Romantic Circles Gallery
The Christian’s consolations against the fears of death, American edition
The image shows a man sitting up in bed, lifting one hand, as if explaining something. Clothes are drawn in an elaborate fashion with a close attention to such details as buttons and wrinkles. The dying man, on the left, is talking to a young man sitting beside him, who holds his hand and smiles. Next to the bed is nightstand with a book on it. J Yeager, Sc. is inscribed to the bottom left. Beneath the picture two lines are written, "See in what Peace a Christian can die" and "published by Simon Probasco Printer Philad.a."
Copyright 2009, Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
1816. CK D 81 E 2
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Marks DescriptionBeneath the picture two lines are written, "See in what Peace a Christian can die" and "published by Simon Probasco Printer Philad.a."
Edition and StateFourth Edition
Printing ContextFrontispiece for Charles, Drelincourt, The Christian’s Defences against the fears of death with seasonable directions how to prepare ourselves to die well, printed by Simon Probasco, Philadelphia, 1818.
Associated EventsAccording to the preface, the frontispiece depicts the hour of the death of Joseph Addison, who is accompanied by his nephew, the young earl of Warwick. The Special Collections curator notes, however, that this is erroneous: "Engraved frontispiece portrait of poet Joseph Addison on his deathbed, accompanied by Edward Henry Rich, Earl of Warwick, son of his wife Charlotte Addison, Countess Dowager of Warwick. Rich is erroneously identified as Addison’s nephew on p. iv. Signed: J. Yeager sc."
Associated PlacesI was not able to find the history of the book’s reception in the United States, but many editions, which were printed all over North America, are still held in American libraries today. The Online Archive of American Libraries shows several hundred hits for the text.
Associated TextsThe book first appeared in France under the title of Consolations de l'âme fidèle contre les frayeurs de la mort in 1651. The majority of publishers translated the title as The Christian’s Defence against the fears of death; some British editions, however, translated the title more literally as The Christian’s Consolations against the fears of death.
SubjectThe frontispiece of the American edition of this volume depicts the moment of death differently from the British version. There are no angels or a welcoming light. The comfort is created through the communication between the dying person and a companion.
ThemeDepiction of the hour of death.
SignificanceThe Christian’s Defence was an enormously popular book in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. The frontispiece was a new addition in the late eighteenth century. Many earlier editions do not have a frontispiece (see: The Eighteenth Century Online Collection; it alone holds nineteen scanned versions of the text from the eighteenth century).
The frontispiece of the American edition is interesting to compare to the British. It is much simpler in style and expression, which suggests that the American readership had a different taste in book illustrations than the British; furthermore, the contrast between the two frontispieces indicates a difference in the book-marketing strategies of early nineteenth century North America. While it can be assumed that the British edition was simply reprinting the early eighteenth-century frontispiece, American publishers decided to use a new image. The American frontispiece lacks the dramatic assumption that angels greet the just-deceased at the moment of death. Nevertheless, like the British frontispiece, the image does have a soothing meaning; however, the source of this comfort is not found in the opening up of Heaven to the deceased, but in the companionship and conversation of the two human subjects. Consequently, one can argue that the American frontispiece interprets the book differently for an American audience. (See also "My Mother’s Grave," C10, and my discussion on Sentimental Literature in the United States—the connection I make there between the image discussed and the nation-building role of sentimentality in the United States could also be argued regarding this image.)
FunctionThe frontispiece functions as a glimpse into the subject matter of the book. It does induce curiosity on the part of the spectator—the potential reader—but it also works to sum up the book's content.
BibliographyWhelan, Ruth. “Drelincourt, Peter (1644–1722).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed. Ed. Lawrence Goldman. Jan. 2008. 20 Mar. 2009 http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/8045
American Libraries Online Archive: http://www.archive.org/index.php