be on Childe Harold in the Holy Land, may be the poet’s only tangential connection to the Newcome satiric print series. We cannot assert that Byron encountered the Newcome Johnnies in their original radical, revised, or compromised versions. We know that Byron knew of and admired Toussaint L’Ouverture and leaders of the Haitian revolution and that he would be well-informed of the issues of slavery in British Jamaica through his acquaintance with Robert Charles Dallas, who was born in Jamaica and had held a “lucrative post” there; through his association with Leigh Hunt who railed in the Examiner against West Indian merchants and their treatment of slaves; and through his friendship with Matthew Lewis (who inherited a slave plantation), with whom he talks about the “Slave trade” (at Mme. de Staël’s Coppet) and about whom he comments jokingly (when Lewis leaves for his Jamaican estates in 1815)—”Lewis is going to Jamaica to suck on his sugar-canes.”22 Direct evidence of Byron’s knowledge of the slave trade and the economic consequences

Dark Humor, Cartoon Strips, and Other Raw Material for Don Juan

99

of the abolitionists’ efforts for the colonies would be his description of “Numidian” Haidée and Juan in the slave ship, and his facetious remark on the slave market “Twelve negresses from Nubia brought a price / Which the West Indian market scarce would bring, / Though Wilberforce, at last, has made it twice / What ‘twas ere Abolition” (Don Juan, 4: 57, 115). More earnest and expressive of full knowledge would be the poet’s 1822 declaration that reports from England had discouraged his plans for moving to British or Spanish America because it was impossible to settle “free in a country of Slavery for many centuries.—But there is no freedom—even for Masters—in the midst of slaves—it makes my blood boil to see the thing.—I sometimes wish that I was the Owner of Africa—to do at once—what Wilberforce will do in time—viz—sweep Slavery from her desarts—and look upon the first dance of their Freedom.”23 In Central London for extended stays between 1805 and 1809, staying in rooms in Piccadilly when on trips from Harrow, and then, on trips from Cambridge and during his twenty-first year, residing at hotels like Gordon’s, Dorant’s (on Albemarle Street), Reddish’s (on St. James’s Street), and Batt’s (on Jermyn Street), Byron would have found himself in recurrent proximity to the print-galleries of Fores in Piccadilly, Humphrey’s on St. James Street, and Holland’s Cockspur Street shop and exhibition hall located across from Pall Mall. On Byron’s return to England in 1811 and his intermittent residence through 1815 at addresses on St. James’s Street and Piccadilly Terrace, the proximity to the print galleries continued. Moreover, during Byron’s service on the Drury Lane Theatre’s subcommittee of management (1815), on his walks with Thomas Moore, Samuel Rogers, Thomas Dibdin, and others involved with the theaters in Covent Garden, and especially on his visits with Richard Sheridan, Douglas Kinnaird, and Matthew Lewis to the book auctions and shops in search of bargains for their book collections, the poet would have had ample access to view items in not just the established print galleries but in the windows of the smaller print shops on the peripheries of Central London.24 Whether Byron saw Holland’s West Indian prints and cartoon strips in their original 1800–1808 forms, or in their reprint versions which continued through 1821, remains an issue here. But the circumstantial evidence of his ongoing proximity to the satiric print venues, as well as his established interest in the politics of Britain’s colonies, add voice to the call for a wide-scale and collaborative comparative study across archives of satiric (sketched to the cultural moment and always political) print ephemeras—including the Newcome prints and cartoon strips which remain fully outside contemporary print culture studies; they reiterate the potential significance of the composite

100

Chapter 4

and interlaced (but also fragmented and scattered) art of these ephemeras to the works of Romantic artists and, specifically, Romantic poets from Blake to Keats.25 Part of such a study would have to include the recreation of the intermediate links connecting the visual forms of the satiric prints—and their evolution by way of cartoon strips with captions, dialogues, referential asides, and expanding verbal digressions to serial drawings, to the illustrated but largely verbal satires and mock-epic verses that subsist in the shadows behind epic poems like Don Juan. In 1815 David Roberts (1757–1819), a veteran of the Peninsular Wars and decorated hero of the battles of Salamanca, Talavera, and Vitoria, published a long satiric poem in hudibrastic verse illustrated with fifteen sketches by Thomas Rowlandson. This sub-literary poem of some 3,000 lines titled The Military Adventures of Johnny Newcome, with an Account of His Campaign on the Peninsula and in Pall Mall, was divided into two parts: an initial narrative of the experiences of a young soldier in the near-tropical terrains of summertime Portugal and Spain, and a longer and digressive “Sequel” describing the soldier’s progress through military ranks and London power circles until he is chosen as aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington, receives a Badge of Merit from the Prince Regent, and purchases a seat in Parliament. Roberts’ Newcome had an earlier life as a monthly series (in 1814) of illustrated octavo pamphlets and was then published sequentially in two parts; it was sufficiently popular in compilation as a bound edition to go into a second edition (in 1816) before it was removed from circulation.26 Rowlandson’s drawings were unevenly divided between the two parts of the poem: twelve serial sketches illustrated successive episodes in the narrative of Ensign Johnny’s experience of going to war in Europe and returning home to convalesce; three static and much more complex designs by the caricaturist, strategically placed amid the verbally expansive sequel penned by Roberts, enhanced and gave a staged pictorial reality to the satiric commentary on the Newcome campaigns for military and social advancement through the use of “interest” (influence or the blessings of finance) and political performances in Britain’s European theater of war. In his book Realizations (1983) Martin Meisel identifies the fluidities behind the terms “illustration” and “realization” as they were commonly understood and used in the nineteenth century to describe collaborative artwork with verbal and visual components. Meisel’s examples of the particular fungibility of the terms in the Romantic period are Rowlandson’s original designs published first in Ackermann’s Poetical Magazine (1809) for the The Tour of Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque (1812), a popular and on-going series for which Rowlandson asserted conceptual priority and

Dark Humor, Cartoon Strips, and Other Raw Material for Don Juan

101

de facto authority over William Combe’s improvised verse narratives; The English Dance of Death (1814–1816), a bound serial that in subtitle gave original authorial credit to “the Designs of Thomas Rowlandson” as embellished “with Metrical Illustrations by the Author of ‘Dr. Syntax’”; and Pierce Egan’s deference to George Cruikshank’s pictures and their priority in design for Life in London (1821).27 In evoking the effects of the multiple-authored Johnny Newcome cartoon strips, connecting with popular audiences of comic pictured tales like the light-humored Syntax and darker Dance of Death series, and using the talents of the foremost caricaturist and satiric illustrator of the age to dress his modest talents at writing hudibrastic mock-heroic verse, Roberts is able to realize through a combination of comic indirection and diffused authorship an earnest and firsthand portrayal of what Britain and her army had become. Roberts inscribed his Newcome “To the Subalterns of the British Army,” and he described his book as a “humble Essay” and “the only means in my power of shewing how much I honour and admire” the foot soldiers and one-horse subalterns at the lowest rank. His title page credits Rowlandson as artist, but the only authorial designation reads “By an Officer”—an anonymity perhaps for political prudence but more probably to assert personal knowledge of the institution described. Roberts began his career in an independent militia band and then as a subaltern or ensign in the 22nd Dragoons; furloughed in London (1801–1804) he returned to active duty as part of Viscount Castlereagh’s scheduled build-up of the British army for war in Europe and territorial acquisition overseas;28 as a member of the 51st Foot King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, he made his way from captain to major to regiment commander (a battlefield promotion at Vitoria); he was seriously injured during combat in Portugal, lost his right hand at Lugo, and took a bullet to the spine in combat at Vera on the Bidassoa River during the invasion of France in 1813, which left him unable to participate in the 1814 capture of Paris; he remained a convalescent in Le Havre, was promoted in absentia to lieutenant-colonel, and died in 1819 without returning home. The Military Adventures of Johnny Newcome was composed by a paralyzed soldier: Roberts’ direct experiences in the Napoleonic engagements and his proximity to Wellington’s headquarters after the Battle of Vimiera give high credence to his descriptions of battlefield chaos and troop atrocities toward the to-be-liberated “natives” of Portugal and Spain, of corpses on the battlefields abandoned to wolves and birds, of the wholesale starvation of foot soldiers and “slaves on horseback” before the Battle of Talavera, of Wellesley’s well-provisioned officers permitted because of the Peninsula’s “tropical” summer weather to spurn identifying uniforms and

102

Chapter 4

instead sport regimental hats and sashes with waistcoats of any color so that in the chaos of war “they only wanted the appendage of Bells” (1: 14n). While on furlough in London beginning in 1802 and before he left for Portugal in 1808, Roberts would have had access to Holland’s prints of Abraham James’s and JF’s cartoon strips; he would also have seen Rowlandson’s large paired watercolors, The English Review and The French Review (1786), exhibited at the Royal Academy and on view thereafter at Humphrey’s print gallery on the Strand—spectacular, satiric scenes of the drilled and organized French army versus the disarrayed and dissipated British forces.29 We cannot confirm that Roberts saw French revolutionary prints (or encountered Rowlandson and local caricaturists in Paris), but the two Reviews were an important example for his Newcome. Just before the Peace of Amiens, Roberts had published his manual of platoon drills and regimental dress and exercises, Military Instructions (1798), which, as a practical guide and manifesto for military dignity, garnered official popularity during the uneasy Peace. Colored illustrations for this manual were drawn by Robert Ker Porter, whose family was well-connected with military circles, and whose 120 foot long panorama of The Battle of Seringapatam (1800) was a tour-de-force for war. Ker Porter’s panorama toured Britain and was a standing outdoor exhibition on the Strand for several years, promoted by the Dibdin cousins, Thomas Frognall and Thomas John (the latter an acquaintance and colleague of Byron at the Drury Lane Theatre during 1815).30 David Roberts had the battlefield experience, the reputation, the patriotism, and the connections to give legitimacy to his knowledge of Britain’s military. When his disillusionment with his profession and the army he had served came, and as he recontextualized the Newcome cartoons for his verse satire, he had an insider’s view—and the satirist’s savage indignation—as well as the ties to the caricature artists and print-makers of London to assist in the realization and dissemination of depictions written from physical exile in France. Roberts’ Military Adventures of Johnny Newcome begins lightly, with a comic survey of the Newcome family on Ludgate Hill, with an ancestry going back to “Adam Newcome” and his “Dame Eve,” and “Cain Newcome.” Father Newcome is a successful greengrocer who eats Caribbean green “turtle soup, and talk[s] of Church and State”; mother Doll Newcome believes “all learning stuff” because “Young John will have the Cash, and that’s enough.” “Bred by the old ones to pursue the Trade,” Johnny “scorn’d to stop / And retail sugar in his father’s Shop”; instead, “By Martial ardour fired” he buys a commission with his parents’ cash and “Strutted an Ensign.” The Newcome genealogy prompts an ominous satiric

Dark Humor, Cartoon Strips, and Other Raw Material for Don Juan

103

FIGURE 4.6. Thomas Rowlandson, Johnny Newcome Going to Lay in Stock, 1815. The Yale Center for British Art.

digression on the Newcomes to be found everywhere, in England where “Newcome’s a Lord, a General, Knight or Dean”; “in Foreign Courts”; and in France where “Boney Newcome . . . makes his tribes of Newcomes Kings and Princes” and “trembles in his Thuilleries” because of “Paddy Newcome [Wellington].” “In London Newcomes everywhere are seen . . . The Park, the Playhouse, on St. James’s Street . . . . And Carlton House has got its Newcome too [the Prince Regent]” (1: 1–5). No longer simply the military Johnnies of the colonies, the Newcomes have come home to replace morally staid and solid John Bull with flashy opportunism and to infect Britain with dark corruption as yellow Jacks. Rowlandson’s second illustration for Roberts’ poem, Johnny Newcome Going to Lay in Stock (figure 4.6) sets up the two subjects that dominate the first part of Newcome’s adventures: Food and War. Johnny ships, seasick and retching, to join his regiment in Portugal (1: 12–14), he arrives at the Belem depot, and he is provided with a bed and shelter but no food at his billet (because with food shortages the Portuguese no longer wish or can play host to their liberators). He goes with a senior officer to purchase personal supplies for the imminent campaign at the high-priced Army store: two starving local waifs follow Johnny, and a well-fed and armed storekeeper greets him; his mother’s “Cash” enables him to buy the advertised European hams, tongues, hollands , brandies, and wines, as well as colonial teas, spices, sugar, rum, and “good Segars” (1: 35–36). A subsequent

104

Chapter 4

illustration shows Johnny breakfasting on the ham, beef, biscuits, and brandy, served by his Irish servant on the road to Salamanca, against the backdrop of a mass grave attended by his subaltern’s mule and a howling wolf. A note to the line warning Johnny of the battlefield scarcity of forage for horses or mules, “Two Subs are but allow’d one Mule between ’em,” explains that with a single animal to carry the baggage, gear, food, and water for two men, food becomes the first and ongoing deprivation for subalterns (1: 34–35; 63–64n). Wellington, when training himself as an expert in battle strategies after Seringapatam, also studied statistics of troop survival in hostile terrains, the maximum weight of provisions individual soldiers and their mules could carry, and the time soldiers could survive on half-rations or fight while starving. Roberts references this calculation when he described Newcome between engagements and after a particularly bloody skirmish in an action he has accidentally joined: Johnny takes the place of his dead captain and performs heroically but on returning to camp finds that all his provisions have been eaten by the other officers and is, instead, offered “half a biscuit” (1: 71, 77–79); an accompanying print of the scene, Half Rations, enhances the picture of starvation and bloodshed. Heroism in the vanguard action and the sight of “Mangled Carcases” on the battlefield stripped by scavengers of their clothing and half-eaten by wolves and jackals (including the desecrated and shredded body of his captain) leave Johnny sick. He is offered a cure of military honors and congratulatory “Rum and Segars,” but then, increasingly fevered and yellow at these field remedies, is sent to a battle infirmary (1: 80–88). Rowlandson’s drawing of Poor Johnny on the Sick List (figure 4.7) shows Newcome on the barn floor of this “hospital,” weak with dysentery and exhorted to rise for action by the long-nosed medical officer; an orderly stands nearby holding the alternate medicine of an outsized enema syringe; a cross on the wall and a commode watched over by a rat complete the picture. Still sick and hungry, and carried past the scenes of his heroism and disgust in the dying cart, Johnny is sent home to England for his health. “I give the truth, and nothing but the truth” (1: 86). Roberts’ graphic descriptions of battlefield conditions and the unconscionable behavior of British and allied troops in pillaging the dying exceed in intensity Rowlandson’s illustrations to the poem. Humorless and stark, Roberts’ war scenes resemble and almost work in tandem with Goya’s series (The Disasters of War, 1808–1814) on the French occupation of Spain during the Napoleonic wars. After the first battle in Newcome’s “adventures,” the slapstick humor and light satire in digressions (of chamber pots emptied on Johnny’s new regimentals, or the writer’s intrusions described as “Interlude[s] . . . a

Dark Humor, Cartoon Strips, and Other Raw Material for Don Juan

105

FIGURE 4.7. Thomas Rowlandson, Poor Johnny on the Sick List, 1815. The Yale Center for British Art.

sort of stuffing to my Meat” [1: 24–27]) largely disappear, as do the modest effects in prosody. Writing against the trend of popular poetry written to celebrate every allied victory and every move by Wellington in the Peninsula,31 Roberts’ anguish at the waste of human life in wars without moral justification leads him to write ever increasingly against the grain, without the lightness of verse and without the safety from capital charges of libel and sedition. The “Sequel” to Newcome’s story of advancement is unrelenting in its satiric focus on the British agencies of war—the policy makers, the aristocracy, the ever-aspiring military brass. There is little patriotism for Britain’s war against Boney and even less idealism (or romanticizing) of military action. Humor in the second part of Newcome is to be found largely in the biting explanatory notes on the conspiracy of Britain’s powers in grand-scale moral corruption—and in the focused illustrations of this by Rowlandson. Roberts is fully aware of the place of military fortune in what Woodring describes as “the politics of class” of the period, and of the matrix of power and wealth behind the conduct of war and government in its aftermath: “Wartime ministers” levied heavy taxes to support ongoing campaigns “without making any adjustments to reduce the political power of the lords temporal and spiritual”; “Upon the poor the recruiting officers practiced chicaneries for impressment into foreign, and often disastrous, service for the King.”32 Officers with “interest” (money) and access to power in Parliament or at Court rose speedily and without impediment to

106

Chapter 4

their own inalienable positions of greater power and wealth, Roberts notes in a long prose digression: “It is a general observation ‘that one Campaign at St. James’s is more efficacious in the attainment of promotion than half-adozen Campaigns in active service.’ Military observers can easily appreciate the justice of that remark.” Arthur Wellesley, made commander of the campaigns in Europe by his friend Castlereagh, and titled Baron Douro and Viscount Wellington for his achievements in Portugal and Spain, was the examplar of military preferment for Roberts, evidenced further by the Duke’s premature dispatches to the War Office and York House listing officers to be promoted for bravery in upcoming battles (1: 97n; 2: 137n). Johnny Newcome arrives home to find his father has become a merchant banker and an alderman of London City, with influence and “CASH AT MY COMMAND” to assist in his subaltern son’s campaign for promotion to substantial rank “in Pall Mall . . . [and] at Carlton House” (1: 96–99). Changed “immeasurably” by war, Johnny now “knew the World, and was a Worldly man; / For deep intrigue, or artifice was fit, . . . Apt was his mind, and his perception keen, / To meditate on what he’d heard and seen . . . . So much he saw—he found he could insure / The Road to Wealth, and Honours quite secure” (2: 104–5). Advised by their suddenly shrewd and by now long-nosed son to purchase a bank site in the West End and a mansion on St. James’s Square, and to hold extravagant parties to curry favor with the aristocracy, the senior Newcomes quickly find themselves titled Sir John and Lady Newcome with “the Fashionable World” keen “To touch her Guineas and to drink his Wine” (2: 109). Soon Newcome père is seated in Parliament and Newcome fils is a captain in the King’s Guard with the promise from Wellington of further advancement upon return from a brief appearance in the war theater. Sardonic footnotes praising “The Duke’s” adherence to the “Martial Laws” on promotions and his “wise measures” to end “military enrichment” after victories supplement Sir John’s praise of Wellington (2: 118–19). The senior Newcome then advises his son to write home in secret code describing all he sees and hears in the European campaign (“Disguise your meaning, wrap it up in Fable”)—so that he might use it to “Badger” state ministers directing “operations on the Peninsula”: and thereby advance his Party and his family (2: 126–29). Later, when Sir John rises to make his maiden speech in Parliament “on the Constitution,” he finds himself speechless: “He could not make a Speech—who made a [Sugar] Plum”; “reinforc’d” with “Stores of Ammunition” from Johnny’s letters, Sir John purchases a Parliamentary seat for his son who will speak for him upon his return from service with “The Duke” (2: 165–67). Johnny continues his letters in code,

Dark Humor, Cartoon Strips, and Other Raw Material for Don Juan

107

writing “in Metaphoric style [to] transpose / Men into Beasts, or Parsons into Crows” (2: 171). A rambling “Narration” in the alternating voices of Johnny and his narrator tells the story of a farmer from Iberia who seeks help eradicating crows from a “Farmer in the North” who is known to be a true “Father to his Flock” of “Shepherds, Salesmen, [and] Butchers.” This northern farm, or plantation, does not produce food for the starving native folk and soldier bands—it generates wars and treaties of duplicity to harvest conquests. The “Farmer” appoints a “Great Patron” of policy and a special “Shepherd” from a nearby island who will weed out “bad Sheep” in the military with the help of his aides-de-camp or “Gang of Shepherd Boys,” before making war with the country’s “Stock” of “Cattle” including its “Division Herds,” “Droves of Mules and Goats” and “a prime Lot of Large, and Royal Swine”; the “Shepherd” is urged to evoke his “Book of Orders” like a “Newgate Diary” when he is “forced, by G_d! to treat them all like Slaves” (2: 172–207, 146). Roberts identifies the lesser supporters of British Army policies by title and initials in his footnotes; we cannot miss the direct references in the poem to Wellington, his patron Castlereagh, and his king “Farmer George.” Joseph Buonaparte’s near capture during the defeat of the French occupying forces in Spain (in the Battle of Vitoria, 1813) serves as the focal point for Roberts’ satiric consummation of Johnny Newcome’s story of corruption and for Rowlandson’s penultimate drawing for the poem. In the vanguard of Wellington’s special forces, Johnny finds himself behind the French army on the run and about to capture “King Joe the Intruder”—as Buonaparte’s brother was known in Spain: “dash’d to and fro” amid the melee, Newcome “By accident o’ertook poor scampering Joe— / And with his Sabre lent him such a Lick. . . . The Sabre from his Hat, cut off the Crown. / Whilst hapless Joe, escaping . . . felt consol’d, when at a distance fled, / His Crown had lost, but still had got his Head” (2: 226). Johnny knocks off the crown which Joseph wears over his liberty cap, but he does not get his Buonaparte. His consolation prizes are Joseph’s baton and Phrygian hat (with the top sliced off) and Madame Gazon. Wellington is well pleased—he declares Johnny the hero of the campaign, considers the Gazon’s charms but sends her back to France, and decrees that Newcome will carry the war trophies back to England where he will formally present them at Court to the Prince Regent. Rowlandson’s Presenting the Trophies (figure 4.8) sums things up in a Newcome design that recalls the maladroitism and gaiety of Abraham James’s Jamaican martial law and Creolean dance of death, and the scandalous truths of JF’s depictions of love and abuse in the West Indies.

108

Chapter 4

FIGURE 4.8. Thomas Rowlandson, Presenting the Trophies, 1815. The Yale Center for British Art.

Rowlandson’s court scene at Carlton House just after the Battle of Vitoria is formal, celebratory, and wickedly satiric. An assembly of bon ton personages stand in attendance around the Regent as Johnny Newcome presents the trophies of war; the women in empire-style ball-gowns and wearing imported ostrich feather in their hair, the men in full regimentals or fashionable dress draped with officers sashes. Many of the figures are recognizable either from portraits or from popular caricatures of the period. The Prince Regent, in a pose reminiscent of Gillray’s well-known A Voluptuary under the Horrors of Digestion (1792), sprawls languidly on the throne, seemingly amused, and holds King Joe the Intruder’s baton on his lap. On his left, an elegant Wellington stands, one hand cupped, telling private anecdotes to the Prince; on his right, the Duke of York and his courtiers stand, laughing and looking at two central figures in a group of women, the Marchioness of Hertford, current mistress of the Prince, and Mary Anne Clarke, the Duke of York’s recent mistress. The latter no longer wears the Duke’s Commander-in-Chief’s red cloak as she did in Cruikshank’s portrayal of her as The Modern Circe selling officers’ commissions and promotion tickets before Talavera;33 now more voluptuous and large-bellied like the Prince, she glitters in a cloak of yellow gold. Behind (literally) the kneeling Johnny stands a sickly figure albeit in the regimental dress of an Irish Militia Lieutenant-Colonel, posed with his right hand tucked into his lapel like Napoleon but with the facial features of Castlereagh and a very long nose like Pinocchio. Johnny makes low obeisance to the Regent and

Dark Humor, Cartoon Strips, and Other Raw Material for Don Juan

109

proffers the other trophy of Vitoria—King Joe’s topped, felt liberty cap— which he holds aloft where it covers the pelvic point of Clarke’s round belly. All present seem amused at the same joke, some laugh, others titter, yet others snicker. Rowlandson’s design for this scene of military triumph and Royal recognition of Newcome matches in image every line of Roberts’s deadpanned satire of the event. “John made his Triple Bows, and kneeling down, / Humbly presented the Baton, and [felt] Crown. . . . The Ladies titter’d, and the Lords look’d Sly. / The Noble Prince, in his great self collected, / He first the Baton from the Hat selected”; he then decides to keep King Joseph’s “bit of Felt”: “ ‘As for this French Machine, with its obliquities, / T____r shall find it room with my Antiquities’” (2: 237–39). The baton is gifted back to Johnny, and the ladies present “with much surprise” “admir’d the painting, shape, and size: / ‘It was a Stick . . . [for] a monstrous Stroke. / As for the Hat . . . ’twas not worth while to Roam, / They all could boast a better one at Home.’” Newcome receives a simultaneous double promotion (to major and lieutenant-colonel) from the Duke of York, and the Prince Regent names him Royal Equerry, “‘Knight of the Bath, and F___k’s A.D.C.’” (2: 239–40). Johnny is now fully one of the boys who frequent Carlton House and rule Britain. The moral corruption fostered by plantation life and colonial conquest has come home and infected all. Vulgarity, even in depiction, is an inevitable symptom. A postscript on the Newcome family’s coat-of-arms makes bitterly clear that its symbols apply to all cuckolding Newcomes in the land and everywhere that Britain might triumph by military might (2: 247): “his R____l H_______s the P____e R____t has signified . . . that the Arms of the Newcome Family be as follows: A bit of old Hat, supported by two Batons—Crest, a Cock’s Spur—Motto, ‘I FELT IT.’” This is strong and seditious political stuffing from an old soldier living in physically-enforced exile in Le Havre in the year of Waterloo.34 Plagiarized verse sequels to David Roberts’ Military Adventures of Johnny Newcome multiplied and then mostly disappeared in the years immediately following its publication. Two of these still extant, published in 1818 and 1822, are lengthy copycat versions in execrable verse written by John Mitford—whose other scabrous writings and dubious reputation on the periphery of Byron’s circle in Italy do little to advance appreciation of his newcome versifications.35 Serial piracies like Mitford’s, along with the later, and interminable, continuations of Dr. Syntax’s tours (which took the Doctor to London and Paris, in search of a wife, consolation, and the grotesque, and to a reunion with his lost natural child named Johnny Quae Genus) which were often bundled together in reprints as related

110

Chapter 4

entertainment, contributed to the eclipse of Roberts’ earnest and original Newcome. In contemporary literary and print culture studies, the Johnny Newcome series from the first cartoon strips of colonial plantation life by diverse artists to their cumulative adaptation in an illustrated satiric poem of policy and acquisitions during the Napoleonic wars, remain insignificant and, certainly, inconceivable as anything but irrelevant ephemeras in the expanding catalogues of materials upon which Don Juan may have been built. And yet, correspondences between Roberts’ modest poem and Byron’s epic venture in subject and political content as well as composite tone and cumulative impression (though not in genius) do exist in humbling reminder of the rights of cats to look at kings. We look forward for example, with Roberts’ Newcome in hand, to the analogous circumstances of young Juan, cast loose and abroad, alone on a boat with once-civilized cannibals, for sale in the slave market at Constantinople among “A crowd of shivering slaves of every nation,” all nothing more than “human cattle” to be trafficked, and of his greater experience of hostile isolation in the Turkish harem—and in British society where “The statesman, hero, harlot [and] lawyer” conspire without “good intentions” toward newcomers and outsiders so as to make “that street of hell” bear “the greatest likeness to Pall Mall” (4: 91; 5: 7, 28; 8: 25–26). Roberts’ sense of the equivalency between Caribbean plantation slaves and British military subalterns, with the latter starved and serving on a global “Farm” with overseers like Castlereagh and Wellington, and with both groups forced to mimic their masters for survival, also faces forward to recall Byron’s description of young (John Bull) soldiers given “thin potations” in exchange for service in the field and acting as “slaves on horseback” at Peterloo—and his advice to Juan on how to survive in London among the highwaymen of all roads and among the fashionable Bores and Bored of British country houses that bear an uncanny resemblance to the “Segar-Smoking Society” of British Jamaica: “Be hypocritical, be cautious, be / Not what you seem, but always what you see” (11: 85–6). Primary among subject parallels would be Roberts’ graphic portrayal of war on the Peninsula as greed-driven, senseless, and gory, which corresponds to the detail with Byron’s unforgettable description of warfare as a “brain-spattering, windpipe-slitting art” during the Siege of Ismail; Newcome amid a sea of mangled carcasses after the Battle of Talavera, wounding and riding on the dying cart, makes parallel image to Juan and Leila riding in a kibitka for the wounded amid a field of “carcasses . . . thick as thatch” after the Battle of Ismail (9: 29–30). Roberts’ opinions of the generals and statesmen who conduct campaigns to enslave and make

Dark Humor, Cartoon Strips, and Other Raw Material for Don Juan

111

war for conquest echo and reecho in Byron’s terms for Castlereagh as a “Cold-blooded, smooth-faced, placid miscreant! / Dabbling its sleek young hands in Erin’s gore,” “A tinkering slave-maker” who cobbles “manacles for all mankind,” and a “monstrous hieroglyphic” or “beast of prey” bearing a “long spout / Of blood and water”; for Wellington or “Villainton” as the “‘best of cut-throats,’” the profiteer from Waterloo “Call’d ‘Savior of the Nations’—not yet saved, / And ‘Europe’s liberator’—still enslaved”; and for Farmer George whose animal farm of soldiers in Europe starve to serve Wellington’s glory even as “Gaunt famine” stalks the homeland and “Ireland starve[s], [though] great George weighs twenty stone” (8: 1–124; “Dedication,” 12–14; 9: 50, 1, 4–5; 8: 125–26).36 Examples of correspondences in satiric subject and topic like these are perhaps superficial and without substantial meaning for Don Juan, especially if we have, as we do have, but glancing familiarity with Roberts’ poem of 1815. They stand, nevertheless, as prima facie substance for larger inquiry. Potentially much more significant in correspondence would be the ways in which the Newcome cartoon strips and their apotheosis in a soldier’s illustrated mock-heroic military adventures on the Peninsula and in Pall Mall—along with other ephemeral satiric series like these—might place as implicit raw materials in impression for Byron’s compositional effects in Don Juan. Byron said that he had “no plan” for his “Donny Johnny” but that he did have or had “materials,” that “the Soul of such writing,” was “its licence” or “the liberty of that licence,” and that the very character of his verse was of something passing and ephemeral—”Carelessly I sing, / But Phoebus lends me now and then a string” (8: 138).37 Don Juan functions by accretion, by opportunistic indirection, and by selective (though seemingly random) access to Byron’s extraordinary store of knowledge of the artistic, literary, and popular political currencies of his age. Bernard Beatty has described with elegance Byron’s singular ability, manifest everywhere in Don Juan, of absorbing and reinterpreting diverse traditions, and combining implicitly irreconcilable artistic trends and cultural voices; and Andrew Nicholson has delineated with intellectual intensity the accretive, and connective, nature of all of Byron’s writings, symbolized by the connecting dash found through the manuscripts and especially in Don Juan, and expressed in the interconnected topical multiplicities and polyphonic voices of the epic poem.38 The Newcome cartoon strips can be defined by their compositional accretion both serially and spatially, by their connected but shifting radical focus, by their related but diverse artistic hands and cryptic captions and commentaries, by their connective and improvisational nature of narration and device, and by their shared anonymity of

112

Chapter 4

source or a consistent originating venue. Roberts’ 1815 Newcome, which invested the earlier tradition of the “West Indian” cartoon strip series with more sustained satiric purpose and the larger context of British wars in Europe, also has its identity in compositional anonymity and collaborative creation or accretion: it was published anonymous of author and publisher (much as the first two cantos of Don Juan were); it gave authorial priority and credit for the realization of its scenes to its named (and well-known) caricature artist even as it demurred on its talent at writing mock-heroic couplets; it equivocated visually and verbally between light irony on customs and earnest rage at corruption; and its author gave moral ascendency over narrative to the substance and truth of his digressions and notes on the conduct of war, politicians, and the state of Britain. Don Juan takes its place with distinction in the same continuum of radical political satire that was created and circulated during and after the Napoleonic wars to which the Newcome series and others like it belong. The narrative of the publishing history of Byron’s epic poem alone attests to this.39 To establish direct connections and influence between the ephemeral satire of the Newcome series—or even just that of Roberts’ Newcome—and Don Juan would require the availability, access, and study of many more visual print ephemeras and amateur literary efforts of the period (and many more words than that of a single essay or chapter). Byron’s ties to the Newcome series of cartoon strips and verse satire remain circumstantial. But the potential freight of these ties is perhaps more real than we might first suppose.

NOTES 1. “What Coleridge Thought of Pictures,” in Images of Romanticism: Verbal and Visual Affinities, ed. Karl Kroeber and William Walling (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1978), 105; Politics in English Romantic Poetry (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970), 17–18; Byron’s affinity with Gillray, 194. My chapter is a homage to Carl Woodring’s unwritten book on English revolutionary prints, to his wry comments that he represented the “old history” of “current events” emergent in New Historicism and shared with Leslie Marchand “an erroneous faith in facts,” and to his assertions on the viability of comparisons made between entities declared to be distinctly apples or oranges. 2. See H. Bullock, “Major Abraham James, 67th Foot, Military Author and Artist,” Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, 39 (March 1961): 11–17. For a record of Abraham James’s service in foreign wars, 1798–1823, see British Army Records Up to 1913 in the National Archives, Richmond, United Kingdom. For my reconstruction of James’s history I also use Roger N. Buckley, “The Frontier in the

Dark Humor, Cartoon Strips, and Other Raw Material for Don Juan

113

Jamaican Caricatures of Abraham James,” Yale University Library Gazette 58 (1984): 152–62. For the Scottish printing business, and emerging publishers see The Edinburgh History of the Book in Scotland, Volume Two: Enlightenment and Expansion, 1707– 1800, ed. Stephen W. Brown and Warren M. McDougall (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012). On Jamaica in the period, see Maria Nugent, A Journal of a Voyage and Residence in the Island of Jamaica, 1801–1805, 2 vols. (London: n.p., 1839); J. Leach, Rough Sketches of the Life of an Old Soldier (London: Longman, 1831). For a study of visual representations of British Caribbean life, see K. Dian Kriz, Slavery, Sugar, and the Culture of Refinement: Picturing the British West Indies, 1700–1840 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008). George Nugent was decorated for his service in Jamaica and appointed Commander-in-Chief of British forces in India (including the 67th Regiment) in 1811. 3. Between 1501 and 1866 Britain brought over one million slaves to work in Jamaica, according to recent calculations: see The Wall Street Journal (October 26–27, 2013), Section A, 2. For a history of slavery see David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, rev. ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1985); on the Haitian Revolution see C. L. R. James, Black Jacobins: Touissaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (New York: Random House, 1963); on Jamaican society of the period, see Edward Kamau Brathwaite, The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica, 1770–1820 (London: Oxford University Press, 1971). 4. The Creole term zonbi (or sometimes zombi) surfaced at the start of the Haitian revolution and was used to describe the members of the revolutionary (or, to the white planters, rebellious) slave army. The term (plural, zonbis) had its origins in West African lore concerning persons raised from the dead by evil sorcerers and held in thrall to perform menial tasks for them.The term adapted these notions of evil masters and labor performed without free will to describe the condition of slavery in Haiti and the Caribbean; the revolutionary or self-freed slaves were zonbis who had risen from a deathly condition to recover their freedom and humanity. In a distortion of the Creole term, slave owners in Jamaica and other islands soon came to use the term zombie in derogation to communicate their own fear and disbelief at slaves (or human goods) who no longer acted like slaves and were, therefore, unnatural and horrific. 5. “Yellow Jack” was the term used for the disease of yellow fever as well as the term used to describe Englishmen who turned yellow from the fever; it was a short step to the description of all European colonists as immunized or jaundiced. On the subject of disease and the colonial body see Candace Ward, Desire and Disorder: Fevers, Fictions, and Feeling in English Georgian Culture (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2007), 185–87. 6. For Byron’s homage to Homer in Don Juan, see Malcolm Kelsall, “Byronic Homer,” Byron Journal, 35 (2007): 1–10; for Byron’s evocation of Homer through epic tradition and eighteenth-century writers, see Brian Wilkie, Romantic Poets and Epic Tradition (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1965), and Hermione de Almeida, Byron and Joyce Through Homer: “Don Juan” and “Ulysses” (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981).

114

Chapter 4

7. Richard Cumberland’s comedy, The West Indian (1771), staged at Drury Lane Theatre, popularized the figure of the West Indian plantation owner as a good natured but greedy scapegrace holding a punch bottle of rum and sugar; James’s darker vision would seem to combine this with the sympathetic outrage at slavery of Edward Rushton’s West Indian Eclogues (1787). In 1806 Ruston, who served his country’s interests on a slave-ship and was blinded by ophthalmic disease contacted while tending slaves in the cargo hold, wrote a poem on the fate of L’Ouverture; in 1820 he published a collection of poems protesting the continuing trade and treatment of slaves in the Caribbean. 8. Toussaint, who died in prison at Jura in 1803, was the subject of an 1802 sonnet by Wordsworth published first in February 1803 and then in the Morning Post in 1807; Blake, Coleridge, and Byron were also among his admirers. The reported atrocities during the slaughter of Haitian slaves by French troops shocked even the supporters of slavery in the islands. See also studies of slavery in eighteenth-century Jamaica using Thistlewood’s journals, such as Trevor Burnard, Mastery, Tyranny, and Desire: Thomas Thistlewood and his Slaves in the Anglo-Jamaican World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004). 9. The Island, 1: 29, Lord Byron: The Complete Poetical Works, ed. Jerome J. McGann, 7 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980–93). Citations will be to this edition and appear in parentheses in the text. James’s sympathetic association of the exploitation of slaves and young soldiers is perhaps unusual, but it is based on his own experiences of serving abroad, his firsthand awareness of the human cost of maintaining colonies and empires, and his personal situation as the parent of a biracial son born to a Haitian woman—and the military segregation that ensued because of this. Most of the slaves in the islands were African-born; dying young, they were replenished regularly by the slaving monopoly (held since 1672) of the Royal African Company to meet the necessary working ratio of slaves to settlers (as high as twenty to one); their distance from home and the values of home matched, for James, the alienation felt by very young recruits from England upon arrival for war in foreign lands. The term “Creole” was initially applied indistinctly to white settlers and biracial planters; to “Creolize” was to take on the manners and lifestyle of plantation society; only in later imperial times did “Creolizing” come to mean not just “going native” in manners but becoming un-European and fraternizing with “natives” and “mixed-breeds” of African descent. With the original inhabitants of the islands (Taino, Arawak, and Caribe people) largely dispersed, there were no extant “natives” of the islands, only successful European transplants and transported African slaves who came to share the term in succession. 10. James’s descendents are buried in Calcutta. For extended description of the printing circles and new lithography in early nineteenth-century Calcutta, the expanding use of press workers by British surveyor and war offices, and the satiric printmaking of Charles D’Oyly’s Behar Lithographic Society of artists, see essays by Andrew S. Cook and Jeremiah P. Losty in India: A Pageant of Prints, ed. Pauline Rohatgi and Pheroza Godrej (Bombay: Marg, 1989).

Dark Humor, Cartoon Strips, and Other Raw Material for Don Juan

115

11. JF has been erroneously identified by archivists as the artists James Sayres and William Heath. JF remains elusive but it is likely that he was also a military artist like Sayres, Heath, and Abraham James. Training as military draughtsmen and the experience as veterans of foreign wars may have encouraged a pursuit of graphic satire as an outlet for expressing views (radical or conservative) on political situations. 12. For example, JF’s cartoons West India Fashionables and A West India Sportsman, both dated November 1807—fashionable Johnnies on country rides with their wives, with slaves carrying picnic hampers or running behind the horses with manure brooms, and sportsmen in sedans calling for rum and sangria and for birds to be driven toward them while they are serviced by various slaves. “Johnny” (plural, “Johnnies”) was a familiar term of address for young men in the British military abroad. In colonial India it combined with the local words for “loved one” or “dear one” (“Jehan” and “Jehanny”) to become the Anglo-Indian form of a too-familiar address (like “dearie”) used for those deserving condescension. 13. See Hermione de Almeida and George H. Gilpin, Indian Renaissance: British Romantic Art and the Prospect of India (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006) 168–75, 224–32. Valentia was the brother of Lady Frances Webster and in Byron’s extended circle. 14. Lavater’s Physiognomische Fragmente (1775–1778) was translated into English in 1789; his ideas and illustrations were broadly known through their use by the caricaturists of the period. Byron owned a copy and was quite familiar with the engravings. See Diana Donald on the links between Georgian caricature and the history of physiognomic concepts, and her discussion of James Gillray’s Doublures of Character—or—Striking Resemblances in Physiognomy (1798), The Age of Caricature: Satiric Prints in the Reign of George III (New Haven, CT:Yale University Press, 1996), 12, 172. Rowlandson’s drawings of animal-human faces were also published in a bound portfolio, Resemblances between the Countenance of Men and Beasts, in 1820; see Ronald Paulson, Rowlandson: A New Interpretation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972), 33–37. To complaints about his harsh observations on the human beast Rowlandson asserted the truthfulness of satire—as Byron did in 1822 when he protested “Some people have accused me of misanthropy; / And yet I know no more . . . of what they mean; lykanthropy I comprehend, for without transformation / Men become wolves on any slight occasion” (Don Juan, 9: 20). 15. This print, monogrammed JF in the plate, can be accessed via Wellcome Images from a reprint. The Phrygian or liberty cap, a soft conical hat with drooping pom-pom was a symbol of freedom for emancipated Roman slaves; as a bonnet rouge in France in 1790 it was worn by revolutionaries and their supporters, and, later, infiltrators and politicians of all stripes. 16. M. Dorothy George, English Political Caricature, 2 vols. (London: Oxford University Press, 1959) 1: 135; Donald, Age of Caricature, 199n2. 17. “Christ’s Hospital Five-and-Thirty Years Ago” (1820), The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb, ed. E. V. Lucas, 2 vols. (London: Methuen, 1903), 1: 14. Donald, Age of Caricature, 7–8, 21, reproduces period prints of the shop windows, print rooms, and exhibition galleries of these displays.

116

Chapter 4

18. James J. Barnes and Patricia P. Barnes, “Reassessing the Reputation of Thomas Tegg, London Publisher, 1176–1846,” Book History, 3 (2000): 45–60; also Donald, Age of Caricature, 4–6. The mostly radical but shrewd businessman Tegg had his Tory counterpart in Rudolph Ackermann, whose respectable business and gaslit Repository of the Arts print collection in the Strand offered humorous items culled of anything bawdy or critical of the Crown. Political lines could blur: artists like Rowlandson worked for both printmakers; publishers like John Murray used Ackermann for processing illustration projects (with Cruikshank drawing for the works of Walter Scott and Richard Westall for the early cantos of Don Juan) but Tegg for remaindering surpluses like the Murray Family Library series. 19. George Cruikshank’s Snuffing out Boney (1814) prompted a rush of Russian Cossack satiric prints after Waterloo. See Robert L. Patten, George Cruikshank’s Life, Times, and Art,Volume I: 1792–1835 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992), 111–13. In a time of war Elmes was a patriot and a fan of Wellington; he was not an abolitionist and he supported Britain’s colonial enterprise. 20. Captain Charles Gold’s Oriental Drawings (1806) carried an epigram taken from Churchill in support of his racially pejorative depictions as being mere satiric “fun” directed at “something new”—his actual subject, like Moffat, was an assertion of British racial superiority over “native” degeneracy in the colonies. Moffat’s Calcutta aquatints, 1805–1815, were drawn to please returning nabobs and reflect their views. See Indian Renaissance, 215–23, 249–53. 21. Byron’s Letters and Journals, ed. Leslie A. Marchand, 12 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973–82), Supplement, vol. 13 (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1994), 5: 143; see The Letters of John Murray to Lord Byron, ed. Andrew Nicolson (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2007), 181. 22. On Dallas (the self-acclaimed conduit of Childe Harold I and II to Murray) and Lewis, see Byron’s Letters and Journals, 1: 274–75; 5: 206; 4: 330. See also Lewis, Journal of a West India Proprietor (London: John Murray, 1834). Leigh Hunt’s grandmother Elizabeth was the child of a Barbados plantation owner; he believed he inherited his “West Indian look” from her, according to Nicholas Roe, Fiery Heart: The First Life of Leigh Hunt (London: Pimlico, 2005), 10, 40–41. Ireland was often referred to as the “sugar island,” a perhaps unintentional association between the British Jamaican planters of Scottish and Irish descent, and the product of the Caribbean islands. The enslaved condition of Creolean zonbis would also seem to find echo behind Byron’s lines in The Age of Bronze: “a human capital, / A live estate, existing but for thrall” (6: 306–7). 23. “Detached Thoughts,” Byron’s Letters and Journals, 9: 41. 24. For a chronology of Byron’s movements and residences in London see Byron’s Letters and Journals, 1: 33–36; 3: vii–viii. On Byron’s book buying in London, see Elizabeth French Boyd, Byron’s Don Juan: A Critical Study (1945; New York: Humanities Press, 1958), 86ff. 25. I refer to Steven E. Jones’s call to arms in “The Print in Regency Print Culture,” Keats–Shelley Journal, 61 (2012): 74–81.

Dark Humor, Cartoon Strips, and Other Raw Material for Don Juan

117

26. Roberts’ anonymous poem was printed for Patrick Martin (at 198 Oxford Street, a few doors from Holland’s print shop) in royal octavo and then (in 1816) in pocketbook format. Interleaved print markers reveal that the book was compiled from sixteen-to-eighteen-page pamphlet printings. The poem was reissued in facsimile in 1904 by Methuen, London. Quotations from the poem, which does not have numbered lines, are referenced in the text by part and page number. Basic information on Roberts can be found in the Dictionary of National Biography. 27. I simplify here Meisel’s elegant argument on the slippage between terms for pictorial, verbal, and theatrical authorship, Realizations: Narrative, Pictorial and Theatrical Arts in Nineteenth-Century England (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983), 29–37; I do not evoke theatrical “realization” here, but would note the use of campaign staging and the timing of war dispatches first employed by Wellington and thereafter common to battle politics. Egan’s Life in London, popular for its “flash” tales of corinthian Tom and country Jerry, and its multiple theatrical adaptations, is erroneously credited with the first use of the naming term “New-come” by the OED; in fact, Walter Scott in his poem Marmion; A Tale of Flodden Field (1808) uses the term “new-come” to describe arriving aristocracy. With the Johnny Newcome series the term became a regular invocation for new arrivals, nabobs from the colonies, and country persons in London; the term found apotheosis in Thackeray’s novel of the descendants of a self-made man from British India, The Newcomes (1853–1855). 28. Castlereagh, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, 1807–1822, was responsible for setting up and supplying a British Army larger than ever before to combat Napoleon. He was behind the decision to appoint Wellington to lead the Peninsular campaigns. As Foreign Secretary at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, he dominated the Congress of Vienna or “Settlement of Europe” between Russia, Germany, and Britain. See John Bew, Castlereagh: Enlightenment, War and Tyranny (London: Quercus, 2011); on the Iron Duke’s campaigns in Europe see Rory Muir, Wellington: The Path to Victory (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013). 29. Reproduced in Donald, Age of Caricature, 131; the Prince Regent purchased these drawings during the scandal occasioned by the Duke of York’s mistress, Mary Ann Clarke, who openly sold commissions just before Talavera; the Duke was Commander-in-Chief of the British Army and Navy. See Wooding, Politics, 23, and Isaac Cruikshank’s The Modern Circe, or a Sequel to the Petticoat (1809) of Clarke sheltering military scoundrels in her petticoats. 30. Roberts describes Ker Porter as “my friend” on his title-page, and he dedicates his manual to the Earl of Harrington; the Ker Porters, a military family of landed gentry and wealthy nabobs, were active in the popular arts. Jane Ker Porter (The Scottish Chiefs, 1810) was Roberts’ sister; Thomas Frognall Dibdin, from a family of Calcutta nabobs, wrote musical verse and toured Britain as a booster of the Seringapatam panorama which, as the first large-scale staged painting of a British victory overseas, was a public event for promoting military engagement; Thomas John Dibdin was a second-tier dramatist who served as co-manager of Drury Lane

118

Chapter 4

Theatre with Nicholas Rae (de Almeida and Gilpin, Indian Renaissance, 160–63; Byron’s Letters and Journals, 5: 135). 31. Using the example of John Wilson Croker’s popular success with his poem, The Battle of Talavera (1809), and the plethora of patriotic poems it inspired, Bernard Beatty, in “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage Cantos I and II in 1812,” Byron Journal, 41 (2013): 101–114, charts Byron’s evolving commitment to writing against not just war but political hypocrisy in a time of expanding wars—“Child Harold’s Pilgrimage . . . is a poem written in time of war. . . . [Cantos III and IV are] written in the aftermath of war” (108). Byron arrived near Talavera in late July 1809 keen to hear more of the “battle near Madrid”; by August 8 he could describe Wellesley’s triumph with disgust as “a pretty victory! two hundred officers and 5000 men killed all English, and the French in as great a force as ever”; writing two months after the Battle of Salamanca in 1812 he describes it as “the ministerial watchword” for supporting Tory policies (Byron’s Letters and Journals, 1: 217, 221; 2: 216). 32. Woodring, Politics, 15–16, 20, on the growing distrust of Wellington, whom the Romantic poets had come to see as the betrayer of the Portuguese at the Convention of Cintra—much as Castlereagh, later at the Congress of Vienna after Waterloo, would betray the French people. Roberts clearly agreed with these sentiments; he would add that in battles and at home Wellington also betrayed the honor and patriotic idealism of his own troops. 33. See note 27 and reproduction of Voluptuary in Donald, Age of Caricature, 100. Clarke was enriched and dismissed by York in 1809, a few days after Gillray’s print made the scandal too well-known; her presence at Court was clearly symbolically real for Rowlandson and Roberts. Following Lady Jersey (and before her, Lady Melbourne), Isabella Ingram-Seymour-Conway, Marchioness of Hertford, was with the Prince of Wales from 1807 to 1819. 34. Roberts’ second, inexpensive 1816 edition of the poem no doubt contributed to the rash of new repressive Acts beginning in 1817 intended to suppress the dissemination of radical publications among the lower classes, and to facilitate charging publishers and printers of political parodies like William Hone with libel, blasphemy, sedition, obscenity, and the corruption of morals. In 1812 Leigh and John Hunt had been charged with “diabolic libel” and sedition and sent to prison for publishing critical comments on the Prince Regent. Roberts’ conclusion to his Newcome was far more politically dangerous—and accessible as a comic poem with illustrative cartoons—than anything the studious and unworldly (as their attorney Henry Brougham described them) Hunts could have generated, or Hone could have published. 35. Mitford’s The Adventures of Johnny Newcome in the Navy (1818) and My Cousin in the Army; or, Johnny Newcome on the Peace Establishment (1822) were blatant and hasty efforts to profit on the reputation, subject, and style of Roberts’ Newcome; they were illustrated with worn plates (including some from Rowlandson’s Sailors Progress series and Cruikshank’s Progress of a Midshipman), and published from Cheapside. Mitford was part of the conspiracy to publish Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819) under

Dark Humor, Cartoon Strips, and Other Raw Material for Don Juan

119

Byron’s name; he was the author of the salacious Private Life of Lord Byron; Comprising His Volumptuous Amours (1828) and may well have been the author of an illustrated 1821 piracy of Don Juan ascribed to an “ Alfred Thornton.” Mitford started out as a Navy midshipman and saw service in Europe in the 1790s and at the Battle of the Nile; in later years he wrote erratically for the Scourge and Bon Ton Magazine. Like Peter Benchley, who saw in Melville’s Moby Dick a blueprint opportunity for a blockbuster novel and film about a great white shark, Mitford might well have seen the opportunity for pirating Don Juan indirectly by purporting to write a continuation of Roberts’ Newcome. It is also possible that Mitford, because of the publishing proximity by date of Roberts’ Newcome and the early cantos of Don Juan, sensed a connection of at least satiric intent between the two works. 36. In 1807 the youthful Byron was inclined (like many in England including Walter Scott) to romanticize military glory: “I am not insensible to Glory. . . . [But, given] my repugnance to [the life of] a mercenary Soldier . . . [as a] Slave of Blood . . . [and] with all my detestation of licensed Murder you will probably be surprised to hear me say that I seriously intend . . . to raise a corps of Cavalry, & if possible, to volunteer for foreign Service” (Byron’s Letters and Journals, 13: 4). This sentiment passingly surfaces in Childe Harold I and II. By Don Juan, all soldiers are “slaves on horseback” (11: 85) with lives (like the militia recruit or mercenary Slave of Blood) devoted to “Slaughter” and “licensed Murder.” 37. Byron’s Letters and Journals, 6: 207–8. 38. Beatty, “Byron and the Eighteenth Century” and Nicholson, “Byron’s Prose” in The Cambridge Companion to Byron, ed. Drummond Bone (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 236–48, 186–206. 39. In the story of the poem’s appearance first in two cantos with only the printer Thomas Davidson’s imprint, and then in expensively-bound five cantos by Murray, with cantos 6–16 published in inexpensive formats by the Hunts with Byron’s encouragement ( “I join with you in thinking the cheap edition indispensible” for maximum readership, Byron’s Letters and Journals, 10: 181–82), and against the backdrop of Murray’s anxiety over the political fallout from The Vision of Judgment, one instance in notable here: Murray commissioned Richard Westall to illustrate an 1820 edition of cantos 1–5 with twenty-one insipid drawings of key scenes including that in Donna Julia’s bedroom. These may have been a marketing ploy to present the poem as harmless and ready for family reading. More probably, it was Murray’s shrewd plan to neutralize inevitable associations with the racy and pornographic print subculture, and to distance his share of the poem from the demi-world of radical prints and illustrated verses like the Newcome series, and from the publishers with whom he would prefer to not share quarters—or fates. William St. Clair’s essay on Byron’s readership before and after 1816, on the split between the earlier “romantic respectful” elite set and the later “realistic subversive” mix of lower-class readers is a significant overview of the publication and reception history of Don Juan (“The Impact of Byron’s Writings: An Evaluative Approach,” in Andrew Rutherford, Byron: Augustan and Romantic [London: Macmillan, 1990]).

5 PRYING INTO THE MELON The Marriage of Private with Public in the Regency Era R OBE R T L . PA TTEN

I hope I don’t intrude. —Paul Pry1

Curiosity [is] a great leveller. —Richard Altick2

“[B]

y common consent,” M. Dorothy George declared in 1967, the “Regency period” tends to be applied to a longer time frame than just the Prince Regent’s role from 1811 to 1820.3 The term often encompasses as well both his reign, 1820–1830, and that of his younger brother William IV, 1830–1837. Within that period the “politics” that Carl Woodring devoted many years to studying “were all-absorbing,” George concludes, and “those years were thin in social satire.”4 “Thin,” perhaps, because within the great catalogue of satiric prints covering the period from 1320 to 1832 that George completed in twelve (as eleven) volumes, the division between political satires and personal ones lost precision over time. If the origin of “modern” personal satires might be traced to amateur drawings by George Townshend in the 1750s, the political campaigns by satirists during the following eighty years often stigmatized members of the ruling classes, not just monarchs but also prominent figures in government, the military, the church, Parliament, banking, law, medicine, and bedrooms.

121

122

Chapter 5

The “political” certainly stimulated powerful prints during and after the Napoleonic wars, when Britain was riled by a succession of scandals: the suppression of radical publishers and movements, Peterloo, the Queen Caroline affair, the campaign for Catholic Emancipation, and the 1832 Reform Bill, to mention only the most prominent ones. But “political” increasingly took on “social” or “cultural” valences as well: doctors were assaulted for seeking profits above cures, financiers were depicted swindling depositors and furnishing polluted water to Southwark, and lawyers were berated for long delays and longer bills. During the periodic downturns in the economy occasioned by everything from disastrous global weather (1815–1817) to bad policies and widespread peculation, John Bull suffered greatly. After 1815, that suffering could no longer be blamed on the Continental wars. Things, the caricaturists asserted, were rotten at home, not just in Denmark. These matters came to a head during and immediately after the banking crisis of 1825–1826 in a series of cascading caricatures about a wealthy unmarried heiress and those seeking her fortune. The love life of a private person formally unaffiliated with any political party or public position became the occasion for outraged and outrageous commentary by satiric periodicals, squibs, and prints. The excuse for such prying into personal affairs was the public’s right to “know,” embodied in the celebrated figure of Paul Pry, originally a character in an 1825 play by John Poole, who morphed rapidly into an icon of the meddling, interfering “do-gooder” who only wants to ascertain the facts, yet gets them all muddled. As David Vincent demonstrates in a forthcoming book, Pry survived through the fin de siècle as a figure emblematizing the tensions that developed in nineteenth-century industrial countries among three competing constituencies: first, a proto-Victorian insistence on the private, the personal, the sacrosanct territory of the domestic—as compared to the often very public affairs of the dynastic, royal mistresses and illegitimate heirs; second, the incitement to curiosity fuelled by sensational publicity and proliferating modes of rapid communication; and third, the state’s need to assemble data so that Benthamite policies producing the “greatest good for the greatest number” might be legislated.5 The first census, conducted in 1801, exemplifies this collision of the private with the public, since it inquired about the age, relationship, religion, and occupation of every person living at a particular address in the United Kingdom.6 The woman focalizing these concerns was herself a mixture of private and public. Harriot Mellon was born probably on November 11, 1777, into a theatrical family of strolling players.7 Her mother Sarah was an Irish wardrobe-keeper, allegedly married to a certain Lieutenant Mathew

Prying into the Melon

123

Mellon of the Madras infantry who sailed away and was never heard of again. Five years later, on July 14, 1782, Sarah married Thomas Entwisle, one of the company musicians. Harriot grew up in this milieu, and by the age of ten was enjoying considerable acclaim in juvenile roles performed in provincial theaters. Eight years thereafter while performing in the midlands, she met Richard Brinsley Sheridan, who encouraged her to go to London. She made her London debut on January 31, 1795, at Drury Lane Theatre playing Lydia Languish, a rich teenager, in his comedy The Rivals. The amorous complications in that play include false identities and much male competition to woo the young lady, who from extensive reading has incorporated a notion of romance that finds the attentions of the impecunious Ensign Beverly fulfilling. When she learns that his true identity is Jack, the son of a wealthy baronet, she rejects him because falling in love with a rich man would destroy her fantasy of true commitment overcoming hardship. The mix-ups of the play, the hilarious critiques of exaggerated characters conforming (or disappointingly not conforming) to standardized types, and the misunderstandings between father and son over Jack’s behavior, become staples of the comedic repertoire for the next half-century, and surface plainly in Poole’s 1825 play Paul Pry. In real life, as we shall see, Harriot Mellon was no Lydia: she was practical, not romantic, and had no objection to wedding money or status. But that takes us too far ahead of the story. Starring in Sheridan’s play, at Sheridan’s theater, Harriot garnered considerable public attention. By 1800 she was celebrated as a popular actress, though not in the front rank. A fellow actor described her as “a countrified girl, blooming in complexion, with a very tall, fine figure, raven locks, ivory teeth, a cheek like a peach and coral lips. All she put you in mind of was a country road and a pillion.”8 She retained, however, a reputation for being attractive, good humored, bad-tempered when crossed, and discreet.9 At Cheltenham she met the seventy-year-old Thomas Coutts, head of the bank serving British and French royals and aristocrats, who was taking the waters for his health. In time she became his mistress. After his long-invalided wife, formerly the nursemaid of Coutts’s three daughters, died, in 1815 the thirty-seven-yearold Harriot retired from the stage and married her nearly eighty-year-old paramour. Premonitory of things to come, she negotiated a pre-nuptial agreement specifying that she could control through trustees the property she had earned on her own account. This included land and a house, Holly Lodge, adjacent to Highgate, of which she was particularly fond. Coutts’s daughters by his first wife had all married well: the eldest, Susan, wed the third Earl of Guilford; the second, Frances, on marrying

124

Chapter 5

John Stuart became the first Marchioness of Bute; and the youngest, Sophia, married Sir Francis Burdett, wealthy landowner and for decades the radical MP for Westminster. The sisters, though themselves the daughters of a former maid, were furious about their father’s second marriage. “Their shock and anger at the sudden acquisition of so astonishing a stepmother,” Edna Healey explains, “was the more intense because of the extraordinary secrecy and subterfuge of the ceremony,” which took place only four days after their mother’s funeral.10 Fanny, Lady Bute, after her husband’s death lived in Italy for her health and took little part in the subsequent quarrels. But Susan, Lady Guilford, also widowed, lodged in Stratton Street, Piccadilly with her father, who could not abide the feuds that erupted between his daughter and his new wife. And while the youngest girl, Sophia, having had to cope with her husband’s widely publicized adultery with Lady Oxford, remained relatively quiet, her husband Sir Francis was furious about the clandestine and socially undesirable marriage. Estranged from his daughters and trusting his wife, Coutts, when he died in 1822, left Harriot his entire fortune and his partnership in the bank without conditions, for “her sole use and benefit.”11 Moreover, he prescribed no succession to the estate, leaving that decision up to her. Harriot allotted each of her stepdaughters £10,000 (over $1,000,000 in today’s dollar equivalent) per year if the bank profits permitted, but that didn’t buy their favors. On June 9, 1825 she and another actress were presented at Court, though this elevation did not sit well with her stepfamily or the popular press.12 She was however a favorite of Sophia Burdett’s younger daughters, Clara and Angela, who loved to be dressed up by step-grandmamma and to receive parcels of sweets, ribbons and silks, and, especially for Angela, books.13 Some privately and in the press considered Harriot a capricious gold-digger who had imposed on a senile and dependent old man. Grub Street publications ridiculed “the richest widow in the United Kingdom” for her lavish entertainments, her finery, and her charitable donations to the poor, which were often impulsive, indiscriminate, and immodestly announced.14 However, she had many devoted admirers, among whom was the ninth Duke of St. Albans, her junior by twenty-three years. Sir Walter Scott promoted the match, noting in his diary that “If he marries a woman older than himself by twenty years, she marries a man younger in wit by twenty degrees. I do not think he will dilapidate her fortune—he seems good and gentle: I do not think she will abuse his softness—of disposition shall I say, or of head.”15 Her flamboyant hospitality continued for some time to exercise the wrath of the press, especially at a time when famine

Prying into the Melon

125

gripped many British families. She spent much money improving Holly Lodge, buying up adjoining land, planting cedars and primroses and daffodils, and in the garden staging sumptuous fêtes. She also lived at her late husband’s house, 1 Stratton Street, around the corner from where Green Park Tube Station and the Ritz Hotel are today.16 The wealthy widow Coutts generated public interest and amazement. Robert Cruikshank produced for Charles Molloy Westmacott’s scurrilous and scandalous The English Spy a fold-out sheet depicting the Steyne at Brighton that includes Harriot in her widow’s cap accompanied by “two liveried emblems of her deceased husband’s bounty, clad in the sad habiliments of woe and looking as merry as mutes at a rich man’s funeral.”17 Mrs. Coutts became something of an obsession for Robert. In February 1826 he invented and etched a print of Paul Pry at Widow C—’s (figure 5.1) melding the famous theatrical character with a single lady of such stupendous wealth that any move she might make as major stockholder in the royal bank could affect the economics of the country.18 The print was sold by George Humphrey. His shop, 24 St. James’s Street, had been his mother’s when James Gillray lived upstairs and etched caricatures that the beau monde purchased and discussed. Robert’s younger brother George Cruikshank had often produced plates for the Humphreys, and even finished up some of Gillray’s commissions when that great artist’s intellect and pencil failed. Robert’s image, presumably appealing to Humphrey’s high-class clientele, brings together four themes: (1) Harriot’s wealth; (2) her bank’s profitability in light of the speculative bubble of 1824 and the bank failures of 1825–1826; (3) her marital prospects; and (4) the figure of Paul Pry. This is an inventive design, gathering up a number of issues current in the day, and some others that may be more apparent to us today. 1. Mrs. Coutts’s private life is of interest to the public. She is portrayed with moneybags in many caricatures of the period, circulating an image of almost limitless wealth. Her late husband had left her a fortune of £900,000, with a buying power of several hundred million US dollars today. In other prints of the period she is clearly within her Stratton Street residence or in its garden. Here she is at Coutts’s bank at 59 Strand. That setting is important, for though “only” a woman she was an active member of the management of the bank, which prospered greatly during her tenure. In this print the domestic widow and the active financier, the private and the public personae, merge. 2. Coutts’s bank prospered in the 1820s when many others went bust. There was a large and widespread stock bubble that puffed up in 1824. Fueled in part by Nathan Rothschild, who was enriched by the King’s hiring

126

Chapter 5

FIGURE 5.1. Robert Cruikshank, Paul Pry at Widow C—’s, February 1826. © Trustees of the British Museum.

his mail-coaches to distribute bullion and specie, “a gambling mania . . . seized all classes.” (14669). A total of 624 companies were floated, including 74 mining companies in Ireland, Central, and South America, 29 gas companies, and others for steam navigation, railways, canals, retail trading, dairies, bread, and other products. Theodore Hook’s stingingly satiric high Tory newspaper John Bull versified the boom in June 1824: “In these days of bubbles when ev’ry thing floats, / Docks, bridges, insurances, gas-lights, and boats” (John Bull, June 13, 1824). These stocks zoomed in price, despite many warnings in the press and caricatures about “this rash spirit of speculation,” one being a very inclusive image by Robert’s younger brother George Cruikshank of balloons ascending over London (14787). The break began with the failure of some Plymouth banks in September and November 1825 (14810), and climaxed in December. The collapse took down a number of firms, including Hurst and Blackett, the London agency for Archibald Constable. That in turn precipitated the collapse of Constable (Scott’s publisher), Ballantyne (his printer), and Scott himself. “The events of the mid-1820s,” David McKitterick reports, “were a reminder of the risks of working on credit in a

Prying into the Melon

127

FIGURE 5.2. John Lewis Marks, Stout as Ever!!!, c. December 1825. © Trustees of the British Museum.

tightly interdependent industry, and of the endemic shortage of capital in the book trade as a whole.”19 Later on Harriot offered Scott a large sum to help him out. He proudly refused, she never publicized the offer, and her heir refused John Gibson Lockhart’s request to record this transaction in the biography of his father-in-law.20 In December 1825 John Lewis Marks prepared a print entitled Stout as Ever!!! (figure 5.2) This was sold by Samuel Knight in Sweeting[’s] Alley, a location swept away when the new Royal Exchange was built later in the century. Knight catered more to a City clientele than Hannah and George Humphrey, and he offered a politically and socially broader spectrum of prints. Marks was slightly more vulgar, and distinctly less inventive, than the Cruikshanks. This particular print images a conversation between Harriot Coutts and Sir William Curtis, once Lord Mayor of London, MP for municipal constituencies for decades, wealthy banker and member of the Drapers Company, and butt of innumerable pasquinades because of his illiteracy, expensive habits, and friendship with the Prince Regent. In Marks’s plate both figures are “stout,” indicating—as fat bodies often do in caricature— comfortable circumstances: “Tight as a melon Sir William,” responds Mrs.

