Victorian Print Culture and Pet Culture

By Allison Scheidegger, PhD Student, Department of English, Baylor University

This spring, the Armstrong Browning Library is hosting “Puppy Love: An Exploration of Victorian Pet-Owner Relationships,” an exhibition on dog ownership and depictions of dogs in the Victorian period, with a focus on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel, Flush. January 15, 2022 – August 15, 2022.

A stack of 4 books on a ladder.

Victorian Print Culture and Pet Culture

Both print culture surrounding pets and pet ownership in the Victorian era reflect a hunger for status in the midst of increasing affluence. As the middle class became more able to afford luxuries, print culture and pet ownership experienced corresponding economic trends. Middle-class pet owners purchased dogs with carefully documented bloodlines from dog breeders (sometimes called dog “fanciers”). These dogs could become ladies’ lapdogs or gentlemen’s sporting dogs; either way, they offered their owners more than usefulness or affection: they offered prestige. Pedigreed pets became status symbols—no one wanted to be seen walking a mutt! Like owning a lapdog, owning a gilded album revealed the owner’s wealth. The nineteenth century saw the flourishing of ornate collector’s books featuring—or even dedicated to—more frivolous topics like pets. Just as a lady’s lapdog was considered a frivolous pet, such collections would not have been considered serious literature. This blog post highlights some of the ornate artifacts included in the “Puppy Love” exhibit, along with some not included, reconsidering them in the light of Victorian print culture and pet culture.

 

The Poetic Album: Containing the Poems of Alfred Tennyson, Mrs. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Alexander Smith. Philadelphia: Willis P. Hazard, 1854.

Back board, spine, and front board of a green cloth bound books with gilt title and ornamentation.

The Poetic Album. 1854.

The Poetic Album is an excellent example of a collector’s album meant to be a status purchase. The Poetic Album is a collection of “minor poems” (in this case meaning shorter poems) by Tennyson, Browning, and Smith. The covers of The Poetic Album are ornate, and it is extravagantly illustrated with eight engravings of fine ladies. These engravings, which are modeled after illustrations by “the best artists,” according to the book’s title page, have no clear connection with the poems they accompany. In the preface, the publisher Willis P. Hazard classifies these three poets as “three of the best poets of this century.” Hazard also adds that the poems in the collection were selected by “a lady of taste”—a word choice which suggests that purchasing this album could be a way of asserting one’s own gentility.

In a decorative collection like this one, there is room for pet poems which might be considered frivolous elsewhere. Both of E. B. Browning’s Flush poems—“Flush or Faunus” and the earlier “To Flush, My Dog”—appear in this collection, whereas in many collections of Browning’s work only “To Flush” is included. Browning’s note below “To Flush” acknowledges both the personal and monetary value of Flush.  Customers who could afford to purchase this ornate gift book likely could also afford the expenses of buying and caring for a purebred dog, and therefore would be interested in such poems.

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Findens’ Tableaux: A Series of Picturesque Scenes of National Character, Beauty, and Costume. Edited by Mary Russell Mitford. Engraved by William and Edward Finden. 1838.

Findens’ Tableaux is a collection of illustrations and stories edited by Mary Russell Mitford, the friend who would give E.B. Browning her spaniel Flush in 1841. Like The Poetic Album, Findens’ Tableaux presents ornate illustrations. Each engraved illustration becomes a tableau, or still picture, that acts out, in freeze-frame, the story or poem it accompanies. The 1838 volume of the Tableaux focuses on stories set in various countries of the world. “Scotland: Sir Allan and his Dog,” the story featured here, was written by Mitford herself. Although the buyers of such a collection would have been very comfortably wealthy, Mitford herself struggled financially (Taneja 131-2). For “ladies of taste” who lacked money, editing collections like the Tableaux and The Poetic Album became a helpful source of income.

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I considered Findens’ Tableaux for inclusion in the exhibit, but ultimately had to omit it due to space constraints: the book is 15 inches tall by 11 ½ inches wide.

 

Friendship’s Forget-Me-Not. London: Thomas Nelson, 1849.

On my trips to the ABL stacks, I noticed that ornamental books—much like prized breeds of dog—tend to be either very large or very small. On the opposite end of the size spectrum from Findens’ Tableaux is Friendship’s Forget-Me-Not, measuring 4 ¾ inches tall by 3 ¼ inches wide. Friendship’s Forget-Me-Not was designed to be a memento given to a friend upon parting. This book was not included in the exhibit because it reprints E. B. Browning’s most frequently anthologized dog poem, “To Flush, My Dog”—a very appropriate choice for a collection of poems sharing the themes of friendship and gifts. Like this ornate gift book, Flush was an extravagant gift between friends.

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As the detailed description of the poem establishes, Flush is a highly decorative spaniel: Browning revels in his “fringed” feet, “tasselled ears,” and “silver-suited breast.” In a similar way that the gilding of Friendship’s Forget-Me-Not can indicate the quality of a friendship, Flush’s beauty serves to demonstrate the quality of Browning’s relationship with Mitford and, in turn, to enhance Browning’s relationship with Flush. Although linking friendship with consumerism in this way might seem problematic, in “To Flush” at least Browning affirms that love, not appearance, is the primary thing.

While Mary Russell Mitford and Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote dog literature for adults (albeit “light” literature), the majority of animal writing throughout the 1800s is written for children. The “Puppy Love” exhibit highlights several examples of animal writing in children’s literature (click here INSERT LINK TO SURVEY POST for a survey of the exhibit’s content). The following two collections (which appear in the exhibit) focus exclusively on animal stories and target an audience of children rather than adults. But as with the ornate collector’s books written for adults, publishers marketed these colorfully illustrated and gilded books in the hope of inducing rich parents to buy.

 

Aunt Louisa’s Choice Present: Comprising Famous Horses, Noted Horses, Famous Dogs, Noted Dogs (or Horses & Dogs). Illustrated by John Frederick Herring, Sr., and Sir Edwin Landseer. Twenty-Four Pictures Printed in Colours by J. Butterfield. London: Frederick Warne and Co., 1876.

