Monday, 12 March 2018

Genre Labels and the Rise of the Novel

I have recently been reading Leah Orr’s Novel Ventures: Fiction and Print Culture in England, 1690-1730 (2017). In her book, Orr frequently references an earlier article of hers, “Genre Labels on the Title Pages of English Fiction, 1660-1800” (Philological Quarterly, 90, No. 1 (2011): 67–95), so I thought I would read it too.

The title of Orr’s article is admirably clear: she sets out to examine and enumerate the different labels that appear on prose fiction published over a 140–year period, a subject that allows her to discuss various definitional problems relating to the “Rise of the Novel,” previous and present understanding of the key terms and so forth.

Although Orr sometimes understates the achievement of her predecessors in relation to her study, the project and her summary of the data collected is very useful, as is her clear methodology, and analysis. Orr provides a detailed summary of her data, which is also admirable, but she does not provide access to her full data set—which is a little frustrating.

While reading her article I was struck by the fact that Orr’s analysis is based exclusively (it seems) on the predominance of certain key-terms in the imprints of the type of prose fiction (often referred to as novels or proto-novels) in each decade, and the pattern of decade-to-decade changes.

While this sort of big-picture simplification is absolutely necessary to summarise results, and to identify broad trends over a 140-year period, Orr does not use her full data set to examine any of the key moments she has identified in detail. So, for instance, her analysis treats, the fiction market of 1731 and 1739, or 1741 and 1749, the same—both being subsumed under a rubric of the “1730s” or “1740s.”

The loss of year-on-year perspective is important because it conceals the fact that readers, writers, publishers, critics and so forth, in 1739 or 1741, would have conceptualised what they were reading in genre terms—the “labels” that Orr is investigating—in ways that were neither uniform across a decade, or determined solely by the labels used within that decade. Rather than being labels of the moment/decade, these labels were likely understood by individuals based on their accumulated prior knowledge of the genre label (however defined, and however comprehensive that might be).

Accumulated prior knowledge is obviously highly individualised. For younger readers, “prior knowledge” may be limited to works only recently published; the prior knowledge of older readers of contemporary fiction may stretch back through five or more decades. Then again, a younger reader may prefer older texts, just as a selective reader may have read only a very narrow range of fiction from a long period. And most readers, certainly once we get to 1800, would have only read a small percentage of the fiction published, however that fiction was chosen.

Orr uses a series of averages, represented as snapshots of decade-long “moments.” Other approaches could have been used to Orr’s data in an attempt to recover a more-or-less simplified and generalised short- or a long-(backwards)-view. There are various methods that might be employed to represent the personal habits and perspectives of individual readers—the easiest of these would probably have been to calculate rolling-averages, whether three, five, ten or more years, depending on assumptions made about different types of novice and experienced readers. Since Orr does not publish her full data-set, this sort of analysis can not be done by any of her readers.

Looking at Orr’s summary of her data, it occurred to me that I could, however, use it to generate cumulative averages, which would allow for a, decade-by-decade, long backwards view. That is, by adding up the totals from all previous decades, for each term in each decade, I could capture all the instances of every key genre term that had appeared on the title-page of any work of fiction since 1660. So, for instance, in 1670, this would be a decade-long backward view, in 1680 a two-decade-long view, in 1690 a three-decade-long view, and so forth.

By 1740, Orr’s imaginary (and near-comprehensive) library of fiction would have included 731 works, published in the eighty years since 1660. In 1740, even the most diligent reader, writer, publisher, or critic was unlikely to have read all 731 of these works. Then again, such an imaginary reader would also be very unlikely to have limited their reading only to works printed in the 1730s alone (as Orr’s analysis implies). Consequently, neither the comprehensive totals (which I discuss below), nor the decade-by-decade totals, offer a satisfactory substitute for the accumulated prior knowledge of an individual reader, writer, publisher or critics.

Individual readers, writers, publishers, and critics in 1740, would have used and understood genre labels in highly individualised ways, the result of exposure to an uneven mix of works from a number of decades. Depending on the assumptions one is prepared to make, there may be ways of representing some of this accumulated prior knowledge of such individuals in a generalised form.

