Romantic Antiquarianism: Introduction

Romantic Antiquarianism: Introduction

Noah Heringman
University of Missouri
Crystal B. Lake
Wright State University

1.        To enthusiastic antiquaries and their publics in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, an object of antiquity presented itself as the romantic object par excellence: democratic, evocative, historically rooted yet ever present, at once the product and the producer of creative imagination. Romantic antiquarianism levels distinctions between the learned and popular reception of ancient objects and texts, between historical narrative and empirical research, form and content, discourse and material culture. The Romantic refusal to distinguish between discourse and material culture, though lamented by modern histories of antiquarianism, reflects the transformation of antiquarian practice by artists, popularizers, novelists, and poets in the Romantic period. Readers, collectors, tourists, and exhibition-goers across Europe became more interested in consuming antiquities than in mocking antiquaries. This volume, accordingly, sets out to challenge both the comic stereotype of the antiquary, powerfully reinforced by no less an antiquary than Sir Walter Scott, and the historiography that has insisted on separating the literary and material practices of antiquarianism. The embodied practice of Romantic antiquarianism, as the following essays show, promoted a convergence of antiquarian scholarship and imaginative empathy by way of remediation: popular antiquaries such as Robert Wood, Thomas Pennant, Josiah Wedgwood, Joseph Strutt, John Britton, and John Martin collected, displayed, illustrated, and reconstructed antiquities antiquities ranging from Pompeian artifacts to Anglo-Saxon costume to the Portland Vase, transcending the early modern distinction between history and antiquities. These learned spectacles preceded and in some ways anticipated the modern distinction between the historical disciplines and the popular culture of heritage.

2.        It is in large part the popularity of antiquarianism that distinguishes the Romantic from the Enlightenment project of making sense of history's lost and found objects. The Society of Antiquaries (London), though far from inclusive in its composition in this period, reflects the larger trend: from nearly three hundred members in 1770, the rolls increased to nearly eight hundred by 1820 (Pearce 147). At the same time, artifacts were no longer confined to private cabinets of curiosity. The British Museum opened its doors to the public in 1757, yet its strict rules for admission meant that many other repositories of antiquities had a claim on the money and attention of the curious. Richard Altick reports that a tourist from Birmingham complained about the way he was "hackneyed through the rooms with violence" and "came away completely disappointed" from the museum in 1784 (qtd. in Altick 27). Don Saltero's—a coffeehouse where over 1,000 objects ranging from old coins to old books to specimens of antique fashion, jewelry, and armor were on display by 1790—proved both more instructive and entertaining. At Don Saltero's, the man from Birmingham reported that he had at least been "furnished ... with a book, explaining every article in the collection," and that he had the leisure to "take [his] own time, and entertain [himself]." Don Saltero's was far from being the only alternative to the British Museum. The Tower of London proved to be a popular tourist attraction for viewing regal and military antiquities (and the last of the urban "wonders" catalogued in the "fond imagination" of Wordsworth's boyhood) (Wordsworth, Prelude 232). [1]  So, too, did Thomas Gwenapp's Gothic Hall. Sir Ashton Lever's Holophusikon featured natural history specimens alongside antiquities. Lever also donated objects to Dr. Greene's museum at Lichfield, and artifacts from Greene's were later purchased by William Bullock, who likely incorporated them into his Egyptian Hall at Piccadilly.

3.        Antiquities circulated between curators and impresarios and jostled for prominence in auctions and lotteries. In other words, artifacts and their custodians, along with a host of other social actants, established new configurations of agency at a highly visible nexus between matters of archaeological fact and matters of aesthetic concern—as Bruno Latour might put it. [2]  Robert Aguirre, Ralph O'Connor, and Edward Ziter are among the many scholars who (following in Altick's wake) have explored Romantic-era public exhibitions and spectacles in recent years, particularly in the contexts of science and colonialism. [3]  Yet none of these accounts fully recognize the antiquarian framework that provided much of the cohesion among these spectacles. Popular entertainments from Robert Barker's Panorama to Philip James de Loutherbourg's Eidophusikon also illustrate the vogue for sentimental immersion in historical scenes. Although de Loutherbourg remains most well known for his pre-cinematic projections of scenes from Milton or shipwrecks, he cut his teeth by designing spectacular models and scenery for the revival of James Thomson's The Masque of Alfred (1773), based on the antiquary Thomas Bicknell's biography of the Anglo-Saxon monarch. Likewise, de Loutherbourg provided the scenery for the pantomime Omai, or A Trip Round the World in 1785, which was celebrated for its "exact representations" of the artifacts brought back from the Pacific by the antiquary-naturalist Joseph Banks. Thus situated, this volume recovers numerous antiquarian spaces, ranging from domestic interiors to panoramic landscapes; it recovers not only antiquarianism's intricate discourses, but also its objects and their agencies.

