Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, by G. Kim Blank

About a million years ago, when I was an MA student, I wrote a comparative thesis on the poetry of John Keats and Percy Shelley. Some years later, as a prof, and after a PhD on ShelIey and William Wordsworth, I was able to write Shelley out of my system. I later managed to do the same with Wordsworth.

But Keats—not so much.

Yet, from the start, he was the dead, white, English, male poet who intrigued me most, and thoughts about him continued to plague and attract me. The old question lurked: How did little Johnny (all five-foot-two-inches of him) become so damn good so darn quickly? How did he move so fast, and so dramatically, from writing mainly bad, random, I-wannabe-a-poet poetry to composing some of the best verse in the language? When, in October 1818, Keats confidently (though privately) declared he would be an enduring poet after his death, he hadn’t written much to earn that claim. But he was about to. And almost all of it within a year. After that, circumstances and the slow death sentence of consumption wasted him away. He died in Rome in February 1821, aged twenty-five.

About eight years or so ago, I began a book on Keats, with the working title of Keats’s Progress. It was a subject—Keats’s development and his poetical character—taken up by some of the most esteemed literary critics of the modern era, the likes of Walter Jackson Bate, Helen Vendler, Christopher Ricks, and Susan Wolfson. There was no shortage of brilliant yet sensible Keats’s criticism and biography, but I figured there was still something more to say.

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Well, after making some kind of scattered start on the book while sitting in the library at Harvard (with most of Keats’s manuscripts stored somewhere in the building), I also had one eye on the digital humanities. Though seemingly unrelated, I was also thinking about how research was increasingly driven by Google’s insidiously energetic algorithms, and that users were eager to click on and on and on. It was a practice quite unlike working through the material object of a book.

Then some kind of thought came to me. Tainted by blind ambition, I figured I could do so much more in exploring the complex story of Keats’s development if I designed a website that, at the same time, represented an implicit challenge to the traditional scholarly book, and by working with the googleized compulsion to click on and on.

Anyway, 156 chapters (170k words) and 700 images later, the thing (mainly biography and literary analysis) was completed: Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, version 1.0.

How did it up and running?

Luckily, Dr. Arnie Keller, a retired colleague here at the University of Victoria, and an expert on web design, told me anything could be done. Just describe exactly how you want it to look, how you want it structured, and how you want it to function. After some growing pains while I almost got used to how to do work within the site he was building, and while he almost got used to my fussy ways when it came to things like layout, a decent version of the site came into being. As a labor of friendship and as a challenge relative to my capabilities, Arnie had worked some virtual magic—it was indeed up and running!

Soon after Arnie withdrew from helping out with site (who could blame him—he was retired!), for technical support, I connected with the Humanities Computing and Media Centre here at UVic. It had a long, strong track record with supporting and developing some big and complex DH projects. Martin Holmes of HCMC generously took sight of the site, performed some significant and ingenious under-the-hood cleaning up, mainly by enhancing functionality (a few more details here) that would also ensure site longevity. Martin immediately directed me to a better way to work with the site: Oxygen XML Editor. Better indeed. (Hope they pay for this endorsement.) Martin continues to make sure the engine runs smoothly—and better.

As for the site’s structure: it was designed so that users should be able to jump into any of the chapters (each one a web page) and, because of the what’s on that page, not be lost in terms of MKP’s greater critical narrative. All poems mentioned in each chapter are available via the page; all people mentioned have popup personographies; often there are links to other related chapters; and a detailed chronology for the whole year is beside every chapter. Importantly, and key, most chapters contain discursive signals that often look both forwards and backwards along the narrative line. (I somewhat pretentiously called this structure progressive reduplication.)

And then there are the images. Feedback suggests that some users simply like to cruise through the pages, just to look at stuff. I understand. Who doesn’t take some pleasure in thumbing through magazines just for the pictures? The site does have the largest online gathering of representations of Keats in the Gallery, some of them lifted from fairly obscure regions of the Internet. There are also plenty of facsimiles, portraits, paintings, photographs, the odd word cloud, some Keats-related material never seen before, and every chapter has a map that points to a Keats-related place. Like I said, a traditional book can’t do all of these things. Further, most books can’t say, “Go ahead, start anywhere.”

But when all the cool digital stuff is torn away, a monograph on Keats is still in there, complete with arguments, critical observations, and opinions to go along with purely factual and visual material. The hope: that the information and ideas and images work together to create—well, whatever MKP is.

