The not so commonplace – commonplace books

Commonplace books have been described as the ancestors of our blogs or our list of favourties. They are essentially handwritten notebooks or scrapbooks that contain collections of quotations arranged in some way, perhaps topically or thematically, for easy retrieval and as an aid of reference for the compiler. Despite their name, there was nothing commonplace about such books, as each was unique to its compiler, reflecting their particular interests and providing an insight into people’s habits of mind.

Illustration and poem from A lady's commonplace book, 1820s [MS242 A800 p.32]

Illustration and poem from A lady’s commonplace book, 1820s [MS242 A800 p.32]

Commonplace books had their origins in antiquity in the idea of loci communes, or “common places,” under which ideas or arguments could be located in order to be used in different situations. They flourished in early modern Europe and continued to develop and spread during the Renaissance period, as scholars were encouraged to keep them. By the seventeenth century, commonplacing had developed into a recognised practice that was taught to university students.

John Locke

John Locke

The philosopher John Locke began keeping his own commonplace books in 1652, the year that he became a student at Oxford University, and in 1685 he published “Méthode nouvelle de dresser des recueils,” which appeared in 1706 as A new method of making a common place book. In this Locke explained his method of indexing and gave advice on how to arrange material by subject and category, using a ‘head’ word.

Commonplace book of poetry "Poems on several occasions by several celebrated authors",c.1739-19th century [MS7]

Commonplace book of poetry “Poems on several occasions by several celebrated authors”, c.1739-19th century [MS7]

The production of commonplace books continues to the present, providing a rich and diverse array of examples, from the uniquely individual to the ready-to-use commonplace books that could be bought with topics and categories already written at the tops of pages just waiting to be filled in. Whilst some examples, such as the volume MS 7, focused exclusively on poetry, others were much more wide ranging in terms of subject matter and formats used.

‘Personalia’ commonplace book of Revd F.N.Davis [MS269 AO155/3]

‘Personalia’ commonplace book of Revd F.N.Davis [MS269 AO155/3]

The ‘Personalia’ commonplace book kept Revd Francis Neville Davis (1867-c.1946), rector of Rowner, Hampshire, between 1919 and the late 1930s, included not only literary material, but extracts from newspaper articles, family history, brief extracts from diaries, lists of manuscript volumes of Revd Davis, obituaries and a list of receipts from fetes. The focus here reflected the interests and preoccupations of Revd Davis as he considered his family and its antecedents, his legacy and his role in church life.

The lady’s commonplace book compiled between 1820 and 1825 [MS 242] illustrated a preoccupation with the literary and artistic. The volume contains poems, short stories, watercolours, pencil and pen and ink sketches of plants, landscapes and individuals. With entries in a number of hands, it was probably compiled for an individual who spent time in Scotland and in the East Indies.

Illustration from A lady's commonplace book, 1820s [MS242 A800 p.56v]

Illustration from A lady’s commonplace book, 1820s [MS242 A800 p.56v]

The commonplace book has played a role in the way that we organise information. And whether we are aware of it or not, the techniques that they engender continue to influence us as we move into the digital world of information organisation.

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SUSU Sport – making history

Are you a member or supporter of Team Southampton ? You are making history!

Generations of students and staff – men and women – have built a strong sporting tradition at Southampton and you are following in their footsteps. In 2017, SUSU has 93 sports teams competing at a national level.  How will your team be remembered?

Netball team, 1928-9, MS1/7/291/22/2/62

Netball team, 1928-9, MS1/7/291/22/2/62

Team photos record more than names and faces – they often detail trophies, mascots, special occasions and successes, the sports-wear and sports equipment of the day. Are they formal or informal? What do they show about team spirit and pride? What about the setting – they may be taken on the pitch or show University locations and sports facilities. How does the past link to the present?

In Special Collections we hold many records relating to University teams and their achievements, from the earliest days of the Hartley Institution at the end of the 19th century – to the modern sports teams of today. They include photos, programmes, fixture lists, match reports, accounts and papers – even a rugby shirt worn by R.E.Brown, captain of the first XV in 1933-4!  Together they tell the story of sport at Southampton – an important aspect of University life.

The University Boat Club, 1962-3. MS1/7/291/22/4/125

The University Boat Club, 1962-3. MS1/7/291/22/4/125

This is the University Boat Club, 1962-3. The caption reads: “1st VIII were placed 12th out of 150 crews in the Reading Head of the River, and for the first time the University entered for Henley Royal Regatta in the Thames Cup division” MS1/7/291/22/4/125.

We have recently contributed to a project to celebrate the UK’s sporting heritage.

The aim is to bring together information about sports archives and the people who care for them. By adding details of our collections to this website we are helping to build a national list of all the sporting heritage collections in the UK.  You can use it to search by sport or location; discover what’s on; read featured articles, and more.