So, for instance, if we assume that the most recent fiction looms largest in the minds of readers, writers, publishers, and critics, and that no reader reads every new work of fiction, we might use a linear regression over three- or four decades to represent the fading importance of older works in explaining how genre labels were used and understood by an average adult reader. Taking 1740 as an example, this sort of approach we might add 20% of the figures for the 1690s to 40% for the 1700s to 60% for the 1710s and 80% for the 1730s (i.e., a twenty percent decline per decade, over four decades). An exponential regression might better capture this fading-recollection or -significance approach; we might add something like 20% of the figures for 1700s to 40% for the 1710s to 80% for the 1730s (i.e., a doubling of the twenty percent per decade for three decades).

Yet another—more nuanced, but somewhat fanciful—possibility, in an attempt to better capture the average reader, would be to attempt to establish the relative significance of important and influential periods of fiction in the minds of readers, writers, publishers, and critics. This might be done by weighting decades according to what was actually most often read in the perios, based on reading records.

n my article on the New York Society Library, based on reader records from ca. 1790, I established that there was an uneven distribution of popularity by decade (see article here). Once the borrowings-per-volume in the earliest reading ledger were totaled and distributed by decade, it is clear just how much recent titles dominate borrowings, with almost sixty percent of all volumes borrowed between July 1789 to April 1792 being from the 1780s, far ahead of works from the 1750s, 60s and 70s, at approximately ten percent each.

If we adjust for multi-volume works, however, the number of borrowings-per-work is actually highest (narrowly) for the 1750s, followed by the 1780s (mostly due to borrowings of works from the second half of the 1780s). Although works from the 1740s make up less than six percent of all borrowings, the average borrowings-per-work for titles from this decade is high—higher than titles from the 1760s and 70s. Titles from the 1750s were slightly more popular than the most recent novels on offer, showing that many older British novels retained their appeal ca. 1790 in New York.

What this suggests is that, one way to attempt to better understand how New York readers, writers, publishers, and critics used and understood genre labels, ca. 1790, would be to give greatest weight to the terms used in the 1750s, followed by the 80s, 40s, 70s, 60s, 30s, 10s, and so forth, in that order. Of course, the New York Society Library ledger is an extremely unusual survival, and it would be hard to replicate it to produce the sort of nuanced representation of the varying significance of works of fiction from different decades post-1660.

I mention these alternatives, not to criticise Orr for not attempting such either a linear, exponential or a nuanced and idiosyncratic approach, but to suggest the limitations of only examining the pattern of decade-to-decade totals for genre labels.

* * * * *

   Since my only option for an alternative analysis to that offered by Orr was to calculate cumulative averages based on an imagined comprehensive-accumulation of fiction, this is what I did. Having extracted the data from Orr’s table, I used Excel to calculate the cumulative averages for each term, organising the terms based on the final 140-year view from 1800 (left-to-right being highest-to-lowest). To make it a little easier to read the table, I used highlighter to emphasise the top two terms within the decade and in the cumulative averages. The full table is below; the most important three columns are at the end of this post.

What emerges from the cumulative averages is a strengthening of Orr’s argument, that “The Rise of the Novel” is a particularly anachronistic (as well as critically vague) phrase. As you can see above, although both “History” and “Novel” are the most-frequently used terms in an equal number of decades, and “Novel” is the most frequently-used term across the 140-year period she examines (as Orr states), “History” is the top (or co-top) term in twelve of fourteen decades, while “Novel” is only the top term in three of the fourteen. Moreover, “History” is the top term across the first 130-years of the 140-year period; it is only the massive rise in the number of novels, and the predominance of the term “Novel” in the 1790s, that displaced “History” as the top label.

The massive rise in the number of novels in the 1790s is indicated by another set of figures I generated. When expressed as a percentage of all novels printed across the entire 140-year period, those of the 1790s amount to almost a quarter (23%) of the total—almost the same figure for the first eight decades (24%). The near-exponential rise in the number of fiction titles published is indicated by the (roughly) one-quarter markers (in blue): 1660–1739 (first 25%; 80yrs), 1740–69 (second 25%; 30yrs), 1770–89 (third 25%; 20yrs), 1790–99 (fourth 25%; 10yrs).

(Interestingly, these figures suggest that there is an exponential-regression is built into the un-adjusted, cumulative figures for the use of genre labels, since any backward view that includes all previous fiction, will necessarily give the greatest numerical significance to the most recent works.)