Is the site done? No. Will it ever be done? No. There’s always another thought about Keats and his poetry, another interesting image to put up—and, of course, another typo to correct. The worst one so far: “pubic” for “public.” Arg.

If you find more, do drop a line. We’ll call it collaboration.

RIN Members at Nineteenth Century Studies Seminar

Shannon. Fig. 3

RIN’s Mary Shannon will present her new work on 19th-century Newman Street in a special Nineteenth Century Studies Seminar on November 2nd.

In the early-nineteenth century and into the 1840s, London’s Newman Street (just off Oxford Street) was popularly known as ‘Artists’ Street’ because of its intense concentration of artistic residents. Many significant names of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century art world had addresses there: Thomas Stothard, Benjamin West, and James Heath, and other members and associate members of the Royal Academy. Alongside them were the homes and studios of less well-known artists who worked in many different media: sculptors, engravers, portrait painters and animal painters. Of the artists of Newman Street, a significant proportion worked on book illustration or literary subjects, or had close connections to famous nineteenth-century literary figures. They collaborated with, socialised with, and employed one another. They also dealt with other businesses on Newman Street, including the printers McQueen and Co., and the Hering family bookbinders. This talk will focus on the networks of ‘Artists’ Street’ and the surrounding parish of Marylebone, and use methodologies from cultural geography to show how interactions between art and literature played out on the ground in the print culture and visual culture of the early nineteenth-century.

Also presenting at the seminar are Professor Julia Thomas (Cardiff), Dr Luisa Calè (Birkbeck), and Dr Bethan Stevens (Sussex).

Attendance and booking are free at the Institute of English Studies website.

Illustration Studies Seminar – 8 December

On Thursday, 8 December, Mary Shannon (Roehampton), Julia Thomas (Cardiff) and Luisa Calè (Birkbeck) will discuss their recent work on nineteenth-century illustration as part of the Nineteenth-Century Studies Seminar series at the Institute of English Studies, Senate House, London.

Mary Shannon – ‘Illustration on London’s “Artists Street” 1800-1820’

Julia Thomas – ‘Reading Victorian illustration: word, image, digital’

Luisa Calè – ‘A Dream of Thiralatha: promiscuous book gatherings, and the wanderings of Blake’s separate plates’

The seminar begins at 17:30 and ends at 19:30, and will be held in Room G7, ground floor, Senate House. To book a (free) place, visit the IES website.

CfP: ‘The Unique Copy: Extra-Illustration, Word and Image, and Print Culture’

The Unique Copy:

Extra-Illustration, Word and Image, and Print Culture

Workshop (Herzog August Library, Wolfenbüttel, Germany; 24-25 May 2018)

 

Co-organisers: Dr Christina Ionescu and Dr Sandro Jung

 

Is extra-illustration an ornamental art or does it add layers of significance and nuance to the accompanying text? How does it shed light on authorship, the act of reading, book history, and print culture? How does text-image interaction manifest itself in the extra-illustrated book-object? Is extra-illustration the equivalent of grangerising or are there other means of materially expanding the text? Is it a creative act or a form of customised reproduction or reuse of print matter? Who are the artists, readers, collectors, publishers, and curators who are responsible for the creation of extra-illustrated objects?

In his study of the history, symptoms, and cure of a fatal disease caused by the unrestrained desire to possess printed works, Thomas Frognall Dibdin (1776-1847) observes that “[a] passion for a book which has any peculiarity about it,” as a result of grangerising by means of collected prints, transcriptions, or various cutouts, “or which is remarkable for its size, beauty, and condition—is indicative of a rage for unique copies, and is unquestionably a strong prevailing symptom of the Bibliomania.” Extra-illustration as a practice did not emerge during bibliomaniac Dibdin’s birth century, which witnessed the publication of James Granger’s Biographical History of England (1769) and a widespread rage for unique copies of books, nor has it been extinguished in our digital era by modern technology. Whether it manifests materially as a published work that is supplemented verbally (with interleaved or pasted autograph letters, handwritten notes, or print matter either directly or tangentially linked to its content), or visually (with additional drawings, prints, maps, watercolours, photographs, or other forms of artwork that are similarly connected to a variable degree of closeness to the text), an extra-illustrated copy is important not only for its uniqueness as an original artefact and its commercial value as a desired commodity. As emblematic of an artistic, bibliographic, and cultural practice, it sheds light on its creator, the context of its production, and the reception of a text. As a form of personalised book design, it is moreover significant as a means of creative expression, an outlet of reader empowerment, and an archival repository of historical or cultural insight. Some of the popular targets of extra-illustration through time have been the Bible, biographies, historical treatises, topographical surveys, travel narratives, and popular plays.