128

Chapter 5

Coutts; “weather rather squally—but I think we are both Stout enough to bear it . . . I’ll try to make both ends meet no jew shall meddle with my concerns.” The anti-Semitism may refer to Rothschild, or simply gesture toward the competitive banking done by Jews who allegedly evaded Christian principles of charity and interest. It does not seem to be a regular theme in written or etched caricatures about Harriot Mellon. And as Nathan Rothschild as well as the Coutts bank were close to George IV, the reference may have more to do with traditional biases and contemporary caricatures of Jew investors (14666, 14667, etc.) than with these persons. Quakers were also criticized at this time for loan-sharking; Cobbett attacked “that sly, sleek, money-getting tribe, the Quakers” in his Political Register, March 4, 1826. One point is that “stout” means rich and not liable to fail; another is that the widow Coutts is in conversation with one of the top “names” in the City. Private and public roles merge once again. Nearer to home, Charles Baldwyn, a widower and the publisher of a modestly successful first English translation of Grimms’ fairy tales illustrated by George Cruikshank, was preparing to bring the second illustrated volume to market when insurmountable expenses and his wife’s death overcame him. He died, leaving two young children and substantial debts. The woman who looked after these orphans, Baldwyn’s wife’s niece Eliza Widdison, saw something of George Cruikshank at the time, when she assisted in selling Baldwyn’s stock and copyrights to other publishers. Many years later, in 1851, she became George’s second wife.21 So it is not surprising that both George and Robert were concerned about stock and bank failures, and impressed by the apparent solidity of Coutts. This is, in a sense, the reverse of the previous point. Whereas the domestic became fused with the commercial for Harriot Mellon Coutts, for the Cruikshanks business impinged on the home. In many cases, British caricature—and I daresay European caricature—imagined no dividing line between the public and the private. Quite the opposite: often what sold were images connecting the two spheres, relating actions by the governing elite to their effect on the other classes. 3. The widow Coutts, now approaching fifty, was wooed for her persona and her pecunia. The satiric magazines and print dealers continuously stirred up public interest. On March 6, 1825, John Bull published an advertisement: “Wanted, by a widow, at the head of a long-established Banking-house in the metropolis, a Beau Clerk . . . should he be approved upon trial, he will probably be admitted as a sleeping partner” (14874). Of all the suitors, the most persistent and ultimately successful was William Aubrey de Vere Beauclerk, Lord Burford until the death of his father, the

Prying into the Melon

129

eighth Duke of St. Albans, on July 17, 1825, little more than a month after Harriot’s presentation at Court (14875). Robert Cruikshank tipped her for the strawberries as early as March 1825, in A Beau—Clerk—for a Banking—Concern, published by Humphrey. Of course, “Beau Clerk’s” name (pronounced by the knowing “bo-clare”) already provided a perfect opening for satire, and for the melding of public and private spheres. But that’s just the beginning. The Dukes of St. Albans descended from Charles II and Nell Gwyn: another alliance between an illegitimate daughter, Nell, brought up in a brothel, and a wealthy patron captivated by an eighteenyear-old actress. One way or another Nell persuaded Charles to recognize and ennoble their bastard son; he was given a handsome allowance and the heritable sinecures of Master Falconer of England and Registrar of Chancery. At his father’s death Beauclerk inherited these sinecures, to which income from Coutts might be added. The caricaturists were not backward in alluding to the parallels to his ancestor, as we shall see shortly. 4. In Paul Pry at Widow C—’s Robert Cruikshank combines these themes with another current topic, the figure of Paul Pry, played by the popular actor John Liston in John Poole’s 1825 three-act hit. Liston was a master of low comedy, and took many parts, Shakespearean and otherwise, during a distinguished and long-lasting career. He never overacted, but did successfully portray greed, conceit, affectation, and cowardice, along with nervy effrontery. His face was his fortune. Charles Lamb exclaimed “what a [face] it is!” A high forehead descended to goggle-eyes, snub nose, fleshy lips, fat cheeks, and a wobbly throat. Leigh Hunt thought his lower face and neck “hung like an old bag.”22 Just before Poole’s play opened and became the greatest theatrical success since The Beggar’s Opera one hundred years earlier, Robert Cruikshank designed and etched “Listons Dream!” for George Humphrey, accompanied by a verse celebrating his physiognomy: As Liston lay wrapt in delicious repose, Most harmoniously playing a tune on his nose, In a Dream there appeared the adorable Venus, Who said, “to be sure there’s no likeness between us, But to show that a Goddess to kindness so prone is, Your looks shall soon rival the handsome Adonis.” Liston woke in a fright, and cried, “Heaven preserve me, If my face you improve, Zounds, Madam, you’ll starve me.” (14878. July 1825)

The celebrated character of Paul Pry in Poole’s drama is a “meddling malaprop,” as the Morning Post characterized Liston’s performance

130

Chapter 5

on opening night, and a “male gossip,” according to the Morning Chronicle some months later.23 In the complicated double plot about wooing in the country, the “curious, impertinent” Pry manages to intrude time and time again, entering with his soon-famous line “I hope I don’t intrude,” and depositing his glazed cotton umbrella so that he might return unexpectedly to overhear comments about him or other gossip, explaining that he has come back to retrieve his property. The umbrella itself never is used to ward off sun or rain. It became almost a character in its own right, in David Vincent’s words “a useful shorthand means of conveying self-absorbed eccentricity.”24 As fame is wont to confer, everything associated with it gets decontextualized and applied in other situations. Vincent puts it succinctly: “celebrity dissolves context.”25 Thus Pry’s umbrella is retrieved by later gossips Mrs. Toddles in George Cruikshank’s Omnibus (1842) and Sairey Gamp in Charles Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit (1843–1844). While Poole’s play seemed to have nothing particular to recommend it over other productions he penned for the Haymarket as writer in residence, something about Liston’s performance catalyzed public attention and provoked laughter that lasted through the century. Poole’s play opened on September 13, 1825 and remained on the boards until the end of the season. The next year it opened the Haymarket, and despite a rival production scripted by Douglas Jerrold at the down-market Surrey-side Coburg Theater and an equestrian version mounted at Astley’s, Liston filled the house every night. Given the capacities of these three theaters and the number of performances of Paul Pry in each, David Vincent estimates that at least half of London, 500,000 persons, saw one of the versions within the first year. Such figures are staggering metrics of commercial success and distribution. All classes attended these shows, and many bought the hundreds of thousands of souvenirs, from printed handkerchiefs to pottery figurines, that retailers then as now produced to latch onto a hit. Mrs. Corney, the workhouse matron in Oliver Twist (1837–1838), decorates her mantelpiece with one. Appropriately, Pry watches over Mr. Bumble’s successful courtship. For Pry is associated with the invasion of privacy, and nothing is conceived to be as private a matter as wooing and bedding. If one inquires about the intentions of a courting couple in a spirit of well-meaning solicitude, perhaps an oblique question could be acceptable, and it might be answered in ways affirming the virtue of the romantic duo. On the other hand, gossips often pretend to friendly inquiry while delightedly disclosing and scolding vice; they assert the upholding of social and domestic proprieties as cover for salacious and often mistaken interpretations of events. “The best way to

Prying into the Melon

131

transgress decency is to appropriate the mantle of moral courage,” Vincent remarks apropos of invasions of privacy for the public good.26 That Harriot Mellon was wealthy and wooed was matter of public knowledge and interest. In Robert Cruikshank’s dramatization of the meeting between the widow and the inquirer, Pry asks about the soundness of her bank and its profits. This train of thought leads him to declare that he “should like to be a sleeping partner in your concern,” an echo of the 1825 John Bull ad. The metaphorical business term reminds him to ask about the marital prospects of the duke: “you have not made a Match of it yet have you?” That Paul Pry should intrude upon her public and personal affairs she is depicted as considering an affront. She rebukes him as “a most Impertinent fellow” (characters in Poole’s play level the same charge) and demands that he “quit my House immediately.” (“House” is drawn as Coutts’s on the Strand but the term gestures also to Harriot’s home on Stratton Street.) Four months later, in June 1826, Robert Cruikshank as “Paul Pry Fecit” and Humphrey have her once again intruded upon: A Frolic at the Melon Shop in Piccadilly (figure 5.3). It must have been common knowledge that Coutts always called the Strand bank “my shop”; Robert transfers the epithet from the commercial to the residential, another conflation of public with private.27 This time the offender is a dandy suitor, not Pry, but his language intimates his connection with that personage: “have mercy on me this once,” he begs Harriot, “and I’ll never intrude again.” He has entered the garden of the Stratton Street mansion to deliver another of his importunate love letters. So he is not the “character” of Paul Pry. Rather, Robert has blended with Liston’s busybody another persona in another context, with a motive other than curiosity. Two things contributed to this sort of representational slippage. First: Pry’s signature lines, notably the one about intrusion, and at the end of every scrape that his misunderstandings and gossip create, his vow never to “do a good-natured thing again” (Act I, page 10). These tags could be applied to any number of situations, and so they were. They did not need to be directly connected to Pry: some other person could utter them, and the audience would make the connection, as artist and print dealer expected. The other contribution to representational slippage was the combination of a relatively single-minded character, as scripted by Poole, and the underplayed, deftly and un-obviously deadpan comic rendition Liston gave it. As acted Pry was very funny, but not so distinctive a character that his speech and character could not migrate to very different persons and situations. Consequently, the Pry caricatures do not reference the actual scenes in Poole’s play, but rather take place in real London locations.

132

Chapter 5

FIGURE 5.3. Paul Pry [Robert Cruikshank], A Frolic at the Melon Shop in Piccadilly, June 1826. © Trustees of the British Museum.

So Pry became a kind of intrusive everyman, spying out secrets and reporting them by word-of-mouth and through publications. After all, he declares in Act III, a “spirit of inquiry is the great characteristic of the age we live in” (p. 24). In the same month as A Frolic, Robert Cruikshank depicted one of the City candidates running in the General Election of 1826, Alderman and former Lord Mayor Matthew Wood (15138), as Paul Pry, complete with striped trousers, Hessian boots, and signature umbrella. The balloon issuing from his mouth is in fact a transcript, according to The Times, of a speech he gave at the hustings on 14 June: he was aware that “private enemies” had been prying into his affairs—notionally “bad,” but “if he went once more to Parliament, he would be a Paul Pry to all intents and purposes; for he would seek out abuses” (notionally “good”). Here we have evidence that already officials and the public more generally understood the double nature of prying: on the one hand, to expose abuses and inform the polity, on the other to communicate malicious information derogating someone’s character. Another caricature of June 1826 was sold by Samuel William Fores at his Piccadilly shop catering particularly to the middle classes.28 Paul Pry’s Peep into Chancery depicts Lord Eldon, Lord Chancellor, in his office

Prying into the Melon

133

overwhelmed with briefs of cases and records of his private receipts, listening to Paul Pry apologize: “Beg pardon!—could hardly find room to intrude.” This plate ostensibly satirizes Eldon’s refusal to resign his lucrative offices. Here Pry seems to sympathize: “plenty of Work,—doubt if you’ll ever get through it,—too much for one Noddle.” But actually he’s insinuating that Eldon is incompetent and greedy. So another version of Pry bursts into the most private chambers of the highest official of the law and intimates his malfeasance. Publishing such inquiries abroad becomes either a political nuisance, as Alderman Wood complains, or a way to shine light on the secret lives of authority.

H

arriot Coutts comes to the fore as a stout and single heiress subject to the multifarious investigations of Pry-ing characters and artists who violate her privacy in service to the suppositious need of the public for information. In the remaining space I want to focus on a less-noticed aspect of the visual caricatures of the widow Coutts, an aspect that reaches its imagistic peak of variations during her engagement and marriage to the Duke of St. Albans. Harriot, nearing fifty, is by 1825 portrayed as plump—certainly a different body from the slender young girl making her languishing debut at Drury Lane thirty years before. But representations of plump and bosomy middle-aged women were standard fare for caricaturists, who delighted in exhibiting the décolleté of mistresses—amounting almost to Nell Gwyn’s degree of exposure. Especially the Prince Regent’s various mistresses, but also other women imagined within the graphic discourses of caricature to be sexually available. In this regard, Harriot’s surname (whether earned or invented by her mother) was as fortunate for satirists as Beauclerk’s: Mellon. Her melon breasts were imaged and exaggerated time after time. Caricaturists are socially licensed to play all kinds of games with the physiology and physiognomy of their subjects. That remains true in the present: think of Steve Bell’s cartoons of Tory Ministers. David Cameron, frustrated beyond endurance, screeched at Bell during a reception held at the Midland Hotel, Manchester, on October 2, 2011, on the occasion of the annual Conservative Party Conference, “When are you going to get that damned condom off my head!” To which Bell, uttering a truth about great caricature, replied, “It’s too late.”29 Or recall, from many years ago, the brilliant David Levine cartoon of Lyndon Johnson lifting up his shirt to reveal his gall bladder scar, shaped like the Vietnam peninsula. Usually these incisive deformations are performed on politicians or celebrities. Harriot as wealthy widow fell into the latter category. And so her melons circulated in images, though they did not in printed satires, which figured her in other

134

Chapter 5

ways. Nor, did they, actually, in life. She was, so far as we know, chaste between her marriages. Her melon, however, takes a cut when she weds. The Wedding Day (15453) of forty-nine-year-old Harriot and the twenty-six-year-old duke on June 16, 1827, is a caricature designed and etched by Henry Heath. Here a slit in a sack of coins leaks sovereigns that the duke has evidently been stuffing into his trousers with a banker’s scoop. “Money in both pockets,” Cupid fiddles. This could almost be a masturbatory allusion. A slit moneybag was a standard image of rifling the state treasury, usually for private gain. And that image leads to ways bodies are troped to define and disorient gender norms. The bags of money surrounding stout Harriot are icons of her wealth, as other bags—of grain or wool, for instance—have stood for wealth from times immemorial. Chief among these is, of course, the Woolsack, upon which the Lord Chancellor (including the aforementioned Eldon) sat in the House of Lords until 2006.30 Rips or tears gnawed into bags cause the grain to spill out, food for hungry rats. “The House that Jack Built” was one of the frequently adapted popular lyrics used by radicals and conservatives alike to foretell the ruin of Britain: “This is the rat that ate the malt / That lay in the house that Jack built.” And old bags are imaged as wrinkled and depleted. Lord Eldon was nicknamed “Old Bags,” intimating his wealth, but also his habit of carrying home in old bags documents regarding cases not yet settled, and thence, as we have already seen in Paul Pry’s Peep into Chancery, Eldon’s superannuation. His old bags of coin, cases, and seed no longer swell with potency. In short, his testicles have dried up. By contrast, Harriot’s melons and bags are stuffed to bursting. The “cut” melon on the right refers to Harriot’s monetary wedding present to her husband, a sum vastly exaggerated by rumor. Two days later Henry Heath published The Plaything (15454). Here whatever intimations of phallic pleasure might have been called up by fiddling in pockets gorged with coins have been radically altered. The duke is a little boy being fed “Spoon Meat” by his wife, who says “that Melon you may eat / Such a Melon is a Treat / Then wee’l ride within the Ring / That you know will be the thing.” (Might “Treat” play off “teat”?) She promises that once the duke has been properly nourished he will be a man, a cavalier indeed who rides within her ring. Po-faced, Dorothy George informs us that the “Ring” (in Hyde Park) and “thing” “have double meanings.” However, the duke isn’t ready for full adult intercourse; he finds the melon “so Musty” and would rather go play board games with his sovereigns. Or maybe he’ll grow up by reading the book on the floor, Memoirs of Nell Gwin.

Prying into the Melon

135

That “musty” melon refigures Harriot as now old. It may derive from satirical articles in the periodical Gazette of Fashion where she is attacked as “Harriot Pumpkin,” but in general there is very little exchange of imagery between Westmacott’s Gazette or The Age, or Theodore Hook’s even more virulent invective in John Bull, and the caricaturists’ visual armory of insult. A month after the wedding, in July 1827, Robert Cruikshank produces for Johnny Fairburn a two-part image, The Ripe Melon!!—and Musty Pumpkin!! Dedicated to the New Maid Dutchess! (figure 5.4) On the left side Thomas Coutts solicits Harriot, “a mature and moustached beauty,” with senile passion: “let me enjoy the Melon ripe and plump!” Given the proximity of the slit moneybag, Harriot’s melon is suggestively turning into her genitals. And Coutts’s “Old bags” which she promises to play with are becoming quite testicular. At the right side, an older and hairier Harriot, now a musty pumpkin nursing the duke on her lap, offers him “a Gold Plumb” (plum = £100,000) for a Coronet. St. Albans carries a gold cock and promises to give her his “Ginger-bread Crown” and “Cock-a-Biddy.” Caricaturists tap childhood anxieties and imaginations, as both Ernst Gombrich and Ernst Kris have discussed. And such imaginations tend, as

FIGURE 5.4. Mr Snooks [Robert Cruikshank], The Ripe Melon!!—and Musty Pumpkin!!, July 1827. © Trustees of the British Museum.

136

Chapter 5

Sigmund Freud so often analyzed, to permutate and range around formations that may be to adult minds dissimilar. One connection Freud makes is that between the pleasures of money and of sex. Jupiter appearing to Danae in a shower of gold coins illustrates the relationship. The coins impregnate the imprisoned Danae, who gives birth to Perseus. A picture hanging on the wall on the left side of The Ripe Melon portrays “Danae” as a courtesan. But things are beginning to get reversed. Harriet could shower money on her favorite. Feasting. During. Pleasure. (figure 5.5) is a rather mysterious print, possibly executed and sold by William Heath, who from 1827 to 1829 adopted the pseudonym of Paul Pry, or else simply signed the plate with the image of Liston’s Pry, bent forward as he intrudes, with his umbrella tucked under his arm. It portrays Harriot Mellon objectified to the last degree: she is a head above and a melon below. From a slit in the rind pour papers—“Cash, Bills, Bank”—and also seeds, in the shape of coins, which St. Albans spoons into his mouth. (Clouds of coins also appear in plates dealing with the 1824–1826 banking crisis; the imagery easily crosses topical, national, and historic boundaries.) “Tis rather tough,” he complains, “but the sauce will make it go down.” No longer being fed spoon meat, the duke is

FIGURE 5.5. [William Heath?], Feasting. During. Pleasure [1827?]. © Trustees of the British Museum.

Prying into the Melon

137

being orally impregnated: a shower of Danae reversed and inverted, so that Danae is Zeus and the duke’s mouth receives the fecund tribute. Moreover, both the print’s title and writing on a moneybag make it clear that “feasting,” a form of oral gratification, is commensurate with sexual “pleasure.” In several caricatures the ripe or musty melon has a slice cut out—usually the slice that Harriot gave the duke on their wedding day, that present of £30,000 (15455) which might equal several million dollars today. But Robert Cruikshank, in A New Farce in High Life (15457), suggests that neither party to this marriage is in fact whole. The duke, who wants to redecorate, sends his barber/shaver off with £250 and a warning to say nothing to his wife. St. Albans is associated with The Rake’s Progress in his pocket and anticipates going into an alcove on the left, where a courtesan, who has been reading The Woman of Pleasure with a Cut, waits for him beside “A stale Melon” that has a slice cut out and a knife sticking into it, as if it has been stabbed. Harriot, on the other hand, admits that “the Title is all I wanted.” Still, though she herself awaits her “dear! dear! Captain D—,” she threatens to “Cut” St. Albans “off with a shilling” if he misbehaves. What we have in these pasquinades is a series of plots, imagined by the artists drawing on the repertory of sexual hijinks, the power of money, and disparities in gender performance, all derived from decades of caricature images of the royals and their mistresses and farcical plays like Sheridan’s and Poole’s about wooing and wedding. The duke and duchess are notional figures in a competition among artists, print dealers, authors, down-market publishers, and theatrical entrepreneurs (“A New Farce” to replace Paul Pry?) to tell risqué stories about the wealthy upper class that will appeal to a wide audience. These offerings are rushed to market within days of each other, competition stirring up all parties to trump their rivals. Exemplifying this competition among caricaturists, Henry Heath produces The Wedding Day one week after the nuptials of Harriot and St. Albans were solemnized, and comes out two days later with The Plaything. Robert Cruikshank designs and etches a plate we have not seen yet, A Sketch at St Albans (15455), for George Humphrey just days after the wedding. It is one of a number of “scabrous” prints on the marriage, Dorothy George points out. It is a little surprising that Humphrey should be selling plates that, while utilizing rather different images, chime with the far more indecorous and unbridled satires of The English Spy, authored by Robert Cruikshank’s friend Westmacott, editor of the weekly newsrag The Age. He used his publications and sharp tongue to blackmail many in high places. Even after the Libel Act of 1843, such scurrilities circumvented the law and were profitable, if deplored. Harriot was the target of such a blackmail attempt—not

138

Chapter 5

by Westmacott—at least once, but she remained above the fray and at least publicly seems to have taken no notice of or injury from it. A year into her marriage, when the attacks continued, now ridiculing her hospitality and charity, she and the duke announced they were going permanently to Paris. But they returned to Britain a few months later and settled into their usual winter residence at Brighton. In June 1827, Robert Cruikshank invents and etches A New Farce for Humphrey, which he ascribes to Lord Noodel for the idea—“Lord Noodle” was Theodore Hook’s rebaptism of St. Albans and “Noddle” was applied by Williams (or William Heath) to Lord Eldon—and to Squire Doodel, that is the artistic doodler Cruikshank, for the execution. Within weeks he designs The Ripe Melon for Johnny Fairburn, a good natured print dealer who had an easy relationship with both the Cruikshanks and was generally adverse to the most vicious and unjustified social or political satires. For a Covent Garden dealer who does not publish many caricatures Robert also in July supplies The Honey Moon and the Man in the Moon . . . Or a Peep through a Holly-Bush (figure 5.6) in which the ghost both of Harriot’s greatest success as Volante in John Tobin’s 1805 comedy The Honey Moon, and of her late husband Thomas Coutts, haunt the newlyweds in the garden of Holly Lodge. The duke, on his knees, pleads with the ghost for exculpation, misquoting wildly out of context, but comically, the apothecary’s line from the last act of Romeo and Juliet, “my poverty consented, not my will.” Caricatures of this period invoke Hamlet as a way of deploring the condition of Britain. Another part of this two-month competition to script the most outrageous and free-associated cartoons about the marriage of an heiress and a duke quite consistently re-genders the two principals. I do not know whether Harriot was blessed with a hairy upper lip at some point in her life; maybe it derives from previous actresses who sported that adornment in playing trouser roles. Or perhaps the mustache derives from a pun on Harriot as hairy (hirsute) or on harry it, as in attacking or distressing it. But shaving her is imagined by caricaturists, especially Robert Cruikshank, to be the best entertainment in the world—for St. Albans. As we have heard from Scott among others, the duke was thought to be naïve, if not childlike or mentally incompetent. Perhaps that was because of his gentle nature. Though his title was legitimate and of long-standing, he was not considered a distinguished holder: neither the office of falconer nor the overseer of customs endowed him with particularly martial or aristocratic power. So maybe he teams up with a hairier Harriot to gain masculinity. Her hairy upper lip becomes a delightful anatomical attraction. Shaving it pleases the duke. This may have genital allusions, though we should

Prying into the Melon

139

FIGURE 5.6. Robert Cruikshank, The Honey Moon and The Man in the Moon, July 1827. © Trustees of the British Museum.

be careful about making obvious associations that renormalize unexpected gender divergences. Whatever else that mustache might signify, it certainly suggests that in this case the woman rules. Georgian mustaches were marks of male prowess. Shaving them could signify any number of things: barber serving master (as in Robert Cruikshank’s New Farce), or Barber of Seville mis-serving master, or homoerotic attraction to the hairy stiff upper lip, or . . . well, caricaturists know how to carry these associations to extremes. In Robert Cruikshank’s June 1827 A Sketch at St. Albans or Shaving the New Maid Dutchess!!! (figure 5.7) the Duke, a “dear young Shaver” (notionally a young male, possibly from Romany chhavo [“young man”], though some dictionaries allow it to apply to females as well), prepares to shave her.31 But faced with her affectionate yet firm orders to “do whatever I desire you, and never dare to contradict me,” he is unmanned: “I fear I have not strength to do it.” And yet Harriot’s former husband, Coutts, a watching wig-block, feels cuckolded by this new marriage. So Harriot castrates and cuckolds her men, even though one of them holds the razor; she is compared to St. Albans’ royal forebear in a picture hanging on the wall in which Nell Gwyn pulls the beard of the smiling Charles II.

140

Chapter 5

FIGURE 5.7. Robert Cruikshank, A Sketch at St. Albans or Shaving the New Maid Dutchess!!!, June 1827. © Trustees of the British Museum.

Finally, Johnny Fairburn comes up in July 1827 with another caricature of the newlyweds, one etched by John Phillips that seems much better spirited. In One of the Graces Making a Man; or, Frankenstein Outdone (figure 5.8) the duchess is stout, yes, and cheerful; masterful, yes, and mustached; and in a commentating picture of her presumably during her widowhood she longs for new marital congress: “Heigho for a husband.” But she is “One of the Graces” (conflating Greek mythology with British titles). St. Albans has been “made a man,” a better man than Dr. Frankenstein crafted. His inner leg is very long. From the verse below the title, it is clear that the operation has been a success pleasing to both parties: Kings may boast of their efforts in making of Dukes But those sages may try if they can, With their planning and scheming and practice to boot, Without money to make me a Man. No, no! the wise elves to my Duchess must bow, One and all must acknowledge her plan, That with Staymakers, Tailors, and money, she now

Prying into the Melon

141

FIGURE 5.8. John Phillips, One of the Graces Making a Man; or, Frankenstein Outdone, July 1827. © Trustees of the British Museum.

Most completely has made me a Man. And how wisely she’s acted we very well know; ‘Twas a Man that she wanted, she said And the thing when once wanted, amongst high or low Must be had, and the price must be paid So with heart like a hero, & face like a Turk She (her mind fully bent on the plan) Mustacheo’d & whisker’d went boldly to work And thus you see made me a Man.

And so Harriot Mellon becomes in caricatural deformations not only a stout female of bulging endowments, but also a “[m]ustacheo’d & whisker’d” male, source of seeds and strength. This personification has very little to do with the personality, character, attributes, activities, and romantic life of the ostensible subject. As we have seen, Harriot was a lively, impulsively generous, compassionate, flamboyant, and considerate woman. Childless but generous to her favorite step-grandchildren, she was also a shrewd manager of her own talent and treasure—including Holly Lodge. Was this

142

Chapter 5

conflation of delightful courtesan and successful financier, of tight melons and stout corpus, confusing to her contemporaries? Or, because confusing, exactly the sort of disconfirmation of stereotype the publicity market seizes and capitalizes on? Did consumers of these written and drawn pasquinades harbor dreams of fairy godmothers who would turn them into princesses, or in this case, princes? Even more primitive and fundamental issues come into verbal and visual play: how does a woman make a man? Many of the Regency cartoons of the Prince Regent, including those done by the Cruikshank brothers, limned him as a royal baby being nursed by his mistresses. Even though Carlton House paid George Cruikshank £100 not to caricature the Regent any more, such payment did not stop up Cruikshank’s incised lines and critiques. The king still takes some hits, but the Cruikshanks also turn to another configuration of bodies and gender roles played out in high places, this time, in the mid-1820s, imagining what it would mean to have a slice of the melon, to gather unto one’s self the old bags and pocket their contents, to be stuffed with product and thus transformed from empty carcass to a full-blown man. For whatever reasons, from 1824 to 1827 Harriot Mellon Coutts Beauclerk, Duchess of St. Albans was, according to her biographer Charles Pearce, subject to “a series of attacks which were carried on for years with a malicious persistency difficult to parallel.” Things were bad enough when she was simply the wealthy widow Coutts, but in aspiring to, and winning, the coronet of St. Albans, “the taunts of her vilifiers increased in number and in bitterness, in many cases exceeding the boundary of decency. It is questionable,” Pearce continues, “whether any other woman, save Queen Caroline, was ever subjected to so pertinacious a persecution.”32 As Paul Pry—character and caricature pseudonym—instantiates, prying, curiosity, peeping into private places, including people’s privates, is rude, funny, disturbing, and threatening. Current heated discussions tend to define the notion of privacy in one of three ways.33 The first is privacy as control. As Alan Westin formulated it in 1967, control privacy constitutes “[t]he claims of individuals, groups, or institutions to determine for themselves when, how and to what extent information about them is communicated to others.”34 This is privacy as the right to select from the inside what is given out. Formulations of the right to copy inscribe this right, even today: unpublished manuscripts remain the property of the writer and designated literary heirs, and cannot be published without their consent. Harriot was alternately circumspect—kicking a would-be lover out of her

Prying into the Melon

143

Stratton Street garden—and generously hospitable, giving parties whose astonishingly varied and expensive delights, and even more astonishingly expensive and titled guests, were regularly covered by the papers. However, neither Harriot nor the duke had the kind of PR specialists who could control paparazzi, that is, intrusions into private life coming from outside. A second notion of privacy, formulated by Ruth E. Gavison in 1980, resolves around concepts of access: privacy is the prevention of outsiders looking in.35 Secrecy, anonymity, solitude, are all kinds of privacy privileged in certain circumstances: patient-doctor confidentiality, personal data, governmental business. Affairs of state must be conducted in private. Unless you are a Paul Pry. Or Edward Snowden. More recently, a third arena threatening privacy has blossomed: technological intrusion. What cyber hackers and instant bloggers are today, the caricaturists and the gossips of the Regency period were then: persons with means of obtaining private information and disseminating it in very public ways, quickly and inventively. It is important to note that the Mellon-Coutts-St. Albans affair produces many public notices in a very short time. It is equally important to keep in mind that in this third, public sphere, veracity may not be an issue at all. In the case of Paul Pry, he is not only nosy, he also misunderstands what he learns and intervenes disastrously in others’ lives. The caricaturists seized on public figures, issues, and basic concerns like money and sex, and wrote whatever kind of script occurred to them. The best caricatures take the particular situation and affix it to a gallimaufry of dissociated significant shapes produced by imaginations let loose by the transgression of gendered identities, and such chains of possible analogies as wealth-stout-melon-slit-Danae and Jupiter-shaver-harry it-and-hairy-lip. This third level of privacy invasion is uncontrollable: caricaturists’ and satirists’ imaginations participate in a Bakhtinian carnivalesque, consisting of free and familiar interaction among participants, the cultivation of eccentricity, temporary alliances between polarities (e.g., male/female, old/young), and freedom from punishment for violating norms. Caricaturists borrow from every source—but especially in Britain from visual satire and theater, because these sources have ready to hand time-proven gimmicks for stimulating public feelings. And there is no good defense to this kind of circulation of the private in the public world. More than one victim either died in a duel or committed suicide because of the satiric libels of the Regency. Think of the vicious verses about Lord Castlereagh (1769–1822): Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “I met Murder on the

144

Chapter 5

way—/ He had a mask like Castlereagh” (The Mask of Anarchy, 1819) or Lord Byron’s quip following Castlereagh’s suicide, perhaps occasioned by his being blackmailed as a homosexual: “Posterity will ne’er survey / A nobler grave than this: / Here lie the bones of Castlereagh: / Stop, traveller, and piss” (Epigram, 1822). The only insulation from such savage satire was to laugh along with those laughing at you. If those satires were to reach beyond particulars to the general, they needed to do so by appropriating very elementary figurations. As I have argued elsewhere, “fat” was one such figure that could stand, throughout Europe, for well-being or selfishness, a well-conducted state contrasted to its starving enemies, a sign of luxurious libertinism or reproved license.36 In Harriot’s case, name and attributed figure make her a stout partner, generously endowed, with flowing bags of money, bountiful melons, and a hairy lip for a shaver. Such a powerful, bi-gendered body can suckle a boy and make him a man. And that circulated image, dizzyingly morphed each week by competing satirists, germinates in the public sphere as a set of fanciful tales about marriage and impotence and power, polymorphously perverse in its physical manifestations and implications. But in the case of the Duke and Duchess of St. Albans, the imaginative saturnalia did not continue beyond their retreat to Paris and return to Brighton in 1828. Robert Cruikshank, the most inventive harrier of the couple, retired from the chase. William Heath, signing his prints with the name or image of Paul Pry, made fun of the fantastically jeweled dress the “Queen of Diamonds” (as Alfred Crowquill crowned her [15599]) wore to an April 23, 1828 court reception (15597, 15598).37 However, neither she nor the duke was any longer corporeally reconstituted. “Conjugal Felicity” (15600) and gender norms reasserted themselves at the Holly Lodge wedding anniversary in June, as did the imperishable display of wealth—her gift to her husband being a six-oared cutter in which Harriot and William were rowed by liveried boatmen down the Thames (15601).38 After the duchess died in August 1837, the duke at thirty-eight remarried; he fathered an heir, the tenth duke, and two daughters. He was indeed “a Man.” At her death his late duchess bequeathed the majority of her Coutts fortune, £1.8 million, to the youngest daughter, Angela, of her first husband’s youngest daughter, Sophia. Harriot’s will required that she take the name of her grandfather. As Angela Burdett-Coutts, she became the richest woman and the greatest philanthropist of Victoria’s reign. During her lifetime she was much lauded but seldom mocked.

Prying into the Melon

145

NOTES 1. John Poole, Paul Pry, Dicks’ Standard Plays 321 (London: John Dicks, [1825] 1880), Act I, p. 10. 2. Richard Altick, The Shows of London (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1978), 3. 3. Inspiration for this excursus came from Professor Anne Prescott, Carl Woodring’s Columbia University colleague at Barnard, who owns a copy of Paul Pry at Widow C—’s, the centerpiece of my study. Doctoral candidate Danielle Thom at the University of London and Dr. James Baker, then Associate Lecturer in History at the University of Kent, supplied the occasion for writing something: an invitation to deliver the keynote address at the April 27, 2012 multi-disciplinary “event” at the University of Kent, “Cradled in Caricature.” Professor David Vincent, most perspicacious of cultural historians, stimulated my resolve at the time and educated me on all kinds of Pry-ing. By sending me drafts of his forthcoming book, “I Hope I Don’t Intrude”: Privacy and Its Dilemmas in Nineteenth-Century Britain, he provided many more insights. And in reading versions of this paper, he rescued it from some of its no doubt many mistakes. Professor Hermione de Almeida chose to insert my jeu d’espirit, despite its disfigurations, into this collection of essays honoring our mutual friend Carl. I thank these prompters heartily. I am also grateful to E. Seth Jenks, who did primary retrieval of images; to Dr. Joanna O’Leary, who furnished me with data from the British Museum collection of caricatures and other sources; to Dr. Heather Miner, who did essential bibliographical quarrying; and to Margaret P. Harvey for confirming a reference. 4. M. Dorothy George, Hogarth to Cruikshank: Social Change in Graphic Satire (London: Allen Lane, 1967), 17. 5. David Vincent, “I Hope I Don’t Intrude”: Privacy and Its Dilemmas in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), not yet in page proof when this essay went to press, so subsequent citations are to chapter numbers. Much has been written about the struggle for privacy in nineteenth-century Britain. A survey of the issue is provided by Michelle Perrot, ed., A History of Private Life: From the Fires of Revolution to the Great War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990). 6. For the background to this early nineteenth-century slippage between private and public, consult Michael McKeon, The Secret History of Domesticity: Public, Private and the Division of Knowledge (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005). Edward Higgs, in The Information State in England: The Central Collection of Information on Citizens, 1500–2000 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 72–74, demonstrates how reluctant the General Registrar’s Office, which was assigned responsibility for the decennial census from 1841 on, was to pry into personal circumstances. However, given Britain’s long and violent sectarian history, and the irregularities of heterosexual relationships within domestic configurations, even such

146

Chapter 5

basic questions as “religion” and “relationship” among members of a household, beginning with the first census in 1801, may have caused suspicion, hard feelings, or curiosity among those queried, and their neighbors. Theoretically all census data about particular households were grossed up and personal answers were thereby occluded, but I have seen contemporary publications breaking down statistics (weaving families in Lancashire for instance) where in some villages only one or two households registered within a category, making individual identities easy to infer. 7. Joan Perkin, “Beauclerk, Harriot,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004. 8. Charles E. Pearce, The Jolly Duchess (London: Stanley Paul and Co., 1915), 99. My guess is that the “pillion,” an upholstered seat for a (usually female) second rider on horse or cycle, implies that Harriot was well endowed with posterior padding. 9. For information about Harriot in addition to that supplied by Perkin and Pearce, see Edna Healey, Lady Unknown: The Life of Angela Burdett-Coutts (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1978), 17–48. 10. Healey, Lady Unknown, 37. 11. Quoted from the will by Healey, Lady Unknown, 40. 12. M. Dorothy George, ed., Catalogue of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum: Division I. Political and Social Satires, 12 vols. as 11 (London: British Museum, 1870– 1954): 10 (1820–27). References here and parenthetically in the text hereafter are to numbers in this catalogue, in this case 14875. Dorothy George prints all titles in capitals; I use upper and lower case but attempt to follow her on “accidentals” as in some cases the images I’ve accessed aren’t quite clear about underlinings and other details. She also prints all dialogue in italics, which I have followed, although speech balloons and verses are not notably etched in italic lettering. The eight illustrations for this essay carry the numbers 15159, 14809, 15160, 15458, 15462, 15459, 15455, and 15460 in this catalogue. 13. Healey, Lady Unknown, 40. 14. Morning Post, end of February 1822, quoted in Pearce, 229–30. 15. John Gibson Lockhart, The Life of Sir Walter Scott, 7 vols. (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea and Blanchard, 1838), 6: 108–10, 109. 16. To accommodate other members of Coutts’s family, he purchased houses around the corner and connected them to Stratton Street; Harriot died in one of these, 80 Piccadilly (Perkin, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography). 17. Quoted and illustrated in Healey, Lady Unknown, 44–45. 18. The transfer from the stage was quick: Poole’s play ran at the Haymarket from September 13 to November 14, 1825. At best only a few thousand could have seen it that autumn, and it didn’t resume (in competition with Douglas Jerrold’s twoact farce and an equestrian version at Astley’s) until the following spring. Yet the astounding publicity and souvenirs that circulated as the play became a decided hit must have educated a wider public about the identity, characteristics, and language of Paul Pry, though not necessarily about the settings or plot of Poole’s play, which are largely ignored in the caricatures.

Prying into the Melon

147

19. David McKitterick, “Introduction,” The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain: Volume VI, 1830–1914, ed. McKitterick (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 1–74, 4. 20. Edna Healey, Coutts and Co. 1692–1992:The Portrait of a Private Bank (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1992), 271n. 21. For more about Baldwyn and Eliza Widdison, consult my George Cruikshank’s Life, Times, and Art, 2 vols. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press; Cambridge: Lutterworth Press, 1992, 1996). 22. Jim Davis, “Liston, John,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23. Morning Post, September 14, 1825; Morning Chronicle, January 9, 1826. 24. David Vincent, “I Hope I Don’t Intrude,” chapter 3. 25. Vincent, “I Hope I Don’t Intrude,” chapter 5. 26. Vincent, “I Hope I Don’t Intrude,” chapter 7. 27. Edna Healey, “Coutts, Thomas,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 28. The British Museum (15139) names the artist as “[Williams.]” but Harvard University Library attributes the etching to William Heath (Satirical Prints Collection, Harvard University preservation number 1993.015). 29. Another gem of information for which I am grateful to Professor Vincent, who specified the time, place, and exact words for the anecdote I had heard in a much less authoritative version. Supposedly Bell noticed a long time before how unnaturally smooth Cameron’s facial skin is, and thought—we need not specify why—of skin covered with thin latex or polyurethane. 30. In that year the offices of Chancellor and Lord Speaker of the House of Lords, previously one, were divided; the Lord Speaker now sits on the Woolsack. 31. Robert Cruikshank had used the metaphor of shaving previously: Lord Brougham shaves the head of the Duke of York, referring to his attack on the duke, April 26, 1825, for opposing Catholic Emancipation (Political Shaver—or the Clown [changed to “Crown”] in Danger, 14772). 32. Both quotations are from Pearce, The Jolly Duchess, 283. 33. For most of what I know about contemporary debates regarding privacy, I am indebted to a very informative lecture on “Theory of Privacy” given by Michael Birnhack,Visiting Professional Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, on October 12, 2011 at Senate House, School of Advanced Study, University of London. The quotation that follows derives from Birnhack’s PowerPoint presentation. 34. Cf. Alan F. Westin, Privacy and Freedom (New York: Athenaeum, 1970). 35. Ruth E. Gavison, “Privacy and the Limits of Law,” Yale Law Journal 89, 3 (January 1980): 421–71. 36. Robert L. Patten, “Signifying Shape in Pan-European Caricature,” in The Efflorescence of Caricature, 1759–1838, ed. Todd Porterfield (Farnham Surrey and Burlington VT: Ashgate, 2011), 137–57. 37. British Museum, 15598, is titled The Presentation of Dollalolla [Harriot] Accompanied by the Mighty Thumb [St. Albans]. The references to Henry Fielding’s low tragedy Tom Thumb may also for those in the know allude to Liston, whose wife Sarah

148

Chapter 5

had great success playing the irate Queen Dollalolla in 1817. Moreover, for literary and theatrical cognoscenti, the play’s characters Messrs. Doodle and Noodle echo in the pseudonyms of the creators of Robert Cruickshank’s New Farce, allegedly invented by Lord Noodel and executed by Square Doodel (see p. 138). The plate thus claims to supersede both Poole’s play and Fielding’s. 38. Dorothy George notes in the Introduction to volume 11 of the Political and Social Satires catalogue that after 1828 “there were few personal satires . . . unless— important exception—they have a political colour or are concerned with notorieties of the theatre” (xlii). Fortunately, Harriot’s thespian days were far behind her, and the duke was never engaged in politics.

6 DID TOM JONES EVER GO TO XANADU? Two Meditations on A Life and Practice as a Historical Critic E L I ZA BE T H KOWA L E S KI WALLACE

Education entails learning less than thinking about what one has previously thought. —Carl Woodring, Literature: An Embattled Profession (1999)

PART I Readers of Tom Jones will remember Fielding’s marvelous introduction to Mr. Allworthy’s abode in Book One, Chapter Four. It begins, “The Gothic stile of building could produce nothing nobler than Mr. Allworthy’s house.”1 After a considerable description of the fortunate location of the house, its fine lawn with its lovely natural attributes, including a plentiful spring, a waterfall, and a lake, as well as a beautiful tree-strewn plain on which sheep graze, we eventually arrive at Mr. Allworthy himself. He is resplendent as the sun beams down upon him. But I also remember quite clearly being told that the passage was a formative influence on “Kubla Khan.” And I can recall quite vividly the survey class in which I learned this: in my memory, Carl Woodring took a special pleasure in pointing out the link. After reading the full passage aloud, he paused to ask us what response the passage elicited. What did it sound like, or remind us of? Our silence only heightened his glee, I think, as he proceeded to draw out the similarities between Fielding’s elaborate and fanciful depiction of the landscape and 149

150

Chapter 6

Coleridge’s. This pedagogic moment was most likely intended as a lesson in biographical criticism—a clear example of how one author finds formative ideas in the work of another. Most likely as well, it was meant to alert us to the history of ideas—how the processing and understanding of certain concepts of nature evolve in the next historical age, into a very different kind of understanding. In other words, Fielding’s neoclassical framing of Squire Allworthy is rewritten as Coleridge’s wild Romantic configuration. I remember being surprised by the connection and interested in the way it connected two texts from distinct historical periods. This connection pushed back against a powerful inclination to recognize and sort historical literary periods based on their salient differences—an inclination I was then in the process of learning. The effect was rather like boxing things off—the eighteenth-century novel put in here, the Romantic poem put in there. The point of preparing for oral examinations, after all, was to be able to recognize works according to historical period and to be able to talk coherently about works that belonged together based on shared conventions, themes, and structures. Tom Jones, for example, was a quintessential eighteenth-century fiction and intended to be processed as such: a preexisting critical vocabulary made it clear what was important in the passage, and it indicated what was relevant and necessary to decipher Fielding’s splendid imagery. I knew you were supposed to recognize a distinctive narrative voice and to understand Fielding’s aesthetic as linking to a tradition of neo-classical representation. I knew we were supposed to pay special attention to the philosophical and theological systems that ground the narrator’s confident assertions. When we finally locate Allworthy in the scene, he is “a human Being replete with Benevolence, meditating in what Manner he might render himself most acceptable to his Creator, by doing most Good to his Creatures.”2 But it had not yet occurred to me to see how Coleridge’s weird Romantic poem (rumored, of course, to be the product of some strange opium trip) could be more rich and interesting when seen alongside Fielding’s description. Nor had it occurred to me that the more than sixty years separating the publication of Tom Jones from the publication of “Kubla Khan” might matter less than a set of shared representational concerns. After all, both texts are involved in the act of observing and processing nature, albeit to radically different effect. Both texts have a panoptic narrator who takes the reader through the action of observing that scene, first from a considerable distance, and then moving in on the details, much the way a cinematographer might use a camera to zoom in on the particulars of the scene. Both passages eventually bring the reader to focus on an agent: for Fielding,

Did Tom Jones Ever Go to Xanadu?

151

that agent is none other than Allworthy himself. For Coleridge, that agent is a damsel once seen in a vision. Where Fielding’s narrator appears confident in his ability to carry his readers along, even solicitous for their safety as he urges us to “slide down the hill” carefully, Coleridge’s narrator is anxious for himself and presumably unconcerned about us. He writes in a tentative, subjunctive mode: if only he “could” revive the damsel’s song, then he “would” build the dome in air. The trick is, of course, that in the very process of writing about what he “would do,” he has already done it. Both he and Fielding succeed, then, in their most basic impulse to bring an extraordinary vision to us. Putting the two works side by side means not only taking them out of their historical boxes, but also eliding their historical differences. In this kind of formal analysis, what matters is not that Fielding’s neo-classical certainties become Coleridge’s tortured romantic uncertainties, but that the writers share a basic impulse to create a kind of holistic vision. There is, perhaps, some irony in my memory of a historical lesson that at the time suggested an equally strong case for reading formally. To be honest, the moment quickly passed, and I returned to the task of apprenticing myself as a historical critic, choosing nineteenth-century British literature as my major field. This meant I would draw on some useful knowledge of both eighteenth-century literature and Romanticism, but these two fields, neatly packed away into their own boxes, could be set aside until much later, when the exigencies of the job market would demand taking them out, dusting them off, and opening their contents for the purposes of teaching in a small liberal arts college. Over the years, I have been grateful for the training I received as a historical critic, and I can see the deep imprint it left on my work for the next several decades, even as I moved through the discovery of several additional kinds of critical reading. The virtues of being trained in historicism were manifold, beginning with the way it organized and structured my graduate education, giving me clear focal points for my studies and the confidence that I could teach a specific curriculum. My historical training certainly helped me get my first job by allowing me to claim expertise in a job market that was also neatly divided into historical periods. Later the ability to define myself as a “scholar of nineteenth-century British literature” oriented me professionally and even socially by defining the professional societies to which I would belong. I remember quite clearly a conversation with Carl Woodring, in which he told me that most literary critics would themselves have a history. That is, over the span of a career, scholars would tend to move either forwards or backwards a century, he said. Though at the time I was pretty sure that

152

Chapter 6

would not happen to me, I did in fact move backwards, retooling myself as an eighteenth-century scholar during the 1980s. At the time, it made sense to move backwards. I was increasingly being called upon to teach classes in eighteenth-century literature. (“The Age of Pope, Swift, and Johnson” was one of my assignments, so that box was one of the first to be opened.) As well, the issues in women’s literary history that increasingly intrigued me seemed firmly rooted in an eighteenth-century context. Around the time I was writing my first book, I headed off to my first conference at the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies (ASECS)—where for a while I felt like an interloper. But around the same time, feminist historians like Joan Kelly were beginning to question what the idea of discrete historical periods meant for women, and this questioning would not only weaken my faith in the category of the literary historical period, but would later, under New Historicism, lead me to wonder whether we can ever confidently assert the very idea of a discrete literary period. Kelly’s essay, originally published in 1976 under her then hyphenated name Kelly-Gadol, argued that “there was no Renaissance for women—at least not during the Renaissance.”3 Instead, the period saw the “repression of the noblewoman’s affective experience” in contrast to the liberties offered by medieval literature.4 Before the period we call the Renaissance, aristocratic women had been permitted to inherit and administer property, wrote Kelly. A system of matronymics reflected women’s position as landowners and managers of estates. But the arrival of the Renaissance saw the diminution of women’s economic, political, and cultural power so that the very idea of a “renaissance” for women made little sense, according to Kelly.5 Leaving aside the question of the subsequent response to Kelly’s thesis, I remember how this essay spoke to me as a major reason for reconsidering the idea of the literary period that no longer seemed relevant to half the human race.6 It seems almost absurd now, when the literary canon routinely reflects the widest possible demographic, to remember that the major push during the late 1970s and into the early 1980s was simply to “rediscover” women writers, artists, and thinkers and to get them into the canon, where we could teach them. Kelly’s essay belonged to that push—but more importantly, it suggested that the concept of the literary period might be part of the problem for those interested in a feminist revision of the canon: if what one sought was a “true” picture of women’s contribution, then we were going to have to reconsider our historical boxes—not only what was actually in them, but how we had labeled each one and how we had decided in the first place what should and shouldn’t go in each. What if, for example, the box labeled “nineteenth-century British literature” (the

Did Tom Jones Ever Go to Xanadu?

153

contents of which I had mastered for my orals) didn’t just contain the obvious selections of poetry, prose, and fiction, but also extended to industrial fiction and polemical tracts? What if we let go of certain aesthetic criteria in favor of explicitly social or more broadly cultural ones? What if we worried less about what we “liked” because it represented the “best,” and included more of what a nineteenth-century audience might have read? Suddenly it was possible to teach “The Little Pin-headers” by Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna alongside Dickens’s Hard Times, or Florence Nightingale’s Cassandra alongside Carlyle’s On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History. Furthermore, what if the box labeled “nineteenth-century poetry” needed itself to be reconsidered? Why had Robert Browning’s reputation eclipsed that of his wife’s when, during their lifetimes, hers had overshadowed his? What definition of “poetry” would allow us to teach not just Goblin Market, but Aurora Leigh, or (on the other side of the ocean) the works of someone like Lydia Sigourney, with all due seriousness and attention? Though Jane Tompkins’s seminal work Sensational Designs focused on American literature, it nonetheless led the way for similar moves in the reshaping of the British canon. According to Tompkins, the modern critics’ inability to appreciate Harriet Beecher Stowe’s accomplishment resulted from their insufficient assumptions about the nature and function of literature. They failed to understand how Stowe pitched her novel not in accord with one set of formal principles, but with an alternative set of aesthetic concerns designed to play to heart over mind.7 In a sense, Tompkins’s approach was to argue for a “better” or more accurate historicism, one that defined the idea of a “successful” literary text according to the period. Instead of looking for signs that a text either succeeded or failed in the terms that the modern critic might bring to the text, the point was to ask what kind of cultural work was the text doing at the time of its publication. Under this line of rethinking, the idea of the literary period took on yet another configuration as it opened to welcome a dizzying array of literary works now deemed worthy of study and consideration precisely for the cultural work they performed. This widening of the canon coincided with yet another challenge to the idea of the literary period from New Historicism. The major tenets of a New Historical approach are currently, of course, well known. Now, when I teach New Historicism in a survey of literary theory, its premises—like the idea that the canon should include women and authors from outside the dominant literary establishment—can seem obvious to the point of being risible. But at the time, the idea that transhistorical human “truths” were neither transhistorical nor timeless, and possibly not “true” at all, still seemed audacious, even subversive.

154

Chapter 6

Once again, feminist criticism provided the transition into new categories of thought: how could one talk about the nature of “man” when the very concept of “man” paid no attention to gender or (later) race or class? Who was this “man” and how could literary historians pretend that he represented “the human condition”? In the process of posing these questions, it became clear that the idea of the discrete and self-enclosed historical period inevitably reflected neither the “truth” of its age nor a set of self-evident aesthetic values. Instead, the concept of the literary period depended upon the values held by the one defining the period. For instance, when Matthew Arnold famously declared that “Dryden and Pope are not classics of our poetry, they are classics of our prose,” he was obviously situated as a Victorian critic, a man of clear predilections and critical inclinations.8 But by means of his comment, Arnold established the boundaries for one, longstanding version of the eighteenth-century canon. In this version, Thomas Gray was preferable to Alexander Pope, and Robert Burns could be tolerated under some circumstances, but not others. Around the same time, Leslie Stephen’s backwards glance cast a nostalgic eye over the work of political pamphleteers, while faulting Pope for his didactic, dreary, and outdated couplets.9 (Stephen’s daughter Virginia Woolf was no friend to Pope either, but her complaints in Orlando had more to do with the poet’s ill-temper and condescending attitude to women than they did with his poetic excesses.) Well into the early twentieth century, anthologies suggest that students were to learn that the eighteenth century was best studied for its accomplishments in didactic prose—though certainly drama and fiction were also being taught as well. Even now, when I mention my field to people of a certain age, I feel compelled to assure them that I don’t teach that eighteenth century. This late nineteenth-century version of the eighteenth-century canon certainly had no room for someone as interesting and sexy as, say, William Blake. As Carl Woodring reminds us, in the 1950s Northrop Frye’s “single-handed hoist” of Blake from the eighteenth century where he “was little honored” into the Romantic period “was the accomplishment of a titan.”10 Yet a twenty-first century redrawing of the period boundaries once again is just as likely to try to move Blake back, among his fellow eighteenth-century radicals whom he arguably more closely resembles. Alternatively, Blake can be easily resituated as an eighteenth-century poet by virtue of the fact that the “long” eighteenth century technically “covers” both the first and second Romantic periods. If, as some members of ASECS would surely maintain, the eighteenth century does not end until 1830 with the ascension of William IV (“the Sailor King”) to the throne, then, among

Did Tom Jones Ever Go to Xanadu?

155

the major Romantic writers, only Wordsworth does not fit neatly within the timeframe of the “long eighteenth century.” On the one hand, the rationale for omitting the Romantic poets from the long eighteenth century seems apparent. On the other hand, it is certainly worth musing on what would happen if the five (or six) major Romantic poets were considered fair game for the members of ASECS and no longer the “property” of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism. Alongside the ongoing struggle to set temporal boundaries for the eighteenth century, the late twentieth century witnessed several other healthy and vibrant debates concerning the status of “the” eighteenth century. These debates were played out at annual conferences at ASECS, where new critical approaches were rapidly transforming the titles and the contents of the sessions, as a multiplicity of theoretical and critical approaches were introduced. Feminist panels were followed soon afterward by gay and lesbian studies panels, and then Queer studies panels. Deconstructive panels were followed by New Historical panels, followed quickly by topics in postcolonial studies, cognitive studies, disability studies, and so on. So far had we traveled from the idea of the eighteenth-century literary period as a discrete body of texts with a shared aesthetic and political agenda, as envisioned by Arnold, Stephen, and even Virginia Woolf, that I soon found myself teaching a Ph.D. seminar titled “Some Versions of the Eighteenth Century.” The seminar was organized around competing versions of a literary historical period that was rapidly shifting. Grounding each unit of the seminar in a different critical approach—formalist, feminist, New Historicist and so on—meant not only a different critical vocabulary and very different sorts of critical essays, but also a different set of primary texts for each week. To cover a Marxist approach, we would focus on Pope’s “Windsor Forest”—the very sort of poem that Leslie Stephen had once dismissed as dreary. Still other poems by Pope, including “Epistle to Arbuthnot,” would be read later in a unit on “the Queer Eighteenth Century.” A “New Historicist” eighteenth century entailed a consideration of the poetry of Stephen Duck, Molly Leapor, Mary Collier, and others—all fairly recent additions to the canon just then. A postcolonial unit introduced a Jonathan Swift who could be read for the way he exposed the limits of a postcolonial past—as in Robert Markley’s reading of Gulliver’s voyage to Japan.11 Finally, an eighteenth-century “Black Atlantic” shifted our attention to Obi, or The History of Three-Fingered Jack by William Earle, which had just been made available in a version edited by Srinivas Aravamudan.12 Since the graduate students in the class weren’t necessarily pursuing

156

Chapter 6

eighteenth-century studies as their fields of study, I invited them to find their own versions of the eighteenth century, as it might, for example, appear in works from their own designated historical periods. The final papers were, for the most part, rich and surprising. Who knew, for example, that The Rape of the Lock could open up “Bernice Bobs her Hair” by F. Scott Fitzgerald in such surprising ways?13 To be sure, some of the eighteenth-century texts in the class had long been canonical—Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels was long processed under a number of different rubrics, so that Robert Markley’s “post-postcolonial” reading only extended a discussion that had already been underway. (Irish Studies scholars would, of course, have a separate postcolonial argument about Swift’s text.) But surveying both the range of texts and the range of critical approaches, it was possible to draw the impression that eighteenth-century studies could no longer be said to exist as a coherent field of study. On the one hand, this proliferation of competing versions of the eighteenth century had created a reading list reflective of a broad demographic range of writers on an even broader range of topics. “Covering” eighteenth-century British literature now meant reading a high number of women authors, as well the works of enslaved Africans—not just Ouldah Equiano, whose work was becoming ubiquitous, but also others like John Marrant, Ignatius Sancho, and Quobna Ottobah Cugoano. It also meant seeking examples by other writers who were brought into the canon by virtue of their contact with the British empire—like New England native Samson Occom. But was it truly possible to claim expertise over such an unwieldy reading list? How much of this list was about literary history, rather than late twentieth-century social history or politics? In the end, weren’t we too, as teachers of this “new” eighteenth century, doing what had always been done—that is, creating a literary period that simply reflected the values (in this case, multicultural, pluralistic) of our own era? Many years earlier, as a young feminist scholar, I had been dismayed with the fact that even Virginia Woolf had not been able to see her way past certain prejudices. As Margaret Ezell points out in her incisive critique of A Room of One’s Own, bound as she was by her class position and her Modernist sensibility, Woolf was unable to recognize whole categories of women’s writing and other female literary accomplishments.14 But now the true moral of the lesson was quickly becoming apparent: in the process of announcing what is “important” and “relevant” to know and study, no one critic, however invested in a broadly democratic or multicultural politics she may be, is ever capable of casting a dispassionate, neutral eye over the available field of materials to be mastered.

Did Tom Jones Ever Go to Xanadu?

157

Of course, in the beginning of the new millennium, the eighteenth century was scarcely the only literary field where the canon was rapidly changing in response to new theoretical and historical approaches. Arguably the changes in the American literary canon were even more dramatic. Medieval Studies, too, showed signs of becoming a very different field from what it had been, as did the entire configuration now loosely called the “Early Modern Period.” Still, despite the shifts within the separate literary periods, there are few signs that the profession will ever abandon the traditional literary periods as the chief means of organizing itself. So far, we have not seen anything like the death of historicism and, to the best of my knowledge, we have not yet invalidated the concept of teaching courses that are rooted in the idea of the discrete historical period. We still structure our syllabi around them, train our graduate students to teach them, and organize ourselves into professional societies based on their dates. As Carl Woodring reasons, “Periodization continues largely because higher education as we have come to know it requires a specialization in order to display competitively an expertise that survives judgment by peers.”15 We are, of course, more self-conscious and tentative about defining the period, but in the end we inevitably lapse into generalities about literary history that will surely one day be challenged, just as we challenged the generalities of those who came before us. It is also possible, however, that recent postcolonial approaches raise the stakes even further by putting even more pressure on those who have made it their life’s work to teach literature based on western conceptions of historical chronology. The foundations of a Whig idea of history have long been undermined, of course, but an engagement with writers like Johannes Fabian or Dipesh Chakrabarty further destabilizes the very notion of a linear, teleological narrative as the basis of the unfolding of events over time. Fabian’s Of Time and the Other is useful for its critique of the idea that all human societies exist on only one timeline—the western anthropologist’s timeline.16 Though Fabian’s anthropological approach may seem to be a long way from the problem of historical period, it shows that the issues are even deeper than we thought: Fabian’s description of how the anthropologist renders the object of his observation as static and unchanging (thereby denying him his status as coeval) means it becomes impossible to see the other as having his own history. Moreover, the anthropologist fails to understand the other as having an equally complex relationship to a history that may not line up with the observer’s own sense of the unfolding of time. For the literary scholar, this raises the question of what categories of art in general—and narrative art in particular—may have been overlooked, neglected, or simply ignored.

158

Chapter 6

In a parallel context, Chakrabarty suggests the deep limitations in how the western tradition has thought about and processed the very notion of history itself. Eurocentric history in particular is limited and partial, blind to the ways in which whole categories of human events and experiences outside the western secular tradition cannot be accounted for. In Provincializing Europe Chakrabarty continues the critique of using Europe as the reference point for all human experience, challenging his reader to entertain the notion of temporal pluralities where individuals exist in a constantly fragmentary present.17 Here too there are implications for literary historians, as Chakrabarty’s approach exposes the possibility that the western literary canon has no way to account for vibrant narrative traditions that lie outside its narrow confines. Arguments like these will surely continue to erode the concept of discrete historical periods as useful or adequate containers for organizing literary study—it is rather like discovering the boxes into which I originally learned to sort literary texts were not only falsely labeled or insufficiently planned, but not even an especially good idea in the first place. In global terms, the very system of boxes severely limited what could be known and understood about human history and deflected attention from entire communities and their histories. Yet what is the solution? What happens next?

PART II In a brief reflection on the issue of periodization in Literature: An Embattled Profession, Carl Woodring describes the problem that bedevils the attempt to sort texts by historical period in this way: “periods have become shells occupied by crabs not native to the shells.”18 He hints at a new sort of pedagogy in response, writing, “we need a new, liberating structure, certainly not one of chronological slivers, as well as new theories.”19 He elaborates, In a looser meeting of past and present, appropriation of differing methods, language, assumptions, and apprehensions can be heightened by juxtaposing earlier and later writings without allowing similarities to dominate the choice of works put before students, somewhat as A. C. Barnes did in acquiring paintings in Philadelphia before he saw how they would fit together in his school and museum. The fewer the similarities, the greater the opportunity for the teacher to identify salient characteristics.20

I find the reference to the Barnes collection especially suggestive since, for some time, it has seemed to me that museums often foreground in

Did Tom Jones Ever Go to Xanadu?

159

interesting and complex ways how literary scholars might address the issue of periodization. As teaching institutions, museums also grapple with the question of how best to sort, organize, and present cultural texts—mostly visual and material culture, to be sure. Various and even competing concepts of how to curate collections can offer instructive, parallel examples for literary scholars who seek to reconsider the overall usefulness—and the future of—periodization. Like tendencies in literary scholarship, recent trends in museum studies also demonstrate a responsiveness to critical theory—and to emerging arguments in postcolonial reworkings of anthropology and ethnography in particular. In short, museum exhibition rooms offer alternative communal versions of the classroom, in which the discussion over what gets taught, to whom, is highly contested in a public way: just think of the controversy surrounding the decision to place the bomber Enola Gay in the National Air and Space Museum in 1995. I offer, then, two very different examples of museums that have recently engaged with the question of periodization by way of a concluding meditation on how we, as literary scholars, might discover a “new liberating structure” for our classrooms. Though the two museums are completely different in their location, their histories, their orientations, and their missions, both offer case studies in what it means to grapple with periodization and, in the end, to explore alternative possibilities for the presentation of works of art. The first example is the Palazzo Fortuny in Venice. The second is the Brooklyn Museum. The Palazzo Fortuny, having once been the home of the Pesaro family and then the atelier of Mariano Fortuny, is now used for temporary exhibitions. In 2011, it housed a show titled “TRA: Edge of Becoming,” organized by Axel Vervoordt, who also edited the exhibition catalogue.21 This exhibition deliberately disrupted historical linearity by juxtaposing objects—including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, videos, a cuneiform clay tablet, tapestries, a monk’s robe, and other textiles—from vastly different historical and geographical contexts. Items were hung in the entire house, from the basement storerooms to the attics, without wall text. Identifying their titles, dates, or artists entailed consulting printed exhibition lists. Otherwise, the works spoke for themselves. For example, a seventeenth-century painting by Francesco de Zurbaran, Monk with a Knife in the Back, where the monk’s robe was painted in an intense saffron color, was hung next to a brilliant yellow Rothko from 1968. Or, Concetto Spaziale. I. Quanta (1959) by Lucio Fontana, a work featuring a large slash in a blank triangular canvas, was put next to Lamentation of Christ by Joos Van Clef, painted in 1540. The viewer was not told what to think, or what rationale linked the works. Taken out of it

160

Chapter 6

historical context, each work could be considered utterly on its own terms, without consideration for artist, historical milieu, or national context. But seen in pairs or groups, the works also cast light upon each other. For example, though on its own Fontana’s slash might seem violent, unmotivated, or arbitrary, when seen against the Van Clef, it suggested a stigmata. In this way, strict chronology was disrupted: what matters is not what comes earlier or later, first or second, but that the works are in conversation with one another. Some of the most striking juxtapositions occurred on the top floor of the museum, where a labyrinth of small, temporary “pavilions” presented multiple, tiny exhibition spaces, each one displaying no more than two or three art works. In one, another small Rothko painting, this time in glowing russet tones, was displayed alongside a seventeenth-century Japanese vase to stunning effect. According to Vervoordt, the word “tra,” as an anagram of art, represents “the open exchange of language and meaning.”22 It can refer to reversing, revising, travel, transport, transformation, training, and translation. “Tra” is, of course, also an Italian preposition meaning between, among, amid—leading, writes Vervoordt, to the idea of “crossing the border, of change and purification, of going beyond and going ahead, or uncovering meaning and getting inside experiences to uncover truth.”23 Vervoordt elaborates further: “TRA examines these connections in the same way that a physician [sic] attempts to understand how the body works by studying the interaction between atoms rather than studying what’s happening within an individual atom. The whole is indeed the sum of its parts, truly unique and always connected.” 24 Unquestionably the language here verges on the mystical, evoking a kind of formalist creed that privileges the purely aesthetic. Elsewhere in the catalogue, using the metaphor of a journey, Rosa Martinez invites viewers to have a number of aesthetic experiences, including to “Discover . . . a work consisting of two strokes on the upper and lower parts of the canvas: the demarcation of the void, above and below the horizon”; to “Stroll through a forest of voodoo dolls made out of industrial waste”; and to “Imagine the cosmic weight of ultramarine blue.”25 Yet this kind of invitation neither defines nor privileges one distinct aesthetic experience as the essence of art: it is global and inclusive. It disregards the temporal distance that separates a Zen monk “who over 1200 years ago, decided to abandon his monastery in order to escape from the inflexibility of a rule that was too strict and castrated genuine spiritual search” (in one invitation) from the time in which the museum visitor might “observe a blackbird that comes to eat seeds in the court yard of the palace” (another invitation), or in which she might “imagine that we are

Did Tom Jones Ever Go to Xanadu?

161

walking up a liquid ladder made of transparent glass that doesn’t break.”26 In this way, if TRA is evoking a new formalism, it takes the form of the widest possible range of aesthetic experiences, including those that have occurred and still occur in multiple geographic and historical settings at multiple points in time. Thus, the exhibition models, I think, a “teacherly” moment, where periodicity yields to an opening out of intense experience and aesthetic understanding. It raises the possibility that the literature classroom might similarly become a place for aesthetic exploration, where students are challenged to contemplate what it means to encounter works of literature that involve alternative ways of knowing or being in the world. Where the Palazzo Fortuny has the advantage of being a relatively small space in which a single exhibition can fill the whole house, the Brooklyn Museum is a capacious institution with a long history, multiple divisions and many departments. It has long been a major force within the powerful civic history of Brooklyn. It holds enormous collections of visual and material culture, ranging from Egyptian, Classical, and Ancient Near Eastern Art, to significant works of late twentieth-century feminist art in its Elizabeth A. Sackler Center. To visit the museum on any one day is not to encounter an elegant, unified vision, as at the Palazzo Fortuny, but multifarious, even contending, ideas about cultural heritage. For example, in the spring of 2013, a visitor might enjoy an exhibition of the early twentieth-century watercolors of John Singer Sargent, featuring scenes from his travels through the Mediterranean, or she might contemplate the monumental sculptures of El Anatsui, who creates spectacular, shimmering tapestries made out of discarded bottle caps from a distillery in Nigeria. Yet beyond its commitment to a wide range of cultural expressions, the museum’s approach to history also suggests a variety of ways to think about and to define “the” historical period. To begin, the fourth floor houses twenty-three notable period rooms first added to the museum’s collections during the early part of the twentieth century. As is typical of this type of display, the exhibitions are arranged to present decorative items from historical time periods, in rooms that were taken from elsewhere and reassembled in the museum. No doubt this has the advantage of allowing viewers to see the items in simulated use—andirons in a fireplace, for example, or a chamber pot under a bed—but it also freezes time in a series of static tableaux. In contrast, the fifth floor reflects a more dynamic sense of history in the “American Identities” galleries. Roughly chronological, the galleries follow the emerging history of the United States, from “From Colony to Nation” to “Modern Life.” Yet even here the emphasis is on juxtaposition. Under the rubric “A New Look,

162

Chapter 6

Everyday Life/A Nation Divided,” viewers consider nineteenth-century landscape paintings—Thomas Cole’s The Pic-nic (1846), for instance— alongside objects from the decorative arts collection—a nineteenth-century sideboard—but also in close proximity to a twentieth-century work—Larry Rivers’ July (1956). History moves forwards, in a sense, but also backwards, as social, cultural, and aesthetic themes (in this case, how people experience nature in their leisure time) are reinforced. In a gallery where strict temporality is no longer enforced, one theme, style, mood, or tone can speak freely to another. History becomes both plural (“histories) and provisional: if there is not one American identity, there also is not a moment when it can be fixed or announced that such an identity exists. This curatorial approach differs strikingly from one evident on the ground floor, where the approach is to showcase art works, objects, and artifacts according to broad categories from different geographies, cultures, and time periods. Under three broad rubrics, “Connecting People, Connecting Places, Connecting Things,” the ground floor gallery offers vastly different, mini-installations—one, for instance, explores the concept of the frame, while another displays a collection of pitchers. Aesthetic impulses are explored through a wide range of objects—a late second-to-third century C.E. sculpture entitled Relief of Shakyamuni and Jivaka Taking the Infant Jyotishka from the Pyre, on the one hand, and a Nick Cave “sound suit” from 2008 on the other. Thus, under one roof, the Brooklyn Museum offers multiple interpretations of history, as well as multiple examples of how cultural objects can be employed to reflect historical process: it can be reflected in the carefully delineated space of the period room, where objects can appear to exist unsullied by the messiness of human intervention, or it can be reflected in the untidy, nearly chaotic jumble of objects “speaking” to each other across geographic and cultural borders. One of the newest galleries is “Life, Death, and Transformation in the Americas,” a long-term exhibition that displays items from geographic areas ranging from Brazil to British Columbia and from a wide historical arc, from 1000 BCE to the 1970s—for example, a Mayan effigy vessel in the shape of a human imitating a jaguar is displayed not far from a Kochina doll made in 1969–1970. Where “Connecting Cultures” is replete with objects, this gallery is sparse. The objects—slightly more than one hundred in all—are isolated, most often displayed singly, and therefore are all the more visually riveting. Yet rather than becoming purely formal abstract statements of a disembodied aestheticism (as sometimes occurs in galleries of “primitive art”), the objects are rendered as extraordinary objects to be understood on their own terms. Unmoored from strict historical or even geographical settings,

Did Tom Jones Ever Go to Xanadu?