So, while the near-exponential rise in the number of fiction titles published, paired with a late-rise in the use of the term “Novel,” make it the most frequently-used term across the 140-year period. “History” dominated from 1700 to 1790, is the top term for all but one decade of the period 1660 to 1790, and in that one decade, missed out by only one percentage point from being the top term for the first 130-years of “The Rise of the Novel History.”

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Catterall and Cowley in Sydney, 1835

When I was visiting Sydney during a university holiday in 1989, I bought a copy of The Works of Mr Abraham Cowley, 6th ed. (London: J. M. for Henry Herringman, 1680). As the photos in this blog post show, the book is in very poor condition, very badly foxed, no frontispiece, boards taped on with duct-tape. Despite its age, it would also not even now be considered a rare book—ESTC (r14069 = Wing C6654), records thirty-nine copies. But, since I had rarely seen a seventeenth-century literary folio at anything approaching a price I could afford in 1989, and I felt protective of the poor, damaged thing, I coughed up A$110 for it.

According to the Reserve Bank of Australia Inflation Calculator, I paid the equivalent of about A$250 in today’s terms. The fact that there is a nicer copy online now, rebound, with the frontispiece, for about A$150 (here) tells you everything you need to know about the rise of the internet (supply) and the passing of the Baby Boomer generation (demand) on Antiquarian book prices. In fact, there are thirty-one copies of The Works of Mr Abraham Cowley, printed between 1668 and 1700, on ABE at the moment, priced from USD75. Notwithstanding the fact that I would have been better off financially if I had invested my $150 in almost any other way—including Batman memorabilia—I am glad I bought this book. I was glad before antiquarian book prices collapsed, and I was glad afterwards.

The reason I was very glad to have my very own seventeenth-century folio of The Works of Mr Abraham Cowley—no matter how battered—when I bought it was because it made my first experience of reading Cowley uncommonly memorable … and romantic. In fact, the more my copy of Cowley showed the passage of three hundred years the better it served my purpose. I read Cowley by candle-light, during the winter of 1989. I discovered in this way that it takes a lot of candles to be able to read a badly foxed seventeenth-century folio with ease, and that a lot of candles generates a lot of wax, which is hard to remove from carpet, and a lot of heat, which will warm up even a very large and otherwise-unheated room in a cold Hobart winter. My landlord was not happy about the wax, or the soot-covered walls, but the experience of reading Cowley night-after-night, in the dark of winter, was so perfect that I will remember it with pleasure for ever.

The reason I am very glad to have my very own seventeenth-century folio of The Works of Mr Abraham Cowley—no matter how battered—now, is because, since the internet makes provenance research so much easier, I am now able to identify the person who owned this book in 1835. As you can see below, Joseph Catterall inscribed his name on the front fixed endpaper, and dated the inscription to 1835. The inscription is position above a patch of glue residue, indicating that a bookplate has been removed, but the relationship between the two is unclear: whether the inscription pre- or post-dates the bookplate, or whether the bookplate belonged to Catterall, is unknown.

* * * * *

Although, in 1989, I had no easy way of discovering who Catterall might have been, Professor Google now informs me a good deal about him. Joseph Catterall (1812–82), the youngest son of Paul Catterall, late of Lytham, in the county of Lancashire, Esq., was educated at private schools and at the University of Göttingen in Germany. He was twenty-two when he inscribed his book. He married—in Sydney, in the same year—Georgiana Anne Sweetman, who was aged twenty. This establishes that my copy of The Works of Mr Abraham Cowley has been in Australia for more than half of the book's existence (183 of 338 years), and for four fifths of the modern history of Australia (183 of 230 years). Catterall is considered “Australian Royalty”; at least, he features (here) on a website of that name. In reality, he seems to have been an all-round arsehole. The marriage ceremony was performed by the great Australian, John Dunmore Lang—the “Scottish-born Australian Presbyterian minister, writer, politician and activist” (Wikipedia)—an early advocate for the end of transportation, Australian nationalism and an Australian republic (and, therefore, all-round Australian legend, if not genuine "Australian Royalty" too).