The Special Collections also holds manuscript and printed material relating to sport in the county of Hampshire; the sporting interests of individuals – such as Earl Mountbatten of Burma (a famous polo player) – and the sporting activities of Anglo-Jewish youth groups. You can see details of our sporting collections here:

https://www.sportingheritage.org.uk/content/collection/special-collections-hartley-library-university-southampton

Jonathan Swift and the Temple family

Today marks the 350th birthday of Jonathan Swift (1667–1745), the Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, pamphleteer, poet, and cleric, best remembered as the author of Gulliver’s Travels (1726). Swift was born in Dublin on 30 November 1667 and was the second child of Jonathan Swift (1640–1667), a steward of the King’s Inns, Dublin, and his wife, Abigail Erick (1640–1710). His father died two months before he was born. Unable to support her son, his mother placed him in the care of his uncle, Godwin Swift. He was enrolled at Kilkenny College in 1674, and in 1682 entered Trinity College Dublin. Having received his bachelor’s degree in 1686, Swift continued at Trinity College to study for a master’s. However, Roman Catholic unrest in Ireland following the Glorious Revolution in 1688 forced him to quit his studies and leave for England.
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In England his mother found him a position as secretary to the English statesman and essayist Sir William Temple (1628-1699) at Moor Park in Surrey. During the subsequent decade, Swift assisted Temple in political errands and research for his essays and memoirs. Under Temple’s guidance, and with a rich library at his disposal, it was at Moor Park that Swift developed his skills as a writer. During this time he wrote a number of essays, including A Tale of a Tub and ‘The Battle of the Books’, published together in 1704 and both touching on the debate surrounding Temple’s essays on ancient and modern learning.

It was also during this time that Swift met Esther Johnson, known by her nickname “Stella”, whose mother was in the service of William Temple. Swift took a keen interest in Stella and acted as her tutor and mentor. The two would maintain a close relationship throughout their lives and a debate continues as to whether they were secretly married in 1716. Swift returned to Ireland twice during the decade he worked for Temple. During one of these visits, in 1695, he took the necessary steps to become an ordained priest in the Church of Ireland. After Temple’s death in 1699, Swift completed the task of editing and publishing his memoirs. This, however, resulted in a clash with members of the Temple family, most notably Lady Gifford (Temple’s sister), who argued against Swift’s inclusion of material against Temple’s wishes.

The works of Sir William Temple, bart. edited by Jonathan Swift [Rare Books quarto PR 3729.T2]

The works of Sir William Temple, bart. edited by Jonathan Swift [Rare Books quarto PR 3729.T2]

Sir William Temple had two sisters, Martha (later Lady Gifford) and Mary, and a brother, John. Sir John Temple (1632-1705) was an Irish lawyer and politician and father of Henry Temple, first Viscount Palmerston (1673-1757), who purchased the Broadlands estate in 1736. It is through this link that the Broadlands archives contain a number of items relating to Swift.

The two earliest items date from 1724. The first of these is a letter to Henry Temple, first Viscount Palmerston, from Lewis Roberts, his lawyer in Dublin, dated 6 October 1724. The letters contains a reference to Swift’s speeches against William Wood’s Irish half penny [MS 62 BR140/4/8], delivered from the pulpit of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin where Swift had held the position of dean since 1713. William Wood was an English manufacturer who had been granted a patent to mint copper halfpence for Ireland. The response in Ireland was one of outrage. There was a strong belief that the wishes of the Irish parliament had been bypassed and that the inferior quality of the money would devalue Irish coinage and damage the local economy. Swift was one of the most vocal critics in the campaign against Wood and published several pamphlets containing open letters and poetic broadsides on the subject. The letters, written under the pseudonym M. B. Drapier, were later published collectively as Drapier’s Letters. The opposition to the halfpenny was so strong that it occasionally took on a violent form, with Oliver Ferguson noting that “in Cork a mob prevented a shipment of halfpence from being unloaded, and threatened to burn the ship; and in Dublin Wood was hanged in effigy – an event which Swift celebrated with A Full and True Account of…the Execution of William Wood.”

Among Swift’s poetic broadsides on the subject was ‘Prometheus’, originally published around November 1724. It was retitled ‘Prometheus. On Wood the Patentee’s Irish Half-Pence’ in later collections. A manuscript copy of the poem, dating from 1724, can be found in the Broadlands collection [MS 62 BR3/36].

Prometheus, a Poem by Jonathan Swift [BR3/36]

Prometheus, a Poem by Jonathan Swift [BR3/36]

Another group of items relating to Swift are three letters exchanged between Swift and first Viscount Palmerston from January 1725/6 [MS 62 BR3/63-5]. The two men had known each other since Swift’s time at Moor Park. As with other members of the Temple family, their relationship was strained. Three months earlier, in the fourth of his Drapier’s letters (titled To the Whole People of Ireland), Swift had named Palmerston among the Englishmen who held substantial sinecures paid for out of the Irish treasury.

