Monthly Archives: October 2017

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/

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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.

Ask an Archivist Day: Responding to enquiries

Archivists and curators of Special Collections possess a detailed knowledge of the collections in their care and are always delighted to share this. To mark Ask an Archivist Day we provide a brief breakdown of the process involved in responding to researcher enquiries…

Enquiries come by four main routes: by email, phone, via post, or in person. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these days the majority of enquiries we receive are by email. The Archives inbox is managed on a rota, with Archivists taking turns in dealing with enquiries. However, if there is a large volume they will be shared out among the team. Enquiries come from a range of users both national and international, including students, scholars, educators, authors, family historians, genealogists, and filmmakers. The nature of enquiries can vary dramatically and they continually highlight the richness of the resources housed in Special Collections. While some enquiries can take minutes to process, others can take significantly longer. Below are examples of two relatively straightforward enquiries: one relating to a broad topic and the other with a more specific focus.

Enquiry #1: I’ve found material relating to the slave trade listed on the Wellington Papers Database. What other material do you have on the slave trade in the 19th century?

The topic of slavery and the slave trade is covered by both our manuscript and Printed Special Collections. Turning first to the manuscript collections, material can be found among the papers of two nineteenth-century politicians: those of the first Duke of Wellington (MS 61) and of third Viscount Palmerston (MS 62).

Searching the Palmerston Papers Database

Searching the Palmerston Papers Database

As was noted by the researcher, material on the topic can be found listed on the Wellington Papers Database. The database contains item level descriptions of material from the collection, enabling the researcher to narrow their focus to specific letters or documents. Meanwhile, a look at the catalogue for the Palmerston Papers shows there is a series of letters and papers relating to slavery and the slave trade (MS 62 PP/SLT) among the Papers on Foreign Affairs. Having identified these, a search of the Palmerston Papers Database highlights other parts of the collection containing material on the topic. Again, the database contains item level descriptions for identifying relevant documents.

It is now time to turn to the Printed Special Collections. Two collections immediately spring to mind: the Oates collection and the Wellington pamphlets. The Oates collection contains over 220 books and pamphlets on the West Indies and the abolition of slavery, dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. While the Wellington pamphlets cover a broader range of topics, the pamphlets on the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies complement those held in the Oates Collection.

An address to the inhabitants of Europe on the iniquity of the slave trade [Rare Books HT 1322]

An address to the inhabitants of Europe on the iniquity of the slave trade [Rare Books HT 1322]

Material from both of these collections can be searched on WebCat, the library’s online catalogue. As with the manuscript databases, this will help the researcher identify particular items relevant to their research. Additionally, a selection of pamphlets from the Oates collection have been digitised and can be accessed remotely on the Internet Archive.

On replying to the researcher’s enquiry, they are invited to visit to consult the collections and access details are provided.

Enquiry #2: My grandfather was a student at the university sometime between 1900 and 1905. Can you provide me with further details?

This is quite a specific enquiry and relates directly to a single manuscript collection: MS 1 Records of the University of Southampton. The first step is to examine the collection’s catalogue for listings of material relating to students covering the date range provided. PDF versions of catalogues for each collection are available to download on the Special Collections website.

Consulting the paper catalogues

Consulting the paper catalogues

At this point, it should be noted that the University manuscript collection does not contain personnel files for individual members of staff or students. However, a quick search of the catalogue provides a number of potential resources:

MS 1/3/476/3/1 Record of students, 1870-1900

MS 1/3/476/2/5 Register of students of the day training department, 1899-1915

MS 1/3/476/2/6 University examination results, arranged alphabetically by student name, 1905-36

Now it’s time to have a look at the records in the strongrooms! A location guide provides details of where items from the collections are located as there are several kilometres of shelving to navigate.

Accessing material in the strongrooms

Accessing material in the strongrooms

A search of the first volume doesn’t yield any results. The dates covered are possibly too early. The second volume, however, does contain an entry for the individual. Having graduated in 1905 their examination results are also listed in the third volume. As the individual is deceased, data protection rules do not apply and a response it sent to the researcher. They are invited to visit to consult the material themselves or, if they prefer, to order copies of the records (for the purposes of private study and research) through our reprographics service.

So please feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding our collections or service. We are always happy to hear from users! Contact details can be found on our website at: https://www.southampton.ac.uk/archives/contact.page