Panel 1: Author Portraits


Henry Swinburne (1743–1803), Pompeo Batoni (1708–1787). Laing Art Gallery.

If you wish to Tweet during the conference, please use the following hashtag: #InterC18

Chair: Professor Tim Erwin – Professor of English at the University of Nevada


Sören Hammerschmidt

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.


Wendy McGlashan

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.


Marie Michlova

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).


If you are experiencing difficulty accessing the video content click here for alternative access

If you experience any technical difficulties please contact adam.d.curry@northumbria.ac.uk

If you would like to ask our speakers a question, or make a comment, please ‘Leave a Reply’ in the comment panel below. Our speakers and chair will be checking this at regular intervals and will respond to you shortly. Please indicate if you are happy for your question to be addressed during the corresponding live session on Wed/Thurs (see Programme) and the chair will hope to call on you then.

31 thoughts on “Panel 1: Author Portraits”

  1. Hi Soren,
    Really enjoyed your paper. The point you make about Tonson changing designs to copy Curll’s author portraits is fascinating.
    I wonder what the graph line would look like if it tracked portraits in different genres of publication? I would think the number of portraits in collections of poems might be very high compared to something like collections of sermons (which made up a huge proportion of total publications) or scientific treatises. If so, that might suggest that the ability to have a more direct connection to the author (through a visual medium) was more important to certain types of writing than others. I think you are right in terms of the celebrity argument. Have you read Margaret Ezell’s article on frontispiece portraits – it tallies with much of your argument. Thanks again!

    1. Hi Claudine,
      I know I read Margaret’s article a while ago for an earlier stage of my Curll’ing work, but thanks for the reminder that I need to revisit it for this piece, too; together with Janine Barchas’s work on novels and frontispieces, that will help me contextualize what new things I have to say about Curll. In addition, I have found your work on the Rochester collections extremely helpful, and I think I can add to it that Curll’s not only becomes the standard textual edition but also furnishes the standard portraits of Rochester and Dorset: for a while, everybody who publishes a rival edition also rips off the portraits that Curll first includes.
      And that, then, leads me to your point about genre, which is an excellent idea. Certainly, in terms of overall production you are absolutely right that some genres are more likely to have frontispiece portraits – or any portraits at all – than others: as Barchas points out, novels only take portraits gradually and, at least initially, only awkwardly or as a form of illustration or parody; I would be curious to see what that looks like for sermons, not least because ecclesiastic portraiture is such a popular genre, but maybe published sermons only include a (frontispiece) portrait if they are published posthumously?
      Curll, certainly, not only loves author portraits of poets and playwrights – anecdotally I would say those make up the vast majority of his output in author portraits – but also portraits of the subjects of many of his (auto)biographical publications . . . which often overlap with his publication of poetry and plays but also include divines and a collection of “interesting” ordinary people.
      Thank you for your suggestions, I’ll have to dig through my Curll records and through the ESTC again.

      1. Hi Soren,
        My guess would be that there might be quite a few frontispiece portraits of a figure like Sacheverell but perhaps not so many of other clerics. This is purely a guess based upon the number of mezzotints produced of Sacheverell due to his celebrity. It would been a very costly procedure to commission portraits for copying (for engraving) of other clerics for frontispieces if such portraits weren’t already accessible.
        I wonder if the big factor is that of whether there are already portraits in the ‘public’ domain of a figure, making copying easy, and whether that determines things across all genres of publication. Malcolm’s keynote usefully reminds us though that the Katherine Philips frontispiece isn’t based upon a real bust, so there’s also the consideration of the extent to which these are fabricated/fictionalised portraits made primarily for print. My sense though (as your presentation suggests) is that these images are increasingly taken after mezzotints available through the print market.
        Best, C.

