Romantic Circles Gallery
The Reliques of Father Prout - Rogueries of Tom Moore
The image shows a young man in profile, lying with his eyes closed, knees slightly bent, on a bed with its curtain pushed to one side. In front, next to the bed, a book lies open, face-down, on the floor. On the left side, occupying approximately one third of the picture, a half open window is depicted. This window looks out onto the countryside, including a far-off church, some trees, and the distant hills.
Copyright 2009, Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Thordarson T 3674 Vol. 1.
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Marks DescriptionA loose page enclosed in the book suggests that it has been bought from G.A. Baker & Co., Inc. Old and Rare Books, Autographs, 144 East 59th Street, New York, probably in 1905 (which I take from a pencil note on the first page).
Edition and StateFirst edition
Printing ContextThe drawing appears in Volume 1 of a two-volume first edition; this description is cited from the supplemental sheet: ‘full crimson levant morocco, backs richly gilt, sides with panels formed by broad gilt bands enclosing marginal floral designs, inside gilt uncut, in the manner of Roger Payne, by Riviere. Mahony, Francis, The Reliques of Father Prout, late P.P. of Watergrasshill, in the County of York, Ireland. Collected and arranged by Oliver Yorke, London, 1836.' The engraving appears twice on two consecutive pages, one directly following the text, the other located in the middle of the next page with no inscription. In order to create shades for the illustrated objects, a technique of accumulating lines of the same thickness is used, which suggests that it is a line etching. The illustration does not have a frame, but its border is shaped like an octagon. Notice that the book lying on the floor in front of the bed escapes the border by a few millimeters. The images were created at the beginning of Maclise’s career in London, probably as a commission work.
Associated EventsIn the mid-1830s Daniel Maclise made his name in London as a portraitist of literary and other widely known contemporary people. Between 1830 and 1836 he mainly published his works in Fraser's Magazine, to which he contributed eighty-one lithographed drawings of literary or political figures. Parts of The Reliques of Father Prout were published in Fraser's. In 1840 Maclise became a member of the Royal Academy.
Associated PlacesMaclise went back to Ireland, where he stayed at the Imperial Hotel in Cork, to draw rural landscape scenes for Mahony’s The Reliques of Father Prout. It is uncertain whether he also drew the discussed image in Cork or in London.
SubjectThis illustration accompanies a sharp and accusatory obituary of Henry O'Brien (1808-1835), and is intended as a critique of the ‘Royal Irish twaddlers’ (The Rogueries 262). It appears in a witty and obscure volume that is made up of the collected writings of Francis Mahony.
ThemeDepiction of a dead young man, presented with his obituary
SignificanceThe Rogueries of Tom Moore is a witty text about a fictional character who is closely connected to the Irish author Henry O’Brien (The Round Towers of Ireland, published 1834). Censorship and common perceptions of the church are challenged and mocked in a very elaborate way. A sharply satirical obituary of Henry O’Brien (1808-1835) follows the story. The young man is depicted peacefully lying on a bed, accompanied only by a book. The window invokes the old belief that the soul should be allowed to depart through such an open aperture. Death is not obvious in the image, and one has to read the accompanying text to know that the young man has died. It can be argued that the unexplained nature of the man's death makes the viewer want to read the text.
Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that Maclise, early in his career, had already met the antiquary and coin collector Richard Sainthill (1787–1870). According to John Turpin, Sainthill ‘became his most important early patron: he gave Maclise the use of a room as a studio in his house in Nelson Place, and introduced him to antiquarian and Romantic literature’ (J. Turpin, “Maclise Daniel”, ODNB). Consequently, it is difficult to make general assumptions concerning the The Reliques’ readership. The book’s reprint in a new edition in 1870 allows us to believe that it had gained a certain popularity, but neither the preface to the first edition nor the one to the new edition addresses a particular readership. In his book, The English Common Reader, Robert D. Altick points out that the term ‘the reading public’ has always been used ‘elastically,’ and that one should feel obliged to differentiate between a ‘mass’ readership—later called ‘the million’ by the Victorians in general—and a small, ‘intellectually and socially superior audience’ that distinguished itself from the former. The latter, Altick further argues, is the audience for whom authors like Macaulay, the Brontës, or George Eliot most likely intended their own work. Atlick’s ‘common reader’ was usually a member of the working class more interested in newspapers (like the ‘Illustrated Times’) or popular books (like Tristram Shandy or Gil Blas) (Atlick, The Common Reader 7-12). The Reliques seems to have been a book that served both appetites. Its witty compilation of shorter and longer entries on everyday concerns; its scandalous author, Oliver Yorke, who speaks first of Father Prout's death and so immediately references the author's true identity as a former priest (the Reverend Mahony); as well as its many illustrations, could be taken as evidence for a wider, and perhaps mixed, readership. In terms of the gallery’s theme of death—and as many scholars of the English Gothic genre point out—there was a certain hunger for scandal and shock amongst a wider reader- and spectatorship of the early nineteenth century (see Gothic Tales). Consequently, Oliver Yorke starts his preface with the following sentence: ‘It is much to be regretted that our Author should be no longer in the land of the living, to furnish a general Preamble, explanatory of the scope and tendency of his multifarious writings.’ It was probably clear to a nineteenth-century audience that Father Prout was the alter ego of Reverend Mahony, and that the book was a mockery of the church’s false virtues. However, the introduction leaves the reader with a certain uncanny feeling, at least with those who do not immediately recognize Father Prout's identity. In any case, the introduction uses the pervasive fascination with death to create interest in the book, a strategy which is also evident in certain illustrations, such as those depicting the dead Henry O’Brien or young Prout (see the frontispiece of the book's second volume).
FunctionThe image functions as a supplement to the obituary, which loosely follows the story ‘The Rogueries of Tom Moore.' It not only provokes a curiosity in the text itself, but also functions as an interpretation of how the artist imagined the man’s death.
BibliographyAltick, D. Richard. The English Common Reader, a Social History of Mass Reading Public 1800-1900. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
Lee, Sidney. “Mahony, Francis Sylvester (1804–1866).” Rev. D. E. Latané, Jr.. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. 20 Mar. 2009. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/17800.
"Francis Sylvester Mahony." Encyclopedia Britannica. 11th ed. Vol. 17. N.p.: Horace Everett Hooper, 1911. 424. Online Encyclopedia. Net Industries. Web. 20 Mar. 2009. http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/LUP_MAL/MAHONY_FRANCIS_SYLVESTER_18o4_1.html.
Turpin, John. “Maclise, Daniel (bap. 1806, d. 1870).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. 20 Mar. 2009 http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/17682. (in the text referred to as ODNB, online)