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Current Issue Article Abstracts

Spring 2017, Vol. 80.1


The Octonaire in Thomas Smith’s Self-Portrait

Peter Auger

Thomas Smith’s Self-Portrait (ca. 1680) is the earliest known self-portrait produced in New England and the only painting extant from this period identified with a specific artist. Smith is commonly assumed to have composed the eight-line poem “Why Why Should I the World Be Minding” that appears in the portrait. In fact, these verses are the English translator Josuah Sylvester’s version of a French octonaire that was written by the Huguenot minister and author Simon Goulart and set to music by Paschal de L’Estocart in the early 1580s. This discovery casts fresh light on how the arrangement of elements in the portrait was consistent with the aesthetic values of early American Puritan culture that the painting is taken to embody. Specifically, it calls attention to how the poem functions like a “motto” (the word used when the English poem was first printed in Sylvester’s Devine Weekes, and Workes) that illuminates the spiritual significance of the portrait’s emblematic features.

English Provincial Engagement in Religious Debates: The Salisbury Quarrel of 1705–15

William Gibson

Gilbert Burnet, bishop of Salisbury, was embroiled in a series of disputes in his diocese from 1705 until his death in 1715. These stemmed from Burnet’s support for the toleration of religious dissent as well as his stance on the legitimacy of the Glorious Revolution and resistance to tyrants. In this essay, William Gibson shows that these debates provide insight into the links between provincial and national controversies. The actions of the mob, the electorate, the clergy, and tract writers of all persuasions in London and Salisbury reveal a complex interplay of national and local identities within a microcosm of the issues that the English confronted in the quarter century after 1688.

Literary Evaluation and Authorship Attribution, or Defoe’s Politics at the Hanoverian Succession

Nicholas Seager

In this essay, Nicholas Seager argues for re-attributing two pamphlets to Daniel Defoe: A Secret History of One Year (1714) and Memoirs of the Conduct of Her Late Majesty and Her Last Ministry (1715). These works, published shortly after the Hanoverian succession, were excluded from Defoe’s canon by Furbank and Owens on the grounds that the writing was poor in quality. A closer review of the external and internal evidence, however, points to Defoe as the author of these occasional political tracts, which reveal his attempts to attenuate what he perceived as the harmful effects of government by a single-party ministry.

Henry Fielding and English Crime and Justice Reportage, 1748–52: Narratives of Panic, Authority, and Emotion

David Lemmings

This essay discusses representations of crime and justice in London during the years of Henry Fielding’s Bow Street magistracy (1748–54), with an emphasis on his management of the press and its influence on popular feeling. Contemporary newspaper reports about Fielding and his thieftakers offered comforting narratives about authority triumphing over disorder. His Charge Delivered to the Grand Jury (1749) and Enquiry into the Causes of the Late Increase of Robbers (1751), however, described a crisis of lawlessness. Finally, his Covent Garden Journal (1752) invested offenders’ stories with strong elements of humor, compassion, and prurient interest. I conclude that Fielding’s literary and commercial instincts inspired polyvocal representations of passion and compassion that undermined the “authorized” message of law and justice.

Patronage, Punch-Ups, and Polite Correspondence: The Radical Background of James Woodhouse’s Early Poetry

Adam J. Bridgen

In this essay, Adam Bridgen argues that the oft-condemned “sycophancy” of James Woodhouse’s early poetry is a misapprehension that overlooks the emergence of his evangelical, egalitarian beliefs in the mid-1760s. Reconsidering the letters between Woodhouse and his patrons reveals not only the influential friendships he cultivated as a plebeian poet but also the class prejudices he continued to encounter and resist, often forcefully. Although he conformed to a humble self-portrayal in his 1764 and 1766 Poems, Woodhouse’s subversion of praise allowed him to criticize as well as commend elite behavior; viewing benevolence as a Christian duty faithful to the more equal society that God had intended, he praised patronage, in fact, for its leveling potential.

Sublime Astronomy: The Eidouranion of Adam Walker and His Sons

Jan Golinski

In this essay, Jan Golinski explores the careers of Adam Walker and his sons, who delivered public lectures on astronomy in London and the English provinces from the 1780s to the 1820s. Golinski traces the Walkers’ long-running success in the market for popular scientific lectures to their deployment of the “eidouranion,” or transparent orrery, and makes a suggestion about the design of this theatrical display apparatus. As the centerpiece of the Walkers’ shows, the eidouranion was complemented by a presentation that emphasized the aesthetic appeal of astronomy, especially in terms of the sublime. By conveying the majesty of the cosmos in their lectures, the Walkers elicited quasi-religious feelings of wonder and awe in their audiences. The rhetorical accomplishment secured the eidouranion’s place among the scientific spectacles of the Regency metropolis, and allowed the Walkers to discuss even the potentially controversial topic of the existence of life on other planets.

Notes and Documents

Taking Dictation: Plates 5 and 10 of Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Anthony Apesos

In this essay, Anthony Apesos discusses two of the illuminations in William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: an interlinear scene on plate 5 and a half-page illustration on plate 10. He argues that these depict episodes of dictation, referring to Milton and his dutiful amanuenses. They point to Blake’s later treatment of Milton in the poem named for him.