        1. Oh, absolutely, Sacheverell is all over the place and after him Atterbury, both for the “wrong” reasons for being a celebrity/notorious; Curll of course gets in on the dissemination of images of the latter. He also includes portraits of Creech and Croxall in the Poetical Register, though arguably they are not included for their theological writing . . . but still, they receive a full-page portrait each.
          In addition, Curll does publish a fair number of portraits of clergy in his octavo and duodecimo volumes, among them Tillotson, South, “John Kettlewell late Vicar of Coles Hill in Warwickshire,” “Benjamin L.d Bishop of Bangor,” “George Bull D.D. Late Lord Bishop of St. Davids,” . . . and that is just in the period 1707-19.
          For many, maybe most of Curll’s portraits, I think his engravers look to mezzotint engravings that are circulating in print by the time Curll includes a portrait of that type . . . but not always; sometimes it looks like his engraver either had access to an oil portrait in someone else’s collection – Curll brags that he sent an engraver to Pope’s home in Twickenham while Pope himself is absent and advertises views of the house and the grotto as having been copied directly from their originals, as it were – or copied funerary statuary and monuments in situ. And then there is that whole issue of booksellers copying the frontispiece and other portraits for octavo and duodecimo editions from those included in rival editions or, as you point out, making them up entirely.
          In the end, though, I am not convinced that the direction of portraiture is always or uncomplicatedly from high-end, authorized oils or busts to mezzotint to line engraving to woodcut and other mass-reproduction methods; for a large number of Curll’s mid-market portraits and especially for many of his other illustrations, I suspect that the image started life in octavo or duodecimo format, as a line engraving . . . like born-digital content, but for engravings.

  2. Soren, your talk and data are fascinating. Coupled with Claudine’s question, I was curious about female authors and their portrait frontispieces, wondering if there were any instances of print wear similar to the cases of Prior and Addison? It would be interesting to estimate which female portraits (and genres of publication) also experienced frequent reprinting. Thank you!

    1. Hi Jolene, and thank you for your suggestion. Yes! you are absolutely right that one of the next steps HAS to be to look at Curll’s treatment, and frequency of inclusion and reprinting, of portraits of female compared to male authors – which also leads me back to Claudine’s reminder about Margaret Ezell’s article.
      As far as I remember from my research notes on Curll’s portraits and publications, very few of his female authors – such as they are, he does not have a lot of them in his catalogue – receive a portrait at all, let alone a frontispiece portrait . . . there’s one in a collection of *The Entertaining Novels of Mrs. Jane Barker* (3rd ed., 1736), though I haven’t been able to ascertain yet whether it really shows Jane Barker (though the presence of a portrait is in itself interesting – Manley in the 1710s comes with an illustration, not a portrait); and Elizabeth Thomas receives one in the 2-volume *Pylades and Corinna: or, Memoirs of the Lives, Amours, and Writings of Richard Gwinnet, Esq; […] and Mrs. Elizabeth Thomas* (1731; 2nd ed. 1736), and that is arguably more of scandalous-celebrity portrait than an author portrait. Otherwise, it’s largely portraits of women who are of interest to him for their more or less scandalous biographies and of actresses like Oldfield and Gwynn (with the caveat again that those portraits might actually be generic ones designed to be recycled in other publications). But yes, there is definitely much more to be said here about female author portraits, thank you!

    2. Hi Jolene (and Soren),
      I’ve got an article coming out, hopefully in the next month or so, on portraiture of Aphra Behn, which includes discussion of frontispiece engravings. There was evidence of reworking of the plate in this case also, this time by Samuel Briscoe who seems to have used the engraving quite extensively, again across publications.
      Best,
      Claudine.

  3. Dear Marie,
    Well done on successfully changing the attribution of those caricatures in the Scottish National Gallery! I’m curious about Lockhart’s turn away from caricature in the 1830s – that he “repressed” this habit. I think the explanations you offer make some sense, especially that he became increasingly busy with the QR. But this is a man so fond of caricaturing that such images covered his walls, so a lack of time (or distance from family) can’t fully explain why he ceased the practice. I wonder whether it might have something to do with the shifting status of caricature in the period? In recent years, the likes of Brian Maidment and Ian Haywood have done much to overturn the well-known narrative of caricature’s “decline” in the 1820s and 30s. Nonetheless, there does seem to be a change in how caricature – in the Gillrayean tradition, especially – was regarded at this time. In the eighteenth century, caricature was something of a parlour game for the aristocracy and gentry. But this was changing. Perhaps Lockhart came to feel that caricature wasn’t a “gentlemanly” pursuit. What do you think?