The short exchange, which can be found among Swift’s published letters, centres on the letting of rooms at Trinity College Dublin to a William Curtis who Swift claims “has been very unjustly and injuriously treated” [MS 62 BR3/63]. Swift is of the understanding that Palmerston had granted the rooms to a John Elwood for life and, as such, Elwood had the right to sublet them to Mr Curtis. In his response, Palmerston informs Swift that the rooms had been granted to Elwood for his personal use, and not for subletting, and that “When he quits, I am att liberty to dispose of the premises again” [MS 62 BR3/64]. In the final letter, Swift acquits Palmerston “of any injury or injustice done to Mr. Curtis”, noting that the “injury and injustice he received were from those who claimed a title to his chambers, took away his key, reviled and threatened to beat him, with a great deal more of the like brutal conduct” [MS 62 BR3/65].

Swift's signature [MS 62 BR3/63]

Swift’s signature [MS 62 BR3/63]

While the matter is ultimately cleared up, the tension in the exchange is palpable. Swift, in his first letter, states that he will refrain from commenting on William Curtis’ character, referencing a Thomas Stauton who he had once recommended to Palmerston but “whom you afterward rejected, expressing your reason for doing so, that I had recommended him.” Concerning the rejection he concedes, with more than a hint of sarcasm, that “these are some of the refinements among you great men, which are above my low understanding” [MS 62 BR3/63]. Palmerston adopts an equally sarcastic tone in the opening of his reply, stating that “I should not give my selfe the trouble to answer your polite letter, were I as unconcerned about character & reputation as some are.” He then proceeds to clarify the conditions under which the rooms had been granted to Mr Eldwood and defend himself concerning his dismissal of Mr Stauton, which was due to “his demand of a large additional salary, more than he had before my time”, noting that “he left the office, and was not turned out” [MS 62 BR3/64].

Palmerston concludes his letter with a powerful statement:

“My desire is to be in charity with all men; could I say as much of you, you had sooner inquired into this matter, or if you had any regard to a family you owe so much to; but I fear you hugged the false report to cancel all feelings of gratitude that must ever glow in a generous breast, and to justify what you had declared, that no regard to the family was any restraint to you. These refinements are past my low understanding, and can only be comprehended by you great wits. I always thought in you I had a friend in Ireland, but find myself mistaken. I am sorry for it; my comfort is, it is none of my fault. If you had taken any thing amiss, you might have known the truth from me. I shall always be as ready to ask pardon when I have offended, as to justify myself when I have not.” [MS 62 BR3/64]

Swift opens the final letter with the line “I desire you will give yourself the last trouble I shall ever put you to; I mean of reading this letter.” Then, in addition to acquitting Palmerston, he acknowledges his indebtedness to the Temple family, and defends himself against any misunderstanding, stating: “My lord, if my letter were polite, it was against my intentions, and I desire your pardon for it” [MS 62 BR3/64]. Palmerston has endorsed the letter as “Not answered”. The matter of the rooms at Trinity College was later taken up by third Viscount Palmerston in a letter written in 1813 to his agent, Graves Swan, in which he requests Swan to pursue his claim to the rooms [MS 62 BR146/10/1].

Jonathan Swift held the position of dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin until his death on 19 October 1745, at the age of 77.

The Repository of Arts

Objects found in books hold a fascination for those who find them. Usually they are unrelated to the text – tickets used as bookmarks or letters placed for safekeeping; it is less common to find objects which were part of the original publication, as is the case in the Repository of Arts which contains tiny fabric samples, as colourful today as when the issues were first published in the early nineteenth century.

Fabric samples: June 1812

Fabric samples: June 1812

Published by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834), the Repository of Arts, or, to give it its full title the Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics, was the style bible of its day. A monthly magazine, running from 1809 to 1829, it covered all of the subjects listed in its title as well as providing reports on public health and agriculture. The emphasis though, was on stylish living and the magazine was designed to appeal to members of fashionable society who could afford the subscription of three shillings and sixpence, approximately £11 today.

Morning dress: February 1813

Morning dress: February 1813

The Repository had developed from Ackermann’s publishing and print-selling business, also named the Repository of Arts, which he established in the Strand in 1798. There, the early nineteenth-century equivalent of ladies (and gentlemen) who lunch could keep up to date with latest trends, acquire art supplies and prints, take tea or attend lectures in the gas-lit surroundings of what became a fashionable social centre. The magazine kept those who could not visit the Repository informed by including hand-coloured fashion plates and by providing the fabric samples. These were accompanied by suggestions of the type of garment for which the material could be used – the issue for June 1812 included a new printed cambric ‘of the mosaic pattern, calculated for morning and domestic wear’, an example of the recently introduced ‘Chinese crape’ and ‘a new lilac sarsnet for evening or full dress’.