According to Lang, Joseph and Georgiana—“a person of prepossessing appearance, … of a respectable family, and of good education” (i.e., the child a free settlers)—“had been living for some time previous in a state of concubinage.” Since Georgiana was pregnant, Lang was willing to lend his services to enable Joseph “to do his utmost to repair the wrong which I supposed he had done her”—i.e., perform a marriage—and the marriage took place “either shortly before or shortly after the birth of their first child.” Their daughter, Georgiana Ann Catterall, was born 16 February 1835 and died two months and thirteen days later. A second child, James Dillon Catterall, was born and died on 17 January 1836. Shortly thereafter, it appears, Catterall “left his wife in new South Wales, and proceeded via India” to England.

Once he had retuned to England, he instituted a suit against Georgiana, to “obtain a decree of nullity of marriage.” He argued that, although he was married to Georgiana by Lang, “an ordained minister of the Church of Scotland,” neither he or his wife were members of the Church, nor did they sign a declaration to that effect. The relevance of this is that an act had been passed in the colony “to remove doubts as to the validity of certain marriages” which he interpreted to imply that, for these reasons, his marriage was “null and void for non-compliance” with the act. This case was disputed and, apparently, abandoned. Later, Catterall filed for the marriage to be dissolved “on the ground of alleged adultery on the part of his wife.” Although Lang stated in 1846 that Catterall failed a second time, on the basis that the House of Lords had no power to examine witnesses in New South Wales to test the validity of his claim, he was in fact granted the divorce in 1847 on the basis that his wife had given birth to another child one year after Catterall left Sydney. (Seemingly, John Sydney Catterall, who was born in 1837.)

Lang’s 1846 account of Catterall is colourful and unflattering. Referring to him fleeing his responsibilities and his lack of success in putting aside an inconvenient marriage, Lang writes:

I do not think [Catterall] either deserves or is likely to meet with much sympathy … for when a young man marries a young woman whom he has previously seduced, or who has otherwise lost her character beforehand, he may be supposed to have made up his mind to undergo the very calamity which Mrs. Catterall alleges has befallen him, and which he so feelingly deplores. … Mr. Catterall, it will be recollected by the older colonists, is a person who has been before the public in this colony long ago. He had a farm somewhere in Argyle a few months before his marriage, with a farm house and other building upon it, in which he was residing with his paramour, when a ferocious attack was made upon it by armed bushrangers. He had a very brave man, known as an overseer at the time, of the name of Shepherd; who, in defence of the person and property of his master (who remained all the while within doors, within hearing of the shots), gallantly stood the fire of the bushrangers, by whom, if I recollect aright, he was severely wounded, and succeeded in beating them off. Mr. Shepherd got great credit on the occasion, for it was one of the most heroic actions that had been performed in the colony; but Mr. Catterall got about as much sympathy as he is likely to get now under the failure of his repeated attempts to set aside his colonial marriage.

And so it seems, Catterall was a coward, as well as a cad. What stands out for me in this passage is the reference to “a farm somewhere in Argyle a few months before his marriage … in which he was residing with his paramour [i.e., Georgiana].” Argyle County was (according to Wikipedia, one of the original Nineteen Counties in New South Wales, in the area around Goulburn, 195 kilometres (121 miles) south-west of Sydney. Georgiana—who also appears on the “Australian Royalty” website (here)—was, in November 1828, a thirteen-year-old “servant, to W. Cordeaux Esq, Minto,” in the Southern Tablelands, 48 kilometres (30 miles) south-west of Sydney. It is not clear how long she stayed in Minto, and how she ended up ninety miles away seven years later.

Lang said that he did not know if “Catterall had seduced the young woman in the first instance, or whether she had been of indifferent character previous to their acquaintance”—but it appears that Georgiana’s social standing was low, and her vulnerability high, prior to finding herself in “a state of concubinage” with Catterall (i.e., she was a servant); while his social standing was high, and his vulnerability low (as a university-educated, Gentleman adventurer). Consequently, I am inclined to blame Catterall for their situation, and her fate.

