I’m excited to be presenting my paper ‘Publishing Wilkes’s ‘Villakin’: Reading, Reception and Reputation at Sandown Cottage’ at the forthcoming Reading the Country House conference, to be held at MMU in November. The conference focuses on the ways in which the country house was ‘made to be read’, whether through the legibility of their decorative schemes or their description in published materials. My abstract for the conference is included below.
Publishing Wilkes’s ‘Villakin’: Reading, Reception and Reputation at Sandown Cottage
This paper unpacks a complex episode in the relationship between interior decoration, travel writing, and identity formation in late eighteenth-century Britain. Examining John Wilkes’s summer residence Sandown Cottage (commonly known as ‘Villakin’) on the Isle of Wight, it provides an unprecedented consideration of the aesthetic programme of Wilkes’s country home and its role in constructing and reflecting its owner’s multifarious identities. Focusing on published accounts of Sandown Cottage, it situates descriptions of Wilkes’s home within the contexts of taste, sociability, and domestic tourism, highlighting the centrality of visual and material culture within these texts. Describing the residence as fitted up ‘with every regard and attention to elegance,’ such accounts consistently related the house’s ornamentation to Wilkes’s becoming personal qualities. This paper will accordingly consider how the publication and circulation of Sandown Cottage’s collections and decoration in contemporary travel writing functioned as a kind of reputation management; neutralising Wilkes’s radical politics and instead facilitating his self-presentation as a consummately refined host and tasteful art collector. Discussing a broad variety of visual and material culture and its representation, the paper challenges divisions between the fine and decorative arts, interior and exterior spaces, and between the material object and the written word more broadly.
Sarah Forbes Bonetta (Sarah Davies) by Camille Silvy. Albumen print, 15 September 1862
3 1/4 in. x 2 1/4 in. (83 mm x 56 mm), National Portrait Gallery, London.
My object of the week is this albumen portrait of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, which was used to illustrate the National Portrait Gallery’s event In Conversation: Portraits of the Past: Researching Black Lives in the Archives. Dr Caroline Bressey and Dr Gemma Romain will discuss their experiences of researching images of black lives in archives, before reflecting upon the position of black historical research in Britain today.
This week, Goldsmiths, University of London announced that is was launching the world’s first postgraduate degree in Queer History, beginning in 2017. Perhaps even more excitingly for those of us working on queer culture, the university is also in discussions about the creation of a National Queer Archive.
I was excited to read about the Public Domain Review’s new Conjectures Series, a forum for ‘experiments with historical form and method’. Just like Storying the Past before it, such vehicles provoke important reflection on the discipline of history and what we as historians ‘do’. The first post in the series is Easter McCraney’s discussion of longing and the objects of history, which the editor describes as a ‘history poem’.
Also from the Public Domain Review, Ryan Feigenbaum’s essay Visions of Algae in Eighteenth-Century Botany provides a compelling consideration of the cultural import of a single species of algae: Conferva fontinalis.
I greatly enjoyed reading the fascinating special issue of the open access Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide: A Journal of Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture (15:2), on The Greek Slave by Hiram Powers: A Transatlantic Object, edited by Martina Droth & Michael Hatt. The issue discusses Powers’s sculpture in unparalleled detail, while simultaneously locating it within a number of its cultural contexts, thereby skilfully interweaving the sculpture’s micro and macro histories. I was also excited to see the CFP for the next issue of MDCCC 1800 – the international online journal of nineteenth-century culture – on the ‘Arts on display: the 19th century international expositions‘. Each of these ventures serve to emphasise just how exciting publishing on nineteenth-century art is at the moment.
Other CFPs, conferences, journal special issues and articles that caught my eye this week included:
The CFP for the Heritages of Migration: Moving Stories, Objects and Home conference.
The programme for the Paul Mellon Centre’s upcoming conference Art in the British Country House: Collecting and Display.
The Auricular Style: Frames conference, which brings together research in fine & decorative art histories in order to shed light on the neglected Auricular style. The conference programme is available here.
The CFP for the Refiguring Romanticisms: Cross-Temporal Translations and Gothic Transgressions seminar.
The CFP for a forthcoming special issue of Eighteenth-Century Studies on ‘Empires’.
The William Wordsworth: Poetry, People and Place MOOC, run by Lancaster University in collaboration with Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s home between 1799 to 1808.
The Storify for BAVS 2016 conference, Consuming (the) Victorians.
This week’s object of the week isn’t mine per se, but Zara Anishanslin’s. In her recently published book, Portrait of a Woman in Silk: Hidden Histories of the British Atlantic World, Anishanslin uses the silk dress depicted above as a means to (de)construct and examine the worlds of four identifiable people who produced, wore, and represented it: a London weaver, one of early modern Britain’s few women silk designers, a Philadelphia merchant’s wife, and a New England painter.
Other announcements, events, courses, and posts that caught my eye this week included:
The recent special issue of the Scandinavian Journal of History on Gender, Material Culture and Emotions in Scandinavian History. The issue contains articles on religion and emotion, needlework, botany, and Chinese porcelain.
The University of Exeter’s fascinating new MOOC Empire: the Controversies of British Imperialism, which begins today.
Sean Willcock’s fascinating article ‘Composing the Spectacle: Colonial Portraiture and the Coronation Durbars of British India, 1877-1911‘, in the latest volume of Art History.
The Paul Mellon Centre for British Art’s new public lecture course, The Country House: Art, Politics, and Taste. The course covers a fascinating array of subjects over a broad period. See the syllabus here.