4.        The profusion of antiquities shows that Don Saltero was just one of many new tastemakers who claimed the right to decide what counts as an ancient artifact. Our emphasis on remediation seeks to account for the power of some old things to demand new recognition as antiquities, as well as the power of representations to transform or displace the things themselves. That is to say, antiquaries and their publics responded to agential qualities in objects, much as Wordsworth did in his account of "the life of things," or Keats in describing the feeling of dislocation caused by "these wonders" from the Parthenon. [4]  For example, the ruins of Palmyra, though previously known as remains of an obscure Roman outpost, were newly infused with classic grandeur by Robert Wood's The Ruins of Palmyra, as Jonathan Sachs argues in his contribution to this volume. Similarly, Thora Brylowe's essay shows how an ancient object such as the Portland Vase could be not only repurposed, but also recycled as the prototype for a Wedgewood commodity and even displaced as the site of cultural prestige. In both cases, we see the appropriation of ancient objects—predating European national cultures—for a British public by way of a transnational antiquarian traffic. Rosemary Hill's essay on antiquarian interior design recovers another set of British and French tactics for domesticating antiquities, while Martin Myrone's contribution explores the suggestive juxtaposition of a native ancient site (Avebury) with a classical one (Pompeii) in the painterly oeuvre of John Martin. Ina Ferris's essay on medieval costume and Timothy Campbell's on the guillotine both uncover new dimensions of the antiquarian recycling and repurposing of image and text. Sam Smiles's concluding essay points out the mid-nineteenth-century moment in which the strategic relationship between ancient objects and antiquarian illustration was explicitly theorized. In short, the essays in this volume integrate art history, book history, and literary scholarship in an effort to do adequate justice to these complex dynamics of images, texts, artifacts, and time.

5.        Much recent work on popular antiquarianism has focused on recovering the verbal artifacts and print culture associated with this cluster of predisciplines and its expanding subject matter. Stephen Bending has documented the proliferation of increasingly affordable antiquarian books, tellingly promoted by the antiquary Francis Grose in his declaration that "every man is naturally an antiquarian" (qtd. in Bending 100). Grose, often remembered for commissioning Robert Burns's "Tam O'Shanter" for his Antiquities of Scotland (1791-1797), also appears as a central figure in Marilyn Butler's influential essay, "Antiquarianism (Popular)." Butler begins her discussion of popular antiquarianism with the "vernacular languages" of the British Isles and focuses primarily on textual and archival work by Joseph Ritson, John Brand, and other popular antiquaries. Traditionally associated with "fictions and fakes" dating back to Macpherson and Chatterton, Romantic antiquarianism is still understood by literary scholars primarily in terms of textual transmission. Recent studies by Katie Trumpener, Margaret Russett (quoted here), Maureen McLane, and others have recovered the richness and complexity of literary practices formerly dismissed as imitation, forgery, or "improvement" of traditional material; one recent collection, Romanticism and Popular Culture (Connell and Leask), explores the political ramifications of these revivals of popular tradition.

6.        Popular antiquities, however, extended well beyond the literary and oral tradition to social customs and material culture, as Butler herself notes and as many of the essays in this volume demonstrate more fully. Grose, for example, was not only a popularizer with his eye on the print market, but also a connoisseur and a collector with deep investments in the antiquities he surveyed and depicted in his works. Recent critical emphasis on texts and literary antiquarianism may, in fact, have contributed indirectly to the marginal status of the antiquarian object in some accounts of Romanticism. In their efforts to reclaim the textual work of antiquarianism, critics have allowed antiquarianism's material cultures to languish in the "mare magnum of miscellaneous trumpery" and popular spectacle (Scott 32). This paradox becomes clear by contrast to archaeological and art historical discussions, in which Romantic antiquarianism often carries a different set of connotations. Stuart Piggott, who did so much to reclaim antiquarianism as proto-archaeology, rejected its Romantic phase because, in his view, the Baconian approach to material culture established by earlier antiquaries became corrupted in this era of "Gothick romance . . . and mystical Druidry" (120). Some sense of this incongruity lingers in Martin Myrone's 2007 account of the "fissure" between "antiquarian exactitude" and "aesthetic pleasure" (113).