It is not known what hardships Georgiana endured after the cad-coward Catterall departed, but I gather that he left behind some of his belongings from the fact that more than a century and a half after he slunk away, his copy of The Works of Mr Abraham Cowley remained in Sydney. We can’t know whether Georgiana sold this book and his other belongings in the 1840s to pay for food and shelter, or clung to it in the hope he would return, or because she wished to pass it down to her descendants. I do know that her fifth child, Effield “Frank” Catterall survived into adulthood and that his four daughters—one married—mourned his death in 1892. (The cad’s two children died in infancy, while Georgiana’s two other children disappear from the records after their birth.) So it is possible that Cowley remained in the family for a lengthy period.

Unfortunately, if anyone other than Catterall left a name on the volume, it is no longer there. All that remains other than Catterall’s inscription, and the residue of a long-removed bookplate, are the marks of booksellers. From the number of prices inscribed onto the endpaper, it seems that this book circulated in the Sydney second-hand book market for some time. One of the partly-erased prices is in pounds, which dates it to before Valentine’s Day 1966, when Australia adopted a decimal currency. Not surprisingly, after almost thirty years, I have a pretty weak memory of buying this book. All I recall is buying it from a down-market antique shop in the city. A temporary-looking, run-down, second-floor shop—dusty, with stained walls and peeling plaster, and filled with a mass of not-very enticing antiques. And I think I paid the $110 asked of it, partly because I felt an obligation to rescue the book from immanent destruction. Given all the pleasure it has bought me, I am glad that I did.

Monday, 22 January 2018

On Dust Jackets and Literary Damnation in 1785

Below is a short, satiric and amusing account of the often-ironic fate of books and pamphlets in the late eighteenth century. (Remnant, “On Literary Damnation,” The Rambler’s Magazine, 3, no. 10 (October 1785): 383a–b.) Since waste paper had a myriad of uses, any piece of paper not valued for what was printed or written on it was likely to end up as being reused: as pie-bases, wrapping paper or even toilet-paper.

The ignominious fate of the works of unpopular writers was a critical commonplace, as was the destruction of books by the unlettered and ignorant (see, for example, William Blades, The Enemies of Books (1880), here), but two things make this contribution to The Rambler’s Magazine unusual: [1] it mentions scandalous, risqué and erotic works; and [2] it mentions the distribution of unbound books, wrapped in printed wastepaper.


The Adventures of an Irish Smock (1782), is a particularly-interesting erotic work: it was discussed by me in posts in July and November 2017 (here and here); and is also now the subject of an article I have co-written with Tania Marlowe for Notes and Queries, which is due to be published in July of this year. (Tania was the one who found the present article, and sent it to me for this reason. Thanks Tania.) The Adventures of an Irish Smock was not often mentioned in print (probably because no copy survives in the English-speaking world, and no copy was known until I located one last year), so it is nice to be able to add a contemporary reference, indicating its currency … in certain circles.

Of course, The Rambler’s Magazine was—as the full title suggests—a periodical written for rakes and midnight ramblers (The Rambler’s Magazine; or, The Annals of Gallantry, Glee, Pleasure, and the Bon Tot: Calculated for the Entertainment of the Polite World and to furnish the Man of Pleasure with a Most delicious banquet of Amorous, Baccanalian, Whimsical, Humourous, theatrical and Polite Entertainment).

This magazine was published by the same person who published The Adventures of an Irish Smock: G. Lister. Lister also published The Rover’s magazine, the crim. con. trials of Lady Maria Bayntun, Mrs. Ann Nisbett, Lady Ann Foley and Mrs. Elizabeth Williams, Dr Graham’s Eccentric Lecture On The Art Of Propagating The Human Species, and an edition of The History of Fanny Hill. And so, it is not very surprising that Lister, or his contributor, included a reference to an erotic work he had recently published, and such a well-known risqué title from the 1720s as Callipædia: or, the art of getting beautiful children. A poem, in four books. Written in Latin by Claudius Quillet. Made English by N. Rowe, Esq;.


The second thing that makes this contribution to The Rambler’s Magazine unusual, is the following: “Remnant” writes, that “on sending to my bookseller for the two volumes of the Irish Smock, I received them inclosed in a sheet of Hints on the Existence of a middle State; and I know a lady who has Fordyce’s Sermons to a Young Woman sent to her in some leaves of begetting Beautiful Children”. Very droll.