A plethora of monographs and special journal issues dealing with book illustration from various theoretical and (inter)disciplinary perspectives have been published in recent years, but the subfield of extra-illustration remains largely unstudied. It is important to note, however, the contribution to the field by Luisa Calè, Lucy Peltz, and Stuart Sillars, who have proposed useful in-depth reflections on extra-illustration and grangerising as a practice. To address this gap in current scholarship, we invite papers that engage with extra-illustration through the conceptual lenses of book history, print and visual culture studies, and word and image theory. Contributions that focus on original artwork contained in extra-illustrated copies from the perspective of word and image studies are of particular interest to the co-editors, as are studies of extra-illustration as a link between text, book-object, and context, as approached through the prism of the book arts and reception theory. Other possibilities include contributions investigating extra-illustration diachronically or cross-culturally, and case studies dealing with a special copy, a collection of extra-illustrated books, or an individual collector, publisher, curator, or artist responsible for the creation of such unique artefacts.

Possible themes include but are not limited to:

  • grangerising as a biblio-cultural practice
  • grangerising as a form of material repurposing in relation to print culture
  • grangerising as a fashionable and biblioclastic pastime
  • grangerising as an act of authorship
  • the Grangerite, bookscrapping, and collecting practices
  • illustrative responses to the text in the form of unique infra-textual images
  • marginal illustration and text-image interaction
  • extra-illustration as interactive and engaged reading
  • extra-illustration as emblematic of institutional/curatorial collecting practices
  • extra-illustration as personalised book design
  • extra-illustration as a window into history and intellectual thought
  • extra-illustration as a book customisation response to mass production
  • digital imports of extra-illustration as a means of expression

500-word abstracts, along with the author’s contact information and bio-bibliographical note, should be sent to the co-editors (cionescu@mta.ca / prof.s.jung@gmail.com) by 30 May 2017. A publication on the topic, either a journal issue or a collection of essays, is envisaged.

JECS 39(4): ‘Picturing the Eighteenth-Century Novel Through Time: Illustration, Intermediality, and Adaption’ – A Guest Post by Christina Ionescu

The latest issue of the Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies (December 2016), guest-edited by Christina Ionescu and Ann Lewis, explores the illustration of eighteenth-century bestsellers through time. Entitled Picturing the Eighteenth-Century Novel Through Time: Illustration, Intermediality, and Adaptation, it includes an introduction and nine articles.

Some relevant excerpts from the introduction co-written by the editors:

‘Have you noticed that no book ever gets well illustrated once it becomes a classic?’, asked Aubrey Beardsley in passing during a late creative period when he was facing the challenge of illustrating Les Liaisons dangereuses. The talented British artist was emphatic in his belief that ‘[c]ontemporary illustrations are the only ones of any value or interest’, in other words, those produced during the initial publication and reception of a text. Is this statement, however, unequivocally true? Beardsley’s premature death put an end to his ambitious endeavour to produce an elaborate visual supplement for the fin-de-siècle edition of Choderlos de Laclos’s epistolary novel commissioned by Leonard Smithers and, consequently, we will never know if he would indeed have succeeded in illustrating this eighteenth-century classic ‘well’ approximately 114 years after its first appearance in print. The question of whether images which were produced for editions other than those princeps deserve critical attention is certainly worth asking, and it has provided us with the premise for our special issue, the second to be entirely devoted to the subject of book illustration by the Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies. The current issue takes the illustration and adaptation of eighteenth-century bestsellers beyond the restrictive confines of the historical period in which they were first published, in an attempt to shed new light on the reception of the Enlightenment novel, on the phenomena of ‘parallel illustration’, ‘afterlife’, and ‘remediation’, as well as on print, material, and visual cultures more generally.