This decorative collection presents 24 color pictures of horses and dogs, printed by J. Butterfield from illustrations by Herring and Landseer, who were prominent animal painters of the Victorian period. Although as the preface notes, these paintings were not originally intended to be paired with text, the accompanying narratives comment on society through the stories of these animals, with the intent of making these images interesting and educational for children. The displayed story questions whether the “high life” of a lady’s pet is the life this dog would choose.

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Mary Louisa Molesworth’s Lucky Ducks and Other Stories. Illustrated by W. J. Morgan. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1891.

Book's front board is blue with title in gilt and author's name in red. There is an illustrattion of a young woman feeding several ducks in a field.

Molesworth’s Lucky Ducks and Other Stories. 1891.

Mary Louisa Molesworth’s story of the pampered, naughty dog Dandy parallels the story of Fido in Horses and Dogs: a lady’s dog must live in confined circumstances when he would like to run in the countryside and chase geese. Click here INSERT LINK TO SURVEY POST to see more of the inside of Lucky Ducks! Though Molesworth invites children to notice how pets’ desires and emotions might differ from their owners’, she characterizes Dandy’s actions as naughtiness rather than natural canine behavior. She does not acknowledge that perhaps Dandy’s “lapdog existence” is not best for him, and thus tacitly affirms the upper-class treatment of lapdogs. Although Molesworth herself was born into middle-class circumstances, she tended to write about upper-class concerns (Avery). For a generation of middle- and upper-class children, Molesworth’s animal stories reinforced popular assumptions about status, class differences, and the treatment of animals.

 

Works Cited

Aunt Louisa’s Choice Present: Comprising Famous Horses, Noted Horses, Famous Dogs, Noted Dogs (or Horses & Dogs). Illustrated by John Frederick Herring, Sr., and Sir Edwin Landseer. Twenty-Four Pictures Printed in Colours by J. Butterfield. London: Frederick Warne and Co., 1876.

Avery, Gillian. “Molesworth [née Stewart], Mary Louisa (1839–1921), Novelist and Children’s Writer.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-37776

Findens’ Tableaux: A Series of Picturesque Scenes of National Character, Beauty, and Costume. Edited by Mary Russell Mitford. Engraved by William and Edward Finden. 1838.

Friendship’s Forget-Me-Not. London: Thomas Nelson, 1849.

Molesworth, Mary Louisa. Lucky Ducks and Other Stories. Illustrated by W. J. Morgan. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1891.

The Poetic Album: Containing the Poems of Alfred Tennyson, Mrs. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Alexander Smith. Philadelphia: Willis P. Hazard, 1854.

Taneja, Payal. “Gift-Giving and Domesticating the Upper-Class Pooch in Flush.” Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, vol. 49, no. 1, 2016, pp. 129-144.

 

Read more in this series of blog posts about the exhibit “‘Puppy Love’: An Exploration of Victorian Pet-Owner Relationships“:

Hair Relics and Victorian Death Culture

Gallery

This gallery contains 13 photos.

By Katrina L. Gallegos, M.A. Candidate Museum Studies Graduate Assistant Armstrong Browning Library and Museum Origins This blog post is in conversation with and inspired by a mini exhibit, And It Was All Black featured last semester in the Hankamer … Continue reading

“Puppy Love”: Inside the Process

By Allison Scheidegger, PhD Student, Department of English, Baylor University

This spring, the Armstrong Browning Library is hosting “Puppy Love: An Exploration of Victorian Pet-Owner Relationships,” an exhibition on dog ownership and depictions of dogs in the Victorian period, with a focus on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel, Flush. January 15, 2022 – August 15, 2022.

When friends asked me what I was doing this past summer, and I replied, “I’m curating a museum exhibit about dogs,” I always got one of two responses: “How cool!” or “How odd!” Both have been accurate. I should admit it: I’ve never been a pet person. I’ve kept a safe distance from dogs all my life, but I love the Brownings, and came to Baylor intending to write my dissertation on Robert Browning. When I saw the opportunity to spend time browsing the ABL archives and immersing myself in the Browning atmosphere, I immediately applied for the internship. I figured I could tolerate the dogs for the sake of the Brownings. I’ll tell the story of my personal puppy love journey in a later blog post, but for now, I want to share a peek into my process of researching Victorians’ interactions with their dogs.

Female PhD student seated at a table with several books in front over her.

Inspecting an edition of E. B. Browning’s Poems.

“Puppy Love” began with the idea that it would be fun to do an exhibit on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel, Flush. As I explored Flush’s story alongside secondary sources on pet ownership, I realized that Flush’s story reflects major themes of nineteenth-century pet ownership. And once I expanded my focus to include Victorian dogs more broadly, I realized how much we have in common with the Victorians.

Two women seated outdoors with their backs to one another. The woman facing the reader is petting a dog.

“Scotland,” from Findens’ Tableaux. 1838.

Our modes of expressing our affections have morphed—the Victorians wrote poems; we make posts on doggy Instagram accounts—but the sentiments haven’t. We own “fur babies,” call ourselves “dog moms/dads,” and, like the Victorians, lavish time, money, and energy on our pets. We also face similar social, economic, and ethical issues as a result of the large role of pets in our lives: we have to carefully evaluate if we can make the commitment to caring for a dog; we lament the inhumane breeding practices of puppy mills and worry about dogs left unadopted in shelters. As an increasingly wealthy middle class became interested in the companionship and status that dogs could offer, dog ownership spiked in the Victorian era, leading to the emergence of these same issues.

Because I tend to become bogged down in the details, I tried to keep long-term goals in mind in order to maximize my research time. I first read secondary articles about Flush to get a broad view of his story and the current scholarly conversations surrounding him. Instead of beginning by working through all of E. B. Browning’s letters looking for mentions of Flush, I used the digitized letters database, which provides both scans and transcripts of the Browning letters. Using the database greatly reduced the number of artifacts that had to be brought out of the archives: I could quickly isolate and evaluate relevant letters with simple keyword searches for “Flush” or “dog.”

