Signatures, authorship and relations between engravers and draughtspeople
Anthony Trollope’s novel Orley Farm was illustrated by Dalziel and John Everett Millais in 1861–62. Through its magnificent heroine, Mary Mason, this novel links the amanuensis to the criminal forger of signatures. One of the novel’s minor characters is a disreputable engraver, Père Snow. This chapter’s reading of Orley Farm examines Trollope’s horror at the obscene crime of signing another’s name, and links this to the everyday work of engraving. Wood engravers constantly signed other people’s signatures. This was true of the engraver-employees that were paid to sign their own work as ‘Dalziel’; it was also true of the firm’s execution on the woodblock of draughtspeople’s signatures (like Millais’s monogram); and finally, there are the many celebrity signatures that Dalziel engraved, to embellish portraits and autograph books. The chapter considers the way ‘Dalziel’ was developed as a signature brand. It explores the horror expressed by Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti at the name and signature of Dalziel, as the firm produced engravings that clashed with what they felt they owed to their own celebrity brands. Following this, four of the junior draughtspeople employed by Dalziel are considered – Henry French, Francis Arthur Fraser, Harry Tuck and Hal Ludlow – as is the different kind of voice they had in their designs because of their humbler status. This is put into the context of our ongoing cultural obsession with the signature in western models of authorship. The chapter ends with an analysis of a coded system of authorship in the Dalziel Archive that represented certain designers numerically, and it thinks through the significance of the proper name in art.
The Wood Engravers’ Self-Portrait focuses on the Dalziel Brothers, the leading image-makers of Victorian Britain. It is the first major study of the Dalziels, combining expert archival research with a radical methodology: it incorporates detailed examination of printmaking techniques, a focus on word–image relations in illustration, and a creative-critical approach to theory. Between 1839 and 1893, Dalziel Brothers made around 54,000 illustrations. These range from works of global influence – such as the illustrations to Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, novels by Charles Dickens, and landmark Pre-Raphaelite prints – to intricate and fascinating unknown works, ranging from brilliant scientific illustrations to keep-fit diagrams and Cadbury’s advertisements. The Wood Engravers’ Self-Portrait tells the multifarious stories of the Dalziel artists and employees; these were discovered by Stevens during an AHRC-funded fellowship, in partnership with the British Museum, where she catalogued the Dalziels’ unique archive for the first time. This book is the culmination of knowledge gathered through this project. As well as exploring the Dalziel family and the works they made, this study addresses the challenges of uncovering and understanding creative work made by low-paid and supposedly mechanical artists (such as the precarious freelance engravers hired by Dalziel). It investigates the image firm’s role in shaping aspects of Victorian culture that continue to have a strong and ambivalent legacy, from the fast and wide circulation of wood engravings to the visualisation of gendered and imperialist texts. It proposes a widely applicable theoretical framework for the study of mass print culture and word-image relations.
During their lifetime, the Dalziel Brothers worked furiously to maintain their profile and legacy. They negotiated with both the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), not only offering their work for acquisition, but making special requests about how it be stored and exhibited, in order to emphasise the engravers’ authorship. This chapter looks at the history of the curatorship of Dalziel’s work, examining Trustees reports and correspondence from the British Museum and the V&A to show how wood engraving and illustration were perceived institutionally. Unusually, the Dalziels set out as self-archivists right at the start of their careers, keeping a phenomenal record of work that acts as a claim of authorship, as well as a scrapbook repository of professional memory. The chapter proposes ways of reading the archive as a graphic memoir, a narrative in its own right. It examines Dalziel engravings for Ally Sloper and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, using these to think through the structures of archives, and the ways they engage with narrative temporality. In exploring the Dalziels’ archiving practice and the unique qualities of visual archives, the chapter draws on contemporary theories of user-generated archives (Giannachi 2016), as well as research on amateur and private album-making practices (di Bello 2007, Pettitt 2016). It shows how the Dalziels’ written memoir and their visual albums presented distinct and often contradictory accounts of their firm.
In the final chapter on The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo, the widow’s response is shown to be the culminating speech in the text. Her discourse is delivered in the form of a medieval sermon. As a preacher, the widow is shown not to parody the genre nor use it ironically; rather, she engages the form as a suitable apparatus for delivering her exposition of a ‘venerean’ morality. This morality plays off of anti-feminist discourses and conduct literature. But, the widow’s sermon complicates any reading of the text as simply an embodiment of anti-feminist discourse; William Dunbar integrates various allusions to allegorical representations of Venus, especially as found in other Scottish poems, such as Dunbar’s The Goldyn Targe and Henryson’s The Testament of Cresseid, in order to invest her discourse with a deep and pervasive ambivalence. The narrative grotesque shows the ways in which these influences and discourses are ligatured together in order to question modes of authority, rhetoric, and generic boundaries.
