You are currently browsing the daily archive for February 8, 2010.

If I understand you rightly, you had formed a surmise of such horror as I have hardly words to — Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you. Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing, where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open? Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?

Northanger Abbey, Chapter 24

(The fateful moment in Chapter  24 as illustrated by Joan Hassell for the

Folio Society’s edition of the Complete Works of Jane Austen)

And so with words of wisdom and not a little exasperation Henry Tilney neatly skewers Catherine Morland’s fervid imaginings, the result  of letting her imagination run wild, fueled as it was with the influence of the Gothic romances of the time:

Oh! I would not tell you what is behind the black veil for the world! Are not you wild to know?”

“Oh! Yes, quite; what can it be? But do not tell me — I would not be told upon any account. I know it must be a skeleton, I am sure it is Laurentina’s skeleton. Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it. I assure you, if it had not been to meet you, I would not have come away from it for all the world.”

“Dear creature! How much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”

“Have you, indeed! How glad I am! What are they all?”

“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocketbook. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.”

“Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”

Northanger Abbey, Chapter 6

The craze for gothic literature, as depicted rather affectionately but ultimately scornfully by Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey was of course only one side of that particular coin.

The craze was reflected in art of the period too.

Today we really find it difficult I think to realise why the reaction to the Gothic then was so extreme. I think it might be helpful to look at one picture which is representative of the genre and its story , for it helps explain some of the attitudes of the late 18th early 19th century towards these  novels/pictures.

One of the most shocking of all the Gothic images was this picture by Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare,

which was exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Show of 1782.

Henry Fuseli – portrayed below by James Northcote in 1778-  was an artist who had no formal art education.

Born in Zürich in 1741 and originally destined for a career in the church he took Holy Orders in 1761  He then  travelled to England in 1765 and on the advice of Sir Joshua Reynolds decided to make art his career. He made a tour of Italy to study the art and classical ruins  and returned to England in 1778.

Among the usual fare of the exhibition-  landscapes and portraits- this picture certainly stood out from the others,     even those with a Gothic tinge like this one by Phillip de Loutherberg, the artist and theatrical designer,

The Nightmare ,as you can clearly see above,  portrays a young girl sleeping  with an incubus squatting down on her abdomen, looking out of the painting towards the viewer, together with a spectral horse’s head, complete with bulging white eyes.

Horace Walpole, author of the first  gothic novel The Castel of Otranto( more on this later) summed up his feeling on this picture quite succinctly by adding this word alongside the description of the picture in his copy of the  catalogue of the exhibition

Shocking.

Debate began as to what exactly Fuseli was actually painting: a scene from literature? Something inspired by a scene from Shakespeare- Queen Mab/Romeo and Juliet? Or, horrors, something from his own imagination meant to provoke feelings of revulsion  in the audience ?

The  proper view to then taken upon artistic subjects was  that  it was acceptable to paint and create works of art  that evoked extremes of feeling-such as terror, for example- but not to create works of art that evoked feelings of horror or disgust. There the line was drawn in the sand. This picture to the late 18th century eye, crossed that particular line.

The debate about the merits of the picture  was carried out in the press, notably the Morning Chronicle and of course this fuelled interest in this uneasy picture.

After  the debate began , visitors figures to the Royal Academy show rose.  The first pieces about the painting appeared in the Morning Chronicle on May 8th.

On May 9th, the day after the first of the Morning Chronicles pieces about the painting  2 713 people were recorded as having visited the exhibition (the average daily intake of people was 1782.) The final day attracted 5085 crowding to see it.

There is no doubt that this  picture created a sensation.

It became very popular as a print. It is thought that over 2000 engravings were made initially of the painting in 1783,and sold for  five shillings each. A pirate edition as issued in Paris.  New authorised editions  were issued  from 1803 onwards, and eventually its fame  spread,via the distribution of the prints  across Europe and into America, far and wide.

Attacks  were made on it, especially after the connection between the picture and its probable subject matter -sex- was made.

The Reverend Robert Bromley  Rector of St Mildred’s in the Poultry, raised the moral standard and set to to attack a picture, which appeared to him to vary from the norm most spectacularly because it appeared to have no moral, instructive or educational foundation :

The dignity of  moral instruction is degraded whenever the pencil is employed on frivolous whimsical and unmeaning subjects…The Nightmare…or any dream that is not marked in authentic history as combined with the inspiring dispensations of Providence and many other pieces of  a visionary and fanciful nature, are speculators…if it be right to follow Nature, there is nothing of her here, all that is presented is a reverie of the brain…mere waking dreams as wild as the conceits of a madman

( See: A Philosophical and Critical History of the Fine Arts Painting Sculpture and Architecture, 1793).

Fuseli tried to defend himself  and devoted a whole Royal Academy lecture on painting to the theme of invented subjects, asking the audience  to question why it was not considered acceptable to paint subjects coined from the imagination, and not from reference to nature, or literature:

Why not if the subject be within the limits of art and the combinations of nature, though it should have escaped observation? Shall the immediate avenues of the mind, open to all observers from the poet to the novelist be shut only to the artist…for if these images so pursue us when  our minds are in a kind of waking dream and all this with an air of unreality why , should we not turn to use this vice of the mind?