Once I’d identified and retrieved potential artifacts, it was time to do mock exhibit layouts!

My initial layouts were very rough, and I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of decisions to be made. But in the end, doing physical layouts was the most challenging and exciting part of curating the exhibit. In most of my academic projects, I only arrange words. I enjoyed working with objects that have texture, color, and shape, and I learned so much about effective communication through the process of designing the physical layout. So many factors have to be considered: the space constraints of the exhibit cases, the fragility of the artifacts, the best way to display artifacts. Often, I would come to a layout with a plan in mind, only to realize that my plan wouldn’t work in the exhibit space. The practical limitations of my space and my materials kept my project grounded in practical communication concerns: I had to consider, above all, what would be most interesting and accessible to my audience. Thinking within the genre of the museum exhibit has trained new communication muscles. Often in writing for an academic audience, I don’t think about whether I am expressing myself as clearly as possible, but this project has taught me that clarity and accessibility should always be a primary concern. If my audience isn’t engaged by my writing, why write?

While curating this exhibition has challenged me as a thinker and writer, it will challenge me most as a teacher. I teach English composition at Baylor, and will teach British literature in the future. Curating this exhibit has made me rethink the way I structure my classes, forcing me to ask questions like “Am I stating the main point as clearly and simply as possible? Are the time blocks, sequencing, and activities in a class period all contributing to meaningful student interaction with our learning objective?” My internship also made me aware of opportunities for connecting students with the resources the Armstrong Browning Library offers. Many students who are accustomed to using only online resources are intimidated by the prospect of walking into a library and requesting physical artifacts. This summer, I learned that the ABL offers instruction sessions and teaching fellowships for faculty and graduate instructors who want their students to work with rare items relating to their class theme. I plan to use these resources when I begin teaching British literature next year.

 

Work Cited

Findens’ Tableaux: A Series of Picturesque Scenes of National Character, Beauty, and Costume. Edited by Mary Russell Mitford. Engraved by William and Edward Finden. 1838.

 

Read more in this series of blog posts about the exhibit “Puppy Love’: An Exploration of Victorian Pet-Owner Relationships“:

Victorian Pet-Owner Relationships in the ABL’s Archive

By Allison Scheidegger, PhD Student, Department of English, Baylor University

This spring, the Armstrong Browning Library is hosting “Puppy Love: An Exploration of Victorian Pet-Owner Relationships,” an exhibition on dog ownership and depictions of dogs in the Victorian period, with a focus on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel, Flush. January 15, 2022 – August 15, 2022.

Curious about what their pets were thinking and feeling, Victorian authors lent animals emotions, thoughts, and even voices in their writing. Elizabeth Barrett Browning tried twice to represent Flush’s thoughts and emotions in poetry, and included tales of his antics in her letters. Although nineteenth-century literature about pets was often dismissed as frivolous, the issues raised were serious. As the increasing wealth of middle- and upper-class Victorians enabled them to purchase pets, a surge in dog ownership brought accompanying problems of misguided canine care and the use of pedigreed dogs as status symbols. Meanwhile, dognapping rings sought to profit from owners’ emotional and economic investment in their dogs. The stories of Flush and other Victorian dogs reveal both the possibilities and problems of pet ownership. Interacting with pets as fellow-creatures can increase humans’ capacity to give and receive love; however, the relationship is always imperfect. Like Victorian pet owners, we struggle at times to understand and meet our pets’ needs.

Flush and Friendship

The exhibition is divided into three sections. The first section focuses on E. B. Browning’s relationship with Flush and how that relationship fostered other friendships. Flush became a living symbol of the friendship between Browning and fellow author Mary Russell Mitford. When Mitford sent Flush as a gift to comfort Browning after the death of her brother Edward, Flush succeeded in rousing Browning from deep depression. Although as an invalid Browning lived a secluded life, she communicated with Mitford and other friends through letters in which she described Flush’s looks, emotions, and antics.

E. B. Browning’s “To Flush, My Dog,” in The Poetic Album. 1854.

E. B. Browning’s “To Flush, My Dog,” in The Poetic Album. 1854.

Browning first shared Flush with her reading public through the poem “To Flush, My Dog.” After reading “To Flush ,” one of Browning’s fans, fellow poet Thomas Westwood, took courage to begin corresponding with Browning. In the first section of the exhibit, a pair of letters between Browning and Westwood reveals how Flush became a mediator between Browning and the outside world—owning a dog was a shared experience that enabled Browning to connect with others.

Social Issues: Breeding and Dognapping

The second section examines cultural issues that arose from the pedigreed pet craze in Victorian England. As more middle- and upper-class citizens became dog owners, interest in dog breeding grew exponentially. Although authors like Eliza Cook insisted that a mutt without a pedigree could be as lovable and loyal as an expensive spaniel, for many Victorians, a pedigreed pet was a status symbol. Valuable ladies’ pets like Flush led lives of luxurious confinement, eating sweets and lying on couches nearly all day. In addition to their unhealthy lifestyles, on their brief walks, these pets faced the threat of dognapping. Because the rich lived alongside the poor in London, poorer Londoners watched the rich parade their expensive pets along the sidewalks. London dognapping gangs grew wealthy by capturing pedigreed dogs and threatening to kill them unless their owners paid a ransom. E. B. Browning’s spaniel Flush became a victim of these socioeconomic trends, as Browning announces in a letter to her cousin John Kenyon.

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Depicting Animals

The third section considers broader trends of animal writing in the nineteenth century. In the Victorian period, stories about pets were often written for the purpose of teaching children. Because to Victorian pet owners, pets seemed nearly human in their personalities and emotional responsiveness, many of these stories engage in anthropomorphism, the imagining of animals as human. Writers of animal stories experimented with giving animals voices and perspectives that tend to resemble human voices and perspectives. While many nineteenth-century authors like Mary Louisa Molesworth seem confident in their ability to accurately portray pets’ unique personalities, modern authors such as Virginia Woolf still struggle with the question of how to represent pets’ thoughts and feelings.