163

each item accrues additional meaning as it asks to be considered both for itself and as the expression of the belief system that brought it into being. What lessons can be found in the multifaceted approaches to historical periodization in an institution like the Brooklyn Museum? How might an institution like this one model multiple ways of organizing and presenting literature from a wide historical survey—and now from an increasingly wider geographic sweep? First, as the period rooms suggest, there has long been the obvious recognition that literary history was never adequately processed by treating literary periods as if they could be neatly boxed, marked off from the passing of time, and frozen into static tableaux of “literary life as it was.” Like the period room, this approach to literary history could never do more than reflect the viewpoint of the literary critic and his values. Yet at the Brooklyn museum, there have been recent attempts to disrupt or “mess up” the period rooms in order to call attention to their problematic stasis and to introduce dynamic new themes, images, and even personalities into their settings. For example, in 2009 the museum invited Yinka Shonibare to put his mannequin sculptures, adorned with historical costumes fashioned out of Dutch wax fabric (a hybrid textile associated with Britain’s African-Caribbean communities), in the period rooms. He created headless children jumping rope, peddling tricycles, and pushing the furniture askew, bringing youthful energy and disorder to the rooms. But Shonibare’s sculptures also instigated questions about the nature of history as it is preserved in the period room—and perhaps in museum culture in general. What is inevitably left out in the moment when historical process is frozen into a series of static, perfect, and unchanging tableaux? In 2013, an exhibition entitled “Alternative Histories” by Valerie Hegarty addressed a series of political themes, including colonization and Manifest Destiny, by making surrealistic changes to two rooms in particular. In one, for example, she hung historical portraits of George Washington and Pawnee Chief Sharitarish that appeared to have grotesquely dissolved. In another, a Native American patterned rug appeared to have been overgrown with roots, grass, and flowers. Literary historians keen to rethink the idea of the literary historical period might draw lessons from these kinds of engagement with the period room, as they invite us to reconsider how historical memory is best addressed. The literary historical period too surely deserves discussion for what it excludes by nature of its policing of boundaries, or for its attempt to superimpose temporal boundaries on dynamic historical processes. Perhaps it too needs to be “messed up” or disrupted by the introduction of unexpected visitors or by unanticipated works.

164

Chapter 6

In a similar vein, the museum’s “American Identities” galleries do the same work as canon revision in literary studies: they widen out the category of “art” and raise questions about the nature of historical representation. But here too the provisional nature of periodicity is brought to the fore by the occasional inclusion of works from outside the historical timeframe—for example, the Larry Rivers painting mentioned earlier. Even when historical chronology remains the ruling principle in literary study, there is something to be gained in the juxtaposition of literary texts and cultural texts from different time periods and even across national boundaries. For example, to teach a Romantic poem like “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” (1804) alongside Jamaica Kincaid’s autobiographical novel Lucy (1990), where the postcolonial heroine grapples with a Wordsworthian legacy, is to put nineteenth and twentieth-century literary histories in conversation with one another. Reading Robinson Crusoe (1719) with Coetzee’s Foe (1986) highlights dramatic differences in both thematic and aesthetic approaches to questions about the nature of language and power. This kind of pairing suggests a different pedagogy, one that is less about the transmission and mastery of “expertise” over a discrete body of historical texts and more about the development of critical analytic strategies for understanding how history is made and processed through a wide variety of literary texts. The museum’s “Connecting Cultures” galleries suggest not only the widening of the canon, but also a move back to courses that are organized thematically or generically. This is scarcely a new suggestion, of course, but now such courses may incorporate approaches that show the impact of thing theory, as well as object-oriented criticism, or an inclination to consider objects as objects.27 This approach is modeled in the “Life, Death, and Transformation in the Americas” gallery. Under such cultural methods, students may be enjoined to revel in the strangeness of the thing as thing. Under the related rubric of “object-oriented literary criticism,” they could be asked to reflect on the text as text—to consider very briefly, perhaps, the historical age from which it comes, but more importantly, to come to terms with aesthetic opportunities offered by the text itself.28 To be sure, literary texts are radically different from other kinds of objects, yet object-oriented literary criticism borrows from formalism the recognition that the text has its own independent integrity, as well as its own singular expression. In a sense, we turn to the literary text for what it can uniquely offer—a self-enclosed and coherent expression that is rooted in history but not bound to mirror it narrowly. Neither it is explained by the historical circumstances that generated it. I like to think such pedagogies based on object-oriented

Did Tom Jones Ever Go to Xanadu?

165

criticism can exemplify a “liberating structure” of the kind that Carl Woodring was inviting us to envision. In conclusion, it would be naive to write that the system of boxing literary works into distinct categories can be abandoned. We could not shape our courses, train our graduate students, or perhaps even organize ourselves without some sort of meaningful structure. But the boxing up of works into literary historical periods has long proved problematic for its flawed claim to approximate accurately the “truth” of the historical period. As drawn by the profession, the literary historical period is inevitably bound to reflect our own values and interests, and by committing ourselves to it, we have remained oblivious to what it has omitted. Moreover, because it is the product of specific, euro-centric systems of thinking about time and chronology, the traditional literary period cannot account for entirely other aesthetic categories, chronologies, and experiences. In this essay, I have suggested that as other cultural institutions like museums address the problem of placing works of art within historical contexts, they suggest alternative framings for literary works as well. As we try to envision pedagogical structures that will “liberate,” maybe we ought to aim for classrooms that above all preserve the strangeness and weirdness of the encounter with a literary text. Rather than attempting to explain or historically contextualize the literary work, perhaps we can develop ways of “crossing the border,” or “experiencing interconnectedness,” in Alex Vervoordt’s terms. This might mean reclaiming the singular peculiarity of Allworthy’s estate and Xanadu in the same pedagogical moment and imagining that Tom Jones did indeed go to Xanadu. He even took Allworthy with him. It wasn’t such a long trip after all.

NOTES 1. Henry Fielding, Tom Jones, ed. Sheridan Baker (New York: Norton, 1973), 31. 2. Fielding, Tom Jones, 32. 3. Joan Kelly-Gadol, “Did Women Have a Renaissance?” in Becoming Visible: Women in European History, ed. Renate Bridenthal and Claudia Koonz (1976, rpt. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987), 176. 4. Kelly-Gadol, “Did Women Have a Renaissance?,”176. 5. Kelly-Gadol, “Did Women Have a Renaissance?,”182. 6. See the “Addendum” to the reprint edition above for a bibliography of work done in response to Kelly-Gadol’s essay. 7. Jane Tompkins, Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790–1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).

166

Chapter 6

8. Matthew Arnold, “The Study of Poetry” in Victorian Literature: Prose, ed. G. B. Tennyson and Donald F Gray (New York: Macmillan, 1976), 967. 9. Leslie Stephen, English Literature and Society in the Eighteenth Century (London: George Duckworth and Company, 1904), 65. 10. Carl Woodring, Literature: An Embattled Profession (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 185, 31. 11. Robert Markley, “Gulliver and the Japanese: The Limits of the Postcolonial Past,” Modern Language Quarterly 65 (2004): 457–79. 12. William Earle, Obi; Or, the History of Three-Fingered Jack, ed. by Srinivas Aravamudan (New York: Broadview Press, 2005). 13. See Nikhil Gupta, “Fashioning Bernice and Belinda: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Revision of Alexander Pope’s Mock Epic,” forthcoming in Texas Studies in Language and Literature. 14. Margaret Ezell, “The Myth of Judith Shakespeare,” New Literary History 21 (1990): 579–92. 15. Woodring, Literature, 181. 16. Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983). 17. Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000). 18. Woodring, Literature, 159. 19. Woodring, Literature, 182. 20. Woodring, Literature, 183–84. 21. Alex Vervoordt, ed., Tra: The Edge of Becoming (Wijnegem, Belgium:Vervoordt Foundation, 2011). 22. Alex Vervoordt, “Passages, Pilgrimages & Perspectives: The Journey of Tra,” in Tra, 3. 23. Alex Vervoordt, “Passages, Pilgrimages & Perspectives,” in Tra, 2. 24. Alex Vervoordt, “Passages, Pilgrimages & Perspectives,” in Tra, 3. 25. Rosa Martinez, “The River of Endless Love,” in Tra, 30. 26. Rosa Martinez, “The River of Endless Love,” in Tra, 31. 27. See Graham Harmon “The Well-Wrought Broken Hammer: Object-Oriented Literary Criticism,” New Literary History 43 (2012): 183–202. 28. See, for example, Levi Bryant’s at http://larvalsubjects.wordpress.com/2010/ 11/01/notes-towards-an-object-oriented-literary-criticism, accessed April 2, 2012.

7 AMERICAN WILDERNESS C A R L WOODRI N G

[Editor’s Note. This document is an unpublished manuscript in the Carl Woodring papers at Rice University.1 It is not an academic essay prepared for publication but, rather, a working document that the scholar used and adapted for public lectures he delivered at museums and cultural institutions in the late 1990s and early 2000s. On the evolution of the concept of “wilderness” in American art during the nineteenth century, this manuscript is the only surviving record of Woodring’s planned book on American art and culture—which he worked on in tandem with two other projects that he left unfinished, an autobiographical account of small-town America (excerpted in this volume) and a book calling for New Deal style federalism in contemporary America. The text reproduced here consists of formal statements for a lecture, interpolated with parenthetical notations of broad topics and lists of artworks to be used as discursive prompts for conversational teaching and selective screen projection. (No audio records exist for the informal commentary on the topics and artworks listed.) As an example of the scholar’s work in progress, at once intellectually fraught and densely allusive but also intended to be spoken and accessible in its presentation, readers will find this at first seemingly cryptic manuscript to be open-ended and suggestive, fruitful for future research on nineteenth-century American art and culture.]

O

n our subject, American views of the wilderness in the nineteenth century, I am an enthusiastic beginner. Nearly everything I know about American history and American literature I have learned since 1982 167

168

Chapter 7

from the Library of America. Although that series has now reached fifty volumes, I had got well beyond Thoreau before American views of the American wilderness became for me something other than—well, not wasteland, but foreign territory. By dealing largely with major writers and painters, those of wide and lasting influence, not those whose unpublished diaries have survived in attics and basements, I may confirm historians in the belief that professors of literature are at best dabblers in history. So here we begin, from a degree of knowledge proverbially said to be dangerous. Most Americans in the nineteenth century regarded their wilderness as sublime. In the sublime there is always some degree of fear or awe, of terror or dismay, but also some kind of pleasure. The sublime therefore raises a nagging question about human behavior. If the average person does not go out of the way to find pleasure in seeing throats cut, skulls bashed in, or dead bodies lying around, why does violence in movies and television rake in so much money? How far are spectators out to see injury—how deeply do they secretly hope to witness disaster—in stunt flying or auto racing or in boxing, hockey, or football matches? The danger that excites us at the circus, from early childhood on, would seem no danger if we could be certain that no acrobat had ever fallen. If you would not like to see a neighbor’s eyes gouged out, why did Shakespeare, in writing King Lear, assume that Elizabethans would enjoy seeing Gloucester’s eyes gouged out on the stage? Does realism in the arts always require aesthetic distance, like the difference between seeing a marble or painted bust on a pedestal and seeing a bleeding head on a pike? What was the range of emotional reactions among the great crowds that used to watch public executions by hanging or guillotine? Some deconstructionists deny that there is any difference between watching an actual execution and watching a representation of such on the stage. I doubt if anybody facing an actual firing squad would agree. Nor was a man headed for gold in California but actually dying of thirst in the desert likely to say to himself, “What a wonderful example of sublimity to die in the wilderness!” The prospector would leave sublimity to painters and movie-makers. The sublime involves both fear and escape from personal harm. The wilderness of novelists and painters differed by aesthetic distance from the wilderness of the pioneers. For years I have enjoyed looking at American landscape paintings that aspired to sublimity, but it was only when I began to read novels, histories, and memoirs in the Library of America that I began to wonder how the wilderness in art was related to the “manifest destiny” of families of European origin making their way across North America.

American Wilderness

169

Europe had provided distinct models for representations of landscape in oil paint on canvas. By the time of Thomas Cole‘s first American landscapes, in the 1820s (he was born in England in 1801), several distinguishing types had been established, such as (1) the topographical, faithful to the scene in the way an owner of the land or the mayor of a town would want it to be faithful; (2) the beautiful, as later by Childe Hassam or Maxfield Parrish; (3) the picturesque, in a tradition from Gaspar Poussin and Claude Lorrain—asymmetrical, with a stream or something like a stream meandering into the distance, usually with trees or other foreground objects on each side, one larger than the other; (4) the fanciful, with the light that never was on sea or land; and (5) the sublime-—rough, rugged, grand in scale, awesome. [The following artworks exemplify these topics.] 1. The topographical: Newstead Abbey (about 1720); Newstead Abbey (title page of Moore’s Life of Byron, 1834); and the American version, New Rochelle House in Castellated Style, Andrew Jackson Downing (in Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, 1841). 2. The picturesque: Nicolas Poussin, Landscape, with St. John on Patmos (1640); Washington Allston, Classical Landscape (1821); Thomas Doughty, In the Catskills (1836). 3. The Beautiful: George Inness, Peace and Plenty (1865); George Inness. Early Morning, Tarpon Springs (1892). 4. The fanciful: Thomas Moran, Dream City (1919); Thomas Doughty, Fanciful Landscape (1834). 5. The sublime: J. M. W. Turner, Snowstorm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps (1812); Frederic E. Church, Apotheosis to Thomas Cole (c.1847); John Martin, The Bard (1817); Joshua Shaw, The Deluge (c. 1813); James Hamilton, The Last Days of Pompeii (1864). Wordsworth has given me a special interest in the quiet sublime, the sublime of silence. God is in the whirlwind, but He is also the still small voice. In histories of American painting, the sublime of silence is associated especially with the landscape painters called Luminists, from their experiments with light. [The following artworks exemplify the quiet sublime.] Caspar David Friedrich, Moon Rising Over the Sea (1823); John Frederick Kensett, Coast at Newport (1869). The picturesque and the sublime were both nourished by the romantic reaction against logic, reason, and mathematical symmetry. As Henry Adams described the growth of deconstructive irony, “The only way to reach God was to deny the value of reason.”2 Of Ossian, a gloomy medieval bard fabricated by a Scotsman about 1760, young Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1773: “The tender and the sublime emotions of the mind were never before so wrought up by the human hand. I am not ashamed to

170

Chapter 7

own that I think this rude bard of the North the greatest poet that has ever existed.”3 In 1807 Washington Irving, entranced by the “wild and picturesque beauty” north of Manhattan, anticipated Thomas Cole and the other painters of the Hudson River School in praise of the “wild, romantick, and luxuriant landscape that generally characterises the scenery in the vicinity of our rivers.”4 Views of the American wilderness nearly always embody such Romantic feeling. As the North American continent was explored and settled by Europeans, one would expect their earliest writings here to be salted with Christian myth and typology. And so they were: America was defined as another promised land, a gift from God of the restored purity of Eden. Such myths served the more secular version of Abraham Lincoln, that the forefathers erected “on this goodly land” a “political edifice of liberty and equal rights”; the forefathers rected liberty and equal rights indelibly “upon its hills and its valleys” (1838).5 A contrasting Christian view, not only among Calvinists, had been that Nature, in urges of the human body and out there in the woods, is pagan and satanic, an enemy of Christian purity. As the Puritans accumulated years in New England, the sense of America as a Garden of Eden darkened with an awareness of guilt and sin, of failure to carry out God’s design for pilgrims in the new land. One great call from the outset was to Christianize and to civilize the Native Americans. One can expect in views of the wilderness, then, along with romantic feeling, emblems of Christian hope, Christian trial, and Christian failures to defeat Satan in this land. In less than a century, acreage granted by the various monarchs of Europe for settlement and cultivation could be thought of as “our land.” It took a little longer to acquire the leisure, philosophy, and arts to look upon the land with just enough objectivity to declare and define its uniqueness. The Appalachians fell short of the Alps in demonstrating the awful power of God, but nothing in Europe quite matched Niagara Falls. Irving tried to address American and British readers simultaneously and neutrally in the voice of Geoffrey Crayon: I visited various parts of my own country, and had I been merely a lover of fine scenery, I should have felt little desire to seek elsewhere its gratification, for on no country have the charms of nature been more prodigally lavished. Her mighty lakes, like oceans of liquid silver, her mountains with their bright aerial tints; her valleys teeming with wild fertility; her tremendous cataracts thundering in their solitudes; her boundless plains waving with spontaneous verdure; her broad deep

American Wilderness

171

rivers, rolling in solemn silence to the ocean; her trackless forests, where vegetation puts forth all its magnificence; her skies kindling with the magic of summer clouds and glorious sunshine—no, never need an American look beyond his own country for the sublime and beautiful of natural scenery.6

Irving did not make the voyage to Liverpool from lack of wild nature at home. [The following artworks exemplify the American sublime.] Thomas Cole, Schroom Mountain, and Adirondacks (1838); Asher B. Durand, Kindred Spirits (1849); Frederic Church, Catskill Mountains (1849); Sanford R. Gifford, Kauterskill Clove (1862); Thomas Cole, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm, known as The Oxbow (1836). To contrast with the sublimity of the American wilderness, Irving reported to his fellow Americans on the picturesque and beautiful in rural England: The taste of the English in the cultivation of land and in what is called landscape gardening is unrivalled. They have studied nature intently and discover an exquisite sense of her beautiful forms and harmonious combinations. . . . [The Englishman decorates around the cottage as well as around the manor.] The sterile spot grows into loveliness under his hand; and yet the operations of art which produce the effect are scarcely to be perceived. . . . [trees, flowers, turf,] the partial opening to a peep of blue distance or silver gleam of water-—all these are managed with a delicate tact, a pervading yet quiet assiduity, like the magic touchings with which a painter finishes up a favourite picture.7

Jefferson, who had made similar observations, determined to apply the principles of English gardening at Monticello. Always observant as a traveler, he never forgot that he was a landowner. He was interested in every process and every tool that would make the land more productive. He was attentive to architecture, garden, and park, but also always to agriculture: crops, soil, and plows. But American painters would begin to depict life on the farm and on the veranda of the general store only after the sublimity of the wilderness had become a cliché. Decidedly a son of the Enlightenment, Jefferson foresaw an advance of civilization and cultivation to encompass eventually the whole continent as a possession of the American people. The Louisiana Purchase represented only a segment of his desire to replace both the wilderness and the presence and claims of Europeans, from Maine to California, with educated

172

Chapter 7

American agriculturists. He envisioned, not a nation of industrial power, but of land—owning, cultivated Thomas Jeffersons. Cole and his first followers earned the name Hudson River School by elevating to the sublime scenes of that eastern area. Thoreau, observer and lover of the Maine woods, described “the difference between the wild forest which once occupied our oldest townships, and the tame one which I find there to-day.” The civilized man not only clears the land permanently to a great extent, and cultivates open fields, but he tames and cultivates to a certain extent the forest itself. By his mere presence, almost, he changes the nature of the trees as no other creature does. The sun and air, and perhaps fire, have been introduced, and grain raised where it stands. It has lost its wild, damp, and shaggy look, the countless fallen and decaying trees are gone, and consequently that thick coat of moss which lived on them is gone too. The earth is comparatively bare and smooth and dry.8

A judge in James Fennimore Cooper’s novel The Pioneers (1823) condemns the felling of “the jewels of the forest” for firewood. To conserve the forests, the judge recommends that homeowners dig for coal. Natty Bumppo promotes the conservation of trout, pigeons, trees, and all the rest of “God creatures.” Earlier, in The Prairie (1827), Cooper moved Bumppo westward, to remain at the outer edge of progressive civilization, or from the Indian and environmental view, the leading edge of unremitting destruction. Every increase in pale faces was a challenge to the forests. If European Americans fulfilled their destiny, New Englanders asked, would the forests have a future? In 1864 a Vermont lawyer published a book that has many times as many admiring readers today as it gained at the time. This book, Man and Nature, by George Perkins Marsh, was revised in 1874 under the title The Earth as Modified by Human Action. Marsh argued that America was suffering, as the whole world had suffered ever since the Roman conquests, by tampering with the earth. By replacing native plants and animals with foreign plants and animals, settlers moving westward were making certain the ultimate unfitness of the land for the civilization that corrupted it. Here were strong reasons for sketching and painting the American wilderness. It would disappear. It was disappearing. Permanent records should be left for posterity. The wilderness, considered sublime in its endurance and emblematic of eternity, was proving instead to be fragile and doomed. Painters of the wilderness, then, had to undergo the hardship of travel westward, ahead of the ever-moving frontier. [The following artworks exemplify scenes of the American and South American wilderness.]

American Wilderness

173

Thomas Moran, The Grand Canyon of the Colorado (1892); Albert Bierstadt, Sierra Nevada, Morning (1870); Albert Bierstadt, Lake Tahoe (1868); Thomas Moran, Shoshone Falls (1900); Frederic Church, Cotopaxi (1857). Most of the authors who lamented the reduction of woodlands and predicted the ultimate extinction of the wilderness lamented also the clearly inevitable extinction of the Native Americans. After the Mayflower landed in 1620 it took a century or so before Philip Freneau and others began to express regret that the advance of civilization required elimination of the Indians. Ordained ministers of New England had regarded the Indians as savage, ferocious, murderous, sullen, and perverse in their desire to retain their own ways of life. Only pagan perversity could explain their desire to remain hunters, with wild animals to hunt and land to hunt them on. Native Americans sought to be born only once. Rousseau, Marmontel, Chateaubriand, and other French authors, discovering a scarcity of wild boys in the forests of France, invented for America the noble savage, who knew only after explanation by Europeans how to tell a lie. It may have been the myth of the noble savage more than direct observation that awakened Americans to mixed emotions about securing life and advancing progress by shooting Indians. For many writers and artists, Indians and the wilderness became interchangeable symbols. Benjamin Franklin, having inherited the common view that Native Americans were brutes, murderers, drunkards, and worshippers of the Devil, learned by experience that “the Brutes are in general a very sober sort of People”; as hunters they required great quantities of land, but “having large Tracks, were easily prevail’d on to Part with Portions of Territory to the new Comers.” Doubtful and worried in the 1750s and 1760s, Franklin became protective and then assertive in the 1770s; in the Autobiography he comments in irony on British encouragement of the taking of American scalps.9 Jefferson thought that Indian mounds should be studied because they would disappear under civilization.10 It has long been observed that Cooper’s novels depict two kinds of Indian: the loyal, faithful, and considerate who support the Yankees, and the ferocious savages who support trans-Atlantic enemies, in early years the French Canadians and from 1776 the British. In Cooper the Hurons are treacherous and cruel, inhuman; the Mohicans (never mind Cooper’s confusion of Mohican with Monhegan) are “children of the forest”; like the trees, they are “jewels of the forest.” Christians, Cooper grants, have “dispossessed these original owners of the soil”; he notes that patriots claim the soil on the basis of dubious grants from European monarchs; proclaiming peace, but enforcing it with gunpowder, they will survive the last of the Mohicans.11

174

Chapter 7

As the frontier advanced ever westward, pioneer settlers and the military arm of the government saw to it that no Indians capable of threat remained behind. Joe and Polis and the other Native Americans who accompanied Thoreau as guides were Indians only in memory. They had become poor whites with a reddish tinge. In 1807 young Washington Irving could describe a man of no tenderness, no emotion, as having “the heart of a Choctaw.” He could use this conventional language because there were no Choctaws and few other Indians left for direct observation. In 1809, two years later, he parodied the idea of manifest destiny: Now it is notorious, that the savages knew nothing of agriculture, when first discovered by the Europeans, but lived a most vagabond, disorderly, unrighteous life,—rambling from place to place, and prodigally rioting upon the spontaneous luxuries of nature, without tasking her generosity to yield them anything more; whereas it has been most unquestionably shewn, that heaven intended the earth should be ploughed and sown, and manured, and laid out into cities and towns and farms, and country seats, and pleasure grounds, and public gardens, all which the Indians knew nothing about—and therefore they did not improve the talents providence bestowed on them—therefore they were careless stewards— therefore they had no right to the soil—therefore they deserved to be exterminated.12

Eighty years later the historian Francis Parkman attempted to justify the policy of extermination. The great pines of Maine were laid low by the woodman, he wrote, “and these lords of the wilderness are seen no more”; but, in fact, “Not one infant tree in a thousand lives to maturity”; and so it was with Indians, as confirmed by the laws of social Darwinism: their population would have decreased steadily, even without settlers and the Army, because the tribes were killing each other off.13 Choice of cultivation at the expense of Indians required a lack of interest in the sublimity of the wilderness. In the Introduction to his History of the United States, in 1841, more than thirty years after Irving’s satire, George Bancroft explained that before the first permanent colony, the whole territory was an unproductive waste. Throughout its wide extent the arts had not erected a monument. Its only inhabitants were a few feeble barbarians, destitute of commerce and of political connection. The axe and the ploughshare were unknown. The soil, which had been gathering fertility from the repose of centuries, was lavishing its strength in magnificent but useless vegetation.14

American Wilderness

175

In Bancroft’s view, the good Indians, who practiced agriculture, had been enslaved, mutilated, and eliminated by the Spanish. Indians encountered by Walter Raleigh’s colonists were helpless, dirty, and unproductive. Jefferson, and two generations later Lincoln—and no doubt the ten presidents between—shared two problems: black people and red people. Jefferson’s ideal solutions were also Lincoln’s: export the blacks to some continent or island where they would not be re-enslaved or annihilated— Santo Domingo became the most promising—and convert the Indians to agriculture. Until 1861 the expansion westward was a contest between north and south for additional votes in Congress for or against slavery. The purchase of land by treaty became gradually a forced transfer to reservations and then, later in the century, massacre. The interrelatedness of Indians and blacks to views of the wilderness is too complex to go into here, but it might be noted—what was suppressed at least in my state, Texas, until quite recently—that the forts along the frontier were manned after 1865 by freed slaves enlisted as “Buffalo soldiers,” always under white officers, to extirpate the Indians. (Activity not yet competing in Hollywood with the actions in Dances with Wolves and Glory.) Alexis de Tocqueville, who visited America in 1831–1832, acknowledged that Native Americans refused to adopt civilized agriculture or to admit the dignity of labor, but he recognized that their way of life had been transformed by the fur trade. The movement westward was begun by fur traders, who brought firearms and ardent spirits to exchange for furs. The true discoverers of the trails west were fur traders. Indians, who had previously killed only the few buffalo needed for daily life, now joined European Americans in the mass slaughter of native animals in order to get drunk and to protect themselves with guns against enemies with guns, including other tribes who had already succumbed to the fur trade. There were no tribes left in the northeast: the Cherokees foresaw in the 1830s their own eventual extermination. Tocqueville looked with what he called a “melancholy” pleasure on the savage grandeur of inhabitants destined by Europeans and by God to “inevitable destruction.”15 Pioneer settlers coveted land occupied by Indians, and the Army took it for them, but the Indians were much more dangerous because fur traders had preceded the pioneers. Frederick Jackson Turner, who first pronounced the end of the frontier spirit in 1892, two years after the massacre of the Sioux at Wounded Knee, wrote in The Frontier in American History (1920): “Long before the pioneer farmer appeared on the scene, primitive Indian life had passed away. The farmers met Indians armed with guns.” The Frenchman, said Turner, had traded and sworn brotherhood with

176

Chapter 7

Indians, “but he left the wilderness much as he found it.” It was the Anglo farmer who ruined the hunting grounds.16 At mid-century, the gentlest solution seemed to be forced encampment on reservations. If the Indians refused to practice agriculture, the reservations did not need to have arable soil. William Tecumseh Sherman—ironically named for the Shawnee Indian chief who argued that all Indian lands were a common property not to be taken by treaty with individual tribes—the Sherman later famous for burning Atlanta and scorching the rest of Georgia—was sent to Florida in 1840 to dislocate the Seminoles, who were practicing treacherous retaliation. In his Memoirs of 1875 Sherman said it had been a mistake to remove the Seminoles from Florida: Indeed, Florida was the Indian’s paradise, was of little value to us, and it was a great pity to remove the Seminoles at all, for we could have collected there all the Choctaws, Creeks, Cherokees, and Chickasaws, in addition to the Seminoles. They would have thrived in the Peninsula, whereas they now occupy lands that are very valuable, which are coveted by their white neighbors on all sides.

Perhaps Sherman did not know how ominous those last words were. He boasts, though, of his part in the treaties of 1868 with “all the tribes which before had followed the buffalo in their annual migrations, and which brought them into conflict with the whites.” Nothing further, he concludes, is worth recording: “There have been wars and conflicts since with these Indians up to a recent period too numerous and complicated in their detail for me to unravel and record, but they have been the dying struggles of a singular race of brave men fighting against destiny, each less and less violent, till now the wild game is gone, the whites too numerous and powerful; so that the Indian question has become one of sentiment and charity, but not of war.”17 Sherman’s friend Grant more generously attributed the decimation of the natives to liquor and disease acquired from the European Americans. The Navajos, as Willa Cather’s Father Latour observes, “were driven by starvation and the bayonet.”18 The government officially encouraged the painting of Indian portraits, as a record of what had been. “This activity was regularized in 1824,” the historian James Thomas Flexner wryly noted in The Wilder Image, “when the secretary of War, who was in a position to know, prophesied that the Indians were, as a race, ‘about to become extinct.’”19 Paintings commissioned by the Army were accidentally destroyed in a fire, but we have other records made in the expectation that Native Americans and uncultivated

American Wilderness

177

land would disappear. George Catlin, Karl Bodmer, A. J. Miller, and others painted Indian faces, costumes, and rituals as well as the wilderness itself. Flexner, incidentally, and other historians, date the inevitable fate of the Indians from the discovery of gold in California in 1849. I tend to look with suspicion on arguments from absence, that something is significant for a work of literature or of art specifically because it is not there. But I wonder why, after sublimely ferocious versions of the Byron hero had swept through Gothic and romantic fiction everywhere, the violence of Indian life is absent from most landscape paintings of the American wilderness or hidden so carefully that they could be taken for settlers or shrubbery. The genre as a whole ignores them as if they had been pushed so far and fast that they had all drowned in the Pacific. And where they appear, it is in descent from the European paintings of sublime nature contrasted with wee, insignificant peasants. It would be pleasant, but erroneous, to offer as explanation Willa Cather’s words in Death Comes for the Archbishop (1926): “It was the Indian manner to vanish into the landscape, not to stand out against it. The Hopi villages that were set upon rock mesas, were made to look like the rock on which they sat, were imperceptible at a distance.”20 [The following artworks exemplify representations of American Indians.] Thomas Cole, In the Catskills (1827); Albert Bierstadt, Sunset Light, Wind River Ridge of the Rocky Mountains (1861); Albert Bierstadt, Indian Encampment in the Rockies (1862); Albert Bierstadt, Shoshone Village (1860); Thomas Cole, Last of the Mohicans (1827); George Catlin. Ah-JonJon Going to and Returning from Washington (1832). There are, however, evidences of nostalgia at the passing of the Native Americans. Frederic Remington (1861–1909) went West to send back, for readers of Harper’s and other periodicals of Boston and New York, a record of the heroism of soldiers fighting Indians and cowboys driving cattle. Like Catlin and Moran before him, and like Charles H. Russell again and again, he tried hard to capture in art the way of the Indian when there were plenty of buffalo herds. Notably in Remington, but in earlier painters as well, the destruction of the wilderness is symbolized in the vanishing Indian, vanishing cowboy, vanishing buffalo: the last Indian, the last cowboy, the last buffalo hunt. [The following artworks exemplify representations of the destruction of the wilderness and of the end of the frontier.] Albert Bierstadt, The Ambush (c. 1876); Frederic Remington, Register Rock, Idaho (1891); Albert Bierstadt, Last of the Buffalo (1888); Frederic Remington. By Putting a Bullet Through the Brain (1886–1887); Winslow Homer, Northeaster (1895); Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire (1833–1836) in the Utica and the New York Historical Society versions.

178

Chapter 7

The great paintings of the American wilderness are all modifications of European conventions and explorations in landscape. Such painting fell in repute steadily throughout the first three quarters of the twentieth century. [The following artworks exemplify representations of the wilderness lost.] Charles Sheeler, The Artist Looks at Nature (1943); Richard Lindner, Miss American Indian (1974); Jackson Pollock, Grayed Rainbow (1953).] Some avid believers in abstract expressionism and pop art lament the recent return of figure and subject; they have reason to grieve now over the large number of traveling exhibitions of sublime landscapes of the wilderness and over the large number of such paintings that are returning from basements to gallery walls in the major museums.

NOTES 1. Carl Woodring’s professional and personal papers, family records, manuscripts, books, and art collection (including paintings and drawings by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon, and period research material) are archived at Rice University, Houston, Texas. Permission from Rice University to reproduce here from unpublished manuscripts (“Carl Woodring Papers, 1894–2009,” MS 551, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library), is gratefully acknowledged. 2. Henry Adams, eds. Ernest Samuels and Jayne N. Samuels (New York: Library of America, 1983), 640. 3. Thomas Jefferson, ed. Merrill D. Peterson (New York: Library of America, 1984), 746. 4. Washington Irving, ed. Andrew Myers (New York: Library of America, 1991), 355, 301. 5. Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and Writings, 1832–1858, ed. Don E. Fehrenbacher (New York: Library of America), 28. 6. Washington Irving, 743–44. 7. Washington Irving, 796–97. 8. Henry David Thoreau, ed. Robert F. Sayre (New York: Library of America, 1985), 708. 9. Benjamin Franklin, ed. J. A. Leo Lemay (New York: Library of America, 1987), 98, 271, 368, 732, 1422. 10. Thomas Jefferson, 226. 11. James Fenimore Cooper: The Leatherstocking Tales, Vol. 1, ed. Blake Nevius (New York: Library of America, 1985), 86, 104, 407–8. 12. Washington Irving, 69, 415. 13. Francis Parkman, ed. David Levin, 2 vols. (New York: Library of America, 1983), 2:359–60.

American Wilderness

179

14. George Bancroft, The History of the United States, 3 vols. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1841), 1: 3–4. 15. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. Oliver Zunz (New York: Library of America, 2004), 25, 29. 16. Frederic Jackson Turner, The Frontier in American History (New York: Henry Holt, 1920), 13, 130. 17. William Tecumseh Sherman: Memoirs, ed. Charles Royster (New York: Library of America, 1990), 25, 926. 18. Willa Cather: Later Novels, ed. Sharon O’Brien (New York: Library of America, 1990), 455. 19. James Thomas Flexner, That Wilder Image: Painting of America’s Native School from Thomas Cole to Winslow Homer (New York: Bonanza, 1962), 78. 20. Willa Cather: Later Novels, 419.

8 EXHIBITION OF FIVE ENGLISH ROMANTIC POETS IN A MUSEUM IN FLORENCE C A R OL KYR OS W ALK ER

I

magine, if you will, a gallery in a subtle museum set back on the grounds of the Pitti Palace, where the throngs of tourists have thinned out and only those with a literary bent of mind, having relished the spirit of Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto and more as they traveled, have found their way to a special showing of five English poets who traveled to, and in some cases, made their homes in Italy. Each of the poets is captured at a particular point in time, in a particular Italian place. As with looking at a painting, the viewer sees what is clearly depicted and muses on all that is implied. The subjects exhibited, Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, constitute a pantheon of English Romantic poets. Individually, they experienced Italy in their own ways, sometimes assimilating, sometimes clinging to their Englishness. Their motives for travel to Italy varied, from escaping damaged personal relationships and political reputations, to seeking recovery from poor health. The antiquities and landscape attracted them, but these poets did not fit the conventional characterization of a privileged gentleman on the Grand Tour. The portraits may be viewed in any order. In an egalitarian design, the gallery is round. In a clockwise direction, the pictures follow locales from the north to south, with a final backtracking to Rome. For visitors who want to follow up, the gift shop carries some biographies and collections of the poets’ work. A brochure offers suggestions for further reading. Audio tours in four languages are available at the entrance.1

181

182

Chapter 8

BYRON. VENICE, 1817 I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs; A palace and a prison on each hand: I saw from out the wave her structures rise As from the stroke of the enchanter’s wand: A thousand years their cloudy wings expand Around me, and a dying Glory smiles O’er the far times, when many a subject land Look’d to the winged Lion’s marble piles, Where Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles!2

The speaker in these opening lines of Canto IV of Byron’s long poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage has posed, as if for a photograph, as Byron resumes writing a work he began eight years ago. It is now June 1817, and he has been living in Venice since November 1816, after departing from England permanently, leaving behind a failed, short marriage, a daughter Ada, a half-sister Augusta, with whom there were rumors he had had an incestuous relationship, a trail of personal indiscretions, and a history of political defiance. He was twenty-eight years old when he arrived in Venice and a phenomenal celebrity: his earlier cantos of Childe Harold had made him famous overnight in England. Traveling with his friend John Cam Hobhouse, he settled first into the Grande Bretagne on the Grand Canal. The four horses he brought were stabled at the Lido. Soon afterward, he moved to into an area west of Piazza San Marco, called the Frezzeria, took rooms above the shop of a draper named Segati, and promptly began an affair with Segati’s wife Marianna that would go on until March 1818. A non-Italian sexual liaison caught up with Byron while this was going on. He had had an affair with Mary Shelley’s stepsister Claire Claremont, who gave birth to a child on January 12, 1817. At Byron’s insistence, the girl, named Allegra, was to be brought to Venice to live with him—a plan that gravely concerned Claire, Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Byron’s affair with Marianna, then, was not so much a beginning in Venice, as a resumption of a long established pattern of sexual indulgence without regard to consequences. Byron’s hedonistic sexual ways in Venice prompted Shelley to write to a mutual friend: “L. B. is familiar with the lowest sort of these women, the people his gondolieri pick up in the streets. . . . He allows fathers and mothers to bargain with him for their daughters.”3 Venice was a hotbed of licentious behavior. The casinos and

Exhibition of Five English Romantic Poets in a Museum in Florence

183

the carnivals left gentility behind. Even infidelity seemed to have its place. Marianna’s husband, hardly cuckolded, took a mistress. Despite distractions and indulgences, Byron was a disciplined writer in Venice. By the time he had begun “Canto the Fourth,” he had finished Manfred and begun The Lament of Tasso; and before Childe Harold was finished, he had gained command of the Italian verse form ottava rima and written the amusing poem “Beppo.” As well, he had sufficient concentration to become fluent in written and spoken Italian, including the special variety called “Venetian.” His linguistic penchant segued into Armenian. After visiting an Armenian monastery of the Mekhitarist Order on the small island of San Lazzaro (in the Venetian Lagoon, just west of the Lido), Byron became interested in learning the language and returned regularly “to take lessons of a learned Friar.”4 Byron was living in his summer home at La Mira, a villa near Venice he leased for six months, when he began Canto IV. He had returned from a journey to Rome, where he met up with his friend Hobhouse and toured the city and environs riding one of his saddle horses, cutting a dramatic image, no doubt, but also remaining independent while sparing his clubfoot. The picture of that capital city and all the locales he had seen en route—Padua, Ferrara, Bologna, Florence—figure in the stanzas of Childe Harold that extend that beyond Venice. After visiting Florence he wrote to his publisher John Murray: “I went to the two galleries—from which one returns drunk with beauty.”5 He had favorites: “What struck me most were the mistress of Raphael a portrait—the mistress of Titian a portrait—a Venus of Titian in the Medici gallery—the Venus—Canova’sVenus also in the other gallery— Titian’s mistress is also in the other gallery (that is, in the Pitti Palace gallery).”6 His interest in mistresses as subjects fit his own history. Portraiture as a medium of preserving personality did as well. He had sat, and would sit again, for many portraits of himself. A miniature by James Holmes, done in 1815, before he left England in self-exile, depicts him gazing wide-eyed toward the left, cheeks round and rested, lips full and sensual, and dark hair falling in curls about his forehead and temples. It was his favorite portrait of himself. In time, Augusta, his half-sister, would send it to his final Italian mistress, Teresa Guiccioli, with whom he began an affair in 1819. In Canto IV Byron observes Italy with the vision of a first-time visitor, bringing the historical past of the country and himself to bear on places that have attracted tourists up to the present. In his 186 stanzas he transforms documentary travel into exquisite images and often lyrical reflection. Writing in Spenserian stanzas, he retains his English poetical roots while moving into artistic terrain that will soon find him adopting Italian verse forms. The

184

Chapter 8

popularity of Byron’s work influenced even the travel industry: “It was the sight of the numerous English travellers following in the footsteps of ‘Childe Harold’ with Murray’s handbook under their arms that suggested the first Baedeker,” Fritz Baedeker, of the famous German guide-book publishing family, claimed in the London Times, 1889.7 The opening stanza of Canto IV, in which we find the speaker (Byron/ Harold) poised in observation and reflection, establishes a model for the rest of the poem. The Bridge of Sighs, an architecturally beautiful covered bridge of white limestone arches over the Rio di Palazzo, high enough above the canal that gondoliers can point out the latticed windows as they glide beneath it. The bridge, built at the beginning of the seventeenth century (either 1600 or 1602) by the architect Antonio Contino, was known in Italian as Ponte di Sospiri. Sources differ as to whether Byron is responsible for the name Bridge of Sighs or whether it was called that in the seventeenth century and Byron anglicized it. In either case, the tradition was that the prisoners held in the Palace of the Doges (on one side of “each hand”) sighed as they heard verdicts passed on their supposed crimes and then passed over the bridge to what was at the other hand, the prison. The events, however, did not square chronologically with Byron’s presence at the bridge. By 1817 Venice was under Austrian rule. Napoleon had conquered Venice in 1797, and the doges were no longer in power, much less judging prisoners. Romanticized, with “the stroke of the enchanter’s wand,” the poem lifts away “A thousand years” to expose Venice as it was in its former glory and powerful dominion over her “hundred isles.” The winged lion, symbol of St. Mark, patron saint of Venice, greeted the arrivals from the world of trade and commerce from the East. The veil of time having been lifted, Venice is personified, becoming a “sea Cybele” wearing a tiara, the ornamented skyline of Venice (4: 2). Then the Italian poet Torquato Tasso (1574–1595), whose wanderings brought him to Venice and environs, enters the picture, with allusion to how the gondoliers once sang his poetry. In Stanza 4 Venice holds the speaker in its enduring spell. Though the doges no longer inhabit the palace, the Rialto, the famous marble bridge over the Grand Canal, formerly, and still, the hub of merchants, reminds us of the protagonists of Shakespeare’s Othello and Merchant of Venice. An interplay of dream and reality interrupts the focus on Venice as the speaker considers the consequences of having left his native land, thinks about how extensively he has traveled in his lifetime, questions what has been lost in his self expatriation, wonders in what land his fame will ultimately be celebrated, and comes around to acknowledging: “The thorns which I have

Exhibition of Five English Romantic Poets in a Museum in Florence

185

reap’d are of the tree / I planted: they have torn me, and I bleed: / I should have known what fruit would spring from such a seed” (4: 10). Childe Harold/Byron had come to know Venice through “Otway, Radcliffe, Schiller, [and] and Shakespeare’s art” when he was younger. “I loved her from my boyhood; she to me / Was as a fairy city of the heart” (4: 18). The pilgrim of the poem roams over iconic sites of Italy, visiting ancient Greece in memory as well, and honors both ancient writers and philosophers and the more recent ones (Horace, Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Ariosto). Looking inward he asks, “Have I not suffer’d things to be forgiven?” (4: 135). He indulges in a Wordsworthian love of nature and composes lines that sound more like a compatriot’s voice than an Italian’s: “There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, / There is a rapture on the lonely shore, / There is society, where none intrudes, / By the deep Sea, and music in its roar” (4: 178). The global tour of Canto IV ends with the same conceit with which it began, magic and a dream. “My task is done, my song hath ceased, my theme / Has died into an echo; it is fit / The spell should break of this protracted dream” (4: 185). For future readers of Byron, however, the spell was never broken and his Venice of the past remained.

WORDSWORTH. TUSCANY, 1837 Ye Apennines! With all your fertile vales Deeply embosomed, and your winding shores Of either sea—and Islander by birth, A Mountaineer by habit, would resound Your praise. (“Musings Near Aquapendente, April 1837,” l–5)8

Wordsworth was sixty-eight years old when he made this trip to Italy and found himself in the Apennines in Tuscany. This was not his first time in the country, but earlier visits had taken him only as far as the Italian lakes, below the Swiss Alps. The remainder of Italy had to wait for another phase of his life. Now, traveling with his bachelor friend Henry Crabb Robinson, he hoped to get as far south as Naples, though ultimately that destination had to be cancelled when they received reports of an epidemic of cholera there. They had purchased a barouche in London, crossed to Paris, and made their way to Rome, arriving on April 25 and remaining until May 22. Their quarters were in the Piazza di Spagna, the common gathering place for English visitors, and a veritable center for artists and writers generally.

186

Chapter 8

It was after they left Rome on their return trip in the direction of Austria that they began visiting convents and trekking in the Apennines, the mountain range that runs the length of Italy and at the northern extremity links with the Ligurian Alps at Alfore. The “winding shores / Of either sea” of Wordsworth’s Aquapendente poem refer to the Adriatic to the east and the Ligurian to the west. The town itself, in the Province of Viterbo, near the Tuscan border, is sixty-seven miles from Rome. It takes its name (“hanging waters,” in translation) from its waterfalls. Not at the aesthetic level of the Romantic sublime, the falls inspire wonder: “Yon snow-white torrent-fall, plumb down it drops / Yet ever hangs or seems to hang in air, / Lulling the leisure of that high-perched town, / AQUAPENDENTE . . .” (10–13). At an elevation of 1,380 feet the town offered a prime view of Monte Amiata, “that cone-shaped hill/ With fractured summit” (19–20), the highest peak in Tuscany (5,702 feet) and in the same perspective, the small village of Radicofani, with its pronounced walled castle. “Aquapendente” is the first poem—not counting the dedicatory lines to Henry Crabb Robinson—in a collection called Memorials of a Tour in Italy, 1837 that Wordsworth created in 1842. It is quintessential Wordsworth we see in this opening poem of 370 lines of blank verse—in his element, in the mountains, closely observing the natural world about him, connecting it to landscape in his own Lake District at home (“to Helvellyn’s top,” 37) and even incorporating language from his own earlier poems Michael and “Yarrow Unvisited.” His characteristic free flow of associations brings about a sweeping assemblage of persons and places. The poem ends with the speaker reclined under a chestnut tree addressing his muse, acknowledging his soul’s “transports from the secondary founts / Flowing of time and place” and moralizing with the hope that he has not “striven . . . fruitlessly”: By love of beauty moved, to enshrine in verse Accordant meditations, which in times Vexed and disordered, as our own, may shed Influence, at least among a scattered few, To soberness of mind and peace of heart Friendly; as here to my repose hath been This flowering broom’s dear neighborhood, the light And murmur issuing from yon pendent flood, And all the varied landscape. (362–71)

Exhibition of Five English Romantic Poets in a Museum in Florence

187

Of the twenty-eight poems in Memorials, twenty-two are sonnets, the fourteen-line iambic pentameter verse form introduced by Petrarch in the Italian Renaissance and adopted by the English in their own renascence during the Elizabethan period. Wordsworth writes in both the Petrarchan (Italian) form, structured, with an octave and a sestet, and the Elizabethan (English) form, with three quatrains and a couplet. Some sonnets are a blend of both. Though he had written in the sonnet form in his earlier poetry, the 1837 Memorials sonnets are very likely a nod to Petrarch and Italian literary history. On the trail of convents and monasteries, Wordsworth came to the Sacro Eremo di Camaldoli, the hermitage and monastery founded by Saint Romualdo, a Benedictine, in 1012, built in forested land on the Tuscan Apennines donated by Count Maldoli. The visit generated three sonnets, in the Italian form. The first, “At the Convent of Camaldoli,” considers a young man bereft of his “lady-love” who confronts the dilemma of trading faith for the actual sight of the woman so that his soul might find peace and “The most profound repose his cell can give” (14). The second sonnet, called simply “At the Convent of Camaldoli, Continued,” looks at “One beset with cloistral snares” (8) and calls upon the “Father of Mercy” to “subdue / Imperious passion” (11–12). And the third, “At the Eremite or Upper Convent of Camaldoli,” deals with the humorous situation of obese monks making their way to an elevated place. The hermitage, with the brothers’ cells, had been built a few miles above the monastery. Two obese monks need to be “dragged” up to the convent gate by “panting steers.” “How, with empurpled cheeks and pampered eyes, / Dare they confront the lean austerities / Of Brethren who, here fixed, on Jesu wait / In sackcloth” (4–7). Wordsworth, out of concern for the Benedictine monks who had been so hospitable, glossed his mocking poem: I feel obliged to notice that I saw among them no other figures at all resembling, in size and complexion, the two Monks described in this Sonnet. What was their office, or the motive which brought them to this place of mortification, which they could not have approached without being carried in this or some other way, a feeling of delicacy prevented me from enquiring. (Notes, 1065)

Vallombrosa, a Benedictine Abbey southeast of Florence in the Apennines, became the subject of a longer poem entitled “At Vallombrosa” that turned entirely on its association with John Milton, who mentions the abbey in Paradise Lost. That Milton actually stayed at the abbey has not been indisputably established, but he was in Florence in July 1638 while touring Italy and might well have made a day trip there. Wordsworth, however,

188

Chapter 8

assumes a longer stay as he writes of “that Cell—yon sequestered Retreat high in air— / Where our Milton was wont lonely vigils to keep / For converse with God, sought through study and prayer” (6–8). As Wordsworth ascended Monte Penna (5,693 feet), the sound of a bird led him to a sanctuary founded by St. Francis on land given to him by Count Orlando of Chiusi in 1213. This setting, like Camaldoli, looks down upon the valley of Casentino. And it is perhaps from this valley the bird wheeled toward Wordsworth and gave him his structure for a gem among his Italy poems, “The Cuckoo at Laverna, May 25, 1837,” the only poem conceived and written at the time of his tour. List—’t was the Cuckoo.—O with what delight Heard I that voice! and catch it now, though faint, Far off and faint, and melting into air, Yet not to be mistaken. Hark again! Those louder cries give notice that the Bird, Although invisible as Echo’s self, Is wheeling hitherward. Thanks, happy Creature, For the unthought-of greeting! (1–8)

It is not too much of a stretch to suppose that Wordsworth had Keats’s nightingale ode in mind as he composed. He had recently (April 25–May 22) spent time in Rome, staying in the Piazza di Spagna, and while there visited with Keats’s friend, the painter Joseph Severn, and had talked with him about Keats. The bird is an appropriate presence in Laverna, the site associated with St. Francis, protector of animals. If Wordsworth followed the old pilgrim’s route, climbing from Chiusi to La Verna along an old paved road called Ansilice, he came to the Cappella degli Uccelli (the Bird’s Chapel), built in 1602 “in front of a big Turkish oak that legend has it was the one where the birds that welcomed St. Francis the very first time he climbed up the Mount of La Verna nested.”9 Wordsworth’s cuckoo led him to the “far-famed Pile, / High on the brink of that precipitous rock, / Implanted like a Fortress” (29–31). The few monks who reside there, “Among these sterile heights of Apennine” (38), are among the “spiritual Progeny” of St. Francis, abiding by “stringent” ascetic rules. St. Francis himself is specifically identified and celebrated for his extraordinary communion with the animal world in an environment of Eden-like innocence:

Exhibition of Five English Romantic Poets in a Museum in Florence

189

with beast and bird (Stilled from afar—such marvel story tells— By casual outlook of his passionate words, And from their own pursuits in field or grove Drawn to his side by look or act of love Humane, and virtue of his innocent life) He wont to hold companionship so free, So pure, so fraught with knowledge and delight, As to be likened in his Followers’ minds To that which our own first Parents, ere the fall From their high state darkened the Earth with fear, Held with all Kinds in Eden’s blissful bowers. (54–65)

The focus moves to a few true followers, and then to the kind of images reminiscent of Wordsworth’s earlier poems—an aged solitary figure sitting alone on the trunk of a pine tree that has been uprooted by the storm. His head is raised in prayer. As Wordsworth approaches the Convent gate, he observes, in the place above them, a younger Brother looking into the distance from “his aerial cell,” once a poet, perhaps, or a hero or a sage—or most likely, a lover. As thoroughly infused with Christian references as “The Cuckoo at Laverna” is, it curiously overlooks the extraordinary event of the stigmata St. Francis received here, according to Catholic history. The spot where the miracle occurred was there when Wordsworth visited. He may have chosen to avoid the idea of a miracle. Yet, according to Mary Moorman, an early biographer, “Wordsworth was the first Englishman of his century whose imagination was captured by the figure of St. Francis.”10 His interest went beyond his visit to the sanctuary; he tried to find a copy of Cardinal Bonaventura’s biography of St. Francis to further his research. As for the cuckoo, Wordsworth sets up the scene of the bird’s departure in much the way Keats does at the end of his ode. The cuckoo will be heading north, Wandering in solitude, and evermore Foretelling and proclaiming, ere thou leave This thy last haunt beneath Italian skies To carry thy glad tidings over heights Still loftier, and to climes more near the Pole. (98–102)

190

Chapter 8

Keats’s nightingale flies to a distant meadow, his voice becoming fainter as he travels away. The speaker calls out: Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades Past the near meadows, over the still stream, Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep In the next valley-glades. (75–78)11

Keats’s speaker questions whether it was a vision or a waking dream. Wordsworth’s cuckoo leaves no doubt about reality and is carried by gentle breezes “Till Night, descending upon hill and vale, / Grants to thy mission a brief term of silence, / And folds thy pinions up in blest repose” (110–12).

KEATS. ROME, 1820 My dear Brown, ’Tis the most difficult thing in the world [for] me to write a letter. My stomach continues so bad, that I feel it worse on opening any book,—yet I am much better than I was in Quarantine. . . . I have an habitual feeling of my real life having past, and that I am leading a posthumous existence.12 [November 30, 1820]

Keats had a realistic sense of his condition when he arrived in Rome. He had come with the slim hope of recovering from the advanced stages of consumption. As far back as when his strenuous walking tour to Scotland in 1818 with his friend Charles Brown ended prematurely because on the Isle of Mull he was stricken with a “slight sore throat,” as he characterized it, guardedly, in his letter to his brother Tom,13 Keats was receiving signals from his body that his health was fragile. Brown, who ultimately continued on the tour alone, wrote home: “Mr Keats however is too unwell for fatigue and privation. I am waiting here [Inverness] to see him off in the Smack for London. He caught a violent cold in the Island of Mull, which far from leaving him, has become worse, and the Physician here thinks him too thin and fevered to proceed on our journey” (1: 362). When Keats returned to London on August 18 on the packet that shipped out of the Port of Cromarty, he found his brother Tom, with whom he lived and who was suffering from consumption, in a worse condition than when he had left. Keats had lovingly, and with the expertise of one with medical training, attended Tom in his illness. By August 25 he could only inform their sister Fanny that “poor Tom . . . has lately been

Exhibition of Five English Romantic Poets in a Museum in Florence

191

much worse” (1: 365). By the time Tom died on December 1, Keats would have been emotionally and physically drained. Yet he wrote to his brother George and his new wife Georgiana, who were now living in America: “The last days of poor Tom were of the most distressing nature; but his last moments were not so painful, and his very last was without a pang” (2: 4). The memory of death that was not so painful and a passing without a pang could reassure him here in Rome as he faced his own dying. After Tom died Keats moved into a home with his walking tour friend Charles Brown, paying rent. He began a phase of brilliant poetic productivity that resulted in, among other works, the great odes—“Ode to Psyche,” “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Ode to a Nightingale,” ode “To Autumn”—all in the year 1819. As well, he had fallen in love with a young woman named Fanny Brawne, whom he met in late 1818, sometime after his return from the Scottish walking tour. Fanny and her mother rented half of Brown’s house in Wentworth Place after Keats had moved in. With that proximity an already deep attraction grew into a profound, and for Keats at the end of his life, painful love. His love affair with Fanny dominates his period of dying in Rome. The “quarantine” Keats refers to in his November 30 letter to Brown was the culmination of a rough journey that began on September 17 in London when he boarded the Maria Crowther, headed for Italy. The ship reached Naples on October 21, 1820 and was held in quarantine until October 31, Keats’s twenty-fifth birthday. His friend, the painter Joseph Severn, had offered, almost at the last minute, to accompany him and would stay with him to the end. In quarantine, he told Brown, “my health suffered more from bad air and a stifled cabin than it had done the whole voyage.” He was writing on the day after he landed, and his love of Fanny Brawne was the theme of almost the entire letter, with underlying awareness of the imminence of his death entirely evident. “The persuasion that I shall see her no more will kill me. . . . My dear Brown, I should have had her when I was in health, and I should have remained well. I can bear to die—I cannot bear to leave her.” His feelings for Fanny consumed him almost as much as his illness. “Oh, God! God! God! Every thing I have in my trunks that reminds me of her goes through me like a spear. The silk lining she put in my travelling cap scalds my head” (2: 351). All of Keats’s sensibilities continued to be intensified and experienced in the extreme during what should have been convalescence in Italy. After a short stay in Naples, Keats and Severn made their way to Rome and the Piazza di Spagna, their ultimate destination, reaching there by November 15. They occupied three rooms overlooking

192

Chapter 8

the Spanish Steps, with a curtain separating their section from the apartment of their landlady, Anna Angelatti, who was apparently unobtrusive. A flight of stairs within the house led them to their rooms. Keats’s room had a warm fireplace and an ornate tile ceiling. The letter to Brown on November 30 was the last letter Keats wrote. Added to his acknowledgment of a permanent separation from Fanny were two other poignant elements: his sense of dying, and his continuing but frustrated urge to be the poet he had been. When in quarantine, he told Brown, he “summoned up more puns, in a sort of desperation, in one week than in any year of my life.” It was an odd burst of creativity, but clearly his imagination was still vital. In the nagging mode of what once was (or might have been now), he summons up the ameliorative presence of Fanny: “I have been well, healthy, alert &c, walking with her.” What follows that thought is a stark reality: “and now—the knowledge of contrast, feeling for light and shade, all that information (primitive sense) necessary for a poem are great enemies to the recovery of the stomach” (2: 360). Perhaps the best revelation of his final letter was that Keats recognized himself so definitely to be a poet, an engine of that “primitive sense,” as he traversed the irreversible journey to his death. Before signing off, Keats reported his doctor’s assessment of his present health so the news might be disseminated at home. His English doctor in Rome, Dr. Clarke, who ultimately turned out to be a poor diagnostician, had pronounced that it wasn’t his lungs but his stomach that was the source of his extremely poor condition. This may have made for a softer report to send to friends and family, but it is hard to accept that Keats, who had after all been educated as a physician and had nursed his consumptive brother Tom through his death, totally believed what he heard from Clarke. Keats requested that Brown should “Remember me to all friends” and write to his brother George in America—“and also a note to my sister— who walks about my imagination like a ghost—she is so like Tom.” He then shaped a farewell to his friend with difficulty. “I can scarcely bid you good bye even in a letter.” Much emotion would have been repressed in his self-effacing closure, “I always made an awkward bow” (2: 360).

SHELLEY. NAPLES 1818 Naples! Thou Heart of men which ever pantest Naked, beneath the lidless eye of Heaven! Elysian City, which to calm enchantest

Exhibition of Five English Romantic Poets in a Museum in Florence

193

The mutinous air and sea! they round thee, even As sleep round Love, are driven! Metropolis of a ruined Paradise Long lost, late won, and yet but half regained! (“Ode to Naples,” Strophe 1)14

Shelley arrived in Naples on November 29, 1818, two days after setting out from Rome by coach with a vetturino along a road notorious for robbers. So tense was the environment of the passengers on board that at one point Shelley displayed his pistol and at another suppressed an urge to beat a Calabrian priest. But once in town, he succeeded in booking five rooms at No. 250 Riviera de Chiaia for the sizeable party that would arrive on the first day of December: his wife, Mary, their little son William, his now sister-in-law Claire Clairmont, his Swiss maid Elise, his servant Paolo Foggi, and Millie Shields, another servant. And in the womb of one of the women (other than his wife) there was another person soon to be born—Elena Adelaide Shelley. Shelley negotiated the rooms for 3 louis a week, the equivalent of $12.00 a week in American currency of 1800, and wrote to his friend Thomas Love Peacock: “We have a lodging divided from the sea by the royal gardens, and from our windows we see perpetually the blue waters of the bay.” On their walks in the gardens a volcano loomed: “Vesuvius; a smoke by day and a fire by night is seen upon its summit” (10: 15). Considering the number of miles they had traveled since leaving Lucca—544 miles to Venice, 332 from Venice to Naples, 877 total—it was time for comfort and a rest. The Shelleys were inveterate travelers with a zest for sightseeing and would, of course, visit Vesuvius and the ruins of Pompeii; but, the excursion that gave them the most poetic pleasure was their circumnavigation about the Bay of Baiae. They set out with a guide an hour after sunrise on a “radiant morning in a little boat” and returned by moonlight the same day. By noon, when the heat had become most intense, they came to the Bay of Naples, which also enclosed the Bay of Baiae, the resort in the past of Roman nobility, and named after Baios, the companion of Odysseus. Shelley took in the “lofty rocks and craggy islets . . . and enormous caverns, which echoed faintly with the murmer of the languid sea” (10: 15). The memory of this sight with its attendant sensations came to him when he wrote “Ode to the West Wind”: Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams The blue Mediterranean, where he lay, Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams, Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay. (29–32)

194

Chapter 8

As well, this sight figures in his “Ode to Naples,” composed in August 1820, in the lines: “And where the Baian ocean / Welters with airlike motion” (26–27). Allusions to places seen from the little boat go on. The Shelley party came to “La Scuola di Virgilio” and “were conducted to see the Mare Morto, and the Elysian fields, the spot on which Virgil places the scenery of the sixth Aeneid” (10: 16). In the boat: I sailed, where ever flows Under the calm Serene A spirit of deep emotion From the unknown graves Of the dead Kings of Melody. (35–39)

(In a note, Shelley identifies the kings of melody as Homer and Virgil.) Far less delightful was their ambitious excursion to Vesuvius. The first stretch was by carriage to Resina. There Mary and Shelley mounted mules while Claire climbed onto a “palanquin,” to be carried in a chair on the shoulders of four men. They stopped at the hermitage of St. Salvador, “where an old hermit, belted with rope, set forth the plates for our refreshment” (10: 17). They had crossed streams of lava and gone on foot up to the cone. After sunset the scene became dramatic: “We were . . . surrounded by streams and cataracts of the red and radiant fire; and in the midst from the column of bituminous smoke shot up into the air, fell the vast masses of rock, white with the light of their intense heat, leaving behind them through the dark vapour trains of splendour (10: 18). Until now the expedition could have been counted a positive accomplishment. However, they had to descend to the hermitage by torchlight. Shelley was “in a state of intense bodily suffering” and became intolerant of the guides, pronouncing them “complete Savages.” Unable to muster a modicum of empathy with the natives of his host country, he complained, “You have no idea of the horrible cries which they suddenly utter, no one knows why.” It was only with condescension that he could grant, “Nothing . . . can be more picturesque than the gestures and physiognomies of these savage people. And when, in the darkness of night, they unexpectedly begin to sing in chorus some fragments of their wild but sweet national music, the effect is exceedingly fine” (10: 19). Two opposing dispositions were at work in Shelley while he was in Naples—depression and pleasure. The former found full expression in the poem he composed in December, “Stanzas Written in Dejection—December 1818, Near Naples.” Here he plumbs the depths of low spirits in lines

Exhibition of Five English Romantic Poets in a Museum in Florence

195

like: “Alas, I have nor hope nor health / Nor peace within nor calm around ” (19–20). Melancholy was a state to be met head on and explored in English Romantic poetry, as for example in Keats’s “Ode on Melancholy” or Coleridge’s “Dejection: An Ode” or Wordsworth’s “Intimations of Immortality,” so the mode was appropriate to the times. But specific factors in Shelley’s life contributed to his dejection. His health was a problem: he was under the care of an English surgeon who “says I have a disease of the liver, which he will cure.” In addition, he seemed unable to find any redeeming qualities in the Italian people, describing them as “degraded, disgusting, and odious” (10: 27). He had a particular distaste for the women: “Young women of rank actually eat—you will never guess what—garlick!” (10: 10). And finally, there was the compelling concern over a baby that would be born to the Swiss maid Elise at the end of December—a child that required his last name on documentation. Yet the landscape and the weather were beautiful. The excursions to ancient places had been illuminating. The cost of living was cheap. He had been able to work on Prometheus Unbound. It was in reflection of this happier spirit that Shelley later, in late August or September 1820, living near Pisa at Casa Prinni, in the Baths of Giuliano, composed the “Ode to Naples” as a formal, highly wrought, classically structured pastoral ode in the manner of Pindar. Consistent with its Pindaric model, his “Ode” is imbued with the sense of heroism and triumph in overcoming an enemy. Shelley responds in this ode to the events of a constitutional revolution taking place in Naples in July 1820. The secret society of liberals and patriotic Italians called Carbonari revolted against foreign domination—in this case, against King Ferdinand of Spain. The revolution began in Naples and spread in Italy. As a result of the uprising King Ferdinand made some concessions and promised a constitutional monarchy. To England and the Continent news of the constitutional revolution was of major interest. Shelley sent his “Ode to Naples” to the Morning Chronicle, a daily newspaper with Whig leanings and wide distribution. The poem had its first publication there on September 26, 1820. It was picked up by the Military Register, with circulation to not only the British Isles but the European continent, the Mediterranean, the East Indies, British Africa, America, and the West Indies. “Its publication in these two newspapers probably makes ‘Ode to Naples’ the poem of Shelley’s with the largest potential audience of any he published in his lifetime.”15 Shelley’s time in Naples in 1818 is alluded to in the opening line, “I stood within the City disinterred,” in which he recalls the excursion to Pompeii. The all-day boat trip turns up as:

196

Chapter 8 And where the Baian ocean Welters with airlike motion Within, above, around, its bowers of starry green, Moving the sea-flowers in those purple caves, Even as the ever stormless atmosphere Floats o’er the Elysian realm. (26–31)

But it is in Strophe 1 (quoted above) that the theme of revolution emerges boldly enough to read Carbonari into the classical lines, “Metropolis of a ruined Paradise / Long lost, late won, and yet but half regained!” (57–58). Revolution rings in image of “armèd Victory” and the assertion that Naples (and all of Italy) is now “and henceforth ever shall be, free” (63). The real time Naples of 1818 and the Naples reborn into a politically inspired ode of 1820 measure the fullness of Shelley’s absorption of this southern point of Italy.