Furniture: February 1811

Furniture: February 1811

Interior design was another feature of the magazine, with many issues having a ‘fashionable furniture’ section, or presenting ideas for room designs, such as the ‘gothic conservatory’ illustrated in the April 1813 issue. On occasions, samples of wallpaper or decorative papers were also included, the final sample in the June 1812 issue being a ‘specimen of the new embossed fancy paper, coloured in oil over a silver ground, in every shade and colour’. The amount of descriptive detail contained in the Repository makes it an important source for anyone with an interest in the aspirational fashions and interiors of the Regency period.

Gothic conservatory: April 1813

Gothic conservatory: April 1813

Ackermann is considered to be a pioneering publisher of colour-plate books, having set up a lithographic press in the Strand prior to opening the Repository. The hand-coloured aquatints in his many publications were highly valued by contemporaries. Later generations have also to thank him for the record he provided of contemporary London in his celebrated Microcosm of London, (1808-1810), in which he employed the talents of Augustus Pugin (1768/9-1832) and William Rowlandson (1757-1827).

Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics, vols.3-9 (1810-1813) Rare Books N1

Exploring protests, rebellion and revolution in the Special Collections

As part of the Explore Your Archive campaign the Special Collections team will be hosting two events. On Wednesday 22 November, there will be a drop-in session highlighting an array of material from the manuscript and printed collections relating to protests, rebellion and revolution.

Come and find out about protests and revolts, from the Peasants’ revolt of 1381 to the Swing riots in Hampshire of 1830, the Southampton Dockers’ strike of 1890 and the General Strike of 1926.  Protest groups and student activism also are represented, with material relating to groups established to combat fascism in the 1930s and 1990s, student action against apartheid, and the work of the “Women in Black”: 35s, the Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry.

Conflict at the Place Maubert

Conflict at the Place Maubert from ‘History of the Revolutions in Europe, 1848’. Supplement to the Illustrated London News (1 July 1848)

Also on display will be a range of material focusing on revolutions, including the English Civil War, the French Revolution, the wars for independence in North and South American, and the European revolutions of 1830 and 1848.

Book your ticket on Eventbrite (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/exploring-protests-rebellion-and-revolution-in-the-special-collections-tickets-39658571856) to reserve a place or feel free to drop by on the day. The event will run from 2-5pm.

There will also be an extended opening for our current exhibition ‘Between The West and Russia’ until 5pm. For further details visit: https://www.southampton.ac.uk/archives/news/events/2017/10/23-russia-exhibition.page

All are welcome! Please feel free to share. Visitors may be asked for photo ID by Library Reception staff.


The Special Collections team will also be taking part in the Hands-on Humanities day on Saturday 18 November, 1030-1630, Avenue Campus.

Extract from grant for a subscription for a trading voyage [MS62 BR4/1/1]

Extract from grant for a subscription for a trading voyage [MS62 BR4/1/1]

Can you write like scribes of old?  Why not come along and try your hand at this and other practical activities on offer.  For further information on this go to: https://www.southampton.ac.uk/per/news/events/2017/11/hands-on-humanities-day.page

The Nation mourns Princess Charlotte of Wales

On the morning of 6 November 1817, the country woke to the awful news that Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales had died after giving birth to a stillborn son.  She was just 21.  As the only legitimate grandchild of George III her death ended the line of succession and plunged the kingdom into deepest mourning.

Charlotte was the only child of the Prince of Wales, then Prince Regent (later George IV) and his wife, Caroline of Brunswick.  Her childhood was coloured by their unhappy marriage, and by their continual acrimonious disputes.  Allowed limited contact with her mother, Charlotte lived in a separate establishment, cared for by governesses and servants; but she had a warm relationship with her grandfather, George III.  Her biographer describes her as “fair and plump, bright, high spirited and boisterous” (J.S.Lewis, Oxford DNB).  She grew up to be hugely popular with the public, a bright hope for the future in contrast to the dissipation and extravagance of her father.  Her marriage to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg in May 1816 set the seal on her happiness and there were huge crowds and great celebrations in London on her wedding day.

The unexpected shock of Charlotte’s death just 18 months later swept the nation in a tide of grief.  The shops closed for two weeks.  The Royal Exchange, the Law Courts, and the docks followed suit.  The linen drapers ran out of black cloth as even the poor wore black armbands.  Popular composers of the day captured their feelings in words and music.  We can see this in a collection of sheet music held in the Special Collections at the University of Southampton.  George Kiallmark, for example, wrote: “Farewell bright Star! A tribute to the memory of her late Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte of Wales”.

The photo below shows the title page to a piece by John Parry in the same volume: “Mourn England Mourn. An elegy written and composed on the lamentable demise of Her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte of Wales.”