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Works Cited

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. Letter to John Kenyon. 2 September 1846. Browning Correspondence.

—. “To Flush, My Dog.” In The Poetic Album: Containing the Poems of Alfred Tennyson, Mrs. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Alexander Smith. Philadelphia: Willis P. Hazard, 1854.

Molesworth, Mary Louisa. Lucky Ducks and Other Stories. Illustrated by W. J. Morgan. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1891.

Woolf, Virginia. Flush: A Biography. London: Hogarth Press, 1933.

 

 

Read more in this series of blog posts about the exhibit “‘Puppy Love’: An Exploration of Victorian Pet-Owner Relationships“:

 

Browning Scholar Enjoys Long-Awaited Research Visit

A photo of Marta Gimenez Orti outside of the Armstrong Browning Library & Museum

Marta Gimenez Orti

In late 2019, Marta Gimenez Orti, a doctoral student from Spain, received a scholarship from Universidad Complutense de Madrid. The award enabled her to conduct dissertation research for a semester at Armstrong Browning Library & Museum at Baylor University, which is the international center for research on the lives and works of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. However, as she began to make travel plans it soon became clear her Baylor visit would be delayed due to COVID-19.

Orti completed her undergraduate degree and two masters degrees in education and translation in Spain. However, she decided to pursue a Ph.D in literature. Her love of literature and Italian drew her to the works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

When Orti found out she was awarded the scholarship, she was excited because she was working full-time as a high school teacher while trying to complete work on her Ph.D. The research leave would enable her to focus on her dissertation research and complete her degree.

“I had to wait for two years. I had to keep on working which was hard for me, and I also had to do a lot more paperwork to come here,” said Orti. “I had to go to the embassy to do my visa and I had to do a lot of COVID-19 tests.”

Orti’s research asks why Elizabeth Barrett Browning is not as highly recognized as other English writers from the Victorian era.

“She [Elizabeth Barrett Browning] was like the Shakespeare of women, and she influenced a lot of writers such as Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allen Poe. However, today they are much more popular than her and few study her. I want to know why she is not well-known anymore, even though she is a pioneer among English authors.”

Reductions in COVID travel restrictions enabled Orti to make her journey to Baylor in August. Now that she is at the Armstrong Browning Library she enjoys the atmosphere around campus.

“I am happy that Marta was finally able to join us, and I look forward to learning what her research reveals about Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s reputation and reception in Italy,” said Director of Armstrong Browning Library Jennifer Borderud. “I am also happy that Marta has been able to experience campus life at Baylor and explore Waco and Texas.”

One of the biggest differences between Baylor and her school in Madrid is the amount of help that Orti has received at Armstrong Browning Library.

Coming to a place like Armstrong Browning Library allows Orti to have resources all in one building, where in Spain, she described having to go to different cities to find certain resources. She is also appreciative of the staff that accompanies her at Armstrong Browning Library as they have greatly helped her adjust to life in the United States.

“I thought that adjusting to life in the United States would be harder, but it’s not. Christi and Jennifer at the Armstrong Browning Library are helping me a lot. They even looked for an apartment for me here,” said Orti. “I have also met some people here at the library and I have been spending time with them, so I thought that it would be harder but I am very good here actually.”

Since coming to the United States, Orti is also pleasantly surprised at the amount of student activities that Baylor offers compared to universities in Spain.

“It is so different from Europe. Here you have a lot of activities for students and organizations and I have a lot of opportunities to go out, so that’s something new for me as a student and I really love it.”

Orti plans on completing and defending her dissertation in January and would love to remain at Baylor for a little longer as a professor of language or literature.

A Browning Pilgrimage

by Rachel Jacob, Armstrong Browning Library Graduate Research Assistant

Part of my duties as a graduate research assistant at the Armstrong Browning Library involve looking through our collections to answer research questions people ask. A recent question related to the Armstrong tours caused me to look through the unprocessed collection of the tour company which Mary Armstrong, Dr. Armstrong’s wife, ran for many years. In researching this collection, I stumbled across the Browning pilgrimage which the Armstrong Educational Tours company created.

Brochure for the first Browning pilgrimage.

In 1926, the Armstrong Tour company offered an exciting tour of Europe highlighting areas of the Browning’s lives. The tour was infused with literary references and readings. The tourists, or “pilgrims”, would even have literary lectures given by Dr. Armstrong and European Browning scholars at various stops on the trip. Dr. Armstrong himself described the tour:

“This pilgrimage to the shrines of the most virile poet of the Nineteenth Century is a spontaneous growth, out of the minds and hearts of Browning Lovers of America. The tour will include all the interesting features along the usual path through artistic and literary and historic and scenic beauties of Europe. But, in addition to these, there will be excursions along the trail of the Brownings. This means charming excursions in out-of-the-way corners of Europe, which lend to this tour peculiar and gripping interest.”

Photograph of the Browning pilgrimage tour at Fano.

On the tour, the group visited important places in Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s story including their home at Casa Guidi, Barrett Browning’s house at 50 Wimpole Street, the church where they were married, and the burial spot of Barrett Browning. The group also visited the Baths of Luca where Barrett Browning presented her Sonnets of the Portuguese to Browning. Another literary stop relating to the Browning’s works was the Piazza S. Lorenzo where the Old Yellow Book, the inspiration for the Ring and the Book, was found. The pilgrims even followed the trail of Pompelia and Caponsacchi while they were traveling. They were also able to visit Fano to see the Guardian Angel, for which Browning wrote his eponymous poem. During the trip, the pilgrims met significant people like Prince Fabrizio Cigala, the Governor of Calabria, professors at the University of Naples, and various Browning scholars and supporters.

 

Brochure for the second Browning pilgrimage.

