Romantic Circles Gallery
View of Tintern Abbey
A view of the ruins of Tintern Abbey.
Copyright 2009, Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Thordarson t3473 – 3474
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Old England: A Pictorial Museum of Regal, Ecclesiastical, Municipal, Baronial
and Popular Antiquities, edited by Charles Knight, Edited by Charles Knight Vol I, pg. 269 #1030
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Great Britain experienced an increase in population and industrial workforce. This industrialization spurred more and more people to leave farming and move to the city for an artisan job in the production of goods. Charles Knight believed that the rapid growth of towns and industry in the nineteenth century called for an even greater need to preserve and appreciate the historical sites of England (V. Gray, Charles Knight, 65-69).
George Clowes was the son of Charles Knight’s printer, William Clowes, who married his daughter in 1836, creating a crucial relationship that allowed Knight access to affordable illustrated publications (V. Gray, Charles Knight, 41,56).
The Leighton Brothers, Charles (1823-1855) and George (1826-1895), were prominent publishers of color prints and are responsible for the 24 large-scale color engravings included in the book (L. Peltz, “Leighton, Charles”).
Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge [SDUK]
After experiencing financial difficulties, in 1827 Knight became editor of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge’s publications. Empathizing with the need for popular education, and believing that “good reading [should be] within reach of the very poorest,” the Society aimed to produce inexpensive, quality literature that would be made readily available to the working classes (R. Mitchell, “Knight, Charles”).
A view of the ruins of Tintern Abbey.
Charles Knight was exceptionally interested in British history and culture and championed its burgeoning accessibility by publishing a number of affordable books (selling for only sixpence in 1845) on these topics (R. Mitchell, “Knight, Charles”). Ruins served as a critical aesthetic in his work Old England because they prompted a curiosity for knowledge and an idea of a shared, national past that appealed to Knight and the romantic audience. The plethora of illustrated works, totaling over 2500 and including several depictions of English ruins, were not only enjoyable to look at, but also they educated and helped to enhance his readers’ awareness and appreciation of their national heritage, effectively promoting a feeling of English nationality and pride (V. Gray, Charles, Knight). By creating and successfully marketing a pictorial archive of national antiquities that was available to a wide range of people, Knight’s Old England demonstrates the popularity and fascination associated with ruins in the romantic era, both for their entertainment and their educational value.
Clowes, Alice A. Charles Knight: A Sketch. R. Bentley & Son, 1892.
. . . .
Fletcher, W. Y. “Riviere, Robert (1808–1882).” Rev. Mirjam M. Foot. Oxford Dictionary of
National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. 4 Apr. 2009
Gray, Valerie. Charles Knight: Educator, Publisher, Writer. Ashgate, Ltd., 2006.
Mitchell, Rosemary. “Knight, Charles (1791–1873).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed. Ed. Lawrence Goldman. Jan. 2008. 21 Apr. 2009
Brakspear, Harold. Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire. London: H.M. Stationery Off. by Darling & Son, 1908.
"Old England: Knight, (Charles)." Maggs Rare Books. 2009. Maggs Bros Ltd Rare Books & Manuscripts. 25 Mar. 2009
Peltz, Lucy. “Leighton, Charles Blair (1823–1855).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed. Ed. Lawrence Goldman. Oct. 2006. 4 Apr. 2009
Old England : a pictorial museum of regal, ecclesiastical, municipal, baronial, and popular antiquities / edited by Charles Knight ; in two volumes.