7.        The double bind of "Romantic antiquarianism" is part of a much longer history of questioning antiquarianism's principles and practices; antiquarianism has been under regular satirical scrutiny since the sixteenth century. According to Joseph Levine, the "interest in antiquities advanced by slow degrees in England in the sixteenth century," challenging longstanding assumptions about the relationship between class and connoisseurship (116). British antiquities in particular appeared initially as a poor substitute for the classical legacy valorized by the grammar school curriculum and the Grand Tour. British coins, inscriptions, sepulchers, and weapons—especially those left to languish undiscovered by gentlemen departing on the Grand Tour—promised to provide new opportunities for establishing authority over taste and history. As Levine notes, however, "the very success of the antiquary provoked criticism and concern, especially perhaps in those who felt the danger of the new interests to the polite attainments of the gentleman" (117). Although the concerns persisted, a vast array of antiquarian pursuits was on offer by the early nineteenth century. These ranged from polite to impolite, from classical and cosmopolitan to domestic and nativist, and from learned to popular, driven by artifacts as much as texts.

8.        As early as 1628, the antiquary was derided by John Earle as "one that hath that unnaturall disease" for "old things" (qtd. in Levine 117). This image of the antiquary as an eccentric who loved old things just because they were old things persisted through the eighteenth and into the nineteenth century, finding its apotheosis in Nietzsche's obtuse curator of the "the household utensils of our ancestors" (20). Where historians like David Hume and Edward Gibbon charted grand narratives of nations and empires, antiquaries like John Woodward and Samuel Pegge were thought to have buried themselves in the most pedantic depths of the archive—not only in documents, but also in images and above all in artifacts. Not quite a connoisseur, then, and not quite a historian, the antiquary lingered somewhere in between, acquiring, classifying, and explicating "old things."

9.        In spite of these obstinate questionings of "unscientific" antiquarianism, recent scholarship has done much to recover its intellectual contributions. This volume seeks both to extend this map of antiquarian variety and vitality and to historicize the negative stereotype. It is important to recognize that Ossian and the new national antiquities influenced not just literary taste but also antiquarian scholarship, as suggested by the elaborate defense of Chatterton's Rowley poems mounted by Jeremiah Milles, President of the Society of Antiquaries, in 1782. But more archaeologically-minded antiquaries such as Richard Gough reacted against literary antiquarianism as well as against the aesthetic enthusiasm associated with the cult of Ossian. The empirical study of antiquities developed in tandem with natural history, under the aegis of naturalist-antiquaries including Sir William Hamilton, Sir Joseph Banks, and their legions of knowledge workers, to open new spaces of classical and nonclassical antiquity.

10.        Nonetheless, the eighteenth-century pursuit of natural history and antiquities remained associated with pseudoscience and Ossianic mythmaking, an increasingly inaccurate association reinforced by Scott in The Antiquary. Scott, himself an antiquary who made his career as a collector and fabricator of Scottish national antiquities, looked back in this 1816 novel on antiquarian practice in the 1790s. In Jonathan Oldbuck, the novel's eponymous scholarly amateur, Scott created a lasting popular image of the antiquary that obscured—as Rosemary Sweet has shown—the variety and the influence of antiquarian practice, as well as the empirical rigor of many of its forms. (The essays by Campbell and Hill in this volume shed new light on Oldbuck as well.) In an essay contrasting Oldbuck with Gough, Sweet focuses on the study of postclassical British antiquities, certainly a more dominant pursuit by the 1790s than Oldbuck's obsession with Roman Britain. In her Antiquaries, she presents a broader view of the collaborative antiquarian networks, including correspondence networks, which are present in the novel, and many others, which are not: popularizing enterprises, provincial societies, and research networks that increasingly enabled the participation of middle-class men and, sometimes, women.  [5] 

11.        The satirical tradition behind Scott's character is a major legacy that continued to inform the practice and public perception of antiquarianism well into the nineteenth century. As Sweet points out in her contrast between the real and the fictional antiquary, Oldbuck is based on a "stock caricature" that can be traced back into the sixteenth century—to Earle's "unnaturall disease" and beyond. The satirical tradition, however, sheds light on the wider field of knowledge work because it captures the class connotations attaching to connoisseurship, as exemplified in Thomas Shadwell's farce The Virtuoso (1676) and in long-running conflicts over the terms "virtuoso" and "connoisseur" themselves, terms increasingly reclaimed and put to new social uses in the Romantic period (Hamblyn 183-84).