The conclusion draws together several correspondences and divergences between The Palyce of Honour and The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo. Textual hybridisation and transfiguration are noted as key themes; concepts of authenticity, veracity, and eloquence in poetic expression are also discussed in their various contexts in the two texts. This brief collation is presented as locus for further applications of the narrative grotesque in medieval texts. The literary complaint and animal allegories, specifically avian, are both touched on as possible venues for this strategy to be used.
In this chapter the first response, delivered by the ‘first wife’, is examined in detail. Her response is shown initially to inhere with the conventional demande d’amour, despite veering towards sexual innuendo and humour. Her fantasy of free love and female sovereignty is compared to medieval conduct literature, especially the Scottish poem The Thewis off Gud Women. Her response, however, abruptly shifts tone, subject matter, and form in order to deliver an excoriating flyting against her husband. The Scottish poetic invective form depends on a vivid and horrifying vocabulary of abuse in order to deride opponents. The wife ably employs this in her attack on her husband, which reveals explicitly the sexual and emotional abuse to which she is subject. Her fluid discourse once again shifts as she casts herself as manipulating her husband with sexual favours in exchange for luxury material items. The complex and uncomfortable tone and subject matter created by the trio of themes is explicated by the narrative grotesque: William Dunbar destroys conventional ‘languages of love’ and perceptions about eloquent emotional expression and replaces them with discourses that meld horror and humour. This displacement of one pole of expression for another, however, is shown to be equally problematic in terms of subjectivity, authenticity, and veracity.
In the final chapter on The Palyce of Honour the narrative strands are brought together by examining the ways in which Gavin Douglas weaves together pagan allegory with Christianity. The poem is demonstrated to create multiple intersecting hierarchies that highlight Douglas’s humanist-complected understanding of poetics as a mode of divine illumination. The figure of Venus in medieval cosmology and astrology is especially important to this phase of the discussion. Meanwhile, the motifs of are developed from their introduction in the previous chapter. Lastly, Douglas the poet is integrated as contributing yet another subjectivity through his dedication to James IV of Scotland which brings the Scottish king into the hierarchies discovered by the dreamer-narrator.
This chapter builds on the previous one by focusing more closely on the temporal dissonance and thus multiple subjectivities created between the two protagonists: Douglas the dreamer and Douglas the narrator. It is shown that their voices create an affective antinomy that appears most vividly at moments of textual rupture and fusion. This narrative grotesque reveals Gavin Douglas’s self-conscious exploration of the role of the poet and of poetics in society; a pursuit greatly influenced by the precepts of Italian humanism. This concern is in part demonstrated through the recurring motifs of harmony and transfiguration. Furthermore, his destruction of medieval dream vision conventions is shown through contrastive comparisons with Chaucer’s The Parliament of Fowls and The House of Fame. The inset literary complaint is also demonstrated to multiply this destructive effect by reimagining the purpose and form of the complaint as a discourse about love.
The introduction briefly outlines the literary culture of fifteenth-century Scotland and the contexts in which Gavin Douglas and William Dunbar were writing. Each text is described and some pertinent critical discourses regarding the works are discussed. Next, the narrative grotesque is situated within a broader critical history related to the critical term ‘grotesque’, which arose in reference to architectural decorations in the late fifteenth century before being adopted into other intellectual discourses. The narrative grotesque is defined as a distinct variety of the grotesque, since it is not limited to visual images and, rather, extends to textual corruptions, hybridisations, and ruptures that are paired with the dissonant affective reactions of horror and humour. The Palyce of Honour and The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo are shown to be exemplary starting points for the wider application of the narrative grotesque, since both exhibit numerous and varied ‘grotesqueries’.
The second wife’s response is demonstrated to be a sort of distorted mirror of the first wife’s: she adopts many of the motifs, expressions, and concepts introduced in the first response, but reforms them anew. She also flytes her husband, but her flyting is more concerned with the performance of courtliness and courtly love. Her response includes an inset literary complaint, which is wholly unusual for the mode. In addition to highlighting similarities between her complaint and that delivered by the dreamer in Palyce, Richard Holland’s The Buke of the Howlat and The Quare of Jelusy are presented as Scottish intertexts. Concepts of melancholia and lovesickness are interwoven throughout her speech to create a grotesquely warped conglomeration of signification.