In his Nineteenth-Century Dust-Jackets, Mark R. Godburn explains that the unbound sheets of books and pamphlets were (sometimes? often?) wrapped in waste-paper by the printer or binder, and that these ad hoc “enclosures” or "envelopes" were a precursor of the earliest dust-jackets now known: i.e., the enclosure-style jackets found on annuals in the 1820s. The Wikipedia entry on “Dust jacket” suggests only that “Some collections of loose prints were issued at this period in printed paper wrappings” (emphasis added; see here).

Godburn provides details of only one surviving example of these ad hoc, proto-dust-jackets, which dates from the eighteenth-century, but does not quote any contemporary descriptions or accounts of them. The one he mentions (25) is a wrapping made up of two (folio) bifolia from the Rev. T. Johnson's History of Adam and Eve (1740) which are wrapped around "a set of sheets" for the second volume of John Taylor's Hebrew-English Concordance (1757), which survives in the library at Bickling-Hall, Norfolk. (Neither are recorded on ESTC under N8856 (the wrapper; only 3 copies recorded) and T148434 (the concordance; 90 copies)). The wrapping is hand-labeled in ink: "Taylors Hebrew [and] English Concordance Vol.2 Sheets".

Godburn mentions two more-formal wrappings (27), one is a sheet, with a printed, 115-word presentation letter, dated 1791 and signed by the author, which survives wrapped around a set of stab-sewn sheets for John de Brahm's Time: An Apparition of Eternity (1791); the other, "printed on its front with the title, author, publisher, illustrator and other information" survives on a set of sheets for Daniel Chodowiecki's Clarissens Schiksale (1796).

This 1785 reference to ad hoc, precursor dust-jackets is later than Godburn's surviving exemplar from 1757, and pre-dates the formal wrappers of the 1790s, allowing us to narrow somewhat the change in practice from ad-hoc to more formal wrappers for sheets. I don’t recall seeing any other reference similar to this one in The Rambler’s Magazine; and I have had no luck finding any others using the key words in this passage, so I am guessing that such references are very uncommon. It would be nice to see more; but even if other references are not located, the combination of Godburn’s examples of survivers and this satire establishes the practice.

* * * * *

For the Rambler’s Magazine. On Literary Damnation.

It may be a pleasing and whimsical consideration to such of your female readers as are acquainted with the manufacture of paper, that their old linen may at some future period return to their fair hands in the shape of an amorous epistle, and that their lovers may have had the honour of taking up their shifts, without being one degree nearer the point of happiness.
 But how very different must be the state of an unlucky author, who finds the offspring of his brain, (which had cost him paternal throes to bring forth) after passing through the purgatory of a pasty cook’s shop, returned to him at the bottom of a raspberry-tart, or a mutton-pie? To what strange uses may things come at last! Many a well-printed sheet of poetry have I seen containing a pound of butter; and twelfth-cake supported by abridgements of the statutes;—I have met with a stitch of bacon covered snugly over with the works of a Jew rabbi; and a pound of snuff wrapped in a Defence against Popery; I once received a dose of physick in Considerations upon our later End; and on sending to my bookseller for the two volumes of the Irish Smock, I received them inclosed in a sheet of Hints on the Existence of a middle State; and I know a lady who has Fordyce’s Sermons to a Young Woman sent to her in some leaves of begetting Beautiful Children. Many pieces of works of merit have I rescued from my hair-dresser, when he was trying the heat of his curling irons; and I seldom go into the necessary without redeeming some favourite performance from an untimely end.
 To enumerate all the instances of this kind would be endless, and too much for my tender nerves, who am uncertain when I next ask for tobacco, whether I may not have this very paper given me to light my pipe.—But there is no helping it.

Let Hercules himself do what he may,
The cat will mew, the dog will have his day.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Eliza Haywood’s House in the Great Piazza

My 2011 article on “Eliza Haywood at the Sign of Fame” discusses—in great detail—two advertisements I found for the April 1744 sale of “The genuine Household Goods of Mrs. Eliza Haywood, Publisher, at her House in the Great Piazza, next Russell-Street, Covent-Garden” (a copy of this article is on the Monash Repository here). The closing paragraph to my article reads:

While our perception of Haywood’s finances may have a significant influence on our interpretation of the motives for her actions, Haywood's publishing activity at the “Sign of Fame” is now far less open to speculation. We know exactly how long this publishing venture lasted; the number of works known to be published and sold there has been increased and these works have been more accurately dated. We also know exactly where Haywood lived and worked, have a floor-plan of her lodgings and a crude catalogue of the contents of this house. And if one minutely examines the drawings, paintings and engravings of this section of Covent Garden from the period one can easily imagine a painting of Fama Bona—in flowing while robes, with wings stretched out behind her, a golden trumpet held to her lips by her right hand, and a laurel wreath or an olive branch raised in her other—on a wooden board swinging above the figures who pass along the arcade and into Haywood's shop.