12.        Scott's narrative, though indebted to the satirical tradition, nevertheless offers a kind of thick description of Romantic antiquarian practice by way of Oldbuck as well as a second antiquarian figure, the swindler Herman Dousterswivel. The main thing lacking in Scott's portrayal is the institutional context in which both natural history and antiquarianism were practiced in the late eighteenth century. Rudolf Erich Raspe, for example, long considered the real-life counterpart for Dousterswivel, was involved with both the Royal and Antiquarian Societies, and Daines Barrington (perhaps a better analogue for Oldbuck than Gough is) was a pillar of both societies. In fact, one-third of the fellows of the Society of Antiquaries of London in the late eighteenth century were also fellows of the Royal Society, including Thomas Pennant and Owen Manning, who are featured in the essays by Campbell and Hill (respectively) in this volume. These institutions did not replace wealthy amateurism and patronage but decisively shaped the forms that they took, creating opportunities for independent knowledge work by gradually transforming the humanist model of patronage and facilitating access to print.

13.        It may be in part Scott's own professional bias—coupled with his habitual mock-humility concerning antiquarian pursuits, including his own involvement with the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland—that leads him to occlude these institutional aspects of the antiquarian scene, and in any case the absence of this context serves the novel's narrative of class conflict. Antiquarianism here looks frivolous next to the serious business of earning money, and by dabbling with an avocation formerly associated with aristocratic virtuosi, Scott's antiquary figures the legitimacy of a newly ascendant class. Oldbuck, descended from a family of printers, is a better antiquary than the proud, aristocratic Wardour, and morally sounder than the Catholic baron Glenallan, but like them he is fiercely provincial, leaving Edinburgh behind with a curse at the beginning of the novel. Scott might nonetheless have made him a corresponding member of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, if not the London society, a historically likely scenario for the 1790s.  [6]  The success of Scott's whole literary brand depended on this somewhat disingenuous characterization of the antiquary, as indicated by the pervasive mock antiquarian tone in the paratexts of his novels, a tone that surfaces in both versions of Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802, 1830) as well. Scott's works succeeded by lubricating the "repulsive dryness of mere antiquity," as "Laurence Templeton" calls it in the Dedicatory Epistle to Ivanhoe. ("Templeton" is only one of the antiquarian personae used by Scott; here "Templeton" apologizes somewhat ambivalently to "Jonas Dryasdust," another of Scott's personae.) [7] 

14.        Despite his frivolity, Oldbuck at times displays antiquarian skills in the field in incidents that Scott supports with real citations from antiquarian authors such as Thomas Percy and John Brand. Wardour lacks these skills, but in fact the institutional setting of the learned society provided a venue in which aristocratic connoisseurs, too, learned to transcend the limitations of an elite education to develop empirical and collaborative methods. According to Susan Pearce, "two of the most striking things about this period [1770-1820] at the Society [of Antiquaries] are how the members managed to set the agenda for much future work, and how they succeeded in developing the fundamental methods through which information could be offered for evaluation" (153). In particular, "the idea of the corpus of a particular group of archaeological objects began to appear," and five of the research areas outlined at that time "are still returned to again and again." These innovations required ambition not only among knowledge workers but also on the part of their university-educated patrons, who may have seen natural history and antiquities as shadow professions standing in for the career in divinity, law, or medicine that their financial independence made unnecessary. Finally, as Hill notes in her essay in this volume, the Society of Antiquaries ushered in an era of public antiquarianism through such high-profile debates as the quérelle de Wyatt concerning historically unsound alterations in Salisbury Cathedral.

15.        The metropolitan learned societies favored the creation of monumental learned works on antiquities, such as Robert Wood's Ruins of Palmyra (see Sachs, this volume) and Hamilton and d'Hancarville's Collection of Etruscan, Greek, and Roman Antiquities (see Brylowe, this volume). These privately funded works existed in dialogue with the learned journals and other publication series sponsored by the societies themselves. They were expensive projects that employed laborers, draftsmen, engravers, specialized printers, and other contributors, but they flourished in a literary marketplace that also produced many cheaper publications, including popularizing and ancillary works. More independent workers, such as Joseph Strutt (see Ferris, this volume) and John Britton (see Myrone, this volume) used this literary marketplace to produce their own publications, and often the same publishers produced both kinds of works. Publications more closely associated with the Society of Antiquaries, including the long-running scholarly serials Vetusta Monumenta (from 1747) and Archaeologia (from 1771) used the same printers, engravers, and editorial procedures, often drawing on the same research networks, while others gave more authority to self-taught antiquaries and illustrators such as Strutt and George Hanlon (see Smiles, this volume).

