Grote’s Hellenism
Victorian Parnassus on the Isle of Wight
in Julia Margaret Cameron’s ‘fancy subjects’
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This chapter examines how Cameron created a body of imagery inspired by the legends of classical Greece and interrogates this imagery in relation to the revolutionary historical and critical works of George Grote, a Benthamite and close friend of her husband Charles. Previous scholars have ignored Grote entirely, having misread the word “Grove” for Grote in one of the surviving letters between Cameron and her mentor, Sir John Herschel; consequently, scholars have searched in vain for a meaningful connection ever since. But Grote’s publications on ancient Greece were known to Cameron’s entire circle. Grote advocated that Britain adopt a participatory brand of democracy that was modelled on ancient Athens. The chapter argues that through her photography of classical subjects, Cameron embodied the dynamics of this political position by choosing subjects that resonated politically in light of the debates over the Reform Bill of 1867.

Julia Margaret Cameron’s ‘fancy subjects’

Photographic allegories of Victorian identity and empire

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