Title page to Mourn England Mourn, by John Parry, Rare books q M 341 SHI, Misses Shirreff collection of sheet music from late 18th to early 19th century, vol. 4

Title page to Mourn England Mourn, by John Parry, Rare books q M 341 SHI, Misses Shirreff collection of sheet music from late 18th to early 19th century, vol. 4

The words of the first verse read:

Mourn England mourn, thy lovely Rose is dead,
Its beauties faded and its fragrance shed,
Britannia’s brightest Hope, and Albion’s pride,
Fled and blighted, when Cambria’s Princess died,
What heart but feels, what breast but heaves a sigh?
What stoic seen without a tearful eye?
But ah! what must thy Parents, Husband feel?
Their grief is more than language can reveal!

Locally, the High Sheriff of Hampshire called a county meeting at Winchester to propose addresses of condolence to Prince Leopold and the Prince Regent – who were indeed grief stricken.  The latter was too prostrate to attend Charlotte’s funeral.  At the county meeting of nobility, gentry, clergy, freeholders, and other inhabitants “most respectable and numerous”, Lord Palmerston moved the address to the Prince Regent.  His words were reported in the local newspaper:

Newspaper report, 13 December 1817, MS62 BR112/11/28

Newspaper report, 13 December 1817, MS62 BR112/11/28

“Never, indeed, in the annals of our history had there existed so universal a feeling throughout the nation as that which had been excited by the loss we had lately sustained – it was felt by all, not merely as a public calamity, but with the same deep and personal affliction that follows the loss of a near and dear relation. The career of the Princess Charlotte had indeed been short; but in that short course she had in a most remarkable degree conciliated the affections and gained the esteem of the people; with all those milder virtues and gentler qualities which more peculiarly belong to and adorn her sex… she combined a vigour of intellect, and a masculine energy of mind that eminently qualified her for the high station which we had fondly hoped she was one day destined to fill…”

But while the public sympathised, the public also blamed. Charlotte had died after the ordeal of a fifty-hour labour.  While the Prince Regent refused to blame Sir Richard Croft – the accoucheur responsible for Charlotte’s care – many others did, and three months after the death of the Princess, he committed suicide.  These tragic deaths were to lead to significant changes in obstetric practices in the future.

Lock of hair of Princess Charlotte, 1799 MS69/4/2

Lock of hair of Princess Charlotte, 1799 MS69/4/2

Two other items held in the Special Collections show us a glimpse of Princess Charlotte. The first, is a lock of her hair, with its original wrapper, dated 1799, MS69/4/2.  Charlotte was born on 7 January 1796, and would have been a small child when this was cut.  In Victorian times it was popular to keep locks of hair from loved ones, and hair jewellery was very fashionable. This clipping may have been given to Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, as a memento after her death. It survives amongst the papers of Christopher Collins, who was for many years the personal confidential servant to the Duke.

Lord Wellington's March, by Princess Charlotte MS 69/4/24

An extract from ‘Lord Wellington’s March’, by Princess Charlotte MS 69/4/24

The Collins archive also includes a manuscript copy of a piece of music called ‘Lord Wellington’s March’. A note on the colourful title page states: “Composed by Her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte of Wales.”  Charlotte was an accomplished pianist and this piece is scored for piano. It is a rousing march in honour of the hero of Waterloo – bright and energetic, much like its young composer.

Click on the link below to hear an arrangement played by the Band of the Welsh Guards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uNqWu49xO0

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales 1796-1817.

Balfour Declaration 100

2 November 2017 marks the centenary of the letter sent by Arthur Balfour, the Foreign Secretary, to Lord Rothschild, setting out the British government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This Balfour Declaration could be seen as constituting a first step in achieving the objective of political Zionism that had been outlined by the First Zionist Congress in Basle in 1897, namely “Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law.”

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The motives behind this decision were various. Aside from a belief in the righteousness of the Zionist cause, it has been suggested that British leaders hoped the declaration would help gain Jewish support for the allies in neutral countries, such as in the United States of America or Russia.  Great Britain and France were mired in a stalemate with Germany on the western front by 1917 and all efforts to defeat the Turks had failed.  They feared that the war might be fought to a draw.  Lloyd George also had come to see British dominance in Palestine as an essential post-war aim and felt that the establishment of a Zionist state, under its protection, would accomplish this.

The text of the declaration reads as follows:

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.

His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Yours,

Arthur James Balfour

Among the Special Collections, the collection MS 144 contains papers relating to the Balfour Committee, formed for the purpose of convening a conference of Anglo-Jewry to consider means of furthering the policy laid down in the Balfour Declaration. The collection contains a book of committee minutes, dating from 17 Dec 1917 – 26 Oct 1918; correspondence of A.M.Hyamson, honorary secretary of the committee, 1917-18, including correspondence with Dr Israel Abrahams; together with statements for the press, drafts of heads of scheme, and copies of memoranda, including proposals for Jewish settlement of Palestine, some signed by members of the committee.