I wrote imagine in the closing sentence of the above paragraph because, having minutely examined the drawings, paintings and engravings of this section of Covent Garden from the period, I can not be certain I have actually seen Haywood’s shop sign (Fame) or a detailed image of the shop-front from the early 1740s. However, some near-contemporary (i.e. broadly mid-eighteenth century) views of Covent Garden, appear to provide some detail of the building Haywood inhabited in the period 1742–44. One of those views is the subject of today’s post. But first I should explain: the corner building that Haywood occupied—which has since been demolished—was nos. 18 and 19 of the Great Piazza. The eastern face of what was the Great Piazza is now occupied by a part of the Royal Opera House complex, most obviously by the Floral Hall. At street level in the Piazza (now called the “New Arcade”) there are a number of shops. The section of Russell Street adjacent to this block is now called, in some maps, “Culverhay.”

Nos. 18 and 19 of the Great Piazza were the southernmost of what had been Sir Edmund Verney’s two houses, which sat between Covent Garden Theatre and Russell Street on the eastern side of the Piazza. The Survey of London volume covering the Piazza helpfully includes the map of Covent Garden I have used above and a conjectural reconstruction of this four/five story building based on detailed inventories from 1634. While it is not difficult to see, from the reconstructed floor plans, how Verney’s two houses were laid out, it is not so easy to see how the southernmost house (Haywood’s) was divided in two by “Samuel Bever, Esqr.” in about 1740, shortly before Haywood moved in. Apparently, the twelve rooms of this property (nos. 18 and 19) were divided so that one residence faced the Piazza and the other faced Russell Street.

The view below, by T. Sandby, is from roughly the position I have marked "X" in the above plan of Covent Garden. It was originally published in 1766; it was reissued by Edward Rooker in 1768; John Boydell in 1777, as a part of in his “Six Views of London” series; and it was published again Boydell in 1777 (on a reduced scale). The images I use in this post are from this smaller version of the view (160 x 225mm instead of 410 x 553mm), a copy of which I bought in 2011. Low-resolution copies of this view are available online, but they are no use when you want to look at the details, like I do here. If I can ever afford the larger view, or one of the earlier engravings, I will. (Grosvenor Prints have had a copy of the large 1777 engraving for sale at £490, since at least 2011.)

In the view below, Covent Garden is seen from the south-east side of the Piazza, looking towards Covent Garden Theatre (at left) and the house Haywood’s occupied (at centre, partly obscured by a column). As you can see, there is a dog and various figures in the foreground, moving from right to left these appear to be: a woman selling goods in the shadow of the colonnade, a group of beggars, a sleeping chair-carrier, a man having his shoes shined, a boy with a hoop, a couple walking towards the theatre, and two boys playing marbles; further back we see people leaning on in shop windows and on wooden railings and selling goods from large baskets in the middle of the square.

In the gap between two columns, above and behind the beggars, appears to be either no. 18 or 19 of the Great Piazza.

Looking closer, we can see a coach (far left), someone entering an open doorway (left), and shop windows (right); above both the door and the shop-windows are small, upper windows. Beneath the upper window (at right) is a partial-view of a shop sign or lamp.

Looking closer still, at pretty-close to maximum magnification (2400dpi scan), confirms the impression that this is a shop-sign, not a lamp, but that is all, there are no further details to be recovered.