The first tour must have been a success because in 1930 Armstrong Educational Tours offered a second Browning pilgrimage. This second pilgrimage had 19 pilgrims join on an even more expansive 5-month tour. The new additions to the tour included a trip to Ravenna to place a wreath on the grave of Dante and visit Ferrara which was associated with My Last Duchess. During their celebration in Rome for the fourth of July, the pilgrims met Contessa Zampini-Salazar, Count and Countess Vanutelli, and Donna Olivia Agresti-Rosetti, the niece of Christina and Dante Rossetti. While on the trip they even met the pope.

In discussing the second Browning pilgrimage, Dr. Armstrong remarked, “of all the twenty-odd tours I have made to Europe, this one was by far the most memorable.”

Although there was no documentation in this collection that shows the Armstrong tour company ever leading another Browning pilgrimage, Dr. Roger Brooks resurrected the trip in 1991. Dr. Brooks, the then director of the Armstrong Browning Library, offered a scaled-down week-long version of the trip. During the trip, Dr. Brooks participated in the wreath-laying ceremony at Browning’s grave in Westminster Abbey.

Going into this collection, I only expected to find an answer to the original research question, but instead, I was able to witness the dedication and impact of the Brownings that is still seen to this day.

Female Poets at Baylor: Fiona Sampson and EBB

Gallery

This gallery contains 5 photos.

By Katrina L. Gallegos, M.A. Candidate Museum Studies Graduate Assistant Armstrong Browning Library and Museum Last month the Armstrong Browning Library and Museum in partnership with the Beall Poetry Festival hosted distinguished English poet Fiona Sampson. Over the course of … Continue reading

Kress Collection Digitally Reunited

By Madeleine L. Svehla, MDiv, George W. Truett Theological Seminary

The launch of the Kress Collection’s Digital Archive continues Samuel H. Kress’ vision of making his 13th-19th century European art collection permanently available to the public. The beauty and magnitude of his collection of over 3000 pieces of art is now digitally reunited and can be accessed here: https://www.kressfoundation.org/kress-collection/list. The famous Kress Collection which is known as the premier collection of European art from the 13th to 19th century was distributed all over the United States to various museums, universities, and galleries in what the February 1962 edition of Life called the “Great Kress Giveaway.”

One of the Kress Collection's paintings on display at the Armstrong Browning Library

Francesco Zuccarelli’s “Landscape with Bridge” (1720) was acquired by the Kress Foundation in 1950 and is on display in the Armstrong Browning Library.

Building & Distributing the Kress Collection

The Kress Collection had its beginnings in the 1920s but the story behind the collection begins earlier. This is a story that involves hard work, brotherhood, and legacy. This legacy has been grown like a tree sheltered during its sapling state by the efforts of a younger brother committed to carrying out his older brothers’ vision. This vision could never have been developed without the perseverance shown by Samuel H. Kress in developing his entrepreneurship and building his company from the ground up. This is his story.

Christ the Man of Sorrows 1540 is by Giampietrino an Italian painter. It was acquired by the Kress collection in 1939.

Samuel H. Kress (1863-1955) was born during the Civil War and named after an uncle who recently died in the Battle of Gettysburg. He was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse while he saved up to purchase a Stationery and Notions Shop and eventually a Wholesalers. He opened his first 5 and 10 Cent Store in Memphis, TN in 1896. These stores became wildly popular and new locations opened across the United States. Through the success of these stores, Samuel Kress became one of the wealthiest men in America.

Italian art was not readily available in America in the 1920s when S. Kress through a suggestion by a friend began to be interested in collecting Italian art. He worked with Contini- Bonacossi to build his collection. He came to view it as his duty to share the masterpieces he had discovered. As the collection expanded, the Kress Foundation was founded to take care of the growing needs of the collection. The Kress Foundation was the most active buyer of European Art throughout WWII. Parts of the Collection were selected to tour the country and these local exhibitions were extremely popular. The Foundation decided that—rather than building a museum or gallery for the entire collection to be put on display— they would partner with museums, galleries, and universities around the US to display portions of the collection.

The Holy Family with the Infant St. John 1600 by Flaminio Allegrini. It was acquired by the Kress Collection in 1950.

In 1946, Samuel began to suffer from ill health and his brother Rush H. Kress (1877-1963) took over the foundations’ collection efforts. Under Rush’s guidance, the collection continued to expand and be displayed across the US. This collection has been preserved and remains cared for by those working for the Kress Collection and the institutions housing it. These men and women are continuing the work begun by the Kress brothers.

Kress Collection Donates 5 Paintings to Baylor University

The oldest and most valuable of these paintings is the Madonna and Child 1310. This painting is thought to be painted by a Pietro Lorenzetti follower. It was acquired by the Kress collection in 1939.

In 1961, the Kress Foundation generously donated five paintings to Baylor University that are housed in the Armstrong Browning Museum and Library. These paintings have been on permanent display in the Treasure Room for almost 60 years. Professors and students have been enriched by the ability to work with these paintings. For instance, Heidi Hornik Ph.D. (a professor of Art and Art History at BU) took her upper-division seminar class to the ABL and the students were able to examine the 14th century Madonna and Child in detail. To read more about Dr. Hornik’s work both in and out of the classroom, please visit: https://www.baylor.edu/alumni/magazine/1702/index.php?id=957830

Four of these paintings depict Biblical characters from Jesus’ life, such as Mary and John the Baptist. The final piece is a landscape. Each piece is a beautiful example of Italian art from the 14-18th centuries.

The Christ figure above the Madonna and Child is holding his hand in a distinctive way that has theological significance. The two fingers held up and slightly apart represent the human and divine natures of the person of Christ. The fourth and fifth fingers meeting the thumb represents the three in one mystery of the Trinity. He is also robed in blue and red which represent his divinity and humanity respectively.

Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist and 3 Angels 1560 This painting is thought to be painted by an Andrea del Sarto follower. It was acquired by the Kress collection in 1950.

Robert Browning wrote the poem The Faultless Painter about Andrea del Sarto in 1855. Sarto is known for his meticulous attention to detail. Browning was inspired by one of his paintings and after researching the artist’s life wrote a poem that explores Andrea’s tragic love story with his wife. Though the Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist and 3 Angels is thought to be painted by a follower of Andrea del Sarto, it provides viewers with an idea of what Sarto’s meticulous style is like.