This video, Academic video blogs: 5 tips for getting started. I’ve written before about enjoying both Ellie Mackin & Emma Cole’s early career researcher vlogs, so it was with interest that I watched this source from jobs.ac.uk. I believe that video blogs, much like twitter, can help to destabilise traditional hierarchies endemic to academia.
Alexis L. Boylan’s article ‘Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Robert Louis Stevenson, and the Erotics of Illness‘, from the recent issue of American Art is a gorgeously written, fascinating approach to its subject, Saint-Gaudens’ portrait miniature of the infirm Louis Stevenson.
I’m thrilled to have received a Design History Society Research Travel & Conference Grant for my project, From House to Home: Gender, Identity & Emotion in British Domestic Space, 1750-1830. The project develops research from my PhD thesis for publication as a monograph, and explores the complex relationship between the production and consumption of domestic space and issues of identity, affection, gender, and sexuality.
Specifically, the Research Travel and Conference Grant will facilitate the completion of crucial primary research for this project, to be conducted at a number of repositories including the British Library, where I will consult the papers, journals, and correspondence of Caroline Lybbe Powys, Anne Seymour Damer, Mary Berry, and John Wilkes; as well as the Royal College of Surgeons, and the Wellcome Library, where I’ll view further correspondence from Mary Berry.
Stay tuned for more posts on my monograph project as it develops.
Chinoiserie Room, Erdigg House (Image via National Trust)
The preliminary programme for the upcoming conference, Travel and the country house: places, cultures and practices has just been released. I will be speaking about ‘Domestic tourism, the country house, and the making of respectability in the travel journals of Caroline Lybbe Powys’, in the second session of the second day. This research is taken from a chapter of my doctoral thesis which situates Powys’s analyses of material objects in relation to country house visiting and domestic tourism.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further details and booking.
Travel and the country house: places, cultures and practices
Northampton, 15-16th September 2014-06-20
Monday 15th September
10.00-10.40 Registration and coffee
10.40-10.45 Welcome and introduction
10.45-11.45 Keynote: ‘The Italian Grand Tour and the 18th century country house’, Roey Sweet (University
11.45-13.00 Session 1: The practicalities and pleasures of travel
‘Visiting London for business and pleasure in the years 1599-1623: on the road (and the
Thames) with William Cavendish, 1st. Earl of Cavendish’ – Peter Edwards (Independent
‘Travelling for Pleasure – carriages and the country house’ – Lizzy Jamieson (Independent Scholar)
‘Wintering in the “shires”: Foxhunting and travel’ – Mandy de Belin (University of
14.00-15.45 Session 2: European travel, networks and influences
‘The Grand Tour and Episcopal domesticity: the case of Martin Benson, Bishop of
Gloucester (1735-52)’ – Michael Ashby (University of Cambridge)
‘“Antiquity mad”: the Earl Bishop and the translation of continental style in an Irish context’ – Rebecca Campion (National University of Ireland at Maynooth)
‘Centre and periphery: the world brought to the ironmasters “mansions”‘ – Marie Steinrud
‘The English Rothschild family and their country houses: a distinctive style’ – Nicola
15.45-16.15 Tea & coffee
16.15-18.00 Session 3: Views of England from overseas travellers
‘The English country house as (proto) museum: Dutch travel accounts explored (1677-1750)’ – Hanneke Ronnes (University of Amsterdam)
‘“… enjoying country life to the full – only the English know how to do that!”: Appreciation of the British country house by Hungarian aristocratic travellers’ – Kristof Fatsar (Corvinus University of Budapest)
‘Stourhead: all roads lead to Rome – and back again’– John Harrison (Open University)
‘A Dutch view on the English Country House and landscape garden’ – Helen Bremer
(University of Leiden)
19.30 Dinner Tuesday 16th September
9.30-10.45 Session 4: The mobile house
‘Manors, towns and spas. A household on the move in the late 18th century Sweden’ –
Goran Ulvang (University of Uppsala)
‘The travels of an aristocratic family in the early 19th century: the Braybrookes of Audley
End, Essex’ – Andrew Hann (English Heritage)
‘Moving households – problems, choices and new possibilities facing the country-house
family in the 1820s and 1830s’ – Pamela Sambrook (Independent Scholar)
10.45-11.15 Tea and coffee
11.15-1.00 Session 5: Travel, tourism and guides
‘Domestic tourism, the country house, and the making of respectability in the travel
journals of Caroline Lybbe Powys’ – Freya Gowrley (University of Edinburgh)
‘Country house visiting and improvement at Herriard House in Hampshire, 1794-1821’ –
Nicky Pink (Independent Scholar)
‘Arthur Young’s Tours: architecture, painting, sculpture, and the art of adorning
grounds’ – Caroline Anderson (The Courtauld Institute of Art)
‘The representation of the country house in individual books and guides 1720-1845’ –
Paula Riddy (University of Sussex)
2.00-3.00 Keynote 2: title: Prof Margot Finn (UCL)
3.00-4.15 Session 6: Looking beyond Europe
‘Travel to the East- and West-Indies and Groningen country house culture in the 18th
Century’ – Yme Kuiper (University of Groningen)
‘Appuldurcombe House and the ‘Museum Worsleyanum’: Sir Richard Worsley’s forgotten
collection’ – Abigail Coppins (Independent Scholar)
‘Diaries, decoration and design: the Courtauld’s travels and the effects on Eltham
Palac’‟ – Annie Kemkaran-Smith (English Heritage)
4.15-4.30 Closing comments and discussion