COLERIDGE. SICILY, 1804 Oct. 21st. 1804—Monday night—Syracuse. . . . O why have I shunned & fled like a cowed Dog from the Thought that yesterday was my Birth Day, & and that I was 32—So help me Heaven! as I looked back, & till I looked back I had imagined I was only 31—so completely has a whole year passed, with scarcely the fruits of a month. O Sorrow & Shame! I am not worthy to live— Two & thirty years—& this last year above all others!—I have done nothing! No I have not even layed up any material, any inward stores,—of after action!16

If Coleridge had never lived another day, he would still be known as the famous author of Rime of the Ancient Mariner and “Kubla Khan” and as the collaborator with Wordsworth on Lyrical Ballads (1798), which radically changed the language of poetry and the perception of the common man as a fitting subject. But Coleridge was now self-critical, and in an all-too-human way wished on this Sicilian birthday that he might reconcile some warring impulses to become productive again as a writer and metaphysician. As well, he needed to put his personal affairs, which were in a shambles, in order. He had fallen distinctly out of love with his wife and in love with another woman. Coleridge sailed to Sicily from Malta August 10 in a naval vessel with three other men, landing after a routine period of ship’s quarantine, in Syracuse. He had been gone from home in the Lake District of England since mid January. By May 18 he had arrived at Malta, where his life entered an

Exhibition of Five English Romantic Poets in a Museum in Florence

197

extraordinary phase, one in which his work as a poet was to be supplanted by the demands of a war-time post as undersecretary to Sir Alexander John Ball, Civil Commissioner for Malta, who was on guard for Napoleon’s threats to take over the Mediterranean. This trip to Sicily should have offered Coleridge a respite from his duties in Malta. He arrived in Syracuse with a letter of recommendation from Ball to the English Counsel, G. F. Leckie, in whose home he would be residing. His host’s home contained an excellent library and offered sociability with, among others, American military men whose ship was harbored nearby. It provided a base from which Coleridge, for whom the epithet “tourist” is not an easy fit, could make his way to the sights a well-informed visitor would seek out. He would keep up his notebooks, go to the opera, experiment with prosody, and hope to heal his health related problems—his addiction and its attendant symptoms. Leckie’s estate abutted the historic villa of Timoleon, the Greek general (c. 411–337 BC) who defeated Dionysius in Syracuse and defended the Syracusians against a Carthaginian invasion. Coleridge was now in the part of Syracuse called the Neapolis. If he ascended fifty stairs he would have a “Grand View of the Harbour . . . the point of Plemmyriam where Alcibiades & Nicias landed” (2: 2195). He would have had the Peloponnesian War and the Siege of Syracuse in mind as he took stock of his environment. Mt. Etna could be seen from almost anywhere in Syracuse. Climbing it was a priority for Coleridge, and his notebook entry for August 19 recorded the effort. He approached it from Catania, about thirty miles away, hiring a “good natured Guide,” who brought along his children—one son and four daughters. It did not escape Coleridge’s notice that the oldest girl “had been beautiful,” and, as for the youngest, “what a neck!” (2: 2174). Etna, an active volcano and at 10,991 feet the highest mountain in Italy south of the Alps, demanded a second look, and on August 25 he recorded that he “re-ascended.” Later, when he returned to Malta, he wrote to his wife: “I have been twice on the Top of Mount Etna,” and implied Etna did not live up to the hype about it. “The fatigue of ascending Etna is the only thing that has not been exaggerated in it.”17 Coleridge did not write letters in Sicily; only his notebooks provided the record of his three months there. His recorded impressions were crisp, clear, often poetic, and sometimes accompanied by line drawings. Coherent prose was the exception. The Ear of Dionysius, for example, a tourist destination, was taken down in a line drawing. Blandly, considering the colorful lore of this enormous cave, he noted: “Fine verbal echo just at the corner / then at the turn tear a bit of paper.” Obviously more interested in

198

Chapter 8

the geometry than any tale of the Ear, Coleridge detailed “an angle formed by 2 curves joining at the Top at an acute angle” (2: 2239). His reports of other famous sites are similarly detached. There is no excitement over two harbors, “Manghisi, & its sand Isle, & Augusta” (2: 2195). He cited the latter for “the filth all along the Battlement.” When he visits the Forum he merely measures the distance between columns, standing or otherwise. Only when he sees elements of the natural world among the ruins does his writing become lively. He is captivated by “That beautiful green Lizard with scarlet Tail, yet with a venomous Look” (2: 2198). Inside a cave the poet in him is engaged as “The Enchanter’s Nightshade with white blossom sent the light thro’ its thin, green leaves on the floor of the Cavern” (2: 2202). At the Temple of Minerva he appreciates the “four fluted Doric Columns on the side” because they stand in contrast to the Baroque architectural elements of St. Paul’s Church, into which the temple had been converted. He has snide criticism for the “tawdry modern Front and disproportion, stone flower wreathes, & little John Nobodies with chubby heads & wings looking up the Virgin’s petticoats as roguishly as may be” (2: 2244). Coleridge was disdainful of the serious interest of others in the ancient sites: “Childish minds alone, I am more than ever convinced, can attach themselves to (so called) antiquities” (2: 2169). English sensibilities witnessed: “Every third . . . Hour women lousing each other on the steps of the Shop-door.” He was put off by the prevalence of Catholic priests and monks: “In one street I met 5 or 6 Clergymen / and on no particular Day” (2: 2179). And he was jaundiced about their girth: “[T]he only big-bellied Men I have seen in Syracuse are the Priests / Of them many most majestic Peripheries of Paunch” (2: 2216). One of his last notebook entries for his time here sums up his less than positive view of where he has been: “Syracuse, whose circumference in its splendor was 21 miles, and its Population 1200,000, is now zusammengeschrumpft into a corner of about 2 miles in circum/ and about 12,000 Inhabitants of whom at least 10,000 had better be out of existence—this doctissima civitas of Cicero, I found no native with whom I could talk of any thing but the weather & the opera.” The insults went on. He found the people “ignorant beyond belief” and, perhaps from the perspective of a Unitarian, he levied an attack on religion, finding “the churches take up the third part of the whole city, & the Priests are as numerous as an Egyptian Plague” (2: 2261). Crotchety as this review might be, Coleridge’s Syracuse experience was, on balance, a good one. The absence in his notes of complaints of screaming nightmares and acute physical pain suggests his health had improved. On his travels with the Wordsworths to Scotland in 1803 he

Exhibition of Five English Romantic Poets in a Museum in Florence

199

suffered from what he called “atonic gout,” a condition that had plagued him for some years. He had been self-medicating with laudanum (opium) and become addicted to it. Attempts to abstain from the use of the drug generally failed and the curse of pain and addiction persisted. The plan to come to Malta and Sicily, even during dangerous war times, carried with it the hope of recovery, or at least relief. In Syracuse his spirits were improved by the presence in town of an opera company and the music that permeated the atmosphere. The airs & songs generally audible in the courtyard of the Opera House, & even in the Street / and it is pleasant to hear the ragged boys & girls singing after the second or third representation of an opera, some . . . one, some another, all the most pleasing airs of the opera with the wonderful accuracy & agility of Voice. (2: 2235)

He recorded the title Le cantatrici villane (an opera first performed in Naples in 1799) in his notes. Elsewhere we find a list of six performers, the cast of an unnamed show. One of them was Cecilia Bertozzi, a singer who so enchanted Coleridge that his biographers advanced a scenario in which he had an affair with her. Love was on his mind and in his heart in Syracuse. It was revealed in poetry, not all his own. He wrote out pages of verse and analyzed form, metrical patterns, and rhyme schemes. Schiller’s “Die Bürgschaff” and “Die Ideale” were examined among several other German pieces. (Having studied in Germany, Coleridge had a command of the language and knew the works of his contemporaries.) One poem, “Der Holdselingen,” was a love song later set to music by Brahms: “To the most graceful one without doubt / I seize a cheerful love song, / Since the pure woman I love / Waves and bids me a charming ‘Have thanks.’”18 To investigate prosody further Coleridge shifted to English and composed his own lines: How warm this woodland wild Recess! Love surely hath been breathing here! And this sweet Bed of Heath, my Dear! Swells up, then sinks with faint caress As if to have thee yet more near. (2: 2224. 81)

It is more than iambic tetrameter that the poet is working with here: he is processing the effect of Cecilia Bertozzi, his opera singer. The images of later lines—“yearning sigh” and “unknown bliss”—and the concluding

200

Chapter 8

idea of the poem suggest that if it is fair to equate the speaker of a poem with the poet: he loved her, As when a Mother doth explore The sure mark on her long-lost Child, I lov’d thee, maiden mild, As whom I long had lov’d before; So deeply had I been beguil’d— (2: 2224. 82)

But while Cecilia beguiled him, and she was near at hand, it might be argued that his opera singer was a surrogate for his absent and longed for “Asra,” Sara Hutchinson, Wordsworth’s sister-in-law, with whom he had been in love almost since he first met her in the fall of 1799. His marriage to his wife, also named Sara, had fallen apart, and he wished to dissolve it, or at least leave her. They had had four children, one of whom had died. The youngest, a girl, born in December 1802, was also named Sara. His wife and children were now living in Keswick, in the Lake District, where he had moved his family to be close to the Wordsworths. The unattainable woman he loved, had to be distinguished from his wife with a reworking of her name by putting letters in reverse order to become “Asra.” In Syracuse she lost the disguise and her name turned up in his notebook as Sara. His pages of experimentation with meter end with an apostrophe to the absent beloved: O Sara! never rashly let me go Beyond the precincts of this holy Place, Where streams as pure as in Elysium flow And flowrets view reflected Grace, What tho in vain the melted Metals glow, We die, and dying own a more than mortal love. (2: 2224. 87)

IN REPOSE. ROME. THE PROTESTANT CEMETERY Keats died at 11:00 P.M. on February 20, 1821, at the age of twenty-five, in his room on the Piazza di Spagna, in the arms of his friend Joseph Severn. In letters to friends (Brown, Taylor, and Haslam), Severn left a veritable log of the stages of Keats’s dying—from the hemorrhaging (“he vomited near two Cup-fuls of blood”) to the autopsy performed by an Italian Surgeon who found “the lungs were intirely destroyed—the cells were quite gone” (2: 361–79). Throughout, Keats knew what was happening to him. “[He]

Exhibition of Five English Romantic Poets in a Museum in Florence

201

sees all this—his knowledge of anatomy makes it tenfold worse at every change” (2: 370). He was buried near the monument to Caius Cestius, a large pyramid, within the Roman walls, in the cemetery for all those who were not Catholic. The inscription he asked Severn to put on an unnamed tombstone was: HERE LIES ONE WHOSE NAME WAS WRIT IN WATER. Brown and Severn wanted more for him and expanded the epitaph to read: This Grave contains all that was Mortal of a YOUNG ENGLISH POET Who on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his Heart at the Malicious Power of his Enemies, Desired these Words to be engraven on his Tomb Stone: Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water” Feb. 24 1821.

Along the way, an error in the date of death (February 23) occurred. Shelley learned of Keats’s death on April 11, while he was living in Pisa. In May and June he wrote for Keats one of the greatest elegies in the English language, Adonais. Shelley himself died in a boating accident on July 8, 1822, at the age of twenty-nine, just short of his thirtieth birthday. On July 1 the poet, who did not know how to swim, sailed on his boat, Don Juan, with a friend named Williams and a hired boat boy, across the Bay of Spezia to Livorno to visit Leigh Hunt. Shelley carried a book of Keats’s poems in his pocket. On the way back, Shelley and his companions encountered a storm. All three drowned, and when their bodies washed ashore on a beach they were in a state of decomposition. On August 16, the bodies were cremated on the beach, with Byron, Hunt and Trelawny present to witness the consumption by fire of their poet friend. Shelley too was buried in the Protestant Cemetery, in a crowded area near the entrance gate. Since he had been cremated, it is not the poet’s body but his ashes that lie under the stone that reads: “Cor Cordium” (Heart of Hearts) followed by lines from Ariel’s song in Shakespeare’s The Tempest: “Nothing of him doth fade / But doth suffer a sea-change / Into something rich and strange.” Shelley’s actual heart—or perhaps the ashes of his heart—was isolated, and later buried in England. The museum will be closing at 5:00 pm. This exhibition of English Romantic Poets will run indefinitely. Carol Kyros Walker. Curator.

NOTES 1. This chapter pays tribute to Carl Woodring. I was a participant in his National Endowment for the Humanities Seminar for College Teachers on “Nineteenth-

202

Chapter 8

Century English Literature and the Visual Arts,” which included museum tours led by Professor Woodring. 2. Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto IV: 1. All quotations of Byron’s poetry, hereafter cited in the text, are from Byron: Poetical Works, eds. Frederick Page and John Jump (London: Oxford University Press, 1970). 3. The Complete Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley: Letters, 1818 to 1822, eds. Roger Ingpen and Walter E. Peck, 10 vols. (1965 rpt.; London: Ernest Benn, 1926–30), 10: 12. Subsequent quotations from the letters, hereafter cited in the text, are from this edition. 4. Gregory Dowling, In Venice and in the Veneto with Lord Byron (Venice: Università ca´ Foscari, 2008), 75. 5. Ann Benneson McMahon, With Byron in Italy (Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1906), 31. 6. Byron’s Letters and Journals, ed. Leslie A. Marchand, 12 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976–1982), 5: 218. 7. McMahon, xviin. 8. All quotations of Wordsworth’s poetry, hereafter cited in the text, are from William Wordsworth: The Poems, ed. John O. Hayden, 2 vols. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1981). 9. Discovering Tuscany, “Getting to Laverna,” at discoveringtuscany.com. 10. Mary Moorman, William Wordsworth: The Later Years, 1803–1850 (London: Oxford University Press, 1968), 526. 11. The Poems of John Keats, ed. Jack Stillinger (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978). 12. Letters of John Keats, ed. Hyder Edward Rollins, 2 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1958), 2: 359. Subsequent quotations from the letters cited in the text are from this edition. 13. See Carol Kyros Walker, Walking North with Keats (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press), 201. 14. All quotations of Shelley’s poetry, hereafter cited in the text, are from The Poems of Shelley:Volume Three, 1819–1820 (Longman Annotated English Poets), ed. Jack Donovan et al. (London: Routledge, 2011). 15. Shelley, Poems, editor’s note, 626. 16. All notebook quotations of Coleridge, hereafter cited in the text, are from The Notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ed. Kathleen Coburn, 3 vols. (New York: Bollingen Series/Pantheon, 1961), 2: 2237. 17. Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ed. Earl Leslie Griggs, 4 vols. (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), 2: 1157, Letter no. 612. 18. Translated by Liesel Bennett, who also identified the Schiller poems.

9 GEORGE ROMNEY’S SHIPWRECKS M OR T ON D. PALEY

B

oth in his time and still today, George Romney is regarded as a brilliant portrait artist. He was justly celebrated for pictures like splendidly composed Leveson-Gower Children (Abbot Hall, Kendal), the elegant William Beckford (Upton House, Warwickshire), and the exotic Edward Wortley Montagu in Armenian costume (Museums Sheffield). He depicted Emma Hart, later Lady Hamilton in roles such as Circe, Cassandra, Miranda, a bacchante, St. Cecilia, and Mary Magdalene, for an admiring public. “Romney and Reynolds divide the town,” said Lord Chancellor Thurlow, whose likeness (London, Parliamentary Art Collection) Romney took in 1784, adding “I am of the Romney faction.”1 However, Romney also produced other kinds of art, little known in his own time but drawing increasing attention in ours. He made many neo-classical drawings, largely on mythological subjects, especially after his return from two and a half years of studying works of art in Italy.2 At night in his studio he made an enormous number of drawings inspired by the Quaker prison reformer John Howard.3 At times he even seemed to regard his highly successful career as a prison, one that barred him from what he most wanted to paint. In February 1787 he wrote to his friend William Hayley: “This cursed portrait-painting! How I am shackled with it! I am determined to live frugally, that I may enable myself to cut it short, as soon as I am tolerably independent, and then give my mind up to those delightful regions of imagination.”4 Although Romney did not do this until near the end of his career, he did produce some striking works in modes other

203

204

Chapter 9

than portraiture. Among these are three shipwreck scenes that now exist only in the form of drawings and/or engravings but which nevertheless show Romney’s creative fertility and power. Romney was of course aware of the artistic tradition of shipwrecks. He must have seen some of Claude-Joseph Vernet’s striking shipwreck paintings when in Paris in 1764. “On learning that Mr. B. was a brother artist,” wrote Thomas Greene, Romney’s travelling companion, “he with a great deal of civility took us into his painting-room.” 5 Vernet, whose studio was in the Louvre, also made it possible for Romney to visit the other principal art collections of Paris.6 Shipwreck scenes, as exhibited by P. J. de Loutherbourg and George Morland, among others, were popular in England as well.7 Romney’s specific choices of subjects, as well as his mode of presenting them, however, exhibit his distinctive artistic sensibility. The large finished drawing called The Lapland Witch Watching a Shipwreck in a Storm is now known only through sketches in the Louvre (figure 9.1) and the Fitzwilliam Museum. In William Hayley’s Essay on Painting, which was dedicated to Romney, the poet praises the original: “Round Fancy’s circle when thy Pencil flies, / With what terrific pomp thy Spectres rise! / What lust of mischief marks thy Witch’s form, / While on the LAPLAND ROCK she swells the storm!”8 Hayley had intended to include the drawing among the illustrations in his Life of George Romney:

FIGURE 9.1. George Romney, The Lapland Witch Watching a Shipwreck in a Storm, 1775–1780. Pen, sepia ink, brown wash over pencil. The Louvre, Paris.

George Romney’s Shipwrecks

205

One of his designs from fancy, drawn soon after his return from the Continent, and giving a very high idea of his creative powers, was a cartoon of black chalk, representing a Lapland witch surveying the sea from a rock, and enjoying the distress of mariners from a tempest of her own creation. Meyer used to contemplate this figure with the highest delight, admiring the felicity of the artist in preserving the beauty of fine female features, and in rendering the expression of the countenance sublimely malignant. I . . . had hoped to decorate this volume with a good engraving from the cartoon, which the son of my departed friend had kindly intended to present to me, but after a diligent search for it in a mass of many large works, that were huddled together in the haste of the retiring painter to clear his London house, we had the mortification to perceive, that some mischance had annihilated this favorite design.9

In Romney’s time there was considerable interest in the culture of the Sami (then called Lapps by outsiders). In 1788 Romney’s friend the poet Anna Seward wrote to a correspondent: “You remember the beautiful translations in the Spectator of the Lapland odes! I was once shewn a close translation of them, and copied it,” and she sent him the “ruder and faithful translations.”10 The notion of the Sami as “a People addicted to Magic” appears in The History of Lapland by Johannes Scheffer, who added “and [they] are described . . . to have arrived to great Skill in Enchantments, as to stop Ships in full Sail, and to ensnare and bewitch men, as to deprive them of the use of Limbs and Reason, and very often bring them into extreme Danger of their Lives.”11 In a well-known passage of Paradise Lost Milton alludes to the Night-Hag, when call’d In secret, riding through the Air she comes Lur’d with the smell of infant blood, to dance With Lapland Witches, while the labouring Moon Eclipses at their charms.12

In 1796 Henry Fuseli, an artist whom Romney admired, would paint The Night-Hag Visiting Lapland Witches (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), literally illustrating the theme of infant sacrifice for his Milton Gallery. Romney’s drawings featured a different aspect of their power, the ability to raise storms, an aspect of the terrible sublime that much interested early Romantic artists and poets. Romney may have introduced the maritime element from the play to which Hayley refers in a letter to Romney of 1776 as “your favourite Macbeth”:

206

Chapter 9 1 Witch. . . . Her husband’s to Aleppo gone, master o’ th’ Tiger, But in a sieve I’ll thither sail, And like a rat without a tail, I’ll do, I’ll do, and I’ll do. 2 Witch. I’ll give thee a wind. 1 Witch. Thou’rt kind. 3 Witch. And I, another. 1 Witch. I myself have all the other, And the very ports they blow, All the quarters that they know I’th’shipman’s card.13

Romney is likely to have thought of Shakespeare’s producers of powerful ocean storms in depicting his own witch. The important elements for his purposes are the grotesque face of the witch, close to caricature, and the fearful battering of the ship by the sea. As William Pressley remarks of one of the Fitzwilliam Museum drawings, “The dense wash, the swirling, brushed strokes, and the bold parallel hatching convey a spontaneous, raw energy.”14 One of Romney’s most ambitious paintings also featured a shipwreck. The Tempest was completed in 1790 for alderman John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery, a project of which Romney had been one of the prime movers. Romney was a lover of theater, and in London often attended performances with his fellow members of the Unincreasible Club. When his and Hayley’s friend Mme. de Genlis visited London with her beautiful daughter Pamela, it was Romney who escorted them to performances. Shakespeare was of course of special interest to him, as to some of his contemporary painters. Shakespeare had provided the subject for Romney’s first history painting, exhibited at Kendal in 1762, the powerful night scene King Lear in the Tempest tearing off his Robes (Abbot Hall, Kendal). In 1780 he painted his actor friend John Henderson confronted by three decidedly male witches in what John Romney called “a Bolognese half-length.”15 Exhibited by Boydell in 1793, Romney’s The Infant Shakespeare, [attended by] Nature, and the Passions (Folger Shakespeare Library), may be difficult for us to appreciate today, despite its voluptuously depicted Emma Hamilton16 as Joy, with pallid Nature unveiling herself to a poker-faced baby flanked by Joy and Sorrow, with Love, Hatred, and Jealousy on the right and Anger, Envy, and Fear on the left.17 (As William Pressly points out, this representation derives from passages in Thomas Gray’s “The Progress of Poetry,” William Collins’s “The Passions: An Ode for Music,” and David Garrick’s “Ode to Shakespeare.”)18 Emma Hamilton was also Romney’s

George Romney’s Shipwrecks

207

model for Cassandra Raving (Private Collection), based on Act 2, scene 2 of Troilus and Cressida, her insanity less indicated by her facial expression than by her left hand raised to her laureled head and her right wielding an axe.19 She is again featured, half-dressed in striking red, in Titania, Puck, and the Changeling20 for A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1793, National Gallery of Art, Dublin), where, in the words of an anonymous caption, “the warm palette and sketchy technique, typical of Romney’s later work, enhance the sense of allure.” Of all these, The Tempest, his largest and most ambitious painting to date,21 was the most important to Romney, so important that for it he actually did what he had often said he wished to do: he reduced the number of his sitters.22 A number of sketches show the development of the subject. According to the artist’s son, John Romney, even before the discussions that led to the creation of the Shakespeare Gallery, “Mr. Romney had begun a picture representing Prospero, Miranda, and Caliban; and in the background a shipwreck.”23 The highly suggestible Romney took to heart somebody’s comment that three figures could not make a history painting, so “the canvas was diminished on the right to exclude Caliban, and enlarged on the left so as to allow the shipwreck to be advanced to the foreground.” Alex Kidson points out that two drawings “Prospero, Miranda, Caliban, and Ariel” and “Study for the Shipwreck Scene in The Tempest” (both at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge) show stages in the painting’s composition.24 In the first Prospero stands, his garment billowing behind him, pointing upward with his right index finger and outward with his extended left hand, indicating the action going on in the air and on the sea to Miranda, who, clad in a flowing gown, clings to his right side. At the far left, a hunched-over, grotesque Caliban emerges from Prospero’s cell. In the second, Prospero is seated at a table within the cell to our right; an apprehensive-looking Miranda stands against the rock wall; and five men stand in a foundering boat with Ariel flying above them. This is similar to a description of a painting that Romney’s friend Richard Cumberland saw before the Shakespeare Gallery was conceived, and that he described using the surrogate names of Prometheus and Timanthes for Prospero and the artist. Caliban is still present but the shipwreck has been introduced: Prometheus is here discovered on the seashore upon an island inhabited only by himself and his daughter, a young virgin of exquisite beauty, who is supposed to have seen none other of the human species but her father, besides certain imaginary beings, whom Prometheus had either created by his stolen fire, or whom he employed in the capacity of

208

Chapter 9 familiars for the purposes of his enchantments, for the poet very justifiably supposes him endowed with supernatural powers, and by that vehicle brings to pass all the beautiful and surprising incidents of his drama. One of these aerial spirits had by his command conjured up a most dreadful tempest, in which a noble ship is represented as sinking in the midst of the breakers on this enchanted shore. The daughter of Prometheus is seen in a supplicating attitude imploring her father to allay the storm, and save the sinking mariners from destruction. In the back ground of the picture is a cavern, and at the entrance of it a misshapen savage :[sic] being, whose evil nature is depicted in the deformity of his person and features, and who was employed by Prometheus in all servile offices, necessary for his accommodation in this solitude. The aerial spirit is in the clouds, which he is driving before him at the behest of his great master. In this composition therefore, although, not replete with characters, there is yet such diversity of style and subject that we have all which the majesty and beauty of real nature can furnish, with beings out of the regions of nature, as strongly contrasted in form and character, as fancy can devise: The scenery also is of the sublimest cast; and whilst all Greece resounded with applauses upon the exhibition of this picture, Timanthes alone was silent, and, startled at the very echo of his own fame, shrunk back again to his retirement.25

Although it may be tempting to agree with John Romney that his father’s radical change of plan was a disaster, it is hard to see how a very large painting in which the only action was Prospero pointing in two directions would be of permanent interest. From the evidence of the Rome oil sketch and Benjamin Smith’s engraving (1797), Romney’s Tempest was an excitingly original, highly unconventional, treatment of its subject. Although originally conceived as a scene on dry land, the painting gradually becomes a shipwreck scene through various versions until in Romney’s large (44.8 x 61 in.) oil sketch (Galleria Nationale d’Arte Moderna, Rome)26 the shipwreck dominates everything else. In this sketch the ship is canted at a steeper angle so as to make the figures, and especially Ferdinand’s, more prominent, and those of Prospero and Miranda are more backgrounded than they are in the finished composition as represented by Smith’s engraving (figure 9.2). This sketch is justly called a “tour de force of Romney’s art by Alex Kidson.”27 If the engraving is a faithful representation of the final version, Romney would have done better to stay with the concept of the oil sketch. Also, the sheer size of the painting must have contributed greatly to its overall effect. Although intact until the end of the nineteenth century, Romney’s Tempest was ruined by heat while rolled up for storage in the Soho Works

George Romney’s Shipwrecks

209

FIGURE 9.2. Benjamin Smith. Engraving after George Romney. Shakespeare. Tempest. Act 1. Scene 1, 1797. © Trustees of the British Museum.

at Bolton, Lancashire, and except for four fragments,28 it is now known its final state only from Benjamin Smith’s engraving, published by Boydell in 1797.29 On the right side of the painting stand Prospero—modeled by Hayley, with the addition of a white beard—and Miranda, taken from studies of Emma Hart, in front of Prospero’s marine cell. The subject is Miranda’s fear of the storm and her pity for the men on the ship, and Prospero’s narrative of the background events. Even in the damaged Bolton fragment, the head of Miranda with her chestnut hair and sensuously parted lips (figure 9.3), is splendid, as can also be seen in oil sketches such as the one at Abbott Hall. On the left side of the picture, embodying Ariel’s “All but mariners / Plunged in the foaming brine and quit the vessel,”30 Romney depicts figures scrambling to escape drowning in the sea. The differentiation of the major characters of the play shows that Romney, despite views to the contrary, was a careful reader of Shakespeare.31 Prince Ferdinand leaps from the prow, exactly as in Ariel’s relation: “the king’s son, Ferdinand, / With hair up staring, (then like reeds, not hair) / Was the first man that leap’d.”32 The

210

Chapter 9

FIGURE 9.3. George Romney, William Hayley as Prospero and Emma Hamilton as Miranda in The Tempest, c. 1786–1790. © From the Collection of Bolton Library and Museum Services.

other main figures are differentiated according to what has been learned of them from Prospero’s discourse earlier in Act I, Scene 2. Alonso, King of Naples, ineffectually holds up his hands to the raging storm while on his right the white-haired wise counselor Gonzago attempts to comfort him. The usurper Antonio, his cloak blown around him by the wind, looks on in helpless horror. In the air above them are small flying figures similar to some of those in some works by William Blake (as, for example in plate 6 of Blake’s Europe).33 Considering the long labor Romney had expended on The Tempest, and his high hopes for it, he must have been especially disappointed by its adverse reception.34 Viewers were unaccustomed to seeing a painting in which the picture space was divided into two unequal parts not physically related to each other and not on the same scale. Even Hayley, although

George Romney’s Shipwrecks

211

he thought the painting was a work of “true genius,” conceded that “the hurly-burly in the ship, and the cell of the princely enchanter are unfortunately huddled together.”35 As Romney did not participate in the Royal Academy’s exhibitions and had not shown his work publicly since 1773, the public’s only chance to see his work since then was at the Shakespeare Gallery. With his well-known depressive tendencies, Romney might well have given up entirely on shipwreck subjects. Yet within a few years, we find him contemplating another, one based on a heroic story from the Cape of Good Hope. In place of the engraving after The Lapland Witch that he had intended for his Life of Romney, Hayley wrote: “I have substituted an engraving from a later sketch of Romney, in oil, representing a scene of heroic benevolence. I mean the horseman at the Cape of Good Hope rescuing from the sea the sufferers in a shipwreck.”36 A narrative framework for Romney’s Sketch for a Shipwreck was supposedly provided by a young friend of Hayley’s, the Rev. James Stanier Clarke.37 Clarke, who first came to Eartham in 1791,38 lingers in literary history chiefly as the Prince Regent’s librarian who unsuccessfully suggested to Jane Austen that she “delineate in some future Work” an ego-projection of himself: “a Clergyman—who should pass his time between the metropolis & the Country—who should be something like Beatties Minstrel.”39 However, he was well known in his own time for publications on nautical subjects, including an illustrated edition of William Falconer’s book-length poem, The Shipwreck,40 and a two-volume history of shipwrecks that begins with an account of himself “in the gallery of my late friend George Romney” watching Romney “delineating a most sublime scene of Shipwreck.”41 Clarke’s interest had been piqued by an account of heroic self-sacrifice at the Cape of Good Hope, published in English in 1795, by the Swedish botanist and travel writer Carl Peter Thunberg: An old man, of the name of Woltemad, by birth an European, who was at this time the keeper of the beasts in the menagerie near the garden, had a son in the citadel, who was a corporal, and among the first who had been ordered out to Paarden Island (Horse Island), where a guard was to be set for the preservation of the wrecked goods. This worthy veteran borrowed a horse, and rode out in the morning with a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread for his son’s breakfast. . . . This hoary sire had no sooner delivered to his son the refreshments he had brought him, and heard the lamentations of the distressed crew from the wreck, than he resolved to ride his horse, which was a good swimmer, to the wreck, with a view of saving some of them. He repeated this dangerous

212

Chapter 9 trip six times more, bringing each time two men alive on shore, and thus saved in all fourteen persons. The horse was by this time so much fatigued, that he did not think it prudent to venture out again; but the cries and intreaties [sic] of the poor wretches on the wreck increasing, he ventured to take one trip more, which proved so unfortunate, that he lost his own life, as on this occasion too many from the wreck rushed upon him at once, some of them catching hold of the horse’s tail, and others of the bridle, by which means the horse, both wearied out, and now too heavy laden, turned head over heels, and all were drowned together.42

However much Clarke and Hayley may have wished to take credit for Romney’s adopting the story of Woltemad, the evidence of the artist’s sketchbooks shows that he had conceived it long before.43 Some of the relevant drawings are in a sketchbook dated November 1783, once at the Royal Institute of Cornwall, in which a number of drawings contain the elements of ship, man on horseback, and victims, although not all contain all three. Someone has written on a blank sheet “Shipwreck at the Cape of Good Hope,” followed by page numbers.44 A separate drawing depicts a man on horseback in the foreground, victims swept by waves, and a female body being deposited on land by two bending figures.45 The theme of a man on horseback rescuing victims of a shipwreck is so unusual that it can hardly refer to anything but the story of Woltemad. How Romney came by it must be a matter of speculation, but it is important to note that the story of Woltemad was not obscure. He was celebrated as a hero by the Dutch East India Company, which named a ship after him, and a dramatic engraving of the subject entitled De Held Woltemade was made by Nicholaes Van Frankendaal and published in 1775.46 It is possible that Romney, who could of course read French, came across the story in Voyages autour du monde by François de Pagès, published in Paris in 1782.47 Here the hero is not named, and the horse survives the ordeal, but neither fact is germane to Romney’s rendering, and the basic facts are all there. When Romney took up the subject again in the 1790s, he made some sketches for it in at least two notebooks. Two drawings at the Yale Center for British Art (B1979.12.201 and B1979.12.202), both given the title “Wolgemuth [sic] Rescuing the Shipwrecked off the Cape of Good Hope” and the date 1793, show a man on horseback in the sea; in the second there are a sinking ship and drowning victims as well. Other drawings at the Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University (CAC #1974.194.1–25) dated May 1794 depict a recumbent female figure positioned much like the one in the foreground of the engraving being carried by a muscular, naked

George Romney’s Shipwrecks

213

man seen from the rear (3) and in a disaster scene (4). Romney’s impulse to return to the shipwreck subject may have been stimulated by a trip in 1794 to the Isle of Wight. From there he wrote to Hayley on July 17: We arrived here on Saturday evening; on Sunday we crossed the island to Steep Hill, the villa of Tollemache. The sudden appearance of the sea and rocky scenery struck me more forcibly than any thing of the kind, I had ever seen before. It was a bird’s eye view of the sea, with ships of war sailing below us. The blue sea (for that was the colour) broad and extensive, and marbled beautifully by several streams of wind. We descended about half a mile (which was very steep) to a little village amongst rocks, cascades, and large trees, where this villa is most ROMANTICALLY placed. If I were to dwell on the beauties, and the grandeur of the assemblage of objects, it would detain me an hour. In short, it is the thing that hit my taste. What must such a scene be in winter, and in a tempest? Good God! I think I see the waves rolling, and a ship striking upon the rocks, &c. &c.48

Clarke and Hayley may have given new impetus to Romney’s idea, and it may be that, as they were so eager to take credit for his conception, he allowed them to believe what they would. Perhaps this was a joke on Romney’s part, as in John Flaxman Modeling the Bust of William Hayley (New Haven, Yale Center for British Art), where a magisterial-looking Hayley poses in the foreground and the dimly seen artist’s face rises humorously above his easel to the rear.49 Romney evidently thought that at times his friend took himself too seriously. Clarke was co-editor of the semi-annual Naval Chronicle, and later wished to reproduce Romney’s painting in his journal. He commissioned Isaac Pocock, a young student of Romney who was thought to have acquired his master’s “bold style,”50 to draw a copy. In February 1799, young Pocock51 who was a son of a well-known and highly successful painter of naval scenes, Nicholas Pocock accompanied Romney on a monthlong visit to Hayley at Eartham, where Hayley’s mortally ill son, Thomas Alfonso Hayley, was already staying. During this visit, Romney made drawings of the two young artists, as well as his last self-portrait. Hayley addressed a typically effusive sonnet to Isaac Pocock, beginning “Ingenious son of an ingenious sire,” and urging him to “his [Romney’s] powers acquire!”52 Pocock did go on to obtain artistic recognition. He began exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1800, at the British Institution in 1808, and at the Liverpool Academy in 1812, the year of its founding. Much of his work was portraiture, but in 1807 the British Institution awarded him the

214

Chapter 9

prize of £100 for his history painting, The Insolent Visit of Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, to King Henry VIII.53 What seemed a promising artistic career was, however, cut short for an unusual reason: Pocock became an author of frequently performed comedies and musicals so well-liked that he eventually left off painting. Clarke assigned the engraving of the picture to Thomas Medland, a highly competent professional known for a variety of subjects, including the popular Battle of the Glorious First of June, 1794 (1796), after Robert Cleveley. Accompanied by Thunberg’s text, Medland’s engraving, an aquatint, was published in 1800 with the caption “From a Drawing by Mr. Isaac Pocock Jun. taken from the large Painting by George ROMNEY, Esq. in his Gallery at Hampstead.”54 This is a high contrast print, with the shading made up largely of deep black and stark white, and parts of the sea showing the reticulations characteristic of aquatint. The sky is completely uninked. A nude drowned woman in the foreground almost blends in with the dark water, while the other victims, lightly inked, stand out from it. This print strives not for verisimilitude, but for dramatic effect. William Blake’s engraving after Romney’s original (figure 9.4) was begun some two years after Romney’s death in 1802. At Hayley’s request, William Blake borrowed it from Romney’s frame-maker, William Saunders by June 22, 1804.55 In preparation, he drew a copy in Indian ink,56 from which he would have made a tracing for counterproofing.57 As he worked on the engraving, Blake kept Hayley informed of his progress, at times showing some apprehension as to whether Hayley would appreciate his work.58 He was not mistaken. Unknown to Blake, Hayley told Flaxman on June 18, 1804 that has it not been for the fact that Sketch for a Shipwreck had already been in Blake’s possession, he would have transferred the engraving commission to R. H. Cromek.59 Hayley also sent Blake a hint in the form of Clarke’s new edition of Falconer’s Shipwreck.60 This volume had five vignettes and three full-page plates engraved by James Fittler after paintings by Isaac Pocock’s father, Nicholas. Fittler (1758–1835), A.R.A., was especially well known for marine subjects, and was Marine Engraver to George III.61 He had therefore been a likely choice for engraving illustrations to Falconer’s Shipwreck, and Hayley may have been reminded of Romney’s painting by plate III, of which Clarke wrote: I am unable to notice this View without expressing my admiration at the force and accuracy of its composition: (Canto the Third, page 127): “Ah Heaven!—behold her crashing ribs divide! She loosens, parts, and spreads in ruin o’er the Tide.”

George Romney’s Shipwrecks

215

FIGURE 9.4. William Blake, Engraving, Sketch of a Shipwreck after Romney, 1809. © Trustees of the British Museum.

The Ship, having hauled to the wind with her head to the westward, is dismasted, and wrecked a little to the eastward of Cape Colonna.62

We do not have Hayley’s accompanying letter to Blake, but Blake got the message. “I thank you sincerely for Falconer, an admirable poet, and the admirable prints to it by Fittler,” he wrote. “Whether you intended it or not, they have given me some excellent hints in engraving; his manner of working is what I shall endeavour to adopt in many points” (May 4, 1804, Erdman, 748). Fittler’s engravings are indeed dramatic, especially in their highly contrasting darks and lights and their rendition of the motion of the sea. Robert N. Essick writes: “there are a few techniques in the plate [by Blake] after Romney, such as the execution of the waves and the general density of literary patterns, that parallel Fittler’s methods,” but Essick minimizes the extent and value of Fittler’s influence on Blake’s engraving.63 It appears that Blake told Hayley what Hayley wanted to hear without changing his own practice.

216

Chapter 9

Blake’s engraving was published in Hayley’s Life of George Romney with the date April 14, 1809, but it was in fact finished by the end of 1805. Although the first cataloguer of Blake’s engravings, A. G. B. Russell, found it “a laborious piece of work . . . in no way characteristic of his genius,”64 it is a highly competent copy engraving, disappointing only if one anticipates something of the quality of a plate of Blake’s Job. The details are more or less the same as those in Medland’s aquatint, but are more sharply delineated, and a sense of the raging sea is conveyed in a range of tonal variations. This engraving is now the chief selling point of Hayley’s Life of Romney; in 2009 a large-paper copy was offered for $1,650 by the San Francisco dealer John Windle.65 Romney’s original has not been traced. Blake returned the painting to Saunders by December 11, 1805,66 and in his Life of George Romney Hayley thanks John Romney for having given him Sketch for a Shipwreck as a present,67 so it was in his possession in 1809. That is the last known reference to its existence. It does not appear in Hayley’s will, nor in the codicils added to it, and it was not among the five Romney items in the Hayley sale at Christie’s on February 15, 1821.68 Unlike the artist, Hayley was a very careful keeper of pictures, and is not known ever to have lost one. Could he have given Romney’s oil sketch to a mutual friend or sold it privately some time after the artist’s death? Blake’s drawing was itself unlocated for a time. Among the items once owned by Catherine Blake that were sold at the auction of Frederick Tatham’s collection in 1862 was “Sketch of a Shipwreck in Indian ink” (Butlin, no. 350), one of a lot of eight bought for 13 shillings by “Ford,” presumably a dealer.69 After that, no mention of it is known for over half a century, unless it could be the drawing (location unknown) referred to by William Michael Rossetti as “The Wreck of the White Ship” in 1880.70 Then, in 1936, A. E. Popham, Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, received a letter, dated May 27, 1936, offering to give the Museum Blake’s Shipwreck drawing and two others. The writer was W. M. Rouse, Managing Director of The Autotype Company, 59 New Oxford Street. Rouse wrote: “Dear Sir, I duly received your letter of the 20th inst; in regard to the three drawings by William Blake which I left with you recently. In view of the fact that the original owner cannot be traced; my company will be pleased if your Museum will accept the drawings for addition to your collection.”71 In his report to the Trustees dated June 8, 1936, Popham noted “These drawings are not of great importance, but any authentic addition to the

George Romney’s Shipwrecks

217

collection of Blake is desirable.” Perhaps Blake’s Shipwreck had been considered for autotype reproduction at one time. A number of publishers issued autotypes of Blake designs, but none, as far as is known, of The Shipwreck. It would have been a good candidate, although that cannot be said of the other two items, the Dove (Butlin, no. 604) being too slight and the Gates of Paradise design (Butlin, no. 206) much too small. However, many items went unnamed in the catalog, among them, as stated, four of the seven in lot 178, to which the Shipwreck drawing belonged. We do not know what their subjects were, but whoever wanted the Sketch for a Shipwreck would have had to buy the whole lot. Medland’s engraving and Blake’s drawings and engraving remain the sources of our knowledge of Romney’s painting. One further aspect of Romney’s Sketch of a Shipwreck that would also have appealed to Blake should be mentioned. In the narrative Woltemad is characterized as a worthy veteran and a “hoary sire.” However, as depicted by Romney as featured in both engravings, he is a strong, well-muscled man in the prime of life. That he intended a youthful figure from the outset is shown by two drawings in a sketchbook dated May 1794, showing a naked muscular man carrying a naked woman, seen once from the front and once from the rear. (Romney chose the back view for his painting, as seen in the engravings.) Why did Romney alter this important detail of the narrative? Perhaps it would have been difficult to convincingly depict an old man in strenuous action. Another possibility, suggested by Victor Chan,72 is that the hero is a Christ-figure saving souls. Romney may have had in mind the athletic-looking, beardless Christ of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment, which he had studied during his time in Rome. (Romney’s interest in religious subjects is a subject ripe for discussion.73) Woltemad is a fisher of men, though he could not walk on water. Each of George Romney’s three shipwreck scenes presents the power and danger of the sea in a different aspect—the supernatural, the fictive, and the heroic—and each has a different imagined outcome. The ship pitching in the storm called up by the Lapland Witch will be destroyed by what Hayley called her “lust of mischief.” The figures in The Tempest who emerge from “the never-surfeited sea”74 will become part of a providential pattern of reconciliation. Most of the victims at the Cape of Good Hope will perish, but the emphasis is on a heroic, self-sacrificial act. The energies released in these pictures by their human, natural, and supernatural subjects are among those delightful regions of imagination that George Romney wished to explore.

218

Chapter 9

SUPPLEMENTARY NOTE ON WILLIAM HAYLEY’S WILL Hayley’s will distributed his works of art among friends, showing considerable thought given to the choice of recipients.75 Perhaps the most important picture among these, Romney’s great crayon portrait of William Cowper (National Portrait Gallery), was left to a relation of Cowper’s, the Rev. John Johnson, who was to edit Hayley’s Memoirs.76 The splendid painting of Emma Hamilton as Sensibility Hayley gave to his lawyer, Nathaniel Engleheart (son of yet another friend, the miniaturist George Engleheart). Another lawyer, Philip Courtenay, received The portrait of Madame Genlis & its companion Mrs Wallis.77 The Chichester surgeon William Guy, whose portrait Romney had painted, was bequeathed “a study of his Miranda in the Tempest,” which Hayley called “compassion in the form of Beauty”; “My portrait of Romney large as life” was left to the painter’s son, Rev. John Romney. Romney’s portrait of the poet Charlotte Smith was left to her oldest daughter with the proviso that after her death it pass to her “brave Officer Son.” Among paintings by Romney’s contemporaries, Wright of Derby’s “interesting picture called Tivoli or Chocolate villa” went to Hayley’s old schoolfellow John Sarcut. The portrait of the novelist Amelia Opie painted by her husband, John Opie, was bequeathed to Hayley’s dear friend “Mrs. Henrietta Poole of Lavant cousin of the said Amelia.”

NOTES 1. William Hayley, Life of George Romney (London: T. Payne, 1809), 92. If this was said between 1774 and 1788, Gainsborough should surely have made a third. 2. See David A. Cross, A Striking Likeness: The Life of George Romney (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000), 49–64; and Alex Kidson, George Romney 1734–1802 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 19–22. 3. Hayley, Life of George Romney, 123. See Jean H. Hagstrum, “Romney and Blake: Gifts of Grace and Terror,” Blake in His Time, eds. Robert N. Essick and Donald Pearce (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978), 201–12. 4. Hayley, Life of George Romney, 187. 5. From Greene’s diary, dated September 27. See Felicity Kendal, Thomas Greene: Romney’s Friend and Patron (Kendal: Abbot Hall, 1986), n.p. 6. More than twenty-five years later, Jacques-Louis David was to extend similar courtesies to Romney. 7. See T. S. R. Boase, “Shipwrecks in English Romantic Painting,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 22 (1959): 332–46.

George Romney’s Shipwrecks

219

8. William Hayley, An Essay on Painting: in Two Epistles to Mr. Romney, 3rd ed. (London: J. Dodsley, 1781), 45. 9. Hayley, Life of George Romney, 83. Meyer is the miniaturist Jeremiah Meyer. 10.To Cout Dewes, March 9, 1788, Letters of Anna Seward:Written Between the Years 1784 and 1807, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: Constable, 1811), 2: 65–66. The translations first appeared in the Spectator, 5 (1711): 296–97 and 6 (1712): 64–67. 11. Johannes Scheffer, The History of Lapland (London: R. Griffith, 1771), 27–28. This book was first published in Oxford in 1674. 12. John Milton, Complete Poems and Major Prose, ed. Merritt Y. Hughes (New York: Odyssey Press, 1957); Paradise Lost, II, 662–66. 13. Hayley, Life of George Romney, 74; Shakespeare, Macbeth, ed. Kenneth Muir (London: Methuen, 1962), I, iii, 1–17. Circa 1787 Romney painted his actor friend Charles Henderson as Macbeth in Macbeth and the Witches, having made numerous drawings of witches preparatory to this picture. Here the witches, shown in profile, are undeniably men, reflecting Macbeth’s words: “You should be women, / And yet your beards forbid me to interpret / That you are so” (I, iii, 46–48). 14. William Pressly, “Romney’s ‘Peculiar Powers for Historical and Ideal Painting,’” [the title quotation is from Flaxman in Hayley Life of Romney, 310], Those Delightful Regions of Imagination: Essays on George Romney, ed. Alex Kidson (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002), 103. 15. Mr Henderson in the Character of Macbeth (Garrick Club, London). See John Romney, Memoirs of the Life and Works of George Romney (London: Baldwin and Cradock, 1830), 166. 16. Emma Hart married Sir William Hamilton in London on September 1791, and posed for Romney again during the brief period that they were in London. See Arthur Bensley Chamberlain, George Romney (New York: Scribner’s, 1910), 162–66. 17. See John Boydell, A Catalogue of the Pictures, etc., in the Shakespeare Gallery, Pall-Mall (London: n.p., 1793), 198. The design was engraved by Benjamin Smith in 1798. 18.William Pressly, The Artist as Original Genius: Shakespeare’s “Fine Frenzy” in Late Eighteenth-Century British Art (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2007), 132. 19. Engraved by Francis Leggat, 1795. Shearer West points out that the play was not produced during Romney’s lifetime. “Romney’s Theatricality,” Those Delightful Regions of Imagination, 133. 20. Engraved by Edward Scriven, 1810. 21. See Hayley, Life of Romney, 127. 22. See Cross, A Striking Likeness, 144. 23. Romney, Memoirs of George Romney, 153. 24. Kidson, George Romney, 194–96, figs. 116 and 117. 25. Cumberland, “Discovery of a curious Greek fragment, describing the paintings of Apolles, Parrhasius, and Timanthes, taken from certain dramas of Aeschylus the tragic poet,” The Observer: Being a Collection of Moral, Familiar, and Literary Essays, no. 99, 3rd ed. (London: G. Dilly, 1791): 4: 60–65. According to John Romney, the

220

Chapter 9

version Cumberland saw was executed before the inauguration of the Shakespeare Gallery (Memoirs of George Romney, 216). Yet another Tempest sketch is described by John Romney (Memoirs of George Romney, 128): “Romney also had the idea for a Tempest painting ‘in the Correggioesque style,’” for which he made a “rapid and dashing sketch.” Prospero and Miranda occupied the left of the picture, with Prospero turned away from the viewer and regarding Ferdinand. “Miranda, with her breast and shoulders bare, hangs suppliant on her father’s garments in the most bewitching attitude.” Ferdinand, to the right, “is seminude, by which his fine muscular form is seen to advantage.” Ariel “and his subordinate agents” are seen “controlling the elements” in the clouds, while “a group of females, graceful as angels,” “dance upon the yellow sands.” For the sequence of Romney’s treatments of The Tempest we must await the publication of Alex Kidson’s catalogue raisonné. 26. For information about this painting, I am indebted to Stefania Frezzotti, Curator of the Nineteenth Century Collection, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna. 27. Kidson, George Romney, 196, reproduced 197. 28. For information about this painting I am indebted to Kirsty Archibald, Collections Access Officer (Museums), Bolton Museum and Libraries Service. 29. See David Alexander, “A Reluctant Communicator: George Romney and the Print Market,” in Those Delightful Regions of Imagination, 286. 30. The Tempest, eds. Virginia Mason Vaughan and Alden T. Vaughan (London: Bloomsbury, 2011), I, ii, 210, 186. 31. “‘Mr Romney (said Lord Thurlow one day to the artist) before you paint Shakespeare, I advise you to read him.’ This advice, though rude in its sound, was materially good, for Romney had a rapidity of fancy, too apt to indulge itself in desultory excursion.” Hayley, Life of Romney, 131. 32. The Tempest, I, ii, 212–14, 186. 33. Copy D, British Museum. Any influence in this particular instance would have gone from Romney to Blake, as Europe was published in 1794; however, similar fliers appear in the sky of Romney’s Titania, Puck, and the Changeling, 1793. As early as 1910 Arthur Chamberlain wrote (George Romney, 235): “It will appear from many of Blake’s letters that the admiration evinced by Romney was fully reciprocated, especially in the case of the various historical studies and cartoons which were undertaken by the latter at this period. These have even left a visible mark upon Blake’s style, and . . . it is sufficiently clear that the gain was not on Blake’s side alone.” The relations between Romney and Blake have since become of increasing scholarly interest. 34. See Cross, A Striking Likeness, 146. 35. Hayley, Life of Romney,141. 36. Hayley, Life of Romney, 84. 37. Hayley, Life of Romney, 84. 38. See Chris Viveash, “James Stanier Clarke and the Firebrand,” Jane Austen Journal 29 (2007): 240–44.

George Romney’s Shipwrecks

221

39. November 16, 1816, Jane Austen’s Letters, ed. Deirdre Le Faye, 3rd ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1995), 296. 40. William Falconer, The Shipwreck: A Poem (London: William Miller et. al., 1804). 41. James Stanier Clarke, Naufragia; or, Historical Memoirs of Shipwrecks and of the Providential Deliverance of Vessels, 2 vols. (London: J. Mawman: 1805–1806), 1: 9. Clarke also mentions that he commissioned Isaac Pocock’s drawing for the engraving. 42. Carl Peter Thunberg, Travels in Europe, Africa, and Asia, made between the years 1770 and 1779 (2nd ed.; London: W Richardson, 1795), 1: 273–74. The first edition was published by Rivington, also in 1795. An account of this episode by Anders Sparrman had previously been published in English: A Voyage to the Cape of Good Hope . . . from the year 1772, to 1776, 2 vols. (London: Rivington, 1789), 1: 107–8, but in the Naval Chronicle Clarke reprints Thunberg’s text and footnotes the source as “Thrunberg’s [sic] Travels.” The account by François de Pagès antedates both of these. 43. See Victor Chan, Pictorial Image and Social Reality: George Romney’s Late Drawings of John Howard Visiting Prisoners (Ph.D. diss., Stanford University 1983), 72–74. Chan dates one drawing as early as from the late 1770s, but this is on stylistic grounds alone; the earliest dated drawings are from 1783. 44. Truro Sketchbook C, November 1783: 32, 43, 54, 55. The present location of this sketchbook is unknown; photographs of it were examined in the Witt Library of the Courtauld Instite of Art, London. For her kind assistance there I would like to thank Dr. Karen Kyburz. For directing me to these photographs, and for very helpful information on these drawings, I am grateful to Alex Kidson. 45. Witt Library, Large volume Truro, 1/82/10/6 verso. 46. An image of van Frankendaal’s engraving is available on the website of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, at www.rijksmuseum.nl/en. 47. Pierre Marie François Vicomte de Pagés, Voyages autour du monde. et vers les deux poles . . ., 2 vols. (Paris: chez Moutard, 1782), 2: 29–31. See A. H. S., “Wolraad Woltemade and the Wreck of the ‘Jonge Thomas,’” Africana Notes and News 7 (1949–1950): 2–3. 48. Hayley, Life of Romney, 217. 49. On this picture, see Todd Jerome Magreta, “George Romney’s Late Group Portraits at Abbot Hall and Yale,” British Art Journal 8 (2007): 58–66. 50. Gentleman’s Magazine, NS 4 (1835): 157. 51. Information from “Isaac Pocock, Esq.,” Gentleman’s Magazine (1835), 157–58; David Nash Ford, “Isaac Pocock Junior (1782–1835),” Royal Berkshire History, at www.berkshirehistory.com/index.html; Pieter van der Merwe, “Pocock, Isaac Innes (1782–1835),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, at www.oxforddnb. com/view/article/22422. 52. Hayley, Life of Romney, 291–93. 53. Location unknown. This painting is sometimes referred to as The Murder of Thomas á Becket, a very different subject (as for example, by Chamberlain, George

222

Chapter 9

Romney, 277). The correct title is given in the British Institution catalogue for 1807, and the subject is made clear by a quotation from Hume’s History of England below it. See Algernon Graves, The British Institution, 1806–1877 (London: George Bell and A. Graves, 1908), 433. 54. Naval Chronicle, 3: 295. Pocock’s copy is untraced. 55. See The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 752–53. Hereafter cited as “Erdman.” 56. See Martin Butlin, The Paintings and Drawings of William Blake (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1981), no. 350. Cited in the text hereafter as “Butlin” followed by the applicable catalog number. 57. See Joseph Viscomi, William Blake and the Idea of the Book (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 9–10. 58. See my “William Blake, George Romney, and The Life of George Romney, Esq.,” Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly 45 (2011): 50–65. 59. Ibid., 60. 60. Falconer, The Shipwreck: A Poem. 61. See Martin Myrone, “Boydell, John, engraver (act. 1760–1804),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, at www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/65008. 62. Clarke, citing The Shipwreck in his Naufragia, 9. William (later Sir William) Gell was a travel author and artist. He published The Itinerary of Greece (London: T. Payne) in 1810. 63. Essick, William Blake’s Commercial Illustrations (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), 95. 64. A. G. B. Russell, The Engravings of William Blake (London: G. Richards, 1912), 101. 65. See Robert N. Essick, “Blake in the Marketplace, 2009,” Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly, 43 (2010): 126. 66. See Blake’s letter to Hayley of that date, Erdman, Complete Poetry and Prose, 767. 67. See Hayley, Life of Romney, 84–85 (with Blake’s engraving between the two pages). 68. A Catalogue of an Interesting Assemblage of Pictures, Drawings Prints . . . The Property of William Hayley, Esq. Deceased. The pictures are: Portrait of an officer, oval; and a small oval Study of a female with a hat and feathers by ditto; Two sketches heads of females; A study for the head of Prospero; The Sense of Hearing; Sketch of a Portrait of Miss Seward. See The Getty Provenance Index, at http://piprod.getty.edu/ starweb/pi/servlet.starweb. The Lugt number of the catalogue is 9959. A copy is in the British Museum. 69. Catalogue of A Valuable Collection of Engravings, Drawings, and Pictures, chiefly from the cabinet of an Amateur . . . Original Drawings and Sketches by W. Blake (London: Sotheby & Wilkinson, 1862). The Blake items are lots 158–202, many of them com-

George Romney’s Shipwrecks

223

prising more than a single item. Lot 178 also includes “Portrait of [Thomas Alfonso] Hayley the sculptor” (Butlin, no. 345) and “Portrait of Romney” (Butlin, no. 349), very likely the lost drawing Blake made for his engraving. I thank Robert N. Essick for a photocopy of a marked catalogue. 70. See Butlin, no. 350. 71. Information from the British Museum files, provided by Kim Sloan, Curator of British Drawings and Watercolours before 1880. I am very grateful to Dr. Sloan for her kind assistance. 72. Chan, Pictorial Image and Social Reality Image, 80. 73. For example, in 1776 he was engaged in studies for a Mater Dolorosa as an altarpiece for King’s College Chapel, and one of his last projects was The Temptation of Christ (location unknown), a painting that would have been even larger than The Tempest (John Romney, Memoirs of George Romney, 136 and 244–45). The commission for the altarpiece did not materialize. 74. Ariel’s words, The Tempest, III, iii, 51, 260. 75. West Sussex Record Office, the Marriage Settlement of William Hayley of Felpham, Sussex, ACC/0564/125, March 22, 1809[?] See also Morchard Bishop, Blake’s Hayley: The Life, Works, and Friendships of William Hayley (London: Gollancz, 1951), 344–45. 76. Memoirs of the Life and Writings of William Hayley, ed. John Johnson (London: H. Colburn and Co., 1823). 77. This wording is curious. Romney painted at least two portraits of Mme. de Genlis, who had befriended Hayley and Romney in Paris, and whom Romney later escorted to the theater in London. One of these is in the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. He also painted two portraits of the actress Miss Wallis as Mirth and Melancholy (National Trust, Petworth) in 1788.

10 “MY DISTRESSFUL PILGRIMAGE” Byron’s Marginalia to Foscolo’s Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis J ONA T H A N G RO SS

I see that within a few months I shall have completed my distressful pilgrimage. But you few sublime intellects, solitary and persecuted, who tremble at the ancient wrongs of our homeland, if heaven prevents you from fighting force with force why do you not at least tell posterity of our misfortune? . . . Write. —Ugo Foscolo, Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis

L

ord Byron wrote marginalia in books such as English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, Leigh Hunt’s Story of Rimini, Isaac Disraeli’s Literary Character, and Madame de Staël’s Corinne. His marginalia can be classified as editorial, confrontational, and self-promoting. In his comments on Leigh Hunt’s The Story of Rimini, for example, he suggests specific improvements to Hunt’s diction. In the fifth edition of English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, however, he confronts Coleridge as an ass of “the long-eared kind.”1 Elsewhere, he used marginalia to show his cosmopolitanism. Sometimes he wrote marginalia, in Madame de Staël’s Corinne and Ugo Foscolo’s Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis, for example, to achieve erotic self-understanding. This essay argues that the spelling in Byron’s marginalia to Foscolo should not be normalized

225

226

Chapter 10

because it provides insight into his thought. I conclude by suggesting that marginalia is an important, if overlooked, theme in Foscolo’s novel. H. J. Jackson, Alex Watson, William H. Sherman, and Andrew Piper have shown how marginalia can illuminate texts from the Renaissance to romanticism.2 Following Gérard Genette’s lead in Palimpsests, I am interested in the “transtextual relationships” that govern Byron’s marginalia in Foscolo’s only published novel. According to Gerard Genette, there are five: Intertextuality: a relationship of co-presence between two texts, such as allusion, quotation, borrowing, plagiarism; Paratext: subtitle, intertitles; prefaces, forewards, marginal notes; epigraphs, book covers, dustjackets; Metatextuality: commentary that unites a given text to another, of which it speaks, without necessarily citing it (e.g., Phenomenology of Mind evokes Diderot’s Rameau’s Nephew); Hyptertextuality: any relationship uniting a former text, hypotext, with a latter one, hypertexts, which is not commentary (the Aeneid and Ulysses are two hypertexts of the hypotext, The Odyssey); Architextuality: involving the transcendence of genre, i.e. generic expectations, that are not stated.3

A reader who attends to these subcategories of transtextualism can gain insight into how Byron intended his poetry to be read. Byron’s prefaces and footnotes are only the most obvious example. Marginalia, scant though it is, offers additional insights into Byron’s poetry, thought, and ideas.4 Yet recent critics often ignore the continental tradition when editing Byron’s marginalia.5 Marginalia is not a quaint obsession of Jacopo’s or his editors, however, but a central theme in Foscolo’s novel. Jacopo’s failure at self-expression exposes Jacopo’s fragmented mind, which in turn reflects Italy’s political fragmentation. As Stuart Curran puts it, Foscolo’s “one novel’s essential greatness lies in his understanding of how a fractured nation leads inevitably to a fractured consciousness.”6 This fractured consciousness, while evident in Rousseau’s Julie, où la nouvelle Héloïse (1761) and Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774), is politically inflected in Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis. Unlike Rousseau and Goethe’s novels, Jacopo’s life and reading are intimately bound up in the historical moment of 1797 that he announces in the novel’s first letter. Only by fusing post-structuralist understandings of intertextualty with more biographical and historical approaches can one do justice to Foscolo’s complex work and Byron’s commentary.

“My distressful pilgrimage”

227

Byron and Foscolo’s very geographical movements remind us of why empirical and continental ways of reading must be embraced. Foscolo arrived in England the same year Byron departed. “Their tracks crossed in Switzerland in 1816, but they did not meet then or at any other time,” as E.R. Vincent explains.7 “Much of Foscolo’s story was known to a select circle in London when the poet arrived there in September 1816,” E. R. Vincent observes. “Holland House opened wide its hospitable doors to welcome him and he was soon something of a spoiled darling in Whig society. Moore, Rogers, and Campbell . . . were delighted with him, but Crabbe was alarmed, Wordsworth horrified and Scott disgusted. He astonished the scholarly gentlemen in whose houses he dined and supped by his easy knowledge of Greek, Latin and Italian authors. He could quote from an enormous range of books in a way most gratifying in an age that loved classical quotation.”8 Foscolo’s linguistic skills soon led to trouble, however. Foscolo borrowed, then lost, three letters of Petrarch from Lord Holland’s library, later retrieving them in his own copy of Homer’s Iliad. This incident might stand as an apt metaphor for Foscolo’s literary concerns while he was in London and the misunderstandings his presence helped create.9 Foscolo wished to celebrate the Italian tradition of literature that Byron alluded to in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, IV, even as he remained faithful to his Greek origins in Zante by translating Homer’s Iliad with meticulous care over a twenty-year period. Byron and Foscolo’s lives resembled each other. One left England to die in Greece; the other left Greece to die in England. In fact, Hobhouse saw Foscolo as a substitute Byron, while Foscolo flirted with Caroline Lamb and other women with whom Byron had been intimate. Not only did Foscolo keep Hobhouse company in Byron’s absence, but his moody disposition and unpredictable temper resembled Byron’s, as the circle at Holland House no doubt remarked. Soon Hobhouse’s friendship with Foscolo ripened, and Hobhouse hired Foscolo to assist with Historical Illustrations of the Fourth Canto of Childe Harold: Containing Dissertations on the Ruins of Rome; and an Essay on Italian Literature (1818). Foscolo insisted that he remain anonymous and so readers of the notes to Byron’s poem assumed Hobhouse was the author. Byron read Ugo Foscolo’s novel, Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis, on two occasions: once in 1813, and then again in Ravenna, on July 14, 1820.10 Both times Byron was in the midst of romantic liaisons. In 1812–1813, he found himself moving from one aristocratic woman to another: Caroline Lamb, Lady Oxford, Augusta Leigh, and Lady Frances Webster. In 1819, he fell in love with Teresa Guiccioli. Though separated by an interval of seven years,

228

Chapter 10

these two moments in Byron’s life were also marked by political activity. In 1813, he gave parliamentary speeches on frame-breaking and Catholic Emancipation. In 1820, he supported the Italian Carbonari. In April 1819, Byron met Teresa Guiccioli, who was married to Count Alessandro Guiccioli. Count Guiccioli befriended Byron, who returned the favor by cuckolding him in his own home. Byron and Count Guiccioli attended operas together and at some points it appeared as if the Count was using Byron’s affections for his wife to extort money from the poet. The sordid nature of this relationship, which was also Byron’s first full-fledged love affair, left him in a state not unlike that of Jacopo Ortis, who feels unmanned by his inability to fully claim Teresa. A brief survey of Byron’s marginalia to Teresa Guiccioli’s copy of Ugo Foscolo’s Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis reveals how closely Byron identified with Foscolo’s literary creation. “Most men bewail not having attained the object of their desires,” Byron wrote in the margins of Foscolo’s book. “I had oftener to deplore the obtaining mine, for I cannot love moderately, nor quiet my heart with mere fruition. The letters of this Italian Werther are very interesting, at least I think so, but my present feelings hardly render me a competent judge.”11 Byron calls Jacopo an “Italian Werther,” yet critics who cite this piquant phrase leave out his important qualification: “my present feelings hardly render me a competent judge.” Byron questions the link between Foscolo and Goethe’s epistolary novels even as he asserts it, for feelings compromise his judgment. The effort to get a complete picture of Byron’s marginalia is often frustrated by editorial procedures that opt for a corrected text. For instance, “fruiction” appears as “fruition” in the passage cited above (“nor quiet my heart with mere fruition”), even though that is not what Byron wrote. Byron’s nonsense word (“fruiction”) is a portmanteau, as suggestive as any passage from Joyce: to bring something to “fruition,” as Byron has done with Teresa, is the opposite of the “friction” that characterizes Jacopo’s thwarted romance, the subject of Byron’s marginalia. Byron captures both words in “fruiction,” for Byron and Foscolo share a lover who goes by the same name (Teresa) in this fruitful fiction: fruition/fruiction.12 The crossed-out version should appear as Byron wrote it, especially in any book that purports to describe Byron’s complete miscellaneous prose. To bury Byron’s emendations to his marginalia in a lengthy endnote privileges a singular interpretation of what he wrote, “correcting” the grammar of a man who repeatedly admitted that he cared little for grammar, but whose creative intelligence is everywhere alive in the precise, often inventive and metaphorical, diction he uses to express his ideas.13 Nicholson understands

“My distressful pilgrimage”

229

how Byron’s creative orthography illuminates his creative intelligence, noting Byron’s expressive use of commas and hyphens.14 The same editorial principle, I would argue, should also apply to Byron’s marginalia, where he employs a creative use of homonyms. Clearly, Nicholson’s choices were limited. Publishing houses play as large a role as editors do in determining the final form in which an author’s work will appear. Literary theory plays very little role in how critical texts are prepared and presented. The marginalia Byron writes in Jacopo Ortis, for example, recalls Derrida’s Glas, which prints Derrida’s commentary on works by Hegel and Genet side by side. Difficult as Derrida’s study is, it helpfully calls into question marginality and centrality. Perhaps we understand a writer best when he or she resides in the margins of another author. In his death penalty seminars, for example, Derrida’s marginal glosses on Rousseau reveal more than the text itself.15 For this reason, it is worth investigating, in greater detail, Byron’s marginalia to Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis to find signs of what Freud called “parapraxis,” or slippages of meaning.16 Byron’s marginalia to Jacopo Ortis welcomes speculation about such slippages because the book no longer exists. As Andrew Nicholson explains: Teresa Guiccioli, B’s mistress, informs us that both these notes were written by B one day at Ravenna on the opening page of Foscolo’s Jacopo Ortis. She is no more specific than this as to their dating, nor does she say whether the volume (which is apparently no longer extant) was her own. However, in introducing the second note here, she says that B had prefaced it by remarking the curious coincidence by which the work had come a second time to his notice when, just as on the former occasion, he was feeling depressed. . . . Precisely when B first read the book is uncertain; his first reference to it appears to be in his letter to Murray of 6 Apr. 1819 (BLJ vi. 105). But in the light of his marginalia and letter to Teresa written in her copy of Madame de Stael’s Corinne on 23 Aug. 1819, it seems most likely that the volume belonged to her and that B wrote these notes in it during his first visit to Ravenna (10 June–9 Aug. 1819), when he was indeed in a very melancholy state of mind about Teresa’s health and their liaison.17

Nicholson’s notes to Byron’s marginalia are longer than Byron’s. Even his transcription of Byron’s marginalia is a misrepresentation of Teresa’s. With respect to the text, I have corrected what I am certain are either three misreadings by Teresa of B’s script, or three typographical errors. In the first note, “animum” reads “animam” in her text, and in the second

230

Chapter 10 (given in B’s original English on p. 87n.), “fruition” reads “fruiction” and “Most” “Must”. (I have let “Coelum” stand, though its usual orthography is “Caelum”.) The Latin tag is from Horace, Epistles I. xi, 27: “Caelum, non animum, mutant, qui trans mare currunt” (“Those who cross the sea change their skies but not their souls”).