The contributions to this special issue show that visually intriguing and conceptually intricate illustrations of eighteenth-century novels are abundantly present at key moments in the history of the book (Romanticism, the fin de siècle, the interwar period, amongst others). Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Voltaire’s Candide, Rousseau’s Julie, ou La Nouvelle Héloïse, Goethe’s Werther, and Bernardin’s Paul et Virginie are just some examples of canonical texts which have inspired artists not only through time but also across national boundaries and different media. Such texts have produced visual corpora that are as vast as they are diverse. The timeless fascination with Paul et Virginie, for example, has resulted not only in illustrative series that steadily accompanied the text in its various incarnations as a book, but also in drawings, prints, sculptures, caricatures, tapestries, ceramics, clocks, etc., which circulated and were displayed independently of the text. Similarly, visual responses to Gulliver’s Travels have created a rich ensemble of print and material objects, which in our time includes a graphic novel adaptation by Lewis Helfand and illustrated by Vinod Kumar, a Hollywood studio movie starring Jack Black, and a storybook puzzle by Milton Bradley. Artistic transpositions and intermedial engagements with eighteenth-century bestsellers range from the visually static, yet geographically mobile forms of expression like book illustrations and standalone prints, to dynamic, performative adaptations such as plays, ballets, operas, and films.

The present journal issue is organised into three main groupings, each of which identifies and interrogates iconographical material and approaches that have been less explored in traditional studies of illustration or text/image relations. The first three articles may be understood as contributions to the history of the illustrated book, in their shared concern with situating the production and consumption of images within different editorial and publishing contexts (illustrated books, chapbook abridgements, and collected reprint editions), and in the creation of different types of iconographical practices within these contexts. Each explores the notion of ‘recycled’ rather than ‘original’ illustrations and the important functions of such images within different strata of print culture (where aesthetic originality, artistic quality, and semiotic complexity might be less important than establishing a ‘brand’, reinforcing or simplifying a moral message, or cultivating a sense of literary heritage). Focusing on the 1690-1740 period, Helen Cole examines the phenomenon of the repeated use of the same frontispiece to illustrate texts through time, providing a bibliographical table to chart instances of such recycled images. She examines Giovanni Paolo Marana’s Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, amongst other examples, to suggest various functions of such visual material when appearing in successive editions over a period of many years. Sandro Jung identifies a hitherto unstudied corpus of copperplate and woodcut engravings appearing in chapbook abridgements of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela in Britain and America from the late 1760s onward, which also frequently involved the recycling or reprinting of the same stock images. The affordability and availability of such illustrated chapbooks, which were sometimes marketed at children, shaped the text’s popular reception in ways that must be understood as significantly different to the deluxe Gravelot-Hayman illustrations that have been the focus of most critical studies of the novel’s illustration. Leigh Dillard draws our attention to the importance of illustrations within works of collected fiction, focusing on the 1820s reprint trade, and in particular, John Limbird’s British Novelist, which has received little critical attention before now. She situates this publisher’s use of images in the context of previous reprint collections (such as James Harrison’s Novelist’s Magazine in the 1780s or Charles Cooke’s Pocket Edition of Select Novels in the 1790s), and reflects on the use of new or recycled images in the illustration of the same eighteenth-century texts appearing in anthologies of collected fiction, while adopting Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield as a case study for evaluating the practice of illustration in Limbird’s collection in particular. In different ways, these three contributions bring out the social dimension of the reading experience, in their identification of visual material that appeared in affordable, even ‘cheap’ publications. As such, they suggest a range of reading/viewing practices that differ substantially from the aesthetic and semiotic approaches that characterise the critical readings of modern literary scholars.

Whereas the first three articles of this special issue focus on the English context, the next three contributions turn to French bestsellers of the eighteenth century, each providing an overview of numerous illustrated editions in order to draw out different interpretative strategies and patterns of representation that are brought to bear on each text in different periods. Christina Ionescu surveys the vast iconographical corpus surrounding Abbé Prévost’s Manon Lescaut, which has never been studied before as a visual ensemble. She identifies five highly original series published between the late eighteenth and the twentieth century, and in two different geographic locations (France and America), in order to analyse a range of approaches to illustrating this text. Catriona Seth examines four series of illustrations for Choderlos de Laclos’s Les Liaisons dangereuses that appeared in the eighteenth century, none of which were commissioned by Laclos himself, in order to consider what the varying emphasis of each series suggests about the reception of the novel in this period, and particularly, the way in which contemporaries may have reacted to the different characters in the story. An interesting aspect of the series of illustrations examined in this context is the existence of prints which were intended for display independently of the text (such as Romain Girard’s pairs of images, designed to be hung on walls), and also the inclusion of images by three different artists within the well-known 1796 series of fifteen illustrations (which provide different slants on the story from within the same iconographic sequence). Síofra Pierse provides a wide-ranging survey of illustrated editions of Denis Diderot’s La Religieuse from the eighteenth century to the present time, uncovering several sets of illustrations that have never previously been identified, and suggesting a new chronology for the novel’s first illustrations. In addition to these bibliographical discoveries, Pierse analyses the corpus in terms of a set of recurring representational dilemmas which result from problematic ambiguities in the text—picturing La Religieuse involves making decisions on what to ‘show’, where the first-person narration leaves much unsaid and/or uncertain. Each of these three articles considers the shifting interpretations suggested by the selection of different scenes for illustration in various series, and concomitantly the establishment of iconographic traditions, where the same scenes are illustrated time and again and become part of the visual repertoire associated with each novel.