16.        The Romantic publicity surrounding antiquities produced an unprecedented democracy of the antiquarian object, for the liminal spaces between the connoisseur and the historian teemed with intellectual, representational, and commercial possibilities. Newly available for spectacular consumption, antiquities found themselves delicately poised between sentiment and scholarship. Ancient artifacts offered audiences the opportunity to fashion excursions around and in the material and conceptual gaps in the historical record evoked by antiquities. These excursions could take on diverse forms and meanings. As Jacques Rancière writes in the context of public performances and museums, "there are only ever individuals plotting their own paths in the forest of things, acts and signs that confront or surround them. The collective power shared by spectators does not stem from the fact that they are members of a collective body or from some specific form of interactivity. It is the power each of them has to translate what she perceives in her own way" (17). Rancière's "equality of intelligence" would be too utopian a reading of the unruly spectacle and mythmaking traditionally associated with antiquarianism.  At the same time, his formulation of the agency that can inhere in collective, material experiences aptly expresses the half-suppressed modernity of Romantic antiquarianism.

17.        As the essays in this volume suggest, spectacle and myth-making are only half the story. In various ways, all the essays restore lost connections between artifacts, texts, and antiquaries, and all attend particularly to the visual remediations of antiquity. Through the efforts of popular antiquaries (in several senses of this capacious term) such as Hanlon, Strutt, Pennant, the Sobieski Stuarts, Wedgwood, Wood, Britton, and Martin, and in spite of cultural antipathy toward the figure of the antiquary—or even partly because of it, since it established the antiquary, famous for working in eccentric isolation, in the public sphere—antiquarianism captured the public imagination while it also continued to develop as a field of study. In fact, one of the salient features of Romantic antiquarianism is the unique way in which it advanced Enlightenment ideals of scientific history while incorporating more fully the aesthetics of the sublime and of sentimental identification, producing new forms of historical empathy.  Precisely in its refusal to distinguish between text and material culture, Romantic antiquarianism functions as a historiographical mode that exists simultaneously as science and art, history and literature.  It offers multiple avenues for exploring Romantic subjectivities in their relation to material culture. Blake insists that "Mental things alone are real"; antiquarianism begs to differ, insisting that ancient objects demand recognition, that they are perfectly commensurate as scientific specimens and as quasi-agential aesthetic subjects.

18.        Surely no other objects in Romantic culture hover quite as perfectly between the "invention of history" and the "end of history," in W.J.T. Mitchell's phrasing, as the artifacts of Romantic antiquarianism (173). For Mitchell, two new concepts emerged at the turn of the nineteenth century: the fossil and the totem. These correlate to an emerging distinction between the natural and the cultural, as the natural finds its fullest expression in a deep, ecological record (the fossil) and the cultural in manmade, handmade objects (the totem). For Mitchell, the fossil points to a "system of natural signs;" the totem points to signs of the human (177). These will transform into the disciplinary practices of paleontology and anthropology, respectively. For Mitchell, though, the Romantic era is a brief but poignant moment in which these two things, the fossil and the totem, are not yet fully separate entities, physically or conceptually. Rather, a dialectic exists between the two, as "the desire to secure an intimate communion with nature itself is a form of totemism," and the "inevitable defeat of this desire is named by the fossil" (183). Mitchell concludes, then, that Romanticism is defined by its constant return to the notion that "just when we think that things are safely dead, fossilized, petrified, or confined to the past, they rise from their graves of natural extinction and cultural obsolescence" (183). Thus, the "life of things" that Wordsworth sees into is also configured as a death, just as the "structure of feeling" that would define the Modern against the Romantic (and vice versa) would entail both the invention and the end of history.

19.        When examined from a cultural-historical perspective, Mitchell's high road between the fossil and the totem may be seen to run through a landscape of antiquarian artifacts. Wordsworth, after all, sees into the life and death of things at Tintern Abbey, a historical site of longstanding interest to antiquaries. And Blake began as an apprentice to the antiquarian engraver, James Basire.  In the Romantic period, antiquarian artifacts refused to fit neatly into distinctions between material culture and discourse, past and present, nature and culture.  An object of antiquity elicits imaginative speculations that expose the gaps between objects and knowledge, even as they seek to close them. To say that a miniature guillotine, or a ceramic imitation of the Portland Vase, or the ruins of Palmyra, or an engraving "faithfully copied" from medieval decorations, is "the Romantic object par excellence," is to collapse distinctions that structure our understanding of such objects today.  Reopening the field from which these distinctions emerged permits us to recognize antiquarianism's "miscellaneous trumpery" as a living stream of history, a stream newly open to intellectual navigation by an eager public, by antiquarian collectors and illustrators, and by Romantic writers.