Leaving a legacy is like planting a tree. The one who plants it may never see it grow to full size. However, future generations are blessed by basking in the coolness of its shade and it leaves a lasting mark on the landscape. None of us can ever truly know the long-lasting impact our dreams will have or how the ways that we invest in the future may one day come to fruition. Samuel H. Kress’ vision of making his collection as accessible to the public as possible is now being accomplished in ways never dreamed of during his lifetime. Yet, his legacy lives on in the splendor of this shared collection.

Image Citations

Reflections from a Visiting Scholar: Archival Expectations and Unexpected Surprises

By Kevin A. Morrison, PhD, Provincial Chair Professor, University Distinguished Professor, and Professor of British Literature in the School of Foreign Languages at Henan University

Professor Kevin A. Morrison in the Belew Scholars' Room at the Armstrong Browning Library

Professor Kevin A. Morrison in the Belew Scholars’ Room at the Armstrong Browning Library

Walking into an archive or a special collections reading room, the researcher carries more than a laptop (to record notes) or smart phone (to take pictures of the newspaper cuttings, correspondence, or rare books one is examining). The researcher also brings to bear on the examined material a range of expectations—from the epistemological and the ideological to the identificatory and the mundane. Indeed, perhaps the greatest allure of the archive is not the prospect of obtaining more complete knowledge of one’s subject, aided by a little luck (such as finding an uncatalogued letter, diary entry, or manuscript that solves whatever interpretative mystery has drawn one there in the first place), but of uninterrupted time in which to write and think.

When I arrived at Baylor at the end of April 2021, I (half) expected that life would stop. After all, I had spent the preceding fourteen months under mandated and self-imposed lockdowns. Like many scholars whose work is based in archives, I found such conditions stymying. I would often joke to colleagues that I didn’t know which I was looking forward to more at the conclusion of the pandemic: no longer wearing a mask or no longer having to use HathiTrust. As it happens, over my month-long stay in Waco, both were achieved: I could, once again, hold physical objects from the past in my hands as well as experience, however briefly before the Delta variant took hold, the pleasures of reading in a building without my glasses fogging up.

What I did not experience, however, was undisturbed time in which to work. Instead, family health crises, complicated childcare arrangements, and a flat tire competed with my research priorities and, on occasion, burst my expectational bubble. If the staff of the Armstrong Baylor Library could not solve medical problems, however, they were more than happy to help me get driving again or to offer suggestions of things to do in Waco with children (such as Wacotown Chalk + Walk and the wonderful Mayborn Museum). Nevertheless, I welcomed the opportunity to make progress on a project that, owing to the pandemic, I had deferred for more than a year.

A Peep into a Gin Shop

A peep into a gin shop! (19thCent Oversize HV5182 .P44 1825)

In 2019 I was commissioned by Routledge to produce a five-volume compendium of primary source materials titled Charity and Philanthropy in Nineteenth-Century Britain. The nineteenth century in Britain was a markedly philanthropic and charitable age. Building on trends that began in the 1700s, philanthropic activity and charitable practices became widespread, often institutionally organized and directed, and targeted an astonishingly diverse array of fields: education and child welfare, the arts, family planning, animal welfare, medical reform, and the eradication of social ills. The sources in this five-volume edition will provide a foundational basis for studying the many reasons for giving during this period and the varied practices associated with giving. Each volume will cover a diverse array of fields and, to the extent possible, include national, regional, and local material.

While I will be drawing on material in other archives, for the first volume, tentatively titled “The Spur of Religion,” I was particularly eager to consult the ABL’s collections of tracts and theological pamphlets. Although the concept of charity is arguably rooted in the Old and New Testaments, and the notion of philanthropy emerges in the seventeenth century, it was only in the nineteenth century that both assumed their modern form. The materials in the first volume will provide essential context for understanding the role of religion in nineteenth-century charity and philanthropy. The tracts touch on a range of charitable themes, while the pamphlets provide insight into the religious dimensions of charity and philanthropy. Director Jennifer Borderud helped me navigate these large, and therefore daunting, collections by organizing the material around a number of key terms central to the volumes, including temperance, vivisection, and abolitionism.

Sermon Preached at Saint Peter's, Cornhill

A sermon preached at Saint Peter’s, Cornhill. (19thCent Oversize BX5133.C38 S47 1839)

After two weeks of working with the tracts and pamphlets, I had one of those epiphanic archival moments that significantly changed how I spent the duration of my visit. Just before the coronavirus pandemic was declared, I was finishing a book manuscript, tentatively titled Studies of Provincial Life: Mitford, Gaskell, Eliot. Although Mary Russell Mitford, Elizabeth Gaskell, and George Eliot were near contemporaries, spanning two generations, and were celebrated for their representations of rural life, the three authors have never been extensively studied together. Readers often considered that the authors’ glimpses of rural life were based on their individual experiences, and their works were marketed accordingly. Yet when Elizabeth Gaskell undertook in 1851 to write the literary sketches for Household Words: A Weekly Journal Conducted by Charles Dickens that would later appear as Cranford (1853), she looked to Mitford. In Our Village (1824–32) Mitford established the prototype of a new genre to which many writers throughout the century attributed aspects of their craft. In turn, when Marian Evans—who had been a journalist, translator, and editor—tried her hand at fiction, the future George Eliot drew inspiration from Cranford and from the thematic and formal techniques of both Gaskell and Mitford. Tracing this chain of influence, my book demonstrates that Mitford, Gaskell, and Eliot, all of whom have often been employed in service to projects of restorative nostalgia that seek to reconstruct the present in the image of the past, worked within a reflective strain that accepted the pastness of the past and embraced change, however reluctantly and wistfully.