Netley and the Gothic

With this year marking the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen and Halloween being almost upon us, we explore the gothic ruins of Netley Abbey – the inspiration for many a literary endeavour…

Lying on the eastern bank of Southampton Water, Netley Abbey is one of the best surviving Cistercian abbeys in England. The abbey was founded in 1238 by Peter des Roches, the Bishop of Winchester, shortly before his death. The following year a colony of monks arrived from nearby Beaulieu Abbey (founded by King John in 1203). Netley was dedicated in 1246 and, following its completion, was home to about 15 monks and 30 lay brothers, officials, and servants. Henry III became a patron in 1251, bringing great wealth to the abbey.

Netley Abbey Overgrown

Netley Abbey Overgrown

The dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII brought monastic life at Netley to an end. Following its seizure in 1536 the buildings were granted to Sir William Paulet, a loyal Tudor politician, who converted them into a mansion. The abbey was used as a country house until the early 18th century, after which it was abandoned. At this time much of the brickwork added by Paulet was removed to be used for building materials. The site then fell into neglect, becoming overgrown with trees and ivy.

In time, the site came to be celebrated as a romantic ruin, eventually becoming a tourist attraction and providing inspiration to writers and artists of the Romantic Movement, including John Constable, Thomas Gray, and Horace Walpole. The latter wrote that “they are not the ruins of Netley, but of Paradise”. It is also believed that Jane Austen drew inspiration from the abbey for her Gothic parody Northanger Abbey.

Visitors at Netley Abbey

Visitors at Netley Abbey

Among the numerous other visitors was Mary, Viscountess Palmerston, who recorded her visit in a letter to her husband, the second Viscount, on 6 August 1788:

On Monday we set off from Southampton at ten in an open boat as there was not wind enough to allow of our making use of the cutter. Our party, the Hatsells, Sloane, Stephen, Maria, Captain Southerby, Mr Ballaird and a Mr and Mrs Barton great friends of the D’Oyleys, and in truth in that consists all their merit, for I have not often seen more disagreeable people. We had a most delightful row to Governor Hornby. I think you have been there and I dare say admire the situation which is in my opinion in point of view superior to anything in this country. We went on board the yatch which lies at anchor in the Hamble River which is certainly a most complete vessel. We then row’d up to Netley where we had a most elegant dinner, Sloane having sent his cook to prepare our repast, and in the cool of the evening we repair’d to the Abby which considering every circumstance of the trees, the emannance of the ivy, the beautiful state and the situation of the ruins please me more than any I ever saw. We drank tea in the abby and came home by land. I return’d to Broadlands that night.
[MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR 11/13/1]

The Cope collection contains a range of material relating to Netley Abbey, including early guidebooks, poems, a novel, and even an opera. Evidence of its popularity can also be found in the wealth of visual material among the collection.

Two of earliest items are poems. The Ruins of Netley Abby: a Poem, in Blank Verse: to which is Prefixed A Short Account of that Monastery, from its First Foundation, Collected from the Best Authority was printed in 1765. This anonymous history and poem was published during the early years of Netley’s fame and creates a vivid image of a haunted Gothic ruin:

Though claps of thunder rock and tottering pile,
And the swift lightning’s oft repeated flash
Glance through the window with its fading fire—
Or if some meteor in the great expanse,
With streaming flame o’erhand the shaggy top,
Casting a glare amid the foliage wild,
That spreads romantic o’er the abby walls—
Though from some dark recess with ghastly stare,
An airy troop of pale cold shiv’ring ghosts
Should lightly skim along the lonesome void,
By the blue vaporing lamp here let him sit,
Or by the twinkling glow-worm’s yellow light,
Behold the hour-glass ebb, and grain by brain
The trickling sand descend; whilst o’er his head
Along the broken structure hoar and rough
The moping scriech-owl, fatal bird of night,
Claps ominous her wings, foreboding death.
[The ruins of Netley Abby : a poem, in blank verse (Rare Books Cope NET 26)]

Netley Abbey, an Elegy by George Keate (1729–97) was first published in 1764, with a second expanded edition appearing in 1769. Keate was a poet, naturalist, antiquary, and artist, best known for his poem The Alps, a Poem which was praised for its “truth of description and vigour of imagination.” In his Netley poem he sets a melancholy mood as he provides topographic descriptions of the abbey alongside moral reflections:

I hail at last these shades, this well-known wood,
That skirts with verdant slope the barren strand,
Where Netley’s ruins, bordering on the flood,
Forlorn in melancholy greatness stand.

How changed, alas! From the revered abode,
Graced by proud majesty in ancient days,
When monks recluse these sacred pavements trod,
And taught the unlettered world its maker’s praise!

Now sunk, deserted, and with weeds o’ergrown,
Yon prostrate walls their harder fate bewail;
Low on the ground their topmost spires are thrown,
Once friendly marks to guide the wandering sail.