From what I have seen in other views of Covent Garden—and there are a surprisingly large number of these—I am pretty confident this is the shop that had been Haywood’s Sign of Fame. I will do a post on what Haywood’s signboard may have look like another time. And I may do one with a number of views of the general area, and the contents of her house. But for now I will content myself with a few more details of the figures in this view.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Representing Little Merlin’s Cave, 1737 to 1741

I have a pretty limited knowledge of incunabula and post-incunabula printing, but it seems that woodblock images were often copied, re-purposed and re-used. And it seems a quite a lot of book-historical and art-historical research goes into tracing the histories of particular images and tropes, and the work of particular artists. A good example of this sort of scholarship is Charles Zika’s, The Appearance of Witchcraft: Print and Visual Culture in Sixteenth-Century Europe (London: Routledge, 2007), which traces a myriad of witchy-themed woodblocks between unrelated texts.

Although woodblock printer’s ornaments were copied and frequently re-used in the eighteenth century—I have written a few articles and blog posts on this subject—illustrative artwork, often engraved, appears to have been less frequently copied, or has less often been the subject of book-historical studies. (And here I am excluding commonplace and expected duplication: the copying of engravings between editions or when a work was translated.) Of this type of copying, I can only think of three examples. I mentioned the first of these in a footnote in my article “Imagining Eliza Haywood,” (Eighteenth-Century Fiction, 29, no. 3 (2017): 360n45), as follows:

Although engraved plates could be “transposed from book to book” … this practice appears to have been uncommon. See Thomas Stretser, Merryland Displayed (London: J. Leake, 1741), 16: “after he [Curll] found the Pamphlet pirated, to make his differ from the pirated Editions, he adds a Frontispiece ... This Plate I find was engraved so long ago as the Year 1712, for the use of Mr Rowe’s Translation of Quillet’s Callipædia, then published by Mr. Curll, and has served for several Books since, particularly the Altar of Love, and Mrs. Singer’s Poems.”

The second example I have noticed is the close-copying of the frontispiece from the first volume of The Ladies Library. Written by a Lady. Published by Mr. Steele, 3 vol. (London: Jacob Tonson, 1714), which appears in the third volume of Eliza Haywood’s La Belle Assemblee (London: D. Browne [et al.], 1731). I did a blog post about this almost seven years ago now (here). Although I have two copies of the Haywood volume, I still haven’t picked up a cheap copy of The Ladies Library, so I haven’t been able to update that post with better images. Meh.

The third example I have noticed of this sort of re-use, set out below, is far more interesting in many ways, since it involves erotic artwork and a more varied form of re-use.

* * * * *

An engraved vignette headpiece, with a somatopic design, appears [1] at the start of the text of Little Merlin’s Cave. As it was lately discover’d, by a Gentleman’s Gardener, in Maidenhead-Thicket (London: T. Read, 1737). The design was copied twice and modified to represent “Merryland,” early and late 1741: as [2] the frontispiece to Arbor Vitæ: Or, The Natural History Of The Tree Of Life (London: E. Hill, 1741) and, reversed, as [3] a folding, engraved plate (above) in A New Description of Merryland, “Eight [sic] Edition” (Bath: J. Leake and E. Curll, [1741]).

A few explanations: a somatopia is a literary conceit, in which a utopian landscape is comprised of a human body—almost always a woman’s body. The term was coined by Darby Lewes in 2000. A New Description of Merryland was a hugely popular somatopia written by Thomas Stretser, which I have often mentioned on this blog, and which has its own Wikipedia page (here).

Below are the engraved vignette, frontispiece and folding plate, cropped and reversed (where necessary) to make the comparison easier.

Note how in [1] the recumbent female landscape exists, in 1737, in isolation; later, in [2] early 1741, an erect penis is added in the foreground; later still, in [3] considerable detail is added when the engraving was enlarged, but the view remains unchanged. Below are [1] and [2] with the changed section in a red box for ease of comparison.

At some point in the future I will do a post on Merlin’s Cave in the Royal Gardens at Richmond, created under the direction of Queen Caroline, the elaboration of grottos as sexual metaphors, and the construction of somatopic gardens more generally. For now it is enough to say that “Merlin’s Cave”—an above-ground “grotto”—was the talk of the town in London in the late 1730s. There is an excellent post on this subject, with lots of pictures, here. Omitted from the discussion is the fact that Caroline’s “grotto” was the inspiration for Little Merlin’s Cave. As it was lately discover’d, by a Gentleman’s Gardener, in Maidenhead-Thicket—and the rather naughty series of images above.