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Portraits, Poets, and Professional Authorship: Curll, Tonson, Lintot
The professionalization of print authorship in the early decades of the eighteenth century was a visual as much as a textual enterprise; turning a profit meant creating an image for aspiring authors and booksellers alike. Expensive large-format collections of dead authors’ works had long contained frontispiece portraits, but this was rare for living authors and for publications in smaller, more affordable formats aimed at wider markets. Edmund Curll’s inclusion of author portraits in editions of Nicholas Rowe, John Philips, Matthew Prior, and other writers was thus groundbreaking and regularly pushed even heavy-weight competitors like Jacob Tonson and Bernard Lintot to follow suit. Tonson’s and Lintot’s early editions of poetry by Rowe, Philips, and Prior, for example, either lacked engravings entirely or sported illustrations of scenes from the texts or allegories of poetic production. From 1715, however, when Curll published selections of both poets with frontispiece portraits engraved by Michael van der Gucht, Tonson and Lintot also inserted frontispiece author portraits in their own editions. This pattern repeats itself across the first three decades of the century and reveals a contest over the authors’ image that includes both texts and portraits. Curll’s publication of author portraits pushed Tonson and other booksellers to follow Curll’s visual focus on the figure of the author, which also entailed a shift in the iconography of authorship away from allegories of poetic inspiration towards the bodies and persons so inspired. In the process, there is a significant shift in the value placed – by booksellers and authors alike – on the inclusion of author portraits in publications across all publication formats as well as a concomitant move towards foregrounding the author’s person and the activities, social positions, and cultural roles that constitute authorship. For Curll and his competitors, portraits were crucial in raising the market values and profiles of bestselling authors.
Print, Performance, and Material Culture: The Intermedial Promotion of Moral Virtue in Gavin Wilson’s ‘Collection of Masonic Songs’ (Edinburgh, 1788)
In December 1787, Gavin Wilson, an Edinburgh boot maker, manufacturer of prosthetic limbs, and self-professed Poet Laureat to the Edinburgh Masonic Lodge of St David, placed an announcement in the Edinburgh Evening Courant advertising his forthcoming Collection of Masonic Songs and Entertaining Anecdotes. Published in 1788, this printed volume included an author portrait etched by John Kay – an Edinburgh barber-turned-printmaker and fellow-member of the Lodge of St David – and was intended for the use of the Scottish Lodges, where the performance of song played a central role in the assertion of Masonic identity.
Wilson’s Collection of Masonic Songs was dedicated to Lord Elcho, then Grand Master of Scotland, and included a song newly written upon the occasion of Lord Elcho visiting the Lodge of St David. This paper will demonstrate that Wilson intended this song to foster moral virtue in his young brethren, creating a convivial performance which utilised the symbolic Masonic jewels, or medals, worn during Lodge meetings, as didactic visual aids. It will further demonstrate that Kay incorporated this Masonic symbolism into his frontispiece portrait of Wilson, which was carefully constructed to present Wilson as a Masonic role model and moral exemplar.
In 1787, Robert Burns was lauded in Edinburgh Masonic circles following the publication of the Edinburgh edition of his Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, and this paper will question why Wilson felt it necessary to offer moral guidance to his young Masonic brethren at this time. Though initiated a Freemason in 1781, Burns was also active in clubs like the Court of Equity and Crochallan Fencibles, which promoted sexual freedom and a spirit of libertinism, and it will be argued that Wilson sought to challenge the primacy of Burns and to underscore the moral virtues to which young Masons should aspire.
Lockhart’s Picturesque Satire
John Gibson Lockhart (1794-1854) is best known as Walter Scott’s son-in-law and biographer. Even though Lockhart has always been strongly associated with literature: he wrote poetry, published several highly praised novels and biographies, edited and translated both from German and Spanish, and he was also an editor of the best-selling Quarterly Review from 1825 till 1853. The QR was published by the most prestigious publishing house in London “John Murray”, and Lockhart quickly became one of the most influential personas in the early Victorian literary world. Literature wasn’t Lockhart’s only hobby; he was surprisingly good at drawing caricatures too. Even though he never took his doodles seriously, after his death, they started gaining more and more popularity over time. Lockhart’s caricatures were used as illustrations in a great number of books from the mid-19th century onwards, but they have never been seriously studied. Last year, I noticed that a collection of pictures traditionally attributed to another period artist James Howe might be in fact Lockhart’s works, and the Scottish National Gallery accepted my theory earlier this year. Lockhart’s caricatures deserve more academic attention as they shed new light on his life and personality, as well as on the society that surrounded him. This paper explores and analyses Lockhart’s artwork, including the newest findings, all produced between 1809 and c. 1830 (in the early 1830s, Lockhart abruptly ceased drawing altogether and threw away his old albums).
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