Richmond Castle, from the River Swale
360.—Richmond Castle, from the River Swale, placed in the bottom left corner of page eighty nine, depicts the castle as seen from the banks of the Swale river. A bridge extends from the right side of the image over a smoothly flowing river; a small village of white, peak-roofed houses sits on the left bank, and continues up the hill to the distant castle. The hill is accented with shrubs and tall trees. Richmond Castle itself boasts one large, intact tower, while the rest of the towers and walls appear to be in advanced stages of decay.
Copyright 2009, Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
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This image first appeared bound in Knight’s Old England: A Pictorial Museum of Regal, Ecclesiastical, Municipal, Baronial, and Popular Antiquities (London, 1845).
Charles Knight (1791–1873)
Charles Knight was the editor and author of the first volume of Old England: A Pictorial Museum of Regal, Ecclesiastical, Municipal, Baronial, and Popular Antiquities, publishing the first editions under his printing house, Charles Knight and Co. The publisher, James Sangster, purchased the copyright and stereotype plates of the engravings after the initial 1845 and 1846 editions, and (according to correspondences between Sangster and Knight ) made reprints of the volumes prior to 1867 (Editorial Responsibility 3-5).
The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (SDUK)
The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, founded in 1826, was the brainchild of Lord Henry Broughman. This utilitarian organization imagined mass adult education to be the solution to the social turmoil among the English working class. Driven by the ideal that “Knowledge is Power,” they supported the production of inexpensive but reliable reading materials on a variety of subjects to meet this aim. Eventually, the SDUK came across the work of Charles Knight, who expressed similar opinions on equal access to knowledge in his piece for the Plain Englishmen (1823), “Diffusion of Useful Knowledge” (Anderson, "Charles Knight" 165). Knight and the SDUK began a joint venture to establish a public library, but the project failed as a result of financial instability in the publishing industry. In 1827, after near-bankruptcy, Knight began to work for the organization as an editor.
The Penny Magazine (1832-46)
Knight founded The Penny Magazine following his reestablishment as an independent publisher in 1829. He received the backing of the SDUK in March 1832 and began printing by the end of the month. Knight reused printing machinery from another publishing endeavor, The Library of Entertaining Knowledge, to produce efficiently his low-cost magazine. The periodical covered a wide range of subjects, including art criticism, science, history and geography, and became very popular among its target audience, those "many persons whose time and whose means are equally limited" (Anderson, "Pictures for the People" 53). It reached 200,000 copies by the end of the year. For Knight and the SDUK, the magazine was a means of combating the social disorder of the time through general education (Anderson, "Pictures for the People" 50-53).
In this image, situated in the bottom left corner of the page, Richmond Castle is perceived from an enchanting spot along the River Swale. While highlighting the link between a knowledge of the history of medieval Britain and the construction of political unity, this view introduces the element of domestic tourism, a popular pastime of the Romantic period.
In Passages from the Life of Charles Knight—the abridged, American version of Knight’s three-volume autobiography, Passages of a Working Life during Half a Century: with a Prelude of Early Reminisces—Knight describes his “awakening feeling for the preservation of our historical monuments,” intending to fire a similar appreciation in working class citizens (429). In contrast with the other views of Richmond and its castle in this plate, this scenic perspective invites the viewer to imagine him or herself viewing the castle from the banks of the Swale River. William Gilpin similarly intended his tours of various parts of the British Isles to be accessible to all. Kim Michisaw interprets Gilpin's use of landscapes as an attempt to give the viewer entry into the illusionistic, picturesque spaces of images (84-86).
Eighteenth-century England sought to unite the diverse peoples of the British Isles by drawing upon a common historical heritage. Anne Janowitz notes how British national identity became intricately associated with nature itself: the physical remains of centuries-old architecture in the British countryside were seen as tangible evidence of a common history and thus of contemporary political unity. Furthermore, the picturesque aesthetic which developed later in the century glorified decayed structures from the medieval period because they had been subsumed into the land: stained, overrun, and rent by insects and vegetation (Ruskin qtd. in Lowenthal: 157). Consequently, in that medieval ruins were associated with the picturesque qualities of the British countryside and were identified as markers of historical continuity, inculcating an appreciation of these ruins in the masses seemed an ideal way to unify and educate them.
Knight’s article in the London Magazine clarified his opinion regarding the need “to provide adequate excitements, and reasonable gratifications, for the intellectual activity of the working classes” and their children (Education of the People 3). The sciences, history, and geography were the primary subjects of focus. But the arts featured prominently as well, evidenced by his frequent inclusion of copies of artworks from antiquity and contemporary times. These art objects were often used as illustrations for moral lessons (Anderson, Pictures for the People 137). Although these publications did participate in a general, reform movement mentality which sought (in the 1830s and '40s) to quell the civil unrest among the working classes by means of education, they reflect a more prominent goal for Knight. This goal aimed at the transmission of “one of art's central traditions: that body of thought which equated art with moral elevation and advanced civilization, and artists with virtue and industriousness” (Anderson, Pictures for the People 137).
Knight’s collection of engravings and commentary on the “Antiquities [sic] of a great Nation” described the “richest treasures that we have derived from a long line of ancestors” (Old England 1). Originally issued in parts and available to “all ranks of people, at the cheapest rate," Knight’s publication participated in the “education of the people” by reinforcing Romantic notions of the elevated status of the arts (Old England 1): the volume specifically encouraged the idea of drawing as a polite and useful art for all classes, and also implicitly emphasized and contributed to the construction of political unity via a knowledge of history (Bermingham 77-78).
Editorial Responsibility, in the Matter of "Old England": Being Three Letters Published in the Athenaeum, and Mr. Knight's Comments thereupon. 1867. Cowen Tracts. JSTOR. Web. 30 Mar. 2009.
Anderson, Patricia J. “Charles Knight and Company.” British Literary Publishing Houses, 1820-1860. Dictionary of Literary Biography. Anderson and Jonathan Rose, eds. Vol. 106. Detroit: Gale Research, 1991. Print.
---. “Pictures for the People: Knight's 'Penny Magazine,' an Early venture into Popular Art Education.” Studies in Art Education 28.3 (1987): 133-40. Print.
---. The Printed Image and the Transformation of Popular Culture, 1790-1860. Oxford: Clarendon P; New York: Oxford UP, 1991. Print.
Bermingham, Ann. Learning to Draw: Studies in the Cultural History of a Polite and Useful Art. New Haven: Yale UP, 2000. Print. The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.
Janowitz, Anne F. England's Ruins: Poetic Purpose and the National Landscape. Cambridge: Blackwell. 1990. Print.
Knight, Charles. "Education of the People." The London magazine 1.1 (1828): 13. ProQuest. Web. 1 Apr. 2009.
---. Passages from the Life of Charles Knight. New York, 1874. Making of America. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan Library, 2005. Web. 9 April 2009.
---. Old England: A Pictorial Museum of Regal, Ecclesiastical, Municipal, Baronial, and Popular Antiquities. London: Sangster, 185-. Print.
Lowenthal, David. The Past is a Foreign Country. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1985. Print.
Old England : A pictorial museum of regal, ecclesiastical, municipal, baronial, and popular antiquities. Edited by Charles Knight in two volumes.-vol.I. [Fig. 360 on page 89]
c. Early 19th century