What appears printed as Byron’s “complete” miscellaneous prose, then, is not complete, though it might well be described as miscellaneous. Though Nicholson’s edition appeared in 1988, he did not incorporate Donald Reiman and Doucet Fischer’s findings in Shelley and His Circle (1986).18 A Shelley scholar, Reiman is hard on Byron, assuming that he “fails” (8: 1119) to appreciate Italian literary traditions, or “fails to react to this [the political] side of Jacopo Ortis” (8: 1120). Nevertheless, Reiman offers a more holistic view of marginalia than Nicholson was permitted to do, helpfully including not only what Byron wrote (or was reputed by Teresa to have written), but also what he marked. Byron’s markings in Foscolo’s book are too numerous to repeat here, but I include several to show their ambiguity. One passage Byron marked, for example, concerns a passage in which Jacopo speculates about “authoritarian hierarchical pressures on the faculty”19 at the University of Padua, where Foscolo briefly studied in the 1790s and taught in 1809. Reiman notes that Byron saw examples of such corruption at the University of Cambridge. There is no clear justification for Reiman’s implicit linking of Byron’s “Thoughts Suggested By a College Examination” (Reiman does not mention this poem specifically) with Byron’s decision to mark up Foscolo’s text in Italy a decade later, though Byron’s poetic corpus at least makes such an inference plausible. It is when Reiman speculates further about marginalia that no longer appears in Teresa’s book that we realize how shaky the ground is that governs editors’ remarks on marginalia: On page 59, where someone has presumably cut away a note that Byron had written at the foot of the page, Byron may have been responding to the sentiments in this letter (dated April 17) in which Jacopo reports his conversation with a couple who have the false manners and values of the corrupt society. Here Ortis’ idealism may have been too strong for Byron, or some negative reaction to Italian mores may well have caused Byron himself or Teresa Guiccioli to excise this particular note.20

Like an historian gathering fragments of a broken urn, Reiman pieces together an essential Byron from which he predicts future responses: “may have been responding”; “may have been too strong” (emphasis added).

“My distressful pilgrimage”

231

Reiman make clear that he is speculating. The truth is that we do not know: Byron’s marginalia no longer exists. If we had the book, we might determine how quickly and with what emphasis Byron marked a passage. Yet even orthographical analysis would be indeterminate. To defend Foscolo from Byron’s caustic marginalia in Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis, Reiman notes how important the Italian literary tradition was to Italian writers who had no homeland. But this is an imaginary debate. Byron had no trouble understanding how writers contribute to national identity, as he showed in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto IV. At other points, Reiman separates Byron’s political and erotic life: That Byron, usually so sensitive to political themes and their implications, fails to react to this side of Jacopo Ortis in July 1820 may be taken as a sign of how consumed he was then by his relationship with Teresa Guiccioli and the crisis between Teresa and Count Guiccioli. Byron doubtless agreed with Foscolo that Italy should be united and free, and he certainly hoped that England would be more progressively governed. But in July 1820, he was even more concerned about his growing involvement with Teresa Guiccioli. Once this crisis was resolved, Byron himself began to take an active part in the anti-government associations and activities supported by Teresa’s father, Count Ruggero Gamba, and Count Pietro Gamba, her brother.21

Somewhat puritanically (though with different conclusions than Shelley), Reiman views Byron’s “growing involvement with Teresa Guiccioli” as a “crisis.” For Iris Origo and other commentators, including Byron himself, Byron’s relationship with Teresa Guiccioli was the central love affair of his life. Reiman also assumes that failure to mark a text indicates disinterest (“fails to react to this side of Jacopo Ortis in July 1820”), but Byron might simply have passed over Foscolo’s political themes because he endorsed them. Marginal commentary was unnecessary. The editor who interprets scribblings, even the absence of scribbling, risks essentializing the author.22 Byron’s tone can be even more difficult to discern than his authorial silences. Peter Cochran argues that Byron’s notes to Foscolo’s novel “are satirical at the expense of Ortis’s romantic agony.”23 Determined to produce a “satirical” Byron, Cochran speculates that Teresa forged Byron’s marginalia in her copy of Staël’s Corinne.24 “The marginalia [in Staël’s Corinne]—brief and, for B., uncharacteristically emotive, perhaps ironic—are in Book XXVIII, Chapter V only. It is possible that they are in fact by T.G.”25 Teresa presented Byron as consistently devoted, and she altered his letters, published in La Vie de Lord Byron, to preserve her reputation for posterity as a married

232

Chapter 10

woman conducting an adulterous affair. Reading Byron’s marginalia in any book Teresa owned, Cochran reminds us, raises the further question of whether such writing has been created or tampered with by the owner. Peter Cochran’s comments (“uncharacteristically emotive, perhaps ironic”) raise interesting questions about how an editor should interpret marginalia. Can Byron’s personality be characterized as cynical, misogynist, or unromantic when “mobility” was his self-declared trait? He did, for example, write many letters to Teresa in Italian that appear “uncharacteristic” of the author of Don Juan. An old-fashioned humanist approach to Byron, one that eschews theory in favor of an essential self, falls short in accounting for such contradictions. Editors misleadingly work backwards from what Byron wrote elsewhere to interpret the meaning of his marginalia in Foscolo’s novel, the reporting of which depends upon Teresa. Like the example of fruition/fruiction noted earlier, editors of Byron, whether Nicholson, Reiman, or Cochran, alter Byron’s marginalia to assert their own theories of Byron’s personality, an inevitable aspect of editing. On the other hand, historical evidence provides editors with authority to interpret marginalia. Thus Andrew Nicholson concludes that Byron’s lines in Foscolo’s novel were most likely written when he visited Annabella in Ravenna (June 10 to August 9, 1819), when he was in a melancholy state about Teresa’s health and their liaison.26 Nicholson is correct and exemplary in not judging Teresa, or dismissing her romance with Byron. That is, he avoids misogyny, respects Teresa’s subjectivity, and treats her in a manner consistent with the love she inspired in one of England’s most talented poets. I have focused on Byron’s remarks about Jacopo’s affair with Teresa. Now it is time to consider Byron’s second marginal note to Foscolo’s novel, also reported by Teresa in a book that no longer exists. It comes from Horace’s Epistles (1.11.27).27 Byron’s invocation of Horace to illuminate Foscolo helps explain why Byron’s two readings of Jacopo Ortis were so consistent: “Those who cross the sea change their skies but not their souls,” Byron wrote. He quotes Horace to underscore that he is the same man in England that he was in Italy, though his two readings of Foscolo are separated by seven years. If Byron’s sententious quoting of Horace reflects a certain passing mood, miraculously revived on two separate occasions by the identical book (Foscolo’s The Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis), then the quotation perfectly summarizes Horace’s own attitude: one’s soul remains the same. In 1813, as in 1820, “Horace’s discouragement of travel in Epistles 1.11 would appear to reflect a common Roman attitude,” observes Rachel I. Skalitzky.28 Yet Byron’s reading of Foscolo was not serendipitous, for the Quarterly Review, possibly William Stewart Rose, attacked Il Ultime Lettere

“My distressful pilgrimage”

233

di Jacopo Foscolo in its December 1812 edition.29 Byron may have inherited Rose’s sneering attitude towards the talented Italian writer, which becomes an inter-text for Byron’s marginalia to Foscolo. Though he knew his own mind, Byron’s literary judgment, perhaps even his soul, could be changed by a book review. His very marginalia is a mask—borrowed, assumed, not quite his own. In Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Byron quoted from the French writer Louis-Charles Fougeret de Monbron to set the stage for Harold’s cynical prognostications. So important was Monbron’s cosmopolitan vision to Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage that Byron never removed it, though he cut stanzas from the poem dedicated to William Beckford, John Wingfield, and Charles Skinner Matthews before he published the poem, and added an epigraph, “To Ianthe.” In the fourth edition of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Byron retained Monbron’s quotation as an epigraph, with heady allusions to the world as a book in which one writes one’s own marginalia: L’univers est une espèce de livre, dont on n’a lu que la première page quand on n’a vu que son pays. J’en ai feuilleté un assez grand nombre, que j’ai trouvé également mauvaises. Cet examen ne m’a point été infructueux. Je haïssais ma patrie. Toutes les impertinences des peuples divers parmi lesquels j’ai vécu, m’ont réconcilié avec elle. Quand je n’aurais tiré d’autre bénéfice de mes voyages que celui-là, je n’en regretterais ni les frais ni les fatigues.30

In choosing to begin his poem with this passage, Byron ventriloquizes his voice, rendering Harold’s renunciation of his country a double figure. “I hate my country,” the French narrator states, visiting Great Britain to obtain a new perspective. By quoting this passage, however, Byron suggests that he shares Monbron’s belief that travel reconciles oneself to one’s country.31 For Byron, who retains this epigraph in every edition of his poem, some paratexts are clearly more important than others. How are we to reconcile Byron’s endorsement of Monbron’s cosmopolitanism with his quotation of Horace in his marginalia to Foscolo? The differences might be smoothed away by noting that both Monbron and Horace are skeptical about the true benefits of travel.32 Once again, we are faced with the question of a fixed self, composing marginalia over a gap of seven years. Byron also updated paratexts to the first two cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage for serialized publication, when it was included with Cantos III and IV, reminding readers of his flirtation with Lady Oxford’s daughter (“To Ianthe”) or his separation from Annabella and his child (3:1–6). Byron’s

234

Chapter 10

protean self was clear to his readers. These paratexts achieved emotional centrality, even as they present Byron as protean: his remarks made in letters, paratexts, and marginalia depend upon the immediate circumstances that attend his revisions and emendations to his own work. My argument now moves from Byron’s marginalia, as interpreted by his editors, to Foscolo’s novel. Franco Ferrucci and Giovanni Amoretti explored psychological approaches to Foscolo’s novel in detail in the 1970s.33 “We might choose to see Foscolo’s early sonnets and epistolary novel as two stages in his psychosexual development,” Margaret Brose notes more recently, “as a move from an attempt to return to a pre-oedipal fusion with the mother by means of self-annihilation (the sonnets), to the attempt to find and destroy the symbolic father in the epistolary novel Le ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis although the eponymous hero eventually commits suicide, the novel focuses primarily on his ambivalent relations and competition with his literary, political, and psychological father-figures.”34 I take a more historical approach, arguing that Jacopo’s psychic disintegration mirrors Italy’s failure to honor its literary forefathers. Foscolo further underscores how this literary failure, which stems from a lack of national self-respect, led to Italy’s disastrous encounter with Napoleon. Foscolo in England (1816–1827) was like Byron in Italy (1816–1823), a man without a language or a marriage. Though written between 1798 and 1802, Foscolo’s novel is proleptic of his concerns as an exile. The hero alludes continually to books, writing, and marginalia in ways that underscore his own status as lover and reader—sometimes with a sense of irony and self-parody. Many times I left my Linnaeus forgotten on a seat in the garden or under some trees. Now I have lost it. Yesterday Michele brought me two leaves of the book all wet with dew, and this morning he informed me that the remainder had been badly soiled by the gardener’s dog.35

While promising to provide an objective view of nature through classification (Goethe mentions Linnaeus in his 1786–1788 Italian Journey),36 Linnaeus’s work was often used in England as an allegory for sexual relations.37 By alluding to Linnaeus’s book, urinated on by a dog, Jacopo finds an objective correlative for Odoardo’s desecration of Teresa. Jacopo’s romantic despair leads him to lose interest in books, his library, and the patrilineal succession he hoped to achieve as an Italian writer in the Petrarchan tradition:

“My distressful pilgrimage”

235

Now that God has provided a buyer, sell all my books, body and soul. What do I need with more than four thousand volumes which I cannot and do not wish to read? Keep those few which you find have marginal annotations in my hand. Oh, I used to spend all my time and money on books! Now that madness has left me, but only to give place to another. Let my mother have the proceeds. It seems the quickest way to reimburse her for all my expenses—but how to recompense her? Truly, I would give her an entire treasure.38

Foscolo puns on “treasure,” noting how his hero overlooks the cultural treasure to which he had once hoped to contribute: “keep which you find have marginal annotations in my hand,” he adds, before telling Lorenzo to sell his entire library. The mother figure is repressed, but rears her head at this crucial moment, when Jacopo contemplates selling his library, and any hopes he might have had for literary reputation and immortality. To fully understand Jacopo’s thoughts, one must return to Jacopo’s marginalia in Plutarch. Jacopo invokes Plutarch to return Italians to their pagan origins, though he quickly adds that “if they were stripped of their historical splendor and of our reverence for antiquity, there would not be much to boast about concerning the ancients, or the moderns, or myself. Ah, the human race!” (8–9). The country in which Jacopo lives does not even honor its own language, nor its native authors like Benvenuto Cellini. Jacopo laments that utilitarianism and opportunism have replaced Plutarch’s heroic ideal. Teresa’s fiancée exemplifies this crass materialism, for he boasts about covers, titles, and bindings of books he owns without having read the books themselves. Jacopo, by contrast, is a sensitive artist who sees Teresa as a modern Sappho, a woman who can return him to his native Italian culture by revealing to him the Greek sources from which it sprang: “I sat near to her with my head resting on the trunk, reciting Sappho’s odes” (56), he notes. What Karl Kroeber calls Jacopo’s spiritual purity, and Margaret Brose sees as Foscolo’s return to a repressed matrilinear tradition, is wonderfully evoked in the figure of Sappho, who, like Lauretta, represents this repressed female, procreative voice.39 Part of the self-denial Kroeber notes, Jacopo’s decision to sell his library is a self-inflicted sparagmos that anticipates his suicide. If only I could grasp all the thoughts that run through my imagination! I am noting them down on the back of the cover and in the margins of my Plutarch, but no sooner are they written, than they slip out of my mind, and when I go looking for them on the page, I find abortive no-

236

Chapter 10 tions—meagre, disconnected, and frigid. What a lame expedient, to note thoughts down instead of leaving them to mature in the mind! Yet this is how books are written when they are a patchwork of other books. And I too, quite unintentionally, have found myself making a patchwork.40

By foregrounding his distracted state while reading, Jacopo underscores that marginalia does not reflect the full range of a reader’s response, only a momentary emotional crisis, as Byron suggested about his 1813 and 1820 marginalia to Foscolo’s novel. Situated in a specific historical moment, Jacopo is as incapable of creativity as he is of political action. Jacopo’s difficulty writing the “story of Lauretta,” for example, mirrors Jacopo’s difficulty telling his own. In a little English book I have found a disastrous tale, and at every word I felt I was reading about the misfortunes of poor Lauretta. The sun always and everywhere shines on the same woes! Now, so as not to seem idle, I have tried to write down what happened to Lauretta. By translating the tale exactly, and taking very little away from it, changing it very little, and adding very little to it of my own, I would have told the truth. Instead, my tale is nothing but fiction. (46)

For Jacopo, asserting his authority compromises his translation. Later, Lorenzo tries to refashion Lauretta’s story and confronts similar problems (126). Only when Jacopo accidentally murders a man while riding on horseback does he free himself from the patriarchal trap that stymies his growth as a writer; unfortunately, the guilt from this involuntary manslaughter leads him to kill himself. By highlighting Jacopo’s involuntary homicide, Foscolo cleverly calls into question the cause of Jacopo’s death: was it a forestalled marriage to Teresa, Napoleon’s metaphoric rape of Italy, or the inadvertent death of another man? Before the tragic death of a stranger occurs, Jacopo tries to discern the future of Italy by annotating Plutarch. “But will the French—they who have made the divine name of human liberty abominable—act like Timoleon on our behalf?” he asks while reading Plutarch’s Lives. Napoleon’s marginalia to the Treaty of Campoformio particularly enrages Jacopo, for he sees Napoleon’s hand reach beyond the page’s boundary. “I saw with my own eyes a democratic constitution annotated by the Young Hero, annotated in his hand,” Jacopo notes, mocking Napoleon by capitalizing his name (“the Young Hero”), and reminding us that Jacopo’s epistolary novel begins on October 11, 1797, the year of Napoleon’s usurpation (35). Napoleon’s marginalia determines Italy’s future while Jacopo’s annotations in Plutarch underscore

“My distressful pilgrimage”

237

Jacopo’s impotence. If Napoleon’s marginalia functions as a recognition scene for Jacopo, Byron’s marginalia could produce similar effects. In one fold-out facsimile of Byron’s poem, “D—,” Andrew Piper explains, “The author’s handwriting brought the reader through the screen of the printed page and into the heart and mind of the author himself.”41 Where Jacopo is passive, however, Byron portrays himself as masterly, like Napoleon, commanding and writing, writing by commanding. Byron’s handwriting exerts its peculiar power, in part, because of how and where it is printed on the page. Marginalia becomes increasingly important in the second half of Foscolo’s novel as Lorenzo, the narrator/editor, struggles to “read” Jacopo’s life through books and portraits. Yet Jacopo’s letters and marginalia can barely be deciphered, a reflection of his distracted mind. “Many days later in the Bible were found, full of deletions and almost illegible, translations of some verses of the book of Job, of the second chapter of Ecclesiastes, and of the whole of the book of Ezekiel.”42 To recover Jacopo’s reading is to come closer to his thoughts, which Lorenzo traces until his friend’s suicide. At several points, Jacopo picks up books where others left off. So Odoardo reads Alfieri’s Saul, and Jacopo “replies” to Odoardo by reciting passages from Sofonisba (4.4) and Petrarch’s Trionfo della Morte (2: 189–90).43 Jacopo quotes Lucan on Italy’s “legalized crime” (1: 2). Lorenzo notes that Jacopo’s “Plutarch [is] crammed with notes, with various sheets inserted containing discourses, and one very long discourse on the death of Nicias, and a Tacitus, with many extracts—including the whole second book of the Annals, and a large part of the second book of the Histories—translated by him with great care, and patiently recopied in the margins in tiny letters” (126–27). Jacopo assiduously reads and translates others, but leaves his own work in “torn sheets which he had thrown under his table as though they were of no account,” a reflection of his self-hatred. He writes out a long passage in the flyleaf of his copy of The Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius, under the date March 3, 1794, which he then recopies at the end of his Tacitus for the date of January 1, 1797; near this is the date of March 20, 1799, five days before his death (126–27). Lorenzo notes that a closed Bible was on his desk, with a watch, and “a few cancelled lines” where “one could just make out the word: expiation. Then, lower down: of eternal weeping. On a further sheet only his mother’s address could be read, as if he had regretted the first letter and began another which he had not had the heart to continue” (140). Jacopo’s life must be interpreted through his own erasures. His half-completed marginalia and commentary on the works of others shows how his intellect has been prostituted by Napoleon’s betrayal of Venice. Teresa sketches a view of Jacopo inscribed with a line from Dante: “He looks for freedom, such a precious thing,” to which Jacopo affixes the following: “As they know who give up their lives for it.”

238

Chapter 10

Teresa’s few spoken words (actually borrowed from Dante) culminate in a dramatic act. She “frames” Jacopo’s relationship with her by affixing her hair in the grooves of a frame of his portrait. Jacopo puts a lock of his own with it, knotting the two together with a black ribbon (132). In this way, Teresa inhabits the margins of Jacopo’s portrait and of Foscolo’s portrait of Italy for which it acts as a metonymy. Jacopo’s portrait hangs on the wall for all to see, though its true meaning (Jacopo’s erotic history) remains hidden. For Foscolo, Jacopo’s life must be interpreted, recovered through fragmentary readings and writings, even deciphered in enigmatic portraits and their frames. Exploiting the possibilities of the epistolary form more completely than his predecessors, Foscolo blends the personal and the political, linking Jacopo’s marginalia to his marginal station in society. Having contemplated the uselessness of words, Jacopo finally disappears under his own erasure, leaving increasingly illegible traces of his reading and his thoughts. The novel ends, significantly enough, by moving from words to portraits. Jacopo is destroyed by the very nationalist aspirations that bring him into being. He is no “Italian Werther,” as Byron misleadingly claimed, for Jacopo dies for love of his homeland, not for the love of a woman. “No, my dear young friend, you are not the cause of my death,” Jacopo informs Teresa. “All my desperate passions, the misfortunes of those people most necessary to my life, human crimes, the certainty of my perpetual slavery and of the perpetual infamy of my betrayed homeland—all had been decided a long time ago. And you, angelic as you are, could only mitigate my destiny, but never placate it!” (128–29). Jacopo’s true passion is Italy’s unification. The “lettere” of Foscolo’s title recalls the connection between letters and literary remains, a kind of sepulcher of the imagination, which Jacopo expresses through his love-hate relationship with books. In part 2 of the narrative, Jacopo writes from Milan. “I asked a bookseller for the autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini. They do not have it. I asked for another writer, but he said, rather spitefully, that he did not sell Italian books. The civilian population speaks an elegant French, and pure Tuscan is scarcely understood. Public documents and the laws are written in such a bastard language that the phrases bear witness to the ignorance and servitude of those who dictate them” (90). Just when it seems that Jacopo has given up on books, he acquires Cellini’s autobiography, one of Byron’s sources for and a character in The Deformed Transformed. Yet the disrespect for the Italian language Jacopo witnesses mirrors the crisis in national identity after Napoleon’s invasion. Italy has been betrayed, as have her writers and language. “In the Cisalpine Republic our followers of

“My distressful pilgrimage”

239

Demosthenes have had heated debates in their senate to exile the Greek and Latin languages upon pain of death,” Jacopo observes (91). Byron similarly complained about Lord Castlereagh undermining the English language. According to Byron, Castlereagh harangued the House of Commons in the language of a character from Richard Sheridan’s The Rivals: “It is the first time since the Normans, that England has been insulted by a Minister (at least) who could not speak English, and that Parliament permitted itself to be dictated to in the language of Mrs. Malaprop.”44 For Foscolo, Petrarch’s tomb provides a counterexample to such illiterate lawgivers as Castlereagh, who misdirect their country’s destinies. Petrarch, by contrast, is Italy’s great visionary. Yet Foscolo is distraught to consider how future pilgrims to Petrarch’s tomb will be astonished at its neglect. Jacopo uses the word “pilgrimage” twice to describe his visit to Petrarch’s home (“Sei o sette giorni addietro s’e iti in pellegrinaggio”), anticipating Byron’s use of the term as the title of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.45 Six or seven days ago we went on a pilgrimage. Nature was looking more beautiful than ever. Teresa, her father, Odoardo, the little Isabella, and I went on a visit to Petrarch’s house in Arquà. Arquà is, as you know, four miles from my home, but to shorten the way we took the steep road. A most beautiful autumn day was just breaking. Night, followed by the shadows and the stars, seemed to be in flight before the sun which was issuing in great splendour from the eastern clouds, like the lord of the universe, and the universe was smiling. The clouds, gilded and tinged with a thousand colours, were climbing up the clear vault of heaven which looked almost as if it were revealing itself for the purpose of shedding upon mortal beings the Godhead’s loving care. At every step I greeted the family of flowers and plants as they gradually raised their heads which were bent beneath the hoar frost. . . . she turned to Odoardo. . . . he was like one groping in the shades of night or in deserts where Nature’s blessings are unknown. All of a sudden she turned from him, and leant on my arm. (14–15)

Jacopo proves his worth to Teresa by appreciating the beauty of nature. She leans on his arm because he has sensibility, whereas Odoardo has only money. So here I am, about to finish off my account at last. We continued on our brief pilgrimage until we saw, white in the distance, the little house which at one time welcomed: That Man whose fame the world cannot contain . . . Whose Laura had on earth celestial honours.

240

Chapter 10 I approached the house like one about to prostrate himself on the tombs of his ancestors, or like one of those priests who used to frequent, in silent reverence, the woods inhabited by the gods. Owing to the impiety of the owners of this treasure, the sacred home of that sublime Italian is falling down. In vain will travellers come from distant lands and look with pious wonder for the room still echoing with the heavenly poems of Petrarch. Instead they will weep over a heap of ruins covered with nettles and weed, in which the solitary fox perhaps has made its lair. O Italy, appease the shades of your great men! Oh, I groan to myself when I recall the last words of Torquato Tasso. (18)

Byron’s own Teresa recounts their visit to Petrarch’s grave, which Byron made “with pious wonder.” Byron finds Petrarch’s tomb exactly as Foscolo feared he would: “When they reached the great poet’s modest dwelling Lord Byron expressed his disgust at finding it so neglected and dilapidated, particularly on the first floor.”46 Compare Teresa’s account with Byron’s in Childe Harold, IV: They keep his dust in Arqua, where he died; The mountain-village where his latter days Went down the vale of years; and ’tis their pride— An honest pride—and let it be their praise, To offer to the passing stranger’s gaze His mansion and his sepulchre; both plain And venerably simple, such as raise A feeling more accordant with his strain Than if a pyramid form’d his monumental fane. (Childe Harold, 4: 271–79)

In a different mood, however, Byron lamented the absence of a bust, commemorating Petrarch: But where repose the all Etruscan three— Dante, and Petrarch, and, scarce less than they, The Bard of Prose, creative spirit! . . . Could not her quarries furnish forth one bust? Did they not to her breast their filial earth entrust? (Childe Harold, 4: 417–512)

By the time he wrote Canto V of Don Juan, Byron took on a third attitude towards Petrarch. Where he once represented Petrarch as alternately

“My distressful pilgrimage”

241

honored and ignored by Italy (in the same canto of the same poem!), Byron now argues that Petrarch is not worth a bust after all. By Canto V, the reviver of his country’s language has become the “Platonic pimp of all posterity” (CPW, 5: 1). The tendentious narrator of Don Juan wonders “if Laura had been Petrarch’s wife, / He would have written sonnets all his life?” (CPW, 5: 8). Byron’s changed attitude towards Petrarch in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and Don Juan reflects his shifting attitude towards Foscolo. Foscolo felt that Petrarch had enriched the Italian language immeasurably. He expressed his views in Essays on Petrarch, a “landmark in Petrarch criticism for Italian and English scholars alike.” Foscolo’s views on Petrarch as expressed in this volume came too late to be incorporated into Canto IV of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, but the arguments were similar. Foscolo wrote, The pleasure of living his youth over again, of meeting Laura in every line, of examining the history of his own heart; and perhaps the consciousness which, after all, rarely misleads authors respecting the best of their works, induced the poet in his old age to give to his loveverses a perfection, which has never been attained by any other Italian writer. . . . If the manuscripts did not still exist, it would be impossible to imagine or believe the unwearied pains he has bestowed on the correction of his verses. They are curious monuments, although they afford little aid in exploring by what secret workings the long and laborious meditation of Petrarch had spread over his poetry all the natural charms of sudden and irresistible inspiration.47

We know that Byron read Foscolo’s essay on Petrarch because Byron wrote a verse translation of some fifty lines of Petrarch’s Latin epic Africa as an illustration to Foscolo’s Essays on Petrarch.48 Sixteen copies of Essays on Petrarch appeared in 1821, while Byron’s publisher, John Murray, released the work commercially in 1823. Byron repeatedly reworks ideas Foscolo treated, whether viewing Harold as a literary pilgrim or connecting Petrarch’s neglected home and tomb to Italy’s political troubles. That Hobhouse rather than Foscolo received public credit for illustrations to the fourth canto merely throws researchers off the trail that shows Byron’s debt to Foscolo. Despite similarities, or perhaps because of them, Byron condescends to Ugo Foscolo, viewing him as a failed version of himself: “why does he not do something more than the letters of Ortis,” Byron asked Murray, shortly after Foscolo himself criticized Byron for not writing an important epic (BLJ, 6: 105). Byron, of course, went on to write the epic demanded,

242

Chapter 10

though Foscolo found himself unable to complete his highly acclaimed Le grazie (1822). Jacopo Ortis, Foscolo’s double, is equally inadequate. He does not have the courage to approach Teresa, but Byron sleeps with a married woman in the home of her husband and wins over the hearts of the Ravenna populace. Where Jacopo feels crushed by authority, Byron supervises Teresa’s Papal injunction, helping her, or perhaps inducing her, to separate from her husband and obtain an annuity. Byron could master social and political circumstances, fighting for a nation’s independence, while Jacopo Ortis merely imagines doing so. Teresa escapes an arranged marriage through cavalier serventissmo, a moral compromise apparently unavailable to Foscolo’s Teresa, though the institution clearly existed. Though he has received most of the credit for his originality and eloquence, Byron owed many debts to Foscolo, which he does not acknowledge, and which, in fact, may account for his overdetermined dismissal of the Italian writer.49 One such debt appears in Foscolo’s “Essay on the Present Literature of Italy,” published in 1818 with Canto IV of Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. “It was the wish of Lord Byron as well as of myself to have given in the notes to Childe Harold a very short view of the present state of Italian literature,” Hobhouse wrote, yet Hobhouse was not pleased to discover readers preferred Foscolo’s essay on Italian literature to his own notes to Byron’s poem. For his own part, Byron ostentatiously distanced himself from Hobhouse’s efforts.50 “Byron’s interest is not in the `labyrinth of external objects’ represented by Rome,” as Margaret Springer explains, “but in the processes of his own imagination. Therefore it is not surprising that having ordered the Historical Illustrations as a companion volume to Childe Harold, he took cruel pleasure in informing others that he had never read them.”51 Nietzsche would have approved the decision, having argued against unbridled historicism: “we must seriously despise instruction without vitality, knowledge which enervates activity, and history as an expensive surplus of knowledge and a luxury.”52 Writing in the shadow of Nietzsche, Foucault argues that “the frontiers of a book are never clear-cut: beyond the title, the first lines and the last full stop, beyond its internal configuration and its autonomous form, it is caught up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network. . . . The book is not simply the object that one holds in one’s hands. . . . Its unity is variable and relative.”53 Roland Barthes has shown that “A text is . . . a multidimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations. . . . The writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original. His only power is to mix writings, to counter the ones with

“My distressful pilgrimage”

243

the others, in such a way as never to rest on any one of them.”54 These comments offer a fresh way of reading intertextual moments in the work of Byron and Foscolo, one free of a fetishized notion of authorship. A last example of such intertextuality must suffice. It is in a different work entirely, Foscolo’s Dei Sepolchri (1807), which clearly influenced Byron’s treatment of tombs in Canto IV of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. When he contemplated his own death in Greece in “On this Day I Complete my 36th Year,” he returned to a striking image of the leaf turning yellow from Foscolo’s second sonnet. I am not what I was—so much is lost: Nothing remains but to lament and weep. Myrtle is withered, and those leaves dispersed That crowned the laurel, once my youthful hope.55

In “On this Day I Complete my 36th Year,” Byron wrote: My days are in the yellow leaf; The flowers and fruits of love are gone; The worm, the canker, and the grief, Are mine alone! (CPW 4: 375)

Foscolo’s striking image of suicide and thwarted nationalism in Dei Sepolchri anticipates Byron’s moving lyric. Foscolo is undecided about whether suicide is an option. And even when I think it best to die, The door to this proud purpose is slammed shut By rage for fame, and filial piety, Slave to myself, to others and to fate I take the worse, though see the better way, And call on death, and yet fight shy of it.56

Instructed by Foscolo, Byron chose “the better way.” He staged his death to insure his fame. Where Foscolo buried his name in footnotes to Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto IV, Byron borrowed many of Foscolo’s greatest conceits and published them as his own: the formation of a nation through literary language and authorial acts; the connection between national liberation and masculine self-assertion. Was this inter-textuality plagiarism? For Genette, they are synonyms. In any case, Byron was careful

244

Chapter 10

to avoid the fate of his literary double, who so resembled him that Caroline Lamb, among others, mistook the two.57 And yet there were differences. Foscolo praised Napoleon in public in his ode A Bonaparte liberatore; “To Bonaparte the Liberator,” 1797, while Byron offered a more cynical assessment seventeen years later (“Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte,” 1814). Foscolo’s experience of Napoleon, like his life generally, formed a cautionary tale for Byron. Byron would not become a victim of Campoformio as Foscolo had, fighting (like Foscolo) for Napoleon who then betrayed Venice, but a soldier who chose his own war, leading, however temporarily, the Suliotes in a self-financed battalion of his own, a potential King of Greece, the “grand Napoleon of the realms of rhyme.”58 Byron learned from Wordsworth and Foscolo, even as he inscribed acerbic commentary about them in the margins of English Bards and Scotch Reviewers and Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis. He could do so because Byron was Foscolo’s hypocrite lecteur, a man whose pilgrimage was less “distressful’ than Foscolo’s.59

NOTES 1. Byron’s fifth edition corrects his previous lines on Coleridge: “How well the subject suits his noble mind! / A fellow feeling makes us wond’rous kind” becomes “He brays—the Laureate of the long-eared kind.” Lord Byron, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers [A facsimile of the fourth edition containing MS. Notes by Lord Byron], ed. by Sir John Murray (London: Roxburghe Club, 1936), 21. Alex Watson discusses the issue in “Byron’s Marginalia to English Bards and Scotch Reviewers,” Byron Journal 37.2 (December 2009): 131–39. 2. H. J. Jackson, Marginalia (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001) and Romantic Readers:The Evidence of Marginalia (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005); Alex Watson, Romantic Marginality: Nation and Empire on the Borders of the Page (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2012); William H. Sherman, Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011); and Andrew Piper, Dreaming in Books: The Making of the Bibliographic Imagination in the Romantic Age (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007). 3. Gérard Genette, Palimpsests (Paris: Editions Seuil, 1982); trans. Channa Newman and Claude Doubinsky as Palimpsests: Literature in the Second Degree (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997), 1–5. For a summary of Genette’s list, from which I have quoted in part above, see Daniel Chandler, Semiotics: The Basics, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2002), 197–98. 4. See especially Watson, Romantic Marginality. 5. H. J. Jackson, Marginalia and Romantic Readers are both excellent empirical studies. In Romantic Marginality, Watson also engages in interesting ways with Genette’s category of the paratext, distinguishing it from marginalia.

“My distressful pilgrimage”

245

6. Stuart Curran, “Romanticism displaced and placeless,” European Romantic Review 20, no. 5 (2009): 637–50, 642. 7. E. R. Vincent, Byron, Hobhouse and Foscolo: New Documents in the History of a Collaboration (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1949), 1. See Mario M. Rossi, “Foscolo in England,” Italica 31, no. 3 (September 1954): 151–59, for an Italian perspective. 8. Vincent, Byron, Hobhouse, 9. 9. Ernest Wilkins, “Foscolo and Lord Holland’s Letters of Petrarch,” PMLA 74, no. 3 (June 1959): 184–90, 187. 10. Peter Cochran, Byron and Italy (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2012), 216. See George Gordon, Lord Byron, Lord Byron: The Complete Miscellaneous Prose, ed. Andrew Nicholson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), 222, 551. 11. Nicholson, Complete Prose, 222, 551. 12. The Oxford English Dictionary defines fruition as “The action of enjoying; enjoyment, pleasurable possession, the pleasure arising from possession.” See http:// www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/fruition. 13. “Do you know any body who can stop—I mean point-commas, & so forth? for I am I fear a sad hand at your punctuation.” George Gordon, Lord Byron, Byron’s Letters and Journals, ed. Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray, 1973–94), August 26, 1813, 3: 100. Hereafter referred to as BLJ, with date, volume and page. 14. See Nicholson’s essay on commas in “Byron’s prose,” in The Cambridge Companion to Byron, ed. Drummond Bone (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 186–208. 15. Jacques Derrida, Glas, trans. John P. Leavey, Jr. and Richard Rand (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986); Peggy Kamuf, lecture on Derrida’s death penalty seminars. DePaul University, March 21, 2013. She is discussing her introduction to Jacques Derrida, The Death Penalty, vol. 1 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013). 16. Sigmund Freud, “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life,” in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, trans. from the German under the general editorship of James Strachey, in collaboration with Anna Freud, assisted by Carrie Lee Rothgeb, Angela Richards, 24 vols. (London: Hogarth Press, 1953–74; New York: Norton, 1976), 6: sections 5 and 6. 17. Nicholson, Complete Prose, 551. 18. Nicholson, Complete Prose, 551. 19. Shelley and His Circle, 1773–1822, eds. Kenneth Neill Cameron, Donald H. Reiman, and Doucet Devin Fischer, 10 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard: University Press, 1961–2002), 8: 1117. 20. Ibid., 8: 1117–18. 21. Ibid., 8: 1120–21. 22. See H. J. Jackson, Marginalia and Romantic Readers. 23. Lord Byron’s Life in Italy, by Teresa Guiccioli, trans. Michael Rees, ed. Peter Cochran (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2005): 170n20. See also Cochran, Byron and Italy, 217.

246

Chapter 10

24. Guiccioli, Lord Byron’s Life, 170n20. 25. Ibid., 169. In doing so, he mis-identifies the very chapter in which they appear. The correct citation from Corinne is 18:5. See Madame de Staël, Corinne, ou L’Italie, ed. Avriel H. Goldberger (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987). 26. Nicholson, Complete Prose, 551. 27. Nicholson, Complete Prose, 551. See also Rachel I. Skalitzky, “Horace on Travel,” The Classical Journal 68, no. 4 (April–May 1973): 316–21. 28. Skalitzky, “Horace,” 316. 29. E. R.Vincent, “An Attack on Foscolo,” Modern Language Review 32, no. 3 (July 1937): 441–45; Reiman does not mention Vincent’s article in Shelley and His Circle, 8: 1121. 30. Louis-Charles Fougeret de Monbron, Le Cosmopolite, ou le citoyen du monde, ed. Edouard Langille (1750 rpt.; New York: Modern Humanities Research Association, 2010), 1. “The universe is a kind of book, wherein he who has only seen his own country knows but the opening page. I had leafed through quite a large number, which I had found equally bad. This inspection has not been fruitless for me. I hated my country. All the offensiveness of the different peoples amongst whom I have dwelt, have reconciled me to her. If that were the only benefit which I had gathered from my travels, I should regret neither the joys nor the fatigues.” (Translation from Peter Cochran’s online edition of Childe Harold, at petercochran.files.wordpress. com [updated 2011]). 31. J. H. Broome, “Autour d’une épigraphe: Byron et Fougeret de Monbron,” Revue de Literature Comparee 34 (1960): 337–53. 32. For this theme, see Alan Rawes, Byron’s Poetic Experimentation: Childe Harold, The Tales, and the Quest for Comedy (London: Ashgate, 2000); and Tom Mole, Byron’s Romantic Celebrity: Industrial Culture and the Hermeneutic of Intimacy (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). The latter treats the topic of changing paratexts for the poem. 33. Franco Ferrucci, “All’ombra dei cipressi,” Addio al Parnaso (Milano: Bompiani, 1971), 51–98; Giovanni B. Amoretti, Poesia e psicanalisi: Foscolo e Leopardi (Milano: Garzanti, 1979). 34. Margaret Brose, “The Politics of Mourning in Foscolo’s dei sepolcri,” European Romantic Review 9, no. 1 (1998): 1–34. 35. Ugo Foscolo, Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis, trans.Valerio Massimo Manfredi (London: Hyperion, 1986), 45. 36. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Italian Journey: 1786–1788, ed. W. H. Auden, trans. Elizabeth Mayer (New York: Penguin, 1992), 33. 37. Erasmus Darwin’s The Botanic Garden: A Poem in Two Parts and spoofs of Anne Damer and Sapphic love are only two examples. See James Perry, “Mimosa: Or, the Sensitive Plant; A Poem. Dedicated to Mr. Banks, and Addressed to Kitt Frederick, Dutchess of Queensberry, Elect” (London: W. Sandwich, near the Admiralty, 1779). 38. Foscolo, Last Letters, 30. 39. Karl Kroeber, The Artifice of Reality: Poetic Style in Wordsworth, Foscolo, Keats and Leopardi (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1964), 1–15; Margaret Brose,

“My distressful pilgrimage”

247

“The Politics of Mourning in Foscolo’s dei sepolcri,” European Romantic Review 9, no. 1 (1998): 1–34, 8. 40. Foscolo, Last Letters, 46. 41. Andrew Piper, Dreaming in Books, 61. 42. Foscolo, Last Letters, 119. 43. Foscolo, Last Letters, 141n, 22, 23, 24. 44. Jerome J. McGann, ed., Lord Byron: Complete Poetical Works, 7 vols. (London: Oxford University Press, 1980–93), 5: 295 (Preface to Don Juan, Cantos VI–VIII). Hereafter, referred to as CPW, this is the edition from which all subsequent quotations from Byron’s poetry are taken. 45. Ugo Foscolo, Il Ultime Lettere di Jacopo Ortis Poesie, ed. Mario Puppo (Milan: Mursia, 1965), 28. 46. Guiccioli, Lord Byron’s Life, 175. 47. Ugo Foscolo, “An Essay on the Poetry of Petrarch,” in Italian Poets and English Critics, 1755–1859: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Beatrice Corrigan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1969), 78–97, 80. 48. Vincent, Byron, Hobhouse, 1. 49. Vincent, Byron, Hobhouse, 20. 50. Margaret Springer, The Marble Wilderness, Ruins and Representation in Italian Romanticism, 1775–1850 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 4, 6, 13–15. 51. Springer, Marble, 6. 52. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, The Use and Abuse of History, trans. Adrian Collins (1874 rpt.; Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1957), preface. 53. Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith. (London: Tavistock, 1974), 23. 54. Roland Barthes, Image-Music-Text, trans. Stephen Heath (London: Fontana, 1977), 146. 55. Ugo Foscolo, Sepulchres, trans. J. G. Nichols (London: Oneworld Classics, 2000), 7. 56. Ibid. 57. E. R. Vincent, Ugo Foscolo: An Italian in Regency England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953), 87. 58. Don Juan, CPW 5: 11, 55. 59. In “Foscolo in England,” Mario M. Rossi notes that “A parallel has often been attempted of Foscolo’s life in England and Byron’s in Italy. If Byron did not undergo Foscolo’s destiny, it was only because Byron was rich while Foscolo was poor, and because Italians admire the foreigner as such, and the English do not” (156).

11 BETWEEN TWO FIRES Henry Adams and the Temperature of History M A R T IN M E ISEL

H

enry Adams allows us to see the consciousness that afflicted him in his later years as that of a Romantic out of his time, steeped in a complex sense of belatedness, and “educated” by all that the way of the world had thrown up to damp his own and his century’s earlier fires. For indeed, belatedness weighed on him, as an Adams of that ilk—a fourth-generation heir of a great political dynasty, now reduced to political spectatorship; as a specimen of his fading mandarin class; as an American; and as a man whose life had shattered irreparably more than three decades before his death. Unusually, it was in the physical sciences of his century, the nineteenth, that Adams sought an impersonal analogy, a language that gave form, if not meaning, to the process that had brought him, when the century had ended, to his present pass. His quest took the form of seeking a principle, a mechanism, a “law,” in his grand métier, that of a historian, for “succession,” whereby one thing, one condition, one reality, gave way to another. It was perhaps a means of replacing lost executive power with detached analytical authority. But also, for Adams in the depths of a sustained struggle with meaninglessness, in history but ultimately in life, it was his stay against chaos. The venerable concept of Chaos, disorder at its ultimate limiting and limitless extreme, experienced a radical reversal of fortune—at least in aura and éclat—near the beginning of the nineteenth century; and then a further twist, in a new and darker direction, as the century headed towards its end. Both turns took hold of thought and imagination, and are linked in the new science of thermodynamics. Though it is now mostly taken for 249

250

Chapter 11

granted, among the greatest of the great scientific breakthroughs that distinguished the nineteenth century was the generalization of the concept of energy—mechanical, electromagnetic, chemical, gravitational.1 It emerged, as it happens, in a climate marked by a seismic shift in culture and politics, one prepared to celebrate energy, however disruptive, over stultifying order. From this abstract generalization of Energy (and the doctrine of “correlation” between the different forces) emerged the First Law of Thermodynamics, the premise that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; attributes, one might note, of Divinity. But then, from that immensely useful way of keeping the books on energy in its transformations, but in order to keep them in a way that reflects experience and takes account of the fact that applied energy degrades irreversibly—loses its capacity to do work, dissipates in irretrievable heat—came the Second Law, and the concept of Entropy. In a common analogy, energy like water flows only downhill. It flows in the direction of time and shares time’s irreversibility, preserving quantity even as it degrades in quality. In the long run, it all tends to a level, an averaging out, a Dead Sea. From another perspective, it passes into increasing randomness or disorder. In the language of one of the many fathers of the Second Law, Hermann von Helmholtz, “Disorderly motion would then mean all motion in which the motion of each particle has no similarity to that of its neighbors. We have every reason to believe that heat motion is of the latter kind, and one might in this sense regard entropy as a measure of disorder.”2 Over the same period, an argument arose chiefly in the developing sciences of the earth about the mechanism of geological change—gradual and uniform or sudden and catastrophic? Catastrophe had a great appeal coming into the new century, in the arts and elsewhere, as the preferred model for inner and outer turmoil, and it bespoke energy. Change gradual and uniform had the advantage of opening huge vistas of geological time, and it then furnished the platform and an enabling premise for Darwin’s description of Evolution—soon dragooned into an entanglement with the positive religion of the age, proclaiming the Good News of Progress. The result was a discernible arc through the long nineteenth century, from the rebellious exhilaration that initially found in energetic chaos liberation and release at the expense of petrified order, to the depressive anxiety that, in the final decades—despite the religion of Progress and the unprecedented transformations in daily life wrought by the harnessing and deployment of energy—afflicted assorted thinkers, critics, and imaginative writers from Émile Durkheim and Émile Zola to Max Nordau and H. G. Wells, scrutinizing present circumstances for signs of the inexorable

Between Two Fires

251

advance of universal decay. So it was in the case of the conflicted historian Henry Adams, who, in the early twentieth century, seeking to take the measure of his own belatedness and find a logic for and in the materials of his trade, would seem to vibrate between those extreme positions, exemplifying the unresolved dissonance between the century’s continuing celebration and reification of energy and a darkening awareness of entropy’s enlarging domain. Adams becomes an exemplary figure at this critical juncture, not because he represents a common view or prevailing sensibility, but because he gives special voice to the unresolved contradictions in the moment of transition. Deferring full articulation of his haunted, ambivalent engagement with chaos until his seventh and eighth decades, he brings the nineteenth century into the twentieth. As a professional historian conscious of his formation in dialogue with the century of Progress, he feels the obligation to reckon with time, not just regionally, as past and present, but kinetically, as movement and change. But as an observer and participant in his time, he is not immune to its nightmares; and those of the fin de siècle were threeheaded, like Cerberus, namely ecological, cosmological, and as it were anthropological. The nightmare for Adams is ostensibly “anthropological,” especially in its social aspects, and it is a nightmare. But in giving it expression for wider consumption, Adams tends to dissemble it in an insulating irony and paradox—in what his biographer calls “the pose of humorous cynicism,”3 and through frequent invocation of the historian’s privilege of not having to take sides. In fact, the key texts, his Education of Henry Adams (1907) and A Letter to American Teachers of History (1910), reflect the uneasiness, personal as well as cultural, of being caught between the immense attraction of energy, unlocked during the previous century with so many new keys, and the sense of belatedness, failure, and exhaustion, a tide of inexorable decline from which he, the nation, and the age are not exempt. Adams similarly spins between the intellectual imperative to identify a law of change, incremental and regular, and the knowledge and dread of random, earth-shaking catastrophe; the personal sense of an accelerating precipitation into explosion or oblivion, and that of being left to a slow attrition, sidelined by the rushing stream in what he liked to call his “posthumous existence.”4 Catastrophe comes in The Education, in a chapter called “Chaos,” with the sudden and terrible death, by tetanus, of a loved sister in the brilliant Italian summer of 1870; an account invested, as Adams himself hints, with the emotion of the still greater personal catastrophe to come, the unmentionable suicide of his wife, Clover. It is in the after-glare of his sister’s suffering that he writes:

252

Chapter 11 For the first time the stage-scenery of the senses collapsed; the human mind felt itself stripped naked, vibrating in a void of shapeless energies with resistless mass, colliding, crushing, wasting and destroying what these same energies had created and labored from eternity to perfect. . . . For the first time in his life, Mont Blanc for a moment looked to him what it was,—a chaos of anarchic and purposeless forces,—and he needed days of repose to see it clothe itself again with the illusions of his senses, the white purity of its snows, the splendor of its light.

But then, almost immediately, “man became chaotic, and before the illusions of nature were wholly restored, the illusions of Europe suddenly vanished.” On July 14, 1870, “Europe was in full chaos of war.”5 The leap from personal catastrophe and its subjective effects to a correlative, continent-wide human and historical disaster is breathtaking, but asks to be understood as a single, overriding epiphany. The underlying chaos in Adams’s revelation is that of inexhaustible energy, terrible in its indifference, but nevertheless not far distant from the sublimities and trans-valuations of Romanticism. Adams presents an earlier self who could feel “that the idea of one Form, Law, Order or Sequence, had no more value for him than the idea of none; that what he valued most was Motion, and that what attracted his mind was Change” (931).6 He is capable of writing, of a time of hope and political ferment after war, devastation, and assassination, “Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit. The civil war had bred life” (948). And in The Education, energy rather than entropy occupies the foreground. Men like Grant and Garibaldi are defined in terms of energy, as “forces of nature, energies of the prime,” who “made short work of scholars” (like himself); and energy is the attractive force in Adams’s bedazzled friendship with the geologist and entrepreneur, Clarence King. It is the sheer energy of Paris that enthralls him, and that of New York that impresses and repels him, the former a great school and bazaar in one, unrivalled “for variety of direction and energy of mind.” Adams falls into a rhapsodic catalogue of Parisian art and intellect: Scores of artists,—sculptors and painters, poets and dramatists, workers in gems and metals, designers in stuffs and furniture,—hundreds of chemists, physicists, even philosophers, philologists, physicians and historians,—were at work, a thousand times as actively as ever before, and the mass and originality of their product would have swamped any previous age, as it very nearly swamped its own; but the effect was one of chaos, and Adams stood as helpless before it as before the chaos of New York. His single thought was to keep in front of the movement,

Between Two Fires

253

and, if necessary, lead it to chaos, but never fall behind. Only the young have time to linger in the rear. (1088)

It is their pulsating energy that draws Adams to visit and revisit the great expositions, the Columbian in Chicago in 1893, and that of Paris in 1900, where he experiences his second defining epiphany in the Great Hall of Dynamos. There the great machines, concretions of potency in their near silent running, become for him symbolic “of ultimate energy,” the modern mechanical transformation of the force that he attributes to the figure of the Virgin seven hundred years earlier. Attempting to understand that transformation leads him to a further stage in his historian’s pursuit of “a relation of sequence.” Having failed to locate a satisfactory principle of sequence in men, society, time, and thought, “he turned at last to the sequence of force,” operating even in the realms reserved for imagination and will, as “he found himself lying in the Gallery of Machines . . . with his historical neck broken by the sudden irruption of force totally new” (1069). Adams’s search for a tenable matrix theory that could give a shape to history is not readily distinguishable from his deadly personal struggle with the specter of chaos—fundamental and incremental disorder in the world of experience, and the perception of meaninglessness in that of rational consciousness. To the end of discovering a principle of change that could marshal knowledge of the past and redeem it from “antiquarianism or anecdotage” (923) or the mere registry of fragment and flux, he looked to the latest sciences that addressed movement and change. In this, his considered attempt to reconcile history and science, he was reaching beyond contemporary positivist endeavors to infuse history with “scientific method.” For Adams saw his century as a great age of bold and bald advance in scientific theory, though he was sufficiently the skeptical historian to see all theory as contingent, and to withhold the definitive leap of faith.7 That reservation applied to the scientific model most vigorously embraced in the nineteenth century, and construed as validating Progress as the law of change. In the chapter “Chaos,” Adams writes of London in the late 1860s, “Evolution from lower to higher raged like an epidemic. Darwin was the greatest of prophets in the most evolutionary of worlds” (979). It is the schema of evolutionary progress, rather than Darwin as such, that inspires Adams’s many gibes in the Education, where he rejects the evolutionary model and its allied geological premises as the foundation for a theory of history. Even under the spell of Darwin’s unifying thought, when (in 1867) he was preparing an article on Lyell’s geology under the tutelage of Lyell himself, already, Adams writes, “he was conscious that, in

254

Chapter 11

geology as in theology, he could prove only Evolution that did not evolve; Uniformity that was not uniform; and Selection that did not select” (931). On the other hand, periodic catastrophe was no sufficient rule for succession either. Adams writes of his field companions on the momentous, expansionist Fortieth Parallel Geological Survey (where in 1871 he met Clarence King), they “had Californian instincts . . . . They felt no leanings towards the simple uniformities of Lyell and Darwin; they saw little proof of slight and imperceptible changes; to them, catastrophe was the law of change; they cared little for simplicity and much for complexity”—the complexity of nature, not society and civilization (1006). But for Adams, who could not rest with discontinuity as a final term let alone revel in it, to discern a law of change that included society was precisely the problem. Significantly, it was then, he says, that he decided to make history his vocation. Twenty years and more later—a violent break in the narrative, characteristic, he says, of his life—Adams has got no further in discovering “the working law of history, which was the reason of his failure in teaching it, for chaos cannot be taught” (1052). But in hopes of bringing the twelfth century, lately his particular study, into some relation of succession with the present—and then galvanized by his experience in the great hall of dynamos—he looks to the physics of forces to supply conceptual tools. The last quarter of the Education is heavily seasoned with the language of physics, largely from mechanics (mass and motion, friction and inertia, along with the magnetic and gravitational mysteries of attraction). It also reflects the unsettling results of Adams’s attempts to pick the brains of physicists, such as S. P. Langley of the Smithsonian, and of his extensive reading in the likes of Karl Pearson, Ernst Mach, Henri Poincaré, and numerous others. The result was not a firm footing for history in the dynamics of the physical world, or a solid transferable model that could marshal the chaos into an orderly flow and bring multiplicity back into a comprehensive unity. Rather, he found physics in turmoil, with all matter (possibly) reduced to pure motion (1113), and unity and multiplicity losing distinction (1114). Pearson’s Grammar of Science, with its mentalist view of order and necessity, leads him back into “’the chaos beyond sense-impressions.’” “In plain words, Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man” (1132). Poincaré horrifies him by suggesting that as our means of investigation become more penetrating, we shall doubtless discover alternating layers of the complex under the simple and the simple under the complex “without ever being able to foresee the last term” (1135). Adams finds that “Chaos was a primary fact even in Paris—especially in Paris,—as it was in the Book of Genesis” (1136). The only constant, it appeared, was

Between Two Fires

255

the direction of mind, passing in stages from a conceptual universe that reflected its own unity to the new world proposed by science, not a unity but a multiplicity, “where order was an accidental relation obnoxious to nature; artificial compulsion imposed on motion; against which every free energy of the universe revolted; and which, being merely occasional, resolved itself back into anarchy at last” (1138). Ultimately, Adams has to concede half of what was at stake, which was to anchor the mind’s rebellion against the chaos of experience in an external law or process. Instead, he finds science itself infected with chaos and scrambling to adjust (1140–41). In Adams’s view, the position in which science and its adherents found themselves after 1900 was to have been “forced back on faith in a unity unproved and an order they had themselves disproved. They had reduced their universe to a series of relations to themselves. They had reduced themselves to Motion in a universe of Motions, with an acceleration, in their own case, of vertiginous violence” (1173). It is this acceleration, not confined to science, that finally provides Adams with a bridge—of necessity paradoxical—between a “Law of Succession” and the underlying chaos, between unity and complexity (this after an “education” which, in Adams’s rueful accounting, has so far led to no progress and no completions, but instead necessitates new beginnings as old formulas fail, even at the age of sixty-six). Out of a vertigo involving “chaos of time, place, morals, forces and motive,” and one that seems to reduce all sequence to “meaningless motion at last” (1150–51), Adams is led “to shape after his own needs a Dynamic Theory of History” (1152). What is “Dynamic” about it is that it grounds the motion of history in “Forces,” that is, energy latent in nature and man and developed through their interaction. Out of it comes a resultant that can perhaps be called “progress.” Shaped by forces, “Man’s function as a force of nature was to assimilate other forces as he assimilated food” (1154). Biology is here left by the wayside. “To evolutionists may be left the processes of evolution; to historians the single interest is the law of reaction between force and force,—between mind and nature,—the law of progress” (1170). Though Adams is here drawn into tracing a trajectory from the prehistoric onward (not entirely unlike that so stunningly compressed in Kubrick and Clarke’s bone-to-rocket ascent in 2001: A Space Odyssey), it is the nineteenth century from which he deduces a law of change that can survive the absence of a foundational premise of order. What he proposes is “A Law of Acceleration” more or less derivable from the doubling in every decade of the coal output of the world, but manifest equally in multiplied efficiencies in the extraction of power from fuel, the exponential increases in steam horse-power and common industrial temperatures, the discovery

256

Chapter 11

since 1800 of “scores of new forces” (most recently that of radiation) and of countless means for enhancing and multiplying the uses of the old. The law of acceleration as it bears upon such energies, however, also bears upon complexity, doubling or squaring (Adams leaves room for a more precise mathematics) at much the same rate. “The movement from unity into multiplicity, between 1200 and 1900, was unbroken in sequence, and rapid in acceleration” (1175). Adams’s acceleration becomes “explosion” in his speaking of the more recent phases—something violent, catastrophic, and dispersive, the point at which acceleration precipitates the abrupt onset of chaos. For the mind to cope—which is to escape its own dissolution in the abyss of a primary chaos—would require, Adams suggests, “a new social mind” in the next generation. The mind would have to experience a phase change, what happens when a liquid like water becomes a solid or a gas; “it would need to jump.” “The Law of Acceleration” serves Adams’s purposes as a historian in providing a structure for change without prejudice as to the nature of its agents and objects. It establishes a direction of change, like the Second Law, but is sufficiently phenomenalistic to finesse the physical and metaphysical questions. It is sufficiently quantitative to appear neutral, even toward such qualitatively loaded concepts as unity and multiplicity. Here is a “law,” however, that is compatible with ultimate chaos, and indeed would seem to function (like the Second Law) as the road to chaos, or to its revelation in multiplicity. Yet the acceleration, one should remember, is not simply in the self-propelled mobilization, deployment, and expenditure of nature’s energies, but in the pace of the interaction between the mind of man and nature’s other forces. It is worth emphasizing that the exponential increase in the availability and consumption of energy as applied to the works of man in no way conflicts with the concept of entropy (or for that matter, conservation), though it runs counter to an entropic sensibility bemused by varieties of belatedness and the sense of qualitative decline. It is true that the chaos associated with multiplicity is randomness, complexity that has passed out of the control of the pattern-seeking mind or its sorting and predictive instrumentation, and that in so far as it is dissipative and irreversible, it is also entropic. Nevertheless, it is the chaos of energy, energy headed for explosion—or just possibly a phase-change transformation—that holds the stage in the later parts of the Education, both in the physical realm and in the intellectual vista; the chaos of energy whose fullest expression is in the spectacle of America. The chaos of energy is what greets Adams in New York harbor on his return to America in 1904, a spectacle he finds both wonderful and

Between Two Fires

257

repellant. Adams had spent much of the previous decade abroad, travelling widely. But more to the point, “Nearly forty years had passed since the ex-private secretary landed at New York,” coming then from London with his ex-minister father, “when they saw American society as a long caravan stretching out towards the plains.” Now, as his ship came up the bay, The outline of the city became frantic in its effort to explain something that defied meaning. Power seemed to have outgrown its servitude and to have asserted its freedom. The cylinder had exploded, and thrown great masses of stone and steam against the sky. The city had the air and movement of hysteria, and the citizens were crying, in every accent of anger and alarm, that the new forces must at any cost be brought under control. Prosperity never before imagined, power never yet wielded by man, speed never reached by anything but a meteor, had made the world irritable, nervous, querulous, unreasonable and afraid. (1176)

The chaos of entropy, as exhaustion rather than explosion, hardly gets a look in, and then it is only negatively, as the absence of any feeling of “retiring ebb” in the face of an “immense volume of force [that] had detached itself from the unknown universe of energy, while still vaster reservoirs, supposed to be infinite, steadily revealed themselves” (1172). Adams has in view the newly discovered energies that had problematized matter itself, and that had cut the ground from under the austere economy of the thermodynamic regime. He speaks of the general conviction in the mid nineteenth century, that after “the explosion of new power” then underway, a period of stationary consumption would follow, and force would prove to be limited in supply. But then (following its discovery by the Curies in 1898), “radium fairly wakened men to the fact, long since evident, that force was inexhaustible.” In effect, “Nothing so revolutionary had happened since the year 300. . . . Power leaped from every atom, and enough of it to supply the stellar universe showed itself running to waste at every pore of matter” (1171). Such heady exuberance had its sobering complement, cast as nature’s rebellion: in mechanical carnage on road and rail, for example, and the prodigious waste of war. But the Education gives even odds on the emergence of “a new social mind” in the new American, “the child of incalculable coal-power, chemical power, electric power, and radiating energy, as well as of new forces as yet undetermined” (1174). And it calls the argument in science between anarchy and order “a toss-up” (1173). Accordingly, in the final look ahead, except in the small matter of mortality (Adams’s own and that of his friends), the prospect is open ended.

258

Chapter 11

Not so the sequel. Three years after publishing his private edition of the Education, Adams had printed and distributed to the profession A Letter to American Teachers of History (1910).8 In this small volume, the looming chaos no longer expresses a world of inexhaustible energies accelerating towards uncontrollable explosion. Instead, Adams invokes a model, grounded in the Second Law, whose Law of Change traces a slide into the chaos of entropy. The reversal is startling.9 And though both views are offered as a framework for ordering and communicating history, Adams shows his awareness of the resistance, psychological and institutional, that the entropic view must encounter. Accordingly, he concludes his pedagogic treatise, whose declared object is to conjugate science and history, not open-endedly, but at an impasse.10 Adams poses “The Problem” for arriving at a dynamics of history as lying between the First Law (conservation of energy) and the Second (entropy), with a further complication introduced by the concept of “vital energy.” As a historian, he partly insulates himself by mapping the development of thought on the subject; but his marshaling of the views and findings of scientists and others also serves to construct a vision and build a case. William Thomson (latterly Lord Kelvin)—whom Adams had earlier skewered as “the Pontiff of Physical Religion” demanding due submission from the evolutionists and geologists “in the effort to force unification on the universe,”11—now appears as something of a hero in the fifty-year history of the Second Law. Writing to a friend about his forthcoming Letter, Adams describes it as “About a hundred pages of no consequence, announcing the end of the Universe, as predicted by your friend Lord Kelvin; whom I am rather inclined now to put at the head of our time.”12 In the Letter proper, he writes, “When this young man of twenty-eight thus tossed the universe into the ash-heap, few scientific authorities took him seriously,” at least for a while. The image of the ash-heap proves appealing, and Adams works the phrase: “to the vulgar and ignorant historian,” meaning himself, “[entropy] meant only that the ash-heap was constantly increasing in size.” Meanwhile, the public ignored it all, while the “literary class” and the educated knew only Conservation (142). In the Letter, Adams brings to bear arguments deleting the common escape clauses in a rigorous entropic scenario. The historian, he notes, may either take the view that “society does its work by degrading its energies” (156), or adopt the no-cost vitalism of some evolutionists for the achievement of “higher potentials” (he cites Ernst Haeckel). But the scientist understands that any expenditure of “Vital Energy,” including “the form known as Social Energy, must also, presumably, go to increase the Entropy

Between Two Fires

259

of the Universe,” since it too obeys the thermal law (150). As for radiation, which in the Education Adams pounced on as shattering all previous certitudes (not to mention the superior airs that science gave itself), he now cites Andrew Gray’s pronouncement in his Life of Kelvin (1908), that it would be “the height of imprudence to trust to the prospect, not infrequently referred to at the present time, of drawing on the energy locked up in the atomic structure of matter.” In any case, once “a large part of the whole existent energy has gone to raise the dead level of things,” the absence of temperature differentials would mean “the inevitable death of all things” (151). Adams now accepts, with one reservation, the process and its conclusion as framed by Kelvin and his ally, Peter Guthrie Tate: “that all nature’s energies were converting themselves into heat and vanishing in space, until, at the last, nothing would be left except a dead ocean of energy at its lowest possible level” (145). His reservation comes where the model presumes only a gradual and inexorable subsidence as the ash-heap grows: “Energy had a way of coming and going in phases of intensity much more mysterious than the energy itself. Catastrophe was its law” (148). Looking backward as well as forward, Adams assigns the whole human species to the condition of belatedness. He draws on the evidence of climate change and the paleohistory of plants, as well as the physical argument on secular cooling and solar shrinkage, in support of the thought that in the life of the earth “man has come late, when a beginning of physical decadence had struck the globe, his domain” (161). He is a creature of the downtrend. It was only after sustained decline, in “the convulsion of the glacial epoch, when, in the midst of a wrecked solar system, man suddenly appeared” (167). At an evolutionary dead-end (through his specialization in brain), “man became the most advanced type of physical decadence, no longer at the top, but at the bottom of the evolutionary ladder, in face of accelerated extinction” (166). The acceleration is further explained when Adams gives fictive voice, speaking as a physicist in the mold of Bernard Brunhes,13 to the indictment of man as an ecological spendthrift, “a bottomless sink of waste unparalleled in the cosmos” (216–18). “As an energy he has but one dominant function:—that of accelerating the operation of the second law of thermodynamics” (230). Accordingly, Adams proposes a redefinition of history “as the science of human degradation” (195). Less brutally, he defines it as “the science of Vital Energy in relation with time”; and in a finely constructed feedback loop, he implicates the historian in the entropic process. Noting the recent tendency to give all things mathematical expression as physical energy, he suggests that the triumph of this teaching “is the ultimate degradation of the energy that is taught” (207).