20.        It is tempting to designate the variety of antiquarian discourses by calling them "antiquarianisms," but the real diversity is to be found among the practitioners and the objects they studied—ancient or new, real or fabricated. Our singular title, Romantic Antiquarianism, reflects the underlying methodological and epistemological common ground shared by a surprisingly wide range of antiquaries, a common ground we must now struggle to recognize.  As a disciplinary umbrella term, antiquarianism accommodated connoisseurs, artisans, scholars, tourists, and hack writers in their pursuit of the most disparate objects.  It is not enough merely to insist, with Bruno Latour, that these "objects too have agency" (63-86). Jane Bennett and other theorists associated with the new materialism have presented a complex array of agential and quasi-agential properties in matter that could be usefully tested against the objects of antiquarian study—especially given its original proximity to natural history.  [8]  (This is not to suggest that the contributors to this volume define their individual projects in this way, though the capacities of artifacts are certainly tested in some of the essays, Brylowe's and Hill's in particular.) Latour himself addresses some of the problematic gradations of agency that might be attributed to objects, establishing a more subtle dynamic of "durablity," "extension," and "force": "there might exist many metaphysical shades between [actants'] full causality and [their] sheer inexistence" (72).  [9]  To the extent that antiquities are nonhuman "participants" in social networks (7), Latour's paradigm helps to establish the vital middle ground between artifacts and antiquaries that the following essays make visible. These theoretical considerations—intended, as in any introduction, to frame the larger issue and not to pre-empt the chapters to follow—account for some of the contemporary resonance of Romantic antiquarianism and suggest that it is precisely the fetishism with which the antiquaries were charged, their "unhealthy" fascination with objects, that makes them contemporary.

21.        In "Extravagant Topography and Sublime Antiquarianism: John Martin, John Britton, Avebury and Pompeii," Martin Myrone examines two works produced by John Martin (a drawing of Avebury and The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum, a large oil painting completed in 1822), in order to refocus the antiquarian sublime and invite us to reconsider the disciplinary borders between history and art. Fuseli famously suggested that the kinds of topographical images that appealed to "the antiquary or the traveller" disappointed the artist (Fuseli, qtd. in Myrone 1). If this would seemingly sound the death knell of antiquarianism as it ceded primacy of place to either the archaeology of the nineteenth century or a more august history of art, Myrone finds otherwise. For Martin, who collaborated with the antiquary John Britton, antiquarian ways of seeing proved particularly aesthetically and commercially fruitful. Specifically, Myrone argues that Martin's drawing of Avebury, which was engraved for Britton's The Beauties of Wiltshire, operates as a "predisciplinary" work of art. Martin's drawing is at once an aesthetic production and an argument that correlates with Britton's antiquarian finding that Avebury was a sepulchral rather than a sacrificial site in ancient Britain. Additionally, Martin's reputation as a painter brought an element of the sublime to hover around the image, enhancing both its popular and aesthetic appeal. This process is mirrored in reverse in Martin's much larger and much more famous The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Martin's careful readings and contextualizations of these images make it clear that Romantic antiquarianism worked simultaneously as legitimate history and as aesthetics, deftly mobilizing the sublime in order to navigate a shifting economy of scholarly and artistic labor and consumption.

22.        Our second essay, Jonathan Sachs's "Poetical Geography: The Place of the Antiquarian and the Situatedness of Literature," traces an earlier stage of the rediscovery of ancient sites. The antiquary Robert Wood, inspired by Homer, set out on a tour of Mediterranean sites in 1749, at the end of a decade which had seen the first publication on Avebury (by William Stukeley in 1743) and the first glimmering of the rediscovery of Pompeii (1748). Yet as Sachs points out, when Wood published the first fruit of his travels, The Ruins of Palmyra (1753), he chose to focus on a less ancient and better-preserved provincial outpost barely mentioned in classical literature. Sachs raises important questions relating to the contradiction between Wood's literary project of reading Homer in situ and his seemingly anachronistic choice of a late Imperial Roman site to illustrate it. The answers turn out to have broad implications for Romantic literature, because Wood shares a close attention to the place of oral composition and to local stages of society with Percy, Ritson, Scott, and other antiquaries associated with the ballad and Romantic revivals. Examining the large and elegant folio engravings that make up Palmyra and its sequel together with their loosely related text on Homer and other matters, Sachs shows that the engravings of these pristine sites gave readers a better idea than maps or descriptions could give of the experience of discovering antiquity through place. This approach "makes Palmyra . . . timeless," Sachs argues, insisting that the plate book form was essential to the conception of Wood's theory of oral composition in Homer, fully developed in his later Essay on the Original Genius and Writings of Homer (1775). Sachs's essay makes a welcome contribution to the project of recapturing classical, British, popular, and other strands of antiquarianism as one organic whole.