[…]

Oh! Trust not, then, the force of radiant eyes,
Those short-lived glories of your sportive band;
Pleased with its stars, through laughing morn arise,
A steadier beam meridian skies demand!

Reflect, ere, victor of each lovely frame,
Time bids the external fleeting grace fade,
’Tis Reason’s base supports the noblest claim,
’Tis sense preserves the conquests Beauty made.
[Netley Abbey, an Elegy (Rare Books Cope NET 26)]

The second edition of the poem increased the number of stanzas from 26 to 50 and can be found reprinted with John Bullar’s Visit to Netley Abbey (discussed further below).

Netley Abbey: a Gothic Story, Richard Warner (Rare Books Cope NET 81 WAR)

Netley Abbey: a Gothic Story, Richard Warner (Rare Books Cope NET 81 WAR)

Richard Warner’s novel Netley Abbey: a Gothic Story was published in two volumes in 1795. Warner (1763–1857) was a clergyman and writer, particularly of books on topographical and antiquarian topics. Netley Abbey, his first publication, recounts the adventures of Edward de Villars, the son of Baron de Villars, a loyal servant of Edward I. The Baron is banished from the court of Edward II after which he and his family relocate to the estate of Sir Hildebrand Warren near Netley Abbey. Edward receives a supernatural warning about sinister events taking place in the area and proceeds to encounter a host of gothic characters, including plotting villains, rescued captives, ghostly apparitions, and a mysterious black knight. The novel is formulaic and contains many of the gothic tropes and plot devices established in The Castle of Otranto. However, it does differ in the fact that, unlike Walpole and Matthew Lewis, Warner employs a real place. Matthew Woodworth notes that “it is the abbey’s architecture – the style of ruined Gothic itself – that is the most threatening character of all, constantly drenched in the menace of full moonlight.” It was the likes of Warner’s work that helped turn Netley into “a pivotal monument of the Georgian Zeitgeist.”

Given the popularity of the site as a tourist destination, guidebooks inevitable followed. A prominent example is John Bullar’s A companion in a visit to Netley Abbey, first published in 1800. Keate’s elegy can be found annexed to the early editions of the guidebook, with an advertisement in the volume noting that: “When first Mr Keate published his elegy entitled Netley Abbey, he prefixed to it a short sketch of the history of the foundation. In the present publication, that account has been considerably enlarged; and such other additions have been made, as to render it a Guide to those who may visit these beautifully situated ruins.” [A companion in a visit to Netley Abbey, John Bullar (Rare Books Cope NET 26)]. Running into nine editions, the guidebook provides topographical details, along with a history of the abbey, a number of vignettes, and a ground plan of the site.

Inside view of Netley Abbey

Inside view of Netley Abbey

The extremes and common tropes of the Gothic tradition made it rich territory for satire. William Pearce’s Netley Abbey: an operatic farce in two acts pokes fun at the fashion for visiting Gothics ruins, as well as the recreation of ruins (in the form of follys) on the lands of the aristocracy. The plot follows the exploits of Oakland, his daughter, Lucy, and his son, Captain Oakland, the latter of who wishes to marry the impoverished Ellen Woodbine. It transpires that Oakland is being defrauded by his agent, Rapine, who is also responsible for the fire that destroyed the Woodbine estate. The tale culminates in the Rapine being exposed and the lovers being united against the backdrop of Netley Abbey. First performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, in 1794, Paul Rice notes that the portrayal of the ruins of the abbey on stage in the final scene was “highly evocative and gained much audience approval.”

Netley Abbey, Thomas Ingoldsby (Rare Books Cope quarto NET 26)]

Netley Abbey, Thomas Ingoldsby (Rare Books Cope quarto NET 26)]

Netley Abbey by Thomas Ingoldsby was first published as part of The Ingoldsby legends, or, Mirth and marvels in the 1840s. The name Thomas Ingoldsby was the pseudonym for the Reverend Richard Harris Barham (1788-1845). A writer, as well as a clergyman, he was best known for his series of myths, legends, ghost stories and poems. While his writings were based on traditional legends, Ingoldsby’s versions contain strong elements of satire and parody – with Netley Abbey being no exception:

And yet, fair Netley, as I gaze
Upon that grey and mouldering wall,
The glories of thy palmy days
Its very stones recall!–
They ‘come like shadows, so depart’–
I see thee as thou wert — and art –

Sublime in ruin!– grand in woe!
Lone refuge of the owl and bat;
No voice awakes thine echoes now!
No sound — Good Gracious!– what was that?
Was it the moan,
The parting groan
Of her who died forlorn and alone,
Embedded in mortar, and bricks, and stone?–
Full and clear On my listening ear
It comes–again–near, and more near–
Why ‘zooks! it’s the popping of Ginger Beer!
[Netley Abbey, Thomas Ingoldsby (Rare Books Cope quarto NET 26)]

The 1889 edition in the Cope collection was published posthumously with the poem accompanied by lithographic illustrations by Enest M. Jessop.