    1. Dear David, thank you very much for your comment. I suppose that the main reason why Lockhart abandoned his early hobby was mainly due to the fact that he moved far away from the people who admired his artworks the most – his parents, siblings and Scottish friends. Amusing colleagues with drawings was very much welcome in the “familiar” environment of the Blackwood’s Magazine, however, it wouldn’t be appropriate within the formal Quarterly Review meetings. In other words, he lost his audience and never built a new one. Also, with maturity, he was losing his creativity or energy to create art, he stopped writing novels at about the same time. I don’t think it was caused by something negative or he had some dislike for drawings in the later life, in his journals from the 1840s we can find little drawings made with ink, usually only little figures of people with a wheelbarrow, I suppose he just drew spontaneously what he just saw from a window. The idea that society was perhaps less caricature-orientated could play its role too, however, on the other hand, there were magazines such as Punch that entertained people with caricatures even throughout the Victorian era. If Lockhart’s friends were unable to explain why he stopped drawing, we will probably never know… Best, Marie

  4. Dear Sören,
    Thanks so much for your fascinating paper. I have two questions (the second very much self-serving!)
    1. How far do you think the trend you’ve identified with respect to author portraits maps on to a broader trend with respect to frontispieces in general? In plays, for instance, the convention seems to be that customers expect a frontispiece for any duodecimo edition.
    2. Have you ever come across an illustrated half-title? (Some of Tonson’s quartos of Cato carry a woodcut of Roman coins on the half-title and I’d be interested to know how unusual this is).
    Thanks!

    1. Hi David, thanks for your thoughts; let me see how I can best respond to them:
      1. I hadn’t thought to search the ESTC specifically to compare inclusion of portraits in general to inclusion of portraits as frontispieces compared to inclusion of frontispieces in general, but that is a great idea; I HAD expanded my searches of total print output compared to Curll’s, Lintot’s, and Tonson’s output from “port. OR ports.” to “port. OR ports. OR ill. OR frontis.” and can see from the results that, for Curll at least, a significant percentage of the portraits he includes are frontispieces, whereas the same is not at all true for Lintot and only true to a much lesser degree for Tonson in the early decades, not at all true for the Tonson house later in the century. I do agree, though, at least based on my anecdotal evidence from browsing Curll’s octavo and duodecimo editions and comparing them to rival editions by Lintot and the Tonsons that most poetry and drama collections at that size are more and more likely to acquire some sort of frontispiece, either allegorical or illustrative, as the century progresses.
      2. In quarto, at least, I have come across quite a lot of illustrated title pages – Pope tends to include his images that way – but not many (any?) illustrated half-titles in any format; I’ll have to take a look at those Tonsons and keep an eye out for that. Curll often includes separate title pages for sections of material in his “omnium gatherum” volumes (as Baines and Rogers call them) in part because those sections had often been published separately before inclusion in the new volume, and those title pages sometimes include illustrations and in fact portraits . . . but I suppose that is a bit different.

  5. Wendy, I really enjoyed your paper. I was very struck by your analysis of the ways in which Wilson’s face (in the portrait) is portrayed in symmetry with the plinth’s symbols of freemasonry. Is this a facet of Kay’s caricature and thereby an exaggerated depiction? Do other portraits of Wilson show this to be a very accurate portrait?
    Really interesting, thank you!

    1. Hi Claudine – thank you so much for your question! Interestingly, in his painted self-portrait at an easel (c.1786) Kay embedded a pictorial reference to William Hogarth’s ‘Characters and Caricaturas’ (1743), thus aligning his work with the expression of character rather than the exaggeration of caricature.

      While a posthumous article on ‘The Character of Gavin Wilson’, published in The Gentleman’s Magazine in 1793, comments that ‘By people who were acquainted with him, I have been told that [Kay’s portrait] is a very good likeness’, no other portrait of Wilson appears to exist, meaning that, unfortunately, I have no other images to compare it with.