23.        Thora Brylowe shows how British copies of classical antiquities like the Portland Vase came to be seen as objects with more cultural capital than the originals on which they were based, in her essay, "Antiquity by Design: Remediating the Portland Vase." For Brylowe, the famous vase existed at a nexus of competing discourses and ideologies; it was at once a rare antiquarian artifact, a specimen of high art, an object of appropriation, a fetishized commodity, and a product of changing tastes and economy. Brylowe's essay explores the various remediations of the vase, especially those that coalesce around Josiah Wedgewood. She reveals the vase to be much more than an antique object moved from a private collection to a prominent place as a rarefied specimen in the British Museum. Faithfully imitative descriptions and copies of the vase gave way to "improved" engravings. Soon, versions of the vase were featured in paintings, interior designs, and, importantly, narratives in which the vase indexed both British taste and the rise of the nation's manufacturing industry. For Brylowe, then, antiquarianism functioned as a means not only for understanding the past but for reshaping present tastes and the practices of consumption.

24.        In "The Antiquary at Home," Rosemary Hill examines the "personal narratives through objects" that were expressed in Romantic, antiquarian interior design in Britain and in France. Hill begins by considering the idea of the antiquarian interior. Paintings by Bonington and Cooke alongside Scott's influential depiction of Jonathan Oldbuck's rooms in The Antiquary insist that the antiquarian interior is a hodgepodge of objects, especially especially armor, papers, and carved wood; their crowded, haphazard arrangement in a dark room bespeaks the antiquary's eccentricity and isolation. Hill finds, however, that the reality of the antiquarian interior did not always match its depiction in either prose or visual materials. The designs used by antiquaries at home ran the gamut from "scepticism to enthusiasm" (Hill 13). John Britton, for example, published a description of his home that emphasized his middle-class credentials and the scientific rigor of his antiquarian pursuits. The Sobieski brothers, however, were more wildly extravagant in their performance of design. For the Sobieski brothers, the settings in which they lived were designed to express their identities, sometimes as characters from a Sir Walter Scott novel, other times as supposed descendants of Charles Edward Stuart (The Young Pretender). Hill shows that there was a wide array of uses to which antiquarian interiors could be put, illustrating the leveling force of popular antiquarianism and forging new links between fiction and history, representation and fact. However, Hill argues, as the nineteenth century went on, the opportunities for using the antiquarian interior in these diverse ways diminished: private collections were reconstituted in museums, and history and archaeology took on formal, disciplinary shape.

25.        Timothy Campbell's "Pennant's Guillotine and Scott's Antiquary: The Romantic End of the Present" traces the history of an antiquarian "micro-episode," in which the antiquary Thomas Pennant's 1772 description of proto-guillotines—"The Maiden" and its predecessor "The Halifax Gibbet" —are resurrected in reports on the French Revolution. Campbell follows a fascinating trail of "recyclings," as Pennant's antiquarian prose finds new purpose in the January 1793 issue of The Bon Ton Magazine, or Microscope of Fashion and Folly. Although the Bon Ton regularly featured a brief news report entitled "Epitome of the Times," it devoted most of its pages to more overtly licentious and fashionable content. (When it reported on the execution of Louis XVI, it initially focused its attention on his wardrobe.) Yet the Bon Ton goes on in its next issue to consider the method of his execution, lifting verbatim from Pennant's description of an entirely different machine made in an entirely different context. For Campbell, this is a paradigmatic moment. Pennant's prose would go on to find further appropriation in Sir Walter Scott's The Heart of Mid-Lothian (1818) and A Legend of Montrose, (1819) as well as in mid-nineteenth-century accounts of the guillotine and the Revolution. Contradictory imperatives lurk underneath all of these appropriations, and, as Campbell suggests, they reveal antiquarianism and its objects to be complex configurations of the present as much as the past.

26.        Ina Ferris suggests that Romantic antiquarianism performed the important cultural work of moving history out of the archive and into the public sphere. Her "Unhinging the Past: Joseph Strutt and the Antiquarian Poetics of the Piece" argues that the increasing popularity of antiquarian research depended on antiquarianism's new interest in illustration. These illustrations reflected not only an antiquarian interest in the meticulously accurate documentation of domestic objects that revealed a history of everyday practices, but also a continued "documentary bias" that repurposed textual, archival material from sources like the British Museum. Importantly, Ferris finds that a poetic ethos mediates between the antiquaries' illustrations and the archive, an ethos that differs somewhat from the literary antiquarianism that traditionally has concerned scholars of Romanticism. Ferris examines, for example, Strutt's depictions of ancient garments in works like A Complete View of the Dress and Habits of the People of England (1796-99) and Sports and Pastimes of the People of England (1801). These works, she argues, maintained the premise that Strutt's engravings were completely authentic copies of ancient objects. Yet Strutt's grouping and arrangement of the figures allowed for creative interpretation. Such a methodology allowed Strutt to accommodate what Ferris terms a "readerly eye" and to shift the fragmentary nature of Romantic forms of reading that "define[d] the past as at once an interiorized and externalized object in relation to the modern subject."