By March 2020, I had a working draft of the manuscript. What I did not possess were the many images I had hoped to incorporate. Over the course of writing, I had also come up with a number of very specific questions about the primary sources with which I was working that could be answered only by undertaking significant fact checking. Because I had to scrap my planned summer 2020 trip to London, where I intended to finish the manuscript at the British Library, the project had been on the back burner for more than a year. On a lark, midway through my time in Waco, I decided to see whether the ABL held any of the titles I needed to consult, such as the original eight parts of Eliot’s Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life or various biographies of Eliot, Gaskell, and Mitford. My heart rate quickened as each title I looked up in the catalog was found in the collection. With Jennifer’s gracious willingness to allow me to switch my focus, I spent my remaining days at the ABL bringing the project to completion.

Playing with bubbles

Playing with bubbles in Christi Klempnauer’s Office

Life may not stop at the doors of the archive. But this does not lessen the pleasures of immersing oneself in a subject (or two!). Nor does it diminish the thrill of discovering something new. In my case, the many intrusions of life also enabled me to learn more about the librarians and staff members who are primarily there to assist researchers with their work. Having brought my kids to the ABL one afternoon, I discovered that Christi Klempnauer, the library’s administrative coordinator, carries a bottle of bubbles with a wand in her purse! If my expectational bubble about undisturbed time was burst on days when I had to contend with a flat tire or a sick family member, the shrieks of delight my children emitted as they ran around the administrative office—and thus, the unexpected and joyful integration of my personal and professional lives—offered more than recompense.

Reflections from a Visiting Scholar: About Time

By Lindsey N. Chappell, PhD, Assistant Professor of English, Georgia Southern University

Dr. Lindsey N. Chappell in the Belew Scholars' Room at the Armstrong Browning Library.

Dr. Lindsey N. Chappell in the Belew Scholars’ Room at the Armstrong Browning Library.

It’s always a good idea to have a plan before going to an archive. This is the advice I give my students because, as I tell them, funny things happen to time in these places. You compress your research, sprinting through (or frantically photographing) primary sources, and new ideas and objects will lead you into rabbit holes. You will be perpetually perplexed about what month it is. You will lose an entire Wednesday. In an archive, then, you want to be flexible enough to accommodate exciting discoveries but prepared enough that you don’t waste time wondering where to start.

I believe this is, in general, good advice. I’m sure someone else gave it to me (probably Helena Michie, whose graduate seminar first required me to work with archival material). And being a responsible scholar—is it possible to fail grad school retroactively?—I did have a plan when I applied for a visiting fellowship at the ABL. I swear.

However, finally arriving (fully vaccinated!) at Baylor in May 2021, a year after my originally scheduled visit, my research projects had changed. I’d moved on from some projects and changed priorities with others. I had an initial research question, but I wasn’t sure what I would do with the things I found, especially since my book project (currently titled Temporal Forms: British Heritage Discourse and the Nineteenth-Century Mediterranean) was a year—ok, a pandemic year—further along than when I had originally planned my visit.

My book is about three Mediterranean regions that were central to the making of Western cultural heritage—Italy, Greece, and the so-called “Holy Land”—in British literature. The Mediterranean, I argue, enables us to ask how historical narratives intervened in geopolitics, how antiquarianism sparked scientific innovation, and how classical and biblical heritage shaped British imperialism. I trace the contours of what I call “heritage discourse”—narrative that constructs or challenges imperial identities by reshaping antiquity—across nineteenth-century British texts about the Mediterranean. Heritage discourse, I argue, functions via time, and often in counterintuitive and paradoxical ways. If assertions of political, cultural, and eventually racial supremacy were the end of this Mediterranean heritage discourse, then time was the means through which it could be (and perhaps still is) deployed and resisted. Temporal Forms reveals how recalculations of time on a geological scale, subsequent new histories of human civilization, radical reinventions of time, trajectories of cultural development, and growing skepticism toward long-held Enlightenment and biblical accounts all converged in British representations of the Mediterranean.

When I applied to be a visiting fellow at the ABL, I planned to start working on the Italy section of Temporal Forms and especially to write a chapter about Florence. My initial research questions were: What are the temporal forms that organize Florence and its inhabitants/visitors? How did people imagine/conceive of Florence around the Risorgimento, and how did that shape the ways they experienced time and constructed it narratively? By 2021, though, I had already decided to focus the Florence chapter on syncretism as a temporal form, and I had a working draft completed. Still, I wanted to see what I could find about the Anglo-American community in Italy and especially the abstract idea of “liberty” in the late 1850s and early 1860s, which I discuss at the end my Italy section. I don’t write much about the Brownings themselves, whose Italy connections have been so well trod in scholarship already (though EBB’s Poems before Congress and RB’s Old Pictures in Florence inform my Italy section, and I looked at editions of both in the ABL). Because the Brownings lived in Florence, though, their archives contain a wealth of material on the broader nineteenth-century Anglo-American community in Italy.

During my fellowship, I read material by and about: John Ruskin, Arthur Hugh Clough, Vernon Lee, and the American sculptor Hiram Powers. I hunted for the Horner family, who feature in my Florence chapter, and Sarah Parker Remond, a Black anti-slavery activist who moved to Florence in 1867 and became a physician. In the case of the former, I found materials in the 19th-Century Collection, the Browning Letters, and especially in the newspaper archive databases available through Baylor (for example, the obituary Susan Horner wrote for her father, reviews of her many publications on Italian art and politics, information on societies and people she mentions in her journals). In the case of the latter, I found no trace (did Remond cease speaking publicly after the US Civil War? After she moved to Italy? Or did the Italian newspapers not report on her the way the British and American ones had? I couldn’t find her in Florence, though I did find a letter she published in the American National Anti-Slavery Standard written from Florence in 1866).

In my hunt for Remond, the Horners, and the wider Anglo-American community in Florence, I consulted the ABL’s holdings of the Florentine newspaper La Nazione. But “consulted” is reductive of the physical experience of accessing and reading La Nazione. The bound volumes are huge. And heavy. And crumbling. I admired Jennifer Borderud, Director of the ABL, even before I witnessed her fearlessness and enthusiasm in the pursuit of knowledge. She didn’t weep when I requested these volumes—didn’t even flinch—but, as she explained, fetching them was a multiple-person operation. I accompanied Jennifer (and a sturdy cart) into storage where we proceeded to wrestle several volumes out for my perusal.