      There does exists a preparatory drawing made by Kay for a contemporary author portrait of the itinerant medic Peter Degravers. Depicting Degravers in profile, and executed in pen and ink, this drawing demonstrates a high-level of technical ability and sensitivity, suggesting that to depict Wilson in this bold and seemingly stylised manner must have been a deliberate pictorial choice.

      1. Really interesting to hear that Kay embeds a reference to Hogarth’s Characters and Caricaturas in his self-portrait. The print that Hannah Weaver discusses – of the performance of Branganza – reminded me of that Hogarth image in some respects.

        Wendy, do you think that Hogarth is key to understanding Kay’s conception of caricature? The more I look at Kay’s frontispiece portrait of Wilson, the more I see correspondences between his face and the masonic emblem below. You point to some of these in your paper. The compass shape seems to be echoed quite closely in the triangular form of Wilson’s nasolabial fold. Is this caricature?

        1. Hi David, thank you for your comments. This is only one of several references to the work of Hogarth embedded in Kay’s self-portraits, painted and printed, and I believe that Hogarth is absolutely key to understanding Kay’s conception of caricature.

          The etching that Hannah discusses is dated 1785, and in that year Kay’s study of Hogarth is evidenced in works such his A Sleepy Congregation and Cock-Fighting Match (amongst others). I would propose that the framing device employed in Kay’s Braganza etching may have been suggested, in part at least, not only by Hogarth’s Characters and Caricaturas, but also by his Analysis of Beauty, Plate II [The Country Dance]. Here a central scene of performance is similarly framed by a diagrammatic structure of boxes, encouraging the viewer to scrutinise the comparative beauty and deportment of those on display.

          As for the Wilson portrait – is this caricature? I would argue not. Kay’s portrait is intended to elevate Wilson rather than mock him, and though Kay emphasises key features, he seemingly does so to permit a symbolic reading of character, again veering closer to character than caricatura. I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

          1. Fascinating that Kay was such a student of Hogarth, Wendy. And you’re absolutely right that the Branganza print is channelling Plate 2 of The Analysis of Beauty, which makes me see that print very differently!

            I’m very much persuaded by your reading of the Wilson portrait, especially in light of what you’re saying about Kay’s engagement with Hogarth. In Hogarthian terms, Wilson is certainly presented as a character.

            Thanks so much for a great paper and a great response to my question.

  6. Hello everyone – really enjoyed every paper on this panel.
    Soren – I have a question you may not be able to answer but to what extent, do you think, the inclusion portraits contributed to authors becoming bestselling in light of the ‘branding’ you mention?

    1. p.s having just listened to your paper again I think I have gotten the answer to this – got a bit lost in the data first time around!! But any additional thoughts would be really interesting as I am coming from perspective of Byron and Byromania, of which ‘looking’ played a large part. As portraits and illustrations began to be included and more widely distributed, sales rocketed!

      1. Hi Leigh, thanks for your question.
        I don’t know that I have any data to support an argument regarding the influence of portraits on best-seller status . . . as you will know, very few authors ever reached those heady heights, and I am pretty certain that Curll’s editions of Pope’s letters, for example, would have sold extremely well even without all those portraits . . . Pope’s own octavo and duodecimo editions didn’t, by and large, include portraits and yet did very well, judging by the number of editions and reissues.
        However, we also know from the frequency with which booksellers advertised the inclusion of engravings of any kind and the emphasis they put on portraits that, clearly, the booksellers thought that the inclusion of such engravings improved sales, and as you are finding in the case of Byron – and as I argue in a forthcoming piece on Pope and Curll – for those authors who were already enjoying some celebrity or were at least poised to get there, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a noticeable bump in celebrity AND sales once the inclusion of portraits increased . . . the image is just so very important in the creation of celebrity, and I think Curll often tries to use portraits to foment or create celebrity/notoriety and cash in on it. (See my response to Jolene above.)

        1. That is really interesting, in relation to celebrity and notoriety, especially in relation to the female authors but also more broadly in creating a sustainable investment. Thank you.

