Tag Archives: frankbaker

A Tale of Two Archives; or, The Persistence of ‘Girl Land’

Anyone reading this blog knows that archives are full of wonderfully weird ephemera just waiting to be discovered and discussed, of conversations waiting to happen. This is the story of two archives that, it turns out, have a lot to talk about.

The John Rylands University Library at the University of Manchester has had this drawing on its webpage for some time:

Sunday evening in St. Jame's, Barton
“Sunday evening in St. James’s, Barton,” from the John Rylands University Library

Ostensibly, this is a doodle, maybe an early comic. It depicts an ordinary meeting between preachers and parishioners. Only one thing stands out: the stocky girl just off the center dressed in bright pink and orange, while everyone around her wears drab brown. Look closer and you see that she her awkwardness is not limited to her dress: oblivious to the women gossiping behind her, our young heroine “stands, patiently, while her papa shakes hands with all the colliers, not knowing but she must do so too – a perfect pattern!  Dear lady!” This oblivious fool is also the artist.

Cut to our own archive: Two summers ago, I was working in the Frank Baker Collection of Wesleyana and British Methodism when I came upon some poems. Having cataloged plenty of manuscript materials within the collection, I wouldn’t have thought much of them, except I noticed that they were tied together with string. Fanciful English student that I am, I recalled that Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts had been likewise fashioned together, and so began my grandiose visions: had I stumbled upon the British Emily? Could these poems help to reinvigorate the field of 18th-century women’s poetry – revolutionize it, even? It’s the fantasy held dear by every budding academic: to discover the next Milton or Frost, to shake the scholarly world to its core. Needless to say, literary scholarship remains unshaken, but it does have a new name on its register: Sarah Wesley.

The poems I found were written by our pink-and-orange artiste, the daughter of Charles Wesley, a co-founder of British Methodism. What is so fascinating about Sarah Wesley is her outright resistance to the restrictive practices of her every-day life – and how, perhaps as a result of that resistance, she has since all but disappeared from most histories of British Methodism.

SW_bound manuscript
Bound manuscript with Sarah Wesley’s writings in the Frank Baker Collection.

Her poetry in particular served as an outlet for questioning her father’s religion, as well as engaging with emergent conversations about the rights of women. Even while Wesley’s social commitments were progressive, she remained a devout Methodist throughout her life. But through her writing, most of which she kept hidden away from the judgmental eyes of her community, Wesley takes us to a place we don’t often think of when we read the eighteenth century: the private mind of the teenage girl.

Caitlin Flanagan’s recent book Girl Land (Little, Brown and Co., 2012) makes a compelling case for the fundamental significance of a particular marker of female adolescence: that time when a girl recedes into her room for a few years and emerges a brooding melodramatic for a few more. Flanagan posits that as a society, we take too lightly “a girl’s sudden need to withdraw from the world for a while and inhabit a secret emotional life” (1). But in fact, this is time and space that young girls need in order to come to terms with the world and their place within it. And so, Flanagan urges us to celebrate, rather than denigrate, the importance of this space she calls “girl land.”

Flanagan’s study is predicated on a particular reading of the history of the teenager. But even before “adolescence” became a discrete intellectual category in the twentieth century, Sarah Wesley was, in many ways, a typically modern teenage girl.

She wrote poetry that was evocative, romantic, and highly self-reflexive:

The Pilot Reason stays on Shore,
The boisr’ous Passions more,
Youth is the Ship and Hope the Oar,
And O! the Sea is Love!

~from “Sonnet,” 1770

In particular, much of her work is preoccupied with exploring her budding sexuality:

Her Eyes enraptur’d shall your Beauties own
Her snowy Fingers be your Virgin Lone!
Her Lips shall bid Thee with a sigh Adieu!
Her Lips shall greet Thee with ambrosial Dew!
Descending showers shall fall from Heaven to gaze!
Within your silken Folds shall Graces lie
And panting Zephryss on your Bosom die!
The Muse shall stamp Thee with Idalia’s Crest,
And Venus court Thee to adorn her Breast.

~from “On receiving a Nosegay,” n.d.

However, she was not without some snark when it came to matters of romance:

Both Truth and Malice on one point agree
That my outside is the worst part of me
Small is the censure, whilst it stands confest
Bad as it is, thy outside is the Best!