260

Chapter 11

Since it is the historian as teacher that Adams specifically addresses, reception and receptivity, or “society’s attitude” (186) has special importance. But society’s attitude is scarcely to be distinguished from the “Social Energy” whose vicissitudes and dissipations advance the entropic chaos. The Degradationist, Adams writes, virtually to the end of the nineteenth century, was seen as the hostis humani generis, the very devil, for proclaiming “the steady and fated enfeeblement and extinction of all nature’s energies” (157). But in the fin de siècle and its immediate aftermath, Adams finds that, on the one hand, “Society has the air of taking for granted its indefinite progress towards perfection,” but, on the other, displays a “growing habit of feeling its own pulse, and registering its own temperature . . . of doubting its own health like a nervous invalid.” He continues: every reader of the French or German papers knows that not a day passes without producing some uneasy discussion of supposed social decrepitude;—falling off of the birth-rate;—decline of rural population;— lowering of army standards;—multiplication of suicides;—increase of insanity or idiocy,—of cancer,—of tuberculosis;—signs of nervous exhaustion,—of enfeebled vitality,—“habits” of alcoholism and drugs,— failure of eye-sight in the young,—and so on, without end. (186–87)

And Adams offers samples from his own collection. He is not suggesting that it is all a matter of alarmist hypochondria. He elsewhere cites evidence of decadence or retardation from numerous authorities on human evolution, debilities associated with the species’ specialization in brain, or, in the “civilized races,” affecting teeth, hair, jaw, and nursing ability. But it is the climate of feeling, and its effects, that engage him most fully, and that furnish his text. He quotes Émile Durkheim’s now classic study, Le Suicide (1897) on the “collective melancholy,” the “pessimist current [which] has reached an abnormal degree of intensity due to some perturbation of the social organism” (188). The passage is noteworthy, not least because of the unstated significance of the suicide subject for Adams. The pessimist current is to be found, not just in the official philosophies, says Durkheim, “like those of Schopenhauer, von Hartmann, etc., but we must also take account of all those which, under different names, are the results of the same spirit. The anarchist, the esthete, the mystic, the revolutionary socialist, even if they do not despair of the future, agree with the pessimist in the same sentiment of hatred and disgust for whatever is; in the same need of destroying the real and escaping from it” (188–89). Max Nordau’s culture of decadence—as dissected

Between Two Fires

261

in his Entartung (1892)—with its solipsistic extremity and involution, and the politics of atomistic and anomic leveling, here come together, as they did in Adams’s projections of the inroads of entropy. From Rousseau (“the man who thinks is a depraved animal”) to Schopenhauer, Bergson, and Hartmann, Adams cautiously taps the philosophic tradition that identifies the instinctive and the intuitive with vital energy, and energy in nature with Will. It is through instinct, Adams allows, that “Man refuses to be degraded in self-esteem,” and discounts the scientific proof that he is a thermodynamic mechanism; “instinct rejects the proof, and whenever it should be convinced, it would have to die” (231). Such a death is not out of the question. Adams has drawn on Eduard von Hartmann’s Unbewusste, representing the sacrifice of intuition to intelligence as an evolutionary strategy that has left man bereft (204–5). He weaves philosophy with evolutionary argument into a speculation that energy in all nature is to be identified with will (Schopenhauer), and if man, having invested so much in brain, is “specialized beyond the hope of further variation” as some claim, “as an energy, he must be treated as weakened Will,—an enfeebled vitality,—a degraded potential” (193, 195). However, there is a further complication. Mind apparently has its own “instincts,” and it is such instinct in an altered sense, as a primary bias of the mind, that rises to the top in Adams’s account of the attraction that the slide to an entropic chaos, final and all-embracing, holds for the human subject: Simplicity may not be evidence of truth, and unity is perhaps the most deceptive of all the innumerable illusions of mind; but both are primary instincts in man, and have an attraction on the mind akin to that of gravitation on matter. The idea of unity survives the idea of God or of Universe; it is innate and intuitive. Thought floats much more easily towards than against it, and from the moment when heat, or electricity, or thought, or any other form or symbol or medium of energy, was likened to a falling substance tending to an ultimate ocean of Entropy, nothing was simpler than to plot out the ordinates and abscissas that marked its curve of evolution. Astronomy, geology, palaeontology, biology, psychology, could all move majestically down the decline. (241–42)

In the ultimately paralyzing clash of human instincts as Adams understood them, the one still connected to a primitive energy, the other to its transformed evolutionary expression, lies the guaranteed failure, the ultimate futility, of his vade mecum as a testamentary legacy to his profession.14

262

Chapter 11

NOTES 1. This essay has benefited from the probing critique and editorial suggestions of Alex Zwerdling. In his magisterial if incomplete History of European Thought in the Nineteenth Century, John Theodore Merz put “the growth and development of this greatest of all exact generalizations—the conception of energy” at the center of nineteenth-century scientific achievement. See vol. 2, chap. 7, “On the Physical View of Nature,” esp. 95–96 (Edinburgh: W. Blackwood, 1904–12, reprinted New York: Dover, 1965). Thomas Young is credited with formulating the generalization as “the capacity to do work” in his Lectures on Natural Philosophy (1807). See O.E.D., s.v. “Energy 6 .a. Physics,” and Morton D. Paley, Energy and the Imagination: A Study of the Development of Blake’s Thought (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970), 7. 2. Helmholtz, in a memoir on the thermodynamics of chemical processes, 1882; quoted in Merz, 182n. 3. Ernest Samuels, Henry Adams: The Major Phase (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1964), vii. 4. Samuels, Henry Adams, vii. 5. The Education of Henry Adams (written 1905, published 1907), eds. Ernest and Jayne N. Samuels, in Henry Adams (New York: Library of America, 1983), 983–84. All references are to this edition. 6. Adams here evokes, contrarily, Urizen’s wish, in Blake’s Book of Urizen (1784), to bind what is moving and changing to “One command, one joy, one desire, / One curse, one weight, one measure, / One King, one God, one Law” (ch. II, par. 8). See also Anarchy’s mantra in Shelley’s Masque of Anarchy (1819), “I AM GOD, AND KING, AND LAW.” 7. With his usual buffer of self-inclusive irony, Adams lists examples, from the first two-thirds of the century that formed him, of what a young man such as he was naturally disposed to take on trust: “The atomic theory; the correlation and conservation of energy; the mechanical theory of the universe; the kinetic theory of gases, and Darwin’s law of Natural Selection” (Education, 925). 8. Collected with two other pieces that speak to the writing and teaching of history, published posthumously under the misleading title (provided by Brooks Adams), The Degradation of the Democratic Dogma (New York: Macmillan, 1919). References are to this edition. The other two pieces are, “The Tendency of History” (1894), written in the form of a letter to The American Historical Association; and an essay on “The Rule of Phase Applied to History” (1909). The first endorses the impulse that had set some historians on the track of a science of history—some principle in “the thickset forests of history” that would “put order in the chaos and bring light into darkness” (126–27). The second develops the hints on phase transformations in the Education, invoking the formulations of Willard Gibbs. It is perhaps the weakest of Adams’s dealings with models from science, especially where he implies the literal application of physical laws to historical processes. Nevertheless, the basic idea that he invokes has a metaphoric aptness.

Between Two Fires

263

9. J. C. Levinson writes in The Mind and Art of Henry Adams (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1957), 369: “Until the year of the Letter, Adams the author was more concerned with a dynamic theory of history than a thermodynamic theory of calamity.” Neither the shift nor the theory depend, in my view, on the work of Henry’s younger brother, Brooks, which Henry had encouraged (and describes in the Education, p. 1030), published in 1895 as The Law of Civilization and Decay. Brooks there developed a theory of history that was essentially cyclical and social Darwinist, a recurring pattern of growth, internal crisis, and collapse, brought on by the inevitable evolution of social forces and economic behavior, with trade and capital accumulation to the fore. 10. The fullest discussion, both knowledgeable and critical, of Adams’s attempted recruitment of scientific thought to historical theory is William H. Jordy’s Henry Adams: Scientific Historian, Yale Historical publications, Studies XVI (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1952). Harold J. Cassidy in “The Muse and the Axiom,” American Scientist 51 (September 1963), 315–26, criticizes Adams for not adequately distinguishing between science and technology. Focusing on the Education, he writes: “it seemed to me that Henry Adams was an epitome of the non-scientist faced with science that he could not understand, and deeply disturbed by the technological changes of his time.” I find Adams less hampered, more adroit, and more genuinely prescient than this implies. 11. Education, 1086. 12.To Charles Milnes Gaskell, November 28, 1909, in The Letters of Henry Adams, ed. J. C. Levinson et al. 6 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1988), 6: 289.Thomson (Kelvin) was the first serious scientist to project the heat death of the earth and the solar system on sound thermodynamic principles. On his challenge to the evolutionary (geologic) time table, and prolonged controversy with Thomas Huxley, see Martin Meisel, “On the Age of the Universe,” BRANCH: Britain, Representation, and Nineteenth-Century History, 2012, www.branchcollective.org/?ps_articles. 13. Bernard Brunhes sounds the alarm in La Dégradation de l’énergie (Paris: Flammarion, 1908). 14.William James responded to Adams’s Letter with several of his own, telling Adams that “To tell the truth, it doesn’t impress me at all, save by its wit and erudition.” With the physics “no one can find any fault—in the present stage of scientific conventions and fashions. But I protest against your interpretation of some of the specifications of the great statistical drift downwards of the original high-level energy.” He objects to the confusion of quantity with quality as it applies to human cerebration and human institutions, whose “value has in strict theory nothing whatever to do with their energy-budget.” And he points out the confusion of the quantity in the reservoir with the work of its flow, as in a wound-up clock, or a hydraulic ram. “The ‘second law’ is wholly irrelevant to ‘history’—save that it sets a terminus.” See Letters of William James, ed. Henry James, 2 vols. (London: Longmans Green, 1920), June 17 and 19, 1910; 2: 344–47. For Adams’s placable and disingenuous reply, disclaiming responsibility for the opinions he has retailed and complaining of the evasiveness of the philosophers and physicists, see his letter of June 20 in The Letters of Henry Adams, 6: 347.

12 AFTERWORDS FOR CARL WOODRING NINA AUERBACH

I

remember Carl Woodring, as teacher and friend, not for sweeping theories or moral guidance, but for his gnomic asides. Every so often in his seminars, Romantic Nature would be deflected by a comment on the opera, or Deans in Wisconsin, or the hive (as it then was) of the Columbia English department. His fondest students thought the nugget was meant for us alone, but then there was the tantalizing question of connection: did “Tintern Abbey” contain opera, or Deans, or the last fractious faculty meeting? Did Carl Woodring digress or absorb? In his life and in his books, he hinted at a mysteriously intricate world. Perhaps because he was so learned and so cryptic, Carl was hard to locate. At Columbia, where he worked between 1961 and 1988, the last and best years of his career—including three years as Chair where he kept life going during Columbia’s loud revolution—the university neglected to hold a memorial service when he died in 2009. I think he was forgotten because he died beyond New York. It isn’t that he wasn’t admired, even loved, in his time, but for New Yorkers, time involves staying in a place. Carl and his wife San had moved back home to Texas. Once someone leaves New York, he evaporates. The parochialism Carl decried in literary studies was his own posthumous bane at the university whose staunchest representative he was. Re-reading Literature: An Embattled Profession, I realized how much of it I had forgotten. This short book is so rich and full that I found I had forgotten the scope of its past, retaining only its deplored present and its

265

266

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

postulated future. The book’s wonderful first half, a history of our profession from its medieval origin to 1999, when the book was published, eluded me until I re-read it. Clearly, like most of my shallow generation, I acknowledged only the past I lived through; my academic life began in the 1960s and flamed in the 1970s. Everything before that was extraneous. Woodring begins his survey with Longfellow, whom he couldn’t have remembered, and carries it through time to the cusp of the twenty-first century. He reminds us that literary study originally focused not on the canon that once seemed immutable, especially at Columbia, but on classical languages and the arcane words that composed them. He goes on through what he calls context, a scrupulous enumeration of the life and times surrounding a text with little attention to the text itself; New Criticism, in which texts, especially poems, were hermetically sealed from any context; and finally,  the cacophony of ethnic studies and theoretical schools that composed embattled literature in the book’s present. As with everything Carl Woodring writes, this skeleton does no justice to his sparkling survey; what matters are the side trips, the little touches of wit, the political asides that give the most cloistered scholarship dimension. Like all history, Woodring’s pageant of mutations reminds us that the more we know, the farther we are from truth. Forms of knowledge that had seemed sacrosanct—for Carl’s teachers, drowning text in context; for me, a feminist slant—are as elastic as the shapes of shoes. Darwin’s earthworms are not more mobile than Carl Woodring’s great books. There is something wicked in disinterring old scholarly assumptions to expose their evolution, as there was in Carl himself. Until I re-read the book, I had forgotten this rich first half, an overview that recalled the elasticity of our profession, its adaptive strategies to its own past and to changing times. Reading it now, I think it has the wrong title. I would call it, not Literature: An Embattled Profession, but “Literature: Battling for Its Life,” or some such contentious effusion. In 1999, though, Carl probably felt there were too many battles. In and out of academe, it was the peak of the culture wars, with so-called traditionalists booming that Women’s Studies, Afro-American Studies, and the rest embodied perspectives with no place in the sacrosanct academic canon. Many feminists and friends boomed back, but not Carl Woodring. It was enough that he showed, without pontificating, that there is no tradition: Women’s Studies follow logically, or at least historically, from fidelity to both context and text, while ethnic studies, as he calls them, may be truer to the canon than Greek roots or French theory. His book is so apt about its squabbling decade that, unlike most culture wars books, it is timeless and should last.

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

267

When I first read it, though, my interest in the profession before my life was perfunctory. What stayed with me, and what I remember most fondly about Carl himself, was his glancing witty wickedness. The book shows its teeth when it moves into the present, taking on two communities that seemed ubiquitous: academics’ then-obsession with French theory, and the proliferation of administrators who increasingly controlled our professional lives, and still do. The craze for theory at the end of the twentieth century becomes Woodring’s target, not for the obvious reasons—that its incantatory language  sounds silly, though it often did; that it’s un-American, though it was; that it obscured the Anglo-American literature that was supposed to be our field, though it often did. Cleaved to exclusively, it takes us out of a world of particulars: “Theorists taught one way of reading all works of a genre, or at most two or three ways, not sensitively intelligent response to the individualizing characteristics of differing works. Even new roads were cluttered with terms more predictable than intelligible” (65). These sentences could have an ideological slant or a patriarchal one, privileging purity over uniformity, age over youth. Instead, they are oblique affirmations of what mattered most to Carl Woodring: singularity (he belonged to no literary school, though several have claimed him); professional breadth (Literature asserts over and over that we should teach to a general public the fun of reading, endorsing interchanges with community colleges and even secondary schools, which were far from Columbia’s rarefied sense of its place in Woodring’s day); and, especially, an ability to read the world we live in (what he calls “the surround”). This failure to understand even our own context is, for Woodring, what makes literature truly embattled. Hermetic language may be a symptom of a larger force about which Woodring becomes scathing toward the end of his book: the unchecked, even unnoticed (by hermetic faculty) growth of administrators, assistants to assistants of vice presidents, overwhelming students and faculty alike. Carl’s laconic proposal is still worth considering: “My personal recommendation would be to transfer truckloads of administrators, with retraining where appropriate, into activities of direct benefit to the minds of students” (187). This is the part of the book I remembered with delight: I still giggle with glee at the picture of “truckloads of administrators” being herded out of their plush offices into what should be the heart of the university. This scathing indictment of the self-serving functionaries who are overrunning our profession, financially and intellectually, is the heart of the book. The attack in this last section is Swiftian in its incisiveness, so much so that I wasn’t surprised at Carl’s opening confession that he had written “an

268

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

unreadable M. A. essay on Jonathan Swift” (vii–viii) at the beginning of his career. Perhaps he always remained more Swiftian than Coleridgian, though his proposals seemed at first disarmingly modest. His Swiftian denunciation is far from unreadable, but it is buried toward the end in a chapter called, innocuously, “The Surround.” Hence, perhaps, no one paid much attention to this central, and crucial, lament. As I recall, none of the many diagnoses of the sick academy talk about a glut of administrators and their effect on our work: rather, academics talk about how important their work is, with little attention to a “surround.” Perhaps if the whole book had been a Swiftian anatomy of university administrators, it would have been more influential. In the same vein, Woodring’s most acclaimed book, Politics in English Romantic Poetry, has none of the flagrant naughtiness of a generation that proclaimed literature is covertly political; Carl’s work is rich and quiet. But more overtly iconoclastic books would not have belonged to Carl Woodring. If he had written them, we might not be here to celebrate his memory today.

G. THOMAS TANSELLE I first met Carl Woodring in September of 1960 when I joined the English department at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. At that time he was forty-one and had been a member of this renowned department, full of well-known names, for twelve years. His great books were still ahead of him; but his book on William and Mary Howitt and his articles in major journals, along with his 1955 Guggenheim Fellowship and the knowledge that he was about to publish two books (Politics in the Poetry of Coleridge, a product of his Guggenheim, and Prose of the Romantic Period, an anthology in Gordon Ray’s Riverside series) made him a rising star. Indeed, he was at that time in discussion with Columbia, whose offer of a full professorship he accepted for the following fall. Therefore I knew him and his wife San (formally Mary Ellis Woodring, but always called “San”), who was the departmental secretary of the political science department, for only a year before they left for New York. But because they were gregarious and liked to host parties (in their old white house on Wisconsin Avenue, a few blocks north of the state capitol), I saw more of them than would otherwise have been the case. They were charming and lively, and they displayed the love for each other that had brought them together as students at Rice. Carl’s incisive wit, delivered with a soft voice and a Texas accent, was known to all who encountered him socially or in the departmental precincts of

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

269

Bascom Hall. I was sorry to see him and San leave, and I had no idea that they would later become a considerably larger part of my life. In July 1978, I, too, moved to New York—to become the vice-president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (at the invitation of its president, Gordon Ray, the great Thackeray scholar, a prominent book collector, and a good friend of the Woodrings). It turned out that San worked at the Foundation, as a kind of office manager and the editor of the Foundation’s splendid annual reports, with their meticulous biographies of the Fellowship recipients. Having been an old-school departmental secretary, she was perfect for this job, juggling all kinds of tasks with seeming effortlessness and with time left over to chat with all the staff. She knew the workings of the academic world thoroughly and liked academic gossip, which she repeated with wry amusement. From the time of my arrival, she and I had long talks nearly every day, and I appreciated her kindness and common sense. Being colleagues obviously meant that I spent more time with her in New York than I did with Carl; and the reminiscences I have of Carl inevitably involve many memories of her. Carl would have approved: his devotion to her is suggested by his response to a 2005 lecture I gave at the Grolier Club, in which I commented on his book collection and briefly mentioned San; his letter acknowledging the printed form of the lecture contained nothing about my attention to him but said that “any reference to San is welcome.” If I did not see Carl as often as I saw San, I did have many associations with him. He was instrumental in arranging for me to teach analytical bibliography and textual criticism at Columbia, which I happily did as an adjunct professor for twenty-six years, beginning in 1980. (There was already a Wisconsin contingent there, for Carl had been joined in 1968 by Martin Meisel and in 1970 by Karl Kroeber.) Until Carl’s retirement, it was his office on the sixth floor of Philosophy Hall (overlooking the Low Library steps and the central campus) that I used on my one afternoon a week at Columbia. From students who stopped by, expecting to see him, I got a sense of the respect and affection in which they held him. (The feeling was mutual: he dedicated his 1989 book, Nature into Art, “To students at Columbia and Wisconsin who taught me.”) He often invited me to lunches and dinners at the Society of Fellows in the Humanities, in which he was active (and which he had helped to form); and sometimes we went together to events at the Grolier Club (the collectors’ club on 60th Street, of which we were both members). Other occasions that remain in my mind were his impressive University Lecture on November 19, 1986, followed by dinner at Faculty House; and his retirement dinner on April 30, 1987, where his

270

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

gracious remarks were as skillful as any I have ever heard. (His official retirement was not until 1988, but he and San were to spend the 1987–88 year at the National Humanities Center; after they moved in August, Carl wrote to me describing their house in Chapel Hill as “a practical compromise between Mies and Wright,” a comment reflecting his perennial interest in architecture.) Carl frequently came to the Foundation office late on Friday afternoons, for he and San usually went to dinner and the theater on those evenings. From early in my time at the Foundation, they often included me in these plans, and we went to many off-Broadway plays together, with dinner beforehand at small appealing restaurants they were familiar with close to the theaters. Our most regular venue was the Circle Repertory Theater, at Sheridan Square, combined with dinners at the famed Lion’s Head Tavern across the square or the Grand Ticino on Thompson Street. Among the memorable productions we saw there were Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love (directed by Shepard) on June 3, 1983 (this time we were joined by San’s sister Janie Morrison, from Little Rock, and in her honor dined at Texarkana on 10th Street, which specialized in food from her part of the country); and Lanford Wilson’s Balm in Gilead (directed by John Malkevich) on June 8, 1984. Other locations included Playhouse 91, on the upper East Side, where (on April 8, 1983) we went to Simon Gray’s Quartermaine’s Terms, starring Remak Ramsay, preceded by dinner at Sahib on 86th Street (a restaurant I went back to several times); and the Apple Corps Theatre on 20th Street, where (on March 6, 1987) we saw Theodora Skipitares’s Defenders of the Code (accompanied by Mary Judge, who worked with San at the Foundation and became a good friend) and ate at Quatorze on 14th Street. At least once (on June 24, 1983), we went to a Broadway show, a revival of On Your Toes with Natalia Makarova, at the Virginia Theater (and dined around the corner on Eighth Avenue at Caramba). By the 1980s, San and Carl’s standard vacation spot was the Caribbean, usually Virgin Gorda, though sometimes with visits to other islands. San always sent me letters while she was away, and I am going to quote in full a representative one (from August 9, 1986) because it offers a good picture of what their Caribbean stays were like (and shows San’s sense of humor): We were the only nonscientists staying at the Guana Island Club. The rest were part of an annual July conference of biologists. The snorkeling was lovely, the food and wine great, and the cocktail and dinner conversations bizarre. Besides fish and coral we can now bore you on many new subjects, be it the moustached quail dove, the Anegada iguana, or

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

271

the possibility that the small bones Michael dug up in his cave indicate the Arawak Indians were eating fresh water fish 2000 years ago. Burdened with all this additional knowledge (I failed to mention termites) we landed at the Bitter End Yacht Club where we have lived happily seventy-six steps up the wood and stone steps in a thatched villa complete with a beaded curtain straight out of Somerset Maugham and two terraces—one for morning sun baths and the other for sunsets across Gorda Sound. Most important, however, we have now snorkeled not once but several times the renowned Horseshoe Reef—definitely our finest hour unless we get to the Great Barrier Reef off Australia. The day before we left Carl bought the ultimate lens for the underwater camera. The lens is supposed to have perfect depth of focus from 1 foot to infinity—until the slides are developed he has the greatest expectations ever. I write this while Carl mixes our sundowner Mount Gays. We sip them on the proper terrace after summoning about 25 bananaquits (birds) to their evening treat of cornbread crumbs saved from breakfast and strewn across the ledge in front of the sunset. At this point I am too relaxed to return home.

The reference to Carl’s new camera lens underscores his love of technical details and the challenge of mastering them. Another example was his approach to the computer: on one of my visits to the Woodring apartment in the early 1980s, before most academics had acquired computers, Carl was immersed in installing his own, fascinated by the complicated instructions. The apartment, at 404 Riverside Drive (apartment 10A), was in one of the great residential buildings of the area, designed by the famous firm of Schwartz & Gross in 1909, four blocks from Columbia’s main Broadway gate. It was a handsome and spacious apartment (but only half of an original one), with high ceilings, a long central hall, and a large living room lined with bookshelves, though with enough wall space left for artwork. Whenever I was there for a drink and some interesting cheese before we went out to a neighborhood restaurant, I always enjoyed being in the presence of Carl’s great book-and-art collection of the late nineteenth-century artists Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon (a collection now in the Rice University Library). I am sure that Carl’s students were also impressed: he normally invited his classes over, and I still encounter students of his (such as Jay Gertzman) who remember the experience with pleasure. Sometimes I was invited along with other guests—Jim Nelson from Wisconsin, for example, or Charles Gullans from UCLA. Carl’s conversation was full of details, and San pretended at times to find it tedious, remarking that it was typically academic; but I knew that she really admired, as I did, Carl’s

272

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

command of details on a wide variety of subjects. For all its prolixity, his talk was also characterized by concise turns of phrase that wittily captured the essence of a situation. The last time I was in the apartment was on June 25, 1987, less than two months before San and Carl left for their year in North Carolina, preceding their retirement to Texas. San’s sister was there, too, and we went to dinner at The Terrace, with its panoramic views to the north from the top of Butler Hall. The occasion was bittersweet: I felt that an era had come to an end, even though we had plans for one more theater evening (Steel Magnolias) the following month. San had already retired, in September 1985 when Gordon Ray did, but I was delighted to have been able to see her and Carl for nearly two more years before their departure—thus the whole period when I saw a lot of them amounted to only nine years, far too short a time. No doubt in some ways they were sorry to leave New York: I always thought of them as quintessential appreciators of the city, for they regularly went to the opera and the museums as well as to the theater. Strangely, however, given that fact, San never really liked New York; as she told me, she would have been content to remain in Wisconsin. But when Carl wanted to join the Columbia department, they made a deal: she would acquiesce in that move, if he would agree not to remain in New York after retirement but instead to return to Texas, where they both had been born. During their final Texas years, Carl was remarkably productive, publishing two major books (adding to his record of three previous major ones, in my opinion); a memoir of his World War II service on the USS Hopkins; a magnificent edition of Coleridge’s Table Talk; and The Columbia History of British Poetry, which he edited with James Shapiro, along with an accompanying anthology (he inscribed a copy of the history to me “for many good reasons”). In addition, he made six trips to New York, largely out of loyalty to his dissertation students, so that he could be present for their defenses, but also to take in Keats–Shelley Association meetings. Although—I am sorry to say—I never got to Austin in those years, I saw Carl on his New York visits, and San accompanied him on one of them (in May 1990, when, as in old times, we went to a play—August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson at the Walter Kerr Theatre, preceded by dinner at Carolina on West 46th). And I met both of them in December 1994 at the Modern Language Association convention in San Diego (where we had dinner at Dobson’s). It was not safe for San to travel much after that because her skin was so tender it would tear easily, as a result of her long use of steroids to control her respiratory and sinus problems. We did keep in touch by mail, though the intervals between letters were long. But their letters still had the

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

273

same humor as always: when Carl wrote in February 2006 indicating that he planned to be in New York in May (for his first visit after San’s death in 2003), he said: “Life in an old folks’ home is far too social.” In the last note I had from him, in December 2008, thanking me for the Christmas plant I had sent (the end of a long series, since his death came the following September), he wrote: “When residents and visitors admire the poinsettia, I tell them about 90 Park and off Broadway.” And when I revisit 90 Park (where the Foundation is located) or attend an off-Broadway play, I think about San and Carl.

WILLIAM THEODORE DE BARY My thanks to the editor of this volume for allowing me to join in this tribute to Carl Woodring. In all my years in Columbia College and the Graduate Faculties, I have not known anyone quite the equal of Carl as an academic or colleague. Carl has been known not only as a top scholar and conscientious teacher, but—what is less often recognized—as a true educator, one committed to the work of the whole educational community and its overall aim of cultivating truly human persons in a civilized society. Carl already had a long record of service as a teacher of English Literature and chair of that department as well as a teacher and chair of Literature Humanities, when I invited him to join me in forming a new humanities center, the Heyman Center for the Humanities, which a generous gift of alumnus David Heyman made possible in the 1970s. Carl was a low-keyed, soft-spoken person with no administrative or political ambitions that I know of, but he understood what it took to get people to work together for intellectual and educational purposes. He understood what became most crucial in the designing of our humanities center, the importance of having small class or seminar rooms in which to conduct intimate discussions, rather than huge amphitheaters in which bigname professors lecture to admiring students who are themselves passive observers in the process. Thus he encouraged the design of the Heyman Center as one featuring small seminar rooms and individual cubicles where scholars and teaching fellows could pursue their own research, with a common room at the center for joint activities. Carl had already been a leading figure in setting up the Society of Fellows in the Humanities, funded in 1976 by a Mellon grant, the distinctive feature of which was that post-doctoral fellows pursuing their individual research also taught Core Curriculum courses in Literature Humanities and

274

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

Contemporary Civilization—thus balancing individual advancement with public service in the Core. The Heyman Center then became the perfect home for these complementary endeavors. But now, with this ideal home in prospect, Carl joined in a further program to encourage experienced teachers of the humanities, who were by now teaching in Asian Humanities and Civilization courses as well as Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization, to form a society of professors emeriti who would continue to teach Core courses in retirement and would also have a home in the new center to replace their departmental offices. Thus Carl became the organizer and first chair of the Society of Senior Scholars, which still carries on in the spirit of Carl Woodring. One further post-script to Carl’s intimate association with the planning of the Heyman Center: when it came time to furnish the new center, Carl joined me in making a visit to the workshop of craftsman George Nakashima in New Hope, Pennsylvania. There he helped work out the design of the seminar tables and accompanying chairs that helped create an intimate atmosphere conducive for collegial discussion. Since the building itself was designed by university architects who favored an ultra-modern, severe style of glass and steel architecture, the warm mahogany and teak woodwork of George Nakashima in the interior setting provided an offset to the coldness of the exterior. I like to think that the Heyman Center building, along with the volume here presented, stands as a memorial to the devoted service of Carl Woodring, a very modest but notable example of public service for the cause of education in the humanities.

DONALD H. REIMAN [From Remarks at the Keats-Shelley Association Distinguished Scholar Awards Dinner, December 1982] In Carl Pforzheimer’s letter inviting members of the Keats-Shelley Association to this dinner, it was mentioned that Kenneth Cameron, David Erdman, and Carl Woodring have sometimes been linked as members of a “New York School” of scholarly criticism. If such a school can be said to exist, its origins and membership are by no means clear and simple. But a few common factors can be enumerated. For one thing, Ken and David first met at the University of Wisconsin—in a university and state with a long tradition of progressive politics and politically active academics, where Carl Woodring also taught later. After finding

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

275

their individual ways to New York, the three men, whose research interests had shown them combining historical and political awareness with respect for facts, as well as for ideas, found themselves working amid an amorphous group of other critics and scholars who joined social awareness to a commitment to the human values articulated in great literature—such critics as Lewis Mumford, Edmund Wilson, Lionel Trilling, Edgar Johnson, Alfred Kazin, and Irving Howe. Whereas most of these men were New Yorkers or Easterners, however, Ken Cameron from Montreal, via Oxford, England, Madison, Wisconsin, and Bloomington, Indiana; David Erdman, from Minnesota and Carlton College, via schools scattered throughout the Midwest and South as well as the United Auto Workers’ headquarters; and Carl Woodring, out of Texas, the United States Navy, Harvard, and Wisconsin, added a larger awareness of America, as well as a less rarified conception of what aspects of history are significant than did some these other critics. The ideals of the New York School, as distilled from the publications of the three scholar-critics we honor tonight, would seem to include an aspiration to be much more than successful mandarins, but rather to serve as executive assistants to “unacknowledged legislators,” helping to change both society’s conception of poets and society’s own goals. The New York School embodies a commitment to literature as a part of life and to experience as the basis for both producing and comprehending poetry. It is no accident, therefore, that these scholar-critics championed writers generally unpopular in the ivory towers of the 1950s—Shelley, Blake, Coleridge, and Byron—rather than Keats and Wordsworth, whom the New Critics and other politically conservative forces in academe had narrowed and studied for their merely aesthetic and personal values. To these other critics, Lord Byron might have said: You—Gentlemen! by dint of long seclusion From better company, . . . . . . through still continued fusion Of one another’s minds, at last have grown To deem as a most logical conclusion, That [criticism] has wreaths for you alone.

Kenneth Neill Cameron, David V. Erdman, and Carl Woodring (and, of course, Leslie Marchand, whom we honored last year) can point to achievements as individuals, as cooperative (rather than rivalrous) friends, and as part of a tradition of socially aware, humane scholarly criticism that

276

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

refutes such elitist exclusivity. The awards we will present to them tonight merely betoken their earned right to a place on that lower slope of Parnassus reserved for dedicated scholar-critics, just a few hundred yards above the winding paths trod by peripatetic literary theorists. “Below the good how far—but far above the great!”

ANNE K. MELLOR Carl Woodring meant so much to me that I am going to ask your permission to indulge me in sharing with you a few personal memories before turning to the impact of his work both on my own academic endeavors and on the field of Romanticism more broadly. I first met Carl Woodring in January, 1963, when as a doctoral degree candidate at Columbia University, I enrolled in his graduate lecture course on the British Romantic poets. I sat through all the lectures for that course, scribbling notes as fast as I could, but on the whole—I confess—completely baffled. He had so much to say, and his mind moved in such unpredictable directions, that I found myself both perplexed and intrigued, always wanting to hear more. The next fall, I enrolled in the same course for a second time—by then I had come to understand that Carl was a raconteur extraordinaire, one whose stories flowed through free associations, but connections always deeply insightful, unexpected, and persuasive. When I later introduced him to one of my colleagues at Stanford University, he commented that listening to Carl was like sipping aged wine, as opposed to the “fizzy pop” of most academic conversations. I will come back to some of the most important ideas that I took away from that course, but here I first want to remember his unique and always rewarding conversational style. Moreover, Carl was amazingly hospitable to his students. His was the only faculty home that I entered during my entire career as a graduate student at Columbia University. He not only entertained his students with wine, cheese, and brilliant conversation, but he also made a practice of putting out on his dining room table all his most valued books and prints—a feast for the eyes as well as the mind. Among these treasured possessions were his first editions of Charles Ricketts’ and Charles Shannon’s Vale Press editions, complete with colored prints, which I have never forgotten. This hospitality extended even past his retirement. I once visited him in Austin, Texas, where he introduced me not only to the resources of the Harry Ransom Library but also to the local ecology of the garden center and preservation society for which he volunteered.

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

277

No other professor in my experience was as supportive of women students as was Carl (and especially not the very few female professors I had encountered before, either at Brown University or at Columbia). I often thought this might be the result of his marriage to the extremely talented, feisty, but under-employed, San—who in her own persistent way, while working in the administrative offices of the Guggenheim Foundation, supported female candidates for their fellowships. Carl went out of his way to help me, on numerous occasions. When I told him I wanted to write my dissertation on the poetry and art of William Blake, he arranged for David Erdman to serve on my dissertation committee. When the female member of my Ph.D. qualifying oral exam committee (who will remain nameless) began to hound me, he intervened, telling her to behave herself. When my first marriage crashed and burned, he persuaded the Woodrow Wilson Foundation to give me additional financial support for psychiatric care. And when I returned to Columbia to defend my dissertation after teaching for two years at Stanford, he not only approved my work but spent most of the exam forcing the poor young Assistant Professor who had been brought in as a Blake specialist to explain why he was promoting such clichéd, unpersuasive readings of Blake. That this commitment to women extended beyond his own students is strikingly recorded in a sentence that he wrote in his book on Wordsworth published in 1965. After discussing Wordsworth’s later poems from Rydal Mount, he concluded, and I quote, “No feminist ever used as handbook The White Doe of Rylstone.” I cannot think of another male scholar, certainly not in the field of British Romanticism, who would have published such a sentence in 1965! Throughout his impressively productive career as a scholar and teacher, Carl remained endearingly modest about his own achievements. I recall that when he received the Keats–Shelley Association Distinguished Scholar Award, he claimed that he “was not a great teacher but he had great students.” This claim was of course terribly wrong, perhaps the only occasion on which this tactful truth teller erred. For I know that he taught me the most important things I ever learned, both as a scholar and as a human being, a debt I recorded publically when I published my book English Romantic Irony (1980), which I dedicated to Carl Woodring in the following inscription: “To the man who taught me both the shapings of romanticism and the meaning of the word humane I gratefully dedicate this book.” Turning now to what I and so many others learned from Carl Woodring, let me first acknowledge that all the books and articles I’ve written have been profoundly influenced by his thought. He eagerly embraced my initial project of putting Blake’s poetry into dialogue with his visual images,

278

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

with his paintings and engravings as well as his illuminations for specific poems. He introduced me to the eighteenth-century “Sister Arts” debates, and to the categories of the sublime, the beautiful, and the picturesque as they functioned in literary texts as well as landscape painting. Much of this material found its way into his own impressive summary of the relationship between visual and verbal culture, Nature into Art: Cultural Transformations in Nineteenth-Century Britain (1989). While listening to his lectures twice over, I encountered the concept of romantische ironie, a concept that fascinated me and that gave me an entrée into the work of Byron that I had not encountered elsewhere, a concept that I explored in greater detail in my own English Romantic Irony in 1980. It was in his graduate seminar in 1964 that I first read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a novel that had never before been on any of the Romantic-era literature syllabi that I had encountered. These were the days when Frankenstein was regularly dismissed as sci-fi, kiddie lit, or at best a marginal addendum to the serious study of Percy Shelley’s poetry. When in 1980 I decided to focus my research on Romantic-era women writers, I thought first of Mary Shelley in large part because Carl Woodring had taken her work seriously. But by far the greatest and most enduring impact that Carl Woodring had on my own and so many others’ intellectual development grew out of the method he employed in his magisterial Politics in English Romantic Poetry (1970). Carl here heralded an approach to literature that at the time was marginal, eccentric, controversial—but has since become so widely practiced, so central to the field of English literary studies as a whole, as to seem banal—namely, what we now call the “New Historicism.” In the face of the close reading of literary texts for their own sake, the widespread practices of the “New Criticism” promulgated by Cleanth Brooks and W. K. Wimsatt, in the face of Archibald McLeish’s famous dictum that “Poems should not mean but be,” Carl insisted that poems were written primarily in dialogue with the major social and political events surrounding their moment of composition. Politics in English Romantic Poetry begins with the brilliantly clear dictum: “Poems contain ideas.” However self-evident that claim may now seem, in 1970 it was provocative; as Carl wryly noted, “The operative thesis of the present study is that political concern is more important as a generative force and an argumentative presence in the Romantic movement in England, and in major poems of that movement, than one could gather from most criticism of the last fifty years” (2). Not only do poems contain ideas, but ideas have consequences for poetry. As Carl then deftly showed, the political and historical events of the period from 1789 to

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

279

1832 were shaping forces in the major poems of Coleridge (summarizing material he had previously explored in his Politics in the Poetry of Coleridge in 1961), Wordsworth, Byron, and Percy Shelley. His study drew particular attention to the impact of the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon, of course, but also to the significance of the triumph of Simon Bolivar and the new Republic of Columbia as a site of Romantic aspiration (a significance especially resonant with the female poets of the age, as we have come only very recently to recognize). As Carl noted, “Columbia, coarse but united under representative government, afforded a grotto to which the hopes of man could retire if revolutions elsewhere failed” (6), as indeed they do in Anna Letitia Barbauld’s 1811 and Helen Maria Williams’ Peru. He further discussed these poets’ preoccupation with the early impact of the Industrial Revolution—urbanization, emigration, the dislocation of working class populations, poverty, all in what he deftly defined as an “age of acceleration” (2). Above all, he stressed these poets’ struggles with the conflict between political liberalism and its foundation on a belief in rational, empirical, and utilitarian method as opposed to their own beliefs in organicism, the value of the emotions, and a unifying imagination. And once again, he was ahead of the curve, locating this conflict first in the writings of the non-canonical Helen Maria Williams, whose Letters from France in 1790 asked: “What, indeed, but friendship, could have led my attention from the annals of imagination to the records of politics; from the poetry to the prose of human life?” (3). As Carl summed up the influential critical argument of his book, the ultimate purpose of many major Romantic poems is to “excite belief in the possibility of influencing political change” (9). The equally important claim made in Politics in English Romantic Poetry is that major Romantic poems refuse “to separate personal feeling from the perception of order among phenomena” (7). Here Carl laid out the fundamental grounds of what we might now call a feminist epistemology. I take this both in the sense promoted by Mary Belencky and others (Women’s Ways of Knowing, 1986), who argue that “women’s ways of knowing” fuse the emotional with the rational, always recognizing the inextricable presence of bodily and emotional sensations in our conscious apprehensions of the material world. But I also take this in Sandra Harding’s sense of “strong” (as opposed to “weak”) objectivity, an argument derived from Marxist standpoint theory (in Feminist Epistemologies, 1992). As Harding argued, a scientific “objectivity” which asserts that the object of knowledge can be detached from the individual observer produces an inadequate truth. A more robust, more truthful knowledge is attained when the emotional, cultural and biographical experiences—those personal experiences which

280

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

condition the perceptions—of every possible observer, including those on the margins of the experiment, are taken into account. For Carl Woodring, this emphasis on “personal feeling” led to an affirmation of the “passionate individualism” (8) of the Romantic poets. For contemporary readers of Romantic poetry, it might equally well lead to an affirmation of a “community” of perceivers, united through sympathy, as it does in the poetry of the leading female poets of the Romantic era, most notably Charlotte Smith, Lucy Aikin, Letitia Landon, and Felicia Hemans. As early as 1986, in a conference held at UCLA and organized by three of Carl Woodring’s former graduate students (William Schaffer, Robert Maniquis, and myself), a conference titled “Romanticism, Politics and the New Historicism: A Conference in Honor of Carl Woodring,” I opened the proceedings by claiming that all the speakers—a group that included Jerome McGann, James Chandler, Alan Liu, Marjorie Levinson, Cliff Siskin, Tom Mitchell, Elinor Schaffer, and Morton Paley—that all of these noted scholars were “marching under the banner of Carl Woodring.” And certainly I was. When in 1985 I organized the first session at the MLA Annual Convention devoted to Romanticism and Women, subsequently published as Romanticism and Feminism in 1988, I was inspired by Carl. And all the work I have done since to broaden the canon of Romantic era writing to include women, as well as people of color, was inspired by Carl’s insistence that we needed to look beyond the work of just six poets if we were to understand the meaning of “Romanticism” in its historical context. All the effort I have put into asking again and again of literary texts “What difference does gender make?”, the question that governed my most recent books, Romanticism and Gender and Mothers of the Nation, was first inspired by Carl Woodring’s intellectual tolerance and constant reminder that poems, plays, and novels do not exist in a void. Rather, as he argued so forcefully, literary texts are in constant conversation with each other, with the major political issues of the day, and with all the social contexts which they inhabit, ranging from the discoveries of science through the doctrinal battles of religion to the reconstructions of the family and the constantly shifting presence of visual images promulgated as much through a satirical print culture as through the staged exhibitions of both high and low art. And to this day, the banner raised by Carl Woodring still floats, “embattled” perhaps, but nonetheless triumphantly above us. However much one might disagree with Carl Woodring’s readings of individual poems and poets—and I at least would suggest that the “love” promoted by Percy Shelley as the solution to all worldly evils is more

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

281

narcissistic and self-absorbed than it seemed to Carl—I think we can all agree with Carl’s final conclusion in Politics in English Romantic Poetry. I will conclude by letting him speak for himself: Politically, the romantics contributed most to later generations in deepening the liberal ideal. They introduced into poetry and life a sense— too variable from one poet to another to be called an idea—of imagination as the sympathetic movement from self into others. The liberal had said, To understand is to forgive. . . . The romantic said, Truly to comprehend is to imagine. Whomever you understand, you may pity, but to understand and pity are not enough. Without imagination, you cannot love. Whom you truly imagine, you love. Not only must emotion and dream have their place in man’s [and I am sure he would now add, woman’s] search for the beautiful, the good, and the true, but attention to the individual and the particular must lead to empathy with those who would otherwise appear as your foes. (330)

CARL DAWSON On a hot August day in Maine, I had a call from our friend Jerry Loving, who said, “If you want to see Carl Woodring, you need to come soon.” Years before, Susan, my wife, and I had introduced Jerry and his wife, Kathy, to Carl; they became friends, and because they live part of the time in Austin, Texas, they saw him often. After talking with Jerry, I booked a flight then picked up the phone to call Carl—to make sure of a welcome. When he answered the phone, I hardly knew what to say, except, “Carl, would you like me to come down?” “Yes,” he said, “but I might be dead by the time you get here.” The next morning at 6 o’clock I was 30,000 feet above who-knowswhere on the route to Austin. From a distant past I recalled a flight I took as a boy from California to New York and on to London. Fourteen years old, I was lonely and a little frightened, facing a year or two away from my family. In the roar of the airplane I suddenly felt quiet, the noise was there in a kind of separate sphere, in my sphere, and I whispered random phrases until I found what I wanted. I was “nowhere, and somewhere, above the earth and beneath the sky.” Now, a lifetime after, the lost feeling had returned. I hoped to be seeing Carl Woodring in a few hours with no assurance he would be alive, and, if he was alive, whether he remained the man I had known and loved. He too seemed to be hovering “somewhere between the earth and the sky.’’

282

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

Long ago, Carl and his wife, San, had moved from their beautiful home in Austin to “the Summit,” one of those facilities providing a menu of stages ranging from pleasant apartment life to the hospital version of Hospice, the latter space tucked away from the sight of healthy occupants and guests like myself. Walking down one of the Summit’s long corridors, I thought how odd the closed doors must appear to those entering their last home, where each occupant awaits his or her time to go. And of course they—as we—do go, one by one, pushed at last over that long-awaited horizon. Counting the doors along the hallway, I wondered whether newcomers settled first into their newly vacated seats, or sought a tenuous grip on the breakfast or dining table. Or did they unroll the flags of yesterday in their new apartments: photos, grandchildren’s daubed notes, love rings from teen-age passions? On this corridor the memories squeezed out through the doorways, piling up outside—the signs of establishment or a statement that Mildred or Henry or Connie were still alive, still themselves wherever they may have landed. I admit to hating the place, or more broadly, any such place, however elegant or well managed. On one visit to the Summit I slept in a sterile guest room that felt like a cell in a minimally-appointed prison. Yet Carl Woodring had spent his late years in this facility as content as he seemed to have been throughout his full and fulfilling life. San (with her wicked sense of humor) had died in the Summit shortly before they were to move there. He chose to fulfill their plan, taking a smaller then larger apartment and settling in so well that he accepted the position of representing his fellow inmates to the company. From the outset he met people with whom he enjoyed years of friendship, and he chose well. His friends were active, loyal, and perhaps in their ways as pleasant or as talented as he himself. In their eighties and nineties, they seemed to be people different from the rest of us and, as I saw them, almost a race apart. Carl’s best friends and neighbors, Linda and Chester, opened their doors each evening to martinis or wine; their apartment might have been a French salon full of brilliant talk and exceptional manners. Why, then, did my visits there always seem difficult? Did it disturb me that Carl enjoyed and felt comfortable in a place that I almost feared? Or that he had in some ways become a different person? On one trip to the Summit, I had asked Carl where he wanted to dine that night. He hummed and hawed and said, “I’d like us to stay here this evening; there’s a Christmas party and I’d rather not miss it.” In fact, the parties followed parties for the next two weeks. At other times Carl would have jumped at a restaurant in town, Belgian food, Mexican—even, to my disappointment,

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

283

Texas barbeque. Several times I sat pretending to enjoy chicken-fried steak, whether in Austin or some “choice” eatery in the “hill country,” while Susan silently counted the calories on her plate and the Woodrings dug in. It finally dawned on me that, be it food, job, place, or people, Carl took what he was dealt. Satisfied with his life, he loved where he found himself: New York or Texas, Columbia University or the University of Wisconsin—or even his time aboard a ship at war.

I

am already ahead of myself, wrestling with unconnected bits of a friendship summoned by memories, not only of Carl but of myself, another Carl, and of my own long life. Questions occur to me: where, for example, does reflection begin or end? And given the vicissitudes of remembering, how honest can it be? Another conundrum: why does writing open the doors of memory as nothing else can? I remember another opening door, my first meeting with Carl in the office of Marjorie Nicolson. I had just returned to Columbia from a year in Germany and needed a dissertation director. I felt uncertain in that hot room (having already braved the gatekeeper, Mrs. Mendelsohn), and who wouldn’t? Miss Nicolson could be, at the very least, brusque. (A few years later in another university I raised my hand after a lecture she gave and asked whether two poets might be more similar than she had argued. She spat out “NO!”) On this day, however, I was lucky. She asked what area I had in mind and who was my dissertation director. The second question proved anything but simple. In my absence I had changed areas, and with few exceptions—Jerome Buckley had left for Harvard—had only a vague awareness of the nineteenth-century scholars who might be available or would take on a stranger. Making the situation worse, I planned to leave the next day for the west coast, where, in absentia, I wanted to take two of my exams. Miss Nicolson nodded agreeably and said, “You need to talk to Carl Woodring. I’ll get him to come over.” She picked up the phone. “Carl, I’d like you to come over and talk to a student. . . . No, now. He has a plane to catch.” Carl, obviously not happy with the intrusion but either kindly accepting or having no choice, arrived a quarter of an hour later. Miss Nicolson left the room, Carl smiled, and asked me a few questions, and, after talk about dissertations, German art, and how to deal with the university bureaucracy, I thanked him and left again for another year. Carl was an open-minded dissertation director; he trusted his students to find their own ways while making suggestions when needed. I saw him no more than six or seven times in the year I came back to write my dissertation, which is to say that I hardly met with him at all. Once I had

284

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

to call to say that I couldn’t give a promised talk in his seminar that afternoon; a bout of German measles had leveled me. Once again he seemed unhappy, and unsympathetic. I thought and still think that he thought I was making a clumsy excuse not to face his students—but I can’t think of any other breach in our relationship. What strikes me as odd in our friendship is that from great distances we became closer friends. Slowly we began to exchange letters and books and later on each other’s drafts. His manuscript about life as an officer during World War II came to me out of the blue; he had written it for his shipmates, who, like Carl himself, had little time left. He wanted to tell those men how much they meant to him, and why they should be proud of their service. Another time, when he sent his manuscript about the profession of English Literature, he asked me for a reading. I found it an accurate assessment of a field that had, essentially, brought on its own demise—though not without the help of ignorant armies—the administrators—eager to destroy the humanities and transform universities into factories. I wonder if any dissertation director approached Carl’s record, not just his staggering numbers of students who wrote their dissertations under his guidance, but also the professional expertise he exemplified, and the jobs he engineered. Many of us owe their professorships and/or grants /or fellowships to Carl’s compelling letters. He was a teacher of a rare kind, as if he took those he loved, either as his grown children or as his works in progress. In my case, I’m sure his letters exaggerated everything I did or could do, and I’m certain that the jobs and the grants I received reflect the stature he enjoyed and the efforts he made. I was merely the happy recipient. I remember one time when I called to thank him for securing me a paid year of research; “I’m not surprised,” he said, no doubt because he had known before I did. Carl’s own scholarship ranged from nineteenth-century literature to later writers such as Virginia Woolf, although he conversed as knowledgeably about other periods as specialists in their fields. Anyone familiar with his work admires his copious memory, his extraordinary reading, and his great modesty. I write this not to begin a list of his accomplishments but to point out that his scholarly work played a parallel role in his life. Not only was he a preeminent scholar of literature, a mentor, and at times administrator, he was also a shrewd and sensitive collector of art. (I leave out teaching because, oddly enough, I never took a class with him.) To enter the house that he and San bought after his resignation seemed like entering a palace, with exquisite woodwork, and rooms as copious as they were comfortable. On the floors lay fine Persian rugs; on the walls paintings by early twentieth-century artists, especially

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

285

Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon – and there was furniture to match. The place deserved to be kept as a museum, a beautiful and lively museum on the order of a small Frick collection.

O

n my last sad trip to Austin, Jerry and Kathy were away but they had lent me their condo and a car. I left my bag, except for the cookies Susan had made for Carl, and drove to the Summit. On the way it struck me how little I actually knew about Carl’s life, how little any of us knows about the thoughts, the longings, the hopes and pleasures even of our best friends. I know he was a man dedicated to his profession—yet he easily left it behind—and that he never missed a chance to see a good opera. I have no idea whether he traveled much—I do remember that he was once taken ill in Poland—or whether he climbed mountains or had hobbies, but my guess is that his real interests lay in the people he knew and the books he read and wrote—or the two together. When he dedicated the manuscript of his World War II memoir to his fellow sailors, he sent copies to those still alive. Carl kept in touch with friends as he kept in touch with, for example, the 125 or more students whose dissertations he had directed. His early resignation from Columbia, he explained, was to make room for his own students or any young and talented Ph.D.s, and to prompt other scholars to do the same. Paradoxically, of course, universities in large part have chosen to fill their openings with adjuncts, many of whom have continued to wander across the deserts of low paying and wildly distant institutions throughout their careers.

A

t the end of the long corridor Carl’s door opened into shadowed silence. Had he meant to leave it open for me? Or had he fallen? Or worse. Might there be strangers inside stripping the apartment? As a pessimist I expected the worst. Almost in a whisper, I called his name; he answered immediately, “Come in, Carl, Come in!” I followed his voice to the living room, where he sat in a wheelchair, pale and thin, but dressed, shaved, and happy that I had “come in time.” Before I could say anything, he said, “I have something near the aorta. The doctors don’t dare to probe it; they say there’s no hope anyway. So I sit and wait.” “And there’s nothing to be done? No operation?” “Nothing, but how was your trip?” He reminded me that Susan had sent cookies, and I went to get them from my satchel.” “Perfect,” he said, “Tell Susan I wish she had come with you. . . . And now I want to tell you about something that has been important to me for the past year . . . I’ve asked Margery to come in after an hour or two so we two can talk; then the three of us will have a glass of wine and

286

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

go along to dinner. . . . Margery and I have been close, and until early this year, we were very, very close. She’s an extraordinary woman, and she has looked after me ever since this growth raised its head. You will love her.” I remembered a day when San was ill but well enough to go to the “hill country.” At that time they had an SUV so that San could get more easily into the car. She struggled that day but would take no help; a strong woman and his equal, she was a perfect wife for Carl. The ride into the country, passing through tiny towns, and rising slowly into the hills, led to stops in President Johnson’s ranch, a beautiful stretch of land that must have been an escape for someone so ornery, or so broken when he withdrew from the 1968 presidential race. Not too far away, in a town whose name I forget, we found Carl’s target: yet another barbeque house redolent of fat and noisy as a jet engine. Susan was with us that day, and she looked at me with horror. Were we to eat in a place like this? We were. Carl and San had been there dozens of times, and I suspect, if anyone reads these pages, that he or she may also have been shanghaied in the same way. Multicolored meat on vast plates came stinking from the kitchen—on a very hot day—and San and Carl munched through to the end. I prefer to remember the other dinners we had together, dinners that I would have considered dinners, but this one captures a man who had wide tastes, in his food and in his life at large. I recall another meeting with Carl. It came after San’s death and we spent the morning with Carl looking at Charles Umlauf’s sculptures, a collection by a man from Michigan who made his home in Austin and spread his statues across a beautiful terrain. Carl had shown us some of the works before, but he wanted us to see everything. He was proud of the park and proud of his adopted town altogether. Later that same afternoon we visited Ladybird Johnson’s wildflowers, itself a tribute to Austin and a part of Ladybird’s statewide enterprise to protect the flowers. Carl supported Ladybird’s efforts and a swath of such efforts, quietly and modestly as always, though he overlooked Austin when he bequeathed his book collection (and other treasures) to Rice University, his alma mater. These backward glances point to another aspect of the man. Carl was urbane, a connoisseur, a collector, a man who knew every museum in New York, and a writer who took pleasure in the roles he played in Columbia University. But he was no less a Texan who retired to the state in which he was born.

B

efore I even sat down on the couch, Carl had begun to talk about Margery, someone I had never met and who had become the center of his life. “She is a magnificent women,” he said, “a woman I wanted to

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

287

marry—before my health prevented it. I met her here, in the Summit, and we fell for each other on the spot. She is beautiful, kind, and loyal . . . we had a torrid affair.” He smiled and said, “You’ll love her . . . I asked her to come later, after you and I had our talk.” It was a difficult conversation for me. The man I had known for decades unable to stand, waiting to die, and speaking openly about the short time he had yet still the same man, still full of courtesy, apparently at ease—and if not at ease playing a role I could never even understand. But difficult or not, I was glad to be with him. About an hour later his lovely friend knocked on the door and came in, putting down a plate of food and giving me a hug. She was and is everything that Carl described; he had been a lucky man. Carl formally introduced us and suggested we go to the dining room the quick way while he negotiated through the traps for wheelchairs. On the way down I realized why Carl had planned to marry Margery. She is a strong woman, like San, and as intelligent as she is stunning. At dinner, she held up the conversation the few times it failed, cheering the others up. For me the dinner came harder than the afternoon talk, but Margery and Carl’s other close friends managed to speak about books and opera, and a little about politics, all with apparent good cheer. When we left Carl and his friends, he said that he would go around to Margery’s apartment while we two took another shortcut. She talked about Carl and his imminent death and about their wonderful time together, and how much it meant to her—so much that she would have married Carl regardless of his health and with the burden of already outliving two husbands. Now she faced another death. I have no clever ending to this little essay, and I can barely address it except by remembering a laughable string of mishaps the morning after I left Carl. I didn’t know the code and couldn’t get out of the gated condo, which had been open the previous day. I had no cell phone, and the Lovings seemed to have no land phones. Searching everywhere I found a phone and, an hour late, called for a taxi. Relived at last to be at the airport, I failed to look at my ticket and paid an extra $40 for a seat farther forward, which turned out to be in the next row. Instead of a non-stop, I discovered that we changed planes in Washington Dulles, where I and another thousand sat through a seemingly endless thunderstorm. Then a rocky flight to Boston followed by a late bus to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and what seemed an endless journey to Kittery Point. Susan, who met me at the door, hugged me, and said, “You won’t believe this. I had an email from Carl!” I crumpled down on the sofa with a cup of tea before reading Carl’s message. Once again, he was exaggerating, but I copy this nonetheless.

288

Afterwords for Carl Woodring Dear Susan The visit from Carl was thoughtful as only he can be. I hope his return was uneventful. I’m sorry you were not here; my pleasure and that of my friends would have been heightened. It was heightened by the cookies, and mine will continue to be. I trust that the Lovings will continue to pass along news to you, and I hope your projects flourish. Cordial wishes, Carl

After three years I still think about that little message. It came from someone we respected and loved, and it was written in an almost impossible time. In a way it seemed a simple example of good manners, but I took it as I felt to be: a gentle and generous goodbye from a friend to friends. Carl died two days later.

MARSHA MANNS [On Carl Woodring’s friendship with Leslie Marchand] “I have,” Carl Woodring wrote in a letter prepared for a celebratory volume given to Leslie Marchand on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday, “only one great, very happy, continuous, Romantic memory of you lasting for more than fifty years.” Carl served as the master of ceremonies at the May 4, 1990, University Club evening honoring Leslie and his lifetime of devotion to Byron scholarship that was attended by more than eighty Romantic scholars, members of the Byron Society and the Keats–Shelley Association, and grateful admirers of Byron’s biographer and editor. “If only the founders [of the Keats-Shelley Association of America] had known what you would accomplish,” Carl went on to write in the birthday letter, “it would have been the Keats-Shelley-Byron Society that brought us together, or maybe the Keats-Shelley-Byron-Marchand Association.” Carl and Leslie, with a generation between them, first got to know one another through the Keats-Shelley Association. Leslie was a director of the Association; and Carl, then an instructor at the University of Wisconsin, was bibliographer of the Keats-Shelley Journal. They agreed to travel together by train from Boston to Cambridge where the annual meeting of the K–SAA was held in the Keats Room of the Houghton Library. In his fourth annual Leslie A. Marchand Memorial Lecture given on October 3, 2003, at the University of Delaware, Carl provides a glimpse into their conversations filled with talk of literature, humorous observations on organizational life—and Byron.

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

289

Along with an announcement of the date of the annual [Keats-Shelley Association of America] directors’ meeting came a proxy to which you were asked to affix your hand and seal. The first time Leslie and I met by appointment at the train station in Boston, he commented on the difficulty of affixing a seal if one didn’t own a seal and had not gone to California to make friends with one. Riding the mostly empty subway to Cambridge, we would talk about the rising status at that time of nineteenth-century studies. . . . Marchand’s research on the issues debated in the Athenaeum had put him on top of Victorian matters. So we talked as much about the Victorians as about Keats and Shelley, but I began to learn from him a lot about Byron.

The friendship begun on those urban train rides became a constant in both their lives until Leslie’s death in 1999. Carl and Leslie saw a good deal of each other when both taught one summer at Columbia University. Later, they would have dinner together when Leslie came to Morningside Heights for meetings of the English Graduate Union or other occasions at Columbia. Carl reminisces, again in his Marchand Lecture, that he suspected both he and Leslie were thought to be unusually dull lecturers, with “an erroneous faith in fact.” It was true, Carl went on to clarify, that Leslie’s ironic style “did not resemble evangelical fervor . . . all the public talks by him that I heard, had what he loved . . . observation, fantasy, and a bite.” When I first met Leslie Marchand at Columbia’s Butler Library one rainy Saturday morning in 1972, he was eager to get started on an American Committee of the recently revitalized Byron Society, headquartered in London. He arrived armed with a list of sixteen scholars that he thought should form the fledgling society’s Advisory Committee. Carl Woodring’s name leapt out from the top of the list. Leslie smiled and said in his understated way, “We must have Carl Woodring as a founding member. He will be a help.” Sixteen invitations to serve went quickly on their way and sure enough, the first response came in the form of a phone call from Carl on the very day he received the letter: “Yes, if Leslie Marchand wants me to be involved, then I will be glad to help.” And he always did. To see them together—at MLA gatherings, Keats-Shelley Association dinners, Columbia’s Faculty House, or simply with a group of colleagues and friends—was to catch a glimpse of a rare and deep friendship between two giants of nineteenth-century scholarship. “I have lived a long time in the nineteenth century, and am in no hurry to leave it,” Carl wrote in his “History Spoken Here” talk given to Columbia’s Society of Fellows in the Humanities in 1993. Leslie often echoed the same sentiments: “Having

290

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

pursued Byron’s career and poetry and letters and personality for thirtyfive years . . . I have no feeling that my life with Byron is concluded” (unpublished essay written in 1981 for the Times Literary Supplement). Although Carl and Leslie’s friendship initially grew out of shared literary interests, other like-minded qualities forged a bond that grew only stronger with the years. Both were extremely generous in sharing knowledge with colleagues, students, and readers who sought their guidance and insight. Neither suffered fools lightly, yet gave a lifetime of loyalty and support to those who earned their trust and respect. Despite their enormous successes, and amid a constant clamor for attention, Leslie and Carl were modest, soft spoken, and reserved, neither had political ambitions, but each knew how to encourage people to work together for a shared cause. Emotions, although not easily visible on the surface, ran very deep—for their wives, their friends, and for the poets they loved. The night of Leslie’s ninetieth birthday dinner, I observed with great pleasure the proud, happy, and fond expressions on Carl’s face as he spoke of Leslie and as he listened to others offer words of congratulation and praise to his friend of many years. Perhaps it was the bond between them that brought Carl and his wife San to Florida to visit Leslie and Marion Marchand in July 1999. Carl called upon arrival to make arrangements for the visit, but Leslie fell the next day and died early the following morning in his sleep at the age of ninety-nine. I spoke with Carl, still in Florida, shortly after Leslie’s death. I remember him saying softly but firmly, “He was my best friend.”

REGINA HEWITT AND ROBERT M. RYAN Who that shall point as with a wand and say “This portion of the river of my mind Came from yon fountain”? —The Prelude 2: 208–10

Those of us who took Carl Woodring as teacher, adviser, and role model might find it difficult to pinpoint when and how his influence began to work on us. If our first encounter took place in a graduate lecture course, we can remember Carl standing in front of a classroom in suit and tie, delivering in those East Texas vowels and rhythms what he wanted to say that day about Wordsworth or Byron. His lectures, like his published writing, were compressed and full of matter, but there seemed to be nothing

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

291

prepackaged about them (did he ever rely on notes?). His remarks seemed fresh, newly conceptualized and articulated. He always appeared to be considering carefully, sometimes haltingly, the validity and importance of what he was saying. In a seminar he was a surprisingly non-directive director. If there were a variety of egos bouncing off each other in the room, he would let them bounce. Believing that a teacher’s task was to “awaken” students, he allowed us freedom in formulating and expressing ideas, seldom visibly showing disapproval of any opinion, trusting that we would eventually detect our own errors and extravagances. Rather than disagreeing openly with a dubious statement, he would offer what seemed to be supplementary information, suggesting that there was more to be known about the subject and that further study might cast a different light on what the neophyte was saying. If he endorsed a point of view, he would point out how it might apply in cases we might as yet be ignorant of, trusting that each of us would get smarter and more sophisticated as we got older. This encouragement of imaginative freedom and independent thinking seemed an especially appropriate way to launch fledgling Romanticists. Very little ego got in the way of the mentor relationship. Whether conducting a seminar or directing a dissertation Carl seemed hesitant to attempt pre-censorship of a student’s research interests. He allowed ample freedom to follow our hunches—giving us enough rope but intervening before the noose tightened fatally. He didn’t champion any particular critical or theoretical “school” and he didn’t seem interested in recruiting disciples. He could be described as a formalist in that he encouraged careful attention to what made a literary artifact important or beautiful (a word he didn’t hesitate to use) but he also represented the kind of historicism that would later be called “new,” insisting on the importance of learning as much as possible about the historical and cultural circumstances that informed a work of imaginative literature. In a doctoral seminar in 1966–67 the research topics he assigned for oral reports included “Best-sellers of the 1790s” and “Hunt and Hazlitt on Music.” By the 1980s, assigned topics gave way to topics proposed by students, providing opportunity for presentations about portraits of Napoleon and allusions to Torquato Tasso. Encouraging this kind of wide-ranging exploration, Carl was patient with slow writers, but he used to say that the most important thing you can do with a dissertation is finish it, then improve it later for publication. One heard horror stories about detached, negligent, insensitive, even abusive dissertation directors. As an adviser Carl was unfailingly kind, interested, and helpful. He was scrupulous in reading the chapters we gave

292

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

him and in returning them promptly, often with a full page of comments and suggestions, typed single-spaced (in the days before word processors), perhaps concluding with a single word like “encouraged.” It was terribly flattering to win his praise for a specific insight or a felicitous expression, to hear him say, “You get that just right.” Apart from his courtesy and moral support, his remarkably wide-ranging knowledge of the field made him especially helpful as a thesis adviser. As a scholar his peripheral vision brought a multitude of apparently unrelated subjects swimming into his ken. Even the exceptionally learned Karl Kroeber, who often served as the “second reader” for dissertations that Carl directed, admired his colleague’s comprehensive mind. When consulted about a bit of historical information, he would sometimes advise, “Ask Carl. He knows everything.” At times this seemed no exaggeration. Over the years we both heard Carl talk about the edition of Coleridge’s Table Talk he was preparing for the Bollingen Collected Coleridge, which finally appeared in two volumes in 1990. He answered one innocent question about how long he had been editing the volumes with an amused but accurate “since before you were born.” The scope of Table Talk required that an editor, after retrieving and reorganizing texts scattered by earlier editors, pursue and give order to Coleridge’s far-flung speculations. Carl’s success contributed not only to our impression that he knew everything but to the reassuring belief that he could make sense of everything. His willingness to devote so much energy and attention to a project in what had long been considered a “minor” genre also conveyed a kind of permission to pursue interests beyond “major” forms and figures. When New Historicists were beginning to valorize the analysis of all documents in a cultural situation and to focus on the extent to which writers were complicit or subversive in power struggles, Carl continued to lead us in more varied cultural explorations. From the “Varieties of Romantic Experience” treated in Politics in English Romantic Poetry (1970) to the shape shifting between organic forms and aesthetic objects in Nature into Art (1989), he showed us that studying literature involves studying social interactions of all kinds at all levels. Coleridge’s “table talk” was like Carl’s approach to mentoring— conversation that was erudite yet familiar, purposeful yet circumlocutory, intricately detailed yet fully comprehensive. Even more reassuring than the realization that Carl could shed light on Coleridge’s medical notes and theological musings was the conviction that he could and would find the potential merit in the most tentative oral exam answer or dissertation chapter. Talking with him about our own research taught us far more than how to develop the promising aspects of our projects and how to correct

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

293

the troublesome ones. In addition to elaborating on the written comments on a chapter he always provided, Carl expatiated on many related topics. Often anecdotally, he conveyed valuable instruction, for example, about the differences between scholarly editions and paperback texts, framed by the history of how paperbacks enabled the study of literature to include longer works more routinely than had been previously possible; about how to contact libraries regarding archival research and how practice can help one read challenging handwriting and abbreviations; and about how to take a balanced view of professional rivalries and pettiness by concentrating on the good work that many colleagues do despite such obstacles. Those conversations often included allusions to books by Carl’s earlier students as well as current colleagues, and Carl’s memory of the details of their arguments was striking. His interest in and enthusiasm for their work made it possible to believe in a “community of scholars” (a phrase he sometimes used) and to desire to join it. His advice on publication always stressed the contribution to knowledge that a possible article could make. More than one neophyte was helped into print by Carl’s willingness to say “though I am not personally prepared to grant” the premise, “you have a point that should be put before” other Romanticists. Carl’ tenure as chair of Columbia’s Department of English and Comparative Literature (1968–71) coincided with some of the most tumultuous years in the university’s history. Those who were there at the time were inevitably caught up in the events of 1968—the students’ occupation of campus buildings, the violence of the police response, the ensuing protest strike that had faculty members conducting their classes off-campus and joining a boycott of commencement exercises. During the years of recuperation and reconstruction that followed, Carl’s calm, sensible voice was heard in faculty discussions about the future of the university, but his primary concern was the management of his department and the care of its students. While some English faculty and graduate students played prominent roles in the contentious debates of the time, the department’s offices in Philosophy Hall remained places of civility, a refuge from the rhetorical tempests raging outside. Carl had served in the Navy through most of World War II as second officer on the minesweeper USS Hopkins and saw action at the Solomon Islands, Saipan, Guam, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa on a ship that survived typhoons and a kamikaze attack. Perhaps this experience of genuine warfare allowed him to maintain perspective on the less momentous conflicts of academia, a perspective that was refreshed by regular contact with his fellow veterans. In 1995 he turned down an invitation to participate in the

294

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

John Keats Bicentennial Conference at Harvard because it conflicted with a reunion of the crew of the Hopkins. His final published book was not a work of literary criticism but a memoir of life in the navy, Lucky 13: The History of a Gallant Ship (2000). The connection between Carl’s wartime experiences and his later academic career is suggested in the title of the book he published a year earlier, Literature: An Embattled Profession (1999) and in one of its sentences: “As resolutely as the armed forces took sacrificial steps to protect and rescue trained pilots in recent wars, universities should nourish the young they have trained” (110). Literature is a passionate expression of concern about the future of the discipline of English in universities, which he saw as confronted by internal and external threats. The external danger came from the swelling ranks of academic administrators whose priorities were more financial than intellectual, manifested in their preference for employing part-time teachers over full-time faculty. Internally, he worried that we academicians have ourselves to blame for a decline in public support for literary studies. Our propensity for “esoteric obfuscation” had weakened the case for the cultural relevance of what we do. He found the successive waves of new theoretical approaches to literature useful for expanding the horizons of criticism but felt that they paradoxically discouraged originality in a student’s approach to literary analysis and divided academic readers from each other and from the general public. “What deserves rebuke in literary and cultural studies today is the fragmentation, a seriocomic scenario in which sodden firefighters spray water on each other while the house burns down” (9). Carl took terribly seriously the task of nourishing those new generations of scholar-teachers and grew increasingly concerned about their welfare when they left Columbia for jobs where conditions of employment were worsening. As early as 1967 he alerted students in his doctoral seminar to the diminishing job opportunities for PhDs in the humanities. In the Bulletin of the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages for 1973 he decried “the folly and injustice” of denying tenured positions to deserving candidates, and during the next decades he continued to be dismayed by the difficulty of finding academic positions for his students. In Literature he wrote, “I have no conviction of guilt from mistakes made in forty years of teaching that approaches the pain of failure to secure teaching positions for outstanding young scholars whom I had helped guide to the Ph.D. degree” (107). When professional fears were eased by a slight increase in employment opportunities, Carl remained concerned about the “desperation of young people for jobs” (his phrase). In Literature he suggested that tenured faculty consider retirement after age sixty-five to make room for younger

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

295

aspirants. He himself retired earlier than he might have but continued to direct a few dissertations into the 1990s, unwilling to abandon students with projects in progress. Writing in Literature about the art of teaching Carl said, “Only elaborately contrived jokes stay with students longer than their measurement of probity in memorable teachers” (180). Carl’s jokes were often so subtle as to be funny only when one thought about them later. But that word probity sums up our memory of his character as scholar, academic administrator, dissertation adviser, and colleague. Probity’s synonyms all belong to Carl—honesty, integrity, dignity, decency, goodness, or, as Merriam-Webster has it, “adherence to the highest principles and ideals.” The word recalls the sense of seriousness, even urgency, that he brought to the task of his life, forming and guiding doctoral students for the profession he served. We have never met a student of his who didn’t respect him, revere him, treasure their memory of him as a scrupulous scholar, selfless mentor, and generous friend. Carl’s students have a way of relating to each other as siblings who are proud to claim a common paternity. When sharing their memories of him one thing they all recall is that disconcerting smile that appeared on Carl’s face at surprising moments. The unpredictability led some to consider it a kind of facial tic; others worried that he had suddenly found something comical in their scholarly efforts. This serious and exigent scholar did have a quietly comic perspective on his profession and the whole project of literary study. But perhaps the smile was simply an expression of the pleasure he took in the act of talking with a student about literature and the enterprise of criticism. He really liked spending time with those he was preparing for the profession. After he retired many of us received regular invitations to come visit him in Austin. We both deeply regret that we never took him up on the offer. One would like to talk with him one more time, asking his advice on some research project, knowing his response would be curious, well informed, generous, kind. Even now when he is gone one still wonders how he might react to an idea, and the imagination of his response still guides and inspires.