The debate surrounding this picture still continued into the 20th and 21st centuries.

And of course, all this debate around art, explains some of the  responses to the Gothic literature of the time. It was different (and possibly thought of as dangerous by morlalists) because it evoked feelings  in the reader that are not associated with the Classics, with Shakespeare etc.

It was( and is, in some ways ) slightly daring to read these books and to contemplate this type of art……Which makes this type of literature perfect fodder for impressionable teenagers. Which Jane Austen knew well. Or as in this print by James Gillray shows, has attractions for  mature ladies who should know better than to give themselves thrills by reading The Monk late at night by candlelight

No wonder Jane Austen  wrote her cautionary tale ;-) If you would like to read more on this subject, then I can reccommend looking at the catalogue to a Tate Gallery exhibition about it entitled Gothic Nightmares


Sadly, it appears now to be out of print and the few copies available are consequently ferociously expensive.

A much cheaper alternative is  to view the on-line exhibit that accompanied the original exhibition, which was held at Tate Brtiain in 20o6 and  is still -praise be- available at the Tate’s website here..

Do you dare do it?

If you are not a Wordpress member, just add your email here to subscribe to this site.

An Invitation to Visit our Sister Site: A Jane Austen Gazetteer

Visit our sister site: A Jane Austen Gazetteer

Click on the image above to visit our Sister Site: A Jane Austen Gazetteer

An Invitation to Visit our Sister Site: Jane Austen’s Letters

Visit our sister site: Jane Austen's Letters

Click on the image above to visit our Sister Site: Jane Austen's Letters

Join Austen Only on Twitter

Recently Tweeted

Austenonly on Pinterest

Follow Me on Pinterest

Categories

Copyright Notice

Copyright: This site and all images and information complied within are copyright Austenonly.com unless otherwise stated/attributed.No permission is given/implied for any use of this site, the information and images contained therein, for any commercial use whatsoever. No material may be copied in any form without first obtaining written permission of the author, save that extracts of posts may be used on other non-commcerial sites on the internet, provided that full and clear credit is given to Austenonly.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content( that is, a link must be provided to the original post/image with full attribution ). The existence of the RSS or ATOM feeds in no way authorises wholesale or part transmission of posts or parts of posts to another site without prior permission being given and attribution stated. Any sites using RSS or ATOM feeds in this way without obtaining prior written permission of the author of this blog will be subject to legal action.

Currently Reading

Jane Austen’s Guide to Modern Life’s Dilemmas by Rebecca Smith

Jane Austen’s Guide to Modern Life’s Dilemmasby Rebecca Smith

Recently Read

James Wyatt, Architect to George III by John Martin Robinson

James Wyatt, Architect to George III by John Martin Robinson

Uvedale Price (1747-1829): Decoding the Picturesque” by Charles Watkins and Ben Cowell

Uvedale Price (1747-1829): Decoding the Picturesque” by Charles Watkins and Ben Cowell

"The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy” by Hannah Glasse, published by Prospect Books.

"The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy” by Hannah Glasse, published by Prospect Books.

The Letters of Mrs Lefroy: Jane Austen’s Beloved Friend, edited by Helen Lefroy and Gavin Turner

The Letters of Mrs Lefroy: Jane Austen’s Beloved Friend, edited by Helen Lefroy and Gavin Turner

Understanding Jane Austen: Key Concepts in the Six Novels

Understanding Jane Austen: Key Concepts in the Six Novels

The London Square by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan

The London Square” by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan

"What Matters in Jane Austen?:Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved" by John Mullan

"What Matters in Jane Austen?:Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved" by John Mullan

May, Lou and Cass: Jane Austen's Nieces in Ireland by Sophia Hillan

May, Lou and Cass: Jane Austen's Nieces in Ireland by Sophia Hillan

An Introduction to the Tokens at the Foundling Museum” by Janette Bright and Gillian Clarke

An Introduction to the Tokens at the Foundling Museum” by Janette Bright and Gillian Clarke

Vauxhall Gardens: A History by David Coke and Alan Borg

Vauxhall Gardens: A History by David Coke and Alan Borg

Facing Beauty: Painted Women and Cosmetic Art by Aileen Ribeiro

Facing Beauty: Painted Women and Cosmetic Art by Aileen Ribeiro

Johan Zoffany by Mary Webster

Johan Zoffany by Mary Webster

Bergere,Poke and Cottage: Understanding Early Nineteenth Century Headwear  by Serena Dyer

Bergere,Poke and Cottage: Understanding Early Nineteenth Century Headwear” by Serena Dyer

The First Actresses: Nell Gwyn to Sarah Siddons by Gill Perry with Joseph Roach and Shearer West

The First Actresses: Nell Gwyn to Sarah Siddons by Gill Perry with Joseph Roach and Shearer West