~“Epigram: on receiving a rude Speech from a Crooked Gentleman,” 1777

SW_rude speech

As we saw in the drawing from the Manchester archive, she held some anxiety over her appearance and the perceptions of others.

And in perhaps the defining feature of “girl land,” she was adamant about challenging the values she inherited from her family in order to come to her own understanding of her world (for more on the particulars of Wesley’s intellectual rebellion, see my essay in the Winter 2013 volume of Eighteenth-Century Studies, which expounds on her feminist and abolitionist interests).

“The Elopement” figures prominently in Koretsky’s article, “Sarah Wesley, British Methodism, and the Feminist Question, Again,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 46.2 (Winter 2013), pages 223-237.

So did my work in the Frank Baker Collection yield the next Emily Dickinson? Not exactly. At the level of versification, Wesley’s poetry is derivative at best. But in the connections she asks us to draw between religion and the secular discourses of the key social issues at the end of the eighteenth century, Wesley’s voice raises many productive questions, which I hope eighteenth-century scholars will continue to engage. And further still, the familiar tenor of her poetry demonstrates the persistence of “girl land,” and how productive that sometimes alien-seeming place can be.

Post contributed by Deanna Koretsky, a Ph.D. candidate in the Duke English Dept. and a graduate student assistant in Technical Services.

George Cruikshank & Falstaff’s Famous Follies: A Series of Autograph Prints from the Frank Baker Collection

Artist George Cruikshank
Artist George Cruikshank

Among the many fascinating documents, portraits, and letters of early Methodist preachers and missionaries in the Frank Baker Collection of Wesleyana and British Methodism are a variety of woodcut prints, engravings, and other visual sources depicting subjects as varied as social satire and British birds that might be rather unexpected in a collection that is primarily concerned with religious history.  As an art historian, I am particularly drawn to such visual records, and so was especially struck by both the beautiful technique and the relative completeness of a portfolio of etchings by George Cruikshank in which the artist depicts various scenes from the adventures of Shakespeare’s Sir John Falstaff.

Cruikshank, a prominent nineteenth-century British artist who worked primarily in graphic media, is known for his virulent social satires and is frequently discussed alongside similarly comic-minded Brits such as William Hogarth and Thomas Rowlandson.  By the middle of the nineteenth century, Cruikshank’s reputation was well-established and the artist had already completed prints for pamphlets by his friend, William Hone, a series of illustrations of the works of Charles Dickens, and the first English edition of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales.  It is around this time that Cruikshank began work on a concept for a collaborative project with Robert B. Brough which, upon its publication in 1858, would be entitled The Life of Sir John Falstaff: A Biography of the Knight from Authentic Sources.

Robert Brough’s The Life of Sir John Falstaff: A Biography of the Knight from Authentic Sources of 1858
Robert Brough’s The Life of Sir John Falstaff: A Biography of the Knight from Authentic Sources of 1858

A copy of Brough’s rather unusual text is available in Rubenstein Library and provides an imaginative biography of the fictional Falstaff, who appears in the Bard’s Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsorand who is himself believed to have been a satirical portrayal of one of Shakespeare’s unfortunate contemporaries.

Cruikshank’s etchings appear throughout The Life of Sir John Falstaff, illustrating twenty scenes with expressive lines and an abundance of humorous detail in a compact, approximately 5×8” book-size format.  While processing visual sources in the Baker Collection, I came across a larger set of these same prints; seventeen unbound plates on crisp white paper that are approximately 10×14” in size.  The higher quality of the etched lines and cross-hatching seems to indicate that the Baker portfolio is an earlier edition. Missing only three scenes from the set reproduced in Brough’s text, the Baker Collection series begins with a print that is dated 1857 and bears a handwritten dedication along the bottom of the page, signed lightly in pencil by the artist and brought to my attention by archivist Michael Shumate.

Large-scale printed version of Cruikshank’s etching, next to the printed frontispiece of Robert Brough’s The Life of Sir John Falstaff: A Biography of the Knight from Authentic Sources of 1858.
Large-scale printed version of Cruikshank’s etching, next to the printed frontispiece of Robert Brough’s The Life of Sir John Falstaff: A Biography of the Knight from Authentic Sources of 1858.