WILLIAM CARL GILPIN As I kindergartner, I received a Christmas package from Carl containing hundreds of colored Styrofoam tiles in the shapes of skates, sharks, and miscellaneous mollusks. The individual pieces were cut so that different

296

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

sea creatures would fit together in different ways, allowing elaborate tessellations to be created from various permutations of repeating tile patterns. Having successfully concluded teething and its associated temptations, I used the set to create elaborate patterns on the floor of my bedroom depicting lunging tendrils and spiraling paisley, which a closer inspection revealed to be composed of a kaleidoscopic jumble of squids and stingrays. Carl undoubtedly intended the gift to bear an instructive subtext: the mosaic, like Coleridge’s “Frost at Midnight,” represents a macroscopic harmony that emerges from an ordered arrangement of individual pieces—like the discrete couplets of the ode, the simple designs of each tile conspire to produce a complex, abstract whole. This gift was complemented by a follow-up for my seventh birthday, consisting of a series of spools, hinges, and beveled rods that connect to make assemblies that expand and contract when tugged along the appropriate dimensions. A designer could make the machines more adaptable by making corresponding tradeoffs in the complexity of the design: a model consisting of many interconnected pieces would be visually striking but dynamically limited, whereas a sparse one would be aesthetically tame but allow many more degrees of freedom. I saw this as a referendum on his previous gift: while a standout idea could emerge from a dense interweaving of many simple concepts, its resonance and importance is intrinsically limited by its complexity—true insight necessitates a careful balance of simplicity and intricacy. Perhaps intending to clarify these competing ideas, for my ninth birthday Carl gave me a toy that deconstructs itself. It consists of a set of translucent, neon plastic blocks, each embedded with a stiff metal spring that connects two hollow halves. When multiple pieces are fastened together, the springs are consecutively compressed by the force of the junction, creating a tension within the resulting structure that is held at bay by the weight of the assembly. If an intrepid builder is too careless when assembling the blocks—if he or she neglects to balance a spring here with another there, or to prune the structure of excess weight—a misplaced piece will trigger the set of springs and cause the entire ensemble to simultaneously shatter, casting its constituents across the floor of the living room to be trodden upon by an unsuspecting sibling or watchful cat. I suppose that Carl intended to teach me a final lesson about the innate delicacy of an idea—that correctly nurturing and expanding a thought requires a series of deliberate, balanced choices, rather than simply following rash impulses disguised as an intuition. Less of a guide to the creative process, and more a warning to tread lightly

Afterwords for Carl Woodring

297

when synthesizing a new idea, this gift suggested that I remain diligent when building my ideas, lest they become so ungainly in their ornateness that they lose their force. A final gift arrived much later, when, for my sixteenth birthday, Carl gave me his car. At this point, illness and the accumulated disruptions of age had made it of little use to him, and so he offered me his decade-old sedan, complete with a trunk CD player and phosphorescent gas gauge. This gift had no obvious footnote or subscript, other than to encourage me to explore and experience the world. I still drive it.

13 ALMOST NOBODY: A CHRONICLE The Autobiography of Professor Carl Woodring*

A

lmost Nobody is an anecdotal chronicle of an unheroic career, comparable to that of Maria, “a very, very small person” in James Joyce’s “Clay” who observed at the end of her day that “they were all very good to her.” Episodes in the account that follows differ from Maria’s evening by their setting in significant times with effective cohorts among performers, professors, and provosts.

EAST TEXAS Terrell, Texas, in 1919 was a fitting place for almost nobody to be born. Not more than half of the l0,000 folks were below average, but it was hard to find any above average. Later, when I had to prove that I had been born in order to join the United States Naval Reserve, I learned that Dr. Alexander, the family physician who had presided over my arrival in my mother’s bed at home, had corrected the certificate of birth the next day to say that the child was male. Suggesting the birth of an initially indeterminate somebody, the correction perhaps came about when the busily Baptist doctor remembered

* This is an excerpt. Carl Woodring’s professional and personal papers, family records, manuscripts, books, and art collection (including paintings and drawings by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon, and period research material) are archived at Rice University, Houston, Texas. Permission from Rice University to reproduce here from unpublished manuscripts (“Carl Woodring Papers, 1894–2009,” MS 551, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library), is gratefully acknowledged. 299

300

Almost Nobody: A Chronicle

that he had sanitized by circumcision. For such an ill-defined child, the town was fittingly nondescript. A main street named for the founding owner boasted a half-dozen nearly up-to-date stores, with most of the hitching posts removed. Moore Avenue led due northwest to Dallas, a swaggering city less than two hours away by the common mode of getting about, a cranked-up, black-fendered Model-T Ford with three pedals, forward, reverse, and stop. With very few fireplaces, nearly every room in town had a wood stove. Townsfolk thought chinaberry and hackberry were trees, but there were a few sycamores boys could climb with confidence. The inhabitants of Terrell would have fitted inside Pennsylvania Station, where its citizens had no desire to go. Rather unlike Chicago or Manhattan, Terrell not only lacked a courthouse, it had no stock exchange, no contamination by opera, no museums or galleries, no subway, no bookstore, no tigers in cages, no building above two stories, no place where thousands or hundreds—or three—could be expected to emerge from a train. No buses, no waterfront, no river, no opportunity to display sin as a commercial attraction, either openly or in such contravening of the Volstead Act as the speakeasy of northern cities. When my parents married, Terrell had a prominent saloon and three “opera houses,” the Clements, the Harris, and the Brin. Nothing so openly licentious survived my earliest years, when Mr. Brin had converted the one remaining “opera” to a movie house. Downtown had changed little when I began to be aware that townships elsewhere might be similar without being identical. The main street, parallel to the railroad, included a grocery about to update the glass boxes that protected bulk foods against flies; a drug store with marble-top soda fountain, caged pharmacy, and a few items for babies, the constipated, and the infirm; a barber shop with a single throne of steel, leather, and levers a dentist could envy, with a genuinely enviable larger, busier back room, a pool hall where cronies too marginal to go home for the big noon meal could conspire at lunch. Nearby, the butcher’s shop with door open to catch early light, strips of flypaper surrounding the cutting block within a very narrow space, and a bloodied curtain hiding the sausage grinder and the hooks and stacks of meat. No stone had been turned or otherwise disturbed to produce any of these replaceable buildings. On one corner of the major crossing, Brin’s dry goods store displayed dress patterns and bolts of cloth. Terrell’s most obvious reach into technology was the cable at Brin’s, resembling the pneumatic tubes of telegraphy, that carried canisters triggered by the clerk up to the cashier on the banistered balcony and back with the lady’s change or the bill to distress her husband. Opposite Brin’s, with an entrance almost suggesting columns, sat

Carl Woodring

301

a bank where tenants who farmed cotton could come once a month with their excuses for being still poor. Near the edge of this center of Kaufman County commerce, a moderately flourishing café enabled the waitress to learn the habits of a few regulars who came on Sunday after church for black-eyed peas, fried okra, and the pounded, over-fried, and gravy-blanketed steak, later to be called “chicken-fried steak” but then, with no competitor from Kansas City, simply “steak.” There was no need to serve fish on Friday for a population of Protestants whose parents had got here from Kentucky or Alabama or some other Confederate state. Off Moore Avenue, several genuinely brick buildings carried a dimly attempted suggestion of Rome: the Carnegie Library, a dark red cracker box with steps leading up between the two ring-collared columns in front; a rectangular high school; and Baptist, Presbyterian, and Christian cubes, two with squat domes but no spires. The Carnegie Library in Lockhart, Texas, is internally an architectural gem; the attraction of the Terrell Library was the books, each one crying out “Read me!” My sister answered by bringing books home and passing them to me. The unadorned, mostly idle hospital had saved few lives and witnessed few births. Inside the stone-looking post office, one wall of brass boxes held mail and the opposite wall exposed faces wanted by the national authorities. Although the nation had stooped since 1845 to include meretricious states that lacked the legendary past of Texas as an independent republic, everything about the Terrell post office except the stamps and those Wanted posters was acceptably local. All this is a town I remember, not necessarily one that anybody else would remember. Beyond Moore Avenue and the railroad, a college with a varied military and sectarian past stood beyond my ken as a child because the section of town abutting it was then reserved for the colored, whatever color that might be. On the other edge of town, affording Terrell glory and notoriety, spread the grounds of an asylum for those regarded by family and state as either mentally deficient or unusually difficult to manage. Its grounds, like those of its counterpart in Austin, the state capital, were open to all—except the inmates. For the rare stranger on the deserted streets, on Mondays, say, the iceman was available to provide directions. A window of each house held a placard, turned to a left or right edge if the iceman was to deliver more or less than the usual twenty-five pounds. A heavy cement block, dragged by a chain from the ice wagon, encouraged the horse to stand while the iceman, after opening the screened back door, delivered under the lid of the oaken refrigerator a gleaming cube suspended from his ice-tongs and perhaps took in the heavy glass bottles left by the milkman.

302

Almost Nobody: A Chronicle

The stranger might also knock loudly on any front door or open the door to yell, “Are you there?” Except on the iceman’s morning, the screen door at the back might be latched against the possibility of intrusion by an alien or some remembered ugly ghost, but front doors were usually unlocked. Windows were open except when a shower threatened or had already answered the prayer for rain. Dress told who you were; nobody dressed down. In Terrell’s portion of Kaufman County, the 1920s were an interlude of no beards except on the tintypes and framed, tinted enlargements of grandpa. As farmers did not regard the trip to town as a reason for shaving, there was much stubble, but no incipient beards and seldom a mustache even of the sort that Hitler would make noticeable over there. I was definitely born into an over here determined to keep the problems of over there where they belonged. Except for the hot summers, it was Calvin Coolidge’s kind of town. Although lackluster, Terrell may have been superior to other East Texas settlements in the 1920s. The same salesmen visited every town, but I remember no store in Terrell with the wit of a greeting common in the boutiques of neighboring towns: “If You Spit on the Floor at Home, Go Home to Spit,” or, in different wording, “Spit on the Ceiling, any Fool Can Spit on the Floor.” Terrell lacked a museum with rocks, arrowheads, a stuffed turkey, or a German helmet, but stood proud in having no unfinished church. In nearby towns I might have sat weekly in a Sunday School where money, inspiration, and enthusiasm had lain down exhausted because a drop in the price of cotton had let consecration ooze away. In my Baptist Sunday School room with usually five other boys, the paint was fresh and thick. On North Catherine Street the brick primary school of l902 possessed in a red frame annex evidence of Terrell’s growth in the numbers of children designated at birth as “white.” (The framed Colored School, also of 1902, burned down in 1924 and again in 1932, more or less on schedule for East Texas.) In a standard frame bungalow, swing on the front porch, a chicken house in the back, an ample black pot for laundry, and garage with ill-fitted doors, I passed my earliest years on Adelaide Street, named for one of Mr. Moore’s daughters. Days of blazing sun were too common to notice. Rain left no memory of discomfort. The daily stresses of childhood had only the special feature that my parents watched with trepidation and distaste as any spoon I was born with went to the wrong hand. Their beloved second child transferred to the left all objects appropriate for holding, jabbing, or throwing. Photographs after infancy show a neat ovaloid face above BusterBrown Sunday suits and flowing tie, in poses that tell something about

Carl Woodring

303

the photographer, but little about the sitter except that penury had not yet arrived. In one snapshot with my sister Thelma, six years my senior, we are posed in an itinerant photographer’s cart behind an elegant Angora goat. There was no perceptible sibling rivalry. After mothering her brittle pinkfaced dolls, Thelma accepted me as a more variable responsibility. The parents of this unexceptional pair continued their easy comfort with the social station brought partly by my mother, Naomi Cole, from the Coles of nearby College Mound and from her mother’s family, claiming as head a brother of Zachary Taylor. As my mother remembered her own mother’s story, these Taylors had sold the plantation in Alabama and come to Texas with payment in Confederate dollars—available to the grandmother I never knew as paper to share with her dolls. Surviving documents suggest that the Confederate money came through an aunt Semiramis who adopted her brother’s children in 1862 when he died as a soldier in Birmingham, then purchased his effects, and proportioned among the orphans her profits for slaves and cotton and such losses as impressments for the Confederate Army of a wagon, a horse, mules, seed meal, and slaves. (The murderous Semiramis of history has not recently been a model for mothers, but she was then a favorite heroine in opera.) From Ohio and elsewhere have come opportunities to purchase “the Woodring coat of arms,” distinctly English, but the Woodrings migrated to the United States from Alsace in the eighteenth century, after the name Vautrin had become Wotring to enable German conquerors to approximate such features as the nasal close. The names Vautrin and Vaulthrier, along with Gautier, are traceable genealogically to Gaud, so some ancestor may have been nearly divine. I first suspected that the change resulted because Balzac, detesting Théophile Gautier, made the name Vautrin stink, but our Vautrin became Wotring too early for Balzac. Two Wotring brothers, Samuel and Abraham, came to Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century and made the name look English. Descent to my grandfather occurred in Kentucky. My mother always referred to the long-bearded gentleman as “that old German,” but she could not have known him and her distaste must have come indirectly from his second wife, my father’s mother, a gracious presence who visited as if only to praise acquaintances and make ginger cookies for Thelma and me. Dad, named Felix Jesse after his father and another relative, to the family of his birth was Jessie; to my mother and her family, Jess. Typically for the locale and era he was always officially F. J., as I learned from the envelopes of letters and bills addressed to him. Mother, preeminently maternal, had a totally innocuous ego. After the deaths first of her mother and soon

304

Almost Nobody: A Chronicle

after of her older sister, she had been recalled from the College of Industrial Arts (later Texas Woman’s University) to preside over the household of her father and her five siblings. An almost nobody before me, my mother said she had to marry my father because she had allowed him to kiss her. Raised as a Methodist, the promise to obey her husband made her a Baptist. Baptists, Methodists, and other Protestants who had come out of the South into rural and small-town Texas competed on equal ground for narrowness. Fear of the foreign made a convenient beginning for self-approval. Casual conversations frequently revealed an unrelenting distaste for Yankees and most other foreigners, especially the English and French, and an almost instinctive fear of “Nigras,” “Meskins,” all believers in priests, and people described as slant-eyed and yellow-skinned. I never heard the urban term “Wop,” probably because nobody I knew ever mentioned an Italian person. The Brin family may have known of the word “kike” from somewhere, but not locally. Possibly a Catholic family was hidden somewhere in Terrell, but nobody ever called my attention to that particular danger. A man with brown face materialized occasionally on a bicycle with a basket full of tamales—always called “hot tamales”—but as he quickly took the road toward Dallas nobody seemed to wonder how far he had cycled to reach Terrell. To impute simmering hatred to a sleepy town, so dead to the world its snoring was almost inaudible, I call on childhood memories but appeal in part to the later rage awakened by Martin Luther King because he was effective when violent rebellion would have been put down, and equally to admonitions overheard on later visits to East Texas: “You don’t hold with this civil rights, passive resistance stuff, do you, Hazel!” Early memories confirm the declaration of Benjamin F. Butler to Congress in 1874 that segregation came more from political pride than from prejudice, because, he said, there was no segregation before the Civil War. “O, no; your children and your servant’s children played together; your children sucked the same mother with your servants’ children; had the same nurse; and . . . sometimes had the same father” (American Speeches, Library of America, 2006, 2:67). Reinhold Niebuhr observed that amoral persons are the chief support of an immoral society. Persons like my mother, barely conscious of racial prejudice, in a trait I inherited, did nothing to alter social institutions. Urged by a tolerant inner necessity to believe that her house-help, Ella, “has a soul” and “is a Christian,” Mother would eat lunch at the breakfast table in the kitchen with Ella, but could welcome her in the dining room only if standing, and had no opinion about the eligibility for eternal salvation of

Carl Woodring

305

Ella’s husband, who did the outdoor work. With African-Americans who did not sit down, paleface Southerners had, as they still claim, an intimacy not felt by most Yankees, somewhat as soldiers trying to kill each other share a kinship in intimate knowledge of the others’ motivation. Terrellians, believing their own ancestry to be mostly “Scotch Irish,” which they took to mean intermarried Britons rather than Calvinists from northern Ireland, knew little about those other acceptable immigrants to Texas towns nearer the coast, the bilingual Germans, reportedly akin to early Texians in love of liberty. Boys made no connection between the rare native American in school, expected to be mediocre except in sports, and the Hollywood Indians who, every Saturday afternoon on Brin’s movie screen, lost in a fair fight with Tom Mix or some other straight shooter. The boys’ earnest parents, and people like them in other states, have been the spine of the nation, patriotically ready to vote for exploiters of patriotism, Richard Nixon, Huey P. Long, George Wallace, or in Texas, Martin Dies (scourer before Joe McCarthy of the un-American), and the less focused Governor W. Lee (“Pass the biscuits, Pappy”) O’Daniel. In “Cat’s Paw,” an attempted novel about an East Texas town in 1930, I gave in to some revealing Southwest pronunciations, like “pertnear tahrd out,” meaning “pretty near” exhausted. And ye-ah, most vowels in Texas are diphthongs. That makes the pronunciation of French hard for a Texas to learn. The Star Spangled Banner did not exhaust the allegiance of Texans. History meant study of Texas Heroes in a primary grade and Texas under Six Flags in a later year. Not until half a century later would Texans begin to publish articles and books explaining that Mexicans from what is now Texas and New Mexico served with Texians in the Alamo and the battle of San Jacinto; books acknowledging that the vaqueros requisite for the success of the counties-wide King and Kennedy ranches had themselves held those lands in grants from Spain and Mexico; books paying tribute to the buffalo soldiers, freed from slavery into service under white officers of the U.S. Army, manning forts and riding into battle against the dislodged “nations”; and books uncomfortably granting that native Americans had guided French traders and Spanish explorers over trails later “discovered” by pioneers from the civilized Atlantic coast. Whatever the current prejudices of astoundingly reactionary elected officials in Texas, there have certainly been degrees of enlightenment. Baptists in my boyhood took their appellation seriously. A child could be born again as a person, reborn to become a person, only by immersion at the age of discretion. Sprinkling an infant was a heretical waste of water.

306

Almost Nobody: A Chronicle

Abortion was a problem only in censurable novels, and therefore no problem for those who avoided such novels. Although the God of the Baptists had let every congregation and every preacher free from theological dictation, the congregation of the First Baptist Church in Terrell took the preacher’s rules with moderately adjusted seriousness. Defilement of the divinely given body by drinking or smoking was almost beyond imagination. No gambling, no immoral—but now and then a bit of amoral—entertainment. The playing cards at our house bore the faces of Bible women. For adults who played “forty-two” with dominoes, it took deep thought and prayer to accept the gift of a commercial game like Parcheesi that included dice. We went as a family of four to two films approved by the preacher, Ben Hur and The Sign of the Cross. Thelma, who had begun to take lessons in piano and “expression” before I was born, exercised her discretion to watch movies wherein Clara Bow, Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, and Rudolph Valentino conveyed no explicitly Christian message. I learned of this vice from vivid flyers Thelma left without parental rebuke on the library table. On Saturdays later I watched Hoot Gibson leap in his unsoiled chaps from horse to villain. Our parents had been born and raised on blackland farms where, with the hired hands, they had chopped and picked “American” cotton, the cling-boll Gossypium of unknown heritage. The sense was universal in school at Terrell that parents were born on farms, where their life had been very different from ours in a town with Bermuda lawns. Probably the most exciting event in Dad’s immediate family had been a trip to the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition of 1904 in St. Louis, later known as the St. Louis Fair of Judy Garland. Dad belonged mentally to town; he performed feats of arithmetic for wages and for fun. Playing forty-two, or in later years equally innocent card games, he would stop play after the first or second round because he could announce what dominoes or cards each hand must hold. As if in a novel by Jane Austen, my bright sister inherited Dad’s quickness and memory; I inherited my mother’s low metabolism, reluctance, and the speed of a snail. Thought bookish by parents and teachers, I was given a chemistry set and with it a miniature pool table to offset the dangers of excessive intellection. According to a photograph reproduced as a pillow cover, my tall, strong, thin-legged Dad had been captain of a football team at Baylor, the preeminent Southern Baptist college at Waco. In the 1990s, Baylor would put space between its faculty and the prevailing fundamentalists who take literally the dimensions and contents of Noah’s Ark and insist on Bishop Ussher’s 4004 B.C. as the birth date of the earth. Despite Baylor’s separation from the fundamentalists, an art historian there in the 1990s

Carl Woodring

307

could only with trepidation project slides of Aphrodite or Michelangelo’s David. Yet the graphic depictions of nudity I knew as a child decorated Gayley’s mythology, among the Baylor textbooks in our family library. In my college years, Baylor taught with stricter morality, as I, a student of godless Rice, was regularly informed by the son of our Baptist preacher in Houston. Governor Pat Neff, then president of Baylor, issued to individual students invitations to sit on the stage for chapel. After announcing a student’s name, he would begin: “I have known your parents. They are fine God-fearing Christians.” Praise might follow for the student’s stellar performance in Bible class or chemistry; or instead of this reassurance Neff might say next, “It has come to my attention that you have been seen smoking on the campus, an act pleasing to Satan,” or that “you have been seen holding a bottle containing a product of the Devil on the outskirts of Waco.” He would then close, “You will now rise and pass from the portals of Baylor forever.” Neff (or his mother) deserves as much praise for the Texas parks system as Theodore Roosevelt for the national, but John Henry Faulk’s leering caricature of him promising pardon to the convicted folk singer Huddie Ledbetter, in the fine film Leadbelly, may not be off the mark. That was Texas in the 1920s and 1930s, a world that revived under George W. Bush. As for football as my father knew it, by his and newspapers’ accounts the fathers of freshman stars in high schools of small towns in Texas were offered better jobs in Waco, thus making persistent champions of Waco High and improved teams at Baylor. Commercialization of sports is an ancient invention that has been progressively advanced by coarsening. Dad’s older brother, who had become his guardian when their father died, decreed financially that little brother (over 6 feet and more than 200 pounds) must either quit football or quit Baylor. Dad chose the independence of departure for a suckling college in Terrell, where as fullback he climbed over the padded center (three downs to make five yards), took courses, coached the athletic teams, and taught accounting. No books on the shelves of our frame house were attributable to CIA, the female college of industries and arts my mother had attended. To judge by her later demeanor, serving in stead of a mother at the turn of the century was a very sobering task. Christened Naomi, she was “Oma” even to the bank. She could laugh almost heartily during group singing or in games with other sober persons, such as her childless older brother Oscar and his wife Omega. (The name Oscar, shared by one of my father’s half-brothers, was common until even east Texas learned of Oscar Wilde’s trial and imprisonment.) When we visited Oscar and Ommie on Sunday

308

Almost Nobody: A Chronicle

afternoons, I was given a cube of sugar and solemnly told to go climb their sycamore. If they laughed, with me assumed to be out of hearing, I never caught them at it. Only the child’s view is available to me; in World War II Aunt Ommie, by then a widowed librarian, won the affection of British pilots who were training in Terrell. Mother’s three younger red-headed sisters, for whatever credit my mother deserves, laughed and blossomed. The youngest, Marion, named for their father, died young. The middle sister, Texana, “Aunt Tex,” as Mrs. Aubrey Dennard would remain into the 1990s my model mother in an ideal marriage. Eula Mae, the most adventurous, had almost died of flu in Washington, DC, during the epidemic of 1918. To Thelma and me she was the accomplished, stately Secretary to the president and faculty of Trinity University, a traveler who brought surprising presents from exotic places. She said that after witnessing one day’s session of the Alabama legislature she would never again boast that her grandfather had been a member of that body of witless orators, a conclusion confirmed by reading in some biography of her collateral ancestor that half the Taylors were idiots. Eula Mae’s bright green and blue silk dresses, with collars neater than armor, seemed more radiant than a work of art then favored, Edwin Austin Abbey’s Galahad. Except in feverous reaction to others their age or a little older, children seldom noticed heat. Before air-conditioning, children left to adults any awareness of God’s mistake in creating the Texas summer. Usually the naked moon, even when a sliver, calmed the anxieties of the day. Only adults noticed when twilight brushed the town with an almost royal purple. Within a century the average child’s sensitivity to touch has lessened and awareness of color in the landscape has increased. In the 1920s, even for most adults, tints lacked importance, children felt rather than saw grass and the trunks of trees. Natural color meant too little to anybody I grew up with to make notable its absence from photographs, reproductions, or movies. Tinting belonged to Maxfield Parrish and the painters of the West who borrowed from him. The mind lent color to a black-and-white print of Thomas Lawrence’s Pinkie or the Blue Boy but did not consciously attribute color to reproductions of Millet’s Gleaners. Prints of those paintings, adorning schoolrooms, had been earned by pupils who clipped from the covers of writing tablets a sort of proof-ofpurchase seal. When the prints as reward arrived in the schoolroom they were treasured as true copies. Despite the vivid red of the Big Chief writing tablet that held the coupon to be clipped, I believe that the interchangeability of color and lack of color in small-town 1920s is a valid memory.

Carl Woodring

309

However it may have been in a gaudy city, almost nobody in a small town saw black, white, and gray as lacking color. The original distinctness of a yellowed snapshot was regarded as “color,” meaning black, faded to yellow. It was to take half a century of color before advertisers on television could shock viewers by reverting to the black-and-white that had seemed in early films and television true to nature’s colors. Previously, for nearly a century, a skilled engraver could outperform photographs in suggesting color, but photographs were then thought to report unadorned reality, because they had suffered no untrue coloring. In frequent evenings, with Thelma and her friends on our grass lawn sloping down to the sidewalk and then to the street, I froze when the one who was It called out, “Statue.” We knew somehow that children elsewhere caught fireflies and put them into jars designed for preserving jam, but instead we honored our glittering bugs just as they were, tiny stars free to brighten the aroma of grass that was called by a name we associated with nothing else, Bermuda. On religious and political questions and on almost everything, my mind in childhood was a blank slate. As primary school was said to teach reading, I offered to wait for that proper place and time to learn. Thelma read not so much to me as at me. She passed on to me her educational toy of a four-legged stand with slate, chalk, and a miniature encyclopedia displayed between two spindles that rolled into view words, numerals, and pictures. My DNA said, “Learn by eye,” not ear. When Thelma recited Eugene Field’s poem about the gingham dog and the calico cat, the desire it aroused was not to recite or to see illustrations of the Chinese plate but to look at words on a page. Perhaps anal, I have never been aural. My reading had to advance rapidly to keep up with the books Thelma brought home from the public library. The leaps seemed short, at least in memory, from the Bobbsey twins to The Secret Garden to the detectives of Mary Roberts Rinehart. With my own library card I borrowed Tom Swift books until each seemed identical to the one before. At home I heard and then read such words on sheet music piled atop the piano as “Let me call you sweetheart” and “Goodby Ma, Goodby Pa, Goodby mule with the old hee-haw.” The books at home were also a mixed lot: the Gayley mythology illustrated in the manner of Flaxman; The Pathfinder and The Last of the Mohicans by Cooper; The Virginians and The Newcomes by Thackeray; Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson; several volumes of Stoddard’s travel-lectures; a half-witted encyclopedia; a Punch-like Wit and Wisdom of America; photographs from the Great War; and various children’s books preserved carelessly for little brother. From

310

Almost Nobody: A Chronicle

baffled efforts to enjoy Cooper’s novels, I came to assume that they like the mythology had been a prescribed medicine. In Stoddard I found nothing as rememberable as the account in a National Geographic of a traveler in Tibet for whom a monk licked out a cup to share with the visitor. I was not eager to leave Texas. Tinker Toys and erector sets obviously did not challenge me to the inventiveness that Frank Lloyd Wright attributed to the Froebel blocks his mother provided for her bright child. Like most, I had painted lead soldiers and metal trains on figure-eight tracks. With such toys I choo-chooed and boom-boomed alone. From the chemistry set a little later I sought explosions but usually achieved only blue hazes. Most days waited for tomorrow. Having a tutelary sister meant that I learned to play hopscotch and to snatch at jacks with the bounced ball descending. Would tomorrow never come? As my birthday fell at the end of August, I began school at age six rather than the then usual seven. A year younger than those around me on the seesaws and rings, and “delicate,” I encountered on returns from school toward home the problem that heftier boys endangered first my immaculate clothes and a few years later the cloth of homemade shirts. How could you tell your parents the truth about fighting? If you walked from school with another boy, it meant you were supposed to fight. For a loser, shame increased the reluctance to report. My father, having a wife and daughter and being responsibly employed, had avoided the army, but every family in Terrell acquired in 1919 surplus army blankets that never lost the aroma of wet wool. Equivalents of that odor were encountered equally at my grandfather’s farm. When I entered the first grade, Dad had become head of the city electric and water company and City Secretary. His bright, devoted, and patriotic secretarial aides taught me such useful skills as how to create on a typewriter rows of infantrymen with rifles. Secretary also of the local Masons, Dad had reached the thirty-second degree both as a Shriner and as a Knight Templar, which made his sword and plumed hat even more impressive for a boy than his rougher uniform as a volunteer fireman. One night when he hastened into his fireman’s togs, started his weekday Ford in the garage, and turned on the headlights, the weak beams made a furtive opossum play possum. Dad flung it into the trunk of the coupe, where it remained until he asked Mother the next morning to cook the greasy marsupial. When she declined, he took it to a restaurant on Moore Avenue, where he and the proprietor ate possum and we three others ate pounded steak. Discipline fell to our conscientious mother, whose switchings for “running away” in search of neighboring boys were never as humiliating as

Carl Woodring

311

the requirement that I cut from a hedge along the driveway the switch for punishment, nor as fearful as her ultimate weapon, “I’ll tell your father.” Switchings came too regularly for any moral impact. Committing a high portion of the possible sins and crimes of childhood, I was not punished for the acts as such but for disobedience. Misdeeds so punished retained only one significance, a conflict of wills, whereas a threatened appeal to Dad signified raw immorality, crime, defiance of a distant monarch. Thelma and I saw in Dad only endless generosity. He took us driving on Sunday afternoons and on holidays like Halloween all the way to the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, where we could watch on the street below costumed figures milling about under wizards striding on stilts. I was grown and gone before he shared domestic chores with my mother and therefore would have seemed less wondrous, less awesome. For Thelma as for me, closeness to our mother bred the affection of familiarity, habituation, expectation, dependence, inurement; distance from Dad encouraged reverence. Not even when I did not get for Christmas what I had seen at the Neiman-Marcus store in Dallas, a maneuverable car on special batteries with brake, steering wheel, doors, and leather seat, did I feel that Dad had fallen short as munificent Santa. I doubted his omniscience only when we were dosed for heavy colds, as he had been in childhood, with a tablespoon of sugared turpentine. Mentholatum on the chest, for croup-like rumblings below the throat, served until sophisticated labeling hid pharmaceutical ointments of menthol, camphor, and eucalyptus. I believe it was nurture more than nature that made me choose two men as idols. I came to share Mother’s adoration of Papa, her dapper, silver-haired father who had remained on his principal farm with tenants at College Mound, several miles out of Terrell. Never in view without a neat black bow tie, he seems even in retrospect the cleanest shaven man I have ever known. He had closed his weathered country store, a quarter-mile down the road from his house, but inside everything stood ready for the sale of axes and hatchets and foods in bulk whenever the (for me) very palpable ghosts would choose to brush away the cobwebs. Almost as exotic for a town boy were the well with an old metal bucket and metal dipper, from which one seemed to be drinking liquid aluminum, and the odoriferous sausages hanging in the smokehouse. Nigel Nicholson, in Long Life, says that grandsons seldom love their mother’s father as the mother did; without being an exception, I based on Papa my earliest idea of God, wise, benign, just. My admiration survived even the lesson he inflicted of making me rise on a winter morning to fire the woodstove in the bedroom where I thought myself a guest. The experience made me, not at that instant but

312

Almost Nobody: A Chronicle

later, grateful to Dad for lighting all the fires every winter morning before the rest of us arose. Small, gas heaters, ceramic fronts aglow, replaced the woodstoves, but the challenge of winter mornings remained even after drilling for oil brought an oversupply of natural gas. Papa and my mother’s siblings remained Methodists, but I never heard a religious argument within domestic circumstances. Issues among conservative Protestants that have more recently been contentious seemed settled then. Papa never mentioned religion in what seemed to me highly intellectual exchanges with his grandson on topics raised in the Literary Digest. These intimate discussions occurred in Terrell. At the farm in College Mound adults were central and Papa had orders to give. College Mound still means to many people who have lived in Kaufman County the cemetery of the tidy Methodist church there and its annual potluck picnic. The faithful and their friends gather on Decoration Day, distinguished by this name to honor Confederate rather than Union dead, but meaning to children treats besides chicken and a sampling of several kinds of pie and lots of chocolate on even more kinds of cake. One colt at the farm was said to be mine, but as the colt and I were returning the first time I rode it for any distance, the horse and saddle made an accustomed turn through the rows of corn and I continued by air down the road. At the end of this little yokel’s run with tears from ineptitude and fear that he had lost a valuable property, the colt was waiting patiently near the front porch. Such tears never came from the boy’s sympathy with the pain of others, however acute the pain or however aware the sympathy. Tears would come occasionally from the boy for crushed vanity but mostly for victory by a cherished team or an affirmative conclusion to a narrative dependent on sentiment, tears not of sorrow but of finality in pleasure. An observer who could not detect tears from the loss of friend or relative could have seen tears when I first read Conrad’s story “The Secret Sharer.” I thought of myself as anomalously cold toward near relatives, and other evidence supports that perception, yet I doubt if the sense came directly from the fact. The awareness was itself more self-centeredness than self-knowledge. It was only when my companion of sixty years lay helpless, bruised arms flat at her sides, no longer complaining of my failure to help her end the pain, that I released visible tears from sorrow rather than from some team’s victory. I don’t know how far a reversed role for tears is “normal.” In the earliest years my sister, her public library, and a lack of physical prowess made a reader of me. Each childhood disease and its medication brought the refuge of bed rest and reading. With the crowning disease,

Carl Woodring

313

German measles, Dr. Alexander forbade reading as a danger to the eyes. Because of this command I read undetected with the sheet over my head. Measles brought to me in this way all the stories of Poe and O. Henry that a half dozen miniature books could hold. How many psyches wounded into reading, I wonder, have resorted to this subterfuge? (Eudora Welty, for one.) Reading can intensify a private person’s privacy; reflection on reading, however, even a child’s reflection, can spur an emergence from the cocoon — seldom far enough into alert observation to create a Welty, but for many a boon to peaceful co-existence with others. Two centuries ago most Texans based spelling on sound—“forgit” and “cain’t”; then southerners began to guess at the proper sound of English by slow reading, somewhat as linguists ascertain eighteenth-century pronunciation by observing rhymes. Through absorbed habit, Texans tend to use language imaginatively; their journalists pun in nearly every headline; but the trait seems not to derive from imaginative literature. Harmony and appropriateness of aura have not reached those who, when the heat of a Texas afternoon diminishes magically into evening, call fireflies “lightning bugs.” Yet those who call cattle ponds “tanks,” who clean saucers with “dish rags” and scrub faces with “wash rags,” remain unduly fastidious in calling toilets, after all these years, “commodes.” It follows that novelists of the south and southwest can increase sales by reproducing their inherited outback language. My small-town childhood was like nothing in Faulkner. While Dad prospered, life seemed like the early chapters of long novels by Edith Wharton rather than like Yoknapatawpha or Winesburg, Ohio. With aspiration beyond his civic posts, for example in a political race for county clerk, Dad supervised the erection on a new street of a new house, electrified beyond any other in town, with such novelties as breakfast table, benches, and ironing board folding into the walls. The architectural moment required also a wall niche for the telephone. As that house was to me an adventure, I felt personal neglect years later when I found that “Pearl Street” had been wiped off the map. Alma, the widow of a half-brother of my father’s, lived in a large house a few blocks away. Her sons visited only occasionally, but one daughter my sister’s age, retarded, was kept zealously at home by the mother. An older sister, Anna, became head of the family and toiled as a dental assistant and later as an office-machine operator with small financial aid from her married brothers. In the hard years to come, she cleaned my teeth after hours. Besides furniture brought from the farm, their parlor held a player piano, a wind-up Victrola, and a radio. The retarded sister, Irene, who lived as a

314

Almost Nobody: A Chronicle

good-natured burden to Anna for another thirty years, had an unquenchable memory. “Irene, what was the name of that lady who worked in the office next to the Texaco station?” “Irene, what did we call that cow that gave so much more milk than the others?” Irene, sitting in her fashionless gingham dress on a stool, would begin to cover an embarrassed smile with her hand as she recounted once more the time a mule kicked my father’s rear end or the time the outhouse blew over and tumbled a visitor from town off the two-holed seat. As twilight deepened, she and I would sit in the swing on the front porch and each try to be first to identify approaching headlights as those of a Ford or Dodge or Reo or Packard. She had played this game both with others and alone. She knew all the distinctive patterns in the glass of headlights. Life in that house seemed to have had no beginning and promised no end. Anna, after years of caring for mother and sister in Houston, ended her martyrdom in Terrell, with Irene in an annex of the asylum. The Bible, Paradise Lost, and Tolstoy have been for me lesser moral guides than Anna. To judge by the dramas of Tennessee Williams, living inside that family would have led into more intense perceptions, but I have recognized at least this one saint. Dad took us each Barnum-and-Bailey year to watch the circus unload. On the next day, hurrying past the annually anticipated odor of straw and manure, he led us to benches high enough to look down on the ringmaster, the elephants circling trunk to tail, the brief preponderance of clowns, and the intimidation of tigers; high enough to look across toward the trapeze artists testing the strength of their arms and teeth; high enough to look down with them on the safety net that served finally as trampoline. On some years, as the family of a city official, we had special seats. Annually when the carnival came we rode the humped rides, threw objects to win cheaply-sewn prizes, and let cotton candy melt in the mouth. At other seasons, with another boy my advancing age I exchanged accounts of the movies we had seen that month: “Wooster showed him the encyclopedia. ‘There are no bears in Africa!’—and there was this big bear outside their tent. Wow!” I had not known how nondescript Terrell was until I began to notice differences during visits to my aunt in Italy, Texas, a wizened old lady— the town, but to a child also my aunt, wrinkled before her time, toothless and despising her dentures, with hair she uncoiled to her knees, in a house with high ceilings above stained wallpaper that had split as if the walls had kept growing, a noble mausoleum with dark, ribbed oak framing the tall doors, tall windows, and high mantels around gloomy tiled fireplaces, all

Carl Woodring

315

with machine-carved rosettes at the corners. The sense of difference for a child from a town of crewcut houses would not have been greater for a cottage-bred kitten on the floor of a ruined palace. A sudden bump in the road interrupted for me the leisurely flow of time. The sense of floating in a meadow of daffodils became a sense of climbing iron bars. I had without effort led the class in the first three years of school; by the fifth grade, I ceased to enjoy the multiplication table beyond 10 x 10, and have remained ever since allergic to numerals if unaccompanied as they are in algebra by letters or in geometry by visualized space. I no longer received all A’s in other subjects. Fear that I would become a stutterer kept adults from forcing me to change hands, but writing with steel pen and inkwell by the Palmer method began to be a graded subject; left-handed, curling my arm into a gooseneck in order to meet the First Commandment of the righteous-handers of the Palmer method by making push-pulls and loops slant to the right, I nevertheless smeared the ink and was awarded F’s. Numerals and inkwells are not the kind of causation psychologists look for when they study left-handed and changedhand stutterers, but undexterous, maladroit, gauche, sinister orientation has many external obstacles to the achievement of balance. Why was the handle of the pencil sharpener on the right side if you weren’t supposed to hold a pencil with the left hand? Penalties for wrong-handedness pay no attention to gender: electric irons have been as right-handed as electric drills London tailors ask a man whether he dresses left or dresses right, to adjust the crotch, but the fly, whether with buttons or with zipper, opens on the right. Besides sinister-handedness and a name starting with W, it hasn’t helped to be a dolichocephalic pinhead. J. Edgar Hoover would have expelled me from the FBI for having too little space for brain under a 6⅞ hat. Do I need other excuses for donning the role of misfit? Symptoms much greater than getting F’s in writing began to appear. “For now,” as the narrator of The Prelude says, “a trouble came into my mind.” Wordsworth as narrator attributes his trouble to “unknown causes,” which like Henry James’s reference to an obscure hurt in youth has led psychological critics in many directions, including sexual innuendo like Sterne’s in Tristram Shandy, when a window sash falls on an unspecified but implied part of Uncle Toby’s anatomy. Obscure hurts can be in obscured anatomical areas, of unknown cause, or difficult to acknowledge. I’m not sure how far the causes of my trouble were unknown to me. I did not know that my father had been indicted for embezzlement. I did not know that he went through a trial. A few years later I was told of his acquittal and still later that the city treasurer was subsequently tried and convicted.

316

Almost Nobody: A Chronicle

No notable secrecy, but no explanation, accompanied Dad’s departure from city employment or his opening of a waffle shop in the bus station. A fire closed his shop. Searching for the chewing gum he had always been generous with, I drew a black automatic pistol from a pocket of his top coat. From the trunk of his Ford I lifted for examination I found an oddly bound book on legal self-defense. I believed it prudent not to ask questions. Conversational space between Dad and me expanded immeasurably. He felt deserted, especially by fellow Masons, but no word on his troubles ever appeared in the Terrell Tribune. He had never enjoyed fishing or other opportunities for solitude as much as the fellowship of team sports. After the indictment, he locked his feelings in a solitary cage within his large body. As son, I wondered why he tossed into the garage his metal hat as chief of the volunteer fire department. I would have believed any Chicken Little who attributed my befuddlement to a falling sky. The threatening discoveries about Dad joined the world of tools and implements that make other-handedness openly sinister. Worse lay ahead. Times were beginning to be hard for many. It had been Dad’s custom each time he bought a new car, to sell the family Ford by providing a loan to the purchaser. An area near the driveway became crowded with repossessed cars. Family funds were obviously reduced. Dad no longer attended Masonic meetings; if I noticed, the change would have seemed consonant with my descent from crisp sailor suits into denim shirts and rodeo pants. Dad’s share in posh Lake Worth became shares in a small lake near Mineral Wells, where my mother blamed a dilapidated boat for her fall into the water. Without explanation to me, we left the new house along with the surplus cars and moved to a bungalow near the house of my first years and very much like it, with a useful increase in peach, plum, and fig trees, a messy mulberry tree, blackberry and mustang vines, and a larger area cultivated as a vegetable garden that I could help my mother tend. Christmas and birthday presents became predominately practical: “What grooming tools or underwear do you most need this year?” If shoe polish lacks the flavor of Christmas, are do-it-yourself heels and soles more appropriate? Other causes than finances and puzzling discoveries may have contributed to my unease and impairment. I had no consciousness that “peers” thought me a victim of economic and therefore social decline, but I took no pleasure in being poor. Giggling clusters of girls no longer pursued me across the schoolyard. I found several coins in the crotch of a tree I was climbing between our front walk and the street. Accepting a stereotype of poverty, my mother could not believe my account. A child is not improved

Carl Woodring

317

by being suddenly distrusted. If I had acquired the coins nefariously, why would they think I displayed them? Even if this was an apology for lying on other occasions with unannounced detection, I felt that exemption needed to be made for a boy’s innocent discovery of coins in a tree. There undoubtedly is a general truth in Conrad’s depiction of Nostromo as saving his honor by stealing the whole cache of silver when circumstances beyond his control kept him from returning the large portion that remained, but to express disbelief in a child who is telling the truth instills a warning against speaking unwelcome, inconvenient truths. In this way, disdain for a child’s truth has been an effective way of instilling orthodoxy—but that effect on me was short lived. My sympathetic nervous system became excessively sympathetic at sight of blood or thought of severe pain, and has remained excessively anxious. Perceiving that I was chicken-hearted, Mother made me catch and wring the necks of hens and pullets needed for frying. I underwent a phase of wanting adults to feel sorry for me, of wanting teachers to be aware of small physical injuries I had sustained. Guilt over that prolonged phase has made me suspicious as a senior citizen that I want strangers to know of my pains. Misfortune swatted the whole family. Thelma, a senior in high school, fell off the running board of her boyfriend’s car, suffered a concussion, and for a year or two had to hold up one side of her mouth to keep water or iced tea from spilling out. Abandoned by the universe when Papa died from a heart attack, Mother had a stroke that jumbled names, memories, and desires through all the synapses of her brain. She began to call my sister “Marion,” probably for her own dead youngest sister, but Marion was also Papa’s name. When Mother advanced toward recovery a year or so later, she began to exercise with me the frankness her father had practiced with her as female head of the family. She told me that her brother and sisters (and no doubt Papa) suspected that Dad had set fire to the waffle shop for the insurance and may have attempted similarly to burn down our home. She didn’t agree, but she had to confront their suspicions. She revealed a matter that had long troubled her, that Dad in his pursuit of the county clerkship had accepted, against advice, public support from the Ku Klux Klan. I have met no other person as innocent as my mother but she used me to test her need for truthfulness. Minimally instructed in anatomy, she mentioned the asymmetry of the point on my left ear (“faun’s ear”) as if she had failed morally before my birth—improbably, say, by dreaming of interest in a satyr. When she realized I had discovered condoms in one of my searches for chewing gum, she said in defense of Dad that he had never

318

Almost Nobody: A Chronicle

been demanding. On what was then not yet a subject borrowed by Baptists from other fundamentalists, she said my sister had been planned; I was an accident. Later, when she met some of my college friends, she said she hoped I was not going to be “a dirty old bachelor.” She shocked me almost to ecstasy when I heard her call a recalcitrant chicken a “son-of-a-bitch.” With poverty encroaching, I wore except on Sunday denim shirts sewn to pattern by Mother. Selling the Literary Digest from store to store on foot through the commercial district, on at least two occasions I begged Mr. Levy for a pass to the cowboy movie and its cornucopia of Saturday addons. For Christmas, the social plus of a baseball bat. This was the occasion when my grandmother made a baseball by winding twine around a rubber core and sewing two 8’s of khaki cloth as a cover, not the tightest but equal in quality with the batters who tried to swat it. By parental sacrifice, I acquired a leather glove for the right hand (before baseball gloves became butterfly nets). Partly because the Literary Digest enabled bankers and storekeepers to show friendship with Dad or pity for me, I acquired a third-hand bicycle, by then stripped of bell, fenders, chain guard, original seat, and paint. That “wheel” remains in memory as emblem of a forced attention to things. Attention to objects is increased when turnip greens and hen’s eggs are produced near the kitchen. In poverty spiritual aspirations tend to lose ground to existence. Yet until age twelve I was not aware of grieving for myself, possibly for family straits, but with no perceptible shame that we had turned into downstarts. Nobody I encountered seemed enviably rich. Buyers of the Literary Digest did no damage to vanity because they were not peers but adults, aliens. I hold with those who believe that manners and conduct are taught primarily, if not most lastingly, by a child’s peers. Society suffers from child psychologists more lastingly than from lawyers, but psychologists are needed to define the degree of awareness in the cruelties and vanities of children under twelve, what the French call l’enfance. Aunt Tex often told with tolerant laughter how after I had swung a hatchet overhead to smash an apple crate and instead opened Bill Dennard’s head, I said in sober self-defense, “I told him to stand back.” Bill and I were said in an earlier year to have divided a kitten too literally between us; possibly, but we remembered instead the culpability of allowing a relative’s pet rabbit to escape from its cage and then each keeping silent about the episode. Vanity from accomplishments was no longer available to me. I acquired a harmonica to play in the school band which included no other instruments; from my lips it sounded less like a mouth organ than a kazoo. In descent from the harmonica, I twanged a jew’s harp. (I see in Webster’s

Carl Woodring

319

Ninth that “jew’s harp” lasted five centuries without a synonym.) Algebra would temporarily rescue me from cumulative distaste for numbers, and the Palmer method of writing no longer made a charge against my left-handed grade average. I was now the kind of nearly everybody who is nobody. I remember little of the teachers or their subjects in those befogged years. For minor infractions, I had to “stay after school” a few times, but that confirmed my being average. A young teacher aware of her beauty undoubtedly remembered the hour spent in grilling me out of a persistent lie concerning my role in the general disorder when she entered the classroom. I remember both that I resented being singled out and simultaneously lamented the hour it cost her to inflict mental torture for rehabilitation. I wonder how many overburdened teachers since 1929 have had time to make punishment of an individual effective through patience. Dad left town to become a superintendent of the Sunshine Bus Line. Mother said, “Whatever he does, he loves you children.” The bus line was almost immediately acquired by R C. Bowen, who soon needed the superintendency for his brother-in-law. With the Great Depression reaching into Texas, each time the brother-in-law needed my father’s job, Dad became a sometime bus driver and a model for younger drivers. A good Texan, he opposed unions. As one of Alma’s daughters was moving with her husband to Houston, I was given the opportunity to ride in the rumble seat of their Model-A Ford on the road between Dallas and Houston, advertised as newly passable. Calling the road passable illustrated the need for hope in 1929. Except for the last seventy miles or so, only washboard bridges of logs across dips in the muddy ruts provided spurts of movement to what by exaggeration could be called traffic. The gasoline gauge, a ball floating in the tank abutting the windshield, stopped bobbing only when the roadster needed prying from the mud or when we stopped for water and gas—and once for a ham sandwich, bought to supplement the rations bouncing beside me in the rumble seat. Exhilaration as if we were flying rose with every bounce southward. On arrival in Houston, I noticed only the flatness of a city about to rival St. Louis and Dallas. We visited, on the porch of Alma and Anna’s apartment, the first of three of Alma’s daughters who would die of tuberculosis. The return on the washboard road to Dallas was as unmemorable as the barely visited Houston. During my sixth year of schooling, with the house in Terrell sold for little more than the taxes, the family of four moved briefly to Galveston. Packing to move, Thelma and I had a quarrel over which books to leave behind, the only quarrel anybody ever remembered our having. I pushed

320

Almost Nobody: A Chronicle

her and her armful of books into a glass door of the dining room, damaging her silk kimono and whatever complacency the family still nourished. The slight pride not already defunct remained in Terrell like a buried memento. That Terrell was “inland far” became evident in Galveston. A boy’s “my home town” lacks characterizing traits, as many college freshmen have learned when asked to write on the subject. Terrell had no character as long as I lived there. In contrast, the crashing of the sea against the seawall soon seemed the least exotic of the novelties in Galveston. Texas, despite a widespread impression, is not a uniform territory. Dallas and Houston compete for the future; Galveston lives on the past that ended when Houston became a port. When I first crossed the causeway to visit Dad on Galveston Island in the hurricane season of 1930, with news that a hurricane was crossing the gulf as in the prostrating storms of 1900 and 1915, simple arithmetic made Galveston an island to vacate. Cars, trucks, and trailers loaded with family treasures and favorite end-tables filed north past the palm trees that lined Broadway to the causeway toward Houston. I watched waves splash over the causeway. Differences from Terrell that remained after the storm passed were to me astonishing in their evidence of an expanding universe. During my six months in the sixth grade there, we lived a block off Broadway near the Rosenberg Library and the Bishop’s Palace, nearer still to a secretive convent and the insistent black habits of its nuns. It could not have seemed less like Terrell if Aladdin had stepped out of a mosque and rubbed his lamp. In Terrell the library was its books; the grandeur of the gilt-lined Rosenberg Library served the poor as a public possession, as movie palaces were said to serve in larger cities. That storms had been unkind to Galveston’s palm trees, that the dominant color of buildings, seawall, sea, and sky was grey, failed to reduce my sense of a brave world new to me. Terrell suddenly seemed a camp that had oozed in a primitive era out of the cotton fields, Galveston an El Dorado created by human imagination and skill. I lived one block from a boulevard. Soon the goal of walking to school was study and learning, not, as in Terrell, recess. Along the wide walks past massive houses, the superior students to walk with and to emulate said directly, “We are Jews.” Teachers seemed to have subjects rather than personal traits. From school, adolescents walked contentedly toward homework. In awe and gratitude for this stairway toward heaven, I remained unaware that Jesse Jones’s Houston was sucking the wealth and life from Moody’s Galveston. When Bowen made Dad agent of the bus station in Huntsville, we moved to that town of hills, pines, prison, and 5,000 residents still lacking

Carl Woodring

321

the natural gas installed in other East Texas towns. Yet the difference between a boy’s Terrell and a boy’s Galveston was as nothing compared with the difference between a boy’s Galveston and pupils in the public school system of Huntsville. Within a month I realized how mistaken psychologists are to generalize on what children are like. In awareness of appetite, six graders in Huntsville were years ahead of obedient Galvestonians. And what knowledge could one expect? Huntsville kids did not know their own street addresses. They could tell the courthouse from Old Main: what else did one need to know? “Have you moved near where the little ole colored church is? Well, then, how far are you from the grocery store? No, not the one on the square; the other one.” But in awareness of what appetite could do for you, seventh graders in Huntsville were several leaps beyond most parents in Terrell. A new high school, with a gymnasium not previously dreamed of, took in the seventh grade for general convenience. Seventh-graders so elevated severed all ties to childhood: they were novices in a new building where the seniors had garrulous social and sexual models in the teachers’ college across town. Mischief was a constant and collective aim. Halloween carried no treats to diminish the tricks. Teenagers dismantled widows’ front porches and outlying structures. They threw rocks at all the streetlights. On Halloween they stole even more unanchored items than on ordinary weekends, for seventh graders could look to models more streetwise than college students who had come to Huntsville from more circumspect towns. The presence of the state prison, with its notorious “last mile,” superior rodeo, and particularly its prisoners free on trust generally unnoticed as they performed routine chores in the town, contributed considerably to the lax morals of Huntsville youth. Trusties taught us how to perfect sleight of hand and how to make and gainfully use skeleton keys. For half a dollar, they sold notched quarters that would trip slot machines and return for the next venture. The prisoners probably knew what the boys did not: it would soon be illegal for slot machines to pay off. Shortly thereafter, even non-paying slot machines in public places were confiscated and smashed. Meanwhile, groups of boys not aware of themselves as gangs competed to gather with skeleton keys the largest number of stolen locks, with transcendent pride in those stolen from buildings of the prison. Stealing locks brought no shame; it did not titillate like nudging each other in church or Sunday School over the hymns “Have Thine Own Way, Lord,” “Do It for Jesus Today,” or “Leave It There.” Prisoners, however, had an interest in locks disappearing from prison doors.

322

Almost Nobody: A Chronicle

Boys needed no explicit movies or television or Internet to teach violence and insensibility, but whatever taught them had not reached the youth of Galveston, a city notorious among adults for an underworld of gambling. Among seventh-graders in Huntsville neither knowledge nor behavior was in any favorable sense adult. If I had moved from Terrell to Galveston to Huntsville as a senior in high school, differences might have been less obvious. For the Huntsville boys, at an age to float face down in a sea of egoism, girls existed only on Friday nights. Alas, the girl of my choice, with the lovely name Lillian Crittenden, was not allowed by her father, a constable, to attend dances or anything else where boys might be after dark. Other girls and boys, gathered in groups of four or twenty on Friday nights, began in purposeless games and ended with petting in dark corners, occasionally in the thickets where on Saturday nights boys with flashlights would attempt to pull the tails of armadillos that dug in their claws to escape underground. To the boys, girls on Friday were not very different from armadillos on Saturday. Beneath the social gatherings lurked experiment. Huntsville houses before air conditioners and slab foundations, in a climate supposedly temperate, had neither attics nor basements, but in lieu of basements they had crawl spaces exquisitely fitted for the discomfort of sexual experiment, masturbatory same sex, and otherwise. Perhaps because I had undergone baptism at the age of discretion with as much sincerity as possible in that atmosphere, I joined other boys only once in exploiting the desire of one undernourished girl to be as popular as the beautiful and secure who ignored her. The two points on her breasts were slightly sharper than those of the boys who satisfied her need to be acknowledged. The behavior of teenagers in Huntsville was much more arresting than the architecture. Although most old county courthouses in Texas flaunted age in awesome intricacy of ornament, the rust-colored structure in the center of the square in Huntsville, like its musty interior, was almost as dull as the buildings designed to replace courthouses far superior to this one in Walker County. As an exception to foreseeable dullness, a hardware store on one side of the square was still protected at night by weathered wooden doors like a windowless barn. It was easy to imagine that the old man in its unlighted interior sold only hatchets and axes. At the top of a steep hill above the town square, Sam Houston State Teachers College had its Old Main, recognizable by anybody who has seen an Old Main. Times, all agreed, were hard. With money needed for survival, Mother made pimento cheese sandwiches that I sold to riders who dismounted from the buses. Thelma attended the college and worked at Woolworth’s

Carl Woodring

323

between classes. She made it possible for me to hear Robert Frost read poems in the college auditorium, and to witness the furtive departure of most of the audience, which ended my interest in being a student there. In idle moments at the bottling works next door to the bus station, I learned to grasp three bottles of Coca-Cola between the fingers of each hand and hold them over two lights to inspect for stubborn dirt. Thus boys earned the right to drink freely from any bottle the inept machine failed to cap. Most dark-skinned convicts were sent to the prison farms as unskilled labor. Huntsville, inside and outside the walls, was Anglo-white. An honorable Anglo trusty who met the bus to collect mail for the prison talked with me often while he waited. A topnotch rider and calf-roper at the annual prison rodeo, on other days resigned and reflective, he sounded wise, certainly gentle. He and his ranching partner suffered life sentences for resisting inspectors determined to dip their cattle—resisting until Miltgood, my honorable friend, shot at the inspectors and his partner more successfully killed them. Miltgood accepted the justice of his sentence to life in prison. One day when I was temporarily alone at the bus station, a young woman dressed like one of Thomas Hart Benton’s neat hitchhikers sat for an hour. She said she had come from Paris, Texas. What made me notice was not her short dark hair nor her wide belt. She wore a common hue and average amount of lip rouge. What made her different was first that she lingered alone in the dreary station. Next, with face tightly bound about her eyes and no competitor for attention, she moved swiftly from bench to counter to the drab closet labeled “Ladies” and back to the bench. With medium heels and no perceptible wings, her shoes scudded her across the linoleum. Although swift, she gradually seemed less purposeful. I began to imagine Paris, Texas, as an exotic place of tight-lipped, alluring young women beyond my age and reach. Floating through airless space to the counter, she asked to use the phone. Without looking at the directory I offered, she spoke a number into the mouthpiece, then asked, “Is this the prison?” Next she asked for a name I was not yet interested in learning. After a wait she said. “Please tell him I can’t wait,” shoved the telephone toward me, and left the station. After reading in the weekly local paper a few days later that a prisoner with a Paris connection had at about that time fatally shot a guard and escaped in a car driven by a woman, and later that the alleged murderer, Raymond Hamilton, had been captured, I managed to attend one day of the trial. The father of my classmate Toby Gates, famous as an orator for the defense, had chosen to serve the prosecution. Jurors tried to hide tears at his harrowing description of the widow’s sorrow. My possible testimony

324

Almost Nobody: A Chronicle

was not needed for rapid conviction. Much later I was told that the escape was planned by Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. One thing my awe at the trial illustrates is that the turpitude of Huntsville teenagers was totally distinct from adult crime. Most of my classmates exposed to trusties entered what is now Sam Houston State University and became respectable grocers, insurance salesmen, bankers, and lawyers. When Bowen sold or closed as unprofitable the northern division, he needed the Huntsville agency for the brother-in-law, whose family moved into the other half of the frame duplex we lived in. The son, older than I, took the Writer’s Digest and kept vinegar in the garage to muffle the odor of cigarettes. He freely shared periodical, cigarettes, and vinegar. Dad began to drive a bus each day, Huntsville to Galveston to Houston to Galveston to Huntsville. Hoover had followed Coolidge as President. My father, a true Texan, believed it less corrosive to work seventy hours a week with no day off than to join a union in protest. He left home before I was awake in the morning and returned after bedtime. Before I was required to rise with him in winter to light the fires, natural gas reached into behindhanded Huntsville; no more woodstoves to stoke with split logs and kindling. I acquired the one job as painful to adolescent vanity as any I could then imagine, a full exposure of the family poverty by selling popcorn on Friday and Saturday evenings to college students; much worse, selling to fellow pupils who then entered in pairs to watch the short subjects, animated cartoon, and feature. I longed for disguise. Aim for superiority had become desire to be equal. If I had not begun in one of the affluent families in Terrell, would poverty have seemed less painful? It may not have been self-pity that drove me to sympathy with the descendants of slaves, but an indigent child encircled by apparent affluence can suffer feelings that feel like enslavement. With the eyes I gave them, classmates could remember me as the wretch who had to sell popcorn on partying nights rather than as, much more likely, the boy with the hairiest legs in the P. E. class. One small speedy boy with dark skin, a resident of the alley near our rented house, played touch football on a vacant lot with three or four of “us” on Saturdays. On failing to snag a pass, falling into the grass with him seemed as natural as the segregation that kept him the rest of the time in the alley or in the school on the other side of town. Texas made me indelibly a racist in that dark skin has remained categorical, a classification, an ilk, like amphoras or amphibians. I have the inherited misfortune of understanding why newspapers refer to Tiger Woods as black. For chemistry in the ninth grade I started an experiment in dyes. The teacher, “Brick” Lowry, who was also the principal (and later dean of the

Carl Woodring

325

college), suggested that I do a chart to illustrate the dyes and also to do placards that would promote the school’s sporting events in store windows. During chemistry class two or three days a week I might be in his office doing the chart of dyed swatches or, much more often, two dozen placards for football, basketball, or track. Twice, on afternoons after school, the principal and I scrubbed test tubes and retorts and took them half-cleaned, along with worn textbooks, to the grateful chemistry teacher of the high school for Negroes. So, during five years in Huntsville I had personal contact with two persons not called white. The state of Texas committed for each “black” pupil 6 percent of the meager amount committed for each “white” pupil. Those were conditions ideal for prejudice. In Huntsville it was perhaps possible for the dark to understand the pale, but the pale had little or no information available for understanding the dark. In the Huntsville of five thousand residents, the training school for student teachers at the college crucially divided the high-school population, so that every male sophomore was needed if the football and basketball teams were to have any substitutes. At Huntsville High an aspiring new coach arranged to have a football camp for three days at a nearby lake. Owning no cot, I slept in the cold on a uniform, helmet, and shoulder pads. Calisthenics and scrimmage by day joined these lumpy nights to make me wonder what it is like to be boiled in oil. Weighing 130 pounds and so slow that my ring finger is still crooked from being stepped on by a faster lineman, I dreaded the jolt of every tackle. I was to be sent into games only as the coach’s illegal signal that the quarterback was to call our desperation play. (I have used in an attempted novel called “Cat’s Paw’ a more brazen way the actual coach cheated.) As players we resented the joyless exploitation of us as tools for dishonesty. We thought games ought to be games. We had lost one more layer of innocence. Earlier that season, in the rival town of Crockett, several Huntsville “players” had been caught trying to steal candy in a drug store; we distinguished between ordinary life and the aim of a more honorable existence in sport. At that moment in Crockett, we merely wished trusties had taught us more refined methods of stealing. Yet I repeat: boys soaked in turpitude at Huntsville High became inflexibly respectable adults, led by their wives, with weekly attendance and even tithing in Protestant churches. On a Saturday morning when the respective coaches decided to risk the bad blood of having the two local teams play each other, Dad made special arrangements to surprise me by watching the game. I choked back sobs, disgraced in the eyes of my very own father when no desperation play was needed. Had the puny son spoken of football practice in a way to let

326

Almost Nobody: A Chronicle

him expect feats of broken field running? In basketball my junior year we went to the state meet in the Gregory Gymnasium in Austin, where I was impressed most by the leather pommel horses; as our five lost in the first round, we returned somberly to Huntsville. A substitute in football and basketball, in track I was a long-distance runner who discovered the exhilaration of a second wind but won no ribbon in the district meets. Thereafter I was to play tennis defensively at the speed of a two-mile runner. In Shop, for boys the alternative to cooking and sewing, I spent nine months carving and sanding a cutting board and tried to understand why my mother found no use for it. Needing to be practical, I won a toy racer in the elective typing class for being the fastest—because most accurate. Perhaps because the art teacher in Galveston had told my mother I lacked talent—the assignment was to cover wastebaskets with collages of colored bits from magazines—I decided to become a writer who would illustrate his own work. When a boy moving from another town displayed genuine talent as an artist, I ascended instead to the painting of commercial signs. A sign-painting graduate of the high school generously told me what book to own and why it was important to buy and keep clean camel-hair brushes of several widths. Soon an entrepreneur writ minuscule, I spent most of the profits on brushes. Shops and the restaurant found my work a bargain. I bought a pantograph to help with the production of twenty-five signs along Highway 75, a project never completed. To teachers I was one of a few showing interest in knowledge. An eminently memorable and superior teacher in English, Mary Estill, the daughter of the retired president of the college, made me alert to other subjects as well. I am allergic to numbers, but algebra employs letters of the alphabet in ways I found intelligible and attractive. Seven or eight of us took Latin, where we made Roman chairs from bars of soap, enjoyed the teacher’s practical jokes to embarrass the class, and experienced vicariously her pilgrimage to the Holy Land under the diocesan priest. I found it easier to learn several pages of Caesar’s Gallic Wars in Latin and in English than to learn Latin grammar, an oddity, because my memory has otherwise specialized in short phrases. Incongruously I was chosen to represent the school in extemporary speech, a skill withheld from me by nature. Contestants needed to master the “alphabet soup” of the rapidly multiplying agencies and programs of the New Deal. Learning the purposes and accomplishments of those programs served as a first step in my disapproval of property-revering individualists holding public office. It fixed permanently my attitude toward the pleas

Carl Woodring

327

from individuals who accept subsidies and rescues but strive to get government out of our hair. I grew under the New Deal. To the high school course in American history, more abstemious than the accounts of Texas flags and heroes, a nattily dressed young teacher added interest. The brother of Hollywood’s Dana Andrews, he explained that he had himself, as an extra, been required to buy clothing suitable for each scene of films he appeared in. If books are right in dating Dana’s first film 1946 (and his younger brother’s first film under the name Steve Forrest as later), Dana must have been at the Pasadena Playhouse when his brother was our modest and attractive teacher, touched, in our view, by the glamour of chic attire that had appeared in money-making films. Neither the teacher nor the textbook knew anything of social history. I was astonished a half century later, with religious fundamentalists achieving the repeal of laws and judicial interpretations of the mid twentieth century, to learn that Max Eastman, Trotskyite and anti-Stalinist, was born in 1883 of two Congregational ministers, one of them, you will conclude, a woman. Not that small-town Texas ever heard of Trotsky, by then the political model for disillusioned colleagues of mine much later in New York. We had read a selection from the Federalist essays, but I brought away no sense of the intellectual precision of James Madison. In history as it was known in Huntsville, Monroe, for his adamant Doctrine, rather than Madison, Jefferson, or Adams, was the heroic equivalent at the national level of the supreme hero of that schoolroom, Sam Houston. If Houston, a battler amid boobs, had foresight in greatly preferring the United States, federalism, parity, and native Indians to the Confederacy, slavery, and extermination, Texans, along with national journalists, had lost the meaning of federalist, an interlocking of state and national interests. One awakening came instantaneously. In an auditorium attached to the gymnasium, a live actor making the rounds of public schools became, without preliminaries, Macbeth asking God, with us listening, “Is this a dagger which I see before me?” Without prestidigitation we saw a dagger. I could not have been more enthralled if the Moses of Michelangelo had risen from his stone seat and thrust a dagger toward me. Instantly the actor’s living gestures reduced interest in Hoot Gibson’s spats and spurs on film. Shakespeare’s words delivered with conviction stabbed me and increased empathy with, for example, men facing electrocution in Huntsville’s crude chair. The itinerant actor in Huntsville made me a lifetime consumer of performance and representation. A similar excitement would come later when Ruth Draper, with a lifting or folding of her scarf, peopled the stage with a mother, a daughter, a grandmother, a charwoman, and all the

328

Almost Nobody: A Chronicle

persons mentioned in telephone calls that interrupted a lesson on Dante “in the middle of life.” Similarly, the miming of Jean-Louis Barrault in Les Enfants du Paradis kept me in suspense for years, waiting for the Barraults to enliven Molière on stage. Only in a small town, I suppose, could the acting of children in pageants be so bad that to high school students a professional actor would seem supernatural, but the void extended then into Texas cities. When I went one Saturday in a bus to Houston with the purpose of visiting the Museum of Fine Arts, I walked miles along Main Street, where everybody greeted strangers like old friends but nobody knew where the art museum was. As far as I could tell, nobody knew what an art museum was. Houston then held Los Angeles as its cultural goal, but remained otherwise still akin to Huntsville, where the only public library was a room, maintained by the county, half-full of discarded books. Other than prison escapes, the greatest excitement of my five years in Huntsville came with a young man who had acquired a Great War “Jenny” biplane trainer and for two weeks, at a moderate fee, lifted one passenger at a time into the air and back to the hayfield. Our minister, Brother Bruce, notable among Baptist ministers for his close-clipped hair but typical for his sermons against movies, dancing, and playing cards, surprised me by asking how I intended to rise above sign painting. I who had sold popcorn in agony felt that sign painting was accomplishment and emancipation. In Huntsville High, where you could rise above the spiritually dead by being aware of doves in the thickets, being a sign-painter struck a blow for individuality. My dream of being somebody, a writer who illustrated his own works, had been voiceless. When this robotic minister surprised by personal interest in my welfare, I began to believe it a poor idea to be almost nobody. In a small turn of good fortune, our family of four moved to the Sam Houston side of town. My walk with lunch sack through town to school began by crossing a wooded park past two dissimilar houses Sam Houston had lived in. Small alligators, sunning on a bridge of the walkway, steamed and hissed as I stepped over them. The ordinary had become exotic. A teacher at the college and his alertly literary wife, Margaret Young, had a special interest in Reese Brentzel, the son of a professor of agriculture, and had also found for their daughter a slightly younger friend, Lena Phillips, of instantaneous interest to me. This circle, Presbyterians with their center in the college and its training school, absorbed me as an outsider. We danced on Friday evenings alternately at the Youngs and the Brentzels, not only under the eye of adults but often with one of the parents as partner. If we were not treated as adults, the illusion of equality created intellectual

Carl Woodring

329

elevation, joyous evenings, and happy memories. Beyond the weekly encounters, infrequent dates for church or school occasions were marked by restrained kisses and embraces with no sense of evasion. This was more like Galveston than Huntsville. Near the end of my junior year, the family, including my newly married sister, moved to Houston. We lived near San Jacinto High, remembered most widely for having contributed to the education of Walter Cronkite, but known as “the tea-sippers’ school,” in part because of its high percentage of students who took the courses and made the grades required for entrance into Rice. It shared with other high schools in Houston the requirement of five courses each year instead of Huntsville’s four. Returning one weekend to the genial circle that included Lena, I told Brick Lowry that I would not be allowed to graduate in Houston that spring because I would lack the requisite courses. He proposed instantly that I transfer to Huntsville High the last week of school and graduate there. To my benefit, the superintendent of the Huntsville schools had been elected, the previous year, state president of school superintendents. Mr. Rogers, the principal of San Jacinto, coveted the post. When I reported Mr. Lowry’s offer to the assistant principal (called “Gumshoe” Gates because he could sneak up on offenders with the silence of a coyote), it took him two days to answer that I could graduate from San Jacinto if I received all A’s in my courses there. With so many other requirements to make up, I would have to skip trigonometry, thought essential for admission to Rice, the one college reachable geographically and financially. The plan seemed otherwise to have waterwings. Grades, no longer a matter of vanity, could get me out of high school into Rice. There was very little homework; my elective course was journalism, where we wrote for the school paper, the Campus Cub. A physically stunted teacher whose short arms conducted indelibly the student chorus, taught geometry like a hospice nurse committed to the removal of absolutely all pain. She was one of several teachers who required no homework. Most graduates of San Jacinto have remembered the toujours gai civics teacher, Alsop (with maybe another l or p), who required nothing of either students or himself. Those who took journalism remained fond of Fred Birney, who communicated joy in journalism as a trade. The Campus Cub has continued long after the building ceased in 1971 to house a high school. With a kind of relief I read there that Elmer Gates, a direct descendant of Miles Standish and principal from 1944 to 1952, died at 102 in 1985. At last my diploma was beyond challenge. Despite the death of San Jacinto High in 1971, the Campus Cub, as a monument to Fred Birney, has been kept in improved health by such

330

Almost Nobody: A Chronicle

alumni as the surgeon Denton A. Cooley. David Westheimer published pieces in the Campus Cub for sixty-two years. For me in 1935–36, despite joys worth remembering, hazards remained. In physical education, not counted among the five courses but required, attendance was taken at the beginning and end of class. One day a friend and I, after waiting ten minutes at the end of class for the roll-taker to arrive, departed for the next class. The result was an F in physical education. As I would never have made an A if ability were measured, there may have been some hidden justice. In order to keep me from graduating in Huntsville, to the detriment of Mr. Rogers’ hope of becoming president of the state association of superintendents, Mr. Gates excused me from physical education. He made me instead a lunch-time gate-keeper. As chairs in the cafeteria could accommodate only half the student body, gates were closed for thirty minutes against the LL (late lunch) students and then thirty minutes against the EL students. At midyear I could report to Lena that Rogers’ need for the Huntsville vote seemed to assure my graduation in Houston. My teacher in English, Miss B, was a last hazard. To provide her required report on a book of the student’s choice, a girl of outstanding ability chose Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas. “He wrote it,” said Miss B, “only to pay for his mother’s funeral.” Grade B+. I reported on The Newcomes, by Thackeray. Miss B had not read it; grade B+. Mr. Gates called me in. He did not wish to belittle Miss B, but her grading was known to be erratic; unlike the F in PE, the B+ could not be erased, but I could graduate in 1936 for the good of superintendency in Texas. Mother, Thelma, and I joined the nearby Second Baptist Church. It had been formed in protest against the First Baptist preacher’s proscription of cards and movies. At “liberal” Second Baptist I became a prig. I stopped smoking partly as reform but mostly to avoid the expense. Double dating for dances, in a period when the sale of mixed drinks was illegal throughout Texas, I avoided the pints of bourbon that high school students could obtain but had to kill before going home. On one occasion six of us, including Brother Thorne’s son home on holiday from Baylor, were triple dating in one car. After the three girls had been safely deposited, the boys declared themselves too drunk to drive. Importuned, as a dangerous non-alcoholic non-driver with inadequate reluctance and criminal lack of foresight, I slid under the steering wheel. At the second or third corner, I slammed the two right wheels against a curb. In a daze I walked and the others staggered our separate ways home. Dr. Thorne’s son, and not I, had to face retribution.