The final three articles of this collection are more exploratory in their approach, aiming to open up new perspectives on the notion of ‘picturing the novel through time’ by testing out various theoretical frameworks on different types of visual corpus. Ann Lewis uses the contested but productive notion of ‘figurative intermediality’ as a way of analysing Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux’s La Vie de Marianne in relation to specific illustrations of the novel produced in different periods and to a sequence within Benoît Jacquot’s film adaptation Marianne, focusing on a set of episodes centred on Marianne and her benefactor. This approach allows us to see various forms of ‘visualisation’ less in terms of a linear progression between ‘adapted text’ and ‘adaptation’, than in terms of each artefact’s anticipation of and engagement with other media (theatre, painting, illustration, and cinema), a self-reflexive dimension which generates meanings of its own. Brigitte Friant-Kessler also explores the idea of ‘intermedial migration’, and relates it to the concept of the ‘graphic afterlife’, to examine how several late twentieth-century illustrations and contemporary visual adaptations convey a sense of ‘mobility’ in Laurence Sterne’s fiction. Her focus on materials such as Martin Rowson’s 1996 comic book adaptation of Tristram Shandy, Paul Brandford’s 2004-2005 charcoal drawing Pause on the Landing, a 2015 myriorama game designed by Tom Gauld, and a 2014 book sculpture by Brian Dettmer is set in the context of previous trends in illustration and visualisation surrounding Sterne’s œuvre, and develops the category of ‘chrono-visual conflation’ as a means of analysing the complex ways in which such artefacts combine different narrative threads and time frames. A concern with narratological perspectives and categories is carried through in Jonathan Hensher’s study of illustrations for Jacques Cazotte’s Le Diable amoureux, a novella which has been considered a prototype of the fantastic genre. Using narratological models developed from Gérard Genette and subsequent theorists, Hensher identifies various types of ‘spectator’ embedded in a corpus of eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century illustrations, and considers how these ‘spectators’ (categorised as ‘homopractic’, ‘isopractic’, and ‘metapractic’) are used to generate ambiguity and uncertainty on the part of the reader, when viewed alongside the text. The focus on the use of perspective and focalisation in the context of illustrations of first-person narratives, and the question of whose field of vision the reader’s corresponds to, is one which is implicitly addressed in many of the earlier articles of this collection.

This special issue as a whole brings together perspectives arising from different disciplines: literary scholarship and critical theory, the history of the book and of material culture, text-and-image and illustration studies, as well as art history and visual culture. It also provides a cross-cultural perspective, in the examination of the iconographical corpuses surrounding bestselling eighteenth-century novels from both France and England (Cazotte’s Le Diable amoureux, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Diderot’s La Religieuse, Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield, Laclos’s Les Liaisons dangereuses, Delarivier Manley’s The New Atalantis, Marana’s Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy, Marivaux’s La Vie de Marianne, Prévost’s Manon Lescaut, Richardson’s Pamela, and Sterne’s Tristram Shandy), works which still tend to be studied separately rather than in juxtaposition. With a few exceptions, scholarly work on illustration and visual culture most usually remains within national boundaries, and tendencies within French and English critical writing are often quite distinct (whether in the greater focus on the history of print culture as the context for the examination of illustrations in the British tradition, or the treatment of iconographical themes in illustrations separately from their texts of origin following the model of the ‘intervisual paradigm’, in the French field). On both sides of the Channel, the comparative analysis of different types of visualisation of novels through time is less explored than other avenues of research, and it is still relatively rare to bring together book illustration with other forms of graphic afterlife or adaptation. However, as we hope that the contributions to follow will show, fruitfully combining these different texts and approaches allows us to see important connections at a theoretical, methodological, and thematic level: whether in the key notions of ‘recycling’ of images and ‘graphic afterlives’, the importance of perspective and of the notion of the ‘spectator’, and in the changing visual representation of femininity and of the erotic encounter, whose meaning might shift depending on different contexts of reception. It is at these levels, and in these different ways, that we aim to contribute to an exciting and expanding field of study.