I have gotten used to (all right, spoiled by) digital newspaper archives. Yes, of course I will romanticize the material artifact, the smell and feel of decaying paper, as much as any self-respecting Victorianist. I love old books. But part of me—the part aware of my month-long fellowship steadily ticking away—longed for a search box. La Nazione was founded in Florence by Bettino Ricasoli in 1859 as a daily political newspaper. For me, that meant skimming 365 numbers per year of small print in Italian, hoping I would notice when my eyes passed over a name or event of interest to me.

A volume of La Nazione containing part of 1859—a research endeavor.

A volume of La Nazione containing part of 1859—a research endeavor.

Nineteenth-century issues of La Nazione organize news geographically into “Notizie Italiane” (“Italian News,” subsectioned by regions within Italy, in its earliest numbers still an aspirational national designation) and “Notizie Estere” (“Foreign News,” subsectioned by country and/or city or region—the scale of the geographical designations is sometimes irregular). An “America” section might contain US Civil War news and news from Peru; sometimes there is a very specific location heading (such as “New York” or “Hong Kong”) and sometimes a more sweeping designation (“Asia”). And sometimes broad headings like “France” contain only news of Paris. I am endlessly interested in what might be contained in these kinds of geographic labels (and what might be left out).

La Nazione 11 October 1862, reporting the Emancipation Proclamation in the U.S. alongside news from Paris and London about Risorgimento efforts.

La Nazione 11 October 1862, reporting the Emancipation Proclamation in the U.S. alongside news from Paris and London about Risorgimento efforts.

Of special interest to me were the London news segments; in the early numbers especially, these were often Italian translations of what British periodicals were saying about Italy, including reprints of calls for English readers to support the Italian independence efforts. Similarly, much of the “America” news reprinted selections from the Italian-American paper Eco d’Italia (published in Italian in New York City), making La Nazione’s reprints an echo of an echo as they captured nineteenth-century immigration networks and shared concerns for “liberty” as Italy pursued independence from foreign rule and the U.S. fought a civil war over slavery.

And there was also news that, to me, bore no immediate relevance to Italian politics: a lecture given at the Museum of Natural Science in February 1867 showcased dicksonia antarctica, the Australian tree fern (I do love a nice tree fern). The issue for 17 June 1873 noted that Great Britain had a population of 22,712,000 in 1871 and 135,004 convictions for drunkenness (I have no idea why this might have mattered in Florence, but I look forward to your emails explaining it). I did say there were rabbit holes.

Nor were diversions limited to the contents of La Nazione. What is the use, one might ask, of having a research plan when there is a book in the archives called Strange Visitors written in 1869 “by the Spirits of Irving, Willis, Thackeray, Bronte, Richter, Byron, Humboldt, Hawthorne, Wesley, Browning, and others now dwelling in the spirit world. Dictated through a clairvoyant, while in an abnormal or trance state”? Did I know Charlotte Brontë posthumously dictated a short story called “Agnes Reef” to a clairvoyant? As the editor Henry J. Horn describes, “For weeks and months the unseen visitors were punctual to their appointments, and this novel-mode of book making proceeded steadily in interest and variety until the volume was completed” (viii).

You may be thinking, to borrow a phrase from Bleak House, “What connexion can there be?” But I did plan to research temporality, and here was an assertion that spirits observed human-time—at least while Horn was making his book (which went through at least three editions).

From Italy (and Strange Visitors), I moved on to Austen Henry Layard, Harriet Martineau, and biblical archaeology and history, gathering material for the “Holy Land” section of Temporal Forms. In addition to books, I consulted the ABL’s theological tracts collection. Here were many texts engaged in British efforts to find and to date biblical sites like Nineveh. I looked at a lavishly illustrated American book, Antiquities of the Orient Unveiled, by M. Wolcott Redding. Despite the creepy pun on “Unveiled,” this book engages the scientific rhetoric of nineteenth-century archaeology. As in Layard’s publications on Nineveh, there is here an insistence on describing historical sites as they are “now,” while most of the illustrations are strangely timeless. The first chapter, “Jerusalem,” includes two facing images. The first (and largest, consisting of a fold-out page) shows “Jerusalem as it was in the time of Solomon—Population 150,000.” The second, “Jerusalem as it is—Population 20,000.” It’s an invitation to compare then and now, but the comparison is thwarted by the difference in the pictures’ sizes (does the larger picture reflect the larger population of “old” Jerusalem? Its greater importance for readers of Antiquities who are gazing on this “Orient” “Unveil[ed]—with or without consent?) and in their different orientations (old Jerusalem is formatted horizontally; new is formatted vertically, so a reader would have to rotate the book to look at each, meaning either then or now is always the wrong way up.

Two pictures of Jerusalem, Antiquities of the Orient Unveiled, by M. Wolcott Redding.

Two pictures of Jerusalem, Antiquities of the Orient Unveiled, by M. Wolcott Redding

Many materials I accessed in the archive were digital but not available through my own institution. To me, being a visiting fellow at the ABL meant not only working with old material things like La Nazione (The Archive, à la A.S. Byatt) but also accessing resources available to me as a temporary member of this research community. This part of the visiting fellowship was invaluable to me as a scholar without regular access to an R1 library or time dedicated to using it.

Even though the pandemic is not “over” (whatever that might come to mean), in my memory I am already registering it as an event with concrete edges. My pandemic memory is bookended by two scholarly occasions: the Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies conference in March 2020 and my fellowship at the ABL more than fourteen months later, where I first traveled and took off my mask in public. I am so grateful to the ABL staff for supporting my work, for assisting (and cleaning up after) my research, and for inviting me to write this reflection, where I could revel briefly in all the things that caught my interest but that may never have otherwise “counted” as research.