The Falstaff print, a smaller copy of which also appears at the start of Brough’s book, depicts the portly title character, perched on a seat wearing pseudo-chivalric garb and staring out at the viewer, his mouth pursed in what can only be described as a mischievous grin. In addition to the volume’s title, publisher, and other documentary information, the print is inscribed with Cruikshank’s inimitable stylized signature which corresponds directly to the dedication, “Richard Ellison Esq. – with the regards of Geo. Cruikshank” scribbled below.

Autograph Signature: George Cruikshank’s signature in a dedication written in pencil along the bottom of the print.
Autograph Signature: George Cruikshank’s signature in a dedication written in pencil along the bottom of the Baker print.

How this unique object came into the possession of Frank Baker, a former professor in Duke’s Religion Department, is a mystery; however the prints themselves invite further study.  Did this 1857 portfolio serve as a kind of prototype for the images included in Brough’s 1858 book?  What was the historical reception of Falstaff, and how would Cruikshank’s prints have been understood by nineteenth-century individuals?  Indeed, these questions and countless other subjects of interest to art historians, British scholars, and literature students emerge in this visual document.  Fortunately for those who, like myself, are intrigued by Cruikshank’s work and would like to learn more, Duke Libraries maintains a number of different sources on the topic, located at both the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library and within Lilly Library’s collection.  In addition to the Cruikshank materials, the Baker Collection of Wesleyana contains more than 10,000 visual documents including portraits, landscapes, maps, and many other fascinating scenes.

Elisabeth Narkin is a doctoral student in Duke’s Dept. of Art, Art History and Visual Studies. She is also a student assistant in Rubenstein Technical Services.

A Hidden Map

For the past two years, I’ve been working with Technical Services on the Frank Baker Collection of British Methodism and Wesleyana. Baker, a religion professor at Duke, was the preeminent scholar on the foundations of Methodism, specifically its founder, John Wesley. The collection is vast: it contains research for Baker’s many books and articles, original Wesleyan and Methodist documents from the 18th and 19th centuries, teaching materials, correspondence with other prominent religious minds, and a variety of items that simply fit no category.

Perhaps the most interesting part of working with the Frank Baker collection is this treasure trove of miscellany collected by Baker throughout the years. Though primarily a Wesleyan scholar, Frank Baker had a penchant for all religious historical materials, and his collection is frequently peppered with unidentifiable portraits, letters, and notes relating to religion.

One such enigmatic finding was a folded, faded map that, at first, appeared rather unimpressive. Tucked away in a box of other large maps, our subject was folded, torn, and in pretty bad shape. Once unfolded, however, I was instantly drawn to it.

Chloe and a map from the Frank Baker Collection
Chloe and a map from the Frank Baker Collection

Self-titled, the map reads: “A Map of all the Earth And how after the Flood it was Divided among the Sons of Noah.” Though faded, brittle, and torn, the value of this map is instantly obvious. From the fascinating religious motifs around the sides (some familiar, some indecipherable), to the labeling of each continent with a son’s name, the map certainly sucks you in.

Map from the Baker Collection, including California as an island
"A Map of all the Earth And how after the Flood it was Divided among the Sons of Noah."

Some of my favorite parts of this map aren’t readily obvious, either. For example, take a good look at the West Coast of the United States. It’s subtle, but California is depicted as an island! It was actually this feature that helped me to date the map. With a little research as to when the name California came into usage, I discovered that our finding probably dates to the 1680s or 1690s. A little more research revealed that California was often depicted as an island in the 16th and 17th centuries: I even found a whole book full of maps with this cartographic error!

California as an island
California as an island, with the Day of Rest above.

As a religion minor, I often found myself returning to the stunning religious motifs decorating the borders of this map. Some are familiar scenes, like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the Tower of Babel, the Crucifixion, etc. Others are less familiar, such as a shining city as viewed from a hill, or an unidentified man kneeling next to a tree.

I could spend hours trying to figure out the motivations behind the map, or its motifs, or why Japhet, son of Noah, got all of North America, but there’s many more mysteries to find and catalog in the Frank Baker Papers!

Post contributed by Chloe Rockow, a junior majoring in Public Policy Studies with a double minor in Religion and Political Science.