Carl Woodring

331

In Sunday school I had an upright friend and kindred spirit, Bernard Green. Much more prized than I as a writer for the Campus Cub, he was a fellow admirer of Don Marquis and Ogden Nash. We went in curiosity to the tabernacle above Buffalo Bayou of the faith healer Raymond T. Ritchie, then visiting to heal the sick accumulated under his brother’s stewardship. Elders, or bouncers, led us along an outer aisle a quarter of the way down Raymond’s steep auditorium. We obediently moved to the center of the allotted bench. Behind us, in an elevated alcove, two figures in military uniforms tramped noisily, presented arms, and occasionally, over the heads of the congregation, fired what we hoped were blanks. The message seemed to be “Believe or Die”; luckily, we felt, we had not come to mock. The fervor we had learned to expect from annual revivals led by Baptist evangelists never arose in the sermon. The service closed, not with the usual Baptist command to live henceforth without sin, but with an invitation to be healed by coming forward, whether on crutches, in a wheelchair, or carried in a bed. Initially, Raymond’s messages to the previously incurable who approached were sotto voce. When signs of recovery became apparent, his words of encouragement gradually increased in volume until all of the full audience could hear. “Do you believe that God has heard our prayers or do you have a lack of faith that leaves you in fear of standing alone under God’s care?” Only the amplified voice had an immediate presence. The scene of healing below our bench seemed far away, as if occurring in some earlier time and place, but the four or five who had gone forward on crutches now bent to offer them in tribute to the healer and limped or strode up the center aisle they had come down. A young man in a wheelchair rose, stood, wobbled, and sat again. After words not available to the congregation, two attendants wheeled him up the aisle. “For some,” announced the healer, “faith does not come at once, or on a first trial.” A pale old woman who had been carried down the aisle on a bed arose in a flowered calico dress, audibly thanked God and Raymond, and was helped up the aisle by two of her four escorts. Bernard and I shuddered at the ominous atmosphere but concluded that God might work in mysterious ways even through agents evidently self-selected without help from the God available to most Protestants. Numbly, we left in wonder that a city of 250,000 harbored this feigning and might be home to any number of introverted cults. This uniquely voyeuristic episode would make swimming through the windows of a submerged car in the muddy waters of Buffalo Bayou, with another friend that same year, seem routine.

332

Almost Nobody: A Chronicle

Concurrent with my politically enhanced graduation, Texas celebrated in 1936 the centenary of its independence from Mexico. Art Deco buildings still extant shot up in the fairgrounds of Dallas. Ft. Worth competitively built its own Centennial grounds and auditorium. Dallas could seat 3,000 for the fan dancer Gipsy Rose Lee; Ft. Worth responded with a similar venue for Sally Rand. R. C. Bowen and his brother Temple held the concession of trams and other transportation within the two fairgrounds. (Temple was proprietor of an airline pioneering the use of Lockheed Vegas until he lost to Braniff the contract for airmail in Texas.) R. C. kindly proposed to Dad that I spend the summer working for him in Dallas, perhaps taking tickets or selling seats on a tram. I packed the family suitcase and went by bus and foot to the Bowen headquarters in Dallas. R. C. had been called away, but Temple, who reminded me of the sullen gorillas that starred in Hollywood films about Africa, told me to occupy R. C.’s hotel room that night and report the next day at the Centennial grounds in Ft. Worth. Upon arrival “where the West begins” I was assigned to “other transportation,” pushing a rickshaw. A boy who had been on the job for a week said that he had made twenty-five dollars the previous night by conveying a drunk to his hotel. My first customer that morning had an extra dime and nickel for me; the third fortunately had no change smaller than a quarter. As instructed upon departure from Houston, I called Mother to report. I told of the glamorous lights and fountains and the gleaming whiteness of the buildings. I offered the enticement that another boy had shown me two large bills earned the evening before by rickshawing a drunk to his car outside the gates. “Get on the next bus for home.” The next bus got me to Dallas and another night in R. C.’s hotel room, which required another call home. In several hours at the sun-reflecting Centennial, I learned little bits about several Latin American countries, more about optimistic visions of the future (including an exhibit of television by AT&T that allowed you to compare the image of a face with its original forty feet away), and most dramatically about views of the government of Texas concerning its measured generosity to its largest minority. A pictorial souvenir declared this international exposition to be the first to represent “Negro Life” along with the accomplishments of other races. As much of the Centennial seemed morally inferior to Christian endeavor in Huntsville, the clean, well-lighted space of the “Negro Life” exhibit lifted me into a belief that some in authority cared enough to imagine a change in conditions imposed by color. Texas had done an imperfect job of implanting in me its traditional fears and hatreds; as a freshman in college, I would not know that Kaplan was

Carl Woodring

333

a Jewish name. Suddenly it was significant that a school principal, not a preacher, had acted to alleviate need on the dark side of Texas towns, that somebody in state government, not the Baptists with missions in China and Africa, had paid attention. A furniture dealer extravagantly charitable offered my 135 pounds experience on a truck delivering sofas and tables. At the end of a second day of grunting and stumbling, I saved the Samaritan further pain by abandoning the occupation of mover. (I should have deleted this small example of Depression mores when I met an eminent economist, of very small stature, who had carried his high-school diploma into the ring as a professional boxer, and then as a hitchhiker was offered tuition to the University of Chicago, where a preferable career began.) Optimistically, I prepared some sample placards and canvassed stores nearby for commissions as sign-painter. After several small jobs, I completed a storefront sign that impressed the proprietor of an electrical business needing the name of his company on its wide brow. Choosing an alphabet with modest serifs, I provided a design at scale, acquired the paints and such materials as a long chalk line for snapping against the entablature to mark the top and bottom of the foot-tall letters. A ladder came with the job. I outlined each letter with pencils and then with black paint. The third day, being left-handed, I started as usual at the end and began to brush red into the lettering right to left. When the proprietor stepped out to assess my progress, neighbors and passersby noticed; within an hour a crowd had gathered to watch the freak on the ladder and the guessing game unfolding above the door and display windows, Y then NY then ANY then PANY then COMPANY. I should have been credited with the sale of at least a lamp and two extension cords that day. After a break at noon, the proprietor said he was sorry to report that he would pay for my time and paints but the job would have to be abandoned. His employees, who belonged to the electricians’ union, would walk out unless he hired a unionized painter. He also gave me a name and address that could assure me work as a sign painter. The address of promise was Boilermakers’ Local. The burly man behind the desk explained that he took care of the signpainters’ union and would take care of me one way or the other, depending on whether I joined the union. I supported unions on principle, but I would have accepted intimidation more readily from a sign-painter. As the dues were more than I could possibly expect to earn in the summers and spare time, I painted no further signs except without fee. Fortunately for my desire to believe in unionization, bus drivers respected my father’s unwillingness to join their union.

334

Almost Nobody: A Chronicle

RICE INSTITUTE With emotional support from my parents, I applied for admission to Rice Institute, which required no tuition, and had no official social life (and little that was unofficial), and would have negligible costs for one who lived at home. Besides its accessibility by bike, I had a grant for part-time work from the National Youth Administration as part of the package. I would certainly have been a purer nobody had the private benefaction from William Marsh Rice and aid from the New Deal not been added to financial sacrifices by my economically fallen parents.

O

n the appointed, normally sultry September day for registration, I walked excitedly through the gates, up the tree-lined avenue and through the iconic sallyport of the administration building. At tables along the cloister with caricatures of the earliest Rice professors beaming down from the Mediterranean capitals, current professors sat in readiness to give each incoming freshmen ten or fifteen minutes for assignment to courses. Registration was simple: either you wished to be an engineer or you didn’t. From a search through the few electives, I expressed a wish to take freehand drawing. “Good,” said the registrar, “we need architects.” Like the niece who wrote, when required to thank her aunt for the present, “I have always wanted a sewing kit, but not very much,” I enjoyed my year as an architecture student, but more nearly as observer than as pledge.

I

n the broiling sun of commencement (after the baccalaureate sermon, the first I had ever encountered with intellectual content), I hardly noticed the award of Honors in English, except that the very unacademic Bill Hart attended and expressed pride in it. Graduation reminded me once again of what coming at the end of the alphabet can add to experience. President Lovett had offered his soft hand on the first occasion when we met by chance in walking from near his residence in the Plaza Hotel, along treeshaded Main Street to Rice. I said I liked Rice, and he was glad. Apparently it did not occur to either of us on those walks that we held any ideas, problems, or interests in common. A glance at my freshman record would have strengthened that opinion. Now, when he reached out to me as the last graduate of 1940, his hand, boneless, damp, and dripping, seemed to flutter in joyous relief as he withdrew it.

R

ice gave me whatever mental shape I had in 1940–42. Although it was Joe Hendren’s honest passion that drew me toward teaching, I

Carl Woodring

335

would follow for forty years the lead of McKillop, Whiting, and Camden by suppressing in the classroom political and religious biases. After my Southern Baptist infection was killed at Ridgecrest, Rice must have contributed to my conviction that all questions of how material existence began are now beyond human answer. When and how was there nothing? Who can know or who can refute “Before the world began, I AM”? At Rice I moved toward a belief asserted by the Chair and Professor of Religion at Columbia University, Mark C. Taylor: “the divine is the infinite creative process that in embodied in life itself. As such, the divine is the arising and passing that does not itself arise and pass away.” In short, a version of Darwinism that avoids the discomfort of accepting sheer accident as cause. I left Rice, as I think I might have left any non-sectarian college in North America or Western Europe, an agnostic.

M

uch in life fosters thanksgiving. Consequently, Darwin’s chance concatenations will strike any curious mind as a loser’s explanation of why we are here rather than nowhere. If microbes can persist unchanged for millions of years which the impetus of evolution can thrust other living organisms, thwarted by surroundings, into utilizing rogue genes to enable sight and intelligence, it is encouraging to think that the defective homo sapiens, bright and noble as we sometimes seem, may yet evolve into an improved species. From faith and for the comfort of self-approval, in a world crowded with Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists, each can carelessly reject the other. Faith builds temples; certainty brings conflict, often with attempted annihilation of the other. Certainly in religion is a danger from the moment of its birth. My prayer is, help me deserve forgiveness for my faults and help us as a society cease to transgress against others. Before I left Rice the effort to seek truth became more important than any degree of faith or belief that ultimate truth can be found. Truth is provisional, has times and places. No available truth is for everybody, and some profound truths, like the wisdom of “sell whatsoever that hast and give to the poor,” can be effective for very few. Despite inroads from deconstruction, whether or not truth remains deeply hidden, it will not be found by ignoring evidence. Truth exists largely in the medium of experience, as important to every field of study as it is in courts of justice. Within university faculties, alongside those of innate energy who genuinely enrich life for their students, there are plodders like me who believe that some facts either can be known or are worth trying to know.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY OF CARL R. WOODRING C OM PIL E D BY BE N P. RO BERTSO N

C

arl R. Woodring’s most significant scholarly works are listed below, organized chronologically within each section.

BOOKS Victorian Samplers: William and Mary Howitt. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1952. Prose of the Romantic Period. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961. Politics in the Poetry of Coleridge. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1961. Virginia Woolf. New York: Columbia University Press, 1966. Wordsworth. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968. Politics in English Romantic Poetry. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970. Nature into Art: Cultural Transformations in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989. Editor. The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Volume 14, Table Talk I, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, edited by Henry Nelson Coleridge and John Taylor Coleridge. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990. With James S. Shapiro, eds. The Columbia History of British Poetry. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994; Beijing, China: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, 2006. With James S. Shapiro, eds. The Columbia Anthology of British Poetry. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995. Literature: An Embattled Profession. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. Lucky Thirteen: USS Hopkins DD249 (DMS13), with Lawrence Kurtz (2000).

337

338

Selected Bibliography

CHAPTERS IN EDITED COLLECTIONS “Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk.” In Franz Kafka Today, edited by Angel Flores and Homer Swander, 71–75. New York: Gordian Press, 1958. “Introduction: Leigh Hunt as Political Essayist.” In Leigh Hunt: Political and Occasional Essays, edited by Lawrence Huston Houtchens and Carolyn Washburn Houtchens, 3–71. New York: Columbia University Press, 1962. “Nature, Art, Reason, and Imagination in Childe Harold.” In Romantic and Victorian: Studies in Memory of William H. Marshall, edited by W. Paul Elledge and Richard L. Hoffman, 147–57. Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1971. “The English Literary Scene in the 1820s.” In Washington Irving: A Tribute, edited by Andrew B. Myers, 37–41. Tarrytown, NY: Sleepy Hollow Restorations, 1972. “Change in Chuzzlewit.” In Nineteenth-Century Literary Perspectives: Essays in Honor of Lionel Stevenson, edited by Clyde de L. Ryals and John Clubbe, 211–18. Durham: Duke University Press, 1974. “Virginia Woolf.” In Six Modern British Novelists, edited by George Stade, 175–217. New York: Columbia University Press, 1974. “The New Sublimity in ‘Tintern Abbey.’” In The Evidence of the Imagination: Studies of Interactions between Life and Art in English Romantic Literature, edited by Donald H. Reiman, Michael C. Jaye, Betty T. Bennett, Doucet Devin Fischer, Ricki B. Herzfeld, and Carl H. Pforzheimer, 86–100. New York: New York University Press, 1978. “What Coleridge Thought of Pictures.” In Images of Romanticism: Verbal and Visual Affinities, edited by Karl Kroeber and William Walling, 91–106. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978. “Sara Fille: Fairy Child.” In Reading Coleridge: Approaches and Applications, edited by Walter B. Crawford, 211–22. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1979. “Inter Pares: Leigh Hunt as Personal Essayist.” In The Life and Times of Leigh Hunt, edited by Robert A. McCown, 61–72. Iowa City: Friends of the University of Iowa Libraries, 1985. “Vision without Touch: Coleridge on Apparitions.” In The Cast of Consciousness: Concepts of the Mind in British and American Romanticism, edited by Beverly Taylor and Robert Bain, afterword by M. H. Abrams, 77–85. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1987. “Wordsworth and the Victorians.” In The Age of William Wordsworth: Critical Essays on the Romantic Tradition, edited by Kenneth R. Johnston and Gene W. Ruoff, 261–75. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987.

JOURNAL ARTICLES “William Hurrell Mallock: A Neglected Wit.” More Books, Being the Bulletin of the Boston Public Library 22 (1947): 243–56.

Selected Bibliography

339

“Once More ‘The Windhover.’” Western Review 25 (1950): 61–64. “Charles Reade’s Debt to William Howitt.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction 5, no. 1 (1950): 39–46. “Letters from Bernard Barton to Robert Southey.” Harvard Library Bulletin 4 (1950): 351–58. “Peter Bell and ‘the Pious’: A New Letter.” Philological Quarterly 30 (1951): 430–34. “William and Mary Howitt: Bibliographical Notes.” Harvard Library Bulletin 5 (1951): 251–55. “Notes on Mallock’s The New Republic.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction 6 (1951): 71–74. “Onomatopoeia and Other Sounds in Poetry.” College English 14, no. 4 (1953): 106–10. “On Liberty in the Poetry of Wordsworth.” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 70, no. 5 (1955): 1033–48. “The Aims, Audience, and Structure of the Drapier’s Fourth Letter.” Modern Language Quarterly 17, no. 1 (1956): 50–59. “Charles Lamb in the Harvard Library.” Harvard Library Bulletin 10 (1956): 208–39, 367–402. “Coleridge and Mary Hutchinson.” Notes and Queries 4 (1957): 213–14. “The Narrators of Wuthering Heights.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction 11, no. 4 (1957): 298–305. “Coleridge and the Khan.” Essays in Criticism 9 (1959): 361–68. “Lamb Takes a Holiday.” Harvard Library Bulletin 14 (1960): 253–64. “Dip of the Skylark.” Keats-Shelley Journal 9 (1960): 10–13. “Two Prompt Copies of Coleridge’s ‘Remorse.’” Bulletin of the New York Public Library 65 (1961): 229–35. “New Light on Byron, Trelawny, and Lady Hester Stanhope.” Columbia Library Columns 11, no. 3 (1962): 9–18. “On Looking into Keats’s Voyagers.” Keats-Shelley Journal 14 (1965): 15–22. “Christabel of Cumberland.” Review of English Studies 7, no. 1 (1966): 43–52. With David Bevington, Mildred Boyer, Robert M. Duncan, John C. Gerber, Maynard Mack, George J. Metcalf, Claude M. Simpson, Jr., and Jack M. Stein. “Report of the MLA Study Commission.” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 83, no. 6 (1968): 1535–42. “An Honest—or Nearly Honest—View of Research.” Bulletin of the Association of Departments of English 35 (1972): 9–12. “The Mariner’s Return.” Studies in Romanticism 11 (1972): 375–80. “Good Books.” Bulletin of the Association of Departments of English 30 (1972): 39–44. “The Job Market and Experienced Teachers.” Bulletin of the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages 4, no. 3 (1973): 23–24. “The Job Market and Experienced Teachers.” Bulletin of the Association of Departments of English 36 (1973): 10–11. “A Coleridge Miscellany.” Columbia Library Columns 24, no. 3 (1975): 26–32. “Lamb’s Hoaxes and the Lamb Canon.” Charles Lamb Bulletin 10/11 (1975): 39–41.

340

Selected Bibliography

“Beyond Formalism, Beyond Structuralism: Jobs.” Bulletin of the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages 8, no. 1 (1976): 1–5. “Nature and Art in the Nineteenth Century.” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 92, no. 2 (1977): 193–202. “Introduction.” Studies in Romanticism 21, no. 3 (1982): 447. “The Burden of Nineveh.” Victorian Newsletter 63 (1983): 12–14. “Masefield, Ricketts, and the Coming of Christ.” Columbia Library Columns 35, no. 3 (1986): 15–24. “Three Poets on Waterloo.” Wordsworth Circle 18, no. 2 (1987): 54–57. “Recording from Coleridge’s Voice.” Transactions of the Society for Textual Scholarship 3 (1987): 367–76. “Ricketts and Saint Joan.” Columbia Library Columns 37, no. 3 (1988): 25–33. “Retiring Directors.” Keats-Shelley Journal 39 (1990): 10–11. “Road Building: Turner’s ‘Hannibal.’” Studies in Romanticism 30, no. 1 (1991): 19–36. “Talking Coleridge.” Wordsworth Circle 27, no. 1 (1996): 55–57. “Carl H. Pforzheimer, Jr., Research Grant.” Keats-Shelley Journal 51 (2002): 19–21. “Centaurs Unnaturally Fabulous.” Wordsworth Circle 38, nos. 1/2 (2007): 4–12.

BIBLIOGRAPHIC WORKS “Current Bibliography.” Keats-Shelley Journal 3 (1954): 111–28. “Current Bibliography.” Keats-Shelley Journal 4 (1955): 109–30. “Current Bibliography.” Keats-Shelley Journal 5 (1956): 117–41. With David V. Erdman, Martin K. Nurmi, and Raymond S. Sayers. “The Romantic Movement: A Selective and Critical Bibliography for the Year 1961.” Philological Quarterly 41 (1962): 649–78. With David V. Erdman, Raymond S. Sayers, and David H. Stam. “The Romantic Movement: A Selective and Critical Bibliography for the Year 1962.” Philological Quarterly 42 (1963): 433–69. With David V. Erdman, Raymond S. Sayers, and David H. Stam. “The Romantic Movement: A Selective and Critical Bibliography for the Year 1963.” Philological Quarterly 43 (1964): 433–64. Green, David Bonnell, and Edwin Graves Wilson, eds. Keats, Shelley, Byron, Hunt, and Their Circles: A Bibliography: July 1, 1950–June 30, 1962. Compiled by David Bonnell Green, Cecil Y. Lang, Edwin Graves Wilson, and Carl R. Woodring. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1964. With David V. Erdman, Kenneth Negus, James S. Patty, and Raymond S. Sayers. The Romantic Movement: A Selected and Critical Bibliography for 1964. Boulder: University of Colorado Press, 1965. “Recent Studies in the Nineteenth Century.” Studies in English Literature 8, no. 4 (1968): 725–49.

Selected Bibliography

341

SOUND RECORDINGS On Being Half Romantic. Ithaca, NY: Society for the Humanities, Cornell University, 1983. Cassette-tape sound recording. With Eugene Goodheart, Wayne Johnston Pond, Phillip Mitsis, Jennifer Whiting, and Edward A. Malloy. Nature and the Self in Modern Literature. Variation: Soundings. Research Triangle Park, NC: National Humanities Center, 1988. LP-disc sound recording.

INDEX

acceleration and historical change, 255–56 Ackermann, Rudolph, 100, 116n18 Adams, Brooks, 262n8, 263n9 Adams, Clover, 251 Adams, Henry, 4–5, 169, 248–63; The Degradation of the Democratic Dogma, 262n8; Education, 251, 252–57, 262n8; A Letter to American Teachers of History, 251, 258–61; belatedness, 249, 251, 256, 259; “law of succession,” 249, 251, 253–55, 258, 262n8; mind’s instincts, 261 Adams, John, 24 Adams, Louisa Catherine. See Kuhn Aeschylus, 219n25 Alfieri, 237 Allston, Washington, 45 Altick, Richard, 121 American Society for Eighteenth-century Studies, 155 Apollo, 18–19 “Arcadia” (Golden Age), 37–38, 42, 44 Arnold, Matthew, 154 Astley’s Circus, 130 Austin, Jane, 211, 221n39 Australia, 271 Austria, 15–16, 23–24, 34 autotype, 216–17

Bacchus, 18, 32 Bach, Johann Sebastian, 8, 12 Baldwyn, Charles, 128 Bancroft, George, 174–75 banking crisis (1825–1826), 122, 125–27, 131, 144 Banks, Joseph, 89 Barbauld, Anna Letitia, 279 Barnes Collection, 158 Barthes, Roland, 242 Battle of Waterloo, 84 Beattie, James, 211 Beatty, Bernard, 111, 118n31, 119n38 Beauclerk, William Aubrey de Vere, ninth Duke of St. Albans, 124, 128– 29, 134–41, 144 Beckford, William, 233 Beethoven, Ludwig von, 3, 7–36; Apassionata sonata, 13; Eroica symphony, 9, 12–14,16–18, 24–25, 28, 29n4; Fidelio (previously Leonore), 13, 15, 17–18, 20, 24–25; Fifth Symphony, 18; First Symphony, 10; Fourth Piano Concerto, 19; Leonore (see Fidelio); Missa Solemnis, 7; Ninth Symphony, 20; Piano Sonata in D major, opus 28, 10; Seventh Symphony, 11; Sixth Symphony (Pastorale), 18; Tagebuch, 8, 12, 29;

343

344

Index

Triple Concerto, 13; Waldstein sonata, 13 Bell, Steve, 133 Bergson, Henri, 261 Bernadotte, General Jean Baptiste, 10 Bernhard, Lisette von, 8, 12, 28n3 Bible, 46, 52–57 Bingham, George Caleb, 60n28 blackmail, 137–38 Blake, Catherine, 216 Blake, William, 1, 3–4, 37, 57, 63, 95, 100, 154, 210, 214–17, 222n59-66, 223nn69–70, 262n6, figure 9.4 Blanning, Tim, 8, 12 book collecting, 269, 271 Boydell, John, 206, 222n61 Brahms, Johannes, 35 Breuning, Stephan von, 15 British Institution, 213, 222n53 Brooklyn Museum, 161–64 Brontë, Emily, 1 Brose, Margaret, 234 Brown, “Capability,” 20–21, 54 Bryant, William Cullen, 41 British colonies, 83–99 British India, 38–39, 91, 113nn4–5, 115n11, 117n27 British Jamaica, 85–99, 110, 113nn2–5 Brunhes, Bernard, 259 Brutus, Lucius Junius, 9, 16, 19, 23 Bunyan, John, 58 Burdett, Angela, 124, 144 Byron, Lord, 1, 3, 11, 24, 30n19, 49–51, 57, 63, 83–119, 144, 182–85, 225– 47, 275; Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, 24, 57, 118n31, 119n36, 227, 231, 233, 239–43, 246nn30–32; Deformed Transformed, 238; Don Juan, 49–51, 83–119, 240; English Bards, 225; “Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte,” 244; “On this Day I Complete my 36th Year,” 243; continental tradition of literary theory, 226, 227; Italy, 234 Cameron, David, 133 Ca ira (French song), 22 Campbell, Thomas, 227

Canova, Antonio, 10–11 Cape of Good Hope, 211, 217, 221n42 Caribbean, 3, 55–56, 84–99, 102, 110, 113nn3–5, 114nn7–9, 115n12, 270–71 caricatures of Regency high life, 121–22, 133, 137. See also satire Carlyle, Thomas, 35n77 carnivalesque (Bakhtinian), 143 Caroline, Queen, 76 Castlereagh, Viscount, (Robert Stewart), 101, 107–8, 110–11, 117n28, 118n32, 143–44, 239 catastrophism, 250–52, 254, 259 Cather, Willa, 176–77 Cellini, Benvenuto, 235, 238 Chakrabarty, Dipesh, 157–58 chaos, 249–54 Chateaubriand, François-René de, 11 Cherubini, Luigi, 13 Church, Frederic, 43, 45 Churchill, Charles, 98 Clarke, Arthur C., 255 Clarke, Rev. James Stanier, 211–15 Claude Lorraine, 37, 45, 169 Cleveley, Robert, 214 Coburg Theatre, 130 Cochran, Peter, 231–32 cockades (Kokardes), 22–24, 33 Cole, Thomas, 3, 37–62, 169, 170; The Clove (Catskills), 43–44, 54; The Course of Empire, 57; The Cross and the World, 58; Daniel Boone . . . at Great Osage Lake, 48–51, 52, 60nn28–29, figure 2.3; Distant View of Niagara Falls, 42–43; Evening in the White Mountains, 41–42, figure 2.1; Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, 52–54, plate 2.2; Falls of Kaaterskill, 42–43, figure 2.2; The Garden of Eden, 54–57, figure 2.5; Kaaterskill Falls, 40, 59n10; Lake with Dead Trees (Catskill), 39–40, plate 2.1; Landscape Composition: St. John in the Wilderness, 52–53, figure 2.4; Last of the Mohicans: Cora Kneeling at the Feet of Tamenund, 58n, 61n33; The Subsiding of the Waters of the Deluge, 61n35; View

Index of Lake Windermere, England, 46; The Voyage of Life, 57–58; “Emma Moreton, a West Indian Tale,” 61n37; “Essay on American Scenery,” 44, 47, 51; poetry, 46, 58 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 1, 4–47, 60n25, 63, 80n2, 149, 150, 196–200, 268, 272 Collins, William, 206 Cologne, Elector of (Max Franz), 9–10 Columbia University, 1–2, 265–97; Heyman Center for the Humanities (Society of Fellows), 273–74 Combe, William, 101, 109 Comini, Alessandra, 17–19, 26–27, 29n6 complexity, 254–56 Constable, John, 20, 57 Conrad, Joseph, 312, 317 conservation of energy, 250, 258, 262n7 Cooper, James Fenimore, 42–43, 45, 48–52, 172–73, 309 correlation of forces, 250, 262n7 Coutts, Frances, Marchioness of Bute, 123–24 Coutts residence, 125, 131 Coutts, Sophia, Lady Burdett, 124, 144 Coutts, Susan, Countess of Guilford, 123–24 Coutts, Thomas, 123, 135, 138, 139 Crabbe, George, 227 “Creole,” 90–92, 114n9 Croker, John Wilson, 118n31 Cromek, R. H., 214 Cruikshank, George, 3, 63–81, 84, 98, 101, 108, 116n19, 125, 128, 142; THE FINE OLD SUBSCRIPTION VESSEL, . . . BOMB, 69–71, figure 3.3; George Cruikshank’s Omnibus, 130; A NONDESCRIPT, 73–75, figure 3.4; “The Paw” Tax Stamp, 78–79, figure 3.5; A Scene in the Farce of “Lofty Projects,” 126; A SLAP AT SLOP AND THE BRIDGE STREET GANG, 64–66, 68–69, figure 3.2; VICTORY OF PETERLOO, 63–64, 67, figure 3.1 Cruikshank, Issac, 117n29

345

Cruikshank, Robert, 3, 125, 128, 137, 139, 144, 147n31; A Beau—Clerk—for a Banking—Concern, 129; A Frolic at the Melon Shop in Picadilly, 131–32, figure 5.3; The Honey Moon and the Man in the Moon, 138–39, figure 5.6; Listons Dream!, 129; A New Farce in High Life, 137; Paul Fry at Widow C—‘s, 125–26, figure 5.1; The Ripe Melon!!—and Musty Pumpkin!!, 135, 138, figure 5.4; A Sketch at St Albans or Shaving the New Maid Dutchess!!!, 139–40, figure 5.7 Curie, Marie and Pierre, 257 Curtis, Sir William, 127–28 Cumberland, Richard, 207, 219n25 Curran, Stuart, 226, 244n5 Czerny, Carl, 10 Dallas, Robert Charles, 98, 116n22 Danae, 136–37, 143 Daniel, Thomas and William, 38–39 Dante, Alighieri, 237–38, 240 Darwin, Francis, 250, 253–54, 262n7 David, Jacques-Louis, 11, 218 decadence, secular and human, 259–60 Derrida, Jacques, 229, 245n15 Desmoulins, Camille, 22 de Staël, Mme Germaine, 98, 225, 231 Dibdin, Thomas, 99, 102, 117n30 Dickens, Charles, 1, 130 Dionysus, 18 Disraeli, Isaac, 225 drama, performances of, 270, 272 Drury Lane Theatre, 99, 102, 114n7, 117n30, 123 Duke of York, 108–9, 117n29 Durand, Asher, 40–41 Durkheim, Émile, 250, 260 East Texas, 6, 299–333 ecological waste, 259 Egan, Pierce, 101, 117n27 Egyptian mysteries, 16, 29 Eldon, Lord. See Scott, John Elmes, William, 97–98, 116n19; Adventures of Johnny Newcome, Plate 1, 97–98, figure 4.5

346

Index

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 47 energy, 250–61; in nature and society, 252–53; in historical change, 255; in catastrophe, 256, 259; vital energy, 258; and Will, 261 English gardens. See Brown, “Capability” entropy (Second Law), 250, 256–57, 263n14; dynamics of history, 258; mind’s attraction to, 261; universal decay, 258–59 Erdman, David, 63, 80n2 Euripides, 14 evolution, 250, 253–55. See decadence Ezell, Margaret, 156 Fabian, Johannes, 157 Fairburn, Johnny, 135, 138, 140 Falconer, William, 211, 215-16, 221n40, 222n60 Ferdinand VII (Spain), 35 Fielding, Henry, 88, 147n37, 149, 150 Fittler, James, 214, 216 fin de siècle, 251, 259–61 First Law. See conservation of energy Fisher, Doucet, 230 Flaxman, John, 214, 219n14 Flexner, James Thomas, 176–77 Fores, Samuel William, 132 Foscolo, Ugo, 4, 225–47 Foucault, Michel, 242, 247n53 France. See French Revolution Frankendaal, Nicholas Van, 212, 221n46 Franco-Prussian War, 252 Franklin, Benjamin, 21, 173 Freiheitsbaum, 22, 24, 34n64 French Revolution, 7-9, 13, 21–23, 26–27, 30n26, 34n73, 35n80 Freud, Sigmund, 136, 229, 245n16 Friedrich, Caspar David, 21, 26 fruition vs. fruiction, 230 Füger, Friedrich Heinrich, 8 Gainsborough, Thomas, 218n1 Garibaldi, Giuseppe, 252 Garrick, David, 206 Gavison, Ruth E., 143 Genet, Jean, 229

Genette, Gérard, 226, 244n3 Genlis, Stéphanie Félicité, Comtesse de, 206 geology, 40, 54, 59n11, 61n33, 250, 253–54 George III and Queen Charlotte, 96, 107, 111 George IV (Prince Regent), 67, 70–71, 73–75, 96, 107–9, 117n29, 118nn33– 34, 123, 127 George, Dorothy M., 75, 77, 80n3, 121, 134, 146n12, 148n38 Gibbon, Edward, 57 Gibbs, Willard, 262n8 Gilpin, William, 37 Gillray, James, 63, 84, 87, 95–96, 108, 112n1, 115n14, 118n33 Gilmartin, Kevin, 73, 81n9 Gluck, Christoph Williald, 8 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 12–17, 31n33, 32n47, 35n77, 226–34 Gombrich, Ernst, 135 Goodman, Alice, 24 Goya, Francisco, 104 Gold, Captain Charles, 98, 116n20 Graff, Anton, 11, 15 Grant, Ulysses S., 252 Gray, Andrew, 259 Gray, Simon, 270 Gray, Thomas, 206 Greece, 8–9, 19, 22, 24 Grimes, Kyle, 80n3, 81n15 Grolier Club, 269 Guggenheim Foundation, 268–70, 273 Guiccioli, Teresa, 227–29, 231, 239 Gwynn, Nell, 129, 133–34, 139 Haeckel, Ernst, 258 Haiti, 23, 85–87, 113n4, 114nn7-8 Hamilton, Emma, 206–7, 210, 218, 219n16 Handel, George Friedrich, 8 Harding, Chester, 60n29 Hayley, William, 205, 210–11, 213–14, 216, 218, 222–23 Hartmann, Eduard von, 260–61 Hassam, Childe, 169

Index Haydn, Joseph, 8, 13 Hazlitt, William, 1 Healey, Edna, 124 Heath, William, 115n11, 132, 144, 147n28; Feasting.During.Pleasure, 136–37, figure 5.5; Paul Pry’s Peep into Chancery, 132 Hegarty, Valerie, 163 Helmholtz, Hermann von, 250 Hemans, Felicia, 46 Hegel, G. W. F., 226, 229 historicism, 151 history and law of change, 253, 255, 258; as science of human degradation, 259 Hobhouse, John Cam, 182–83, 227, 241 Hodges, William, 37–40 Hogarth, William, 87 Holland, William, 86–96, 99, 102, 117n26 Holly Lodge, 123, 125, 138, 141, 144 Hone, William, 63-81. See also Cruikshank, George Hook, Theodore, 126, 138 Horace, 232 Hornemann, Christian, 18 Houdon, Jean-Antoine, 11 House that Jack Built, The, 134 Howitt, Mary and William, 268 Humboldt, Alexander von, 56 Hudson River Valley (Catskills), 39–40, 43–44, 46–47, 58n6. See also Thomas Cole Humphrey, George, 125, 127, 129, 137–38 Humphrey, Hannah, 125, 127 Hunt, Leigh, 1, 63, 69, 81n6, 98, 116n92, 225 Huntington, Daniel, 44 Huxley, Thomas Henry, 263n12 India. See British India Indians. See Native Americans Industrial Revolution, 255–56 intuition and instinct, 261 Irving, Washington, 170–71, 174 Isle of Wight, 213

347

Jackson, H. J., 225, 244nn2–4, 245n22 Jackson, Helen Hunt, 309 Jacobins (revolutionaries). See French Revolution James, Abraham, 84–91, 102, 107, 114nn9–10, 115n11; A Grand Jamaica Ball! . . . in Spanish Town, 90–91, figure 4.2; Johnny New-come in the Island of Jamaica, 86–88, plate 4.2; Martial Law in Jamaica, 86–88, plate 4.1; Segar Smoking Society in Jamaica, 89–90, figure 4.1 James, William, 263n14 Jander, Owen, 17, 19, 20, 26–27, 32n43, 33nn55–56 Jefferson, Thomas, 169–72, 175 Jerrold, Douglas, 130 JF (monogram of anonymous artist), 92–95, 115nn11–12; Johnny Newcome in Love in the West Indies, 92–95, figure 4.4; West India Luxury!!, 92–95, figure 4.3 John Bull, 75 Johnson, Lyndon, 133 Joyce, James, 228, 299 Kafka, Franz, 1 Kames, Lord Henry, 94 Keats, John, 46, 100, 190–92 Kelly, Joan, 152 Kelvin, William Thompson, First Baron, 258–59, 263n12 King, Clarence, 252, 254 King, Martin Luther, 304 Knight, Samuel, 127 Kreutzer, Rudolph, 10 Kris, Ernst, 135 Kroeber, Karl, 235, 246n39, 269 Kubrick, Stanley, 255 Kuhn, Louisa Catherine (née Adams), 251–52 Lafayette, Marquis de, 27 Lamb, Charles and Mary, 1, 63, 96 Langley, Samuel Pierpont, 254 Lapland, 205, 217

348

Index

Lavater, Johann Casper, 10–11, 14, 94–95, 115n15 Leggat, Frances, 219n19 Levine, David, 133 Lewis, Matthew, 98–99, 116n22 liberty cap (Phrygian hat), 22–23, 33, 107, 115n15 Lincoln, Abraham, 170, 175 Liston, John, 129–31, 147n37 literary history, 268, 272 Livy, 9 Louis XVI (France), 9, 22, 26–27, 35n78 L’Ouverture, Toussaint, 23–24, 85–86, 94, 98, 114n8 Ludwig, Emil, 12 Lyell, Charles, 253–54 Mach, Ernst, 254 magic. See Sami and Witches Makarova, Natalia, 270 Malkevitch, John, 270 Markley, Robert, 156 Marks, John Lewis, 127–28 Mathias, T. J., 98 Mähler, Willibrord Joseph, 3, 7, 9, 12–21, 24–28, 29n4, 31n37, 32n52, 34n69; Portrait of Beethoven with Lyre, 15–28, plate 1.2 “manifest destiny,” 60n28, 168 Marchand, Leslie, 2, 112n1, 116n21, 288–90 Marks, John Lewis, 127; Stout as Ever!!!, 127–28, figure 5.2 Marseillaise, 22, 33n57 Marsh, George Perkins, 172 Martin, John, 51–52, 54–56 Maugham, Somerset, 271 McKitterick, David, 126–27 Medland, Thomas, 214, 216–17 Meisel, Martin, 100, 117n27, 269 Mellon, Harriot, 122–25, 127–28, 131, 133–38, 140–44, 146nn9–10 Melville, Herman, 119n35 Mertz, John Theodore, 262n1 Michelangelo, 217 Milton Gallery, 205 Milton, John, 46, 52, 205, 219n12

mind and reality, and phase change, 250, 253, 255 Mitford, John, 109–10, 118n35 Moffat, James, 98, 116n20 Moore, Thomas, 99, 227 Morrison, Janie (née Ellis), 270, 272 Monbron, Louis-Charles Fougeret de, 233, 246n30 Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 8, 10, 12 Murray, John, 1st and 2nd Earls of (publishers), 84, 116n18, 119n39 Naples, 192–96 Napoleon, 4, 7, 10–11, 13, 22, 25–26, 29n4, 30n 26, 34n68, 35n74, 103, 108, 236 Napoleonic (Peninsular) wars, 3, 4, 84–88, 100–12, 118nn31–32 Native Americans, 42–44, 59n13, 170, 173–77 Naval Chronicle, 213, 221n42 neoplatonism, 58, 62n44 New Historicism, 153 New York City, 39, 46, 252, 256–57, 268–73 Nicolson, Andrew, 111, 116n21, 119n38, 229, 232, 245nn17–18 Niebuhr, Reinhold, 304 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 242, 247n52 Noble, Louis, 45, 55 Nordau, Max, 250; Entartung, 260–61 object-oriented criticism, 164–65 Opie, John and Amelia, 218 order, as imposition, 252, 255 Orpheus, 19 Pagès, François de, 221n47 Palazzo Fortuny, 159–61 parapraxis, 229 Paris, 252–53, 254; Exposition Universelle (1900), 253 Parkman, Francis, 174 Parrish, Maxfield, 169, 308 Paul Pry (play), 122–23, 129 Paul Pry (character), 122, 125, 129, 131, 133, 143

Index Peale, Charles Willson, 58n6, 59n13 Pearce, Charles, 142 Pearson, Karl, 254 Peninsular wars. See Napoleonic wars periodization, 150, 157 pessimism, 260 Peterloo Massacre (1819), 64–67, 71, 75 Petrarch, 227, 239–41 phase change (material science), 256, 262n8 Phillips, John, 140; One of the Graces Making a Man; or, Frankenstein Outdone, 140–42, figure 5.8 physics, 254–55 picturesque, 37, 42, 169–71 Plutarch, 9, 24, 235, 237 Pocock, Isaac, 213–14, 222n54 “poetical” painting, 45–46, 51, 60n17 Poincaré, Henri, 254 Polidori, John William, 119n35 political prints. See satire Poole, John, 122–23, 146n18 Porter, Robert Ker, 102, 117n30 portraiture, 4, 7–36, 45, 48–51, 60n29 Poussin, Gaspar, 169 print culture, 66–67, 69, 76–78, 80 private sphere, 122, 128, 130, 133, 142– 43, 145nn3–6, 147nn33–35 progress, belief in and as law of change, 250, 253, 255 Prometheus, 207–8 public sphere, 128, 143, 145n6 Rabelais, François, 71, 87 radiation, radium, 257, 259 Radoux, Leopold, 16, 35n75 Ray, Gordon N., 268–69, 272 Ranney, William, 60n28 Reiman, Donald H., 230–31 Reynolds, Sir Joshua, 31n30 Rhineland (and Rhine), 6, 13, 15–16, 22, 24–25, 34n66 Rice University (Rice Institute), 268, 271, 334–35 Ricketts, Charles, 271, 276, 285 Roberts, David, 9, 100–12, 117nn26–30, 118n34

349

Rogers, Samuel, 99, 227 Rolland, Romain, 7, 28 Rome, 8–9, 14–17, 19, 22, 190–92, 200–1 Romney, George, 4, 203–23; Cassandra Raving, 207; The Infant Shakespeare Attended by Nature and the Passions, 206; John Flaxman Modeling the Bust of William Hayley, 213; King Lear in the Tempest Tearing Off His Robes, 206; The Lapland Witch Watching A Shipwreck in a Storm, 204, 211, figure 9.1; Sketch for a Shipwreck, 211, 214– 15, figure 9.4; Titania, Puck, and the Changeling, 207; The Tempest, 208–11, 218, figure 9.2, figure 9.3; Other Paintings and Sketches, 212–13, 218, 222n68, 223nn73–77 Romney, John, 207–8, 216 219n23, 220n25 Rosa, Salvatore, 37, 52, 61n30 Rose, William Stewart, 232–33 Rossetti, W. M., 216 Rothschild, Nathan, 125–26, 128 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 14, 226, 261 Rowlandson, Thomas, 63, 84, 94–95, 100–2, 104–5, 107–9, 115n14, 118n33; Johnny Newcome Going to Lay in Stock, 103–4, figure 4.6; Presenting the Trophies, 108–9, figure 4.8; Poor Johnny on the Sick List, 104–6, figure 4.7 Royal Academy, 37–38, 96, 102, 211, 213 Ruisdael, Solomon van, 33n57 Ruskin, John, 45 Ruysdael, Jacob van, 26, 34n72 Rycaut, Paul, 94 Sami (Lapps), 205 St. Clair, William, 119n39 Salieri, Antonio, 8, 12 satire, satiric prints, 63–81, 83–119, 121–48 Saunders, William, 214, 216 Sayres, James, 115n11 Scheffer, Johannes, 205, 219n11

350

Index

Schiller, Friedrich, 20, 23 Schleuning, Peter, 18 scholarly editing, 272, 292–93 Schopenhauer, Arthur, 260–61 science and history, 253, 255, 258, 262n10 Scott, John, 1st Earl of Eldon, 132–33, 138 Scott, Sir Walter, 117n27, 119n36, 124, 127–38, 227 Second Law. See entropy senses, illusions of, 252 Seume, Johann Gottfried, 23, 25, 29n4, 33n Seward, Anna, 205, 219n10 Shakespeare Gallery, 206 Shakespeare, William, 122, 138, 168, 205–7, 219n13, 220n25, 223n74, 327 Shannon, Charles, 271, 276, 285 Shapiro, James, 272 Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 46, 58, 63–66, 143–44, 182, 192–96, 262n6, 280 Shepherd, Sam, 270 Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, 99, 123, 238 Sherman, William Tecumseh, 176 Shonibare, Yinka, 163 Sicily, 196–200 singularity, 38-40, 45 slavery, slaves, slave revolts, 3, 71–72, 84–99, 110–11, 113nn2–3, 114nn7–9, 119n36 Smith, Charlotte, 218 Smith, Benjamin, 208–9, 219n17, figure 9.2 Smollett, Tobias, 88, 315 Snowden, Edward, 143 Solomon, Robert C., 9 Sonnenfels, Joseph von, 10 southeast Asia, 84 Stendhal (Henri Beyle), 7, 28n2 Stephen, Leslie, 154 Sterne, Laurence, 88, 315 Stieler, Joseph Karl, 7, 27, 34n73 stock bubble (1824), 126–27 Stoddart, John, 68–69, 75–76 Strachen, John, 73, 81n10 Stuart, Gilbert, 11

Stumpf, A. A., 13 sublime, 4, 38–40, 45, 168–71 suicide, 251, 260 Swieten, Gottfried van, 10 Swift, Jonathan, 1 Talma, François Joseph, 9–10 Tate, Peter Guthrie, 259 Tatham, Frederick, 216 Tegg, Thomas, 96–99, 116n18 Terrell, Texas. See East Texas Texas, 276, 281–88. See also East Texas Thackeray, William Makepeace, 117n27, 269, 309 Thelwall, John, 68 thermodynamics, 250, 257–58. See also conservation of energy and entropy Thompson, E. P., 63, 80n3 Thoreau, Henry, 47, 172 Thunberg, Carl Peter, 211, 214, 221n42 Timanthes, 207 Tischbein, Johann Heinrich Wilhelm, 14–16, 19, 31n31; Goethe in the Roman Campagna, 14–15, plate 1.1 Titus, à la (sometimes “à la Tite,” hair style), 8–10, 18 Tobin, John, 138 Tocqueville, Alexis de, 175 Townshend, George, 121 Tomkins, Jane, 153 Tormes, Lazarillo de, 87 transtextual relationships (architextuality, hypertextuality, metatextuality, paratext), 226 tree symbolism. See Trees of Liberty Trees of Liberty (Trees of May), 21–26, 33nn56–59, 34nn66–68 Tricolor (French flag), 35n80 Turner, Frederick Jackson, 175–76 Turner, J. M. W., 38–39, 45, 51, 57 Tuscany, 185–90 Unincreasable Club, 206, 211, University of Wisconsin (Madison), 268–69, 271–72 USS Hopkins (World War II minesweeper), 284, 293–94

Index Valentia, Lord (George Annesley), 94, 155n13 Venice, 182–85 Vienna, 7–9, 12–13, 16, 24, 29n4 Vincent, David, 122, 130–31 Vincent, E. R., 227, 245nn7–15, 246n29, 247n57 Voltaire, 9 Wagner, Richard, 11, 30n21 Waldmuller, Ferdinand, 30n21 Washington, George, 11 Waterloo, Battle of, 67, 79, 84, 109,111, 118n32 Watson, Alex, 225, 244nn2–4 Wegeler, Franz, 8, 16, 19, 27 Wellington, Duke of (Arthur Wellesley), 3, 71, 100–3, 106–7, 110–11, 116n19, 117nn28–29, 118nn31–32 Wells, Herbert George, 250 West Indies, West Indian. See Caribbean Westall, Richard, 119n39 Westmacott, Charles Molloy, 125, 135, 137–38 Weston, Alan, 142

351

Wilberforce, William, 3, 99 wilderness (American), 4, 167–79 William, Charles, 71 Williams, Helen Maria, 279 Wilson, August, 272 Wilson, Lanford, 270 Wilson, Richard, 45 Winckelmann, Johann Joachim, 14–15 Witches, 205, 208, 217 Woltemad, 211–12, 217 Wood, Marcus, 72, 74, 81n8 Wood, Matthew, 132 Woodring, Mary Ellis (“San”), 268–73, 277, 286 Woolf, Virginia, 154, 156 Wordsworth, William, 1, 3, 6, 46–47, 49, 60n25, 227, 315, 185–90, 315 World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago, 1893), 233 Wright of Derby, Joseph, 218 Zauner, Franz Anton, 9 Zola, Émile, 250 zombies, zonbi, zonbis, 85, 113n4, 116n22

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Nina Auerbach is the John Welsh Centennial Professor of English Emerita at the University of Pennsylvania. Her books include Our Vampires, Ourselves (University of Chicago Press, 1997); Private Theatricals: The Lives of the Victorians (Harvard University Press, 1990); Ellen Terry, Player in Her Time (Norton, 1989); Romantic Imprisonment: Women and Other Glorified Outcasts (Columbia University Press, 1986); Woman and the Demon: The Life of a Victorian Myth (Harvard University Press, 1984); and Communities of Women: An Idea in Fiction (Harvard University Press, 1999). She has been a fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation and the Ford Foundation; in 2000 she received the Distinguished Scholarship Award from the International Association of the Fantastic in the Arts. John Clubbe was trained in history and literature at Columbia, where he studied under Carl Woodring. Published books include critical studies or editions of Thomas Hood, Thomas Carlyle, James Anthony Froude, English Romanticism, and Byron. An interest in architecture and urban life resulted in Cincinnati Observed: Architecture and History (Ohio State University Press, 1992). An interest in art led to his most recent book, Byron, Sully, and the Power of Portraiture (Ashgate, 2005). He served as chair of the American Byron Society from 1974 to 1999 and as Joint President of the International Byron Society from its official founding in 1986 to 2012. His interest in music has resulted in a study, Beethoven: The Relentless Revolutionary, forthcoming from Norton.

353

354

About the Contributors

Carl Dawson is Professor Emeritus at the University of Delaware and the recipient of grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In addition to biographies of William Dean Howells and Mary Hunter Austin, he has published two memoirs as well as books on Thomas Love Peacock, Matthew Arnold, Lafcadio Hearn, and British autobiographers from 1880 to 1914. Hermione de Almeida is the co-author of Indian Renaissance: British Romantic Art and the Prospect of India (Ashgate, 2006), which received the 2007 Book Award from the Historians of British Art. She is also the author of Byron and Joyce through Homer: ‘Don Juan’ and ‘Ulysses’ (Columbia University Press, 1981), and Romantic Medicine and John Keats (Oxford University Press, 1991); she is the editor of Critical Essays on John Keats (G. K. Hall, 1991) and guest editor of two special issues of Studies in Romanticism (2004, 2008). She received the Distinguished Scholar Award of the Keats-Shelley Association of America in 2003. Among other honors, she has been a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Humanities Center, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She owes much of her scholarly record to the teachings of Carl Woodring. William Theodore de Bary is the John Mitchell Mason Professor of the University and Provost Emeritus of Columbia University, where he was the Founder of the Heyman Center for the Humanities, the Society of Fellows in the Humanities, and the Society of Senior Scholars. Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1974) and the American Philosophical Society (1999), he has received honorary degrees from St. Lawrence University, Loyola University (Chicago), and Columbia University, and was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2013. His scholarly work focuses on the major religious and intellectual traditions of East Asia and civil society and human rights in China; his recent books are Asian Values and Human Rights (Harvard University Press, 1998), Nobility and Civility: Asian Ideals of Leadership and the Common Good (Harvard University Press, 2004), and The Great Civilized Conversation: Education for a World Community (Columbia University Press, 2013). George H. Gilpin is the co-author of Indian Renaissance: British Romantic Art and the Prospect of India (Ashgate, 2006), which received the 2007 Book

About the Contributors

355

Award from the Historians of British Art. Educated in literature and art history at Princeton University and Rice University where he studied with Ronald Paulson and Alan Grob, he is the author of The Art of Contemporary English Culture (St. Martin’s Press, 1991), as well as essays on Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Philip Larkin, and the history of contemporary British poetry, and the editor of Critical Essays on William Wordworth (G. K. Hall, 1990). William Carl Gilpin, who studied physics at Princeton University, is now a graduate student in applied physics at Stanford University. He first met Carl and San Woodring in 1992 when he was two months old. Over the course of his childhood, William and Carl (his godfather and family friend) walked and talked about art, fish, physics, fossils, and photography in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Florida. Jonathan Gross is Professor of English at DePaul University and Director of the Humanities Center. His publications on the Regency period include Byron: The Erotic Liberal (Rowman and Littlefield, 2001), The Life of Anne Damer: Portrait of a Regency Artist (Lexington Books, 2013), as well as editions of novels, letters, and poems by Anne Damer, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and Lady Melbourne. He also edited Thomas Jefferson’s Scrapbooks: Poems of Nation, Family, and Romantic Love (Steerforth Press, 2006). He is joint president of the International Byron Society. Regina Hewitt is Professor of English at the University of South Florida. She has recently edited John Galt: Observations and Conjectures on Literature, History, and Society (Bucknell University Press, 2012). Her previous publications include Symbolic Interactions: Social Problems and Literary Interventions in the Works of Baillie, Scott and Landor (Bucknell University Press, 2006) as well as essays in the Scottish Literary Review (2009) and Romantic Circles Praxis (2008). She co-edits the European Romantic Review. Steven E. Jones is Professor of English and Co-Director of the Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities at Loyola University Chicago. He is the author of a number of articles and books, including Satire and Romanticism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2000), The Satiric Eye (editor, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), Against Technology: from the Luddites to Neo-Luddism (Routledge, 2006), The Meaning of Video Games: Gaming and Textual Strategies (Routledge, 2008), and The Emergence of the Digital Humanities (Routledge, 2013).

356

About the Contributors

Marsha Manns founded the Byron Society of America (1973) and the Byron Society Collection (1995) with Leslie Marchand. With the encouragement of Carl Woodring, she transitioned from a career in broadcast advertising into non-profit management, moving to Columbia University as Director of the Society of Fellows in the Humanities and Associate Director of the Heyman Center for the Humanities. She subsequently worked for the Writers Guild of America, East and was appointed executive director of its foundation. She serves on the board of the Keats–Shelley Association of America and is writing a history of the Byron Society and the Byron Society Collection. Martin Meisel’s forthcoming book, The Imagination of Chaos, is an extended overview of attempts to imagine and represent the extreme of disorder. Previous works include How Plays Work: Reading and Performance (Oxford University Press, 2007), Realizations: Narrative, Pictorial, and Theatrical Arts in Nineteenth Century England (Princeton University Press, 1983), Shaw and the Nineteenth Century Theater (Praeger, 1963), as well as essays on narrative and dramatic literature and the visual arts. At Columbia University he chaired English and Comparative Literature, and the Drama Division in the School of the Arts, and was Vice-President for the Arts and Sciences. He is currently the Brander Matthews Professor of Dramatic Literature Emeritus. Anne K. Mellor is a Distinguished Professor of English and Women’s Studies at UCLA. She is the author of Blake’s Human Form Divine (University of California Press, 1974), English Romantic Irony (Harvard University Press, 1980), Mary Shelley: Her Fiction, Her Life, Her Monsters (Routledge, 1988), Romanticism and Gender (Routledge, 1993), and Mothers of the Nation–Women’s Political Writing in England, 1780–1830 (Indiana University Press, 2000). In 1999 she received the Distinguished Scholar Award of the Keats-Shelley Association. She has been the recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships, three National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Seminar for College Teachers Directorships, and the American Council of Learned Societies, NEH, and Rockefeller Fellowships. Morton D. Paley is a Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-editor of Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly. His most recent books are Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the Fine Arts (Oxford University Press, 2008) and The Traveller in the Evening: The Last Works of William Blake (Oxford University Press, 2008). He has been a Guggenheim Fellow

About the Contributors

357

(twice), a Senior Fulbright Lecturer, and a Mellon Emeritus Fellow. He received the Distinguished Scholar Award of the Keats–Shelley Association of America in 2002. A Festschrift in his honor, Romanticism and Millenarianism, edited by Tim Fulford, was published by Palgrave in 2002.  Robert L. Patten, Lynette S. Autrey Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Rice University, is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London. Author of the two-volume George Cruikshank’s Life, Times, and Art (Rutgers University Press, 1991, 1996), he has published extensively on nineteenth-century British fiction, graphic arts, publishing, and poetry. His recent book, Charles Dickens and “Boz”: The Birth of the Industrial-Age Author (Cambridge University Press, 2012), received the Colby Prize from the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals. Donald H. Reiman, editor of Shelley and His Circle (Harvard University Press, 1986– ) and The Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts (Garland Press, 1986–2002), has written, edited, or compiled over two hundred volumes on English Romanticism. He has taught English at seven major universities and has served as an officer and director of professional societies and as an advisor to scholarly journals and publishers. Among other honors, he received the Distinguished Scholar Award of the Keats-Shelley Association of America in 1987, and has been a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Ben P. Robertson, Associate Professor, Troy University, is the bibliographer for the Keats-Shelley Journal. He is the author of Elizabeth Inchbald’s Reputation: A Publishing and Reception History (Pickering & Chatto, 2013) and Inchbald, Hawthorne and the Romantic Moral Romance (Pickering & Chatto, 2010); he is the editor of The Diaries of Elizabeth Inchbald, (Pickering & Chatto, 2007) and The Travel Writings of John Moore (Pickering & Chatto, 2014). Robert M. Ryan is Emeritus Professor of English, Rutgers University. He is the author of Keats: The Religious Sense (Princeton University Press, 1976) and The Romantic Reformation: Religious Politics in English Literature, 1789–1824 (Cambridge University Press, 1997) and co-editor with Ronald Sharp of The Persistence of Poetry: Bicentennial Essays on Keats (University of Massachusetts Press, 1998). He has just completed Charles Darwin and the Church of Wordsworth (forthcoming, Oxford University Press).

358

About the Contributors

G. Thomas Tanselle is a former vice president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and adjunct professor of English at Columbia University; he is co-editor of the Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Melville. His books include A Rationale of Textual Criticism (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989), Bibliographical Analysis (Cambridge University Press, 2009), and Literature and Artifacts (1998), Textual Criticism since Greg (2005), and Book-Jackets: Their History, Forms, and Use (2011), all published by the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia. Carol Kyros Walker is Distinguished Professor of English, Emeritus, City Colleges of Chicago. She is the author of Walking North with Keats (Yale University Press, 1992), Dorothy Wordsworth’s Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland (Yale University Press, 1997), and Breaking Away: Coleridge in Scotland (Yale University Press, 2002). In a parallel life she taught ballet. Elizabeth Kowaleski Wallace is Professor of English at Boston College, where she teaches eighteenth-century British literature and theory. She is the author of Their Father’s Daughters: Hannah More, Maria Edgeworth, and Patriarchal Complicity (Oxford University Press, 1991), Consuming Subjects: Women, Shopping, and Business in the 18th Century (Columbia University Press, 1997), and The British Slave Trade in Public Memory (Columbia University Press, 2006). She is the editor-in-chief of The Encyclopedia of Feminist Literary Theory (Routledge, 2009) and the author of numerous essays.