Jane Austen's Letters (4th Edition) edited by Deirdre Le Faye

Jane Austen's Letters (4th Edition) edited by Deirdre Le Faye

Ice Cream by Ivan Day

Ice Cream by Ivan Day

Rooms With a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century by Sabine Rewald

Rooms With a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century by Sabine Rewald

Pastel Portraits of 18th Century Europe by Katharine Baetjer and Marjorie Shelly

Pastel Portraits of 18th Century Europe by Katharine Baetjer and Marjorie Shelly

The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock

The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock

The Eighteenth Century Church in Britain by Terry Friedman

The Eighteenth Century Church in Britain by Terry Friedman

Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion 1795-1815 by Christina Barreto and Martin Lancaster

Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion 1795-1815 by Christina Barreto and Martin Lancaster

Regarding Thomas Rowlandson: His Life, Art and Acquaintance by Matthew and James Payne

Regarding Thomas Rowlandson: His Life, Art and Acquaintance by Matthew and James Payne

The Omnipotent Magician:Lancelot "Capability" Brown by Jane Brown

The Omnipotent Magician:Lancelot "Capability" Brown by Jane Brown

The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, Second Edition.

The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, Second Edition.

Thomas Rowlandson: Pleasures and Pursuits in Georgian England, edited by Patricia Phagan

Thomas Rowlandson: Pleasures and Pursuits in Georgian England, edited by Patricia Phagan

Ralph Allen, Builder of Bath by Diana Winsor

Ralph Allen, Builder of Bath by Diana Winsor

Fashioning Fashion European Dress in Detail 1700-1915

Fashioning Fashion European Dress in Detail 1700-1915

Jellies and their Moulds by Peter Brears

Jellies and their Moulds by Peter Brears

Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance

Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance

Sir Thomas Lawrence by Michael Levey

Sir Thomas Lawrence by Michael Levey

The Georgian Buildings of Bath by Walter Ison

The Georgian Buildings of Bath by Walter Ison

The Catalogue to the Chatsworth Attic Sale

The Catalogue to the Chatsworth Attic Sale

State Beds and Throne Canopies:Care and Conservation by Val Davies

State Beds and Throne Canopies:Care and Conservation by Val Davies

 The English Parsonage in the Early Nineteenth Century by Timothy Brittain-Catlin

The English Parsonage in the Early Nineteenth Century by Timothy Brittain-Catlin

The Secret History of Georgian London: How the Wages of Sin Shaped the Capital by Dan Cruickshank

The Secret History of Georgian London: How the Wages of Sin Shaped the Capital by Dan Cruickshank

London's Country Houses by Caroline Knight

London's Country Houses by Caroline Knight

Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill by Michael Snodin

Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill by Michael Snodin

Quilts 1700-2010: Hidden Histories, Untold Stories by Sue Prichard

Quilts 1700-2010: Hidden Histories, Untold Stories by Sue Prichard

Mrs Delany's Menus, Medicine and Manners by Katherine Cahill

Mrs Delany's Menus, Medicine and Manners by Katherine Cahill

Mrs Delany and her Circle by Mark Laird and Alicia Weisberg-Roberts

Mrs Delany and her Circle by Mark Laird and Alicia Weisberg-Roberts

The Brabourne Edition of Jane Austen's Letters at CUP (Vol 1)

The Brabourne Edition of Jane Austen's Letters at CUP (Vol 1)

The Brabourne Edition of Jane Austen's Letters at CUP (Vol 2)

Birds of Passage: Henrietta Clive's Travels in South India 1798-1801

Birds of Passage: Henrietta Clive's Travels in South India 1798-1801 edited by Nancy K Shields

Enterprising Women and Shipping in the 19th Century by Helen Doe

Enterprising Women and Shipping in the 19th Century by Helen Doe

Over a Red Hot Stove edited by Ivan Day

Over a Red Hot Stove edited by Ivan Day

Coke of Norfolk 1754-1843: A Biography

Coke of Norfolk 1754-1843: A Biography by Susanna Wade Martins

Georgian Jewellery 1714-1830

Georgian Jewellery 1714-1830 by Ginny Redington Dawes and Olivia Collings

Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain

Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain Edited by John Bonehill and Stephen Daniels

Silhouette: The Art of Shadow by Emma Rutherford

Silhouette: The Art of Shadow by Emma Rutherford

The Dress of the People by John Styles

The Dress of the People by John Styles

Behind Closed Doors by Amanda Vickery

Behind Closed Doors by Amanda Vickery

The Compleat Housewife by Eliza Smith, Chawton Edition

The Compleat Housewife by Eliza Smith, Chawton Edition

A New System of Domestic Cookery by Maria Rundell

A New System of Domestic Cookery by Maria Rundell

Austenonly Flickr

February 2010
M T W T F S S
« Jan   Mar »
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
Protected by Copyscape plagiarism checker - duplicate content and unique article detection software.
Creative Commons License
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.
UK Blog Directory
wordpress counter
%d bloggers like this: