Browning’s Painter Poems

November 27, 2008 at 10:15 am (Aestheticism) ()

Thought I’d follow Vicky’s example (below) and post a few images as visual context for the three Browning dramatic monologues we’ll be reading in this afternoon’s session.  ‘My Last Duchess’ is, of course, fictional; but  Andrea del Sarto and Fra Lippo Lippi were both real people (I like to think of them as ‘Andrew Taylor’ and ‘Brother Mick Jagger’ respectively).  You’ll find 87 images of del Sarto’s work here; and here’s the image that Browning saw (a portrait of del Sarto’s wife, Lucrezia) that inspired him to write the poem:

'But do not let us quarrel any more...'

Nice enough, you might think: is it really as lifeless as Browning’s del Sarto thinks? (‘All is silver-grey,/Placid and perfect with my art: the worse!’ 98-99). Fifty-seven Fra Lippo Lippi images are viewable here: it’s not so clear which specific Lippi works Browning had in mind when he wrote the ‘Fra Lippo Lippi’ dramatic monologue, but he was certainly familiar with the frescoes at Prato cathedral, near Florence:



A close up of that one:


The guy on the left right who looks a bit like Phil Mitchell?  That’s supposed to be a self-portrait by Lippi himself.  I like this three chins.  [AR]


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LIFE archive photos

November 21, 2008 at 9:46 am (Uncategorized) ()

Not qute sure why Sally’s ‘realisms readings’ post keeps bobbing to the top of the page, ahead of more recent posts (though I’m loathe to take it down). Ah well.

This is just a note (via the Valve) that a million or more photographs from the LIFE magazine archive are now accessible online through Google (go to Google Images and type in a name and “source:life”). They’re mostly twentieth-century figures, as you might expect given the magazine, but there are some nineteenth-century ones too. Check out these Charles Dickens, for instance; or these Robert Browning. Browsing through has thrown up one image of Dickens, actually, that I hadn’t seen before; and I’m trying to pin-down in my head who he looks like …. which is to say, which celebrity he reminds me of. Hmm. What do you reckon?


Is anybody else seeing Victorian Beckham with a beard?


(‘Victorian Beckham’ … did you see what I did, there?) [AR]

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Reading for Aestheticism & Decadence: Swinburne

November 17, 2008 at 6:18 pm (Aestheticism)

Hellenistic sculpture of Hermaphrodite (Louvre)

Hellenistic sculpture of Hermaphrodite (Louvre)

Symphony in White no.2 (1864)

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, The Little White Girl: Symphony in White no.2 (1864)

Simeon Solomon, Damon and Aglae (1866)

Simeon Solomon, Damon and Aglae (1866)


Dear All,

All of the poems set for this week are taken from Swinburne’s explosive debut verse volume, Poems and Ballads: First Series (1866). They can be read online at

Three of the poems refer to separate artworks (shown at the head of the post).
1.’Before the Mirror’ to James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s The Little White Girl: Symphony in White no.2 (1864) (Tate)
2.’Erotion’ to Simeon Solomon’s painting Damon and Aglae (exhib. RA 1866)
3.’Hermaphroditus’ to the Hellinistic sculpture of Hermaphrodite, also known as the Borghese Hermaphrodite (in the Louvre, where Swinburine viewed it)

I will bring copies of the essay on your reading list – Swinburne’s ‘Simeon Solomon: notes on his “Vision of Love”‘ – to class on Thursday.

I look forward to hearing your responses to these texts!

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Victorian Decades seminar: Oxford Brookes

November 17, 2008 at 12:31 pm (General Victoriana) ()

With co-convener Dr Gail Marshall’s permission, I’m posting notice of a really interesting looking seminar to be held at Oxford Brookes University [Room BG01, Buckley Building] on Wednesday 26 November 2008 from 1-4pm: the subject is ‘Victorian Decades’. ‘Jointly convened by Dr Gail Marshall (Oxford Brookes), Dr Marion Thain (University of Birmingham) and Dr Juliet John (University of Liverpool), the session will explore the potential benefits to be accrued by examining the Victorian period on a decade by decade basis. This workshop should be of interest to those working with the Victorian period and also to anyone seeking to explore issues surrounding historicist approaches to literature and culture.’ Find more details here, and go along if you can (I’m teaching at Holloway that day, I’m afraid, and won’t be able to come; but if you can make it I really recommend you going). [AR]

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Adam Bede

November 11, 2008 at 11:47 am (Nineteenth-century novel) ()

Gearing up for the Adam Bede class on Thursday, I thought I’d direct your attention to the Valve reading group on George Eliot’s novel convened by Rohan Maitzen earlier this year.  It’s finished now (though there’s nothing to stop you adding to the debate in the comments boxes), but it remains posted:

June 16: Chapters I-V

June 23: Chapters VI-XI

July 1: Chapters XII-XVI

July 8: Chapters XVII-XXI

July 15: Chapters XXII-XXVI

July 22: Chapters XXVII-XXXV

July 29: Chapters XXXVI-XLVIII

August 5: The Whole Novel

August 11: Conclusions

It’s a very detailed series of reactions to the work by a number of different readers, some of them academic and some of them not, and I think you’ll find it not only very interesting, but conceivably useful as far as reading this novel, Eliot more generally or Victorian Fiction as a whole. [AR]

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Matthew Arnold’s Preface to Poems (1853)

November 5, 2008 at 12:52 pm (Aestheticism) ()

I’ve been asked whether the text of this famous preface is available online. Probably the best bet is Google books: here for example (under the slightly odd title ‘Poetry and the Classics’; but it is the 1853 Preface), or here. It’s also the first essay in this Project Gutenburg edition; scroll down a little. [AR]

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