The Reliques of Father Prout - He Dieth, and is Chested
The image shows a young man reading; he sits at a generously laid table, and a woman standing behind it pours water into a teapot. In front of the man, an open chest filled with loose pages draws the focus of the viewer. More loose pages surround the man. In the back of the room is a large bookshelf. A curtain functions as a frame for the picture.
Copyright 2009, Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Thordarson T 3674 Vol. 2
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Beneath the illustration appears in bold letters: 'He Dieth, So He Is Chested'
Edition and State:
The drawing appears in Volume 2 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.'
In 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.
Daniel Maclise was part of London’s art and celebrity scene during the mid-nineteenth century. The 1870 edition of The Reliques of Father Prout includes a depiction of a gathering of influential artists and poets drinking and socializing. Amongst others—such as Allan Cunningham, Thomas Carlyle, and Samuel T. Coleridge—Rev. Francis Mahony, the author and publisher of The Reliques of Father Prout, is depicted. Mahony was an Irish priest who gave up his profession to become a writer. He published under the pseudonyms Oliver Yorke and Father Prout, primarily in Fraser’s Magazine. His writings were admired at the time for their wit, wide knowledge of foreign languages, and humorous depiction of the Reverend.
Maclise 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. Since the image does not portray any landscape, it is possible that it has been drawn before or after the journey.
The engraving appears as the frontispiece for Volume II of the first edition of The Reliques of Father Prout. At the left bottom part of the image a reference to page number 249 is inscribed ‘Vol. II. Page 249.’ Below the image a line is written in capital letters, ‘He dieth , and is chested’.
This illustration depicts a scene from one of the texts collected in the second volume of Francis Mahony's The Reliques of Father Prout. While the image rather innocently shows a reading man, the line written beneath it points to his death.
The depiction of a young man reading, opposed by a written reference to his death. The reference to the page in the book implies that the image is a depiction of a significant scene in the book. The line that is written beneath connects the image to death by suggesting that the man in the picture is dying, which creates curiosity on behalf of the spectator.
Death and literature are closely connected in this image. The text is about the Rev. Prout's journey to Italy; however, given that this fictional character is based on the author himself, Rev.Mahony, the text is based on Mahony's own travels to Italy. The story, called ‘The Songs of Italy,’ mocks the works of several famous authors, and of Goethe in particular (Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s Italian Journey, an exhaustive travel account based on his diary entries, was published in 1816/1817). The chest functions as ‘the coffin of [his] thoughts’ (Reliques of Father Prout, Vol II, p. 249), and holds the many papers detailing his experiences and ruminations. Since the author is childless, the papers function as his descendants, a point upon which he elaborates in the text, ‘Disengaged from all the ties that bind others to existence, solitary, childless, what occupation more suitable to my remnant of life could I adopt than exercise of memory and mind of which they are fruit?’ (Reliques of Father Prout, Vol II, p. 249) What is being mocked here is the exhaustive contemplation exercised by many poet-authors about their own being (life and death) in the world. The image creates a connection between reading, writing and death, but it primarily provokes an interest in reading the referred-to chapter in the book. The illustration and text ‘He dieth, and is chested’ plays with the spectator’s and reader’s curiosity and lust for scandal. While a man depicted as a reader in a domestic setting is not very exciting (though he could function as an agent of identification), the one line does invoke a sensational feeling in the reader/spectator.
This illustration, used as the frontispiece, has a summarizing, but also proleptic function. It creates an interest in the spectator that induces him to become a reader.
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/
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.
The Reliques of Father Prout ... Collected and arranged by Oliver Yorke, esq. (pseud.) Illustrated by Alfred Croquis, esq. (pseud.) … Vol. 2. The songs of France, The songs of Italy, Jerome Vida’s Silkworm, London, J. Fraser, 1836, 2 v. fronts, illus. 18 cm. Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-Madison Memorial Library