  7. Hi Marie – really enjoyed your paper and seeing these extraordinary images – wonderful! I am wondering about the relationship between what you describe as caricatures and what your refer to as realism, or their being ‘realistic’ or not?

    I am also wondering if you are familiar with the same kind of images produced by Count D’Orsay, though a little later? Maybe worth a look as a basis for comparison in light of the work done by Haywood and Maidment as David notes above.

    1. Dear Leigh,
      thank you very much for your comment. By the “realistic portrayal” I meant how easily recognizable the faces are – for instance, Lockhart’s photo portraits from the 1840s seem much more similar to his own self-portraits, even though he ridiculed himself a bit – than how he was portrayed by such professionals as John Watson Gordon or Henry Raeburn. I suppose the majority of people in Lockhart’s artworks are very easy to recognize if you know what they looked like – in the end, this is what lead me to realize that some pictures attributed to James Howe are actually indeed by Lockhart – it all started at the moment when I recognized the characters.
      I am familiar with the caricatures by Count D’Orsay, they are very skillfully made too, they somehow remind me of the beautiful portraits by Daniel Maclise. Lockhart seems to take more inspiration from the late 18th century caricaturists.
      Regards, Marie

  8. Hi Marie – I really enjoyed your paper, thank you! Lockhart’s Edinburgh Review appears to me to be somewhat reminiscent of Henry Bunbury’s caricatures of Cambridge academics, such as The Xmas Academics (1773) – the similar character types, compositional elements, the portraits (is that a bishop?) and academic gowns hanging on the back wall. Do you think Lockhart may be deliberately referencing Bunbury’s work here, and if so why? I wondered if Lockhart’s Oxford academic context might be relevant here? Really interesting stuff, looking forward to tomorrow’s discussion!

    1. Dear Wendy,
      thank you very much for your comment. The Edinburgh Review staff in Lockhart’s caricature are all dressed as lawyers, they were mostly lawyers by education – I believe – as the majority of the literary personalities, including Lockhart himself. The caricatures of people sitting around the table or discussing in a circle are quite common in the 18-19th century, I am not sure if Lockhart was in fact familiar with the Xmas Academics picture, if not, there are other similar compositions. We can see the similar composition in several Lockhart’s artworks -there is a picture of students sitting at the table at the Halles University dining room, the “Questionable house” caricature, another portrait of a fat judge having a meal with some friends etc. I suppose the majority of Lockhart’s pictures are lost, it is apparent that he was producing hundreds of caricatures every year at the peak of his drawing period – 1815-1818. His notebooks and journals are full of sketches too, he used to copy some historic artworks he liked (in his notebooks with a pencil, he would write down what colours were used) – I suppose that upon returning home he would reproduce the picture he tried to remember, however, the majority is lost now or in some private collections.
      Lockhart never mentioned Bunbury or any other painters he could take inspiration from for his caricatures, even if he did know this picture, I think could have taken the inspiration completely unintentionally. My theory is that the “Edinburgh Review” is composed of several separate caricatures he drew while reading the magazine – it looks too complex to be drawn from start to finish as it is – but that’s just my theory based on Lockhart’s tendency to draw individual caricatures first.
      As for the academic context, I think it was very much influenced by his life in Oxford, he probably projected his elderly literature professors into this caricature. Or at least he discussed the leading literary magazine with some university mates who could have suggested that the magazine was written by “ugly old folks” – unfortunately, there is little context to the caricatures, we can only engage in speculations now.
      Best, Marie

        1. It was lovely, I am glad we were able to meet! Hopefully, we will cross our paths at some other conferences in future again.

  9. Dear Soren
    A brilliantly focused paper with such important resonances! Fascinating to see how innovative Curll was. Apart from making clear that the lead in the dissemination of images was not a top-down process, you also challenge us to think very differently about the relationship between the Tonson and Curll. I now feel I need to revise my own contribution!
    Many thanks!
    Malcolm

    1. Thank you, Malcolm; great to talk today, and looking forward to your keynote tomorrow.

Leave a Reply to Claudine van Hensbergen Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.