Collins Research Based ExtensionPresentation Transcript
Research-Based Extension:Wilkie Collins’The Lady of Glenwith Grange
Overview of the Interpretive Problem How reliable is the story we receive from Kerby? It seems strange to introduce distance between himself and the source of the story, why does he tell us the story within the framework of his outing with Garthwaite? Collins’ narrator leaves room for some interpretation of his experiences and gives evidence for several possible motives behind his retelling of the story.
Generating Research Topics From Collins’ The Lady of Glenwith Grange What does Collins own biography tell us about his relationship to the narrator? As the narrator, in what ways and why might Kerby be biased? Who is Kerby? How do his social position, culture, and personality apply to his status as a narrator? Wilkie Collins (1824-1889)
Wilkie Collins Biography: the pertinent parts Catherine Peters, Wilkie Collins: The King of Inventors. 1991 Minerva Press Son of Royal Academician artist William Collins Apprenticed to tea merchant, also studied law After his father died he wrote Memoirs of the Life of William Collins, Esq., R.A. (1848) Considered being a painter, exhibited piece at Royal Academy summer exhibition (1849) published novel Antonina (1850), solidified writing career
Who is Kerby? What are the traits of his character? Where is he coming from? He is educated, but socially he is of the Middle Class His wife has connections to the Upper Class His livelihood depends upon the Patronage of the Wealthy
Topics For Further Research Who was funding artists in the Victorian period? What sort of education/prospects did Victorian artists have? How did artists fit into the Victorian Class system? How does all of this relate to what we know about the author himself?
Victorian Painters The Royal Academy of Arts defined the quality of art in the Victorian period Some artists were successful enough at their craft to be knighted by Queen Victoria (like Sir George on the left) While others of the same profession defined the image of the starving artist Sir George Hayter, self portrait 1843
Research Source Clara Erskine Clement and Laurence Hutton's Artists of the Nineteenth Century and Their Works. 9th edition revised. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1897. Adapted by Professor George P. Landow. Royal Academy of Arts regulated the teaching of artists,and defined art in England Royal Academy divided into Academicians (painters, sculptors, architects, and engravers), Associates, and Associate Engravers Artists whose works show “sufficient merit” are permitted to contribute to its exhibitions; exhibitors are eligible to election as Associates, chosen by the Academicians at an annual meeting. Academy operates under the direction and protection of Royalty
Textual Evidence Supporting Research Extension “My practice in the art of portrait-painting, if it has done nothing else, has at least fitted me to turn my talents (such as they are) to a great variety of uses.” (p 1) One morning, when I had but little more than half done my unwelcome task, my friend and I were met on our way to the bull's stable by the farm-bailiff, who informed us gravely that 'Thunder and Lightning' was just then in such an especially surly state of temper as to render it quite unsafe for me to think of painting him. (p 1) The sarcastic tone in these two quotes points to the narrator’s disdain for the subject of his exalted art
In Addition… The Royal Academy was obviously an institution which had a great deal of control over art in the Victorian age They trained artists, decided who was talented, and even decided what was art in the first place This sort of hierarchal system amongst artists explains why an artist such as Kerby might be concerned with social connections
Victorian Art Patrons Altholz, Josef P. "There Began to Be a Great Talking about the Fine Arts," The Mind and Art of Victorian England, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis (1976), 124-45, 188-92. Art public became increasingly democratized in Victorian England. "Patronage is now not solely in the sovereignty of the state or in the power of the church, but in the hands of the people. Palaces and churches in these days call for fewer pictures than the private dwellings of merchants and manufacturers" ([J. B. Atkinson], "Pictures British and Foreign: International Exhibition," Blackwood's 92 (1862): 360.) “movement of patronage downward in the social scale had major effects upon the nature of the painter's audience, his relation to it, and the kind of art he consequently produced.”
Textual Evidence Supporting Research Extension “I have not only taken the likenesses of men, women, and children, but have also extended the range of my brush, under stress of circumstances, to horses, dogs, houses, and in one case even to a bull -- the terror and glory of his parish, and the most truculent sitter I ever had. ” (p 1)
In Addition… The change in patronage resulted in many painters moving from religious or royal subjects to those far more mundane After being trained and educated as a painter it would be frustrating to turn one’s hand to subjects which are less than worthy When one associates one’s social standing with one’s work, where does a lower style of art leave its artist?
Victorian Class System Hobsbawm, Eric. Industry and Empire: The Birth of the Industrial Revolution. rev. ed. New York: New Press, 1999. People are separated into upper, middle, working, and lower classes The lowest class was composed of the deserving and the undeserving (criminal) poor There is no such thing as social security, if a man could not make his own livelihood society ignored him
Continued… Middle and Upper classes are quite small compared to working class There is some mobility for the middle class (but social climbers are resented by the upper class) The upper class is very attached to ideals/rules of behavior for a “lady” or a “gentleman” Romantic ideals of nobility remain popular
Textual Evidence Supporting Research Extention “a gentleman-farmer named Garthwaite, a distant connection of my wife's family.” (p 1) “Her name is Miss Welwyn; but she is less formally known among the poor people about here, who love her dearly, and honour her almost superstitiously, as the Lady of Glenwith Grange.” (p 2) “When I have said that he inherited a very large fortune, amassed during his father's time, by speculations of a very daring, very fortunate, but not always very honourable kind, and that he bought this old house with the notion of raising his social position, by making himself a member of our landed aristocracy in these parts, I have told you as much about him, I suspect, as you would care to hear. He was a thoroughly commonplace man, with no great virtues and no great vices in him.” (p 5)
More Quotes… “I cannot say that I remember anything more of her than that she was tall and handsome, and very generous and sweet-tempered towards me when I was in her company. She was her husband's superior in birth, as in everything else… All her friends, as I have heard, were disappointed when she married Mr. Welwyn, rich as he was; and were afterwards astonished to find her preserving the appearance, at least, of being perfectly happy with a husband who, neither in mind nor heart, was worthy of her.”(5-6)
Evaluation of Sources It is always important to understand the source of one’s information, after all one’s argument is only as solid as the evidence upon which it stands. I relied mainly upon JSTOR and the Victorian Web for my articles. Always look for peer reviewed articles when using electronic document sources Trust websites that end in .edu, .org, or .gov Wikipedia can be useful for a basic overview or quick familiarization, but do not trust the details!