27.        This volume concludes with Sam Smiles's "Discursive Modes in the Antiquarian Image: Irish Antiquities in the 1840s." Smiles takes up the story of popular illustrated works at a point when wood engraving, in a refined modern form unavailable to Strutt, made it less costly to publish abundantly-illustrated antiquarian works. The major Irish antiquary and popularizer George Petrie pointed out that this technique made high-quality illustrations much more accessible, leveling one of the distinctions between learned and popular works. In the preface to his Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland (1845), Petrie offers a bold literary analogy between the highly accurate woodcuts in the book and faithful quotations from ancient texts. Taking Petrie's homage to his illustrator, George Hanlon, as his prompt, Smiles surveys the rapidly expanding field of antiquarian illustration to test Petrie's analogy. C. S. Peirce's semiotic system of index, icon, and symbol provides Smiles with a typology that facilitates critical analysis and differentiation of the antiquaries' broad claims to depict monuments with "rigid accuracy." In fact, the success of Petrie's and similar nineteenth-century works depended, Smiles shows, on a repertoire of visual documentation ranging from diagram to fragment to view, a repertoire that diverged, by degrees, from accuracy in the direction of art. In the case of Irish antiquities, the visual appeal of the more picturesque of these images—Petrie's and other protests notwithstanding—helped to secure (in addition to a wide readership) the dignity of Irish history and antiquities in a nationalist context.

28.        This volume concludes, then, with a precise vocabulary of the "visual language of antiquarianism" under investigation throughout the sequence of essays. If, as Smiles concludes, no antiquarian image attains fully to iconic status, this principle also applies historically to the dynamic succession of differing versions of the past. From the mid-eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth, the electric diffusion of antiquarianism through popular print and visual media and a wide variety of genres led to an accumulation that was less like dust and more like humus. The living, luxuriant tangle of Romantic, modern, and postmodern ideas about the past is hardly imaginable without it.

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Notes

[1] Wordsworth expands this particular reference from half a line in 1805 (VII.135) to six lines in 1850 (VII.136-41). BACK

[2] For an extended discussion of antiquarianism and emerging disiplines in the context of Actor Network Theory, see Heringman 14-16. See further Latour 71-72 and passim. BACK

[3] O'Connor offers a particularly sophisticated account of popularization (10-13) as well as a strong connection between time travel and the geological past that is especially relevant here. BACK

[4] "Tintern Abbey" 50 (Wordsworth and Coleridge 114); "On Seeing the Elgin Marbles" 11 (Keats 58). BACK

[5] In the 2001 essay, Sweet presented the career of Gough as a corrective to Scott's fictional antiquary, and her subsequent Antiquaries provided the first substantial historical study of British antiquarianism in 50 years. Antiquaries ably surveys, among other relevant topics, antiquarian correspondence networks (60-69), popularization (309-44), and women antiquaries (69-79). The issue of women antiquaries is especially salient in light of Scott's novel's half-ironic misogyny. On women antiquaries, see further Catalani and Pearce, "Particular Thanks." BACK

[6] Gough's large network of provincial correspondents, such as Samuel Pegge, was crucial to his transformation of the Society of Antiquaries along archaeological lines. Dousterswivel's employer, Sir Arthur Wardour, is at best a patron of science, while his rival Oldbuck conducts his own knowledge work, after fashion, by employing native informants such as the Mucklebackits. Yet in spite of his occasional fieldwork, Oldbuck remains tethered to the legacy of mythmaking and pseudoscience because of his interests in projects such as the Caledoniad and the Ossian debate. BACK

[7] On Scott and antiquarianism, see, among others, Ferris, Gender and Literary Authority in the Waverley Novels. The Dedicatory Epistle to Ivanhoe stands as perhaps Scott's own most trenchant analysis of the problem or opportunity of popular antiquarianism. BACK

[8] In addition to Bennett's Vital Materialism, see Coole and Frost, and, in a more literary vein, Harman and Calè. BACK

[9] Latour continues in a poetical vein: "As if some damning curse had been cast onto things, they remain asleep like the servants of some enchanted castle. Yet as soon as they are freed from the spell, they start shuddering, stretching, and muttering. They begin to swarm in all directions, shaking the other human actors, waking them out of their dogmatic sleep" (73). For Bennett's response to Latour, see Bennett viii-ix and 94-104. BACK

Published @ RC

June 2014