Table of Contents

Christina Ionescu and Ann Lewis, ‘Introduction’, 479-87

Helen Cole, ‘From the Familiar to the New: Frontispiece Engravings to Fiction in England from 1690 to 1740’, 489-511

Sandro Jung, ‘The Other Pamela: Readership and the Illustrated Chapbook Abridgement’, 513-31

Leigh Grey Dillard, ‘The Cheapest Work Ever Printed’: Illustrating the Classics in Limbird’s British Novelist’, 533-557

Christina Ionescu, ‘The Visual Journey of Manon Lescaut: Emblematic Tendencies and Artistic Innovation’, 559-77

Catriona Seth, ‘Picturing Les Liaisons Dangereuses: Eighteenth-Century Illustrations of Laclos’s Novel’, 579-97

Síofra Pierse, ‘The Spectatorial Gaze: Viewer-Voyeur Dynamics in Book Illustrations of Diderot’s La Religieuse’, 599-620

Ann Lewis, ‘Intermedial Approaches to Marivaux’s La Vie de Marianne: Text, Illustration, Film’, 621-42

Brigitte Friant-Kessler, ‘Visual Sterneana: Graphic Afterlives and a Sense of Infinite Mobility’, 643-62

Jonathan Hensher, ‘Glimpsing the Devil’s Tale? Towards a Visual Narratology of the Fantastic in Illustrated Editions of Cazotte’s Le Diable amoureux’, 663-81

For more information, see http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jecs.v39.4/issuetoc.

Dalziel Archive Launched

Longstanding RIN member Dr Bethan Stevens of the University of Sussex has recently launched a new website, ‘Woodpeckings: The Dalziel Archive, Victorian Print Culture, and Wood Engravings’.

Brothers George and Edward Dalziel were the founders of Dalziel Brothers, nineteenth-century London’s most substantial wood engraving firm and the producers of illustrations for a huge range of printed materials, from books to packaging. According to the site, ‘The Dalziel Archive in the British Museum is a visual archive of the firm’s oeuvre from 1839 to 1893: around 54,000 fine burnished proofs kept chronologically in albums. The albums offer a new path into 19th-century wood engravings, usually approached exclusively through designers or the texts that they illustrated’.

Developed as part of the AHRC-funded Dalziel project in partnership with The British Museum and Sylph Editions, the site contains a virtual exhibition, recordings of research events and links to extended catalogue descriptions of every album in the Dalziel Archive.

 

 

RIN Summer event: ‘Staging Shakespeare’, Professor Frederick Burwick, Westminster Archives Centre, July 19th 2016

RIN’s summer event took place on one of the hottest evenings of the year, but a great crowd turned out to hear Frederick Burwick’s public lecture ‘Staging Shakespeare: picturing Shakespeare’s plays in the 18th and 21st centuries’.

A renowned expert on the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery, Burwick’s starting point was the question: what relevance are the Boydell prints to the staging of Shakespeare?

His answer, in contrast to Richard Altick’s (in Painting From Books, 1985) is: quite a lot.

Burwick picked out 27 images which showed that many (not all) of the Boydell prints in fact have a close affinity with what a London audience might have witnessed on stage at the end of the 1700s.

He showed that, because many of the original paintings were done by artists who were also scene painters, the prints are a useful guide to what the 18th century stage would have looked like. Northcott and others asked actors such as Kemble to pose in their studios in role, and the paintings conform to the language of gesture in use on the stage at that time.

Indeed, Burwick’s lecture made it clear that the Boydell images remained an influence on subsequent Shakespeare productions, as Burwick drew comparisons with 20th and 21st century stagings.

At the wine reception (sponsored by the British Association for Romantic Studies) after the lecture, attendees were able to look at the digitized Shakespeare Gallery prints donated to RIN by Burwick, and also at items from the Westminster Archives extensive Theatre collection.