During the 20th century, changing attitudes led to the clearing of the vegetation and debris from the abbey ruins. All traces of the later alterations were removed, and the ruins were returned to their pristine state. The abbey is now an English Heritage site and continues to draw a large number of visitors every year. As part of the events for Jane Austen 200 there will be a series of lantern Halloween ghost walks at the abbey from 30 October to 1 November. Further details can be found at: https://www.sarahsiddonsfanclub.org/events/a-mystery-of-a-horrible-nature-lantern-halloween-ghost-walk/

Between The West and Russia exhibition

Between The West and Russia

Drawing on the Special Collections at Southampton, this exhibition will consider the interconnection between the West and Russia.

It will look at ideas from earlier revolutions that supported the development of ideologies that ultimately could be seen to set the basis for the rise of communism, as well as the influence of the communist government in Russia on the left in the West.

The exhibition also looks at perceptions of Russia from the West from before the Revolution. From charts of the seventeenth century to photographs of the early twentieth century, we gain a snapshot of general impressions of westerners of the Russian empire.

Image of Palais Nicholas, Moscow, 1907 [MS62 Broadlands Archive MB2/C6]

Image of Palais Nicholas, Moscow, 1907 [MS62 Broadlands Archive MB2/C6]

The response of the western Jewish community to reports of the anti-Semitic attacks against the Jewish population in Russia in 1905 forms a particular case study. And the dynastic and familial connections between the Russian Imperial family and western dynasties are evident in photographs in the Broadlands Archive on display that provide a more informal glimpse of the Imperial family.

Photograph of the Tsarevich aged about one year [MS62 Broadlands Archive MB2/C5/240]

Photograph of the Tsarevich aged about one year [MS62 Broadlands Archive MB2/C5/240]

The exhibition will open on 23 October and run until 15 December 2017 in the Special Collections Gallery.  During exhibitions the Gallery is open weekdays 1000-1600 (with a closure for lunch 1200-1230).

Reading Readers in the Special Collections

In this week’s blog post Jennifer Scott, a PhD candidate in the English Department, examines a unique copy of Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Goal held in the Special Collections.

There is something undeniably thrilling about handling an early or rare edition of a much-loved work of literature. An even greater thrill of working with Special Collections, however, sometimes comes from an unexpected discovery. The Hartley Library’s copy of The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde – a copy of the fourth edition of this work from 1898 – was, for me, one of those discoveries, holding between its covers a special collection of its very own.

The book is inscribed ‘R. Bruce Boswell 1898’ and has been treated as a kind of scrapbook. Pasted throughout, on the blank verso sides of the pages alongside the text, as well as on the book’s inside covers, are numerous contemporary newspaper clippings, many of which have been marked and dated in the owner’s hand. The clippings concern Oscar Wilde himself, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, the impending publication of De Profundis in 1905, and debates surrounding penal reform. Boswell’s careful collation of these clippings, as well as his written comments, show a reader forming links between the reports of the press and Wilde’s own poetic description of his prison experience.

Examining Boswell’s pencil markings, which range from ambiguous crosses and question marks to more revealing statements and questions, one gains a sense of a reader who was sceptical of Wilde’s account and of his views – a reader who even had the gall to correct some of Wilde’s most famous lines, changing ‘Each man kills the thing he loves’ to ‘Each man may kill the thing he loves’ and replacing ‘The brave man with a sword’ with ‘The bravo with a sword’!

Yet, one may also discover a reader willing to thoroughly engage with Wilde’s text and open-minded enough to also highlight some consistencies between Wilde’s account and those reported in the papers.

Remarkably, Boswell is not the only reader to have left their mark on this book either. A second reader, identifiable only as E.G.C., has responded to comments by Boswell, showing debates about penal reform, and Wilde’s place within it, to have transcended public spaces such as courtrooms and the House of Commons, and to have also occurred more privately.

This book provides a unique glimpse of some of the ways in which ordinary readers responded to Wilde and his poem following his release from prison in 1897. Despite Wilde’s name being too cloaked in scandal to appear on the ballad until 1899, Boswell’s copy reveals just how open the secret of its authorship was.

The first six editions of The Ballad of Reading Gaol bore only Wilde’s cell number, C.3.3.

The first six editions of The Ballad of Reading Gaol bore only Wilde’s cell number, C.3.3.

Furthermore, it reveals the human complexity of Wilde’s readership, which did not fall, as it is so easy to imagine, into black and white categories of supporters and detractors. The marginalia of R. Bruce Boswell and E.G.C. rather exhibit a developing engagement with this text that was influenced by both public and private debate.

I first wrote about this book in my MA thesis in 2010. I am now studying for a PhD and recently revisited the book for a conference paper, which I delivered at the British Association for Victorian Studies (BAVS) Annual conference on 23 August 2017.